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Last week I attended the PI Apparel conference in London. It was the second time this event was organized and approximate 100 participants were there for two full days of presentations and arranged network meetings. Last year I was extremely excited about this event as the different audience, compare to classical PLM events, and was much more business focused.
Read my review from last year here: The weekend after PI Apparel 2013
This year I had the feeling that the audience was somewhat smaller, missing some of the US representatives and perhaps there was a slightly more, visible influence from the sponsoring vendors. Still an enjoyable event and hopefully next year when this event will be hosted in New York, it will be as active as last year.
Here are some of my observations.
Again the event had several tracks in parallel beside the keynotes, and I look forward in the upcoming month to see the sessions I could not attend. Obvious where possible I followed the PLM focused sessions.
First keynote came from Micaela le Divelec Lemmi, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Operations Officer of Gucci. She talked us through the areas she is supervising and gave some great insights. She talked about how Gucci addresses sustainability through risk and cost control. Which raw materials to use, how to ensure the brands reputation is not at risk, price volatility and the war on talent. As Gucci is a brand in the high-end price segment, image and reputation are critical, and they have the margins to assure it is managed. Micaela spoke about the short-term financial goals that a company as Gucci has related to their investors. Topics she mentioned (I did not write them down as I was tweeting when I heard them) were certainly worthwhile to consider and discuss in detail with a PLM consultant.
Micaela further described Gucci´s cooperate social responsibility program with a focus on taking care of the people, environment and culture. Good to learn that human working conditions and rights are a priority even for their supply chain. Although it might be noted that 75 % of Gucci´s supply chain is in Italy. One of the few brands that still has the “Made in Italy” label.
My conclusion was that Micaela did an excellent PR job for Gucci, which you would expect for a brand with such a reputation. Later during the conference we had a discussion would other brands with less exclusivity and more operating in the mass consumer domain be able to come even close to such programs?
The company is successful in manufacturing and selling licensed products from Pierre Cardin, Cacharel and US Polo Association mainly outside the US and Western Europe.
Their primary focus was to provide access to the most accurate and most updated information from one source. In parallel, standardization of codes and tech packs was a driver. Through standardization quality and (re)use could be improved, and people would better understand the details. Additional goals are typical PLM goals: following the product development stages during the timeline, notify relevant users about changes in the design, work on libraries and reuse and integrate with SAP.
Interesting Hakan mentioned that in their case SAP did not recommend to use their system for the PLM related part due to lack of knowledge of the apparel industry. A wise decision which would need followup for other industries.
In general the PLM implementation described by Göktug and Hakan was well phased and with a top-down push to secure there is no escape to making the change. As of all PLM implementations in apparel they went live in their first phase rather fast as the complex CAD integrations from classical PLM implementations were not needed here.
Next I attended the Infor session with the title: Work the Way you Live: PLM built for the User. A smooth marketing session with a function / feature demo demonstrating the flexibility and configuration capabilities of the interface. Ease of use is crucial in the apparel industry, where Excel is still the biggest competitor. Excel might satisfy the needs from the individual, it lacks the integration and collaboration aspect a PLM system can offer.
More interesting was the next session that I attended from Marcel Oosthuis, who was responsible as Process Re-Engineering Director (read PLM leader). Marcel described how they had implemented PLM at Tommy Hilfiger, and it was an excellent story (perhaps too good to be true).
I believe larger companies with the right focus and investment in PLM resources can achieve this kind of results. The target for Tommy Hilfiger´s PLM implementation was beyond 1000 users, therefore, a serious implementation.
Upfront the team defined first what the expected from the PLM system to select (excellent !!). As the fashion industry is fast, demanding and changing all the time, the PLM system needs to be Swift, Flexible and Prepared for Change. This was not a classical PLM requirement.
In addition, they were looking for a high-configurable system, providing best practices and a vendor with a roadmap they could influence. Here I got a little more worried as high-configurable and best practices not always match the prepared for change approach. A company might be tempted to automate the way they should work based on the past (best practices from the past)
It was good to hear that Marcel did not have to go into the classical ROI approach for the system. His statement, which I fully endorse that it is about the capability to implement new and better processes. They are often not comparable with the past (and nobody measured the past)
Marcel described how the PLM team (eight people + three external from the PLM vendor) made sure that the implementation was done with the involvement of the end users. End user adoption was crucial as also key user involvement when building and configuring the system.
It was one of the few PLM stories where I hear how all levels of the organization were connected and involved.
Next Sue Butler, director from Kurt Salmon, described how to maximize ROI from your PLM investment. It is clear that many PLM consultants are aligned, and Sue brought up all the relevant points and angles you needed to look at for successful PLM implementation.
Main points: PLM is about changing the organization and processes, not about implementing a tool. She made a point that piloting the software is necessary as part of the learning and validation process. I agree on that under the condition that it is an agile pilot which does not take months to define and perform. In that case, you might be already locked in into the tool vision too much – focus on the new processes you want to achieve.
Moreover, because Sue was talking about maximize ROI from a PLM implementation, the topics focus on business areas that support evolving business processes and measure (make sure you have performance metrics) came up.
The next session Staying Ahead of the Curve through PLM Roadmap Reinvention conducted by Austin Mallis, VP Operations, Fashion Avenue Sweater Knits, beautifully completed previous sessions related to PLM.
Austin nicely talked about setting the right expectations for the future (There is no perfect solution / Success does not mean stop / Keeping the PLM vision / No True End). In addition, he described the human side of the implementation. How to on-board everyone (if possible) and admitting you cannot get everyone on-board for the new way of working.
Luckily the speakers before me that day already addressed many of the relevant topics, and I could focus on three main thoughts completing the story:
1. Who decides on PLM and Why?
I published the results from a small survey I did a month ago via my blog (A quick PLM survey). See the main results below.
It was interesting to observe that both the management and the users in the field are the majority demanding for PLM. Consultants have some influence and PLM vendors even less. The big challenge for a company is that the management and consultants often talk about PLM from a strategic point of view, where the PLM vendor and the users in the field are more focused on the tool(s).
From the expectations you can see the majority of PLM implementations is about improving collaboration, next time to market, increase quality and centralizing and managing all related information.
2. Sharing data instead of owning data
(You might have read about it several times in my blog) and the trend that we move to platforms with connected data instead of file repositories. This should have an impact on your future PLM decisions.
3. Choosing the right people
The third and final thought was about choosing the right people and understanding the blocker. I elaborated on that topic already before in my recent blog post: PLM and Blockers
My conclusions for the day were:
A successful PLM implementation requires a connection in communication and explanation between all these levels. These to get a company aligned and have an anchored vision before even starting to implement a system (with the best partner)
The day was closed by the final keynote of the day from Lauren Bowker heading T H E U N S E E N. She and her team are exploring the combinations of chemistry and materials to create new fashion artifacts. Clothes and materials that change color based on air vent, air pollution or brain patterns. New and inspiring directions for the fashion lovers.
Have a look here: http://seetheunseen.co.uk/
The morning started with Suzanne Lee, heading BioCouture who is working on various innovative methodologies to create materials for the apparel industry by using all kind of live micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi and algae and using materials like cellulose, chitin and protein fibers, which all can provide new possibilities for sustainability, comfort, design, etc. Suzanne´s research is about exploring these directions perhaps shaping some new trends in the 5 – 10 years future ahead. Have a look into the future here:
Renate Eder took us into the journey of visualization within Adidas, with her session: Utilizing Virtualization to Create and Sell Products in a Sustainable Manner.
It was interesting to learn that ten years ago she started the process of having more 3D models in the sales catalogue. Where classical manufacturing companies nowadays start from a 3D design, here at Adidas at the end of the sales cycle 3D starts. Logical if you see the importance and value 3D can have for mass market products.
Adidas was able to get 16000 in their 3D catalogue thanks to the work from 60 of their key suppliers who were fully integrated in the catalogue process. The benefit from this 3D catalogue was that their customers, often the large stores, need lesser samples, and the savings are significant here (plus a digital process instead of transferring goods).
Interesting discussion during the Q&A part was that the virtual product might even look more perfect than the real product, demonstrating how lifelike virtual products can be.
And now Adidas is working further backwards from production patterns (using 3D) till at the end 3D design. Although a virtual 3D product cannot 100 % replace the fit and material feeling, Renate believes that also introducing 3D during design can reduce the work done during pilots.
Finally for those who stayed till the end there was something entirely different. Di Mainstone elaborating on her project: Merging Architecture & the Body in Transforming the Brooklyn Bridge into a Playable Harp. If you want something entirely different, watch here:
The apparel industry remains an exciting industry to follow. For some of the concepts – being data-centric, insane flexible, continuous change and rapid time to market are crucial here.
This might lead development of PLM vendors for the future, including using it based on cloud technology.
From the other side, the PLM markets in apparel is still very basic and learning, see this card that I picked up from one of the vendors. Focus on features and functions, not touching the value (yet)
The product innovation conference in February has become one of my favorite events, mainly for networking. Perhaps PLM vendors try to give you the impression that we are in a fast moving world. In reality, most companies are moving in a much slower pace than these vendors dream of. In general for an outsider, last year might have looked similar to what happened this year. In this post, I will describe the subtle differences that I noticed.
The event was in the same location as last year with approximately. 400 participant including 60 speakers. The conference had three main streams: keynotes, PLM and design. The PLM and design sessions were most of the time parallel sessions. Great if you are interested in one domain only, a little more challenging for people who are enjoying to be in both domains. However the good news is that all participants will have access to the recorded sessions in a week or two. And from last years’ experience I can say the recordings are good, so I am looking forward to a virtual additional conference in two weeks from now.
Some remarks about the sessions that I was able to attend
Going to Mars ?
Bas Lansdorp explained us about the Mars One mission, what was the drive and challenge behind establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars. It was an inspiring opening session to make you think out of the box. Several interesting topics came up.
1. First of all that most of the mission’s materials need to be basic, proven technology instead of modern, innovative concepts. As maintenance and risks for issues need to be minimized, it is better to keep it with proven technology.
2. The crew selection is a long process – the first crew will fly in 10 years from now, so who are those individuals that want to take up the challenge to stay forever with 3 others, and every few years some more people will come. But hard to escape, and there is no way back. Amazing!
3. Part of the funding can be done by media rights. Bas explained the revenues that are related, for example, with the Olympic Games are already stunning. Imagine to have “Live on Mars” as a reality soap available all around the world. Programs like Big Brother demonstrate that it is in our nature just to watch ordinary people see how the behave. Will they fight? Will they have sex? Public voyeurism and eternal fame.
Although the keynote had no relation to PLM, I felt energized by the entrepreneurial thinking of Bas, following his passion and wanting to realize it. As Mars does not need the first centuries entrepreneurs, it was clear Bas is not part of the first crew.
Managing complexity and volume
Next Peter Smith from VF International presented the huge challenge his group of companies had to manage the complexity of the various products and their seasonal deliveries, up to 12 collection models per year. The group with famous brands like The North Face, Lee, Wranglers, JanSport, Kipling and Timberland has the challenge to deliver 500 Mio units/year which means 16 units/second ! For sure an execution engine. So where does PLM fit?
For Peter PLM is part of the infrastructure, a glue for the innovation process, but not driving the innovation process. They try to standardize on a single PLM system, but some of the brands have such characteristics and history that this was not possible to realize. As the business must go on, a new PLM should not be disruptive for business.
The two main challenges Peter sees for current PLM are:
- The software models available for them as consumers. Changes go here too slow
- Organizational change implications. How to change when change is hard?
It was clear from Peter’s experience that many of his points were from the IT-perspective. During the networking break when I spoke with others, some of them mentioned that the business value for PLM was missing in Peter’s analysis – too much tool/infrastructure.
The digital value chain
An interesting session from Michael Bitzer (Accenture) and Sebastien Handschuh (Daimler). After an introduction about the German initiative Digital Industry 4.0 the remaining part of the session was around Daimler´s approach to use JT as a neutral, application independent format for their 3D data. At this time, Daimler has already over a 6 Mio JT-files and the format has been proven to fulfill their process needs.
Where possible Daimler aims to collaborate with suppliers in JT format for 3D. In this manner, their suppliers are not forced to use exclusively CATIA or NX. And the answer one question from the audience if Daimler was supporting the Siemens flavored JT or the real neutral JT format, it was clear that Daimler was aiming for the neutral format. I believe an interesting move to a more generic data approach in this case for 3D CAD data instead of original file formats. Hopefully more standardization to follow.
PLM selection: Do´s and Don’ts
I was moderating a discussion session for companies that were in the process of selecting a PLM system or that wanted to share their experience. Unfortunate the session was overpopulated with a lot of people not all necessary in the selection process. Due to the large audience not really an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion. Still it was amazing to see that there are still companies where the value of PLM is not clear at the management level and therefore the focus is on quick ROI.
In a one-to-one discussion afterwards I learned about a company where the shareholders/investors of a company forced the PLM project to fail by pushing unrealistic deadlines and not understanding the human and business change required. Unrealistic ROI expectations and lack of understanding where PLM really brings a competitive advantage is missing. Worst case due to their short-term focus the company will slowly be out of business as competitiveness and margins will reduce. For this type of situations, there is the excellent Dilbert cartoon below.
Secure data sharing in the extended enterprise
An interesting session was organized by Häkan Kårdén (Eurostep) and Kristofer Thoresson (Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery). Siemens had chosen to use the Eurostep Share-A-space environment between their internal data (their PDM system and other data sources) and the external data from suppliers, customers and field services. A pragmatic concept and interesting to see Share-A-space Found-Its-place. PLM Vendors probably would claim that their system could organize this secure and remote access without the need for a system in between. But the fact that a Siemens company decides to use Share-A-space demonstrates there is still a gap between a potential safe, single PLM based implementation and a pragmatic separation approach.
PLM is changing
In my session that afternoon I focused on the visible change in PLM. From an IT infrastructure for file collaboration towards a more data-centric business driven approach. And from there looking into the future anticipate that moving towards a data-centric approach is crucial to be ready for advanced computer power and brain-matching algorithms. This will be the game changers I believe in the upcoming decade in line with the Industry 4.0 ideas. My past two post have been indicating this direction:
A Circular economy
Peter Bilello from CIMdata had a good presentation related to the change in business we see and must make. No longer can we afford an economy where we waste raw materials. The circular economy is about supporting the product lifecycle from cradle-to-cradle instead of the classical cradle-to-grave. This is what you could call the circular economy; This matches the trend that companies more and more will deliver services to their customers instead of selling products to them. Instead of buying a fridge you pay for cooling capacity and your supplier changes the current model with a new model after three years. The service or experience economy fitting very nicely with the new generations that seem to prefer more to live and share at the moment instead of owning property.
Your digital shadow
The closing keynote from Stephanie Hankey was like the starting keynote. No relation to PLM but interesting in the context of what the effects are from digitalization and mobility. She provided some insights about the data that is already collected from each individual (or device) and how this all can be combined in profiles – your digital shadow. And of course your shadow might give the wrong impression. You can imagine that with growing trend of smart devices and the Internet of Things it will be hard to stay out of it. Companies will sell and buy data sets from their potential customers (victims). Scary as it all happens in the background and you are not fully aware of it.
(At the point, I was writing this paragraph my computer crashed with a blue screen – coincidence?)
Cultured beef ?
After a good burger and discussion in the evening, the opening keynote on day two was from Mark Post with the title Cultured Beef – changing the way we eat and think about food forever. Another interesting keynote where Mark explained how we can feed the growing world population in a more sustainable way by creating animal products through cell culture and bio fabrication instead of farming. The process is still in the early days of discovery but by using cell culture you can assure you get the right meat, even without fat, and it is real meat. Currently still expensive. Mark estimates that with current technology and up scaling of the process a price of $ 65 per kilo can be reached. Too expensive for consumers at this time but a promising number for the future. Another (Dutch) keynote speaker that made us think differently for the rest of the day.
Next Bjarne Nørgaard from MAN Diesel & Turbo gave a good lecture for the audience, what it takes to design and build a ship. You build the engine and wrap the ship around it. The challenge for MAN is to follow, service and maintain the engine through is 30 year’s lifecycle and possibly longer. Next Bjarne went into the details of their information architecture, and it was surprising to learn that their PDM system was Siemens and that they used Aras on top of that for connecting data to the rest of the enterprise and lifecycle of the engine. You would assume two PLM systems in-house for one company is an overkill. Bjarne explained that they tried initially to achieve these goals with Teamcenter but failed due to lack of flexibility. Great marketing for Aras, bad for Siemens. Although I am sure the cultural aspect has played a role. No one likes their first PLM or ERP system, as the first implementation is this domain is the moment you have the biggest internal culture shock.
Using search and semantic technology
The presentation from Moises Martines-Ablanado (Configuration Management Airbus Group) and Thomas Kamps (Conweaver) was interesting as they demonstrated one of the upcoming concepts I foresee will have a great future. Conweaver connects to existing enterprise systems (PLM, ERP, CRM, and legacy) and create a semantic mapping and linking of the data indexed from these systems. And through this network of data provide apps with a particular purpose. For example identify directly changes in the current EBOM and MBOM and potentially from there update the MBOM based in EBOM changes. A concept I have seen with Exalead too, illustrating that once you are in a data-centric environment, combining data sources for particular purposes can be achieved fast. No need for the classical approach of a single database that stores all.
A new TLA ? CLM
Joy Batchelor gave a clear presentation why besides PLM and ERP Jaguar Landrover (JLR) needs a third system supporting the connectivity of product configurations and sales configurations. They are able to manage 58.000.000.000 combinations for 170 different markets, which means every person on this planet could have its unique Jaguar Landrover. Joy introduced CLM (Configuration Lifecycle Management) as the third domain needed to support these configurations. The system they are using is ConfigIT, and I assume all automotive vendors have their own toolsets to manage the product and marketing configurations. I hope to learn more on that area. Will CLM be a separate domain or will it be absorbed by PLM or ERP vendors in the future ? Time will tell/
A game changer ?
Henk Jan Pels from the Eindhoven University of Technology took us back in time and explained how ERP became visible on the CFO’s agenda eliminating the discussion on ROI. Where ERP is handling material flows, to develop and deliver products there is also a need for knowledge flows between requirements, functional and the physical definition of a product. Expanding these flows to a framework that covers the technology, the building blocks, the families and the individual products would be the ideal interaction Henk Jan is proposing. And a PLM system would be the environment to implement this concept. Henk Jan announced this as a game changer. I agree if management of companies spend times to understand the benefits, it will be a game changer. Somehow it remained an academic concept and I believe we are all eager to learn if companies will adapt this idea, knowing change to something that is not common or traditional is a cultural risk.
The German future ?
The final presentation I could attend was from Martin Eigner, who first explained in some detail what the Industry 4.0 approach was about. From there he took us into the world of model based systems engineering. You could say an integration of PLM with more virtual system modeling and analysis as the front end of the development process. Somehow similar to last year’s presentation, but understandable as the world of PLM does not evolve so fast.
This is somehow also my conclusion from this year’s event. I was hoping to see some new sparks. For sure the keynotes were inspiring although less related to PLM. The case from Airbus and Conweaver was inspiring as I believe search and semantic based applications are a logical extension for the challenges companies want to address with PLM. JLR’s presentation explaining the need for Configuration Lifecycle Management strengthened my thought that in the future PLM and ERP will disappear. It is about a business platform with combined services, which might fall in one of the classical categories. I believe for many people the German Innovation 4.0 should be studied and replicated as it acknowledges exactly the future trend to remain competitive.
It was a pity for the public that Siemens PLM, Dassault Systèmes and Autodesk were not there. As the two largest PLM vendors and one of the largest PLM challengers, you would expect them be there and allow prospects and PLM consultants to compare where each of the PLM companies is different. Still it was a good conference. Well organized and as mentioned in the introduction, all presentations are recorded, giving everyone the opportunity to digest and review content again.
I am looking forward to the next Product Innovation conference with perhaps some more PLM related keynotes and big data practices.
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.
My passion and trauma started that year where the Dutch national team changed the soccer game tactics by introducing totaalvoetbal.
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
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 ?
PLM 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.
People 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.
Because 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.
The 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
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.
During 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.
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 !!!
The 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.
Moving 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.
When 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 ?
When 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.
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 ?
Nobody 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.
My 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.
Larger 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 ?
- CIMdata Publishes PLM Geography Report (detroit.cbslocal.com)
Data or Process first ?
This Tech4PD session deserves some special attention as it is indeed a Chicken or Egg discussion and I would like to extend this discussion by making a differentiation between the small and mid-sized companies and the larger enterprises.
Watch this session as warming up.
DATA instead of DOCUMENTS
Somewhat related to the previous topic is the trend from documents towards data is visible. Companies are struggling with data stored in documents. How do you find the right information ? And when information changes you need to change the document version. This makes PDM or PLM difficult when the focus is on storing documents and files. Managing information in database records opens new opportunities.
One of my favorite topics is innovation and one of my hobbies is race cycling. As it is a hobby, I suffer several times from wearing cycling shoes at parties or during stops at a restaurant. Can you imagine the innovation I saw in this movie ? (thanks to my growing interest for Apparel – see my blog post on PI Apparel). This innovation is targeting mountain bikers, and I am looking forward to discovering the first hybrid race shoe. It is a typical example of innovation: combining and integrating needs for two different world into a single person´s experience.
The value of PLM for all industries
How do you explain to your management the value of PLM? Who should do this ? PLM Vendors and implementers often have a focus on their unique functions and features or skills, trying to generalize customer needs. Management thinks in costs and benefits and competitive advantages. This does not come from just a product. What to do ? This discussion is less valid for the classical PLM minded industries where companies learned from peers that PLM has a value. Other industries, like EPC contractors and Owner/Operators can benefit too – why are they slow to adapt ?
And then there is always the human side and books. Remember these posts:
- Our brain blocks PLM acceptance – virtual dutchman
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and PLM – Zero Wait-State
I hope to get inspiration from my holiday books.
Besides some fiction books, there are two books I plan to read:
Conclusion (as usual)
I hope you enjoyed your holiday (or still enjoy your holiday) and will be back in touch in September. If there are topics related to PLM you fancy. Let me know. Meanwhile, I will be in an area with no wifi and occasional phone reception looking to sceneries as below
Last week I attended the Product Innovation Apparel conference in London organized by MarketKey.
Having participated in the previous more traditional PLM conferences, I was not sure what to expect from the audience and the perception of PLM in the apparel business.
Someone told me PLM in Apparel should be very mature as it exists for more than 10 years in that industry; others said it is still an immature market as there are more than 400 Apparel solutions available. No consolidation so far, which is a sign of an immature market.
My conclusion after attending the event:
The focus was on business. PLM consultants dealing with the traditional PLM implementations should go to such a conference to learn the business side from PLM, in particular the needs for mid-market companies. There was (almost) no talk about functions and features; the focus was on the value PLM brings to the business, instead of all the IT issues related to the implementation.
In that context, the word “cloud” was of course mentioned more often.
So what did I learn?
There are some stunning technological innovations upcoming. Daan Roosegaarde as keynote speaker gave us some insight in how technology can become our second skin and interact with the environment. Interactive materials making the person connected to his/her environment. Similar in that direction was the performance and appearance from CuteCircuit (Ryan Genz and Francesca Rosella) demonstrating the use of smart textiles and use of micro-electronics.
“Make sure your dress is loaded when going to a party”
In addition, the panel discussion around 3D printing brought some of the inspiring thoughts for the future. In particular, the enthusiasm of Nicholas O’Donnell Hoare was comparable to the energy you could see from Daan Roosegaarde and the CuteCircuit team.
When you see these people speaking and shining, explaining their ideas there is no place for a “Yes, but …..” These people give the inspiring moments each conference must have.
The above movie is a good impression of the inspiration. Look at Daan’s expression and his reaction to the “Yes but culture” at 7:28 and beyond
Selling PLM inside the company
PLM at the board level
Every PLM experts knows selling PLM to your management and implementing PLM as a significant business change is a challenge. I noticed some different approaches here that opened my eyes. Elle Thomson from Marc Jacobs talking about how to get rid of the silos in an organization. In an organization where 98 % of the products is new every season. She got the job of VP of PLM in the company. The first time I hear there is a PLM voice at the board level! Many other companies could learn from that.
Excellent implementation blueprint
Next Pasquale Coppolella who explained how he transferred the Chicco from local into an international brand, understanding that PLM is crucial. Next he had to fight against the classical board remark: “Why do you need PLM we have SAP”. But he fought his way through with a perfect combination of alignment between IT and Business, transparency, education and a little bit dictatorship: “Listen to the users but at the end tell them where to go”. Again a PLM blueprint that could be a model for many mid-market companies.
Know how to sell PLM internal
Pam Buckingham and Jamie Tantleff explained their PLM journey through an “edutainment” session, an excellent combination of educating the audience about their PLM journey at Deckers Outdoor Corp, but also entertaining the audience with humor and alternation in their presentation. Through this approach, the upcoming upgrade for 9 months did not come as a depression. In my review from PLM Innovation in Berlin, I mentioned that I was missing the dynamics and energy – see the quote below:
Well for certain, Pam and Jamie took up the challenge and brought the potential boring PLM story in a modern way. Again so many others in traditional PLM could learn from.
While many others shared their experience related to PLM selection and implementation, I gave an overview session sharing the lessons learned from traditional PLM implementations, with a focus on mid-market challenges. As part of this session, I had to develop some new graphics I want to share with you as they might be also the graphics for future PLM
On the left the traditional PLM that can be found everywhere. Although there is a centralized system for Product Lifecycle information, the departments are still working sequential in the process, and at the end it is not always clear that the field experience (After Sales / Service) reaches the marketing & new development teams.
The right image is how I understood the conceptual PLM environment for apparel (and probably for all industries). Here, the focus is on collaboration in real-time between all disciplines. Data sharing is essential for apparel due to their extreme short go-to-market time (3 to 4 seasons per years – hundreds of SKU to be handled per line/brand). The sequential/departmental approach would be killing their business. And as reacting on trends and consumer moods is so crucial, the social environment needs to be part of the process. Without social connectivity again the brand would probably lose their customers.
The right image introduces the need for platform thinking, instead of system thinking. What I mean by that is when you observe implementations in the traditional PLM industries, you see many different systems (PDM, ERP, SCM, CRM, … (any TLA will do) and they all have their own data storage and interfaces with other systems.
I believe the future is in platforms where data is shared instead of exchanged between systems. Combined with embedded search technology that combines information from other platforms and environments (the web, your legacy), the platform will provide each user with the information needed at that time, either structured and under control or context sensitive. Apps instead of systems will be the way to reach the users.
Following this thought process it is clear that PLM will disappear in the future as a separate system. The focus will be on business execution using data sharing and data connectivity. And this trend might be even faster in Apparel as in this industry IT does not have such a prominent role and IT departments are small.
Again something companies from other industries could learn from.
There is so much to learn from experiences in the apparel industry. The PLM market for apparel might be immature, the people implementing are not. They have picked up the modern way of PLM thinking in the context of business, instead of a focus on IT. Combined with the fact that it is less a male-only business, it opened my eyes, and other PLM consultants should do the same.
Two months ago I wrote a post named PLM statistics. Here I shared some of the complexity of PLM projects in my work environment. I added a small survey to this post to get a “statistical” overview of my readers and promised to publish the results in July.
Well, it is July and 64 people took the time to respond. I am sitting now on a sunny balcony somewhere in Athens, enjoying my birthday. Still some work to do, so let’s go through the questions and answers, and I will interpret the results. (And this is one of my fastest posts ever written)
Are you a PLM consultant?
65 % of the respondents were PLM consultants, the rest 35 % did not have PLM as their core job objective. For this result there are two possible interpretations. The negative one: “It is a pity that a little more than one third of the respondents, my original target audience, participated”. My aim with this blog is to share experiences and insight specially for those who are not involved in PLM on a day by day base. But there is also a positive interpretation possible: “This blog is a place where PLM consultants participate!”
What type of PLM consultant are you?
From the consultants answering the first question, the majority works for a software vendor (43 %) or for a service company implementing multiple PLM solutions (30 %). Interesting there is still a relative high number of consultants with a focus on business strategy (20 %) combined with change management (8 %).
Only 1 % of the respondents have a focus on PLM and IT. I must say, I like this answer, as it demonstrates PLM is not considered as an IT-solution anymore. Still the majority of PLM consultants are working related to PLM software, generic PLM consultancy is still rare (within the population of respondents)
How would you characterize PLM?
There were some blog posts in the past related to PLM as a vision (bollocks), but apparently the majority of the readers considers PLM is a vision (70 %), followed by PLM is a collection of best practices (33 %).
Much lower rated was PLM is a collection of software applications (26 %) or PLM is an IT-infrastructure (15 %).
As you might notice, the sum of all the answers is above 100 % as people were allowed to choose more than one answer.
I liked the answer as I have been preaching PLM is a vision; however you must consider all the other answers are also correct. This makes PLM difficult to explain and position inside a company as people might have a different perspective.
The fact that the majority choose PLM is a Vision might also be caused by the fact that you liked my opinion. People who do not like my opinion will stop reading this blog and not answer. Another example where statistics can be interpreted in many ways.
How do you believe PLM should be implemented?
Which means for me – almost everyone agreed (90 %) that PLM is not a single project you do once (6 %) or that it is only an installation of an IT-solutions (2 %).
An approach I have always been promoting, so either the followers of this blog agree and keep on reading, or it is indeed a representative number taken from the PLM experts. From the result, I cannot differentiate if the PLM consultants have a different opinion compared to the people working in companies and implementing PLM. As I assume a company implementing PLM is not immediately looking forward to a journey and want fast results.
How many PLM implementations have you been involved?
Here, I can conclude that the people who responded are experienced people. 32 % has been involved in more than 10 implementations, another 30 % has been involved in 3 till 10 implementations, and 16 % has been involved in their company’s implementation. The rest was not involved in an implementation yet.
These are also expected numbers I believe. Based on what I learned through the years, it is so critical to be involved in several implementations as you will be able to learn from each project.
Being involved in only one or two PLM projects brings the risk that you do not address the risky areas correctly because you have never seen them before in other situations.
Of course there are a few generic PLM blogs that could help you to get experienced. However the typical human behavior is to fail first and then read (who reads the manual?)
And next the final question
How many years you have been involved in PLM?
As mentioned related to the previous questions it is necessary to have a long term experience. Sometimes I meet a “Senior” PLM Consultant (business card) with two or three years of experience. I believe we should reserve the word “senior” for PLM with a minimum amount of 5 years experience. And it is also depending on the amount of projects you were involved in.
Interesting thought came into my mind. Some vendors claim the provide extreme rapid implementations for PLM ( 2 weeks / 30 days / 3 months)
If this is real PLM you could do 25, 12 or 4 PLM projects per year full time
Only 14 % of the respondents have less than 3 year experience with PLM which makes me feel we are in a respected community when it comes to PLM experience.
And here comes the tricky part – any conclusion will do when it comes to statistics. The conclusion I draw from this inquiry is that the majority of the respondents are experienced PLM consultants who believe that PLM is a journey or stepped approach to implement a future vision.
If you do not agree – I am looking forward to your comments
Shortly, July 15/16 I will participate at Product Innovation Apparel in London and have a session related to the lessons learned from PLM and the potential future of PLM in the context of the Apparel industry.
Sharing the experience. Will you be there?
- PLM Statistics (virtualdutchman.com)
It 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.
My 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.
I 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.
- 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.
- Look for the latest best practices, not your current best practices
- Implement systems (PLM / PDM / ERP) as much as possible Out-Of-The-Box again avoiding to become dependent on specific releases or fixed environments
- 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)
- 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: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PYSMBJ9
I will publish the results in July.
- PLM is a journey (virtualdutchman.com)
Last year, I read Clayton Christensen’s book “The Innovator’s dilemma – When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail “. I was intrigued how his theory also applies to PLM and wrote about it in a blog posts last year.
Recently, I attended an HBR Webinar “Innovating over the Horizon: How to Survive Disruption and Thrive” , which raises serious implications for PLM. As presented by Clayton Christensen and Max Wessel, both professors in the Harvard Business School, I foresaw numerous consequences demanding attention.
I’d like to highlight some observations for you:
- Disruptive innovation will hit any domain – so also the PLM domain
- You are less impacted if your products/services are targeting a job to be done
- ERP has a well defined job – so not much discussion there
- PLM does not have a clear job – so vulnerable for disruption
- Will PLM disappear?
The above diagram explains it all. Often products come into the market with a performance below customer expectations. The product will improve in time, and at a certain moment it will reach that expectation level. Through sustaining innovation, the company keeps improving their product(s) to attract more customers, and start delivering more than a single customer is asking for.
This is for sure the case in PLM. All the PLM vendors are now able to deliver a lot of functionality around global collaboration, covering the whole product lifecycle. Companies that implement PLM, just implement a fraction of these capabilities and still have additional demands. Still the known PLM vendors nearly always win when a company is searching for a new PLM solution.
Disruption comes from other technologies and products. In the beginning, they are not even considered by companies in that product space as a possible solution. As these products improve in time at a certain moment, they reach that level of functionality and performance, a potential customer can use these products to address their demands.
At this stage, the disrupters will nearly always win the battle. The reason is that they are more close to what the customer wants than the incumbents. Their product performance and price point are most likely to be more attractive than the incumbents´ portfolio.
Translating this to PLM it would mean: “Do not look for PLM systems as they already provide too much functionality, way above the line of customer desire”
As a PLM consultant, I need to provide some second thoughts to keep my job. There is much more behind Prof. Christensen’s theory, and I recommend before agreeing with what I write, read his books ! And although there is a horizontal time axis where the disruptive technology comes in, it does not indicate it will be this year or next year.
If you are aware that disruption can kill your business, how likely is it that it will happen in your business and when?
Professor Christensen makes two key points:
- Disruption will always happen, but this does not mean it is going to be fast and totally overtaking the old products. It might be a slower process as expected and incomplete. Here, I was thinking about disruptive cloud technology, which came in fast on the consumer level, but will it reach the business level too, in the same manner that it overrules the classical PLM platforms ? I am not sure about that (yet)
- If your company’s value is on delivering products, instead of delivering means to get the job done for your customer, you are extremely vulnerable for disruption.
As companies are looking to get their job done in the most efficient manner, they will switch at any time to new solutions that provide a better way to get the job done, often with a better performance and at a lower price point.
ERP has a well defined job
I realized that this is one of the big differences between PLM and ERP. Why is there such a discussion around the need for PLM and I do not catch the same messages from the ERP domain ? Maybe because I am a PLM consultant?
ERP has a clear mission: “To get the job done – deliver a product as efficient and fast as possible to the customer”. ERP is an execution system. Although ERP vendors as well are delivering more than their individual customers ask for, the job is more clear defined.
PLM does not have a clear job
For PLM, it becomes fuzzy. What is the job that PLM does ? Here, we get a lot of different answers. Have a look at these definitions from some vendors
CIMdata calls PLM “the most effective investment you can make to achieve product leadership.” AMR Research says “Companies committed to time to value in product innovation certainly cannot succeed without a sound PLM foundation.”
Product Lifecycle Management, or PLM, is a driver of successful product development, and a strategic contributor to business value across the enterprise. PLM helps product manufacturers manage complex, cross-functional processes, coordinating the efforts of distributed teams to consistently and efficiently create the best possible products
For companies of any size, Autodesk PLM 360 helps to streamline your business processes for more efficient product development, improved profitability, and higher product quality.
I also reviewed the websites from the other PLM vendors, and I can confirm: None of them is talking in a clear way which job needs to be done. All PLM solutions are around technology and products.
Companies want to get the job done
And here I come back to the webinar’s conclusion. If you want to secure your future as a company, you need to focus on the job to be done. And even better, focus on the experience to do the job and the best integration of these experiences in a total framework. See the slide below:
My interpretation is that PLM has not even reached level 1. Still many companies are struggling to understand the fundamental need(s) for PLM.
Interesting to see is that Dassault Systemes in their messaging and approach is already targeting level 2 – the experiences. If potential customers will embrace the experience approach without passing level 1, is something to observe.
Will PLM disappear ?
In my December 2008 blog post PLM in 2050 and recently in The Innovator’s dilemma and PLM, I wrote that I believe PLM as it is currently defined, will disappear. Perhaps made redundant by a collection of disruptive technologies. Main reason is that PLM does not do a single, clear job.
One of these disruptive candidates to my opinion is Kenesto. They deliver “social business enterprise software to empower teams” as stated on their website. Kenesto is not considered as a competitor of classic PLM, starting on a different trajectory. For sure there will be more disruptive candidates aiming at different pieces of the PLM scope.
What do you think:
- Does PLM have too many jobs ?
- Will PLM survive disruption ?
Last week I attended the Product Innovation Conference in Berlin, an event that revitalized the discussions and information exchange around PLM.
I have been blogging about this event since it started in London 2011, the year after in Munich and Atlanta and now in Berlin. The event has grown in size, both for the amount of speakers and participants. There were many parallel sessions per interest stream, and for that reason I cannot give a full overview of the event as I did in my previous blog posts.
This time I will describe only my personal highlights, being aware there was much more to learn. A nice service to the more than 350 attendees is that they will be able to see all sessions online soon as they were all recorded.
Some of my personal highlights
The first keynote speaker was Steve Wozniak and for me one of the guys that changed my professional life. The Apple IIe was my first personal affordable computer to explore a new world of automation, the peeks and pokes, the analog/digital converter, programming and application software, like Visicalc. I somehow feel the same excitement with 3D printing. How is this going to affect our future life?
The Apple IIe was an innovation and Steve Wozniak led us through the successes and failures he experienced within Apple. Steve´s presentation was a clear motivation for all of us to think different, to have your goals in mind. Do not focus on the common sense or be part of the organization. There will be failure but also success if you are clear about your goals. Engineers should follow their creativity and be original, instead of copying books. Creativity and Innovation are like humor (some have it and some will never have it). It was a good inspiring start for the two days, and these themes came back several times.
During the rest of the day, I learned about The Human Factor and Managing Cultural Change by Dagmar Heinrich, which can lead to damaged bike or car.
Stan Przybylinski provided interesting statistics and insights about investments in discrete manufacturing related software around the world (US, Japan, Germany, India, China) demonstrating there is still an enormous gap between the traditional economies in the west and the emerging countries.
An excellent presentation was given by Caterpillar – Beth Hinchee representing the PLM / business side, John Berg representing the IT/Infrastructure side, combined with Accenture Rüdiger Stern – Innovation and Product Development Lead.
Their presentation was a blueprint how large PLM implementations should be executed, and it was a confirmation of what I am preaching.
As a PLM implementation is always about changing the way a company works, you need to make sure you have a strong involvement from both business and IT. Without a third party that brings in the best practices, the coaching and moderation between the two disciplines it often fails due to different viewpoints and a different focus. The role of the consultancy partner is to be the glue, the motivator and source of bringing outside experience from other implementations into the discussion. As normally a company might have experience with one or two PLM implementations, a consultancy firm should be able to bring in much more experiences from all their customer engagements.
In the afternoon Michael Grieves, author of Virtually Perfect: Driving Innovative and Lean Products through Product Lifecycle Management talked about the value of innovating starting from virtual products, and how they contribute to faster mature, better validated products, benefitting from a lower overall investment for innovation. He also stated it is more important to focus on practices instead of standardized processes inside PLM.
This matched perfectly with my presentation; Innovation loves PLM, explaining the huge value that PLM brings for Innovation in relation to the company’s culture and approach towards open innovation.
The two closing keynotes sessions from the afternoon were interesting. Peter Bilello from CIMdata talked about The Future of PLM: Enabling Radical Collaboration. For me the first time I saw such a change from CIMdata, now looking forward to the upcoming generation instead of presenting more common, consolidated PLM wisdom. My blog buddy Oleg wrote about it in more detail in his recent blog post: Product Development as we have known it is dying.
The last session of the day was from Marc Chapman: Designing the World Land Speed Record. It was inspiring for all of us, demonstrating the beauty and challenges of engineering when trying to break the world land speed record. See more at bloodhoundssc.com. Not so much PLM related, but full of challenges and a need for innovative approaches.
And after a network session with drinks and a short night
The next day started with an inspiring speech, please pay extra attention to this topic. Massoud Hassani, born in Afghanistan, is striving for awareness of the global land-mine problem through his innovative decommissioning device Mine Kafon. Traditional mine discovery and detonation programs are expensive. Affected countries and the UN are not spending significant money to solve the problem as an exploding mine is no longer world news (unless it is a famous person).
Still people get injured or killed by these mines – forgotten victims. Have a look at Massoud´s project on kickstarter.com and get inspired where you can contribute. Massoud’s initial design was based on his childhood experiences, knowledge gained at the design academy and now looking for engineering support to optimize his extreme low cost, but innovative solution.
Some other sessions from the second day: The lessons learned from previous failed PLM projects by Andritz: When Things Go Wrong: How to Put Them Right. They decided not to follow the common approach that many companies try to make: one size (type of PLM) fits all, learning from their failed PLM project now rolling out several PDM systems.
This presentation somehow has a connection to what Marc Halpern from Gartner mentioned. One of my favorite opening statements he made about PLM upgrades was:
“Upgrading your PLM system, is like rewiring the house with the electricity on”.
As Gartner’s focus is more on the IT-side of the business, he explained that current PLM implementations cannot be maintained in the long term future as they become too expensive and complex to maintain. He mentioned the risk when selecting one provider for PLM, you would suffer probably from being locked-in by the vendor. This made me think what about if you would implement SAP PLM ? The SAP message is clear: one single platform for PLM and Execution!
The counter approach from this vendor lock-in is the approach to work towards open standards. Here, I attended the session EUROSTEP: Achieving business benefits by using PLM standards such as STEP and PLCS.
Currently I am involved in several projects where standardization of data for the long term and efficient data exchange between various systems is important. It is somehow a battle against all odds. Standardization is making small steps forward, but it requires companies to have a long-term vision and most of the time they chose for the short-term proprietary data formats from their software vendors. As time and less complexity is money – the problem will come later for the next generation of managers and software.
Of course this always has to be considered in the context of the dynamics of your industry – the longevity of data plays an important role.
Second last keynote speaker of the day was Prof. Martin Eigner, a long term visionary and icon when it comes to PLM. Prof. Eigner provoked the audience again that almost no company actually has implemented PLM.
Most companies are stuck with a form of PDM combined with complex customizations. They do not keep it simple – PLM is for Product Development and definition and ERP is only for execution. Companies tend to invest in their expensive ERP systems which have less impact on the future business as PLM and Innovation have.
Companies should invest much more in the design process as here it is where almost 70 % of the costs are defined and innovative products are born. To innovate better we should add Model Based engineering which includes the steps of systems engineering into the design process. Mr. Eigner was talking about a new term for PLM: sysLM. His speech was consistent and logical for all of us. But why do companies not adopt this vision?
I will come back to that in my conclusion.
The last keynote speech was from Doug McCuistion, program manager from the NASA Curiosity Mars Exploration mission. Doug guided us through all the challenges the mission went through. He shared with us the reasons for the mission, the complexity and challenges of the landing procedure and the upcoming discoveries expected. It was the last session of the congress and I feel sorry for those who had to leave earlier for their travels as it was the most inspiring session of the congress. Going for the almost impossible and such a contrast to the “boring” world of PLM.
And here comes the link between NASA´s Curiosity project and Prof Eigner´s PLM presentation.
The Curiosity project is a challenge, not on this planet, it is on the edge of what is possible and has no competition (or it must be budget cuts by the government). For most other companies, the challenge lies on this earth, and they want to stay ahead of the competition. Here it is about being able to fund your innovation and assure future funding by introducing innovative products to the market that generate enough margin to invest in the future. PLM presentations seem to be “boring” as the business value is not clear for the management (the do not attend PLM conferences), they get more enthusiastic from short-term financial figures.
One of the (younger) attendees told me that it was impressive to see so many PLM icons at this conference, but where is the new generation of PLM to-be icons ?
Fixing this disconnect is probably related to the magic we need to find to bring Innovation and PLM to the next generations.
Who starts ???
- The conference has become a “must” for companies looking for experiences related to PLM. Why and how PLM contributes to your business
- Companies are looking for their second PLM implementation trail. Learning from their previous mistakes they learned it is not an IT-only project, business should be leading, cloud becomes an option.
- The awareness of a new upcoming generation of workers. Everyone is aware of it, still at PLM conferences we are waiting for the first thought leaders of this generation to speak.
- Excitement comes from innovations that seem to be unachievable. Some go extremely fast, some detonate mines and some go to Mars, the rest has to be achieved in a competitive and global market.
Innovation loves PLM.