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Three weeks ago there was the Product Innovation conference in Düsseldorf. In my earlier post (here) I described what I experienced during this event. Now, after all the information is somehow digested, here a more high-level post, describing the visible change in business and how it relates to PLM. Trying to describe this change in non-academic wording but in images. Therefore, I described the upcoming change in the title: from linear to circular and fast.
Let me explain this image step by step
In the middle of the previous century, we were thinking linear in education and in business. Everything had a predictable path and manufacturing companies were pushing their products to the market. First local, later in time, more global. Still the delivery process was pretty linear:
This linear approach is reflected in how organizations are structured, how they are aligned to the different steps of the product development and manufacturing process. Below a slide I used at the end of the nineties to describe the situation and the pain; lack of visibility what happens overall.
It is discouraging to see that this situation still exists in many companies.
At the end of the nineties, early 2000, PLM was introduced, conceptually managing the whole lifecycle. In reality, it was mainly a more tight connection between design and manufacturing preparation, pushing data into ERP. The main purpose was managing the collaboration between different design disciplines and dispersed teams.
Jim Brown (Tech-Clarity) wrote at that time a white paper, which is still valid for many businesses, describing the complementary roles of PLM and ERP. See the picture below:
Jim introduced the circle and the arrow. PLM: a circle with iterations, interacting with ERP: the arrow for execution. Here visual it became already clear an arrow does not have the same behavior as a circle. The 100 % linearity in business was gone.
Let´s have a closer look at the PLM circle
This is how PLM is deployed in most organizations:
Information is pushed in the ERP system as disconnected information, no longer managed and connected to its design intent.
Next, the ERP system is most of the time not well-equipped for managing after sales and services content. Another disconnect comes up.
Yes, spare parts could be ordered through ERP, but issues appearing at the customer base are not stored in ERP, often stored in a separate system again (if stored beyond email).
The result is that when working in the concept phase, there is no information available for R&D to have a good understanding of how the market or customers work with their product. So how good will it be? Check in your company how well your R&D is connected with the field?
And then the change started …
This could have stayed reality for a long time if there were not a huge business change upcoming. The world becomes digital and connected. As a result, local inefficiencies or regional underperformance will be replaced by better-performing companies. The Darwin principle. And most likely the better performing companies are coming from the emerging markets as there they do not suffer from the historical processes and “knowledge of the past”. They can step into the digital world much faster.
In parallel with these fast growing emerging markets, we discovered that we have to reconsider the ways we use our natural resources to guarantee a future for next generations. Instead of spilling resources to deliver our products, there is a need to reuse materials and resources, introducing a new circle: the circular economy.
The circular economy can have an impact on how companies bring products to the market. Instead of buying products (CAPEX) more and more organizations (and modern people) start using products or services in a rental model (OPEX). No capital investment anymore, pay as you go for usage or capacity.
The digital and connected world can have a huge impact on the products or services available in the near future. You are probably familiar with the buzz around “The Internet of Things” or “Smart and Connected”.
No longer are products depending on mechanical behavior only, more and more products are relying on electrical components with adaptive behavior through software. Devices that connect with their environment report back information to the manufacturer. This allows companies to understand what happens with their products in the field and how to react on that.
Remember the first PLM circle?
Now we can create continuity of data !
Combine the circular economy, the digital and connected world and you will discover everything can go much faster. A crucial inhibitor is how companies can reorganize themselves around this faster changing, circular approach. Companies need to understand and react to market trends in the fastest and adequate way. The future will be probably about lower volumes of the same products, higher variability towards the market and most likely more and more combining products with services (the Experience Model). This requires a flexible organization and most likely a new business model which will differ from the sequential, hierarchical organizations that we know at this moment.
The future business model ?
The flexibility in products and services will more and more come from embedded software or supported by software services. Software services will be more and more cloud based, to avoid IT-complexity and give scalability.
Software development and integration with products and services are already a challenge for classical mechanical companies. They are struggling to transform their mechanical-oriented design process towards support for software. In the long-term, the software design process could become the primary process, which would mean a change from (sequential – streamlined) lean towards (iterative – SCRUM) agile.
Once again, we see the linear process becoming challenged by the circular iterations.
This might be the end of lean organizations, potentially having to mix with agile conepts..
If it was a coincidence or not, I cannot judge, however during the PI Conference I learned about W.L. Gore & Associates, with their unique business model supporting this more dynamic future. No need to have a massive organization re-org to align the business, as the business is all the time aligning itself through its employees.
Last weekend, I discovered Semco Partners in the newspaper and I am sure there are more companies organizing themselves to become reactive instead of linear – for sure in high-tech world.
Linearity is disappearing in business, it is all about reactive, multidisciplinary teams within organizations in order to support customers and their fast changing demands.
Fast reactions need new business organizations models (flexible, non-hierarchical) and new IT-support models (business information platforms – no longer PLM/ERP system thinking)
What do you think ? The end of linear ?
I have talked enough about platforms recently. Still if you want to read more about it:
Engineering.com: Prod. Innovation Platform PlugnPlay in next generation PLM
Gartner: Product Innovation Platforms
VirtualDutchman: Platform, Backbone, Service Bus or BI
This is the fifth year that marketkey organized their vendor-independent conference in Europe around Product Innovation, where PLM is the major cornerstone. Approximate 100 companies attended this conference coming from various industries. As there were most of the time two till four parallel tracks (program here), it will still take time for me to digest all the content. However here a first impression and a comparison to what has changed since the PI Conference in 2014 – you can read my review from that conference here.
First of all the keynote speeches for this conference were excellent and were a good foundation for attendees to discuss and open their mind. Secondly I felt that this conference was actually dealing with the imminent shift from classic, centralized businesses towards the data-centric approach to connectivity of information coming from anyone / anything connected. Naturally the Internet of Everything (IoE) and the Internet of Things (IoT) were part of the discussion combined with changing business models: moving from delivering products toward offering services (CAPEX versus OPEX).
Some of the highlights here:
The first keynote speaker was Carlo Rati Director, MIT Senseable Lab. He illustrated through various experiments and examples how being connected through devices we can change and improve our world: tagging waste, mobile phone activity in a city and the Copenhagen Wheel. His main conclusion (not a surprise): For innovation there is a need to change collaboration. Instead of staying within the company / discipline boundaries solving problems through collaboration between different disciplines will lead to different thinking. How is your company dealing with innovation?
The second session I attended was John Housego from W.L. Gore and Associates who explained the company’s model for continuous growth and innovation. The company’s future is not based on management but based on leadership of people working in teams in a flat organization. Every employee is an associate, directly involved and challenged to define the company’s future. Have a read about the company’s background here on Wikipedia.
Although the company is 50 years old, I realized that their cultural model is a perfect match with the future of many businesses. More and more companies need to be lean and flexible and support direct contact between the field, customers, market and experts inside the company. Implementing a modern PLM platform should be “a piece of cake” if the technology exists, as W.L. Gore’s associates will not block the change if they understand the value. No silos to break down.
My presentation “The Challenge of PLM Upgrades as We See the Rules of Business Change” was based around two themes (perpetual software ? / seamless upgrades ?) and from there look towards the future what to expect in business. When we look back, we see that every 10 years there is a major technology change, which makes the past incompatible to upgrade. Now we are dreaming that cloud-based solutions are the future to guarantee seamless upgrades (let’s wait 10 years). To my opinion companies should not consider a PLM upgrade at this moment.
The changes in business models, people behavior and skills plus technology change, will enable companies to move towards a data-centric approach. Companies need to break with the past (a linear, mechanical-design-based, product development approach) and redesign a platform for the future (a business-innovation platform based on the data). In my upcoming blog post(s) I will give more background on this statement.
Trond Zimmerman from the Volvo Group Truck explained the challenges and solution concept they experienced as they are currently implementing answering the challenge of working in a joint venture with Dongfeng Commercial Vehicles. As in a joined venture you want to optimize sharing of common parts, still you cannot expect a single PLM solution for the total joint venture. For that reason, Volvo Group Truck is implementing Share-A-Space from Eurostep to have a controlled collaboration layer between the two joint venture partners.
This is, to my opinion, one of the examples of future PLM practices, where data will not be stored in a single monolithic system, but data will be connected through information layers and services. The case is similar to what has been presented last year at Product Innovation 2014 where Eurostep and Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery implemented a similar layer on top of their PDM environment to enable controlled sharing with their suppliers.
David Rowan from wired.co.uk closed the day with his keynote: Understanding the New Rules of Product Innovation. He touched the same topic as John Housego from W.L. Gore somehow: it is all about democratization. Instead of hierarchy we are moving to network-based activities. And this approach has a huge impact on businesses. David’s message: Prepare for constant change. Where in the past we lived in a “linear” century, change according to Moore’s law, we are entering now an exponential century where change is going faster and faster. Besides examples of the Internet of Thing, David also gave some examples of the Internet of Stupid Things. He showed a quote from Steve Balmer stating that nobody would pay $ 500 for a phone (Apple). The risk he made is that by claiming some of these stupid inventions might lead to a quote in the future. I think the challenge is always to stay open-minded without judging as at the end the market will decide.
PLM and ERP
I spent the evening networking with a lot of people, most of them excited about the future capabilities that have been presented. In parallel, the discussion was also about the conservative behavior of many companies. Topics that are already for ten years under discussion – how to deal and connect PLM and ERP, where is the MBOM, what are the roles of PLM and ERP for an organization, are still thankful topics for a discussion, showing where most companies now are with their business understanding.
In parallel to a product innovation conference apparently there is still a need to agree on basic PLM concepts from the previous century.
The second day opened with an excellent keynote speech from Dirk Schlesinger from Cisco. He talked about the Internet of Everything and provided examples of the main components of IoE: Connectivity, Sensors, Platform, Analytics, and Mobility. In particular the example of Connectivity was demonstrating the future benefits modern PLM platforms can bring. Dirk talked about a project with Dundee Mining where everything in the mine was tagged with RFI devices (people, equipment, vehicles, and resources) and the whole mine was equipped with Wi-Fi.
Based on this approach the execution and planning of what happened was done in their HQ through a virtual environment, giving planners immediate visibility of what happens and allowing them to decide on real data. This is exactly the message I have posted in my recent blog posts.
The most fascinating part were the reported results. This project is ongoing now for 3 years and the first year they achieved a production increase of 30 %. Now they are aiming for this year for a 400 % production increase and a 250 % efficiency increase. These are the numbers to imagine when you implement a digital strategy. It is no longer any more about making our classical processes more efficient, it is about everyone connected and everyone collaborates.
Marc Halpern from Gartner gave an good presentation connecting the hype of the Internet of Things with the world of PLM again, talking about Product Innovation Platforms. Marc also touched on the (needed) upcoming change in engineering processes. More and more we will develop complex products, which need system thinking. Systems of Systems to handle this complexity, As Marc stated: “Product, process, culture is based on electro-mechanical products where the future trend is all about software.” We should reconsider our Bill of Materials (mechanical) and think probably more about a Bill of Features (software). Much of Marc’s presentation contained the same elements as I discussed in my PDT2014 blog post from October last year.
I was happy to see Jenni Ala-Mantila presenting the usage of PLM system for Skanska Oy. Skanska is one of the largest construction companies operating global. See one of their beautiful corporate videos here. I always have been an advocate to use PLM practices and PLM infrastructure to enhance, in particular, the data-continuity in a business where people work in silos with separate tools. There are so many benefits to gain by having an end-to-end visibility of the project and its related data. Jenni’s presentation was confirming this.
By implementing a PLM backbone with a focus on project management, supplier collaboration and risk management, she confirmed that PLM has contributed significant to their Five Zero – vision: Zero loss-making projects, Zero Environmental incidents, Zero Accidents, Zero Ethical breaches and Zero Defects. Skanska is really a visionary company although it was frustrating to learn that there was still a need to build a SharePoint connection with their PLM environment. The future of data-centric has not reached everyone in the organization yet.
The last two sessions of the conference, a panel discussion “Why is Process Innovation Challenging & What can be done about it” plus the final keynote “Sourcing Growth where Growth Takes Place” had some commonality which I expressed in some twitter quotes:
Where last year I had the impression that the PLM world was somehow in a static mode, not so much news in 2014. It became clear in this 2015 conference that the change towards new business paradigms is really happening and at a faster pace than expected. From mechanical development processes to software processes, from linear towards continuous changes. Moe to come this year
This time I would like to receive some feedback from my readers as I believe the topic I am discussing here might be similar to a PLM / ERP discussion – a discussion between religions. I have preached the past two years a more data-centric approach for PLM, instead of file management and related tot this data-centric approach, the concept of a PLM platform / Business Platform – CIMdata/ Innovation Platform – Gartner becomes clear.
What´s the issue?
As I wrote in my earlier post (random PLM future thoughts), I realized that talking about platforms is not that straight-forward when meeting companies with their history and terminology. Some claim they are already using a business platform, others have no clue what makes a platform different from a their current PLM implementation ? Therefore I will summarize the different approaches I have seen in my network and give a non-academic opinion as a base for discussion. Looking forward to your opinion.
The platform approach
My definition of a PLM platform:
- A central repository of data based on a core data model. Information is stored as data in a unique way
- On top of this repository, applications can run, using a subset of the overall data elements, proving dedicated functionality and user interface to a particular user / role
- Access to the platform is provided through web-technology. Storage could be on the cloud.
- External applications and data can be connected through an open (standardized?) API embedded or federated
- The PLM platform can be a collection of services and functionality coming from various vendors / suppliers – the app store concept
- The platform approach is THE DREAM for business, being flexible to combine and edit data in any desired context in dedicated apps / environments
In the PLM world, Dassault Systems with their 3DExperience approach is following this trend although here you might argue about the ease of use to add external apps to this platform – is it open ? Aras and Autodesk might also claim they have a PLM platform, where you might question the same and if the depth of the data model and the provided solutions on top of the data model are mature enough. Finally also SAP can be considered as a platform, but I would not name it a PLM platform at this moment in time. An important question for me would be: How can achieve openness of a PLM platform?
The PLM backbone approach
My definition of a PLM backbone:
- The core PLM functionality is provided by a single, proprietary PLM system
- Additional functionality that is not part of the core development (acquisitions) is connected to the backbone through proprietary interfaces
- External authoring tools are linked to the backbone through integrations or interfaces which could be developed by third parties
- External system can interface to the PLM backbone through open interfaces
- The PLM backbone is THE DREAM for engineering, as historically this was the domain where PLM started to be implemented
I would consider Siemens and PTC (see picture) the best examples of a PLM backbone approach with their PLM portfolio. Teamcenter and Windchill are both rich PLM systems further connected to several systems, covering the product lifecycle. I am not expert enough to state that the same conclusion is valid for Oracle´s Agile, where I believe the backbone is bigger than the PLM system. What do you think ? Will these PLM vendors also move to a platform approach? And what will be the platform?
The Service Bus approach
My understanding of the Service Bus (I am not an IT-expert):
- Service Bus has a standardized interface to request for data or to post data that needs to be stored in other systems
- The Service Bus approach reduces the amount of (custom) interfaces between systems by requiring standardized inputs and outputs per system
- Providing a user with information that is not entirely available in a single system, the service bus needs to acquire the data from other systems, which might not give a high-performance as expected by business people
- The Service Bus is the IT DREAM as it simplifies the complexity for IT to manage point-to-point solutions between systems and makes an upgrade strategy easier to support.
From a very high-level view, the service bus approach has some similarities to a platform. The service bus concept allows business to select the systems they like the most (provided they connect to the service bus) – Image property of IBM.com
The main difference would be the persistence of information, where is the real data stored? I came across the service bus approach more often in the past, where the target was most of the time to integrate the PDM functionality (PLM as an enterprise solution was never in scope here).
For the Service Bus approach, I am curious to learn its relevance for future PLM implementations as the challenge would be to provide any user in the company with the relevant information in context. Is the service bus going to be replaced by the platform? Who would be the major players here?
The Business Intelligence approach
This method I discovered in project-centric companies (Oil & Gas companies, EPCs, Construction companies) but strangely enough also at some manufacturing companies, where I would assume integration of systems would bring large benefits.
- Each type of information is managed only in one single system avoiding interfaces or duplication of data.
- Only where needed, data will be pushed from one system to other systems
- Business Intelligence applications extract information from the relevant system and present this in context to the user, giving him/her a better of understanding
- Business users will work have to work in multiple systems to complete their tasks
- The BI approach is the ULTIMATE IT DREAM as it simplifies their works dramatically and shuts down business demands.
I have seen an example where IT dictated that for document management we use product ABC (well-known Content Management system). Next for internal documents we use SharePoint. For CAD, we use product PQR as much as possible (heavily adapted) or AutoCAD 2D (to support the minimum). For ERP, the standard system is XYZ (a famous ERP system – you do not lose your job by selecting them) and of course everyone uses Excel as a common interface of information between people.
It was impossible in this company to have a business view on the solution landscape. As you can imagine, this company’s margins are not (yet) under pressure as their industry is very conservative.
What do you think?
Is the future for PLM in platforms? If Yes, what about openness? Who are the candidates to offer such a platform? Or will lack of industry standards and openness block wider adoption? If No, will there be a massive PLM system in the future, connected to other enterprise systems (ERP/CRM)? Or will PLM be implemented as a collection of smaller systems communicating through an enterprise service bus?
I am looking forward discussing the topic here and soon during the upcoming Product Innovation conference in Düsseldorf
Currently, I am preparing my sessions for the upcoming Product Innovation conference in Düsseldorf. See: www.picongress.com. My first session will be about PLM upgrades and how to deal with them for the future. It is a challenging topic as some PLM vendors claim using their product, there will be no upgrade problems and cloud-based solutions also provide seamless upgrades in the future.
Don’t cheer to early when you see this kind of messages. I had the chance to look back the past twenty years what happened with PLM and tried to look forward to the upcoming ten years what might happen.
In addition, this lead to some interesting thoughts that I will share in detail during the conference. I will come back to this topic in this blog after the conference. Here some unstructured thoughts that passed my mind recently when preparing this session.
Not every upgrade is the same!
First there was an interesting blog post from Ed Lopategui from E(E) with the title There is No Upgrade, where he addresses the difference between consumer software and enterprise software. Where consumer software will be used by millions and tested through long Alfa and beta cycles, PLM software often comes to the market in what you could consider a beta stage with limited testing.
Most PLM vendors invest a lot of their revenue in providing new functionality and technology based on their high-end customer demands. They do not have the time and budget to invest in the details of the solution; for this reason PLM solutions will remain a kind of framework.
In addition, when a solution is not 100 % complete there will be an adaptation from the customer, making upgrades later, not 100 percent guaranteed or compatible. More details on PLM Upgrades after the conference, let’s look into the near future.
The Future of PLM resides in Brussels!
Some weeks ago I was positively amused by some messages coming from Roger Tempest (PLM Interest Group) related to the future of PLM. Roger claims the PLM industry is effectively rudderless. For that Roger announces the Launch Meeting for the PLM International Research Foundation,
“simple because such a platform does not yet exist.”
I checked if perhaps an ERP International Research Foundation existed, but I only found references to SAP, so what makes the PLM International Research Foundation unique ?
According to Roger, the reason behind this initiative is the lack of clear targets for PLM. I quote:
The lack of detailed thought means that many future possibilities for PLM are just not being considered; and the lack of collective thought means that even the current initiatives to improve PLM remain fragmented and ineffective
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, PLM vendors are in a kind of rat race to keep up with market demands, rapidly changing business, meanwhile building on their core technology. Not an easy game, as they cannot start from scratch, but for sure, and here I agree, they do not optimize their portfolio.
Who can and will take part in such a research forum?
This is the same for companies implementing PLM systems. They are looking for solutions in the market that improve their businesses. This might be a PLM system, but perhaps other components bring even a higher value. Is ALM or SLM part of PLM, for example? This is a challenge as who defined what PLM is and where are the boundaries ?
This leaves the activity to the academics for sure they will have the most advanced and futuristic vision of what is possible conceptually. From my observations, the main challenges currently with PLM are that even the vendors are ten years ahead in their capabilities compared to what most companies are asking for. For the academic approach, I still have to think about Monty Python’s sketch related to soccer. See below
Sorry for the generalization, I believe we should not focus on what is PLM and how PLM should be defined. What we now call PLM is entirely different from what we called PLM 10 years ago, see my last year´s post PLM is changing. I think the future should focus how we are going to deal with business platforms, which contain PLM facets.
The PLM future
Interesting enough we are on the brink of a new business paradigm due to globalization and digitization as you might have read from my recent posts. There are analysts, consultancy firms and research foundations all describing this challenging future.
Have a look at this post from Verdi Ogewell’s article at Engineering.com: Product Innovation Platform: Plug’n’play next generation PLM. The post is a summary of the platform discussion during the PDT 2014 conference, which I consider as one of the best conferences if you want to go into the details. See also my post: The weekend after PDT 2014.
The future is about innovation and/or business platforms where data is available based on a federated approach, not necessary based on a single, monolithic PLM platform.
Focusing on standardization and openness of such a platform is for me the central mission we have.
Remember: Openness is a right, not a privilege.
Let PLM vendors and other application providers develop their optimized services for individual business scenarios that will remove the borders of system thinking. Academic support will be needed to solve interoperability and openness required for initiatives like Industry 4.0 and IDC´s third platform.
I am looking forward to interesting discussions at the upcoming
PI conference but also with peers in my network.
The future is challenging and will it still be named PLM?
A PLM-twisted mind never rests. Not even during these Xmas seasonal holidays, when everything else comes to rest. The dark Christmas days, here in the Netherlands, are the days to share with your family and with others who need your support. For a short time, we focus on being kind, charity and what matters for humanity.
Back to our purpose you might say. This year Pope Francis brought this message very aptly to his cardinals – read it here if you have not heard about it yet.
Next my PLM-twisted mind started ringing all kind of Xmas bells. The pope is talking about PLM! Instead of focusing on your business silo, your personal kingdom, we have to focus on what is the original purpose of our company, not of the individual person. Forget politics, back to the mission !
Then I realized there is a paradox within PLM. PLM is a must-have or must-do in a capitalistic world as through PLM companies can become be more competitive than others, win market share and become the market leader.
Nothing social. It is the base for survival in this global world. When your company is not funded by the government, you have to be competitive to survive. Your business needs to make enough money to keep on innovating and stay in business. This is why companies need PLM..
The paradox however is that effective PLM implementations are all based on the concept of sharing. Sharing data in the early ideation phases, through crowd-sourcing, open innovation, internal sharing with partners and potential customers. Next the development, delivery and maintenance phases of the lifecycle are all performing in an ideal way if information is shared and flowing across the value chain without being locked in silos. The current hype of IoT (Internet of Things) is about sharing data.
So to be a successful, profitable company, inside your business you need to go back to the roots of sharing (data). Interesting paradox isn’t it?
Therefore, I wish you all to have a PLM Pope in your company who will explain the mission and break down the holy houses. You need a PLM pope in your company to make sure it gets implemented successful.
I wish you all a happy and successful 2015
with a lot of sharing
p.s. Should I see a shrink for my PLM-twisted brain?
A year ago I wrote a blog post questioning if the construction industry would learn from PLM practices in relation to BIM.
In that post, I described several lessons learned from other industries. Topics like:
- Working on a single, shared repository of on-line data (the Digital Mock Up). Continuity of data based on a common data model – not only 3D
- It is a mindset. People need to learn to share instead of own data
- Early validation and verification based on a virtual model. Working in the full context
- Planning and anticipation for service and maintenance during the design phase. Design with the whole lifecycle in mind (and being able to verify the design)
The comments to that blog post already demonstrated that the worlds of PLM and BIM are not 100 percent comparable and that there are some serious inhibitors preventing them to come closer. One year later, let´s see where we are:
BIM moving into VDC (or BLM ?)
The first trend that becomes visible is that people in the construction industry start to use more and more the term Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) instead of BIM (Building Information Model or Building Information Management?).
The good news here is that there is less ambiguity with the term VDC instead of BIM. Does this mean many BIM managers will change their job title? Probably not as most construction companies are still in the learning phase what a digital enterprise means for them.
Still Virtual Design and Construction focuses a lot on the middle part of the full lifecycle of a construction. VDC does not necessary connect the early concept phase and for sure almost neglects the operational phase. The last phase is often ignored as construction companies are not thinking (yet) about Repair & Maintenance contracts (the service economy).
And surprisingly, last week I saw a blog post from Dassault Systemes, where Dassault introduced the word BLM (Building Lifecycle Management). Related to this blog post also some LinkedIn discussions started. BLM, according to Dassault Systemes, is the combination of BIM and PLM – read this post here.
The challenge however for construction companies is to, what are the related data sets they require and how can you create this continuity of data. This brings us to one of the most important inhibitors.
Where in other industries a clear product data owner exists, the ownership of data in EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction) companies, typical for the construction industry or oil & gas industry is most of the times on purpose vague.
First of all the owner of a construction often does not know which data could be relevant to maintain. And secondly, as soon as the owner asks for more detailed information, he will have to pay for that, raising the costs, which not directly flow back to benefits, only later during the FM (Facility Management) /Operational stage.
And let´s imagine the owner could get the all the data required. Next the owner is at risk, as potentially having the information might makes you liable for mistakes and claims.
From discussion with construction owners I learned their policy is not to aim for the full dataset related to a construction. It reduces the risk to be liable. Imagine Boeing and Airbus would follow this approach. This brings us to another important inhibitor.
A risk shifting business
The construction industry on its own is still a risk shifting business, where each party tries to pass the risk of cost of failure to another stakeholder in the pyramid. The most powerful owners / operators of the construction industry quickly play down the risk to their contractors and suppliers. And these companies then then distribute the risk further down to their subcontractors.
If you do not accept the risk, you are no longer in the game. This is different from other industries and I have seen this approach in a few situations.
For example, I was dealing with an EPC company that wanted to implement PLM. The company expected that the PLM implementer would take a large part of the risk for the implementation. As they were always taking the risk too for their big customers when applying for a project. Here there was a clash of cultures, as PLM implementers learned that the risk of a successful PLM implementation is vague as many soft values define the success. It is not a machine or platform that has to work after some time.
Another example was related to requirements management. Here the EPC company wanted to become clear and specific to their customer. However their customer reacted very strange. Instead of being happy that the EPC company invested in more upfront thinking and analysis, the customer got annoyed as they were not used to be specific so early in the process. They told the EPC company, “if you have so many questions, probably you do not understand the business”.
So everyone in the EPC business is pushed to accept a higher risk and uncertainty than other industries. However, the big reward is that you are allowed to have a cost of failure above 15 – 20 percent without feeling bad. Which this percentage you would be out of business in other industries. And this brings us to another important inhibitor.
Accepted high cost of failure
As the industry accepts this high cost of failure, companies are not triggered to work different or to redesign their processes in order to lower the inefficiencies. The UK government mandates BIM Level 2 for their projects starting in 2016 and beyond, to reduce costs through inefficiencies.
But will the UK government invest to facilitate and aim for data ownership? Probably not, as the aim of governments is not to be extreme economical. Being not liable has a bigger value than being more efficient for governments as I learned. Being more efficient is the message to the outside world to keep the taxpayer satisfied.
It is hard to change this way of thinking. It requires a cultural change through the whole value chain. And cultural change is the “worst” thing that can happen to a company. The biggest inhibitor.
Cultural change is a point that touches all industries and there is no difference between the construction industry and for example a classical discrete manufacturing company. Because of global competition and comparable products other industries have been forced already to work different, in order to survive (and are still challenged)
The cultural change lies in people. We (the older generation) are educated and brought up in classical engineering models that reflect the post second world war best practices. Being important in a process is your job justification and job guarantee.
New paradigms, based on a digital world instead of a document-shifting world, need to be defined and matured and will make many classical data processing jobs redundant. Read this interesting article from the Economist: The Onrushing Wave
This is a challenge for every company. The highest need to implement this cultural change is ironically for those countries with the highest legacy: Western Europe / the United-States.
As these countries also have the highest labor cost, the impact of, keep on doing the old stuff, will reduce their competitiveness. The impact for construction companies is less, as the construction industry is still a local business, as at the end resources will not travel the globe to execute projects.
However cheaper labor costs become more and more available in every country. If companies want to utilize them, they need to change the process. They need shift towards more thinking and knowledge in the early lifecycle to avoid the need for high qualified people to be in the field to the fix errors.
Sharing instead of owning
For me the major purpose of PLM is to provide an infrastructure for people to share information in such a manner that others, not aware of the information, can still easily find and use the information in a relevant context of their activities. The value: People will decide on actual information and no longer become reactive on fixing errors due to lack of understanding the context.
The problem for the construction industry is that I have not seen any vendor focusing on sharing the big picture. Perhaps the BLM discussion will be a first step. For the major tool providers, like Autodesk and Bentley, their business focus is on the continuity of their tools, not on the continuity of data.
Last week I noticed a cloud based Issue Management solution, delivered by Kubus. Issue Management is one of the typical and easy benefits a PLM infrastructure can deliver. In particular if issues can be linked to projects, construction parts, processes, customers. If this solution becomes successful, the extension might be to add more data elements to the cloud solution. Main question will remain: Who owns the data ? Have a look:
For continuity of data, you need standards and openness – IFC is one of the many standards needed in the full scope of collaboration. Other industries are further developed in their standards driven by end-user organizations instead of vendors. Companies should argue with their vendors that openness is a right, not a privilege.
A year ago, I was more optimistic about the construction industry adopting PLM practices. What I have learned this year, and based on feedback from others, were are not at the turning point yet. Change is difficult to achieve from one day to the other. Meanwhile, the whole value chain in the construction industry has different objectives. Nobody will take the risk or can afford the risk.
I remain interested to see where the construction industry is heading.
What do you think will 2015 be the year of a breakthrough?
In the past two years, I have been heavily involved in PLM Proof of Concepts sitting at both sides of the table. Supporting companies in their PLM selection, supporting a vendor explaining their value to the customer and supporting implementers assisting them with industry knowledge, all in the context of a PLM selection process.
The Proof of Concept is crucial in a PLM selection process as it is the moment where the first glimpse of reality comes to the table.
Different size of companies, different consultants all have a different view on the importance of the Proof of Concept. Let me share you my thoughts after a quick recap on the PLM selection process.
The PLM selection process
1. Build a vision
It is important that a company understands what they want to achieve in the next five to ten years, before starting a PLM selection process. Implementing PLM means a business transformation, even if you are a small company. If the management does not understand a vision is required, there is a potential risk upcoming, as PLM without a change in the way people work, will not deliver the expected results.
2. Issue an RFI to potential candidates
Once you have a PLM vision, it is time to get in touch with potential suppliers. The RFI (Request for Information) phase is the phase where you can educate yourself better by challenging the suppliers to work with you on the future solutions.
3. Discuss with selected candidates
From the RFI responses you understand which companies are attractive because they match your vision, your budget or industry. Have a first interaction with the selected companies and let them demo their standard environment targeted to your vision.
In this stage, you check with the preferred companies their ability to deliver and your ability to work together. The POC phase should give you the understanding of the scope for the upcoming PLM project and help you to understand who and how the project can be executed. More details about this step below.
Although some companies start with an RFP before the POC, for me it makes most sense to verify the details after you have a proper understanding of the To-Be solution. The RFP is often the base for the contractual scope and therefore should be as accurate as possible
In the past, I wrote in more detail about the PLM selection process. Two posts: PLM selection: Don’t do this and PLM selection: Do this. Have a read if you want to understand this part in more depth. Now let´s focus on the POC .
- As described before, the target of the Proof of Concept should be to get a better understanding of the potential To-Be processes and obtain an impression of the capabilities of the implementer and the preferred PLM software.
The result should be that you have more realistic expectations of what can be achieved and the challenges your company will face.
- From there, you can evaluate the risks, address them and build an achievable roadmap to implement. It is important that the focus is not just on the cost of the implementation.
- To sell PLM inside your company, you need to realign with the vision and explain, to all people involved,the value of “Why PLM”.
Explaining the value is complex, as not everyone needs the same message. The management will focus on business benefits where users will focus how it impacts their daily life. If you forget to explain the value, the PLM projects, it is considered again as just another software purchase.
Make sure the Proof of Concept is driven by validating future business scenarios, focusing on the To-Be solution. The high-level scenarios should be demonstrated and explained to the business people. In this stage, it is important people realize the benefits and the value of the new processes.
The POC is also an internal sales event. The goal should be to get more enthusiastic and supportive business people in your company for the upcoming PLM project. Identify the champions you will need to lean on during the implementation.
Test the implementer. To my opinion the critical success of a PLM implementation depends on the implementation team, not on the software. Therefore, the POC phase is the best moment to learn if you can work with the implementer. Do they know your business? Do they have experience with your business? The more you are aligned, the higher the chance you will be successful as a team
Show commitment to engage. Often I have seen POC engagements where the company demanded the implementer or vendor a Proof of Concept for free. This creates an unbalanced situation during the Proof of Concept as the vendor or implementer can not invest time and resources in the process as expected without any commitment from the company. By paying a certain fee for the POC, a company can demonstrate to the implementer /vendor that this POC is valuable for you and you can request the same response from them.
The Proof of Concept is not a detailed function/feature check to identify each mouse-click or option in the system. During the implementation, these details might come up. It is important in a Proof of Concept to understand the big picture and not to get lost in the details. As human beings we tend to focus on what does not work, not realizing that probably over eighty-ninety percent works according the needs
Do not expect the ultimate To-Be scenario demonstrated during the Proof of Concept. The Proof of Concept is a learning stage for both the company and the implementer to imagine the best possible scenario. PLM systems are generic and likely they will not provide a similar configuration and functionality matching your environment. At this stage validate if the primary capabilities are there and if there are gaps.
Do not run a POC with a vendor (only). This might be one of the most critical points for a POC. A PLM software vendor’s target is to sell their software and for that reason they often have dedicated presales teams that will show you everything in a smooth manner, overwhelming you with all the beauty of the software. However after the POC this team is gone and you will have to align yourself again with the implementation partner, trying to match again your business needs and their understanding.
Realize – you get what you are asking for. This is more a Do-and-Don’t message packed together. A Proof of Concept phase is a point where companies get to know each other. If you are not focused, do not expect the implementer / vendor to be committed. A PLM implementation is not product. It is a business transformation supported by products and services. Do not treat PLM implementers and vendors in the same way, as your customers treat you (in case you deliver products).
There are still many more thoughts about the Proof of Concept . Ideally you run two POCs in parallel, either with two implementers of the preferred software (if possible) or with two different implementers representing different software.
Ideally, as I know it is a challenge, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, where people are running to keep the business on-going.
Still remember, PLM is a business transformation, targeting to improve your business in the upcoming five to ten years, avoiding you are running out of business.
Your thoughts ?
As a bonus a short anecdote that I posted in 2010 still relevant:
Some time ago a Christian PLM Sales professional died (let’s call him Jack) and according to his believe he faced Saint Peter at the gates of Heaven and Hell.
Saint Peter greeted Jack and said: “Jack, with the PLM Sales you have done good and bad things to the world. For that reason, I cannot decide if you should go to Heaven or to Hell. Therefore, I allow you to make the choice yourself”.
Jack replied: “But Saint Peter, how can I make such an important decision for the rest of my eternal life. It is too difficult!”
Saint Peter replied: “No problem Jack, take a look at Heaven and Hell, take your time and then tell me your decision.”
Jack entered Heaven and he was surprised about the quietness and green atmosphere there. Angels were singing, people were eating from golden plates with the best food ever, people were reading poetry and everything was as peaceful as you could imagine. In the distance, he could see God surrounded by some prophets talking about the long-term future. After some time, Jack had seen it and went to Hell to have a view there.
And when he opened the gates of Hell, he was astonished. Everywhere he looked there were people partying, having fun. It reminded him off these sales kick-offs, he had in the past, exotic places with lots of fun. In the distance, he could see the Devil as DJ playing the latest dance music – or was it DJ Tiësto?
Jack did not hesitate and ran back to Saint Peter, no time to lose. “Saint Peter,” he said “I want to go to Hell, no doubt. And pity I did not know it before”
“So be it, ” said Saint Peter “go for it.”
And then once Jack entered Hell, it was suddenly all fire around him, people were screaming of pain and suffering and also Jack felt the first flames.
“Devil!!” He screamed “what happened to what I have seen before?”
With a sarcastic voice, the devil replied: “That? That was a proof of concept.”
Shaping the PLM platform of the Future
It was the first time I attended this event. I was positively surprised about the audience and content. Where other PLM conferences were often more focusing on current business issues, here a smaller audience (130 persons) was looking into more details around the future of PLM. Themes like PLM platforms, the Circular Economy, Open Standards and longevity of data were presented and discussed here.
The emergence of the PLM platform
1. The product lifecycle will become more and more circular due to changing business models and in parallel the different usage/availability of materials will have an impact how we design and deliver products
Can current processes and tools support today’s complexity. And what about tomorrow? According to a CIMdata survey there is a clear difference in profit and performance between leaders and followers, and the gap is increasing faster. “Can you afford yourself to be a follower ?” is a question companies should ask themselves.
Rethinking PLM platform does not bring the 2-3 % efficiency benefit but can bring benefits from 20 % and more.
Peter sees a federated platform as a must for companies to survive. I in particular likes his statement:
The new business platform paradigm is one in which solutions from multiple providers must be seamlessly deployed using a resilient architecture that can withstand rapid changes in business functions and delivery modalities
Industry voices on the Future PLM platform
Steven Vetterman from ProSTEP talked about PLM in the automotive industry. Steven started describing the change in the automotive industry, by quoting Heraclitus Τα πάντα ρεί – the only constant is change. Steven described two major changes in the automotive industry:
1. The effect of globalization, technology and laws & ecology
2. The change of the role of IT and the impact of culture & collaboration
Interesting observation is that the preferred automotive market will shift to the BRIC countries. In 2050 more than 50 % of the world population (estimate almost 10 billion people at that time) will be living in Asia, 25 percent in Africa. Europe and Japan are aging. They will not invest in new cars.
For Steven, it was clear that current automotive companies are not yet organized to support and integrate modern technologies (systems engineering / electrical / software) beyond mechanical designs. Neither are they open for a true global collaboration between all players in the industry. Some of the big automotive companies are still struggling with their rigid PLM implementation. There is a need for open PLM, not driven from a single PLM system, but based on a federated environment of information.
Yves Baudier spoke on behalf of the aerospace industry about the standardization effort at their Strategic Standardization Group around Airbus and some of its strategic suppliers, like Thales, Safran, BAE systems and more. If you look at the ASD Radar, you might get a feeling for the complexity of standards that exist and are relevant for the Airbus group.
It is a complex network of evolving standard all providing (future) benefits in some domains. Yves was talking about the through Lifecycle support which is striving for data creation once and reuse many times during the lifecycle. The conclusion from Yves, like all the previous speakers is that: The PLM Platform of the Future will be federative, and standards will enable PLM Interoperability
Energy and Marine
Shefali Arora from Wärtsilä spoke on behalf of the energy and marine sector and gave an overview of the current trends in their business and the role of PLM in Wärtsilä. With PLM, Wärtsilä wants to capitalize on its knowledge, drive costs down and above all improve business agility. As the future is in flexibility. Shefali gave an overview of their PLM roadmap covering the aspects of PDM (with Teamcenter), ERP (SAP) and a PLM backbone (Share-A-space). The PLM backbone providing connectivity of data between all lifecycle stages and external partners (customer / suppliers) based on the PLCS standard. Again another session demonstrating the future of PLM is in an open and federated environment
The future PLM platform is a federated platform which adheres to standards provides openness of interfaces that permit the platform to be reliable over multiple upgrade cycles and being able to integrate third-parties (Peter Bilello)
The afternoon session I followed the Systems Engineering track. Peter Bilello gave an overview of Model-Based Systems engineering and illustrated based on a CIMdata survey that even though many companies have a systems engineering strategy in place it is not applied consistently. And indeed several companies I have been dealing with recently expressed their desire to integrate systems engineering into their overall product development strategy. Often this approach is confused by believing requirements management and product development equal systems engineering. Still a way to go.
Dieter Scheithauer presented his vision that Systems Engineering should be a part of PLM, and he gave a very decent, academic overview how all is related. Important for companies that want to go into that direction, you need to understand where you aiming at. I liked his comparison of a system product structure and a physical product structure, helping companies to grab the difference between a virtual, system view and a physical product view:
More Industry voices
The afternoon session started with Christophe Castaing, explaining BIM (Building Information Modeling) and the typical characteristics of the construction industry. Although many construction companies focus on the construction phase, for 100 pieces of information/exchange to be managed during the full life cycle only 5 will be managed during the initial design phase (BIM), 20 will be managed during the construction phase (BAM) and finally 75 will be managed during the operation phase (BOOM). I wrote about PLM and BIM last year: Will 2014 become the year the construction industry will discover PLM?
Christophe presented the themes from the French MINnD project, where the aim is starting from an Information Model to come to a platform, supporting and integrated with the particular civil and construction standards, like IFC. CityGml but also PLCS standard (isostep ISO 10303-239
Amir Rashid described the need for PLM in the consumer product markets stating the circular economy as one of the main drivers. Especially in consumer markets, product waste can be extremely high due to the short lifetime of the product and everything is scrapped to land waste afterward. Interesting quote from Amir: Sustainability’s goal is to create possibilities not to limit options. He illustrated how Xerox already has sustainability as part of their product development since 1984. The diagram below demonstrates how the circular economy can impact all business today when well-orchestrated.
Marc Halpern closed the tracks with his presentation around Product Innovation Platforms, describing how Product Design and PLM might evolve in the upcoming digital era. Gartner believes that future PLM platforms will provide insight (understand and analyze Big Data), Adaptability (flexible to integrate and maintain through an open service oriented architecture), promoting reuse (identifying similarity based on metadata and geometry), discovery (the integration of search analysis and simulation) and finally community (using the social paradigm).
If you look to current PLM systems, most of them are far from this definition, and if you support Gartner’s vision, there is still a lot of work for PLM vendor to do.
Interesting Marc also identified five significant risks that could delay or prevent from implementing this vision:
- inadequate openness (pushing back open collaboration)
- incomplete standards (blocking implementation of openness)
- uncertain cloud performance (the future is in cloud services)
- the steep learning curve (it is a big mind shift for companies)
- Cyber-terrorism (where is your data safe?)
After Marc´s session there was an interesting panel discussion with some the speakers from that day, briefly answering discussing questions from the audience. As the presentations have been fairly technical, it was logical that the first question that came up was: What about change management?
A topic that could fill the rest of the week but the PDT dinner was waiting – a good place to network and digest the day.
Day 2 started with two interesting topics. The first presentation was a joined presentation from Max Fouache (IBM) and Jean-Bernard Hentz (Airbus – CAD/CAM/PDM R&T and IT Backbones). The topic was about the obsolescence of information systems: Hardware and PLM applications. As in the aerospace industry some data needs to be available for 75 years. You can imagine that during 75 years a lot can change to hardware and software systems. At Airbus, there are currently 2500 applications, provided by approximate 600 suppliers that need to be maintained. IBM and Airbus presented a Proof of Concept done with virtualization of different platforms supporting CATIA V4/V5 using Linux, Windows XP, W7, W8 which is just a small part of all the data.
The conclusion from this session was:
To benefit from PLM of the future, the PLM of the past has to be managed. Migration is not the only answer. Look for solutions that exist to mitigate risks and reduce costs of PLM Obsolescence. Usage and compliance to Standards is crucial.
Next Howard Mason, Corporate Information Standards Manager took us on a nice journey through the history of standards developed in his business. I loved his statement: Interoperability is a right, not a privilege
In the systems engineering track Kent Freeland talked about Nuclear Knowledge Management and CM in Systems Engineering. As this is one of my favorite domains, we had a good discussion on the need for pro-active Knowledge Management, which somehow implies a CM approach through the whole lifecycle of a plant. Knowledge management is not equal to store information in a central place. It is about building and providing data in context that it can be used.
Ontology for systems engineering
Leo van Ruijven provided a session for insiders: An ontology for Systems Engineering based on ISO 15926-11. His simplified approach compared to the ISO 15288 lead to several discussion between supporters and opponents during lunch time.
Master Data Management
Based on the type of information companies want to manage in relation to each other supported by various applications (PLM, ERP, MES, MRO, …) this can be a complex exercise and Marc ended with recommendations and an action plan for the MDM lead. In my customer engagements I also see more and more the digital transformation leads to MDM questions. Can we replace Excel files by mastered data in a database?
Almost at the end of the day I was speaking about the PDM platform of the people targeted for the people from the future. Here I highlighted the fundamental change in skills that’s upcoming. Where my generation was trained to own and capture information as much as possible information in your brain (or cabinet), future generations are trained and skilled in finding data and building information out of it. Owning (information) is not crucial for them. Perhaps as the world is moving fast. See this nice YouTube movie at the end.
Ella Jamsin ended the conference on behalf of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation explaining the need to move to a circular economy and the PLM should play a role in that. No longer is PLM from cradle-to-grave but PLM should support the lifecycle from cradle-to-cradle.
Unfortunate I could not attend all sessions as there were several parallel sessions. Neither have I written about all sessions I attended. The PDT Europe conference, a conference for people who mind about the details around the PLM future concepts and the usage of standards, is a must for future strategists.
Business is changing and becoming digital as you might have noticed. If you haven´t noticed it, you might be disconnected from the world or work in a stable silo. A little bit simplified and provocative otherwise you would not read further.
The change towards digital also has its effect on how PLM is evolving. Initially considered as an extension of PDM, managing engineering data, slowly evolving to an infrastructure to support the whole product lifecycle.
The benefits from a real PLM infrastructure are extremely high as it allows people to work smarter, identify issues earlier and change from being reactive towards proactive. In some industries, this change in working is they only way to stay in business. Others with still enough margin will not act.
Note: I am talking about a PLM infrastructure as I do not believe in a single PLM system anymore. For me PLM is supported through a collection of services across the whole product lifecycle, many potentially in one system or platform.
Changing from an engineering-centric system towards an infrastructure across the departmental silos is the biggest challenge for PLM. PLM vendors and ERP vendors with a PLM offering are trying provide this infrastructure and mainly fight against Excel. As an Excel file can easy pass the border from one department to the other. No vision needed for Excel.
A PLM infrastructure however requires a vision. A company has to look at its core business processes and decide on which information flows through the organization or even better their whole value chain.
Building this vision, understanding this vision and then being able to explain the vision is a challenge for all companies. Where sometime even management says
“Why do we need to have a vision, just fix the problem”
also people working in departments are not looking forward to change their daily routines because they need to share information. Here you here statements like
“Why people feel the need to look at the big picture. I want to have my work done.”
So if current businesses do not change, will there be a change?
Here I see the digital world combined with search-based applications coming up. Search based applications allow companies to index their silos and external sources and get an understanding of the amount of data there exists. And from these results learn that there is a lot of duplicated data or invalid information at different places.
This awareness might create the understanding that if instead of having hundred thousands of Excels in the organization, it would be better to have the data inside a database, uniquely stored and connected to other relevant information.
Next if you want to understand it in a more down-to-earth manner it is important to listen and talk with your peers from other companies, other industries. This is currently happening all around the world and I invite you to participate.
Here is a list of events that I am attending or planned to attend but too far away:
Here I will participate as a panel member in the discussion around the concept of zero files. Here we want to explain and discuss to the audience what a data-centric approach means for an organization. Also, customers will share their experiences. This conference is focusing on the ENOVIA community – you can still register here
Here I will speak about the PLM future (based on data) and what PLM should deliver for the future generations. This conference is much broader and addresses all PLM related topics in a broader perspective
Relative new in the Nordics Infuseit, a PLM consultancy company, is able to attract an audience that wants to work on understanding the PLM future. Instead of listening to presenters, here you are challenged to to discuss and contribute to build a common opinion. I will be there too.
Conclusion: It is time to prepare yourself for the change – it is happening and be educated an investment that will be rewarding for your company
What do you think – Is data-centric a dream ?
This is for the moment the last post about the difference between files and a data-oriented approach. This time I will focus on the need for open exchange standards and the relation to proprietary systems. In my first post, I explained that a data-centric approach can bring many business benefits and is pointing to background information for those who want to learn more in detail. In my second post, I gave the example of dealing with specifications.
It demonstrated that the real value for a data-centric approach comes at the moment there are changes of the information over time. For a specification that is right the first time and never changes there is less value to win with a data-centric approach. Moreover, aren’t we still dreaming that we do everything right the first time.
The specification example was based on dealing with text documents (sometimes called 1D information). The same benefits are valid for diagrams, schematics (2D information) and CAD models (3D information)
The challenge for a data-oriented approach is that information needs to be stored in data elements in a database, independent of an individual file format. For text, this might be easy to comprehend. Text elements are relative simple to understand. Still the OpenDocument standard for Office documents is in the background based on a lot of technical know-how and experience to make it widely acceptable. For 2D and 3D information this is less obvious as this is for the domain of the CAD vendors.
CAD vendors have various reasons not to store their information in a neutral format.
- First of all, and most important for their business, a neutral format would reduce the dependency on their products. Other vendors could work with these formats too, therefore reducing the potential market capture. You could say that in a certain manner the Autodesk 2D format for DXF (and even DWG) have become a neutral format for 2D data as many other vendors have applications that read and write back information in the DXF-data format. So far DXF is stored in a file but you could store DXF data also inside a database and make it available as elements.
- This brings us to the second reason why using neutral data formats are not that evident for CAD vendors. It reduces their flexibility to change the format and optimize it for maximal performance. Commercially the significant, immediate disadvantage of working in neutral formats is that it has not been designed for particular needs in an individual application and therefore any “intelligent” manipulations on the data are hard to achieve..
The same reasoning can be applied to 3D data, where different neutral formats exist (IGES, STEP, …. ). It is very difficult to identify a common 3D standard without losing many benefits that an individual 3D CAD format brings currently. For example, CATIA is handling 3D CAD data in a complete different way as Creo does, and again handled different compared to NX, SolidWorks, Solid Edge and Inventor. Even some of them might use the same CAD kernel.
However, it is not only about the geometry anymore; the shapes represent virtual objects that have metadata describing the objects. In addition other related information exists, not necessarily coming from the design world, like tasks (planning), parts (physical), suppliers, resources and more
PLM, ERP, systems and single source of truth
This brings us in the world of data management, in my world mainly PLM systems and ERP systems. An ERP system is already a data-centric application, the BOM is already available as metadata as well as all the scheduling and interaction with resources, suppliers and financial transactions. Still ERP systems store a lot of related documents and drawings, containing content that does not match their data model.
PLM systems have gradually becoming more and more data centric as the origin was around engineering data, mostly stored in files. In a data-centric approach, there is the challenge to exchange data between a PLM system and an ERP system. Usually there is a need to share information between two systems, mainly the items. Different definitions of an item on the PLM and ERP side make it hard to exchange information from one system to the other. It is for that reason why there are many discussions around PLM and ERP integration and the BOM.
In the modern data-centric approach however we should think less and less in systems and more and more in business processes performed on actual data elements. This requires a company-wide, actually an enterprise-wide or industry-wide data definition of all information that is relevant for the business processes. This leads into Master Data Management, the new required skill for enterprise solution architects
The data-centric approach creates the impression that you can achieve a single source of the truth as all objects are stored uniquely in a database. SAP solves the problem by stating everything fits in their single database. To my opinion this is more a black hole approach: Everything gets inside, but even light cannot escape. Usability and reuse of information that was stored with the intention not to be found is the big challenge here.
Other PLM and ERP vendors have different approaches. Either they choose for a service bus architecture where applications in the background link and synchronize common data elements from each application. Therefore, there is some redundancy, however everything is connected. More and more PLM vendors focus on building a platform of connected data elements, where on top applications will run, like the 3DExperience platform from Dassault Systèmes.
As users we are more and more used to platforms as Google, Apple provide these platforms already in the cloud for common use on our smartphones. The large amount of apps run on shared data elements (contacts, locations …) and store additional proprietary data.
Platforms, Networks and standards
And here we enter an interesting area of discussion. I think it is a given that a single database concept is a utopia. Therefore, it will be all about how systems and platforms communicate with each other to provide in the end the right information to the user. The systems and platforms need to be data-centric as we learned from the discussion around the document (file centric) or data-centric approach.
In this domain, there are several companies already active for years. Datamation from Dr. Kais Al-Timimi in the UK is such a company. Kais is a veteran in the PLM and data modeling industry, and they provide a platform for data-centric collaboration. This quote from one of his presentations, illustrates we share the same vision:
“……. the root cause of all interoperability and data challenges is the need to transform data between systems using different, and often incompatible, data models.
It is fundamentally different from the current Application Centric Approach, in that data is SHARED, and therefore, ‘NOT OWNED’ by the applications that create it.
This means in a Data Centric Approach data can deliver MORE VALUE, as it is readily sharable and reusable by multiple applications. In addition, it removes the overhead of having to build and maintain non-value-added processes, e.g. to move data between applications.”
Another company in the same domain is Eurostep, who are also focusing on business collaboration between in various industries. Eurostep has been working with various industry standards, like AP203/214, PLCS and AP233. Eurostep has developed their Share-A-space platform to enable a data-centric collaboration.
This type of data collaboration is crucial for all industries. Where the aerospace and automotive industry are probably the most mature on this topic, the process industry and construction industry are currently also focusing on discovering data standards and collaboration models (ISO 15926 / BIM). It will be probably the innovators in these industries that clear the path for others. For sure it will not come from the software vendors as I discussed before.
If you reach this line, it means the topic has been interesting in depth for you. In the past three post starting from the future trend, an example and the data modeling background, I have tried to describe what is happening in a simplified manner.
If you really want to dive into the PLM for the future, I recommend you visit the upcoming PDT 2014 conference in Paris on October 14 and 15. Here experts from different industries will present and discuss the future PLM platform and its benefits. I hope to meet you there.
Some more to read: