PLM holiday thoughts

July and August are the months that privileged people go on holiday. Depending on where you live and work it can be a long weekend or a long month. I plan to give my PLM twisted brain a break for two weeks. I am not sure if it will happen as Greek beaches always have inspired for philosophers. What do you think about “PLM on the beach”?

There are two topics that keep me intrigued at this moment, and I hope to experience more about them the rest of the year.

Moving to Model-Based processes

I believe we all get immune for the term “Digital Transformation” (11.400.000 hits on Google today). I have talked about digital transformation in the context many times too. Change is happening. The classic ways of working were based on documents, a container of information, captured on paper (very classical) or captured in a file (still current).

As every stakeholder in a company (marketing, engineering, manufacturing, supplier, services, customers, and management) required a different set of information, many pieces of information all referring to the same product, have been parsed and modified into other documents.  It is costly and expensive to get a complete view of what is happening in the business. Meanwhile, all these information transformations (with Excel as the king) are creating an overhead for information management, both on IT-level and even more for non-value added resources who are manipulating information for the next silo/discipline.

What we have learned from innovative companies is that a data-driven approach, where more granular information is stored uniquely as data objects instead of document containers bring huge benefits. Information objects can be shared where relevant along the product lifecycle and without the overhead of people creating and converting documents, the stakeholders become empowered as they can retrieve all information objects they desire (if allowed). We call this the digital thread.

The way to provide a digital thread for manufacturing companies is to change the way they organize the product development and delivery processes. A model-based approach is required. I wrote about in a post: Digital PLM requires a Model-Based Enterprise a year ago. The term “Model-Based” also has many variations (67.800.00 hits on Google today). Some might consider the 3D MCAD Model at the center of information both for engineering and manufacturing.A good overview in the video below

Others might think about a behavior/simulation model of the product for simulating and delivering a digital twin often referred in the context of model-based design (MBD).

And ultimately a model-based approach integrated with systems engineering into Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) allowing all stakeholders to collaborate in a data-driven manner around complex products based.

You can learn a lot about that during the upcoming PDT Europe conference on 18-19th October in Gothenburg. Concepts and experiences will be shared, and my contribution to the conference will be all about the challenges and lessons learned from the transformation process companies are embarking on becoming model-based.

PLM and ALM

A second topic that becomes more and more relevant for companies is how to combine the domains of product development and application software empowering these products. The challenge here is that we have no mature concepts yet for both domains. It reminds me of the early PDM implementations where companies implemented their PDM system for MCAD software and documents. All the electrical stuff was done disconnected in separate systems and somewhere in the product lifecycle information from MCAD and ECAD was merged in the bill of materials and documents. Mainly manually with a decent overhead for people consolidating the data.  Modern PLM systems have found best practices to manage a combination of mechanical and electronic components through an EBOM even connecting embedded software as an item in the BOM.

Now more and more the behavior and experience of products are driven by software. Sensors and connectivity of data are driving new capabilities and business models to the market. Customers are getting better connected, however also the companies delivering these solutions can act much faster now based on trends or issues experienced from the field.

The challenge, however, is that the data coming from the systems and the software defining the behavior of the products most of the time is managed in a separate environment, the ALM environment. In the ALM environment delivery of new solutions can be extremely fast and agile, creating a disconnect between the traditional product delivery processes and the software delivery processes.

Companies are learning now how to manage the dependencies between these two domains, as consistency of requirements and features of the products is required. Due to the fast pace of software changes, it is almost impossible to connect everything to the PLM product definition. PLM Vendors are working on concepts to connect PLM and ALM through different approaches. Other companies might believe that their software process is crucial and that the mechanical product becomes a commodity. Could you build a product innovation platform starting from the software platform which some of the old industry giants believe?

PLM combined with ALM concepts are the ones to follow, and I am looking forward to meeting the first company that has implemented a consistent flow between the world of hardware and software. So far there are many slide solutions, the reality and legacy at this moment are still inhibitors for the next step.

Conclusion

There is still a lot to discover and execute in the domain of PLM. Moving to a data-driven enterprise with all stakeholders connected is the challenging journey. Can we build robust concepts taking accuracy, security, and speed into account? I believe so, in particular when dreaming at the beach.

 

Bye for now

Does history repeat itself even in the PLM domain? The last week I have read various blog posts related to PLM and Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). A good summary of these thoughts can be found in  Oleg Shilovitsky’s post: How PLM vendors can find a formula to serve midsize manufacturing companies. Usually, the conclusions are:

  • Smaller enterprise cannot afford the “expensive” PLM solutions
  • Existing PLM systems are too complex to implement
  • Lack of usability
  • PLM systems are not flexible enough to implement
  • PLM should be cloud-based (reducing IT costs and efforts).

Jim Brown from Tech-Clarity published an e-book Finding PLM to Fit Mid-Sized High-Tech Companies and Oleg chimed in on that post as Jim talks about Core PLM, which was more design-oriented than BOM-oriented. Read these two posts as they give a good insight into PLM vendor thinking.

In 2006, Oleg and I worked @ SmarTeam where we defined and built a “Core PLM” solution, targeting mid-market companies. This core PLM solution called the SmarTeam Engineering Express (SNE) contained both pre-configured CAD-integrations as well as BOM practices (EBOM-MBOM).  Combined with documented best practices, pre-configured methodology, and workflows this environment could be implemented relatively quick (if the implementer did not want to earn extra money on services ).

There was even ROI provided by a launching customer:  A PLM success story with ROI (2012)

As part of the SME focus, SmarTeam people interviewed small and medium enterprises to understand in detail their needs. They mentioned the obvious points:

  • Easy to Use (Usability)
  • Quickly Deployable (Best Practices – pre-defined processes)
  • Easy & rapid Configurable and low IT-costs.

Interesting enough SmarTeam’s enterprise customers requested the same capabilities. It makes you realize there is no unique difference in PLM for mid-market companies and large enterprises. I believe the major difference is due to education, the company’s culture and where the PLM decision is made. Let’s explore

Lack of education

Small and Medium Enterprises usually lack resources who can spend time on planning or think about a new business strategy. The work needs to be done first. SME companies hire experts for their skills that bring immediate value, strategic thinking comes second. An engineering department does not hire a strategist; they hire a qualified and promising engineer.

These new hires are normally not educated on standard PLM concepts like ECR, ECO, Configuration Management, PLM-ERP best practices (EBOM/MBOM). For an engineering study, these practices/processes are not considered as critical as it is about collaboration and not about skills. The PLM capabilities engineering students learn are the basic functionalities they need master when working with their (CAD) tools.

SME’s use their own best practices based on years of experience (before PLM existed) and when they select a PLM system, it is mostly more a data management tool than an infrastructure to streamline processes. Combined with the fact that every PLM vendor has its own definition for PLM, it is hard to have a unified way of thinking for bring in new ways of working supported by a best in class PLM-system. The lack of standards and education is illustrated by a recent post from John Stark: Should PLM become a profession?

Of course, you can educate yourself on PLM. CIMdata is well-known for its training program, John Stark and others can educate you on PLM. Have a look at this interesting new startup SharePLM. PLM is about sharing, and I try to share PLM experiences too, by coaching or lecturing or through my blog posts. My most read posts over the past years are ECO/ECR for Dummies, The importance of a PLM data model: EBOM – MBOM and Bill of Materials for Dummies – ETO. Illustrating people around the world want to be educated on PLM but can the influence their (non-educated) management?

SME management considers PLM as an engineering tool. They want their employees to work with the best tools, and the management’s focus is on reducing costs and improving efficiency. Different ways of working or different business models, enabled by digitalization are not necessary on the SME management agenda. However, with the digital revolution is on its way, strategical thinking becomes crucial for survival. In that context, a recent post from Beth Stackpole on Digital Engineering says it all: PLM Knowledge Gap Hampers New Engineers.

Difference in culture

Small and Medium Enterprise often rely on close collaboration between people all working with their best in class tools per discipline. Collaboration is done through email, personal relations, and Dropbox-like sharing tools. They know their peers and people rely on intrinsic knowledge.

 

Large enterprise often consists of a collection of business units that could be considered as Small and Medium Enterprises. To create synergies and gain IT-benefits, management from large enterprises want to standardize on processes (naming and steps) and tools. Standardized processes allow the management to compare and benchmark the Business Units. Standardized tools, of course, reduce the overall IT costs.

Large enterprises usually have staff with a strategic task to work on standardized and optimized processes for the future. These people will discover and have time to be educated on the values of PLM, supported by strategic advisors that know the value of PLM. In these companies, the decisions made for PLM are top-down decisions. Usability, functions/features and costs are usually crucial for bottom-up decisions. For a top-down decision an aligned vision, matching roadmap, management value and costs are usually the main topics.

Conclusion

Ten years ago I believed Small and Medium Enterprises would benefit from a special offering with a focus on usability, pre-configured environments and providing best practices. I believe this is now on the agenda for all PLM vendors, some perhaps struggling with their legacy. However, cloud offerings will become more and more similar. Therefore, PLM education is in my opinion still a missing point in SME. Educated management and educated students could increase the value delivery of PLM by understanding the right target and managing the expectations correctly.

What do you think? Will there ever be the best-in-class PLM offering for SME or do you believe the human factor where education and understanding are crucial?  Looking forward to your opinion !

Potential digital transformation is everywhere. This time I want to share a personal story based on my IoT cycling device from Garmin. Several years ago I became an enthusiastic cyclist, mainly because it clears your mind and cycling keeps you in good shape after enjoying customer visits with great dinners and excellent breakfasts. As the Dutch lack real mountains, we challenge ourselves with through open fields with strong winds to suffer a little too.

 

Four years ago, started tracking my cycling performance, with a Garmin Edge 810. The story of my Garmin is a real IoT story. GPS trackers, in the beginning, did not communicate with the outside world. Now, this device connects to sensors registering my speed, my location, my heart rate, pedal cadence and produced power at any time, finally uploading it to the Garmin Connect platform.

The IoT platform

The Garmin Connect platform gives me insights on my performance, activities, and segments. The segment demonstrates the social part of the platform. Here you can see how you rank with others who have cycled the same track segment over time. And you can register your own preferred segment too, where you challenge yourself and others in your area. So the number of segments is growing continuously. Imagine all these cyclists around the world virtually sharing and taking the same track. I am curious to learn from Garmin how many people are connected to the platform.
I could not find these numbers. You?

The fun of segments

Digital Twin

Through the platform, Garmin collects huge amounts of data of connected users. Each data set of the connected user could be considered a simple digital twin. The Connect platform provides me insights about my overall performance through the years through various reports. Garmin could offer as a (paid) service to deliver insights of my performance compared to other users and propose predictive enhancements similar to the GE Predix platform. The difference of course that 1 % performance improvement for me in cycling does not bring the same value as 1 % performance improvement of a GE product (turbine, jet engine, train, …). However, the concept is the same and GE is promoting themselves as the next Digital Industrial Company, leading in digital transformation. Read more here.

Digital Twin performance

Connecting to the customer

Tthe change from moving from a document-driven approach towards a data-driven approach to collect and store information is not the main concept behind a digital transformation. The data-driven approach is an enabler to connect directly to the customer and change the current business model from delivering products into a business model delivering services or even more advanced delivering experiences. Services and experiences create a closer relation to the customer, more loyalty, but also the challenge that you need to connect to the customer in such a way that the customer sees value. Otherwise, the customer will switch to another service or experience. The Apple, Nespresso, Uber experiences are all known for their new ways of connecting to the customer, differentiating from traditional product sales. Garmin could also be on that list. However, I discovered they are not there yet, despite an IoT-platform and connected devices. What is missing?

Why Garmin is not a digital enterprise.

Two years ago my Garmin Edge started crashing in the middle of a ride. The system rebooted after some minutes, and the recordings were lost or at least unreadable.  When I contacted Garmin support their standard response was: “Please reset the device and update to the latest software.” Two years ago the software had still bug fixes. After two years you would expect a stable experience.

However, a year ago the problems started to become more frequent. I started to send log files illustrating where the error occurred. Still, the Garmin response was the same: “Please reset the device and update to the latest software.”
However as there were no new software updates, there must be another reason why the device failed more and more.

After pushing for a resolution, the service department concluded I needed a new device. There might be an issue with the hardware. A little bit skeptical I agreed on a hardware switch again, and as expected this did not solve the crashes. My guess is that due to the increasing amount of segments at some places, the software gets confused where the rider is exactly located and in which direction the rider is going. These are the moments when the crash happens, and this is probably a software issue.

Still, the Garmin help desk believes there is a hardware problem (preferably swap the device) where I kept on providing evidence data of crashes to support Garmin in their error-discovery. Till now there is no resolution. The good news is that Garmin support mentioned investigating further.

For me, the interaction with Garmin illustrates that the company internally is not yet digital transformed. The service desk probably has KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) related to their response time and problem resolution time. Although I can debate the response time, it is clear that the problem resolution approach: Update to the latest software and if this does not work swap to a new device is not increasing the knowledge from Garmin as a company what their customers are experiencing.

Apparently, their software management is disconnected from the service department and customers. Only clear bugs during the first launch are fixed. Next, it is a disconnected world again.

A must for a digital enterprise is to dive into customer issues and to connect them back to R&D, both for the hardware part and software part. Something a modern product manager would do. If a company is not able to understand the multidisciplinary dependencies and solve issues from the field (with some effort), they will keep on making the same mistakes again with new product launches and lose customers who are looking for a better experience.

My conclusion

PLM should be part of the digital enterprise too as this is the only way to deliver consistent customer value and positive experience. It requires companies to break down silos and create multidisciplinary teams that are capable of supporting the full customer journey. A digital device and a digital customer platform are just facades to the outside world – the inside needs to change too.

What do you think?
Does your company understand the challenges to transform across all disciplines?
Are you managing PLM, ALM, and IoT in context of the product and across the whole lifecycle?
I am curious !

Last week I published a dialogue I had with Flip van der Linden, a fellow Dutchman and millennial, eager to get a grip on current PLM. You can read the initial post here: A PLM dialogue.  In the comments, Flip continued the discussion (look here).  I will elaborate om some parts of his comments and hope some others will chime in. It made me realize that in the early days of blogging and LinkedIn, there were a lot of discussions in the comments. Now it seems we become more and more consumers or senders of information, instead of having a dialogue. Do you agree? Let me know.

Point 1

(Flip) PLM is changing – where lies the new effort for (a new generation of) PLM experts.  I believe a huge effort for PLM is successful change management towards ‘business Agility.’ Since a proper response to an ECR/ECO would evidently require design changes impacting manufacturing and even after-sales and/or legal.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

 

You are right, the main challenge for future PLM experts is to explain and support more agile processes, mainly because software has become a major part of the solution. The classical, linear product delivery approach does not match the agile, iterative approach for software deliveries. The ECR/ECO process has been established to control hardware changes, in particular because there was a big impact on the costs. Software changes are extremely cheap and possible fast, leading to different change procedures. The future of PLM is about managing these two layers (hardware/software) together in an agile way. The solution for this approach is that people have to work in multi-disciplinary teams with direct (social) collaboration and to be efficient this collaboration should be done in a digital way.

A good article to read in this context is Peter Bilello’s article: Digitalisation enabled by product lifecycle management.

 

(Flip) What seems to be missing is an ‘Archetype’ of the ideal transformed organization. Where do PLM experts want to go with these businesses in practice? Personally, I imagine a business where DevOps is the standard, unique products have generic meta-data, personal growth is an embedded business process and supply chain related risks are anticipated on and mitigated through automated analytics. Do you know of such an evolved archetypal enterprise model?

I believe the ideal archetype does not exist yet. We are all learning, and we see examples from existing companies and startups pitching their story for a future enterprise. Some vendors sell a solution based on their own product innovation platform, others on existing platforms and many new vendors are addressing a piece of the puzzle, to be connected through APIs or Microservices. I wrote about these challenges in Microservices, APIs, Platforms and PLM Services.  Remember, it took us “old PLM experts” more than 10-15 years to evolve from PDM towards PLM, riding on an old linear trajectory, caught up by a new wave of iterative and agile processes. Now we need a new generation of PLM experts (or evolving experts) that can combine the new concepts and filter out the nonsense.

Point 2

(Flip) But then given point 2: ‘Model-based enterprise transformations,’ in my view, a key effort for a successful PLM expert would also be to embed this change mgt. as a business process in the actual Enterprise Architecture. So he/she would need to understand and work out a ‘business-ontology’ (Dietz, 2006) or similar construct which facilitates at least a. business processes, b. Change (mgt.) processes, c. emerging (Mfg.) technologies, d. Data structures- and flows, e. implementation trajectory and sourcing.

And then do this from the PLM domain throughout the organization per optimization.  After all a product-oriented enterprise revolves around the success of its products, so eventually, all subsystems are affected by the makeup of the product lifecycle. Good PLM is a journey, not a trip. Or, does a PLM expert merely facilitates/controls this enterprise re-design process? And, what other enterprise ontologism tools and methods do you know of?

Only this question could be a next future blog post. Yes, it is crucial to define a business ontology to support the modern flow of information through an enterprise. Products become systems, depending on direct feedback from the market. Only this last sentence already requires a redefinition of change processes, responsibilities. Next, the change towards data-granularity introduces new ways of automation, which we will address in the upcoming years. Initiatives like Industry 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing / IIoT all contribute to that. And then there is the need to communicate around a model instead of following the old documents path. Read more about it in Digital PLM requires a Model-Based Enterprise. To close this point:  I am not aware of anyone who has already worked and published experiences on this topic, in particular in the context of PLM.

 

Point 3

(Flip) Where to draw the PLM line in a digital enterprise? I personally think this barrier will vanish as Product Lifecycle Management (as a paradigm, not necessarily as a software) will provide companies with continuity, profitability and competitive advantage in the early 21st century. The PLM monolith might remain, but supported by an array of micro services inside and outside the company (next to IoT, hopefully also external data sets).

I believe there is no need to draw a PLM line. As Peter’s article: Digitalisation enabled by product lifecycle management already illustrated there is a need for a product information backbone along the whole (circular) lifecycle, where product information can interact with other enterprise platforms, like CRM, ERP and MES and BI services. Sometimes we will see overlapping functionality, sometimes we will see the need to bridge the information through Microservices. As long as these bridges are data-driven and do not need manual handling/transformation of data, they fit in the future, lean digital enterprise.

Conclusion:

This can be an ongoing dialogue, diving into detailed topics of a modern PLM approach. I am curious to learn from my readers, how engaged they are in this topic? Do you still take part in PLM dialogues or do you consume? Do you have “tips and tricks” for those who want to shape the future of PLM?


Let your voice be heard! (and give Flip a break)

 

elevator_thumb.jpgRecently I connected with a fellow countryman, Flip, through LinkedIn and we had a small dialogue related to PLM. Flip describes himself as a millennial thinking loud about PLM and shared some of his thoughts trying to define “the job of PLM.” Instead of keeping it a Dutch dialogue, I would like to open the dialogue to all (millennials), as we need a new generation of PLM consultants

Point 1

observation_thumb.png(Flip) You cannot automate design activities easily, but the rest you can. Isn’t PLM an evolution of 3D Design tooling (and with that the next step in design – theory)

think_thumb.pngYou are right. Historically PLM originated from managing 3D design in a collaborative manner, although at that time we would call it cPDM (Collaborative Product Data Management).  PDM was very design focused. However, PDM also supported the connection to an Engineering Bill of Materials (EBOM) and connected engineering change processes (Engineering Change Request / Engineering Change Order – read more: ECR/ECO for Dummies)

PTC’s Windchill was the first modern cPDM software that still exists. At the same time, Dassault Systemes and Siemens extended the support for design towards the manufacturing planning and execution, introducing the term PLM (Product Lifecycle Management). In the following years, PLM systems started to support the full go-to-market lifecycle as the figure shows below.

lifecycle

This linear go-to-market process is currently rapidly changing because PLM is changing.

plm_txt_thumb.pngThe P standing for Product now represents a System (hardware & software interacting with the environment). The L standing for Lifecycle is also under change.

Support for the Lifecycle of a “product” has changed in two ways. First, the lifecycle is no longer going to be a linear process, but also be more iterative and incremental for the same “product.” Secondly, the lifecycle is stretched to support the “products” in the fields thanks to feedback from sensors (IoT – Internet of Things). That’s why PTC now claims IoT is PLM. Read more: Best Practices or Next Practices.

Finally, the M from Management is under change as thanks to a data-driven approach we should be able to (semi-)automate processes using algorithms. Favorite buzz words here are machine-learning, cobots (collaborative robots) and preventive actions thanks to data analysis & trends.

Point 2

observation_thumb.png (Flip) Storing data in a structured manner creates more complexity (you need to choose what to store). With simulation, complexity could be reduced to make meaningful (design) decisions, so PLM is about clever data hoarding?

image_thumb.pngI believe there is always a challenge with managing structured data for two reasons. People often only create the data they require.  Adding more context more data or a richer context is often considered “extra work,” for with the department is not rewarded or adding more data is not known as these persons do not know the future use of their information. This is a typical exercise for companies now engaging in a digital transformation. (read more: The importance of accurate data)

think_thumb.pngWhen you talk about simulation, I immediately thought about the current trend to work towards a model-based enterprise, where the model is the center of all information. And with the model, we do not only mean the 3D Model but also the functional and logical model which we can simulate. (Read more: Digital PLM requires a Model-Based Enterprise)

Point 3

observation_thumb.png(Flip) Automation from manufacturing with more and more resources requires new ways to drive manufacturing so a team of 8 people can do the work of 80 people through a PLM system?

Industry4Here you are addressing exactly the point that initiatives like Industry 4.0 or in the Netherlands Smart Industry are addressing. Instead of a linear, document-driven process, where each step new versions of information need to be created, the dream is to work around a model (the model-based enterprise).

The idea is that data is flowing through the organization – digital continuity / digital thread – without conversion and by using algorithms and machine learning, the data is consumed and created during the manufacturing process in an automated manner. Indeed, reducing the amount of people involved drastically.

think_thumb.pngI am not sure of we still would call this PLM, it is more a digital enterprise, where digital platforms interact together. PLM could be considered the source for the Product Innovation Platform, but there will also be Execution platforms (ERP and MES as the main source) and customer related platform (CRM as a source). As vendors from all these platforms will provide overlapping functionality, it will be hard to draw exact lines. The main goal for a company will be that the data is flowing and not locked into a proprietary format or systems. And here we still have a lot of work to do,

Conclusion

No conclusion this time as it is an on-going dialogue. Feel free to comment or send your questions, and we can all learn from the dialogue (always better than a monologue).

Your thoughts?

This time a post, imagining the future of a PLM infrastructure for companies embracing the concepts of a digital enterprise. When you read (marketing) posts on the internet a lot of well-known companies are proud about their digital customer platform in the cloud. These platforms are a typical example of how companies transform their business to be closer connected to their customers. And to be as close as possible to the client, the apps they provide on the platform provides the customer with “delightful” experiences, information and usability they never have seen before. Meanwhile, the hosting company benefits from collecting all the data from their customers to better understand the behavior and use cases of their clients. A win-win situation, don’t you think so?

Microservices and APIs

In order to enhance and enrich the customer experience and the internal efficiency, companies are digitizing their back office processes too. Connecting their suppliers and vendors in a digital manner, optimizing processes from paper-based, through file-based towards a digital, data-driven process. The advantages: “high-speed” and “high quality and rich context” delivered with a lower cost than currently.

As it is not easy to change existing enterprise business systems. A service oriented architecture (SOA) based on web-services is used to connect enterprise business systems in a structured manner. A SOA-architecture is used when the systems and processes are stable.

However, all companies are discovering the modern digital enterprise, and here nothing is permanent and most likely nothing with remain stable. You will see companies making data available from various systems through APIs (Application Program Interface). In the past the meaning of API was directly tied to one system, now it is a wider concept, read for example  APIs for Dummies)

The usage of Micro Services allows companies to provide consumers (internal and external) with an experience based on an API layer with data coming from various sources. The user does not care and benefits from almost real-time information in the right context of the microservice. For more detail read: The difference between microservices and web services

Where it is easy for companies to create new experiences for their customers and internal employees through Apps on a platform and the usage of Micro Services, it is natural to extend this thought process toward the world of product data, the PLM domain. When I visit companies with an excellent digital image towards their customers, I am most of the time surprised to see their PLM environment still based on previous century’s concepts. And there is a reason for that, read my recent post: Why PLM is the forgotten domain in digital transformation.

PLM services?

Five years ago there was an interesting debate on engineering.com following upon a discussion between Jim Brown and Chad Jackson with the theme: Granularity vs. Integration: Suites vs. Best-in-class PLM. The power of this episode comes from the discussion afterwards that it is clear two different viewpoints exist, which will not easily merge. Read the comments if you have time.

Now the discussion has become similar for future PLM. Should you use best-of-breed, powerful cloud PLM-services to build an end-to-end connected PLM journey for the customer and the company?  Or should you still need one platform with apps (ideally coming from the best-of-breed vendors)?

You can find examples of cloud-based services popping up since a few years. I wrote about them in the past: The Netherlands and PLM. 2 events – 2 extremes – 1 future. In this post from 2015 I was pessimistic about the progress in the construction industry and confident about the startups I met to build an end-to-end customer experience through cloud solutions (KE-works, TradeCloud integrated with traditional PDM (Autodesk based) through web-services. Others like Kimonex, BOM management for product design, did not get enough momentum. And of course at this moment, OnShape (full cloud CAD) and OpenBOM (cloud-based Bill of Material management), For sure there are more if you do your research a little further.

On the other side, PLM-platforms can be found from the classical PLM vendors, Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM and PTC have their platforms coming from the classical PLM world, all with some different variations in focus. Aras and Autodesk do not rely necessary on the classical engineering environments and position themselves as a new, modern PLM.

And of course there are other platforms that provide PLM functionality, like traditionally SAP and Oracle, but also Propel on Salesforce. These platforms come from an ERP / CRM side of the business and can be interesting for companies too, depending on their primary business processes.

We will discover in the next 5-10 years how these various offerings will evolve and survive, knowing the PLM world is extremely slow. Read also; PLM and Cultural Change Management. Too Expensive ?

IP and Traceability questions

What I am curious to learn from the new PLM-services providers is how they will manage their customer’s data with IP protection and Traceability.  Companies are always worries about their IP and their IP can be in various domains, not only design or engineering. It can be manufacturing IP or even customer relation’s IP. How would a company maintain an overview of all its IP? Do they need to add a new “service”, called IP Services? (Perhaps an idea for a next startup ?)
Besides IP protection many manufacturing companies have the duty to keep their data available for 5 – 10 – 25 – 50 years, depending on their industry. Here I am also curious to learn what is the exit strategy for using a PLM service. Imagine the PLM service company is purchased by a company you cannot work with (new prices / new polices). How easy is it to step out and stop your subscription? And what is the alternative? Falling back on a classical PLM platform?

To my opinion you can divide these PLM Services in two groups:

  • PLM services that perform clever activities (algorithms / analysis) on your data and provides the company with feedback. This could be BOM compliance services, automated workflows, configurators or simulation services. This group of PLM services provide process support to be more efficient and scaleable, but they leave the data under control of the company.
  • PLM services that store data from the customer, CAD Models, Bill of Materials, Manufacturing Operations, Issues, Workflows. What happens when you stop using these services? Is there an “easy” exit strategy through standards? Are there standards?

Conclusion

The PLM domain is a different domain than other enterprise data as is deals also with data that needs to remain available for IP protection and traceability. Using an analogy of Micro Services or APIs is an unexplored already for PLM service provides, with serious risks for the customer. We are no longer worried about up-time of the cloud, but more worried about who owns the data and how can I maintain my ownership as company.

cloud.jpgLooking forward to your point of view !

Although I have a PLM-twisted brain, I try to read in my free time books and articles that have no direct link with PLM. My main interest goes to people. How do they behave and decide in a society, in a company? What makes them decide to change an existing business?

SapiensI am currently reading the book from Yuval Noah Harari, called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. I still have to finish the book but got intrigued by the following text when he tried to explain why homo sapiens was able to motivate and mobilize larger groups than a tribe:

How did Homo sapiens manage to a critical threshold, eventually founding cities comprising tens of thousands of inhabitants and empires ruling hundreds of millions? The secret was probably the appearance of fiction. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths.

Here my PLM-twisted brain woke up. What if we could create a  digital PLM myth? Currently, a lot of the PLM arguments are about functions and features, technical capabilities and perceived Return On Investment (ROI). For a digital transformation ROI is hard to estimate as the future state is not known and stable. What if the future state is a myth?  I will think about it when I finish the book and write the myth 🙂

Meanwhile, the rest of this blog post will be a reprint of a post I wrote almost five years ago in a similar context. PLM (old and new) are concepts against our evolution history. Enjoy and discover.

Our brain blocks PLM acceptance (Aug 2012)

tacit_logo.pngThe brain has become popular in the Netherlands in the past two years. Brain scientists have been publishing books sharing their interpretations on various topics of human behavior and the brain.

The common theme of all: The brain is influencing your perceptions, thoughts, and decisions without you even being aware of it.

clip_image005.jpg< added this post: in April 2013 Daniel Kahneman published his book Thinking Fast and Slow I referred in my post from May 2014 to this book – PLM is doomed, unless …>

Some even go that far by claiming certain patterns in the brain can be a proof if you have a certain disorder. It can be for better or for worse.

“It was not me that committed this crime; it was my brain and more…”

Anyway, this post will be full of quotes as I am not the brain expert, still giving the brain an important role (even in PLM)

Our brain blocks PLM acceptance

“My brain? That´s my second favorite organ” – Woody Allen

It is good to be aware of the influence of the brain. I wrote about this several times in the past, when discussing PLM vendor/implementer selection or when even deciding for PLM. Many of my posts are related to the human side of justifying and implementing PLM.

As implementing PLM for me primary is a business change instead of a combination of IT-tools to implement, it might be clear that understanding the inhibitors for PLM change are important to me.

In the PLM communities, we still have a hard job to agree between each other what is the meaning of PLM and where it differs from ERP. See for example this post, and in particular, the comments on LinkedIn (if you are a member of this group): PLM is a business process, not a (software) tool

Moreover, why it is difficult for companies to implement PLM beside ERP (and not as an extension of ERP) – search for PLM and ERP and you find zillions of thoughts and answers (mine too).

Charles_Roxburgh.jpgThe brain plays a major role in the Why PLM we have ERP battle (blame the brain). A week ago I read an older publication from Charles Roxburgh (published in May 2003 by McKinsey) called: Hidden flaws in strategy subtitle: Can insights from behavioral economics explain why good executives back bad strategies.

COULD read, hear and download the full article when you are a registered user. Unfortunate the link has been broken now>

The article has been written long before the financial and global crises were on the agenda and Mr. Roxburgh describes 8 hidden flaws that influence our strategic decision making (and PLM is a strategy).  Note all quotes below are from his publication.

Flaw 1: Overconfidence

We often make decisions with too much confidence and optimism as the brain makes us feel overconfident and overoptimistic about our own capabilities.

Flaw 2: Mental accounting

Avoiding mental accounting traps should be easier if you adhere to a basic rule: that every pound (or dollar or euro) is worth exactly that, whatever the category. In this way, you will make sure that all investments are judged on consistent criteria and be wary of spending that has been reclassified. Be particularly skeptical of any investment labeled “strategic.”

Here I would relate to the difference in IT-spending and budget when you compare ERP and PLM. ERP spending is normal (or strategic) where PLM spending is not understood.

Flaw 3: The status quo bias

People would rather leave things as they are. One explanation for the status quo bias is an aversion to loss—people are more concerned about the risk of loss than they are excited by the prospect of gain.

Another reason why adopting and implementing PLM in an organization is more difficult than for example just automating what we already do.

Flaw 4: Anchoring

Anchoring can be dangerous—particularly when it is a question of becoming anchored to the past

PLM has been anchored with being complex and expensive. Autodesk is trying to change the anchoring. Other PLM-like companies stop talking about PLM due to the anchoring and name what they do differently: 3DExperience, Business Process Automation, …..

Flaw 5: The sunk-cost effect

A familiar problem with investments is called the sunk-cost effect, otherwise known as “throwing good money after bad.” When large projects overrun their schedules and budgets, the original economic case no longer holds, but companies still keep investing to complete them.

I have described several cases in the past anonymously; where companies kept on investing and customizing their ERP environment to achieve PLM goals. Although it never reached the level of acceptance and quality a PLM system could offer, stopping these projects was impossible.

Flaw 6: The herding instinct

This desire to conform to the behavior and opinions of others is a fundamental human trait and an accepted principle of psychology.

Warren Buffett put his finger on this flaw when he wrote, “Failing conventionally is the route to go; as a group, lemmings may have a rotten image, but no individual lemming has ever received bad press.”

A quote in a quote but so true. Innovative thinking, introducing PLM in a company requires a change. Who needs to be convinced? If you do not have consensus (which usually happens as PLM is vague) you battle against the other lemmings.

Flaw 7: Misestimating future hedonistic states

Social scientists have shown that when people undergo major changes in circumstances, their lives typically are neither as bad nor as good as they had expected—another case of how bad we are at estimating. People adjust surprisingly quickly, and their level of pleasure (hedonistic state) ends up, broadly, where it was before

A typical situation every PLM implementation faces: users complaining they cannot work as efficient anymore due to the new system and their work will be a mess if we continue like this. Implementers start to customize quickly, and we are trapped. Let these people ‘suffer’ with the right guidance and motivation for some months (but this is sometimes not the business model the PLM implementer pushes as they need services as income)

Flaw 8: False consensus

People tend to overestimate the extent to which others share their views, beliefs, and experiences—the false-consensus effect. Research shows many causes, including these:

  • confirmation bias, the tendency to seek out opinions and facts that support our own beliefs and hypotheses

  • selective recall, the habit of remembering only facts and experiences that reinforce our assumptions

  • biased evaluation, the quick acceptance of evidence that supports our hypotheses, while contradictory evidence is subjected to rigorous evaluation and almost certain rejection; we often, for example, impute hostile motives to critics or question their competence

  • group-think, the pressure to agree with others in team-based cultures

Although positioned as number 8 by Mr. Roxburgh, I would almost put it on the top when referring to PLM and PLM selection processes. So often a PLM decision has not been made in an objective manner, and PLM selection paths are driven to come to the conclusion we already knew. (Or is this my confirmation bias too )

Conclusion

As scientists describe, and as Mr. Roxburgh describes our strategic thinking is influenced by the brain, and you should be aware of that. PLM is a business strategy and when rethinking your PLM strategy tomorrow, be prepared to avoid these flaws mentioned in this post today.

simpleMy recent posts were around the words Simple (PLM is not simple) and Simplicity  (Human Beings, PLM and Simplicity).  Combined with a blog dialogue with Oleg Shilovitsky (Small manufacturers and search of simple solutions)  and comments to these posts, the theme Simple has been discussed in various ways. Simple should not be confused with Simplicity. The conclusion: A PLM implementation should reduce complexity for an organization, aiming for increasing simplicity. The challenge: Achieving more simplicity is not simple (the picture related to this paragraph)

What does simplicity mean in the context of PLM?

My definition would be that compared to the current state, the future state should bring measurable benefits by reducing or eliminating non-value added activities. Typical non-value added PLM activities are collecting data from various disciplines to get a management understanding, conversion of file formats to support other disciplines or collecting and distributing data for change and approval processes.

If you can reduce or eliminate these steps, significant benefits can be achieved: reducing iterations, increasing quality and (re)acting faster to changes. These benefits are the whole idea behind Digital PLM. See Accenture’s explanation or read my post: Best Practices or Next Practices.DigitalPLM

Simplicity comes from the fact that the user does not need to depend on intermediate people or data formats to have an understanding of “the best so far truth.” Empowered users are a characteristic of modern digital processes. Empowered users need to have different skills than persons working in a traditional environment where exchange and availability of information are more controlled through communication between silos.  Some people can make the change, some will never make the change.

What can you do?

On LinkedIn, I found some good suggestions from Peter Weis in his CIO article: The most painful, gut-wrenching part of leading transformation. Peter’s post is about the challenges within a company going through a transformation and to keep the pace. My favorite part:

For me, the most difficult and gut-wrenching part of leading our transformation was not the technology involved. It was making and acting on those tough decisions about who was not going to succeed. In some cases, people had been with the company for decades and had been rewarded and encouraged for the very work they were no longer required to do. These were good people, skilled talent, who provided a great service to the company – but the technology and the cultural gap were just too wide for them to bridge.

Peter describes a dilemma that many of us consultants should face when implementing a business change. Keeping on board all employees is a mission impossible. But what if you want to keep them all on board?

Reducing complexity by making the system rigid?

One of the companies, I am currently working with, decided to keep all employees on board by demanding for a PLM system that is so rigid and automated that a user cannot make mistakes or wrong decisions. For example: Instead of allowing the user to decide which approval path should be chosen, the predefined workflow should be started where all participants are selected by automation. The idea: reducing the complexity for the (older) user. The user does not have to learn how to navigate in a new environment to decide what is the best option. There is always one option. Simple isn’t it?

I believe it reduces any user to a person that clicks on buttons and writes some comments. It is not about real empowerment.

There are two downsides to this approach

  • To make the PLM system, so incredibly rigid additional customizations are needed (which come with a cost). However more costly will be the upgrades in the future and the maintenance of every change in business process which is hard coded currently.
  • The system will be so rigid that even future, more digital native users, will dislike the system as it does not challenge them to think. Implementing the past or pushing for the future?

My challenge:

  • A rigid system creates the illusion that the system is secure and simple for the existing employees (who you do not want to challenge to change)
  • A rigid system leads by default to complexity in the future with high costs of change.

I am curious to learn how you would approach my challenge (a PLM consultant’s challenge)
Making the customer happy or being the “bad news” guy who creates fear for the future?
I assume a topic many PLM consultants should face nowadays – your opinion?

My last blog post was about reasons why PLM is not simple. PLM supporting a well-planned business transformation requires business change / new ways of working. PLM is going through different stages. We are moving from drawing-centric (previous century), through BOM-centric (currently) towards model-centric (current and future). You can read the post here: PLM is not simple!

I was happy to see  my blog buddy Oleg Shilovitsky chimed in on this theme, with his post: Who needs Simple PLM? Oleg reviewed the stakeholders around a PLM implementation. An analytical approach which could be correct in case predictive human beings were involved. Since human beings are not predictive and my focus is on the combination of PLM and human beings, here are some follow comments on the points Oleg made:

 

Customers (Industrial companies)

Oleg wrote:

A typical PLM customer isn’t a single user. A typical PLM buyer is engineering IT organization purchasing software to solve business problem. His interest to solve business problem, but not really to make it simple. Complex software requires more people, an increased budget and can become an additional reason to highlight IT department skills and experience. End-users hate complex software these days,therefore, usability is desired, but not top priority for enterprise PLM.

My comments on this part: PLM becomes more and more an infrastructure for product information along the whole lifecycle. PLM is no longer an engineering tool provided by IT.

There are now many other stakeholders that need product data, in particular when we are moving to a digital enterprise. A model-based approach connects Manufacturing and Service/Operations through a digital thread. It is the business demanding for PLM to manage their complexity. IT will benefit from a reduction in silo applications.

 

PLM Vendors

Oleg wrote:

…most PLM vendors are far away from a desired level of simplicity. Marketing will like “simple” messages, but if you know how to sell complex software, you won’t be much interested to see “simple package” everyone can sell. However, for the last decade, PLM vendors were criticized a lot for complexity of their solutions, so they are pretty much interested how to simplify things and present it as a competitive differentiation.

 

Here we are aligned. All PLM vendors are dreaming of simplifying their software. Imagine: if you have a simple product everyone can use, you would be the market leader and profitable like crazy without a big effort as the product is simple. Of course, this only works, assuming this dream can be realized.

Some vendors believe that easy customization or configuration of the system means simplification. Others believe a simple user-interface is the key differentiator. Compared to mass-consumer software products in the market, a PLM system is still a niche product, with a limited amount of users working with the exact same version of the software. Combined with the particular needs (customizations) every company has (“we are different”), there will never be a simple PLM solution. Coming back to the business transformation theme, human beings are the weakest link.

 

Implementation and Service Providers

Oleg wrote:

Complex software, customization, configuration, know-hows, best practices, installation… you name it.More of these things can only lead to more services which is core business of PLM service providers. PLM industry is very much competitive, but simplicity is not a desired characteristic for PLM when it comes to service business. Guess what… customer can figure it out how to make it and stop paying for services.

Here we are totally aligned. In the past, I have been involved in potential alliances where certain service providers evaluated SmarTeam as a potential tool for their business. In particular, the major PLM service providers did not see enough value in an easy to configure and relatively cheap product. Cheap means no budget for a huge amount of services.

Still, the biggest problem SmarTeam had after ten years was the fact that every implementation became a unique deployment. Hard to maintain and guarantee for the future. In particular, when new functionality was introduced which potentially already existed as customization.  Implementation and service providers will never say NO to a customer when it comes to further customization of the system. Therefore, the customer should be in charge and own the implementation. For making strategic decision support can come from a PLM consultant or coach.

 

PLM Consultants

Here Oleg wrote:

Complex software can lead to good consulting revenues. It was true many years for enterprise software. Although, most of PLM consultants are trying to distant from PLM software and sell their experience “to implement the future”, simplicity is not a favorite word in consulting language. Customer will hire consulting people to figure out the future and how to transform business, but what if software is simple enough to make it happen without consultant? Good question to ask, but most of them will tell you it is not a realistic scenario. Which is most probably true today. But here is the hint – remember the time PC technicians knew how to configured jumpers on PC cards to make printer actually print something?

Here we are not aligned. Business transformations will never happen because of simple tools. People are measured and pushed to optimize their silos in the organization. A digital transformation, which is creating a horizontal flow and transparency of information, will never happen through a tool. The organization needs to change, and this is always driven by a top-down strategy. PLM consultants are valuable to explain the potential future, to coach all levels of the organization. In theory, a PLM consultant’s job is tool independent. However, the challenge of being completely disconnected from the existing tools might allow for dreams that never can be realized. In reality, most PLM consultants are experienced in one or more specific tools they have been implementing. The customer should be aware of that and make sure they own the PLM roadmap.

My conclusion:

Don’t confuse PLM with a tool, simple or complex. All PLM tools have a common base and depending on your industry and company’s vision there will be a short list. However, before you touch the tools, understand your business and the transformation path you want to take. And that is not simple !!

 

Your opinion?

Oleg and I can continue this debate for a long time.  We would be interested in learning your view on PLM and Simplicity – please tune in through the comments section below:

simple

In my previous post, I shared my thoughts Why PLM is the forgotten domain in digital transformation. Legacy data, (legacy) people and slow organizations are the main inhibitors to moving forward. Moreover, all this legacy makes it hard to jump on the digital wagon.

When you talk with vendors and implementers of PLM solutions, they will all focus on the fact that with their solution and support PLM is simple. It is simple because:plm-vendor_thumb.jpg

  • We have the largest market share in your industry segment
  • We have the superior technology
  • We are cloud-based
  • We are insane customizable
  • Gartner is talking about us
  • We have implemented at 100+ similar companies

For my customers, implementing PLM was never simple as every PLM implementation was driving a business change. In the early days of SmarTeam, we had the theme “We work the way you work”, which is in hindsight a very bad statement. You do not want to automate the way a company is currently working. You want to use a PLM implementation to support a business change.

Never implement the past, implement the future

And there are changes ……

When I was discussing PLM with my potential customers ten years ago, the world was different. PLM was in a transition from being a PDM-tool from engineering into an extended PDM-tool centered around product development. A major theme for this kind of implementations was to move from a document-driven environment towards an item-centric environment. Instead of managing documents (CAD files and other files like Excel) the implementation was based on providing a data continuity, where the item (the physical part or in SAP terms the material) would be the main information placeholder. The continuity is implemented around EBOMs and MBOMs and thanks to automation the MBOM can be connected to the ERP system in a continuous flow.

Just search for item-centric or BOM-centric, and you will find many references from vendors and consultants for this approach.  Implementing PLM item-centric is already a big step forward in efficiency and quality for companies. However,…

Never implement the past, implement the future

And there will be changes …..

youtube

Digital Transformation & PLM on YouTube

Digital transformation is changing the way we do business and is changing the way companies should organize their data. A BOM-centric approach is no longer the ultimate implementation concept. To support a digital enterprise, the next step is a model-based enterprise. The model (not necessary the 3D-model) and its maturity and configurations are intended to be the reference for an organization. The model and its representation can connect hardware and software in a data-driven environment through the whole lifecycle. A model is needed to support smart manufacturing and the digital twin concept.There are many impressive marketing movies on YouTube explaining how companies/vendors implement digital continuity. Unfortunate the gap between marketing and reality is big at this time because moving to a model based enterprise is not an easy step. Coming back to the LEGACY-statement at the beginning of this post, it is not simple.

We all have to learn

PDT2017Digital transformation is just starting in the domain of PLM. Sharing and collecting knowledge is crucial, independent from particular solutions. For me, the upcoming PDT-conference in October is going to be a reference point where we are on this journey. In case your company has the experience to share related to this topic, please react to this link: http://pdteurope.com/call-for-abstract-now-open/

In case you want to learn and believe it is not simple, wait till the program it will be announced. The PDT conference has always been a conference where details are discussed. Looking forward and discuss with you.

Conclusion

Implementing and continuing with PLM is not simple for a company due to changes in paradigms. Digital transformation forces companies to investigate the details how to make it happen. Implementing PLM in scope of a digital transformation requires learning and time, not products first.

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