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observation Two weeks ago I received through the PLM group on LinkedIn, the following question from Nathalie: “Do you know any specific examples of what some companies have done to get their users ready, excited or more committed to the new PLM system?”

When digging in my mind and planning to give a quick answer, I realized it was an interesting question with a contradiction embedded: users and excitement for a new PLM system.

This week I was attending the SmarTeam User Group meeting in the Netherlands, where an excellent presentation was given by Simon and Hessel from a Dutch company called  Meyn (Poultry processing) about their PLM implementation. They shared their excitement !

Combined with an interesting discussion on Oleg’s blog with Frank, I believe I have the ingredients to answer the above question more complete.

PLM is not exiting for users

myplm I think this is fact number one. When you go to tradeshows or PLM exhibitions, you see usually only 3D CAD demos, nobody tries to demonstrate PLM functions and features in detail. As a side step, I believe the best PLM system should be almost invisible for the user. Users want to work in their own environment with applications like CAD, Excel (BOM handling apps), Office, FEA tools, Simulation tools and more.

ERP has a more clear value proposal, if you want to define and schedule your manufacturing and manage the financial transactions, everyone has accepted that you need ERP. User acceptance is not relevant, users have to work with the provided interface as otherwise production or accounting will fail, there is no alternative.

In contrary, the clear value and definition of PLM are not clear to user. For that reason these users do not get excited when confronted with PLM. They have been surviving without implementing PLM, so they believe there is an alternative.

 

But we know there are PLM benefits?

My previous post – PLM in the mid-market a mission impossible? – lead to a discussion with Oleg and Frank coming with anew and interesting view point. Frank mentioned that in the German area, many mid-market companies do PLM without purchasing an enterprise PLM system from the known vendors.

coopThe discussion focused on granularity, as all of us believed that a set-by-step approach towards PLM best practices, driven by people who understand the company very well, is the key to success. For this approach you need people inside the customer’s organization who can formulate the vision assisted by consultants working very dedicated in that industry. It requires a different type of consultant as those active in the big enterprise projects.

Instead of implementing PLM as a standard process, in this approach the customer drives and leads the activities where they see benefits in their overall business process. To achieve this, the company must have has a clear vision, where they want to be in the next 5 – 10 years.

Next implementations steps should fit in this strategy and prioritized based on different parameters and these steps are not always with a focus on PLM.

And here lies the key for successful PLM implementations.

my_way The implementation might be based on an academic approach around a core PLM data model and best practices. Mid-market offerings are around an OOTB (Out-Of-The-Box) quick implementation –  the PLM system/implementer leads.

Something the management of likes to hear; quick and with little customization, which would translate in lower costs of implementation and disruption of the organization. But then, the end-users start to complain. There is too much change their standard way of working and they do not see the advantages – keying in more data in a system does not help them.

No_roi The introduction of PLM brings more complexity and as the new system has to prove itself, there is not big enthusiasm from the average user. The management can push, like in the ERP situation, but in general also the management is anxious to learn if this OOTB-approach brings the benefits and when it fails they ask the vendor where the estimated ROI can be found.

Concluding you will be lucky if users get excited form the OOTB approach.

sel_a In the second and granular approach, the company defines their strategy and vision, not necessary a 100 % PLM vision. This strategy need to be clear and shared with the employees in the company, especially for those who are affected by changes.

Next together with implementation partners, who bring in the know-how and possible software tools, a part of the company’s process is addressed and improved. It can be in any area, changing the CAD engine, automate BOM handling, connect sales to engineering or connect after sales/service to engineering.

Many of these areas of interest have different solutions, some are extensions of the CAD environment, some of them are extensions of the ERP environment and some of them are extensions of the IT-platform used in the company.

This approach is not sold by the PLM vendors, as they want to introduce their system as the IT-platform, wrap around the CAD and even capture the definition of the MBOM and initiation of the Item master.

A step-by-step approach based on different granular components, every time in the direction of the company’s strategy, plus all the time feed-back to the end-users on the positive impact of the change, is for me the key to success. In my previous post I was looking for a global provider for these required components.
With the step by step approach with granular solutions, we get users involved and excited.

 

And this brings me the to the presentation from Meyn

meyn The first time I got involved with Meyn was in October 2004. At that time they had chosen to move from their BaaN-2D CAD infrastructure to a new environment with BaaN – 3D CAD (CATIA). Simon presented their target strategy and vision: moving away from being an Engineering To Order company to become primarily a Configure To Order company.

ENOVIA SmarTeam was chosen to manage the 3D CAD and to connect the information to BaaN. Initially Meyn started in the classical PLM approach, but already after a few months, the understanding was there, they need have step-by-step approach, focused on results for the new CATIA users, without communicating around a complete PLM focused project.

So they followed a stepped approach, they called them waves.

Moving from Engineering to Order to Configure to Order is not software implementation. It requires rationalization of your products; convert them into modular, configurable parts. For this you need to be an engineering expert, not a software expert.

But when it comes to implementation of this concept in the software, you need both experts. And through this collaboration, a methodology for skeleton design was established which was driven by Meyn. And the reason the users were excited was, that they were doing real engineering, the benefits were significant visible.

roi Customer project related engineering time (typical ETO), which was in the beginning their core activity, became around 30 % of the time. More time could be spent on developing new machines in a modular way. With almost the same amount of engineers the turn-over of the company had more than doubled. A win-win environment which makes also the end-users excited.

Still the backend with ERP at Meyn remained almost the same similar to the time they were working in the 2D environment. And the most interesting conclusion at the end of the presentation was, they are still using the same slide with the vision and they can explain why each step was taken and justify it by measurable benefits.

And this brings me to the answer of the question

“Do you know any specific examples of what some companies have done to get their users ready, excited or more committed to the new PLM system”?

  • The management needs to have a clear vision where they want to be as a company in the future. This is not an IT-vision, but a business vision which explain why changes are needed. This vision should be clear to the employees. Communicate!
  • Where possible provide metrics!
  • Do not talk about a PLM system; it can be also in other tools. Talk about improvement steps in the business processes contributing to the vision. The PLM system is the information backbone, not the front-end. Management and implementers should talk business functionality not IT functions and features. Do not talk in applications!
  • Build step by step user scenarios with focus on methodology and user understanding. Implementations with a function-feature focus are hard to accept by the users. Talk business!
  • The management should present their vision again and again, supported by metrics what has been accomplished and what has been learned for the future – repeat!

Conclusion

There are thousands of mid-market companies that have a vision to improve their business. The PLM system should never be the topic of discussion with the end users; it is the change in working methods that is important, supported by various systems -CAD/ERP/CRM – and almost invisible …….. PLM

The company Meyn is an example of this approach. Simon and Hessel are working for Meyn as engineers improving their company’s business. Unfortunate it is not their business to explain all around the world, how PLM supports business change in a mid-market company. I was glad to attend their session last week.

observation I realized that time is flying when you are busy, and I promised to publish the conclusion from my previous post: More on who decides for plm in a mid market company. In my two previous posts, I described the difficulties companies have to select the right PLM system. So far I discussed the two extremes, the silent approach where a possible bottom up approach was discussed and as the opposite where an ‘academical’ approach was followed.

Now it is time to get the answers on the academical approach.

These were the questions to be answered in the previous post:

  • How much time has passed since the management decided PLM was good for their organization?
  • How independent is the consultancy firm?
  • Did they consider open source PLM as a solution?
  • What was the ranking of the PLM vendors?

How much time has passed since the management decided PLM was good for their organization?

planning The whole process of selecting a PLM system often takes more than one or two years, starting from the first activities till the final conclusion to start. I believe this is unavoidable, as especially in mid-market companies the business values that PLM can bring are not always discussed and realized on the strategic level.

However, I believe the recent years PLM has been recognized by analysts, by software vendors and many young companies as a necessity for innovation and in the long term remaining competitive.  And this is not only in the classical domains where PLM started – automotive / aero / industrial equipment.  PLM value is everywhere in different industries, even apparel for example.

For companies that are now in the decision process, I believe 2009 and early 2010 are the years to decide, because a recovery of the economy might put back the focus on execution and not on strategy and they might miss the management focus for PLM. And as I wrote in a previous post, companies who made the best pit stop will benefit upmost.

For companies still in doubt:  It is now or never

How independent is the consultancy firm?

It is clear that real independent consultancy firms do not exist – even if a consultant wants to be independent, there are three challenges to meet:

  • How can a consultant evaluate or judge PLM systems they have not seen?
  • How much experience does the consultant have in your business?
  • How much work is there required in the project for the consultant?

sel_a As you can imagine, reviewing the above challenges, you will realize that consultants usually specialize in systems, where their expertise it required – as they also want to make a living.  Consultants cannot afford to be an academic institute, as coming back to the previous point, all consultancy work at the end will be paid by the customer.

So to conclude on this point, if you want to be cost-effective, a company should do already a pre-selection based on systems and possible implementation partners, that fit naturally to their type of business and then evaluate how consultancy can be achieved.

What you will find out is that the major ‘expensive’ packages have loads of consultants to offer en the more and more you go into a mid-market environment, consultants become rare. For software from PLM vendors you will usually find a reseller network with people close to your offices that can support you. For Open Source software you will need to find the consultancy services through their software delivery program.

Anyway remember: 50 % of the success of a PLM implementation is based on the right implementation approach and partner not on the PLM functions and features.

Did they consider open source PLM as a solution?

search No, because the consultant was not familiar with it, and discouraged the company to look at it. In general Open Source PLM, like PLM On-Demand are interesting trends to follow and should not be neglected.  However the focus and approach for this type of solutions is different. I will not generalize at this moment as also I have no clear picture where Open Source PLM or PLM on Demand would be a big differentiator. I will try to evaluate and report it in future posts.

Comments from Open Source PLM Vendors or On Demand PLM Vendors are welcome to complete the PLM selection approach.

What was the ranking of the PLM vendors?

Ranking was done by the management, the selection team and the design department. These were the results plus their major comment:

Management

1. The slide show PLM provider – they liked the business pitch

2. The CAD supplier with PLM features and gadgets – good guys – we know them

3. The PLM provider who showed everything – too much handling of data – too complex

Selection Team

1. The PLM Provider who showed everything – they really did it

2. The CAD supplier with PLM features and gadgets– we understand where they are going

3. The slide show PLM provider – do they really have a solution?

The Designers

1. The CAD supplier with PLM features and gadgets– he knows what we want

2. The slide show PLM provider– could be a good solution too

3. The PLM Provider who showed everything – too complex, it will limit our productivity

slideplmAs the management had the final vote, they decided for the slide show PLM Provider, as they felt most comfortable with them.

The reason to drop the CAD supplier was that they were too afraid this provider does not know all about PLM. Both management and users felt the PLM provider that showed everything was too complex, this opposite to the project team where the members were very familiar with PLM capabilities after two years investigation and many demos and trade shows.

Conclusion: Selecting PLM, even in an academical manner is a subjective process. As in general the customer does not exactly knows what he needs and often the PLM provider shows too much in detail, the real journey starts at implementation time. And in this stage you need an experienced implementation partner who can match and communicate the expectations

observation Just back from the ECCAP in Tokyo  where the Dassault Systemes roadmap for V6eccap combined with V5 was discussed and presented in the context of the Asian Pacific customers and companies.

As most of the activities around V6 are focusing on the future around a Service Oriented Approach (SOA), it might be interesting to look at Oleg Shilovitsky’s blog around PLM 2.0 . The conference kept me busy, so busy that I had almost no time to write this post, which actually targets a frequently heard message: We are too busy (to implement PLM / to do something else / etc …)

So in this post I want to conclude the sequel around reasons not to implement PLM. As a reminder:

The 5 reasons not to implement PLM I heard the most were:

  1. The costs for a PLM implementation are too high
  2. A PLM implementation takes too long
  3. We already have an ERP system
  4. Isn’t PLM the same as managing CAD files ?
  5. We are so busy, there is no time to have a PLM implementation in our company

And now, we reached #5

5. We are so busy, there is no time to have a PLM implementation in our company ?

Indeed a PLM implementation should not be underestimated. The impact on a company is significant if implemented correctly.  I encountered two types of PLM implementations:

  1. implementations where the implementer automated the existing customer processes as-is, with a slight change due to chosen PLM capabilities.
  2. implementations where the implementer assisted the company in changing their current business process towards PLM capabilities and best practices provided by the system.

Both type of implementations might have consumed the same amount of money and implementation services. The impact on the company however is completely different.

NoProcessChange

In case 1 the benefits are relative low as mainly automation of repetitive tasks or data entry was optimized. People in the company did not need to change there way of working too much, and the impact on the way they worked was relative low.

Note: we have a work pressure of max 110 % (no big changes) but at the end we reach an effectivity below 120 % where the work pressure remains close to 100% (98 %)

This means thanks to automation we achieve 20 % more and feel just a little less pressure
(20 points difference between effectivity and pressure)

ChangeProcess

In case 2 the benefits were much higher as the changing of business processes lead to an optimized process for innovation and engineering changes, based on core PLM system capabilities and tuned for the company.

However the impact on people in the company was also much higher. Different ways of working, changed responsibilities, sharing of data all lead to a learning process.

Note: we have a work pressure close to 120 % but at the end we reach 95 % where the effectivity reaches 125 %

This means thanks to the automation we achieve 25 % more and feel approx 5 % less pressure
(30 point difference between effectivity and pressure)

The graphs are a generalization based on facts i learned in the field and I tried to visualize the impact of a PLM implementation on a company.

So now we have three options to:

  • We have no time to implement – we are too busy
    This leads to a dead end – assuming PLM is relevant for your company – it means the competitors will implement and get ahead of you. Making survival even harder and lead to stressed employees till it cracks
  • We can implement PLM without changing our processes too much
    This is what an inexperienced implementer will suggest. “Tell us how you want to work and we build it for you” . This leads to higher customization costs but probably less pressure on the organization to make changes. At the end as described in case 1 it will bring benefits but not affect the pressure so much. Consider it a band-aid till the next fix.
  • We implement PLM as it supposed to improve our processes.
    Implementing PLM with an experienced PLM implementer and a clear vision will lead to a higher pressure on the organization for approx a year and probably lower costs of customization, but higher temporary resources costs. However at the end it will provide the company with a base to be more competitive. Effectiveness has increased significant and reduced pressure
    can lead to new innovation

 

Conclusion

If your company would benefit from PLM according to its core business, delaying the implementation is giving your competitors more chances and will affect your market share. Next if you decide to implement PLM be aware that only by changing the way you work more in line with the PLM best practices for your industry you will gain the real benefits. For that reason you need an experienced PLM implementer as partner to guide you in this path.

observation Last week I conducted another ENOVIA SmarTeam Express training, this time in the Coventry office from Dassault Systems. The conclusion from the audience was that the SmarTeam Engineering Express concept is a perfect entry PLM system for the mid-market. It show the general best practices of PLM for a mid-market from concept to manufacturing. Additionally is provides the company a flexible PLM platform to further grow and expand to directions that bring more benefits.

But here I want to stop, as you will start to believe it is a marketing speech. In a certain way it is marketing. Marketing is needed to influence people and companies to change their way of thinking. Without marketing we would never buy Personal Computers, mobile phones, MP3 players, certain drinks and more. We tend to forget why we need certain products and what the real benefits are. PLM is not at that level of market understanding yet.

For that reason I will give the 5 objections why not to implement PLM that I heard the most and comment on them.

The 5 reasons not to implement PLM I heard the most were:

  1. The costs for a PLM implementation are too high
  2. A PLM implementation takes too long
  3. We already have an ERP system
  4. Isn’t PLM the same as managing CAD files ?
  5. We are so busy, there is no time to have a PLM implementation in our company

In this post I will address the first reason. Others in upcoming posts.
Note: I use generalizations in this post as specific cases my vary – specially when talking about comparisons with ERP system.

1. The cost for a PLM implementation are too high.

This is the argument I heard the most. And indeed, if you accumulate the total costs of a PLM implementation after 2-3 years, you might get that impression. The main reason for this perception is the fact that often companies have suffered from an ERP implementation in the past. I do not want to blame the ERP companies for the high costs of implementation, as they were the first major business system implemented in manufacturing companies. There were many horror stories in the past, but now you can say ERP has become mature and processes to implement are clear too. For that reason ERP companies now can provide an estimated cost and ROI (Return On Investment) for manufacturing companies. I guess that manufacturing companies that have not invested in ERP the past 20 years, probably stopped to exists, so benefits for ERP are clear.

But at what costs ? PLM is not as mature as ERP. This means a PLM vendor cannot come to a manufacturing company, identify its main business process and apply a PLM template. The major reason for that is the fact that the PLM vision encompasses many different processes in a company, many of them currently not even identified in mid-market companies. This leads to the situation where PLM implementers together with their customers spend time to learn and pay the price for learning. Most of the learning has been done already by the big enterprises, now the mid-market companies need to understand what is relevant for them.

We know learning has it costs, and specially when external (paid) resources are involved, the costs might add up too high. In parallel the biggest mistake made to implement PLM is to consider it the same way ERP is implemented. A project team builds in a isolated environment a new ‘to be’ PLM environment, once and a while involving key users for their feedback. Then after 8 months – 1 year they role out the PLM implementation to the users as a ‘big boom’. As a logical reaction the users object to this radical change, which leads to compromises, and rework of some of the project deliverables. At the end after 2 years the company might have an acceptable PLM implementation, meanwhile having a bad taste of a failed and costly project. And the ROI still to come……

See the diagram below:

big boom

So how can we avoid these high costs ?

First of all the investment of a PLM is done because we believe there is a Return On Investment. Companies invest in order to improve their competitiveness and PLM is a main driver for manufacturing companies. So how can we assure ROI and lower the total costs ?

A first best practice is the phase a PLM implementation into small, digestible steps with a durations of 3 to 6 months. Each step will have its investment and its limited scope. The result will be that even after the first step, people can start working with the new system, experience the impact of the new PLM system and start bringing ROI as the benefits will start paying of.

These benefits plus the fact that the company and their users start to understand what a PLM system can bring for them and this leads to a clearer and lower cost of implementation for the next phases. The figure below gives an impression of how costs and ROI will work out in this situation.

phased implementation

The Express offerings from ENOVIA, SDE (SmarTeam Design Express) and SNE (SmarTeam Engineering Express) are exactly targeting this approach. Instead of imagining what PDM and PLM could do for a company. They allow the company to quickly start and experience and later grow to the optimized environment.

The management of the company should always keep their ultimate PLM vision in mind, still anticipating changes as business evolves. Each implementation phase should fit in the ultimate PLM vision and its implementation should be judged on bring ROI.

This is a main difference between PLM and ERP. An ERP implementation focuses on a specific logistical process to implement. This implementation cannot be done for 50 % and than later another 30 % and again another 10 % till the ultimate ERP vision has been reached. It must be done in one implementation as it targets the whole production process.

A PLM implementation however is an implementation of Best Practices all around Product IP and innovation. The world in which products are defined has changed drastically due to globalization, customer focus and changed technologies. This means that the way companies define and develop their products have to be flexible and changeable. PLM implementations require a step by step approach, every time improving those areas that bring the best ROI. Still the company needs to remain flexible in to anticipate for future changes, merges, acquisitions or even different business processes.

Conclusion: PLM systems are not costly in case of a phased implementation targeting immediate ROI per phase and flexibility in the future.

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