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I was sitting outside in the garden during Ascension Day, which is (still) a national holiday in the Netherlands (Thanks God). It was again nice and warm, and it made me think about the parallels between Global warming and PLM.

whyworryClimate change has always been there if we look at the history of our planet. We started to talk about Global Warming when scientist indicated that this time the climate change is caused by human intervention. As a result of vast amounts of carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse effect started to become visible. When the first rumors came that global warming began to come up, environmentalists started preaching we have to act NOW before it is too late. Meanwhile at the other side, people began arguing that it was just a coincidence, an opinion.

There is no scientific proof, so why worry?

GlobalWarmingIn the past ten years, the signs and proofs of global warming have become evident and climate conferences filled with people who want to act and on the other side the blockers, try to create progress in the battle against global warming. In particular in Europe governments and companies are starting to become aware that they can contribute to a more sustainable society.

Not enough according to the environmentalists and scientists. As our brains still operate mostly in a prehistoric mode (day-to-day survival, food, home, social status), slow changes and sustainability for next generations are not part of most people concerns. And those people, who make us aware of this lack of priority for sustainability, are considered annoying as they disrupt our lives.

Companies that have invested (heavily) in sustainable business models often have a challenging path to survive against traditional businesses. As the majority of consumers wants cheap. Some examples:

  • Energy: most power plants are heated by burning coal as this is the cheapest option. Shale gas winning became attractive because we need cheap fuel. Alternatives like solar, wind and others cannot compete on price level as long as we do not pay for the damage to nature.
  • Food: produced in bio-farms, where animal wellness or health is not part of the plan. The goal is to deliver xx kilos of meat for the lowest price. Alternative like more natural ways of growing meat or even revolutionary ways (the grown hamburger) cannot compete on price currently unless we are willing to pay for it.
  • The Fashion industry where down in its supply chains human beings are treated like slaves. When you buy a cheap garment, you know somebody has been suffering.

Governments sometimes subsidize or push sustainable technologies as they realize that something has to happen (most of the time for the public opinion – their voters) but there is no consistent strategy as liberals believe every form of support is against open competition. And as long as we let our prehistoric brain run our choices, the earth gets warmer with the consequences being visible more and more.

We know we have to act, but we do not act seriously

Now let´s switch to PLM. The association started when I saw Chad Jackson’s retweet from Lifecycle insights related to top PLM challenges.

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Clearly the message illustrates that costs, time, and technology have priority. Not about what PLM really can establish (even in the context of global warming).

PLM_profPLM started end of the previous century, initially invented by some of the major CAD vendors, Dassault Systemes, PTC, and Siemens. Five years later it was taken more seriously, as also enterprise software vendors, like SAP and Oracle, started to work on their PLM offering. And some years ago even the most skeptic company related to PLM, Autodesk, began to sell a PLM offering.

So like global warming we can conclude: PLM is recognized, and now we can act.

The early adopters of PLM are also in a challenging situation. Their first PLM implementations were very much focused on an IT-infrastructure, allowing data to flow through a global organization, without disrupting the day-to-day business model too much. These implementations are now a burden to many of them: costly and almost impossible to change. Look at the PLM stories from some of the major automotive companies, like Daimler, JLR, PSA, Renault, , Volvo Cars and more.

email_lockThey are all somehow kept hostage by their old implementations (as business continues) however due to changing ownership, business models and technology they cannot benefit from modern PLM concepts as it would be a disruption.

Meanwhile, PLM has evolved from an IT-infrastructure into a business-driven approach to support global, more flexible and customer-driven business processes. Younger companies that are now starting in Asia do not suffer from this legacy and are faster established based on the know-how from the early adopters.

And this is not only happing in the automotive industry. In the recent years, I have seen examples in the Oil & Gas industry, the High-Tech industry (which in theory is relative young) and the Manufacturing industry.

No_roiComing back to the 2015 PLM challenges tweeted by Chad Jackson, it looks like they are related to time and costs. Obviously it is not clear what values PLM can bring to a company outside efficiency gains (ERP/Lean thinking). Modern PLM allows companies to change their business model as I wrote recently: From a linear to fast and circular. No longer is the PLM mission to support companies with product information from cradle to grave but from cradle to cradle. Sustainability and becoming connected to customers are new demands: Operational services instead of selling products, linking it with the need for IoT to understand what is happening.

In the 2015 PLM, the discussion with executives is about purchasing technology instead of the need to change our business for long-term survival. Most investors do not like long-term visions as their prehistoric brains are tuned to be satisfied in the short-term.

changeTherefore, as long as the discussion about PLM is about IT and infrastructure and not about business change, there will be this stall, identical to what happens with addressing global warming. Short term results are expected by the stakeholders, trying to keep up the current model. Strategists and business experts are all talking about the new upcoming digital era, similar to global warming.

We know we have to act, but we do not act seriously

When I posted a short version of this post on LinkedIn on Ascension Day, I got some excellent feedback which I want to share here:

Dieter de Vroomen (independent advisor, interim manager & neighbor) wrote me an email. Dieter does not have a PLM-twisted brain. Therefore I like his opinion:

PLM and Global Warming are both assumptions, mental constructs that we can make plausible with technology and data. Both mindsets save us from disasters through the use of technology. And that’s what both sell. But is that what they produce, what we want? Apple and associates think vice versa, making what first we want and explain later the underlying technology. I miss that with global warming, but certainly PLM. That’s why it sells so bad CxO’s.

I think the point Dieter is making is interesting as he is a non-PLM guy -showing the way CxO might be  thinking. As long as we (PLMers) do not offer a packaged solution, an end-to-end experience, it is hard to convince the C-level. This is one of the significant differences between ERP (its purpose is clearly is tangible) and PLM (see my post PLM at risk! It does not have a clear target).

A more motivating comment came from Ben Muis, consultant and entrepreneur in the fashion industry. We met at the PI Apparel 2013 conference, and I like his passion for bringing innovation to the fashion industry. Read his full comments on my post on LinkedIn as he combined in his career sustainability and PLM. Two quotes from Ben:

As you may know I did quite a bit of work on how the fashion industry could and should be more sustainable in its approach. This was at a time where only a handful of people at best were willing to even think about this. Knowing that in reality the decisions around cost and commercialism were driving the agenda, I drew the conclusion that by improving processes within the industry I could actually cause a sustainability improvement that was driven by commercial desire.

Explaining how you can become involved in the bigger picture and for Ben it is the possibility to keep on working on his passion in a real-time world. And finally:

So there you have it… my reasons for initially thinking your title was very close to the reason I shifted my focus from pure sustainability advice to PLM implementations to begin with. I could drive a real result much quicker. This, as I am sure you will agree, in itself supports the reason for taking PLM seriously

My conclusion:

The topics PLM and Global Warming have a lot in common. The awareness exists. However when it comes to action, we are blocked by our prehistoric brain, thinking about short term benefits. This will not change in the next 1000 years. Therefore, we need organizations and individuals that against all odds take the steep path and have a vision of change, breaking the old models and silos. It will cost money, it will require a sacrifice and the reward will only be noticed by next generations. What a shame

A final quote before going back to standard PLM matter in upcoming posts:

“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.”

Robert A. Heinlein

Mindmap image courtesy of www.mindmapart.comJane Genovese

PxMDid I choose the wrong job? Busy times still and the past 15 years I have focused on PLM and every year I had the feeling there was progress in the understanding and acceptance for PLM. Although the definition of PLM is a moving target, there are probably thousands of PLM experts around the world. From my recent blog posts, the past two years you might share my opinion that PLM is changing from an engineering, document-centric system towards a beyond PLM approach where a data-driven, federated platform leads to (yet unknown) benefits.

So where to draw the border of PLM?

Is there a possibility that somewhere a disruptive approach will redefine PLM again? PLM is considered complex (I don´t think so). The complexity lies first of all in the rigidness of PLM systems not being able to excite people. Next the desires from implementers to provide services to satisfy users and, as a result, make it more complicated. Finally and the most important reason the lack of understanding that implementing PLM requires a business change.

Change (don´t mention the word), which does not happen overnight.

Oleg Shilovitsky wrote about PLM and organizational change. He is leaving it for further discussion if the difficulty is related to the PLM technology or the resistance towards change for people in business. Read his conclusion:

Change is hard. We should re-think the way we implement PLM and exclude process alignment from PLM implementation. Stop changing people and stop forcing people to take complicated decisions during PLM sales process. Future PLM products will become a foundation for agile change management that will be done by companies.

Edward Lopategui is even more provocative in his blog post: The PLM Old Fart Paradox. Have a read of his post including the comments. Edward is somehow sharing the same belief, stating PLM has an identity crisis

PLM has an identity crisis. Talking PLM at a random networking event tends to engender one of two reactions. The first is from anyone who recognizes the acronym, spent 5 years consulting for company X, and begins a vigorous head-nod that instills fear their neck may unhinge in agreement. The other reaction is quite the opposite; you can almost sense a capillary dilation of the so-called blush response. Fluctuation of the pupil… Involuntary dilation of the iris… it’s the Voight-Kampff test for interest expiring at the mere utterance of the acronym. You don’t get this kind of reaction when you talk Cloud or Internet of Things, which while overused, tend to at least solicit questions and interest among the uninitiated. There’s public relations work to be done.

Both Oleg and Edward believe that new technology is needed to overcome the old PLM implementation issues: a need for change, a need to break down the silos.

Meanwhile in Europe

Meanwhile in Europe, an international research foundation for PLM (http://www.plm-irf.org/) has been initiated and is making itself heard towards the United States. What is the mission of this research foundation? To define the future of PLM. Read the opening statement:

The PLM International Research Foundation (PLM-IRF) initiative aims to establish a central mechanism to support global research into the most advanced future capabilities of PLM.

This is the first initiative ever to ask the question:

What research does the world need, to achieve the future PLM capabilities that the world wants?”

This simple question highlights that fact that the PLM industry needs coherent view of the future. Without a clear sense of direction, PLM development is likely to fall far short of what it could be.

2050I consider this as a mission impossible. In May this year I will be blogging for seven years about PLM and looking back to my early posts the world was different. Interesting some of the predictions (PLM in 2050 – predictions done in 2008) I made in the past are still valid however for every right prediction there might be a wrong one too.

And now this International Research Foundation is planning to define what PLM should offer in the future?

What happens if companies do not agree and implement their business approach? It reminded me of a keynote speech given by Thomas Schmidt (Vice President, Head of Operational Excellence and IS – ABB’s Power Products Division) at PLM Innovation 2012 (my review here). Thomas was challenging the audience explaining what ABB needed. Quoting Thomas Schmidt:

“And if you call this PLM, it is OK for me. However, current PLM systems do not satisfy these needs.”

So you can imagine the feeling I got: PLM has an identity crisis.

Or do I have an identity crisis?

changeI believe we are in a transition state where companies have to redefine their business. I described this change in my earlier post: From Linear to fast and circular. Implementing this approach first of all requires a redefinition of how organizations work. Hierarchical and siloed organizations need to transform towards flat, self-adapting structures in order to become more customer-centric and reactive to ever faster-changing market needs.

For that reason, I was surprised by a presentation shared by Chris Armbruster that same week I read Oleg´s and Edward´s posts. In many ways, Chris and I come from the opposite sides of PLM.

My background European, with a classical start from engineering, a focus on the mid-market. Chris according to his Slideshare info, US-based, Supply Chain Executive and focus on the Fortune 500.

Have a look at Chris´s presentation – rethinking business for Exponential times. It is amazing that two persons not connected at all can come to the same conclusions.

This should be an indication there is a single version of the truth!

Conclusion:

You might say PLM has an identity crisis. We do not need a better definition of PLM to solve this. We need to change our business model and then define what we need. PLM, ERP, SLM, MES, SCM, ….. There are enough unused TLAs for the future. And I am still happy with my job.

 

 

 

… and you ? Looking for a new job or changing too ?

clip_image002Three weeks ago there was the Product Innovation conference in Düsseldorf. In my earlier post (here) I described what I experienced during this event. Now, after all the information is somehow digested, here a more high-level post, describing the visible change in business and how it relates to PLM. Trying to describe this change in non-academic wording but in images. Therefore, I described the upcoming change in the title: from linear to circular and fast.

 

Let me explain this image step by step

In the middle of the previous century, we were thinking linear in education and in business. Everything had a predictable path and manufacturing companies were pushing their products to the market. First local, later in time, more global. Still the delivery process was pretty linear:

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This linear approach is reflected in how organizations are structured, how they are aligned to the different steps of the product development and manufacturing process. Below a slide I used at the end of the nineties to describe the situation and the pain; lack of visibility what happens overall.

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It is discouraging to see that this situation still exists in many companies.

At the end of the nineties, early 2000, PLM was introduced, conceptually managing the whole lifecycle. In reality, it was mainly a more tight connection between design and manufacturing preparation, pushing data into ERP. The main purpose was managing the collaboration between different design disciplines and dispersed teams.

Jim Brown (Tech-Clarity) wrote at that time a white paper, which is still valid for many businesses, describing the complementary roles of PLM and ERP. See the picture below:

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Jim introduced the circle and the arrow. PLM: a circle with iterations, interacting with ERP: the arrow for execution. Here visual it became already clear an arrow does not have the same behavior as a circle. The 100 % linearity in business was gone.

Let´s have a closer look at the PLM circle

This is how PLM is deployed in most organizations:

clip_image009Due to the implementation of siloed systems for PDM, ERP, SCM and more, the flow of information is disconnected when moving from the design domain to the execution domain.

Information is pushed in the ERP system as disconnected information, no longer managed and connected to its design intent.

Next, the ERP system is most of the time not well-equipped for managing after sales and services content. Another disconnect comes up.

Yes, spare parts could be ordered through ERP, but issues appearing at the customer base are not stored in ERP, often stored in a separate system again (if stored beyond email).

The result is that when working in the concept phase, there is no information available for R&D to have a good understanding of how the market or customers work with their product. So how good will it be? Check in your company how well your R&D is connected with the field?

And then the change started …

This could have stayed reality for a long time if there were not a huge business change upcoming. The world becomes digital and connected. As a result, local inefficiencies or regional underperformance will be replaced by better-performing companies. The Darwin principle. And most likely the better performing companies are coming from the emerging markets as there they do not suffer from the historical processes and “knowledge of the past”. They can step into the digital world much faster.

clip_image011In parallel with these fast growing emerging markets, we discovered that we have to reconsider the ways we use our natural resources to guarantee a future for next generations. Instead of spilling resources to deliver our products, there is a need to reuse materials and resources, introducing a new circle: the circular economy.

The circular economy can have an impact on how companies bring products to the market. Instead of buying products (CAPEX) more and more organizations (and modern people) start using products or services in a rental model (OPEX). No capital investment anymore, pay as you go for usage or capacity.

clip_image013This, however, has an impact how traditional companies are organized – you need to be connected to your customers or you are out of business – a commodity.

The digital and connected world can have a huge impact on the products or services available in the near future. You are probably familiar with the buzz around “The Internet of Things” or “Smart and Connected”.

No longer are products depending on mechanical behavior only, more and more products are relying on electrical components with adaptive behavior through software. Devices that connect with their environment report back information to the manufacturer. This allows companies to understand what happens with their products in the field and how to react on that.

Remember the first PLM circle?
Now we can create continuity of data !

PLM_flowCombine the circular economy, the digital and connected world and you will discover everything can go much faster. A crucial inhibitor is how companies can reorganize themselves around this faster changing, circular approach. Companies need to understand and react to market trends in the fastest and adequate way. The future will be probably about lower volumes of the same products, higher variability towards the market and most likely more and more combining products with services (the Experience Model). This requires a flexible organization and most likely a new business model which will differ from the sequential, hierarchical organizations that we know at this moment.

The future business model ?

The flexibility in products and services will more and more come from embedded software or supported by software services. Software services will be more and more cloud based, to avoid IT-complexity and give scalability.

Software development and integration with products and services are already a challenge for classical mechanical companies. They are struggling to transform their mechanical-oriented design process towards support for software. In the long-term, the software design process could become the primary process, which would mean a change from (sequential – streamlined) lean towards (iterative – SCRUM) agile.

Once again, we see the linear process becoming challenged by the circular iterations.

This might be the end of lean organizations, potentially having to mix with agile conepts..

clip_image015If it was a coincidence or not, I cannot judge, however during the PI Conference I learned about W.L. Gore & Associates, with their unique business model supporting this more dynamic future. No need to have a massive organization re-org to align the business, as the business is all the time aligning itself through its employees.

Last weekend, I discovered Semco Partners in the newspaper and I am sure there are more companies organizing themselves to become reactive instead of linear – for sure in high-tech world.

Conclusion:

Linearity is disappearing in business, it is all about reactive, multidisciplinary teams within organizations in order to support customers and their fast changing demands.

Fast reactions need new business organizations models (flexible, non-hierarchical) and new IT-support models (business information platforms – no longer PLM/ERP system thinking)

What do you think ? The end of linear ?

 

I have talked enough about platforms recently. Still if you want to read more about it:

Cimdata: Business strategy and platformization position paper

Engineering.com: Prod. Innovation Platform PlugnPlay in next generation PLM

Gartner: Product Innovation Platforms

VirtualDutchman: Platform, Backbone, Service Bus or BI

imageThis is the fifth year that marketkey organized their vendor-independent conference in Europe around Product Innovation, where PLM is the major cornerstone. Approximate 100 companies attended this conference coming from various industries. As there were most of the time two till four parallel tracks (program here), it will still take time for me to digest all the content. However here a first impression and a comparison to what has changed since the PI Conference in 2014 – you can read my review from that conference here.

First of all the keynote speeches for this conference were excellent and were a good foundation for attendees to discuss and open their mind. Secondly I felt that this conference was actually dealing with the imminent shift from classic, centralized businesses towards the data-centric approach to connectivity of information coming from anyone / anything connected. Naturally the Internet of Everything (IoE) and the Internet of Things (IoT) were part of the discussion combined with changing business models: moving from delivering products toward offering services (CAPEX versus OPEX).

Some of the highlights here:

clip_image002The first keynote speaker was Carlo Rati Director, MIT Senseable Lab. He illustrated through various experiments and examples how being connected through devices we can change and improve our world: tagging waste, mobile phone activity in a city and the Copenhagen Wheel. His main conclusion (not a surprise): For innovation there is a need to change collaboration. Instead of staying within the company / discipline boundaries solving problems through collaboration between different disciplines will lead to different thinking. How is your company dealing with innovation?

clip_image004The second session I attended was John Housego from W.L. Gore and Associates who explained the company’s model for continuous growth and innovation. The company’s future is not based on management but based on leadership of people working in teams in a flat organization. Every employee is an associate, directly involved and challenged to define the company’s future. Have a read about the company’s background here on Wikipedia.

Although the company is 50 years old, I realized that their cultural model is a perfect match with the future of many businesses. More and more companies need to be lean and flexible and support direct contact between the field, customers, market and experts inside the company. Implementing a modern PLM platform should be “a piece of cake” if the technology exists, as W.L. Gore’s associates will not block the change if they understand the value. No silos to break down.

clip_image006My presentation “The Challenge of PLM Upgrades as We See the Rules of Business Change” was based around two themes (perpetual software ? / seamless upgrades ?) and from there look towards the future what to expect in business. When we look back, we see that every 10 years there is a major technology change, which makes the past incompatible to upgrade. Now we are dreaming that cloud-based solutions are the future to guarantee seamless upgrades (let’s wait 10 years). To my opinion companies should not consider a PLM upgrade at this moment.

The changes in business models, people behavior and skills plus technology change, will enable companies to move towards a data-centric approach. Companies need to break with the past (a linear, mechanical-design-based, product development approach) and redesign a platform for the future (a business-innovation platform based on the data). In my upcoming blog post(s) I will give more background on this statement.

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Trond Zimmerman from the Volvo Group Truck explained the challenges and solution concept they experienced as they are currently implementing answering the challenge of working in a joint venture with Dongfeng Commercial Vehicles. As in a joined venture you want to optimize sharing of common parts, still you cannot expect a single PLM solution for the total joint venture. For that reason, Volvo Group Truck is implementing Share-A-Space from Eurostep to have a controlled collaboration layer between the two joint venture partners.

This is, to my opinion, one of the examples of future PLM practices, where data will not be stored in a single monolithic system, but data will be connected through information layers and services. The case is similar to what has been presented last year at Product Innovation 2014 where Eurostep and Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery implemented a similar layer on top of their PDM environment to enable controlled sharing with their suppliers.

clip_image012David Rowan from wired.co.uk closed the day with his keynote: Understanding the New Rules of Product Innovation. He touched the same topic as John Housego from W.L. Gore somehow: it is all about democratization. Instead of hierarchy we are moving to network-based activities. And this approach has a huge impact on businesses. David’s message: Prepare for constant change. Where in the past we lived in a “linear” century, change according to Moore’s law, we are entering now an exponential century where change is going faster and faster. Besides examples of the Internet of Thing, David also gave some examples of the Internet of Stupid Things. He showed a quote from Steve Balmer stating that nobody would pay $ 500 for a phone (Apple). The risk he made is that by claiming some of these stupid inventions might lead to a quote in the future. I think the challenge is always to stay open-minded without judging as at the end the market will decide.

PLM and ERP

clip_image014I spent the evening networking with a lot of people, most of them excited about the future capabilities that have been presented. In parallel, the discussion was also about the conservative behavior of many companies. Topics that are already for ten years under discussion – how to deal and connect PLM and ERP, where is the MBOM, what are the roles of PLM and ERP for an organization, are still thankful topics for a discussion, showing where most companies now are with their business understanding.

In parallel to a product innovation conference apparently there is still a need to agree on basic PLM concepts from the previous century.

clip_image016The second day opened with an excellent keynote speech from Dirk Schlesinger from Cisco. He talked about the Internet of Everything and provided examples of the main components of IoE: Connectivity, Sensors, Platform, Analytics, and Mobility. In particular the example of Connectivity was demonstrating the future benefits modern PLM platforms can bring. Dirk talked about a project with Dundee Mining where everything in the mine was tagged with RFI devices (people, equipment, vehicles, and resources) and the whole mine was equipped with Wi-Fi.

Based on this approach the execution and planning of what happened was done in their HQ through a virtual environment, giving planners immediate visibility of what happens and allowing them to decide on real data. This is exactly the message I have posted in my recent blog posts.

The most fascinating part were the reported results. This project is ongoing now for 3 years and the first year they achieved a production increase of 30 %. Now they are aiming for this year for a 400 % production increase and a 250 % efficiency increase. These are the numbers to imagine when you implement a digital strategy. It is no longer any more about making our classical processes more efficient, it is about everyone connected and everyone collaborates.

clip_image018Marc Halpern from Gartner gave an good presentation connecting the hype of the Internet of Things with the world of PLM again, talking about Product Innovation Platforms. Marc also touched on the (needed) upcoming change in engineering processes. More and more we will develop complex products, which need system thinking. Systems of Systems to handle this complexity, As Marc stated: “Product, process, culture is based on electro-mechanical products where the future trend is all about software.” We should reconsider our Bill of Materials (mechanical) and think probably more about a Bill of Features (software). Much of Marc’s presentation contained the same elements as I discussed in my PDT2014 blog post from October last year.

clip_image019I was happy to see Jenni Ala-Mantila presenting the usage of PLM system for Skanska Oy. Skanska is one of the largest construction companies operating global. See one of their beautiful corporate videos here. I always have been an advocate to use PLM practices and PLM infrastructure to enhance, in particular, the data-continuity in a business where people work in silos with separate tools. There are so many benefits to gain by having an end-to-end visibility of the project and its related data. Jenni’s presentation was confirming this.

By implementing a PLM backbone with a focus on project management, supplier collaboration and risk management, she confirmed that PLM has contributed significant to their Five Zero – vision: Zero loss-making projects, Zero Environmental incidents, Zero Accidents, Zero Ethical breaches and Zero Defects. Skanska is really a visionary company although it was frustrating to learn that there was still a need to build a SharePoint connection with their PLM environment. The future of data-centric has not reached everyone in the organization yet.

The last two sessions of the conference, a panel discussion “Why is Process Innovation Challenging & What can be done about it” plus the final keynote “Sourcing Growth where Growth Takes Place” had some commonality which I expressed in some twitter quotes:

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Conclusion

Where last year I had the impression that the PLM world was somehow in a static mode, not so much news in 2014. It became clear in this 2015 conference that the change towards new business paradigms is really happening and at a faster pace than expected. From mechanical development processes to software processes, from linear towards continuous changes. Moe to come this year

picongressCurrently, I am preparing my sessions for the upcoming Product Innovation conference in Düsseldorf. See: www.picongress.com. My first session will be about PLM upgrades and how to deal with them for the future. It is a challenging topic as some PLM vendors claim using their product, there will be no upgrade problems and cloud-based solutions also provide seamless upgrades in the future.

Don’t cheer to early when you see this kind of messages. I had the chance to look back the past twenty years what happened with PLM and tried to look forward to the upcoming ten years what might happen.

In addition, this lead to some interesting thoughts that I will share in detail during the conference. I will come back to this topic in this blog after the conference. Here some unstructured thoughts that passed my mind recently when preparing this session.

Not every upgrade is the same!

imageFirst there was an interesting blog post from Ed Lopategui from E(E) with the title There is No Upgrade, where he addresses the difference between consumer software and enterprise software. Where consumer software will be used by millions and tested through long Alfa and beta cycles, PLM software often comes to the market in what you could consider a beta stage with limited testing.

Most PLM vendors invest a lot of their revenue in providing new functionality and technology based on their high-end customer demands. They do not have the time and budget to invest in the details of the solution; for this reason PLM solutions will remain a kind of framework.

In addition, when a solution is not 100 % complete there will be an adaptation from the customer, making upgrades later, not 100 percent guaranteed or compatible. More details on PLM Upgrades after the conference, let’s look into the near future.

The Future of PLM resides in Brussels!

imageSome weeks ago I was positively amused by some messages coming from Roger Tempest (PLM Interest Group) related to the future of PLM. Roger claims the PLM industry is effectively rudderless. For that Roger announces the Launch Meeting for the PLM International Research Foundation,

“simple because such a platform does not yet exist.”

I checked if perhaps an ERP International Research Foundation existed, but I only found references to SAP, so what makes the PLM International Research Foundation unique ?

According to Roger, the reason behind this initiative is the lack of clear targets for PLM. I quote:

The lack of detailed thought means that many future possibilities for PLM are just not being considered; and the lack of collective thought means that even the current initiatives to improve PLM remain fragmented and ineffective

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, PLM vendors are in a kind of rat race to keep up with market demands, rapidly changing business, meanwhile building on their core technology. Not an easy game, as they cannot start from scratch, but for sure, and here I agree, they do not optimize their portfolio.

Who can and will take part in such a research forum?

myplmPLM vendors will lean back, as their mission is to be competitive in business, not necessarily constrained by PLM guidelines.

This is the same for companies implementing PLM systems. They are looking for solutions in the market that improve their businesses. This might be a PLM system, but perhaps other components bring even a higher value. Is ALM or SLM part of PLM, for example? This is a challenge as who defined what PLM is and where are the boundaries ?

This leaves the activity to the academics for sure they will have the most advanced and futuristic vision of what is possible conceptually. From my observations, the main challenges currently with PLM are that even the vendors are ten years ahead in their capabilities compared to what most companies are asking for. For the academic approach, I still have to think about Monty Python’s sketch related to soccer. See below

Sorry for the generalization, I believe we should not focus on what is PLM and how PLM should be defined. What we now call PLM is entirely different from what we called PLM 10 years ago, see my last year´s post PLM is changing. I think the future should focus how we are going to deal with business platforms, which contain PLM facets.

The PLM future

imageInteresting enough we are on the brink of a new business paradigm due to globalization and digitization as you might have read from my recent posts. There are analysts, consultancy firms and research foundations all describing this challenging future.

Have a look at this post from Verdi Ogewell’s article at Engineering.com: Product Innovation Platform: Plug’n’play next generation PLM. The post is a summary of the platform discussion during the PDT 2014 conference, which I consider as one of the best conferences if you want to go into the details. See also my post: The weekend after PDT 2014.

The future is about innovation and/or business platforms where data is available based on a federated approach, not necessary based on a single, monolithic PLM platform.

Focusing on standardization and openness of such a platform is for me the central mission we have.

Remember: Openness is a right, not a privilege.

Let PLM vendors and other application providers develop their optimized services for individual business scenarios that will remove the borders of system thinking. Academic support will be needed to solve interoperability and openness required for initiatives like Industry 4.0 and IDC´s third platform.

I am looking forward to interesting discussions at the upcoming
PI conference but also with peers in my network.

The future is challenging and will it still be named PLM?

Your thoughts?

BIM_PLMA year ago I wrote a blog post questioning if the construction industry would learn from PLM practices in relation to BIM.
In that post, I described several lessons learned from other industries. Topics like:

  • Working on a single, shared repository of on-line data (the Digital Mock Up).  Continuity of data based on a common data model – not only 3D
  • It is a mindset. People need to learn to share instead of own data
  • Early validation and verification based on a virtual model. Working in the full context
  • Planning and anticipation for service and maintenance during the design phase. Design with the whole lifecycle in mind (and being able to verify the design)

The comments to that blog post already demonstrated that the worlds of PLM and BIM are not 100 percent comparable and that there are some serious inhibitors preventing them to come closer. One year later, let´s see where we are:

BIM moving into VDC (or BLM ?)

discussThe first trend that becomes visible is that people in the construction industry start to use more and more the term Virtual Design and Construction (VDC)  instead of BIM (Building Information Model or Building Information Management?).

The good news here is that there is less ambiguity with the term VDC instead of BIM. Does this mean many BIM managers will change their job title? Probably not as most construction companies are still in the learning phase what a digital enterprise means for them.

Still Virtual Design and Construction focuses a lot on the middle part of the full lifecycle of a construction. VDC does not necessary connect the early concept phase and for sure almost neglects the operational phase. The last phase is often ignored as construction companies are not thinking (yet) about Repair & Maintenance contracts (the service economy).

And surprisingly, last week I saw a blog post from Dassault Systemes, where Dassault introduced the word BLM (Building Lifecycle Management).  Related to this blog post also some LinkedIn discussions started.  BLM, according to Dassault Systemes, is the combination of BIM and PLM – read this post here.

The challenge however for construction companies is to, what are the related data sets they require and how can you create this continuity of data. This brings us to one of the most important inhibitors.

 

Data Ownership

imageWhere in other industries a clear product data owner exists, the ownership of data in EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction) companies, typical for the construction industry or oil & gas industry is most of the times on purpose vague.

First of all the owner of a construction often does not know which data could be relevant to maintain. And secondly, as soon as the owner asks for more detailed information, he will have to pay for that, raising the costs, which not directly flow back to benefits, only later during the FM (Facility Management) /Operational stage.

And let´s imagine the owner could get the all the data required. Next the owner is at risk, as potentially having the information might makes you liable for mistakes and claims.

From discussion with construction owners I learned their policy is not to aim for the full dataset related to a construction. It reduces the risk to be liable. Imagine Boeing and Airbus would follow this approach. This brings us to another important inhibitor.

A risk shifting business

imageThe construction industry on its own is still a risk shifting business, where each party tries to pass the risk of cost of failure to another stakeholder in the pyramid. The most powerful owners / operators of the construction industry quickly play down the risk to their contractors and suppliers. And these companies then then distribute the risk further down to their subcontractors.

If you do not accept the risk, you are no longer in the game. This is different from other industries and I have seen this approach in a few situations.

imageFor example, I was dealing with an EPC company that wanted to implement PLM. The company expected that the PLM implementer would take a large part of the risk for the implementation. As they were always taking the risk too for their big customers when applying for a project. Here there was a clash of cultures, as PLM implementers learned that the risk of a successful PLM implementation is vague as many soft values define the success. It is not a machine or platform that has to work after some time.

imageAnother example was related to requirements management. Here the EPC company wanted to become clear and specific to their customer. However their customer reacted very strange. Instead of being happy that the EPC company invested in more upfront thinking and analysis, the customer got annoyed as they were not used to be specific so early in the process. They told the EPC company, “if you have so many questions, probably you do not understand the business”.

So everyone in the EPC business is pushed to accept a higher risk and uncertainty than other industries. However, the big reward is that you are allowed to have a cost of failure above 15 – 20 percent without feeling bad. Which this percentage you would be out of business in other industries. And this brings us to another important inhibitor.

Accepted high cost of failure

No_roiAs the industry accepts this high cost of failure, companies are not triggered to work different or to redesign their processes in order to lower the inefficiencies. The UK government mandates BIM Level 2 for their projects starting in 2016 and beyond, to reduce costs through inefficiencies.

But will the UK government invest to facilitate and aim for data ownership? Probably not, as the aim of governments is not to be extreme economical. Being not liable has a bigger value than being more efficient for governments as I learned. Being more efficient is the message to the outside world to keep the taxpayer satisfied.

It is hard to change this way of thinking. It requires a cultural change through the whole value chain. And cultural change is the “worst” thing that can happen to a company. The biggest inhibitor.

Cultural change

imageCultural change is a point that touches all industries and there is no difference between the construction industry and for example a classical discrete manufacturing company. Because of global competition and comparable products other industries have been forced already to work different, in order to survive (and are still challenged)

The cultural change lies in people. We (the older generation) are educated and brought up in classical engineering models that reflect the post second world war best practices. Being important in a process is your job justification and job guarantee.

New paradigms, based on a digital world instead of a document-shifting world, need to be defined and matured and will make many classical data processing jobs redundant. Read this interesting article from the Economist: The Onrushing Wave

This is a challenge for every company. The highest need to implement this cultural change is ironically for those countries with the highest legacy: Western Europe / the United-States.

As these countries also have the highest labor cost, the impact of, keep on doing the old stuff, will reduce their competitiveness. The impact for construction companies is less, as the construction industry is still a local business, as at the end resources will not travel the globe to execute projects.

However cheaper labor costs become more and more available in every country. If companies want to utilize them, they need to change the process. They need shift towards more thinking and knowledge in the early lifecycle to avoid the need for high qualified people to be in the field to the fix errors.

Sharing instead of owning

imageFor me the major purpose of PLM is to provide an infrastructure for people to share information in such a manner that others, not aware of the information, can still easily find and use the information in a relevant context of their activities. The value: People will decide on actual information and no longer become reactive on fixing errors due to lack of understanding the context.

The problem for the construction industry is that I have not seen any vendor focusing on sharing the big picture. Perhaps the BLM discussion will be a first step. For the major tool providers, like Autodesk and Bentley, their business focus is on the continuity of their tools, not on the continuity of data.

Last week I noticed a cloud based Issue Management solution, delivered by Kubus. Issue Management is one of the typical and easy benefits a PLM infrastructure can deliver. In particular if issues can be linked to projects, construction parts, processes, customers. If this solution becomes successful, the extension might be to add more data elements to the cloud solution. Main question will remain: Who owns the data ? Have a look:

Cloud based Issues Management

 

For continuity of data, you need standards and openness – IFC is one of the many standards needed in the full scope of collaboration. Other industries are further developed in their standards driven by end-user organizations instead of vendors. Companies should argue with their vendors that openness is a right, not a privilege.

Conclusion

A year ago, I was more optimistic about the construction industry adopting PLM practices. What I have learned this year, and based on feedback from others, were are not at the turning point yet. Change is difficult to achieve from one day to the other. Meanwhile, the whole value chain in the construction industry has different objectives. Nobody will take the risk or can afford the risk.

I remain interested to see where the construction industry is heading.

What do you think will 2015 be the year of a breakthrough?

Shaping the PLM platform of the Future

2050In this post my observations from the PDT 2014 Europe conference which was hosted in the Microsoft Conference center in Paris and organized by Eurostep and CIMdata.

It was the first time I attended this event. I was positively surprised about the audience and content. Where other PLM conferences were often more focusing on current business issues, here a smaller audience (130 persons) was looking into more details around the future of PLM. Themes like PLM platforms, the Circular Economy, Open Standards and longevity of data were presented and discussed here.

The emergence of the PLM platform

SNAGHTML149e44b9Pieter Bilello from CIMdata kicked off with his presentation: The emergence of the PLM platform. Peter explained we have to rethink our PLM strategy for two main reasons:

1.  The product lifecycle will become more and more circular due to changing business models and in parallel the different usage/availability of materials will have an impact how we design and deliver products

2.  The change towards digital platforms at the heart of our economy (The Digital Revolution as I wrote about also in previous posts) will impact organizations dramatically.

Can current processes and tools support today’s complexity. And what about tomorrow? According to a CIMdata survey there is a clear difference in profit and performance between leaders and followers, and the gap is increasing faster. “Can you afford yourself to be a follower ?” is a question companies should ask themselves.

Rethinking PLM platform does not bring the 2-3 % efficiency benefit but can bring benefits from 20 % and more.

Peter sees a federated platform as a must for companies to survive. I in particular likes his statement:

The new business platform paradigm is one in which solutions from multiple providers must be seamlessly deployed using a resilient architecture that can withstand rapid changes in business functions and delivery modalities

Industry voices on the Future PLM platform

Auto

SNAGHTML14a2180eSteven Vetterman from ProSTEP talked about PLM in the automotive industry. Steven started describing the change in the automotive industry, by quoting Heraclitus Τα πάντα ρεί – the only constant is change. Steven described two major changes in the automotive industry:

1.  The effect of globalization, technology and laws & ecology

2.  The change of the role of IT and the impact of culture & collaboration

Interesting observation is that the preferred automotive market will shift to the BRIC countries. In 2050 more than 50 % of the world population (estimate almost 10 billion people at that time) will be living in Asia, 25 percent in Africa. Europe and Japan are aging. They will not invest in new cars.

For Steven, it was clear that current automotive companies are not yet organized to support and integrate modern technologies (systems engineering / electrical / software) beyond mechanical designs. Neither are they open for a true global collaboration between all players in the industry. Some of the big automotive companies are still struggling with their rigid PLM implementation. There is a need for open PLM, not driven from a single PLM system, but based on a federated environment of information.

Aero

Yves Baudier spoke on behalf of the aerospace industry about the standardization effort at their Strategic Standardization Group around Airbus and some of its strategic suppliers, like Thales, Safran, BAE systems and more. If you look at the ASD Radar, you might get a feeling for the complexity of standards that exist and are relevant for the Airbus group.

standards at airbus

It is a complex network of evolving standard all providing (future) benefits in some domains. Yves was talking about the through Lifecycle support which is striving for data creation once and reuse many times during the lifecycle. The conclusion from Yves, like all the previous speakers is that: The PLM Platform of the Future will be federative, and standards will enable PLM Interoperability

Energy and Marine

SNAGHTML14a7edf3Shefali Arora from Wärtsilä spoke on behalf of the energy and marine sector and gave an overview of the current trends in their business and the role of PLM in Wärtsilä. With PLM, Wärtsilä wants to capitalize on its knowledge, drive costs down and above all improve business agility. As the future is in flexibility. Shefali gave an overview of their PLM roadmap covering the aspects of PDM (with Teamcenter), ERP (SAP) and a PLM backbone (Share-A-space). The PLM backbone providing connectivity of data between all lifecycle stages and external partners (customer / suppliers) based on the PLCS standard. Again another session demonstrating the future of PLM is in an open and federated environment

Intermediate conclusion:
The future PLM platform is a federated platform which adheres to standards provides openness of interfaces that permit the platform to be reliable over multiple upgrade cycles and being able to integrate third-parties (Peter Bilello)

Systems Engineering

imageThe afternoon session I followed the Systems Engineering track. Peter Bilello gave an overview of Model-Based Systems engineering and illustrated based on a CIMdata survey that even though many companies have a systems engineering strategy in place it is not applied consistently. And indeed several companies I have been dealing with recently expressed their desire to integrate systems engineering into their overall product development strategy. Often this approach is confused by believing requirements management and product development equal systems engineering. Still a way to go.

Dieter Scheithauer presented his vision that Systems Engineering should be a part of PLM, and he gave a very decent, academic overview how all is related. Important for companies that want to go into that direction, you need to understand where you aiming at. I liked his comparison of a system product structure and a physical product structure, helping companies to grab the difference between a virtual, system view and a physical product view:

system and product

More Industry voices

Construction industry

imageThe afternoon session started with Christophe Castaing, explaining BIM (Building Information Modeling) and the typical characteristics of the construction industry. Although many construction companies focus on the construction phase, for 100 pieces of information/exchange to be managed during the full life cycle only 5 will be managed during the initial design phase (BIM), 20 will be managed during the construction phase (BAM) and finally 75 will be managed during the operation phase (BOOM). I wrote about PLM and BIM last year: Will 2014 become the year the construction industry will discover PLM?

Christophe presented the themes from the French MINnD project, where the aim is starting from an Information Model to come to a platform, supporting and integrated with the particular civil and construction standards, like IFC. CityGml but also PLCS standard (isostep ISO 10303-239

Consumer Products

Amir Rashid described the need for PLM in the consumer product markets stating the circular economy as one of the main drivers. Especially in consumer markets, product waste can be extremely high due to the short lifetime of the product and everything is scrapped to land waste afterward. Interesting quote from Amir: Sustainability’s goal is to create possibilities not to limit options. He illustrated how Xerox already has sustainability as part of their product development since 1984. The diagram below demonstrates how the circular economy can impact all business today when well-orchestrated.

circular economy

SNAGHTML14b000f6Marc Halpern closed the tracks with his presentation around Product Innovation Platforms, describing how Product Design and PLM might evolve in the upcoming digital era. Gartner believes that future PLM platforms will provide insight (understand and analyze Big Data), Adaptability (flexible to integrate and maintain through an open service oriented architecture), promoting reuse (identifying similarity based on metadata and geometry), discovery (the integration of search analysis and simulation) and finally community (using the social paradigm).

If you look to current PLM systems, most of them are far from this definition, and if you support Gartner’s vision, there is still a lot of work for PLM vendor to do.

Interesting Marc also identified five significant risks that could delay or prevent from implementing this vision:

  • inadequate openness (pushing back open collaboration)
  • incomplete standards (blocking implementation of openness)
  • uncertain cloud performance (the future is in cloud services)
  • the steep learning curve (it is a big mind shift for companies)
  • Cyber-terrorism (where is your data safe?)

After Marc´s session there was an interesting panel discussion with some the speakers from that day, briefly answering discussing questions from the audience. As the presentations have been fairly technical, it was logical that the first question that came up was: What about change management?

A topic that could fill the rest of the week but the PDT dinner was waiting – a good place to network and digest the day.

DAY 2

imageDay 2 started with two interesting topics. The first presentation was a joined presentation from Max Fouache (IBM) and Jean-Bernard Hentz (Airbus – CAD/CAM/PDM R&T and IT Backbones). The topic was about the obsolescence of information systems: Hardware and PLM applications. As in the aerospace industry some data needs to be available for 75 years. You can imagine that during 75 years a lot can change to hardware and software systems. At Airbus, there are currently 2500 applications, provided by approximate 600 suppliers that need to be maintained. IBM and Airbus presented a Proof of Concept done with virtualization of different platforms supporting CATIA V4/V5 using Linux, Windows XP, W7, W8 which is just a small part of all the data.

The conclusion from this session was:

To benefit from PLM of the future, the PLM of the past has to be managed. Migration is not the only answer. Look for solutions that exist to mitigate risks and reduce costs of PLM Obsolescence. Usage and compliance to Standards is crucial.

Standards

Next Howard Mason, Corporate Information Standards Manager took us on a nice journey through the history of standards developed in his business. I loved his statement: Interoperability is a right, not a privilege

imageIn the systems engineering track Kent Freeland talked about Nuclear Knowledge Management and CM in Systems Engineering. As this is one of my favorite domains, we had a good discussion on the need for pro-active Knowledge Management, which somehow implies a CM approach through the whole lifecycle of a plant. Knowledge management is not equal to store information in a central place. It is about building and providing data in context that it can be used.

Ontology for systems engineering

Leo van Ruijven provided a session for insiders: An ontology for Systems Engineering based on ISO 15926-11. His simplified approach compared to the ISO 15288 lead to several discussion between supporters and opponents during lunch time.

Master Data Management

imageAfter lunch time Marc Halpern gave his perspective on Master Data Management, a new buzz-word or discipline need to orchestrate enterprise collaboration.

Based on the type of information companies want to manage in relation to each other supported by various applications (PLM, ERP, MES, MRO, …) this can be a complex exercise and Marc ended with recommendations and an action plan for the MDM lead. In my customer engagements I also see more and more the digital transformation leads to MDM questions. Can we replace Excel files by mastered data in a database?

SNAGHTML14c68ed3

Almost at the end of the day I was speaking about the PDM platform of the people targeted for the people from the future. Here I highlighted the fundamental change in skills that’s upcoming. Where my generation was trained to own and capture information as much as possible information in your brain (or cabinet), future generations are trained and skilled in finding data and building information out of it. Owning (information) is not crucial for them. Perhaps as the world is moving fast. See this nice YouTube movie at the end.

image

Ella Jamsin ended the conference on behalf of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation explaining the need to move to a circular economy and the PLM should play a role in that. No longer is PLM from cradle-to-grave but PLM should support the lifecycle from cradle-to-cradle.

Unfortunate I could not attend all sessions as there were several parallel sessions. Neither have I written about all sessions I attended. The PDT Europe conference, a conference for people who mind about the details around the PLM future concepts and the usage of standards, is a must for future strategists.

changeBusiness is changing and becoming digital as you might have noticed. If you haven´t noticed it, you might be disconnected from the world or work in a stable silo. A little bit simplified and provocative otherwise you would not read further.

The change towards digital also has its effect on how PLM is evolving. Initially considered as an extension of PDM, managing engineering data, slowly evolving to an infrastructure to support the whole product lifecycle.

The benefits from a real PLM infrastructure are extremely high as it allows people to work smarter, identify issues earlier and change from being reactive towards proactive. In some industries, this change in working is they only way to stay in business. Others with still enough margin will not act.

Note: I am talking about a PLM infrastructure as I do not believe in a single PLM system anymore. For me PLM is supported through a collection of services across the whole product lifecycle, many potentially in one system or platform.

Changing from an engineering-centric system towards an infrastructure across the departmental silos is the biggest challenge for PLM. PLM vendors and ERP vendors with a PLM offering are trying provide this infrastructure and mainly fight against Excel. As an Excel file can easy pass the border from one department to the other. No vision needed for Excel.

A PLM infrastructure however requires a vision. A company has to look at its core business processes and decide on which information flows through the organization or even better their whole value chain.

Building this vision, understanding this vision and then being able to explain the vision is a challenge for all companies. Where sometime even management says

“Why do we need to have a vision, just fix the problem”

also people working in departments are not looking forward to change their daily routines because they need to share information. Here you here statements like

“Why people feel the need to look at the big picture. I want to have my work done.”

So if current businesses do not change, will there be a change?

Innovation

Here I see the digital world combined with search-based applications coming up. Search based applications allow companies to index their silos and external sources and get an understanding of the amount of data there exists. And from these results learn that there is a lot of duplicated data or invalid information at different places.

This awareness might create the understanding that if instead of having hundred thousands of Excels in the organization, it would be better to have the data inside a database, uniquely stored and connected to other relevant information.

I have described this process in my past three posts and agreed the context remains complex if you are not involved or interested in it.

To grasp this concept first of all, you need to have the will to understand it. There is a lot of strategic information out there from companies like Accenture, Capgemini and more.

Next if you want to understand it in a more down-to-earth manner it is important to listen and talk with your peers from other companies, other industries. This is currently happening all around the world and I invite you to participate.

Here is a list of events that I am attending or planned to attend but too far away:

October 7th Stockholm – ENOVIA user conference

imageHere I will participate as a panel member in the discussion around the concept of zero files. Here we want to explain and discuss to the audience what a data-centric approach means for an organization. Also, customers will share their experiences. This conference is focusing on the ENOVIA community – you can still register here

October 14th-15th Paris – Product Data Technology 2014 conference

pdteuropeHere I will speak about the PLM future (based on data) and what PLM should deliver for the future generations. This conference is much broader and addresses all PLM related topics in a broader perspective

October 28 Product Innovation conference in San Diego

picongressI have always enjoyed participating to this conference as like the PDT2014 it brings people together for networking and discussions. Mostly on business topics not on IT-issues.

November 26 Infuseit seminar in Copenhagen

imageRelative new in the Nordics Infuseit, a PLM consultancy company, is able to attract an audience that wants to work on understanding the PLM future. Instead of listening to presenters, here you are challenged to to discuss and contribute to build a common opinion. I will be there too.

 

Conclusion: It is time to prepare yourself for the change – it is happening and be educated an investment that will be rewarding for your company

What do you think – Is data-centric a dream ?

2050This is for the moment the last post about the difference between files and a data-oriented approach. This time I will focus on the need for open exchange standards and the relation to proprietary systems. In my first post, I explained that a data-centric approach can bring many business benefits and is pointing to background information for those who want to learn more in detail. In my second post, I gave the example of dealing with specifications.

It demonstrated that the real value for a data-centric approach comes at the moment there are changes of the information over time. For a specification that is right the first time and never changes there is less value to win with a data-centric approach. Moreover, aren’t we still dreaming that we do everything right the first time.

The specification example was based on dealing with text documents (sometimes called 1D information). The same benefits are valid for diagrams, schematics (2D information) and CAD models (3D information)

1D,2D,3D …..

1DThe challenge for a data-oriented approach is that information needs to be stored in data elements in a database, independent of an individual file format. For text, this might be easy to comprehend. Text elements are relative simple to understand. Still the OpenDocument standard for Office documents is in the background based on a lot of technical know-how and experience to make it widely acceptable. For 2D and 3D information this is less obvious as this is for the domain of the CAD vendors.

CAD vendors have various reasons not to store their information in a neutral format.

  • First of all, and most important for their business, a neutral format would reduce the dependency on their products. Other vendors could work with these formats too, therefore reducing the potential market capture. You could say that in a certain manner the Autodesk 2D format for DXF (and even DWG) have become a neutral format for 2D data as many other vendors have applications that read and write back information in the DXF-data format. So far DXF is stored in a file but you could store DXF data also inside a database and make it available as elements.
  • This brings us to the second reason why using neutral data formats are not that evident for CAD vendors. It reduces their flexibility to change the format and optimize it for maximal performance. Commercially the significant, immediate disadvantage of working in neutral formats is that it has not been designed for particular needs in an individual application and therefore any “intelligent” manipulations on the data are hard to achieve..

3dThe same reasoning can be applied to 3D data, where different neutral formats exist (IGES, STEP, …. ). It is very difficult to identify a common 3D standard without losing many benefits that an individual 3D CAD format brings currently. For example, CATIA is handling 3D CAD data in a complete different way as Creo does, and again handled different compared to NX, SolidWorks, Solid Edge and Inventor. Even some of them might use the same CAD kernel.

However, it is not only about the geometry anymore; the shapes represent virtual objects that have metadata describing the objects. In addition other related information exists, not necessarily coming from the design world, like tasks (planning), parts (physical), suppliers, resources and more

PLM, ERP, systems and single source of truth

This brings us in the world of data management, in my world mainly PLM systems and ERP systems. An ERP system is already a data-centric application, the BOM is already available as metadata as well as all the scheduling and interaction with resources, suppliers and financial transactions. Still ERP systems store a lot of related documents and drawings, containing content that does not match their data model.

PLM systems have gradually becoming more and more data centric as the origin was around engineering data, mostly stored in files. In a data-centric approach, there is the challenge to exchange data between a PLM system and an ERP system. Usually there is a need to share information between two systems, mainly the items. Different definitions of an item on the PLM and ERP side make it hard to exchange information from one system to the other. It is for that reason why there are many discussions around PLM and ERP integration and the BOM.

ebom_mbom_problem

In the modern data-centric approach however we should think less and less in systems and more and more in business processes performed on actual data elements. This requires a company-wide, actually an enterprise-wide or industry-wide data definition of all information that is relevant for the business processes. This leads into Master Data Management, the new required skill for enterprise solution architects

black holeThe data-centric approach creates the impression that you can achieve a single source of the truth as all objects are stored uniquely in a database. SAP solves the problem by stating everything fits in their single database. To my opinion this is more a black hole approach: Everything gets inside, but even light cannot escape. Usability and reuse of information that was stored with the intention not to be found is the big challenge here.

Other PLM and ERP vendors have different approaches. Either they choose for a service bus architecture where applications in the background link and synchronize common data elements from each application. Therefore, there is some redundancy, however everything is connected. More and more PLM vendors focus on building a platform of connected data elements, where on top applications will run, like the 3DExperience platform from Dassault Systèmes.

androidAs users we are more and more used to platforms as Google, Apple provide these platforms already in the cloud for common use on our smartphones. The large amount of apps run on shared data elements (contacts, locations …) and store additional proprietary data.

Platforms, Networks and standards

And here we enter an interesting area of discussion. I think it is a given that a single database concept is a utopia. Therefore, it will be all about how systems and platforms communicate with each other to provide in the end the right information to the user. The systems and platforms need to be data-centric as we learned from the discussion around the document (file centric) or data-centric approach.

In this domain, there are several companies already active for years. Datamation from Dr. Kais Al-Timimi in the UK is such a company. Kais is a veteran in the PLM and data modeling industry, and they provide a platform for data-centric collaboration. This quote from one of his presentations, illustrates we share the same vision:

“……. the root cause of all interoperability and data challenges is the need to transform data between systems using different, and often incompatible, data models.

It is fundamentally different from the current Application Centric Approach, in that data is SHARED, and therefore, ‘NOT OWNED’ by the applications that create it.

This means in a Data Centric Approach data can deliver MORE VALUE, as it is readily sharable and reusable by multiple applications. In addition, it removes the overhead of having to build and maintain non-value-added processes, e.g. to move data between applications.”

Another company in the same domain is Eurostep, who are also focusing on business collaboration between in various industries. Eurostep has been working with various industry standards, like AP203/214, PLCS and AP233. Eurostep has developed their Share-A-space platform to enable a data-centric collaboration.

ISO-BIMThis type of data collaboration is crucial for all industries. Where the aerospace and automotive industry are probably the most mature on this topic, the process industry and construction industry are currently also focusing on discovering data standards and collaboration models (ISO 15926 / BIM). It will be probably the innovators in these industries that clear the path for others. For sure it will not come from the software vendors as I discussed before.

Conclusion

If you reach this line, it means the topic has been interesting in depth for you. In the past three post starting from the future trend, an example and the data modeling background, I have tried to describe what is happening in a simplified manner.

If you really want to dive into the PLM for the future, I recommend you visit the upcoming PDT 2014 conference in Paris on October 14 and 15. Here experts from different industries will present and discuss the future PLM platform and its benefits. I hope to meet you there.

pdteurope

 

Some more to read:

https://us.sogeti.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/PLM-Systems-White-Paper.pdf

dataIn my previous post, I talked about the unstoppable trend towards digital information and knowledge based on data becoming the new business paradigm.

Building knowledge based on information extracted from data, instead of working with documents and people, who need to manipulate these documents.

Moreover, the reasons to move towards a digital data-oriented approach are the immense business benefits it can bring to an organization. Having online visibility on information in context of other information from different stakeholders allows companies to be more proactive.

A proactive company will react faster to the market or customer. This will reduce waste and resources (materials / people) and therefore in the end be more competitive. This is all described in my first post, with relevant links to various global references.

In this post, I want to describe in an example what the differences are between a document-oriented and a data-oriented approach and how it affects people and business. This might give you an impression of the expected business benefits.

The ultimate goal behind a data-oriented approach is to have a single version of the truth for a product, project or plant. This can be realized by treating information as data elements in various connected database, where on demand reports or dashboards can be created based on actual information, instead of documents generated by duplicating data in new systems and locations. Digital data will provide paperless processes accessible almost anywhere around the world.

push or pull

As an example, I will explain the difference between document-centric and data-centric when dealing with specifications.

The specification

Everyone knows the challenge with specifications. Most of the time in printed documents describing how a product or service should work from the client point of view. There are two principles behind specifications:

  • Complexity. The more complex product or service is, the bigger chance that specifications are not complete or hundred percent understood, leading to an iterative change process. The challenge here is to manage the change and the consistency of the full specifications.
  • Industry and margins. In a repetitive business, for example, the automotive or other mass consumer products, products can be quiet complex and once sold hard to maintain and repair. In a competitive business, an error in the field can consume a lot of the expected profit. In the construction industry, where most of the time single projects are executed by a chain of disciplines, the industry (still) accepts the costs overrun and the high costs of fixing issues in the field, instead of being clearer upfront during the design and planning.

Let’s stay with the example in the middle of complexity and industry volume. In color the various stages of the process.

The document based specification – 1

pdfWhen the document based specification arrives, the company has to get an understanding of the content. The project manager has a first read through the document (100+ pages) and decides to send the document (it is a pdf) to sales, engineering, legal and planning. Engineering decides to distribute the document internally to mechanical, electrical and quality (for compliance).

The project manager stresses everyone on a weekly base to deliver the responses and tries to understand if the answers will come in time. There are some meetings needed with the stakeholders as the whole understanding needs to be consistent. Based on several iterations a response is compiled.

The data-oriented approach – 1

ReqStructureWhen the document based specification arrives, the project leader first stores the document as a reference in the PLM system and extracts all the customer requirements as data elements in the system. While extracting the requirements, the projects manager groups them into digital folders (functional / non-functional, contractual, regulations, etc.) and assigns them to the relevant stakeholders, who get notified by the system. Each of the persons assigned, again the engineering manager has distributed the discipline specific requirements internally.

The project manager watches the progress of the requirements analyses which are around a virtual model. There is still a need for meetings with the stakeholders to agree on the solution approach. Everything is stored and visible online in the system. This visibility has helped some of the stakeholders to be better-aligned upfront. In the end, the response is generated and converted to the customer’s format.

Not much benefit for step 1

imageIf you compare the two approaches, there is mainly one person happy: the project manager. Instead of spending time to collect the status of all information, direct visibility on the response helps him/her to prioritize of focus where attention is needed, instead of discovering it on a weekly base.

There is some small benefit from the virtual model as other stakeholders can have a better understanding of the actual progress.

However, for the rest, all stakeholders are complaining. It is difficult to work. (Fl)Excel was much easier. Moreover, thinking about a virtual model takes time as we are not used working in this way. Typically something for aerospace you might think.

And now the benefits come – step 2

The customer has placed the order, and the project has started. The design has started, and people start to discover discrepancies or ambiguous demands that need to be negotiated with the customer. Is it part of the project and if not, should it become part of the project and at which costs (for whom)

The document oriented approach – 2

searchSeveral engineers are now discussing with the counterparts at the customer the detailed interpretation of the requirements, either through face-to-face meetings or emails. Changes are collected and sent to the project manager, who tries to understand what has changed and how to merge it in an on-going specification document. To avoid many revisions, he/she tries to update the document on a bi-weekly base, send it to the internal stakeholders for review and with their feedback generates a specification document for the customer that supposed to cover the latest agreements.

Unfortunate not all changes have reached the document as some of the stakeholders were busy and forgot to include some of the changes agreed with the customer as they were in a lost email. Also, a previous change of a requirement was overwritten as an update from quality used the old data. Finally, some design solutions were changed, which raised the costs. And not sure if the product with all its changes will be compliant after delivery. However, luckily nobody noticed so far, not even the customer

The data-oriented approach – 2

whyworryThanks to the virtual model and the relations between all the requirements, any change in a requirement gets notified in the system. When a requirement is further clarified, it is updated in the system. When a requirement needs to be changed, it is clear what the impact of this change is. A change workflow assures that decisions are made visible and approved. Potentially changes that lead to more work were quoted to the customer for acceptance. Luckily the compliancy engineer noted that the change of materials used would lead to a compliancy issue. On a bi-weekly base, the project manager generates an agreed specification for the customer based on the data in the system.

Benefits are growing.

imageThe project manager remains the happiest person and is even happier as less discussion is needed about who changed what and why. Alternatively, discussions about changes that should exist and cannot be found. The time saved by the project manager could be used to collaborate even better with the teams (without annoying them) or perhaps a second project to manage in parallel.

Other stakeholders start to enjoy the data-oriented approach too. Less ambiguity on their side too, fewer iterations because changes were not apparent. As all information is related to the virtual model online, the actual status is clear when making a decision. Less fixing afterwards and luckily still project meeting between the stakeholders to synchronize. The PLM system does not eliminate communication; it provides a reliable baseline of the truth. No need (and option) to look in your archives.

At this stage, benefits start to become clear. Fewer iterations and better decisions will have an impact on the costs and project stress. Still a complaint from the engineers might be that they need to do too much upfront thinking although some years later they might discover that this will be their main job. Fixing issues from the past have diminished.

And then the ultimate benefits

Now the project has reached the physical state. It is manufactured or under commissioning.

The document oriented approach – 3

No_roiIn the document oriented approach, many issues might pop-up because they have not been considered in the early phase, or they got lost during document exchanges. Does the product work as specified? Is the building certified as specified?

The customer is king and for manufacturing companies this might lead to product recalls or launch delays. In the construction world, people in the field, will fix the issues by using skilled resources and creating a waste of materials and/or resources.

Data handover to the owner is a nightmare for a the project-centric delivery. Several people have been searching for documents, specifications and emails to build and compile the required documents for handover.

The data-oriented approach – 3

sel_aIn the data-centric approach, the behavior of the physical product works as expected as most of the issues have been solved in the virtual model. When testing the product it works as specified as the specifying requirements have always been linked to the product. Moreover, they have been agreed and approved by the relevant stakeholders. Where relevant, the customer has paid for the extra work specified.

The handover process was not so stressful as before with the document-oriented approach. As the required information was known and specified upfront related to the requirements, the maturity process of the virtual model assured this data exists in the system. Now the as-built information matches the as-specified information. What a relief.

Conclusion

imageIt is clear that the significant benefits can be found in step 3. I wrote the comparison in an extreme manner, knowing that reality lies in the middle. Excellent people can comprehend and fix more upfront because of their experience. Building the ultimate virtual model is not yet an easy achievement either.

The savings in materials and required resources are significant in a data-oriented approach. The time savings and the quality enhancements might change your company into a market-leader. The cost savings achieved through a pro-active approach will make your margin growing (unless competition does the same) and enable you to innovate.

One final remark on business change

ideaIf business change could be achieved by selecting the right tool or system without a business change, you will never get a competitive advantage. As your competitor can buy these too.

However, if you change to a data-centric approach, it will be a though change process and therefore once implemented you will leave competitors behind that keep on hanging on the past.

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