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imageI will be attending the annual Product Innovation conference again in Berlin next week. Looking forward to this event, as it is one of the places where you have the chance to network and listen to presentations from people that are PLM minded. A kind of relaxation, as strangely enough, most of the companies I am visiting, considerer PLM still considered as something difficult, something related to engineering, not so much connected to the future of their business.

I believe one of the reasons is that people have founded their opinion on the past. An expensive implementation horror story, an engineering focuses implementation or other stories that have framed PLM in a certain manner.

However PLM has changed and it significance has grown ! 

During the Product Innovation conference, I will present in more depth this topic related to the change of PLM.,with more examples and a surprising projection to the future. Later, when time permits, I will share the more in-depth observations in my blog, hopefully extended based on discussions during the conference. And if you attend the conference, don’t miss my session.


clip_image001Fifteen years ago,

the term PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) was introduced as a logical extension to cPDM (collaborative Product Data Management). Where the initial focus was of global file sharing of mechanical CAD data, PLM extended the scope with multidisciplinary support, connecting manufacturing preparation and providing an infrastructure for change management.

In the nineties product data management was in transition.

In the early 90s, UNIX dominated, and installing a PDM system was the work of IT-experts. Large enterprises, already operating globally, were pushing for standardization, and control of data to connect their engineers in a more efficient manner. Connectivity was achieved through expensive lease lines; people like me, had to connect to the internet through dial-up modems and its usage was limited, providing static web pages with minimal graphics.

It was obvious that cPDM and the first PLM projects were extremely expensive. There was no experience; it was learning on the job. The costs were high and visible at the management level. Giving the management the impression that PLM is potentially the same challenge as ERP, but with a less clear scope. And the projects were executed by IT-experts, end-users were not really in the game.

At the end of the 90s, a small revolution started to take place. The power of the PC combined with Microsoft technology provided a much cheaper and flexible alternative for a complex UNIX based implementation. SNAGHTMLc988d04

Affordable 3D CAD emerged in the mid-market, leading to the need for Windows-based PDM systems and with Windows came Excel, the PDM/PLM killer application.

A person with some rudimentary Visual Basic skills could do magic with Excel and although not an IT-expert would become the champion of the engineering department.

At that time, PLM conferences provided a platform on which industry could discuss and share their tips and tricks on how to implement in the best manner a system. The focus was mainly on the IT-side and large enterprises. The scope was engineering centric, connecting the various disciplines including mechanical, electrical and simulation, in a database and connecting files and versions.


clip_image002Ten years ago,

most large enterprises had already started to implement a PLM system. The term PLM became an accepted acronym associated with something that is needed for big companies and is complex and expensive, a logical statement based on the experiences of early adopters.

PLM was the infrastructure that could connect product information between disciplines and departments working from different locations. The NPI (New Product Introduction) process became a topic pushed by all enterprise PLM vendors and was a practice that demonstrated the value of providing visibility on information across a large, dispersed company, to better decision-making.

As this process was more data-centric instead of CAD-centric, these capabilities promoted the recognition and introduction of PLM in non-traditional manufacturing industries like Consumer Packaged Goods, Pharmaceuticals and Apparel where planning and coordination of information leads, instead of a Bill of Material.

In large enterprises, PLM still lay with the IT-architects as they were the ones deciding the standards and software to be used. PLM and ERP connectivity was an expensive topic.

PLM_profFor the mid-market, many PLM vendors were working on offers to standardize a PLM implementation; this usually involved a stripped-down or limited version from the full PLM system, a preconfigured system with templates or something connected to SharePoint. Connectivity was much easier then 15 years ago, thanks to a better internet infrastructure and the deployment of VPN.

For me at that time selling PLM to the mid-market was challenging; how do you explain the value and minimize the risk while current business was still running well? What was so wrong with the existing practices based on Excel? In summary, with good margins and growing business, wasn’t everything under control without the need for PLM? This was the time I started to share my experiences in my blog: A Virtual Dutchman´s introduction

Mid-market PLM projects focused on departmental needs, with IT providing implementation support and guidance. As the number of IT-staff is usually limited in these companies and often organized around ERP and what they learned from its implementation, it was hard to find business experts for PLM in the implementation teams.


clip_image003Five years ago,

the financial crisis had started, and globalization had started to become real through world-wide connectivity – better infrastructure and WEB 2.0. The world became an open space for consumers and competitors; the traditional offshore countries became consumers and began to invest in developing products and services for their domestic market but also targeted the rest of the world. Large enterprises were still expanding their huge PLM implementations though some were challenged because of a change of ownership. Capital investors did not come from the US or Europe anymore but from the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries, forcing some established companies to restructure and refocus.

jugleIn response to the crisis, mid-market companies started to reduce costs and focus on efficiency. Lots of discussions related to PLM began as it appeared to be THE strategy needed to survive, though a significant proportion of the investment in PLM was cancelled or postponed by management due to uncertainty and impact on the organization.

PLM conferences showed that almost all of the big enterprises and the mid-market companies still using PLM for connecting departments without fundamentally integrating them in one complete PLM concept. It is easier to streamline the sequential process (thinking lean) instead of making it a concurrent process with a focus on the market needs. PLM conferences were being attended by a greater mix of IT and Business representatives from different businesses learning from each other.



everyone in the world is connected and consequently, the amount of data is piling up. And now it is more about data than about managing document. The introduction of smart devices has had an impact on how people want to work; instead of sharing files and documents, we start sharing and producing huge amounts of data. In addition the upcoming “Internet of Things” demonstrates we are moving to a world where connectivity through data becomes crucial.

Sharing data is the ideal strategy for modern PLM. PLM vendors and other leading companies in enterprise software are discovering that the classical method of storing all information into one database does not work anymore and will not work in the future.

SNAGHTMLca3d692In the future, a new generation of PLM systems, either as an evolution of existing systems or as a disruption from the current market, will come. No longer will the target be to store all information in one system; the goal will be to connect and interpret data and make the right decisions based on that. This is similar to what the new generation of workers are used to, and they will replace the (my) older generation in the upcoming decade

Combined with more and more cloud-based solutions and platforms, the role of IT will diminish, and the importance of business people driving PLM will become ever more crucial.

PLM has become a business-driven strategy and requires people that are strong enough to develop, justify and implement this approach in their companies. New champions are needed !

The value of communities, blogs and conferences

is bringing together the global brainpower in social environments. Complemented with presentations, opinions and discussions from all different industries and domains the ideal environment to grow new ideas.  Here you can associate the information, question its relevancy for your business and network with others – the perfect base for innovating and securing your future business.

Therefore, do not use communities or conferences to stick to your opinion but be open and learn.

One of my favorite quotes

Everyone wants to be a game changer and in reality almost no one is a game changer. Game changing is a popular term and personally I believe that in old Europe and probably also in the old US, we should have the courage and understanding changing the game in our industries.

Why ? Read the next analogy.


With my Dutch roots and passion for soccer, I saw the first example of game changing happening in 1974 with soccer. The game where 22 players kick a ball from side to side, and the Germans win in the last minute.

clip_image002My passion and trauma started that year where the Dutch national team changed the soccer game tactics by introducing totaalvoetbal.

The Dutch team at that time coached by Rinus Michels and with star player Johan Cruyff  played this in perfection.

Defenders could play as forwards and they other way around. Combined with the offside-trap; the Dutch team reached the finals of the world championship soccer both in 1974 and 1978. Of course losing the final in both situations to the home playing teams (Germany in 74 – Argentina in 78 with some help of the referee we believe)

This concept brought the Dutch team for several years at the top, as the changed tactics brought a competitive advantage. Other teams and players, not educated in the Dutch soccer school could not copy that concept so fast


At the same time, there was a game changer for business upcoming in 1974, the PC.

On the picture, you see Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak testing their Apple 1 design. The abbreviation IT was not common yet and the first mouse device and Intel 8008 processor were coming to the market.

This was disruptive innovation at that time, as we would realize 20 years later. The PC was a game changer for business.


Johan Cruyff remained a game changer and when starting to coach and influence the Barcelona team, it was his playing concept tika-taka that brought the Spanish soccer team and the Barcelona team to the highest, unbeatable level in the world for the past 8 years

clip_image002[6]Instead of having strong and tall players to force yourself to the goal, it was all about possession and control of the ball. As long as you have the ball the opponent cannot score. And if you all play very close together around the ball, there is never a big distance to pass when trying to recapture the ball.

This was a game changer, hard to copy overnight, till the past two years. Now other national teams and club teams have learned to use these tactics too, and the Spanish team and Barcelona are no longer lonely at the top.

Game changers have a competitive advantage as it takes time for the competition to master the new concept. And the larger the change, the bigger the impact on business.

Also, PLM was supposed to be a game changer in 2006. The term PLM became more and more accepted in business, but was PLM really changing the game ?

imagePLM at that time was connecting departments and disciplines in a digital manner with each other, no matter where they were around the globe. And since the information was stored in centralized places, databases and file sharing vaults, it created the illusion that everyone was working along the same sets of data.

The major successes of PLM in this approach are coming from efficiency through digitization of data exchange between departments and the digitization of processes. Already a significant step forward and bringing enough benefits to justify a PLM implementation.

Still I do not consider PLM in 2006 a real game changer. There was often no departmental or business change combined with it. If you look at the soccer analogy, the game change is all about a different behavior to reach the goal, it is not about better tools (or shoes).

The PLM picture shows the ideal 2006 picture, how each department forwards information to the next department. But where is PLM supporting after sales/services in 2006 ? And the connection between After Sales/Services and Concept is in most of the companies not formalized or existing. And exactly that connection should give the feedback from the market, from the field to deliver better products.

The real game changer starts when people learn and understand sharing data across the whole product or project lifecycle. The complexity is in the word sharing. There is a big difference between storing everything in a central place and sharing data so other people can find it and use it.

imagePeople are not used to share data. We like to own data, and when we create or store data, we hate the overhead of making data sharable (understandable) or useful for others. As long as we know where it is, we believe our job is safe.

But our job is no longer safe as we see in the declining economies in Europe and the US. And the reason for that:

Data is changing the game

In the recent years the discussion about BI (Business Intelligence) and Big Data emerged. There is more and more digital information available. And it became impossible for companies to own all the data or even think about storing the data themselves and share it among their dispersed enterprises. Combined with the rise of cloud-based platforms, where data can be shared (theoretically) no matter where you are, no matter which device you are using, there is a huge potential to change the game.

It is a game changer as it is not about just installing the new tools and new software. There are two major mind shifts to make.

  • It is about moving from documents towards data. This is an extreme slow process. Even if your company is 100 % digital, it might be that your customer, supplier still requires a printed and wet-signed document or drawing, as a legal confirmation for the transaction. Documents are comfortable containers to share, but they are killing for fast and accurate processing of the data that is inside them.
  • It is about sharing and combining data. It does not make sense to dump data again in huge databases. The value only comes when the data is shared between disciplines and partners. For example, a part definition can have hundreds of attributes, where some are created by engineering, other attributes created by purchasing and some other attributes directly come from the supplier. Do not fall in the ERP-trap that everything needs to be in one system and controlled by one organization.

imageBecause of the availability of data, the world has become global and more transparent for companies. And what you see here is that the traditional companies in Europe and the US struggle with that. Their current practices are not tuned towards a digital world, more towards the classical, departmental approach. To change this, you need to be a game changer, and I believe many CEOs know that they need to change the game.

The upcoming economies have two major benefits:

  • Not so much legacy, therefore, building a digital enterprise for them is easier. They do not have to break down ivory towers and 150 years of proud ownership.
  • The average cost of labor is lower than the costs in Europe and the US, therefore, even if they do not do it right at the first time; there is enough margin to spend more resources to meet the objectives.

imageThe diagram I showed in July during the PI Apparel conference was my interpretation of the future of PLM. However, if you analyze the diagram, you see that it is not a 100 % classical PLM scope anymore. It is also about social interaction, supplier execution and logistics. These areas are not classical PLM domains and therefore I mentioned in the past, the typical PLM system might dissolve in something bigger. It will be all about digital processes based on data coming for various sources, structured and unstructured. Will it still be PLM or will we call it different ?

The big consultancy firms are all addressing this topic – not necessary on the PLM level:

2012  Cap Gemini – The Digital advantage: …..

2013  Accenture – Dealing with digital technology’s disruptive impact on the workforce

2014  McKinsey – Why every leader should care about digitization and disruptive innovation

For CEOs it is important to understand that the new, upcoming generations are already thinking in data (generation Y and beyond). By nature, they are used to share data instead of owning data in many aspects. Making the transition to the future is, therefore, also a process of connecting and understanding the future generations.  I wrote about it last year: Mixing past and future generations with a PLM sauce

This cannot be learned from an ivory tower. The easiest way is not to be worried by this trend and continue working as before, losing business and margin slowly year by year.

As in many businesses people are fired for making big mistakes, doing nothing unfortunate is most of the time not considered as a big mistake, although it is the biggest mistake.

picongressDuring the upcoming PI Conference in Berlin I will talk about this topic in more detail and look forward to meet and discuss this trend with those of you who can participate.

The soccer analogy stops here, as the data approach kills the the old game.
In soccer, the maximum remains 11 players on each side and one ball. In business, thanks to global connectivity, the amount of players and balls involved can be unlimited.

clip_image002[8]A final observation:
In my younger days, I celebrated many soccer championships, still I am not famous as a soccer player.

Why ?

Because the leagues I was playing in, were always limited in scope: by age, local,regional, etc. Therefore it was easy to win in a certain scope and there are millions of soccer champions beside me. For business, however, there are almost no borders.

Global competition will require real champions to make it work !!!

imageThis year I had several discussions with persons working for construction companies. They shared their BIM dreams and tried to explain them the PLM benefits and basics as they are much alike. The challenge in these discussions was that each of us comes from a complete different background. The word PLM does not resonate well outside product-centric companies. In project-centric companies, people tend to focus more on the tools they are using, instead of the overall business process. Construction companies and EPC companies in Oil & Gas always had a project-centric approach, and for them every project is unique.

Ten years ago published in 2004 the chart below, demonstrating the construction industry is lagging behind in productivity compared to other industries.


You find a link to the full article here.

Now it is BIM

It is an old graph, and I haven’t seen a more recent one. However, I guess the trend has not changed significantly. What has changed is that construction companies are now talking about BIM. BIM meaning Building Information Model, a term which has a history with Autodesk. Read the wiki news about BIM. There are many interpretations of BIM. One of the formal definitions is:

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.

This is a high-level definition, and BIM is characterized as a shared knowledge resource. Is it a 3D Digital model ? Is it a kind of DMU (Digital Mock-Up) ? Is it a Building Lifecycle environment ? There is the word “life-cycle” in the definition.

Why BIM?

I noticed many vendors and consultants in this industry talk about what is BIM. It is rare to find quantified values for implementing BIM. You find exactly the same values as PLM brings to manufacturing companies. Better decisions, managing complex constructions and projects, early decisions that save costs later, etc.

Governments have been pushing BIM to the construction industry (both for the civil and building industry) as they believe this is a way to improve quality and better manage time and costs. And as they are usually the big spenders, the leading construction firms have to adapt to these standards to get these contracts.

Would any construction company begin with BIM without being pushed?

In product-centric companies, the global competition and the consumer are driving the need for PLM. Margins are under pressure, and they need to be competitive to stay in business. The construction industry is not (yet) that much driven by global influence and the choice of consumers.

The chart below illustrates the BIM ambition in the UK. At this time, companies are entering level 2, and they struggle to understand what is the impact for them to be at BIM Level 2. I am sure other countries have their own and similar roadmap.


The diagram illustrates the same path which other industries have been going through in the past twenty years.

BIM Levels and PDM / PLM

BIM level 0 is focused on managing CAD, in the other industries this was the time that single disciplines managed their own CAD data. There was no sharing at that time.

Level 1 is focusing on managing 2D and 3D CAD together much similar to what in other industries is done with a PDM system. The PDM system manages in one environment the 2D and 3D data. This is still as a departmental solution but could provide in one environment information from different disciplines. Here, you find all suppliers from 3D CAD systems having their PDM solution, not focusing on a core 3D Model

Level 2 is about sharing 3D BIM models for different disciplines to support 4D (construction planning based on 3D) and 5D (construction planning based on 3D planning and costing integrated). This is what in other industries, primarily automotive and aerospace, was considered as the early days of DMU (Digital Mock Up) and PLM. Dassault Systemes and Siemens are leading here and historically CATIA has been the base for the 3D Model.

alm_1BIM Level 3 is what can be found currently in the asset centric industries (Energy, Nuclear, Oil & Gas) where working from a virtual plant model all disciplines are connected through the whole lifecycle. This is the domain that I have been advocating in previous posts, promoting PLM concepts and capabilities.
For example read: PLM for Asset Lifecycle Management.

Apparently the construction industry is still in the early phases of BIM Level 3. I would compare it to teenage sex; they all talk about it, but nobody does it. Or Hollywood BIM as Antonio Ruivo Meireles calls it in his AECbytes article: “Say “NO!” to Hollywood BIM”.

Antonio talks about the BIM implementation at Mota-Engill. Briefly touching a common topic for PLM implementations: “People and Cultural Change”. However, most of the implementation report was focused on tools, where even Excel and Visual Basic play a role.

Tools or Platform ?

And this is the point where construction companies could learn from other industries. They have discovered (or are still discovering) that Excel and Visual Basic are like soft drugs. They take away the pain, but they do not provide the solution in the long term. Instead of that, legacy Excels start piling up in directories, and the Visual Basic code becomes the domain of an enthusiastic expert (till this expert moves to another company or retires). The risk is ending up with a legacy environment so hard to change that a costly revolution is needed at a certain moment.

imageConstruction companies are still investing in selecting a set of tools/applications, each with their own proprietary data and format. And they use customizations or standardized information carriers, like the COBie spreadsheets, to exchange information between partners and disciplines. This is already a giant step forward, as COBie forces companies to focus on mandatory and standard content, required at specific stages of the lifecycle instead of searching for it when it is actually needed.

Somehow the COBie approach is similar to the early days of PLM, where companies forced their disciplines to save information in the PLM system (as it became imperative). In these departments and disciplines the work and interaction did not change so much as before they had the PLM system. The cultural change here was that designers and engineers had to enter more data upfront for higher quality downstream.

An intermediate conclusion might be that construction companies follow the same direction as early PLM. Standardizing the data (model) to have a common understanding between stakeholders. Construction companies might not want to implement a PLM system as ownership of data is unclear as compared to manufacturing companies every discipline or department in PLM might be another company in the construction industry.

Now let’s look into the future

The movie below from Airbus describes the current way of working in a multidisciplinary, multi-partner, multi-location online system. Airbus calls it their DMU. Please before continuing reading look at this movie as the concept is crucial

Airbus DMU – Digital Mock Up

I want to highlight two statements in this movie.

Russ Brigham @ 5:39 talking about suppliers not participating to the DMU:

“They will be making decisions on out of date data or even incorrect data”

And @ 7:11

“DMU is a mind-set …….”

I am aware that the aerospace industry is not directly comparable to the construction industry, there are commonalities from which the construction industry can learn:

  • Working on a single, shared repository of on-line data (the DMU)
    A common data model – not only 3D
  • It is a mind-set.
    People need 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)

Data ownership ?

For the construction industry, the current difficulty might be that none of the parties involved wants to invest in owning the data. For Airbus, it is clear. As the manufacturer of the airplane, they remain responsible for the information throughout the whole lifecycle.

For a construction, this might be different. The owner might be totally disconnected from the construction and the operations, therefore, not willing to promote or invest in the DMU approach.

imageHowever, the owner should realize that it is not about ownership but about facilitating on-line collaboration around a construction from the initial concept phase till maintenance and even decommissioning, connecting all the stakeholders. The benefits better decisions at each stage of the lifecycle leading to lower failure costs and waste in materials, resources and time. The construction industry still accepts too high failure rates compared to the manufacturing industry. And as at the end the owner/operator spends most of these costs, they should be interested in this approach.

Major construction companies responsible for the project execution and control might want to invest in a PLM platform, allowing them to execute projects better, learn from other connected projects and create a solid base for maintenance contracts

My dream and wish for 2014 for the construction industry: Focus on the next step of integrating data on a PLM backbone instead of standardizing interfaces between applications. It is the future mind-set proven in other industries.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2014 full of change for the best
May BIM, BAM, BOOM become true
The Future of the Building Industry (5/5): BIM, BAM, BOOM!

PLM is required to become customer focused is one of the marketing statements, in the same way as PLM and Innovation are connected. Before moving into PLM topics, I want to share some personal experiences related to customer focus. These experiences happened to me almost within a one-day timeframe.

imageTwo weeks ago I landed late in the evening at Schiphol airport. A bus took us from the plane to an arrival gate to go through security. With the other passengers, I arrived in a passage which was planned to be closed during the night as maintenance should take place. Two servicemen were frustrated by the crowd passing by.

One of them said: “How was it possible that passengers still arrive and disturb our work?” ** . The other serviceman said: “The bus driver has gone crazy to drop these passengers here where we are supposed to work?”**

** Free translated from a native Dutch local accent.

dontmissAs a customer, I realized this is a common problem of large enterprises. Most employees are not connected to their customers anymore. They focus only on their work, and every disruption (even by customers) is an element of irritation. They do not realize it is the customer at the end that pays their salary.

Next I went to the railway station to catch my train to Utrecht. Waiting on the platform, the announcement for my train to arrive did not pop up as expected on the billboard and disappeared from the list. A few minutes after the train should have departed from the station, a speaker announces the train to Utrecht has been cancelled.

imageWhy this happened nobody knows. There were no railway employees around to provide more information. (Perhaps too late – their shift was over?) Half an hour later the next train was supposed to come in. At the scheduled time, a train arrived at the platform, and everyone got into the train.

The train speaker announced that this is NOT THE TRAIN to Utrecht, and he advised all travelers for Utrecht to get out. Many passengers including me went outside looking for a railway employee who could explain what was happening. But there was no one around. At a certain moment, the right train arrived and finally after 1½ hour delay I came home and decided to file a complaint. Mainly because there was no interaction possible with any railway employee to understand why it happened, get rid of my annoyance, and what the alternatives to travel were.

Next surprise: It was not possible to file a complaint directly; you had to go through a virtual assistant named Eva. Probably they use a female name as men are usually more respectful in their conversation towards a woman than to man. Imagine it would have been Joe. Still lack of intelligence can be annoying for everyone as you can see below:


Only when you provide Eva with your personal details and email address, you get a mail back from customer service to which you can respond with your complaint. This is somehow the same principle as a firewall with a reverse proxy. How to shield yourself from customers / virus attacks.

So I sent my mail and got a confirmation mail that I would get a response within 2 working days. And indeed within two days the answer came. They were really sorry, and they have taken so many measures already in the past to avoid this kind of situations it was almost impossible this had happened. Sorry. It was a classical answer, and what was missing any link to the actual event – nobody probably inside the railway company would take an initiative to understand what has happened. Disappointing.

dontmissAs a customer, I realized this is a common problem of large enterprises. They are not connected to their customers anymore. They are afraid of direct contact and build a solid defense wall around their organization. They do not realize it is the customer at the end that pays their salary.

The next day ….

imageI had an issue with my telephone system (Murphy´s law). The telephone company, like the railway company, was in the past a state-owned company, meaning they had a monopoly for 50 years and more. They are still struggling to become customer centric as the older staff is still in control.
If you try to interact with them through the regular means, by phone (long waiting times – many times diverted to other departments), or by email (thank you for your email – we will try to respond within two working days), you will have a similar response.

dontmissAs a customer, I realized this is a common problem of large enterprises. They are not connected to their customers anymore. People try to do their best in their domain, and if it does not fit anymore you are diverted or set aside as there is enough to keep you busy. They do not realize it is the customer at the end that pays their salary.

Enough fun now, I am sure this happens in many other places.

Back to become customer centric

imageWhen you look at a small startup company, they are focused on the outside world. To gain market share and market attention they need to focus on their potential customers and learn to engage with them as soon as possible. They have a distinctive or new proposition and the faster they understand the dynamics of their potential market, the better they have the likelihood customers will choose their offering and become successful.

And as the company is small, everyone knows who is doing what. People are multitasking and flexible. Somehow the same characteristics you find in a small mid-market company. Every customer order is celebrated there and known.

When companies become large, people start to become specialized, and they create departments. There is a need for globalization and more people will join the company around the world, combined with a layer of middle management. And more and more the management approach becomes MBR (management by results) as this has become the standard. I wrote about MBR and about MBM (management by means) in a previous post – profit beyond measure.

The disadvantage of the MBR approach is that instead of having a company looking outside to their customers, the organization turns inwards. Instead of “I need to satisfy my customers as at the end they pay my salary” the mind switches towards “I need to satisfy my boss as he/she pays my salary”

imageDepartments optimize themselves to attain efficiency and get the numbers they need to provide. For many departments, here the decision is made that customers are too disruptive or evil as they disrupt the ideal process – customer interaction becomes a threat. It is safer to do nothing and keep responding to what your boss / management wants, instead of acting in a customer centric manner as it disrupts the daily work.

Still all companies want to be customer centric as this is THE WAY to stay in business. If you know what your customers want or even better, if you can give them their unique experiences, you are ahead of the competition. And keep in mind to think glocal (global but act local – customer centric)

Glocaliszation ?

How can we bring the customer centric approach to large companies, where most departments work totally isolated from customers for various reasons? In my younger days, when I was connected with software development, I noticed most R&D organizations want to spend all day and their energy on developing new (cool) things, instead of optimizing existing (boring) stuff. Where optimizing existing stuff is what customers want, and new stuff is perhaps what marketing and sales think is needed. I think there is a lot of coolness possible in optimizing boring stuff (look at Apple).

christensenClayton Christensen wrote in his book “The Innovators Dilemma -When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail” about why leading companies lose their connection with the market. They focus on their large customers and want to satisfy these large ones. The strange situation is here that they are customer centric but only for a few, where the benefit often lies in volumes of customers. Big companies focusing on key customers do not see disruption and innovations coming up, and at a certain moment they can become obsolete. Read his book if you work for a great firm. I wrote about his thoughts in the context of PLM –: The Innovators Dilemma and PLM

Finally, the extreme you find in governmental organizations. With their lack of competition and most of the time tax money coming in, there is no need to be customer centric. Even if an individual wants to be customer centric, the system will not allow this person much room to act different.

However, there is hope, and my hope is based on the Millenials or the so called “generation Y”. I described them in a recent post after reading the book Fast Future: Mixing past and future generations with a PLM sauce

If we go back to my problem with the telephone system and the large phone company, there a change is happening. A year ago I discovered they have a “social” helpdesk. If you send them a direct message through Facebook or Twitter; you receive a response within a few hours. And next they pick up the issue and take the initiative to solve it.

The same is valid for my favorite airline, KLM. As part of the big joint venture with Air France, all official contact through mail became hopeless, but their responses through Facebook are fast and to the point.

imageWhat happens behind the scenes in these two companies, and I am sure it happens in more companies, is that new employees (generation Y) become the focal point to the customer and they take away the burden of dealing with a large, rigid organization. Because they understand the company better and are considered as one-of-us inside the company, they have access to the information. They can push and pull information, initiate actions and at the end come back with a customer focused response.

This approach of personal customer interaction brings you in a better mood, although I must say in the case of the activities with the telephone company, issues were not resolved much faster. The old processes internally were still not in sync with each other. Probably because there is not “a single version of the truth”-concept like in most companies. Different systems for different purposes, not integrated cause mistakes, especially when the customer wants an immediate response and resolution.

Maybe an example to explain this approach. When working in a classical PLM system, it is all about the data inside the system with the right status and version. In modern PLM, it could be the most credible information the system could provide based on (search) algorithms. It is the similar to the way Google translate works – this was a translation a year ago:


In Dutch, the text is only about men, but as the combination women and kitchen was more commonly found, Google translated the sentence as above. Sexistic, based on historic associations. If you try the same sentence now, you get:


An accurate translation based on error fixing once. Google does not keep the one-to-one translation of words but presents the sentence with the highest probability. And when corrected it reminds the fix. This is somehow in the same manner as our brain associates information. Ultimately in a few years these engines can become as powerful as an experienced worker.

But what intrigued me more was the fact that these “social employees” somehow became the glue in the organization, connecting people and departments internally. Bringing to the customer a positive experience. Instead of specialists there was a need for generalists who can communicate.

Could this also work in the context of PLM? Instead of trying to tear down the silos, use a team of “social workers” who will interact with customers or the people in the field?

imageI am not sure. The type of customer interaction I described was mainly related to standard products and services. Not sure if this approach of generalists (data miners) would work in manufacturing companies.

When asking myself this question in the PLM domain, it realized it is somehow describing the work I am doing most of the time. Working with companies implementing PLM, working with PLM vendors and implementers on building plans to solve or resolve issues, without being part of a single project (silo) all the time – a “social worker” – a generalist is becoming an expert in generalizations.

So I am interested to learn, is anyone of the readers of this post aware of the “social approach” in their environment? Do you see companies hire generalists (generation Y) to connect the old world back to their customers?

The downside of the “social worker” is that the internal organization is even more shielded from annoying customers who disturb their plans and daily rhythm. It does not solve the silo problem.

However look at it from the modern data centric (PLM) approach, where storing information is no longer the goal. It is about identifying the right data in the context of an activity where data might come from different sources. Exactly what generation Y is used to do, the data scientist. With their mindset of connecting data instead of owning data, this generation might produce the next evolution of PLM.

Will the future be working towards access to information as likely the single truth, or will we keep on working towards a single version of the truth? If it is going to be disruptive? (Probably yes) If it is in the near future? (Why not) this is still unclear to me.

No conclusion this time.
Many questions ……
Your thoughts / comments?

questionaireThe last month I haven’t been able to publish much of my experiences as I have been in the middle of several PLM selection processes for various industries. Now in a quiet moment looking back, I understand it is difficult for a company to choose a PLM solution for the future.

I hope this post will generate some clarity and may lead to some further discussion with other experts in the audience. I wrote about the do’s and don’ts of PLM selection in 2010, and most of it is still actual; however, there is more. Some of the topics explained:

Do you really need PLM ?


This is where it starts. PLM is not Haarlemerolie, an old Dutch medicine that was a cure for everything since the 17th century. The first step is that you need to know what you want to achieve and how you are aiming to achieve it. Just because a competitor has a PLM system installed, does not mean they use it properly or that your company should do it too. If you do not know why your company needs PLM, stop reading and start investigating.


If you are still reading this, you are part of the happy few, as justifying the need for PLM is not easy. Numerous of companies have purchased a PLM system just because they think they needed PLM. Or there was someone convinced that this software would bring PLM.

Most of these cases there was the confusion with PDM. Simply stating: PDM is more a departmental tool (engineering – multidisciplinary) where PLM is a mix of software, infrastructure to connect all departments in a company and support the product through its entire lifecycle.

Implementing “real” PLM is a business change, as people have to start sharing data instead of pushing documents from department to department. And this business transformation is a journey. It is not a fun journey, nicely characterized in Ed Lopategui’s blog post, the PLM Trail.

Although I believe it is not always that dramatic, Ed set the expectations right. Be well prepared before you start.

Why do companies still want PLM, while it is so difficult to implement?

The main reason is to remain competitive. If margins are under pressure, you can try to be more efficient, get better and faster tools. But by working in the old way, you can only be a little better.

NoChangeMoving from a sequential, information pushing approach towards an on-line, global information sharing manner is a change in business processes. It is interaction between all stakeholders. Doing things different requires courage, understanding and trust you made the right choice. When it goes wrong, there are enough people around you to point fingers at why it went wrong – hindsight is so easy.

Doing nothing and becoming less and less competitive is easier (the boiling frog again) as in that case the outside world will be blamed, and there is nobody to point fingers at (although if you understand the issue you should make the organization aware the future is at stake)

Why is PLM so expensive?

Assuming you are still reading, and you and your management are aligned there is a need for PLM, a first investigation into possible solutions will reveal that PLM is not cheap.

No_roiWhen you calculate the overall investment required in PLM, the management often gets discouraged by the estimated costs. Yes, the benefits are much higher, but to realize these benefits, you need to have a clear understanding of your own business and a realistic idea how the future would look like. The benefits are not in efficiency. The main benefits come from capabilities that allow you to respond better and faster than by just optimizing your departments. I read a clarifying post recently, which is addressing this issue: Why PLM should be on every Executive’s agenda !

From my experience with PLM projects, it is surprising to learn that companies do not object to spend 5 to 20 times more money for an ERP implementation. It is related to the topic: management by results or management by means.

PLM is not expensive compared to other enterprise systems. It can become expensive (like ERP implementations) if you lose control. Software vendors have a business in selling software modules, like car resellers have a business in selling you all the comfort beyond the basics.

The same for implementation partners, they have a business in selling services to your company, and they need to find the balance between making money and delivering explainable value. Squeezing your implementation partner will cause a poor delivery. But giving them an open check means that, at a certain moment, someone will stand up and shutdown the money drain as the results are no longer justifiable. Often I meet companies in this stage, the spirit has gone. It is all about the balance between costs and benefits.


This happens in all enterprise software projects, and the only cure is investing in your own people. Give your employees time and priority to work in a PLM project. People with knowledge of the business are essential, and you need IT resources to implement. Do not make the mistake to leave business uncommitted to the PLM implementation. Management and middle management does not take the time to understand PLM as they are too busy or not educated / interested.

Make business owners accountable for the PLM implementation – you will see stress (it is not their daily job – they are busy), but in the longer time you will see understanding and readiness of the organization to achieve the expected results.

We are the largest – why select the largest ?

marketleaderWhen your assignment is to select a new enterprise system, life could be easy for you. Select a product or service from the largest business and your career is saved. Nobody gets blamed for selecting the largest vendor, although if you work for a small mid-sized company, you might think twice.

Many vendors and implementers start their message with:
“…. Market leader in ABC, though leader in XYZ, recognized by 123”

The only thing you should learn from this message is that this company probably has delivered a trustworthy solution in the past. Looking at the past you get an impression of its readiness and robustness for the future. Many promising companies have been absorbed by the larger ones and disappeared. As Clayton Christensen wrote in The Innovators Dilemma:
“What goes up does not go down”.
Meaning these large companies focus on their largest clients and will focus less on the base of the business pyramid (where the majority is), making them vulnerable for disruptive innovation.
Related to this issue there is an interesting post (and its comments), written by Oleg Shilovitsky recently: How many PLM vendors disappear in disruption predicted by Gartner.

observationMy observation: the world of PLM is not in a moment of sudden disruption at this moment.

Still when selecting a PLM vendor it is essential to know if they have the scale to support you in the future and if they have the vision to guide you into the future.

The future of PLM is towards managing data in a connected manner, not necessary coming from a single database, not necessary using only structured data. If your PLM vendor or implementer is pushing you to realize document and file management, they are years late and not the best for your future.

PLM is a big elephant

PLM is considered as a big elephant, and I agree if you address everything in one shot that PLM can do. PLM has multiple directions to start from – I wrote about it: PLM at risk – it does not have a single job

PLM has a huge advantage compared to a transactional system like ERP and probably CRM. You can implement a PLM infrastructure and its functionality step by step in the organization, start with areas that are essential and produce clear benefits for the organization. That is the main reason that PLM implementations can take 2 – 3 years. You give the organization time to learn, to adapt and to extend.

We lose our flexibility ?

flexibleNobody in an organization likes to be pushed in a cooperate way of working, which by definition is not as enjoyable and as flexible as they way you currently work. It is still an area where PLM implementations can improve: provide the user with an environment that is not too rigid and does not feel like a rigid system. You seen this problem with old traditional large PLM implementations for example with automotive OEMs. For them, it is almost impossible to switch to a new PLM implementation as everything has been built and connected in such a proprietary way, almost impossible to move to more standard systems and technologies. Late PLM implementations should learn from these lessons learned.

PLM vendor A says PLM vendor B will be out of business

One of the things I personally dislike is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). It has become a common practice in politics and I have seen PLM vendors and implementers using the same tactics. The problem with FUD is that it works. Even if the message is not verifiable, the company looking for a PLM system might think there must be some truth in this statement.

imageMy recommendation to a company that gets involved in FUD during a PLM selection process, they should be worried about the company spreading the FUD. Apparently they have no stronger arguments to explain to you why they are the perfect solution; instead they tell you indirectly we are the less worst.

Is the future in the cloud ?

I think there are two different worlds. There is the world of smaller businesses that do not want to invest in an IT-infrastructure and will try anything that looks promising – often tools oriented. This is one of my generalizations of how US businesses work – sorry for that. They will start working with cloud based systems and not be scared by performance, scalability and security. As long all is easy and does not disturb the business too much.

cloudLarger organizations, especially with a domicile in Europe, are not embracing cloud solutions at this moment. They think more in private or on-premise environments. Less in cloud solutions as security of information is still an issue. The NSA revelations prove that there is no moral limit for information in the sake of security – combined with the fear of IP theft from Asia, I think European companies have a natural resistance for storing data outside of their control.

For sure you will see cloud advocates, primarily coming from the US, claiming this is the future (and they are right), but there is still work to do and confidence to be built.


PLM selection often has a focus on checking hundreds of requirements coming from different departments. They want a dream system. I hope this post will convince you that there are so many other thoughts relevant to a PLM selection you should take into account. And yes you still need requirements (and a vision).

Your thoughts ?

sleepWhen you are in a peaceful holiday accommodation close to the sea, it is about swimming, reading sleeping and food. I read two books this time Profit Beyond Measure from H. Thomas Johnson (2000) and Fast Future from David Burnstein (2013).

In a earlier post, PLM Statistics, I already referred to Johnson´s book. Now I had the time to read the whole book. Johnson is an advocate for MBM (Manage By Means) as compared to the most practiced MBM (Manage By Results) approach.

In Fast Future, Burnstein explains why his generation of Millennials (Generation Y) is not lazy and egocentric (etc. etc.) but different and ready for the future. Different from the Boomers, generation X and

These two books on two different topics have nothing in common you might think. But all you need is a PLM twisted brain, and it will be connected.

Let’s start with Profit Beyond Measure

ProfBeyMeasJohnson in his introduction explains how manufacturing companies were gradually pushed into a MBR approach (Manage By Results). The Second World War was the moment that companies started to use accounting information to plan business activities. The growing presence of accountants in business started due to more regulations and financial regulations. Corporate executives were educated by professors of accounting and finance how to use their accounting information to plan and control business activities.

The result (quoting Johnson):

“..teaching a new generation of managers to put aside understanding the concrete particulars of how business organizes work. They taught them instead to focus exclusively on abstract quantitative generalizations about financial results”

And as he writes a little later:

“The unique feature of the multidivisional organization was the introduction of a level of managers that had not existed before. Managers at this level ran what appeared to be self-standing, fully articulated multifunctional companies known as divisions. The manager of a division, however, reported to a top management group that represented in effect, the market for capital and the market for managers”

The PLM-twisted brain understands that Johnson is describing one of the major inhibitors for PLM. PLM requires departments and individuals TO SHARE and work CONCURRENT on information. Meanwhile, department and division leaders are trained, pushed and measured to optimize their silo businesses to deliver the right financial results. Executives above the management monitor the consolidated numbers and have the slightest understanding of the real business challenges PLM can solve. Here, innovative ways of working are not discussed; numbers (costs /ROI) are discussed.


To proceed with Johnson, he believes in MBM (Manage by Means). Manage by Means could be compared with the way an organic life system is behaving. Johnson describes it as:

“Every entity is focusing on doing work, not on manipulating quantitative abstractions about work. In a company this would mean every person’s activity will embody that most fundamental condition of natural life systems – namely that all knowing is doing and that all doing is knowing”

Although Johnson is focusing on manufacturing companies (Toyota and Scania as two major examples of MBM), the PLM-twisted mind reads this as a concept that matches the PLM vision.

Everything and everyone is connected to the process and having the understanding how to interpret the data and what do to. This is how I imagine PLM implementations. Provide the right information to every person not matter where this person is in the lifecycle of the product. Too much automation prevents the system to be flexible and adapt to changes an in addition, it does not challenge the user anymore to think.

Enough about Profit Beyond Measure, ending with a quote about Manage by Means:

…. which will bring a change in thinking for the next generation of managers more revolutionary than that which every previous generation has ever experienced”

Now the Fast Future

SNAGHTML4a6de0In Fast Future, David Burnstein talks about his generation, the Millennials, and how they are different. The Millennials are people who are now between 20 and 35. They grew up with one foot in the old analogue world and came to full wisdom in a digital, social connected manner during several shocking crises that formed their personality and behavior ( 9/11 – financial crisis – globalization – huge unemployment) according to Burnstein. People also referred to them as Generation Y.

In the context of this post we have the need to imagine four generations:

  • The Pré-boomers, who build up the economy after the second world war, and as we learned from Johnson who introduced the mechanical thinking for business (MBR – management by results)
  • The Boomers (my generation) who had the luxury to study and discuss the ultimate change for the world (make love not war), idealistic to change the world, but now most of us working in an MBR mode
  • Generation X, they introduced punk, skeptics. They are supposed to be cynical, very ego-centric and materialistic. I am sure they also have positive points, but I haven’t read a book about them and you do not meet Generation X in the context of a particular change to something new (yet)
  • Generation Y, the Millennials, who considered by the Boomers, is another lazy generation, all the time surfing the internet, not committing to significant causes, but seem to enjoy themselves. Burnstein in his book changes the picture as we will see below.

According to Burnstein the Millennials are forced to behave different as the traditional society is falling apart due to different crises and globalization. They have to invent a new purpose. And as they are so natural with all the digital media they can connect to anyone or any group to launch ideas, initiatives and build companies. The high unemployment numbers in their generation force them to take action and to become an entrepreneur, not always for profit but also for social or sustainable reasons.

imageThey understand they will have to live with uncertainty and change all their lives. No guaranteed job after education, no certain pension later and much more uncertainty. This creates a different attitude. You embrace change, and you do not go for a single dream anymore like many of the boomers did.

Choosing the areas that are essential for you and where you think you can make a significant impact become important. Burnstein points to several examples of his generation and the impact they already have on society. Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook founder is a Millennial, many modern social apps are developed by Millennials, Obama won the elections twice, due to the impact and connectivity of the Millennials generation, the Facebook revolutions in the Middle East (Tunisia / Egypt/Libya) al lead by desperate Millennials that want to make a change.

When reading these statements, I wondered:
Would there also be Millennials in Germany?

As in Germany the impact of 9/11, the financial crisis and unemployment numbers did not touch that much. Are they for that reason the same as generation X? Perhaps a German reader in the millennial age can provide an answer here?

What I liked about the attitude described by Burnstein is that the Millennials network together for a better cause, a meaningful life. This could be by developing products, offer different types of services all through a modern digital means. The activities all in the context of social responsibility and sustainability, not necessary to become rich.

As noticed, they think different, they work different and here Johnson’s quote came to my mind:

…. which will bring a change in thinking for the next generation of managers more revolutionary than that which every previous generation has ever experienced”

And the PLM-twisted brain started drifting

Is this the generation of the Millennials Johnson is hoping for? The high-level concept of Management by Means is based on the goal to have every entity directly linked to the cause – a customer order, flexibility, ability to change when needed. Not working with abstract mechanical models. I think the Millennials should be able to understand and lead these businesses.

This culture change and a different business approach to my opinion are about modern PLM. For me, modern PLM focuses on connecting the data, instead of building automated processes with a lot of structured data.

Modern PLM combines the structured and unstructured data and provides the user the right information in context. This matches the MBM way of thinking and the modus operandus of the Millennials.

Current the modern PLM system as I described is does not exist (or I haven’t seen it yet). Also I have not worked with Millennials in a leading role in a company. Therefore, I kept on dreaming during my holiday – everything is possible if you believe it –even standing on the water:

20-Beach Party

And although after reading these books and seeing the connection, you can have the feeling that you are able to walk on the water. There are also potential pitfalls (a minute later) ahead to be considered as you can see below:

21-Beach Party


My PLM-twisted mind as you noticed combines everything.

What do you think?

Did I hallucinate or is there a modern future for business and PLM.

I am looking forward to learning your dreams.

imageSome weeks ago PLMJEN asked me my opinion on Peter Schroer´s post and invitation to an ARAS webinar called: Change Management: One Size Will Never Fit All. Change Management is actually a compelling topic, and I realized I had never written a dedicated post to such an essential topic. The introduction from Peter was excellent:

Change management is the toughest thing inside of PLM. It’s also the most important.

For the rest, the post elaborated further into software capabilities and the value of having templates processes for various industry practices. I share that opinion when talking to companies that are starting to establish their processes. It is extremely rare that an existing company will change its processes towards more standard processes delivered by the PLM system when implementing a new system. The rule of thumb is People, Processes and Tools. This all is nicely explained by Stephen Porter in his latest blog post Beware the quick fix successful plm deployment strategies. As I was not able to attend the webinar, here are my more general thoughts related to change management and why it is essential for PLM.

Change Management has always been there

It is not that PLM has invented change management. Before companies started to use ERP and PDM systems, every company had to deal with managing changes. At that time, their business was mostly local and compared with today slow. “Time to market” was more a “Time to Region” issue. Engineering and Manufacturing were operating from the same location. Change management was a personal responsibility supported by (paper) documents and individuals. Only with the growing complexity of products, growing and global customer demands and increasing regulatory constraints it became impossible to manage change in an unstructured manner.

Survival of the fittest change organization

imageI have worked with several companies where change management was a running Excel business. Running can be interpreted in two ways. The current operation could not stop and step back and look into an improvement cycle, and a lot of people were running to collect, check and validate information in order to make change estimates and make decisions based on the collected data.

When a lot of people are running, it means your business is at risk. A lot of people means costs for data (re)search and handling are higher than the competition if this can be done automatically. Also in countries of low labor costs, a lot of people running becomes a threat at a certain moment. In addition, running people can make mistakes or provide insufficient information, which leads to the wrong decisions.

Wrong decisions can be costly. Your product may become too expensive; your project may delay significant as information was based on conflicting information between disciplines or suppliers. Additional iterations to fix these issues lead to a longer time to market. Late discoveries can lead to severe high costs. For certain, when the product has been released to the market the cost might be tremendous.

NoChangeFrom the other side if making changes becomes difficult because the data has to be collected from various sources through human intervention, organizations might try to avoid making changes.

Somehow this is also an indirect death penalty. The future is for companies that are able to react quickly at any time and implement changes.

The analogy is with a commercial aircraft and a fighter plane. Let’s take the Airbus 380 in mind and a modern fighter jet the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The Airbus 380 brings you comfortable from A to B as long as A and B are well prepared places to land. The flight is comfortable as the plane is extremely stable. It is a well planned trip with an aversion to change of the trajectory.

The JSF airplane by definition is an unstable plane. It is only by its computer steering control that the plane behaves stable in the air. The built-in instability makes it possible to react as quickly as possible to unforeseen situations, preferable faster than the competition. This is a solution designed for change.

Based on your business you all should admire the JSF concept and try to understand where it is needed in your organization.

Why is change management integrated in PLM so important?

If we consider where changes appear the most, it is evident in the early lifecycle of the product most of the changes occur. And as long as they are in the virtual world with uncommitted costs to the product they are relative cheap. To my surprise many engineering companies and engineering departments work only with change management outside their own environment. Historically because outside their environment connected to prototyping or production costs of change are the highest. And our existing ERP system has an Engineering Change process – so let’s use that.

whyworryMeanwhile, engineering is used to work with the best so far information. At any moment, every discipline stores their data in a central repository. This could be a directory structure or PDM systems. Everyone is looking to the latest data. Files are overwritten with the latest versions. Data in the PDM system shows the latest version to all users. Hallelujah

And this is the place where it goes wrong. A mechanical engineer has overlooked a requirement in the specification that has been changed. Yes, the latest version of the 20 page document is there. An electrical engineer has defined a new control system for the engine, but has not noticed that the operating parameters of the motor have been changed. Typical examples where a best so far environments creates the visibility, but the individual user cannot understand the impact of a change anymore (especially when additional sites perform the engineering work)

Here comes the value of change management in PLM. Change Management in PLM can be light weighted in the early design phases, providing checks on changes (baselines) and notifications to disciplines involved. Approval processes are more agreements to changes to implement and their impact on all disciplines.

sel_aPLM supports the product definition through the whole product lifecycle, change management at each stage can have its particular behavior. In the early stages a focus on notifications and visibility of change, later checking the impact based on the maturity of the various disciplines and finally when running into production and materials commitment towards a strict and organized change mechanism. It is only in a PLM system where the gradual flow can be supported seamless

Change Management and ERP

As mentioned before, most manufacturing companies have implemented change management in ERP as the costs of change are the highest when the product capabilities are committed. However, the ERP system is not the place to explore and iterate for further improved solutions. The ERP system can be the trigger for a change process based on production issues. However the full implementation of the change requires a change in the product definition, the area where PLM is strong.

NOTE: on purpose I am not mentioning a change in the engineering definition as in some cases the engineering definition might remain the same, but only the manufacturing process or materials need to be adapted. PLM supports iterations, not an ERP execution matter.

Change Management and Configuration Management

cmiiSo far we have been discussing how the manufacturing system would be able to offer products based on the right engineering definition. As each specific product might not have an individual definition checked at any time, there is the need for configuration management (CM). Proper implemented configuration management assures there is a consistent relationship between how the product is specified and defined and the way it is produced. Read a refined and precise explanation on wiki

In one of my following posts I will focus on configuration management practices and why PLM systems and Configuration Management are like a Siamese twins


Storing your data in a (PLM) system has only value if you are able to keep the actual status of the information and its context. Only then a person can make the right decisions immediately and with the right accuracy. The more systems or manual data handling, the less completive your company will be. Integrated and lean change management means survival !

statisticsDo you know the expression: “You have lies, damned lies and statistics”? Pointing to the fact that statistics are often abused to “prove” statements. A typical example from Hans Rosling, the Swedish statistics guru and entertainer: “In Sweden most of the people have an above average amount of legs!”

The proof: the Swedish average is 1.999 and as most of the people in Sweden have 2 legs, thus above average. Now it is time to share some statistics with you.

Last time, I asked readers of this blog to participate in a small survey about their PLM thoughts and experiences. Although many people have read the post, perhaps, not till the end, there are only 22 responses so far at this time. If you haven’t participated yet, please do so by answering: 6 questions – the result will be published in July. There are no rewards to win. The only thing we all will gain is the statistical insight of people who have read this blog and apparently are PLM minded.

What does it mean to be PLM-minded?

There are many discussions related to PLM. What is actually PLM? Is it A Journey ? Or is it a Vision? An IT-solution? An infrastructure? Or is it Boring or just the Opposite?

roiIt is hard to tell what the purpose is of PLM really without some numbers to guide you. And when it comes to PLM decisions, I noticed that most of the companies, I am working with, believe they make decisions based on numbers and statistics. Personally I believe in our current society it is more the emotional side that drives our decisions, not pure the rational and numbers. This is another discussion.

We always find a way to interpret the numbers. For the outside world, we pretend we make decisions based on pure, objective criteria. This would mean you can capture an organization in numbers and decide from there what’s best for the organization. An utopia we will see after some small statistics.

Some numbers

In the past year I spent most of my time in eight PLM-related discussions, most of them still on-going. Here, some of the statistics


imageFour of them are large enterprises, where the power is inside the business unit. They act as one company, (one logo) but actually every business unit is focused on their own business profit and loss. They are not genuinely motivated to think about synergy with other businesses in cases it affects their work. Sometime IT believes they can bring the synergy by defining the common tools.

The other four companies are more centralized enterprises; some of them are large, with a centralized management and a single target to deliver to the market. Therefore, for a PLM project, they are easier to work with as you have more a single voice, instead of an opinion with a lot of conditions.


All eight companies are not in traditional PLM industries. They are either project centric industries, where every delivery is supposed to be unique, or they are an owner/operator of a collection of assets to be managed during a long lifecycle. The reason: since 2008 I am personally interested and driven to demonstrate PLM practices and capabilities are valid for other industries too.

All eight companies involved expressed in the current engagement that PLM is essential for their future.


visionThe need for PLM comes from a vision. I believe you should start always with the vision. Before acting, you need to know what your goal is. And a goal does not mean you know what your pain is. Understanding the pains does not solve the future; it is a first step to help you shape a future with no more pains. A typical example that they are different can be found in the current economic crisis. Everyone experiences the pains and understands there is a need for change. But all we have a different opinion about that is the required change. There is no single vision?

From the eight companies, only two of them could express a clear vision where they want to be in the future. This means six of them either have not clarified their vision yet (still in work) or even do not believe there is a way to define the vision. They are more focused on solving a pain than creating a vision.

Game changer

imageIn three companies, the PLM project is considered to be a game changer. It was not about just fixing actual pains. The target is to be different from the competition and achieve a competitive advantage. Game changers are the most complex projects. The company needs to have a clear vision. It needs to have a trust in the fact that changing the game is indeed possible. And finally game changing contains the word CHANGE, which most companies try to avoid (evolution no revolution). But game changers, when successful, have the dominant companies for several years before others catch up.

NoChangeIn relation to change, two of the eight companies believe will be impossible to change the game. Although individual persons in the organization believe it is required, their ERP implementation and its related implementation scope have already taken part of the logical PLM space. This is blocking any serious PLM initiative making the implementation a PDM implementation, which has less value.


Four companies stated upfront IT-constraints that could not be discussed. This introduced a lot of complexity. Some of the IT-constraints were emotional (we just decided a year ago to standardize on software xyz – we cannot afford to change to something else now, perhaps in the future). Other constraints were quite irrational and were based on (IT) decisions to standardize on a technology or solution, irrelevant or counterproductive to the business needs.


Only three of the eight companies require an ROI estimate to convince the management. As mentioned before, everyone is looking for reliable numbers to support a decision. Still decisions are made emotionally, and ROI numbers might be based on statistics. These three companies believe that the ROI numbers will lead to the right decision.

No_roiAnother three out of this eight companies did not need an ROI estimate. They think that what they will select as future solution is always justified: they just need PLM. The difficulty will come when they have to compare RFPs (Request for Proposal) from different vendors. Each vendor is focusing on its unique features, and from there the RFP review becomes an apples and pears comparison. Probably again the emotional decision will be made at the end. Most likely the cheapest to be sure nobody can be blamed.


I believe the small amount of statistics provided in this post demonstrate that it is not easy to get a hundred percent common understanding of what PLM is about. Imagine what you would give as advice to one of these eight companies. This makes PLM difficult as a discipline as it is not just a collection of tools to implement. If you are selling hammers everything might look like a nail. Be aware of hammer PLM.

picongressIn addition to what is PLM, the majority of companies that claim to have implemented a PLM system do not necessary use PLM in all its capabilities. Often it is still more automation of the way the company worked before. Something you understand when attending PLM user conferences, like the product innovation conferences.

Innovation and disruption needed

I believe that in order to benefit in an optimal manner from PLM, a company needs to switch their mindset from being a departmental measured and triggered company into a customer centric company, where information flows and is shared with all relevant roles in the organization.

Sharing data, instead of owning data, is a big game changer. It requires companies to work different. In the past when you did not need to share data, you could store it anywhere and in any way you prefer to do this. It was your duty and job security to control the data. Now when an experienced person retires or leaves the company, we struggle to get this information back (or we lose it and recreate it later when needed again). Search engines become popular technology to find back data – if possible! I believe Search engines can help to connect the past to the future infrastructure, but there is more.

cloudSharing data does not mean storing data in the cloud. The cloud makes it easier to share data as the company can focus more on the business side of the solution instead of the IT-side where and how to store it at what cost. It is the awareness of the content (“Do I search for something that exists”) and the quality (“Can I trust what I have found”) that we share that needs to get the focus.

For data sharing a disruptive change is needed, which does not happen in the classical PLM environments. There we think too much in departments and a sequential (or concurrent) way of working.

Aiming for sharing is disruptive. The fact that engineers need to provide more accurate data is seen as a productivity loss instead of a gain through the whole organization – see an old post: “Where is my PLM ROI “?. Organizations normally do not like disruptions. Individuals do. If they find a cheaper and easier way to get their work done, they will grab this opportunity and not do anything more. However companies have the tendency and need to keep things more complex as it is not a single task the focus on. It is a complex network of interactions.

I had the chance to read two interesting topics in this context recently. First a relative new blog related to disruptive innovation: the Off-White papers. Although it is not about PLM, it describes the challenges related to disruptive innovation, and if you have a twisted PLM-brain you will get the message.

ProfitBeyondMeasureThe same for a book I have been reading from H. Thomas Johnson called Profit Beyond Measure . Johnson describes in his book, based on cases from Toyota and Scania, a different business model focused on customer delivery instead of internal departmental optimization. Again my twisted PLM-brain got triggered by the customer centric business model. A favorite quote:

A continuously linked and balanced organization that “works to customer order” reflects a very different management style (and organization JV) than does a decoupled and discontinuous organization that “works to schedule”

It is the difference between managing by results (MBR) and managing by means (MBM). And I believe this is the target of modern PLM too.


Even with some small statistics I hope it is clear that PLM is not a simple activity as there are many constraints that can influence a project. Having an understanding about these constraints and being able to remove the blocking constraints is what I believe is the job of a PLM consultant.

Do you agree? Is there an easier world? I am looking forward to your feedback through the comments or through a response in the small survey: PLM, your opinion

HeraclitusIt was Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, living around 500 BC, who told the Greek people that change is the only constant: Τα πάντα ρεί – the title of this blog post. Apparently he was not a popular philosopher and telling people there will be change during a comfortable period of time in their society does not make you loved.

As I am personally passionate about Greece in my personal life, I have also some business activities in Greece. From these experiences, I wish Heraclitus would be their leading guru. Greece at this moment is stuck in their inability to change. Old habits and private interests prevent new initiatives, and the blame for their current situation goes to the outside world: Europe.

This trick has been used over and over again by politicians when a country needs to restructure or reorganize. Create an external enemy and the majority of people swallow their distressing situation. The outside world is to blame and thanks to the external focus nothing changes internally as the population focuses on the enemy first. Where Heraclitus implies there is always change, which could be evolution, it seems that the Greek need a revolution to change their old habits and patterns in order to adapt to the new global society.

But are the Greek the only ones that need to change?

Τα πάντα ρεί also came in my mind when I read Chad Jackson’s blog post: PLM requires Business Transformation ? Bollocks for the first time. I envy Chad’s powerful writing style, which calls for action, a BLOGFIGHT among the PLM community. Unfortunate due to the word Bollocks some of the younger PLM consultants (do they exist?) might not be able to participate to this blog fight as their parental filter on the computer has blocked the page.

blogfightMy first impression from Chad’s post was that he claims we just need to go to for global centralized data management and build processes digital and automated. And as he calls a PLM journey bollocks, I suppose in Chad’s ideal world all would be done in a single step or focused project. A new Big Bang! The last known successful Big Bang was approx 13.798 billion years ago. All other Big Bangs failed.

Τα πάντα ρεί

However my first impression was not 100 % correct and after rereading the post and the related comments a more elaborated picture comes up. The few other PLM consultants that participated in the BLOGFIGHT demonstrated there are many viewpoints often based on the consultant’s background. Often PLM is associated with “The single source of the Truth”, it is precisely on that point where PLM as a concept is struggling. There is no single opinion for PLM.

Euclid ElementsI am glad that we (Chad and I) agreed there is a need for change. This axiom (another Greek word known from Euclid’s Elements) is to my opinion the first starting point to consider for any PLM implementation. If you do not expect change, you will be probably forced to customize the new system the way your company worked before, maybe a little faster, leaving the organization structure as-is. And by building automation similar to the as-is organization you actually make your organization less flexible to adapt for new concepts.

Why do most of the large automotive companies have a problem with their PDM / PLM platforms? Because they have automated and customized their environments year after year. For sure there was ROI (Return On Investment) at that time, but gradually it also created an inability to change. And change is happing faster and faster. Globalization has come up so fast that most large PLM implementations seem to be too rigid to change. What to do? Change their CAD system?

Τα πάντα ρεί !

Knowing that there will be always change, companies should anticipate for change. And this is what I mean by the PLM journey. If implementing PLM is a onetime shot, you might be shooting in your own foot. And if you do not change, you end up with the same problem that Greece is currently facing: revolution or bankruptcy. Revolution is something nobody sane wants, neither bankruptcy.

Evolution is the only way to go even if this is against the way we humans in general behave: we want things to stay the same.

Now combining all ancient Greek wisdom with modern PLM wisdom, I would like to post my five axioms for PLM.

  1. There will be always change – build your vision for the upcoming 5 – 10 years with the anticipation there will be change – do not try to consolidate the now.
  2. Look for the latest best practices, not your current best practices
  3. Implement systems (PLM / PDM / ERP) as much as possible Out-Of-The-Box again avoiding to become dependent on specific releases or fixed environments
  4. Focus on areas where there is direct visible ROI or long term strategic advantage. As there will be always change, identify where to improve or alter moving towards the big picture brings visible comfort (business wise / users wise)
  5. Focus on a clear and business oriented data model – it is easier to maintain data through a long lifecycle when their definition is clear. This is a call for open data standards (STEP / ISO) as they bring you long term flexibility.

Concluding notes and call for action:

  • If you are a respected PLM consultant, feel motivated to continue the blog fight and share your thoughts here related to this post or related to Chad’s post.
  • If you are a respected PLM consultant or PLM enthusiast, please take a moment to answer six questions in the following anonymous survey to share your opinion and background. The survey closes on July 1st 2013:

I will publish the results in July.


geia sou

100WordPress indicated that this is my hundredth blog post since I started in 2008. A notorious PLM blogger would say: “Why did it take you so long to reach 100 posts? “ PLM blogging has been a journey for me, but in this post I want to focus on how PLM implementations should be perceived by companies: As a journey.

My previous posts might suggest that I am cynical about PLM because titles as “How come PLM is boring?” and “PLM at risk. It does not have a clear job” might give the impression that PLM is at the end of its lifecycle.

Let me be clear, I think it is not. We, PLM passionate people, are still trying to find the right method to promote the value of PLM to the minds of the management in companies. You would assume that the value PLM brings would make it a no-brainer. However for successful implementing PLM there is no standard approach (and definition). Often people believe PLM is an IT-solution. And the common sense is that you buy an IT-solution, you implement it and continue working in a better mode. That’s where the implementation fails as PLM is different. So let’s start our journey

A journey starts with a reason / target

Once you have decided you are going to make a journey there are several things to consider and some of them are obvious.

  • Where do you start from ? The easiest part, but crucial.
  • Where do you want to go? This is sometimes more difficult to achieve than the previous point, especially in cases when you only have an idea of the target.
  • How do you travel? In which way do you want to reach your target? A fast and direct connection is expensive and considers the trip as a waste of time. An alternative is that you want to travel towards the target, meanwhile spending some money along the road and even make money from the experiences gained along the road? In that case, time spent is less an issue. It is the combination of having the target in mind, move forward in the right direction and simultaneously gain experience and benefits.

The fast approach

imageThe fast approach is for many IT-systems a must. If you implement an ERP system, you know its exact purpose; it supports the scheduling and transactions through the organization. You cannot afford to have an old system and a new system work in parallel. And because these transactions are related to the financial state of the company, the management will always prioritize investments in ERP.

Another reason why ERP implementations can be reasonable fast is that you are not going to reinvent the way information is handled. It is more an improvement process than an innovation process. Although to be fair, moving towards multiple manufacturing locations and different costs centers can be considered as complex topics.

Why no fast approach for PLM ?

For PLM, there is no fast approach as there are so many areas that you can address? Too many jobs – remember my previous post? In addition, the exact meaning of all these jobs is not clear from the start.You have to prepare for a journey. And here is the main challenge. Management will not easily fund your journey as you cannot explain it specific results in comprehensible words to them. Management might be excited by the proposed value of PLM. Who does not need to be more competitive and innovative in the future? This message resonates particularly well among members of the board and shareholders.

But when it comes to implementation, there is usually only one cross-disciplines unit that can accomplish this assignment: the IT-department. And here is the crucial mistake discovered time after time where PLM implementations fail. PLM is a business transformation, not an IT-system implementation.

imageBusiness should lead this transformation, but it is very rare you find the right people that have the full overview, skills and availability to implement this transformation across departments. People from the business side will be primarily focused on their (small) part of the full process, leaving at the end the project to be done to IT.

But as the financial transactions are already taking care of in other systems, the company does not appear at risk. Accountant will never push for PLM as a life saver. Slow reducing margin, slowly diminishing market share often do not alert people in the board room. It requires a deep-dive from the management into these symptoms, which they do not wish to do – it takes time to learn and understand.

Autodesk and Aras somehow dream to have solved this issue by claiming their PLM tools are easy to implement, easy to configure. They are somehow stating: “Don’t worry about the IT-side, build what you need”. It is a bottom-up approach likely to fail as I learned from many SmarTeam implementations that never reached the enterprise level due to inconsistency and misunderstanding at management level.

The journey approach

imageThere is only one strategy that works for PLM, which is starting from a clear vision from the top (the target/destination) and the belief that the target needs to be reached by business people supported by IT.

And in order to keep the business alive we will try to get closer and closer to the target, year by year: the journey approach. During the journey, various business needs and changes will be addressed as isolated but connected stages. Each stage should have its business targets and benefits. The advantage is that it is a learning experience where in every stage different business people are leading the subject. IT is always involved as the integrator of all stages. More on that in later posts.

There is a vital role required in the journey approach: The Guide(s). As implementing PLM is usually not a typical job for a company, it is something that you need to experience in order to do it right. And there are two types of guides:

  • The travel agencies – companies that have collected the experiences from people around the world identified the places to go and often have done some local research to confirm the promises. In the PLM landscape, this is a company like CIMdata with their focus on PLM. There are also more specialized travel agencies that might focus on DIY trips (they provide infrastructure and support) or cruises (no escape). Here, I will not mention names, but there is always a demand for cruises.
  • The local guides – this are usually individuals that have years of experience in the space they have been working. They know in detail where the dirt is and how to avoid swamps. In the PLM landscape, this is the PLM consultant with a focus on a particular product or on a certain part of PLM. The quality of a local guide varies a lot, and you need to examine their track record but I think they are required. Do not leave it to the travel agencies only.

To conclude after 100 posts. I am sure PLM is a journey. If you don’t know me by now, watch the movie below and browse through the top 10 most read individual posts to get an opinion.


Top 10 most read posts
Where is the MBOM ?
Bill of Materials for Dummies – ETO
To PLM or Not to PLM – measuring the planning phase
To PLM or Not to PLM – measuring the concept phase
BOM for Dummies – CTO
Free PLM software does not help companies !
Connecting PLM and ERP (1)
ECR/ECO for Dummies
BOM for Dummies: BOM and CAD
Asset Lifecycle Management using a PLM system

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