As I promised I would be enjoying my holidays in the upcoming month there as still a few points I want to share with you.

Not a real blog post, more an agenda and a set of questions for potential follow-up.

Here are five topics for the upcoming months, potentially also relevant and interesting for you. Have a look.

 

Peer Check

This week the discussion I had with Adam Keating, Colab’s CEO and founder, was published on their podcast channel, Peer Check. As I slowly discovered the content, I mentioned their podcast in my last blog post.  I was impressed by the first episodes I could listen to and listened to all of them last week.

Digesting the content from these episodes, I have the impression that we are following Adam’s or Collab’s lifecycle. From understanding the market, the people, and the industry towards the real collaboration topics, like MBD, their product offering and ultimately the connection with PLM. I am curious about what is next.

For me discovering their podcast and being able to participate was an exciting and learning moment. I am still waiting for the readers of this blog to mention their favorite podcasts.

Let us know in the comments.

PLM Global Green Alliance

With the PLM Global Green Alliance (PGGA), we plan to have monthly ZOOM discussions with our LinkedIn members, moderated by one of the PGGA core team members.

The idea of these sessions is that we pick a topic, the moderator sets the scene and then it is up to the members to discuss.

Participants can ask questions and bring in their points. In our understanding, many companies believe they have to do something about sustainability beyond writing it in their mission, but where and how to start?

So the PGGA discussion will be a place to get inspired and act.

Potential topics for the discussion are: What technologies must I master to become more sustainable? How can I motivate my company to become real sustainable? What is a lifecycle assessment (LCA), and how to introduce it in my company? What is the circular economy, and what is needed to become more circular in the context of PLM?

If you like one of the topics, let us know in the comments or add your favorite discussion topic. More on the agenda in early September

 

PGGA meets ….

In this series with PLM vendors and solution providers, we try to understand their sustainability drivers, their solutions, their roadmap and their perception of what is happening in the field. So far, SAP, Autodesk and Dassault Systèmes have contributed to these series. After the summer, we continue with two interviews:

Early in September, the PGGA will discuss sustainability with Sustaira. Sustaira is a Siemens partner, and they offer an all-in-one Sustainability platform, domain-specific Sustainability app templates, and custom Sustainability web and mobile initiatives. Expect the interview to be published early in September.

In the last week of September, the PGGA will have a meeting with Aras in our series related to sustainability. Aras is one of the main PLM providers and we will discuss sustainability even more with them as you can read further on in this agenda. Expect the interview to be released by the end of September.

No actions here for you, just stay tuned in September with the PGGA.

 

CIMdata PLM Roadmap and PDT

On 18 and 19 October, the CIMdata PLM Road Map and PDT 2022 Conference is scheduled as an in-person event in Gothenburg.

The agenda is almost secured and can be found here.

It will be a conference with guidance from CIMdata and Eurostep completed with major Aerospace, Defense and Automotive companies sharing their experience towards a model-based and digital enterprise.

So no marketing but real content; however, there will also be forward-looking presentations related to new PLM paradigms and the relation to data and sustainability.

So if you are curious, come to his conference as you will be triply rewarded: by the content, the keynotes and discussions with your peers.

Register before September 12 to benefit from a 15 % Early Bird discount, which you can spend for the dinner after day 1. The conference dinner has always been a good moment for networking and discussion.

 

A Sustainable Future – Seize Opportunities When Someone Else Sees Costs

Last part of this agenda.

On  October 25th, I will participate as a PGGA member in a webinar with Aras, discussing sustainability in more depth compared to our earlier mentioned standard PGGA interview.

Here I will be joined by Patrick Willemsen from Aras. Patrick is the technical director of the Aras EMEA community, and together we will explore how companies aiming to deliver profitable products and solutions also can contribute to a more sustainable future for our planet.

Feel free to subscribe to this free webinar and discuss your thoughts with us in the Q&A session – here is the registration link.

 

Conclusion

No conclusion this time – all thinking is in progress and I hope to see your feedback or contribution to one of these events in person or through social media.

July and August are the quiet summer months here in Europe when companies slow down to allow people to recharge themselves.

However, the speed and hectic are not the same overall, nor is the recharging time. I will be entering a six-week thinking break, assembling thoughts to explore after the summer break. Here are some topics – and you may note – they are all connected.

The MBOM discussion

Although my German is not as good as my English, I got intrigued by a post from Prof. Dr. Jörg W. Fischer.

He claims there is no meaning to the MBOM  and, therefore, the “expensive” PLM concept of the MBOM has to disappear – read the original post here.

Jörg claims there are three reasons why the MBOM why we should not speak about the MBOM – here are the google translated quotes – and I left out some details to keep a place for the thoughts – not the answer yet:

  1. The MBOM as the structure for deriving the assembly drawings. No BOM! (here, I fully agree)
  2. The structure that comes out as a result when planning the assembly. Again, no BOM. (here, I tend to agree – however, we could extend this structure to an MBOM)
  3. The MBOM as the classic parts list in the ERP, the one with which the MRP run is performed. Is that an MBOM? Until recently, I thought so. But it isn’t. So again, no MBOM. (here, I tend to agree – however, we could extend this structure to an MBOM)

The topic on LinkedIn here initiated an interesting sharing of viewpoints. I am quite aligned with Martin Eigner’s comment. It is a pity that this type of discussion is hidden in a LinkedIn environment and in the German language. It would be great to discuss such a topic at a PLM conference. For example, the CIMdata PLM roadmap conference had several Multiview BOM discussions coming from Aerospace and Defense action groups.

Perhaps comparing these two viewpoints – preferably in English – could lead to a better understanding for all of us. Now communication language and system dependencies might blur the methodology discussion.

Cheryl Peck (CIMdata PLM Roadmap organizer)/ Jörg W. Fischer, are you open to this suggestion? BOM discussions have always been popular.

PLM Roadmap & PDT 2022

The good news is the upcoming PLM Roadmap & PDT 2022 event is scheduled as an in-person event on the 18th and 19th of October in Gothenburg, Sweden. Let’s hope no new corona-variant will destroy this plan. I am confident to be there as the Swedish COVID-19 approach has kept society open as much as possible.

Therefore, I am collecting my topics to discuss and preparing my luggage and presentation to be there.

The theme of the conference: Digital Transformation and PLM – a call for PLM Professionals to redefine and re-position the benefits and value of PLM, is close to my experience.

New PLM paradigms are coming up, while at the same time, we are working on solidifying existing concepts, like the Multiview BOM. The PDT part of the conference always brought interesting sessions related to sustainability and, often, the circular economy.

I am curious to see the final agenda. Hakan Karden already gave us some insights into why it is good to be curious – read it here.

Sustainability

Talking and learning about sustainability at PDT Europe is not a luxury. In particular, we experienced an unforeseen heatwave in western Europe, reminding us that the climate is not slowing down. More the contrary, rapid climate change caused by human influence becomes more and more visible.

Unfortunately, the people that suffer from droughts, bushfires, and famine are not the ones that can be held responsible for these effects. It is a global crisis, and the strongest shoulders must carry the weight to address these issues.

In that context, we had an internal meeting with the PLM Global Green Alliance core team members to plan our activities for the rest of the year.

Besides interviews with PLM vendors and technology solution providers, we want to create opportunities for PGGA members to discuss PLM technology, methodology or change topics of interest, moderated by one of our core team members.

One of our observations is that awareness of the need for a more sustainable society exists. In polls all around the world, the majority of people mention their concerns.

However, where to start? What does matter, and how to influence companies as individuals? We also need to learn what is real and what is greenwashing. Therefore we want to schedule open discussions with PGGA members (are you already a member?) to share knowledge and thoughts about a topic. More about the agenda after the summer break.

Discussions & Podcasts

While I remain open for discussions and those who contacted me with a direct message on LinkedIn will acknowledge there is always a follow-up.

Whenever I have time – most of the time, I target Fridays for ad-hoc discussions – I am happy to schedule a zoom session to learn and discuss a particular topic without obligations. It will be a discussion, not a consult.

During Covid-lockdowns, I learned to appreciate podcasts. While making the daily walk through the same environment, the entertainment came from listening to an interesting podcast.

I learned a lot about history, mysteries, and human behavior. Of course, I was also looking for PLM-related podcasts. Of course, the major vendors found their way to podcasts too. However, I think they are often too slick, only highlighting a vision and not enough discussing what really happens in the field.

Starting a PLM-related podcast, and I want to highlight three of them

The Share PLM podcast, with 11 episodes, started promising in 2020. After a first start, it becomes difficult to deliver continuous new content.

Currently, I am talking with the Share PLM team to see how we can build this continuity and extend the content. There are so many interesting persons in our network that have valuable opinions about PLM to share. More after the summer

The Peer Check podcast from CoLab is not a typical PLM podcast. More a focus on what engineering leaders should know. They started in 2022 and have already published ten episodes. I am in the process of listening to all of them, and I found them very refreshing.

This week I was happy to join Adam Keating, founder of CoLab, in a discussion related to Systems of Record and Systems of Engagement. More new after the summer.

The Change Troubleshooter podcast from Nina Dar, with already 34 episodes, is a podcast not focusing on PLM purely. Although Nina has a background in coaching PLM implementations, her episodes are around A Human Approach to Innovation and Change. You can imagine it is quite aligned with my area of interest.

In particular, Nina and I are having some side discussions about sustainability and (the lack of) human behavior to address climate change. You might hear more from Nina through our PGGA community.

More podcasts?

I am curious to learn if similar podcasts exist to the topics I mentioned in this post. If so, provide a link in the comments. With enough feedback, I will publish a top-ten list this year’s end.

 

Conclusion

In a society that seems to behave as if everything is black and white, to be solved by a tweet, we need people that can build a colorful opinion.  Conferences, discussions and podcasts can help you remain curious and learn. As it must be extremely boring if you know already everything.

Have a great summertime.

 

In the last weeks, I had several discussions related to sustainability. What can companies do to become sustainable and prove it? But, unfortunately, there is so much greenwashing at this moment.

Look at this post: 10 Companies and Corporations Called Out For Greenwashing.

Therefore I thought about which practical steps a company should take to prepare for a sustainable future, as the change will not happen overnight. It reminds me of the path towards a digital, model-based enterprise (my other passion). In my post Why Model-Based definition is important for all, I mentioned that MBD (Model-Based Definition) could be considered the first stepping-stone toward a Model-Based enterprise.

The analogy for Material Compliance came after an Aras seminar I watched a month ago. The webinar How PLM Paves the Way for Sustainability with  Insensia (an Aras implementer) demonstrates how material compliance is the first step toward sustainable product development.

Let’s understand why

The first steps

Companies that currently deliver solutions mostly only focus on economic gains. The projects or products they sell need to be profitable and competitive, which makes sense if you want a future.

And this would not have changed if the awareness of climate impact has not become apparent.

First, CFKs and hazardous materials lead to new regulations. Next global agreements to fight climate change – the Paris agreement and more to come – have led and will lead to regulations that will change how products will be developed. All companies will have to change their product development and delivery models when it becomes a global mandate.

A required change is likely going to happen. In Europe, the Green Deal is making stable progress. However, what will happen in the US will be a mystery as even their supreme court becomes a political entity against sustainability (money first).

Still, compliance with regulations will be required if a company wants to operate in a global market.

What is Material Compliance?

In 2002, the European Union published a directive to restrict hazardous substances in materials. The directive, known as RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances), was mainly related to electronic components. In the first directive, six hazardous materials were restricted.

The most infamous are Cadmium(Cd), Lead(Pb), and Mercury (Hg). In 2006 all products on the EU market must pass RoHS compliance, and in 2011 was now connected the CE marking of products sold in the European market was.

In 2015 four additional chemical substances were added, most softening PVC but also affecting the immune system. Meanwhile, other countries have introduced similar RoHS regulations; therefore, we can see it as a global restricting. Read more here: The RoHS guide.

Consumers buying RoHS-compliant products now can be assured that none of the threshold values of the substances is reached in the product. The challenge for the manufacturer is to go through each of the components of the MBOM. To understand if it contains one of the ten restricted substances and, if yes, in which quantity.

Therefore, they need to get that information from each relevant supplier a RoHS declaration.

Besides RoHS, additional regulations protect the environment and the consumer. For example, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) compliance deals with the regulations created to improve the environment and protect human health. In addition, REACH addresses the risks associated with chemicals and promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of substances.

The compliance process in four steps

Material compliance is most of all the job of engineers. Therefore around 2005, some of my customers started to add RoHS support to their PLM environment.

 

Step 1

The image below shows the simple implementation – the PDF-from from the supplier was linked to the (M)BOM part.

An employee had to manually add the substances into a table and ensure the threshold values were not reached. But, of course, there was already a selection of preferred manufacturer parts during the engineering phase. Therefore RoHS compliance was almost guaranteed when releasing the EBOM.

But this process could be done more cleverly.

 

Step 2

So the next step was that manufacturers started to extend their PLM data model with the additional attributes for RoHS compliance. Again, this could be done cleverly or extremely generic, adding the attributes to all parts.

So now, when receiving the material declaration, a person just has to add the substance values to the part attributes. Then, through either standard functionality or customization, a compliance report could be generated for the (M)BOM. So this already saves some work.

 

Step 3

The next step was to provide direct access to these attributes to the supplier and push the supplier to do the work.

Now the overhead for the manufacturer has been reduced again. This is because only the supplier needs to do the job for his customer.

 

Step 4

In step 4, we see a real connected environment, where information is stored only once, referenced by manufacturers, and kept actual by the part suppliers.

Who will host the RoHS databank? From some of my customer projects, I recall IHS as a data provider – it seems they are into this business when you look at their website HERE.

 

Where is your company at this moment?

Having seen the four stepping-stones leading towards efficient RoHS compliance, you see the challenge of moving from a document-driven approach to a data-driven approach.

Now let’s look into the future. Concepts like Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) or a Digital Product Passport (DPP) will require a fully connected approach.

Where is your company at this moment – have you reached RoHS compliance step 3 or 4? A first step to learn and work connected and data-driven.

 

Life Cycle Assessment – the ultimate target

A lifecycle assessment, or lifecycle analysis (two times LCA again), is a methodology to assess the environmental impact of a product (or solution) through its whole lifecycle. From materials sourcing, manufacturing, transportation, usage, service, and decommissioning. And by assessing, we mean a clear, verifiable, and shareable manner, not just guessing.

Traditional engineering education is not bringing these skills, although LCA is not new, as this 10-years old YouTube movie from Autodesk illustrates:

What is new is that due to global understanding, we are reaching the limits of what our planet can endure; we must act now. Upcoming international regulations will enforce life cycle analysis reporting for manufacturers or service providers. This will happen gradually.

Meanwhile, we all should work on a circular economy, the major framework for a sustainable planet- click on the image on the left.

In my post, I wrote about these combined topics: SYSTEMS THINKING – a must-have skill in the 21st century.

 

Life Cycle Analysis – Digital Twin – Digitization

The big elephant in the room is that when we talk about introducing LCA in your company, it has a lot to do with the digitization of your company. Assessment data in a document can require too much human effort to maintain the data at the right quality. The costs are not affordable if your competitor is more efficient.

When coming to the Analysis part, here, a model-based, data-driven infrastructure is the most efficient way to run virtual analysis, using digital twin concepts at each stage of the product lifecycle.

Virtual models for design, manufacturing and operations allow your company to make trade-off studies with low cost before committing to the physical world. 80 % of the environmental impact of a product comes from decisions in the virtual world.

Once you have your digital twins for each phase of the product lifecycle, you can benchmark your models with data reported from the physical world. All these interactions can be found in the beautiful Boeing diamond below, which I discussed before – Read A digital twin for everybody.

 

Conclusion

Efficient and sustainable life cycle assessment and analysis will come from connected information sources. The old document-driven paradigm is too costly and too slow to maintain. In particular, when the scope is not only a subset of your product, it is your full product and its full lifecycle with LCA. Another stepping stone towards the near future. Where are you?

 

Stepping-stone 1:            From Model-Based Definition to an efficient Model-Based, Data-driven Enterprise

Stepping-stone 2:            For RoHS compliance to an efficient and sustainable Model-Based, data-driven enterprise.

A month ago, I wrote: It is time for BLM – PLM is not dead, which created an anticipated discussion. It is practically impossible to change a framed acronym. Like CRM and ERP, the term PLM is there to stay.

However, it was also interesting to see that people acknowledge that PLM should have a business scope and deserves a place at the board level.

The importance of PLM at business level is well illustrated by the discussion related to this LinkedIn post from Matthias Ahrens referring to the CIMdata roadmap conference CEO discussion.

My favorite quote:

Now it’s ‘lifecycle management,’ not just EDM or PDM or whatever they call it. Lifecycle management is no longer just about coming up with new stuff. We’re seeing more excitement and passion in our customers, and I think this is why.”

But it is not that simple

This is a perfect message for PLM vendors to justify their broad portfolio. However, as they do not focus so much on new methodologies and organizational change, their messages remain at the marketing level.

In the field, there is more and more awareness that PLM has a dual role. Just when I planned to write a post on this topic, Adam Keating, CEO en founder of CoLab, wrote the post System of Record meet System of Engagement.

Read the post and the comments on LinkedIn. Adam points to PLM as a System of Engagement, meaning an environment where the actual work is done all the time. The challenge I see for CoLab, like other modern platforms, e.g., OpenBOM, is how it can become an established solution within an organization. Their challenge is they are positioned in the engineering scope.

I believe for these solutions to become established in a broader customer base, we must realize that there is a need for a System of Record AND System(s) of Engagement.

In my discussions related to digital transformation in the PLM domain, I addressed them as separate, incompatible environments.

See the image below:

Now let’s have a closer look at both of them

What is a System of Record?

For me, PLM has always been the System of Record for product information. In the coordinated manner, engineers were working in their own systems. At a certain moment in the process, they needed to publish shareable information, a document(e.g., PDF) or BOM-table (e.g., Excel). The PLM system would support New Product Introduction processes, Release and Change Processes and the PLM system would be the single point of reference for product data.

The reason I use the bin-image is that companies, most of the time, do not have an advanced information-sharing policy. If the information is in the bin, the experts will find it. Others might recreate the same information elsewhere,  due to a lack of awareness.

Most of the time, engineers did not like PLM systems caused by integrations with their tools. Suddenly they were losing a lot of freedom due to check-in / check-out / naming conventions/attributes and more. Current PLM systems are good for a relatively stable product, but what happens when the product has a lot of parallel iterations (hardware & software, for example). How to deal with Work In Progress?

Last week I visited the startup company PAL-V in the context of the Dutch PDM Platform. As you can see from the image, PAL-V is working on the world’s first Flying Car Production Model. Their challenge is to be certified for flying (here, the focus is on the design) and to be certified for driving (here, the focus is on manufacturing reliability/quality).

During the PDM platform session, they showed their current Windchill implementation, which focused on managing and providing evidence for certification. For this type of company, the System of Record is crucial.

Their (mainly) SolidWorks users are trained to work in a controlled environment. The Aerospace and Automotive industries have started this way, which we can see reflected in current PLM systems.

Image: Aras impression of the digital thread

And to finish with a PLM buzzword: modern systems of record provide a digital thread.

 

What is a System of Engagement?

The characteristic of a system of engagement is that it supports the user in real-time. This could be an environment for work in progress. Still, more importantly, all future concepts from MBSE, Industry 4.0 and Digital Twins rely on connected and real-time data.

As I previously mentioned, Digital Twins do not run on documents; they run on reliable data.

A system of engagement is an environment where different disciplines work together, using models and datasets. I described such an environment in my series The road to model-based and connected PLM. The System of Engagement environment must be user-friendly enough for these experts to work.

Due to the different targets of a system engagement, I believe we have to talk about Systems of Engagement as there will be several engagement models on a connected (federated) set of data.

Yousef Hooshmand shared the Daimler paper: “From a Monolithic PLM Landscape to a Federated Domain and Data Mesh” in that context. Highly recommended to read if you are interested in a potential PLM future infrastructure.

Let’s look at two typical Systems of Engagement without going into depth.

The MBSE System of Engagement

In this environment, systems engineering is performed in a connected manner, building connected artifacts that should be available in real-time, allowing engineers to perform analysis and simulations to construct the optimal virtual solution before committing to physical solutions.

It is an iterative environment. Click on the image for an impression.

The MBSE space will also be the place where sustainability needs to start. Environmental impact, the planet as a stakeholder,  should be added to the engineering process. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) defining the process and material choices will be fed by external data sources, for example, managed by ecoinvent, Higg and others to come. It is a new emergent market.

The Digital Twin

In any phase of the product lifecycle, we can consider a digital twin, a virtual data-driven environment to analyze, define and optimize a product or a process. For example, we can have a digital twin for manufacturing, fulfilling the Industry 4.0 dreams.

We can have a digital twin for operation, analyzing, monitoring and optimizing a physical product in the field. These digital twins will only work if they use connected and federated data from multiple sources. Otherwise, the operating costs for such a digital twin will be too high (due to the inefficiency of accurate data)

In the end, you would like to have these digital twins running in a connected manner. To visualize the high-level concept, I like Boeing’s diamond presented by Don Farr at the PDT conference in 2018 – Image below:

Combined with the Daimler paper “From a Monolithic PLM Landscape to a Federated Domain and Data Mesh.” or the latest post from Oleg Shilovistky How PLM Can Build Ontologies? we can start to imagine a Systems of Engagement infrastructure.

 

You need both

And now the unwanted message for companies – you need both: a system of record and potential one or more systems of engagement. A System of Record will remain as long as we are not all connected in a blockchain manner. So we will keep producing reports, certificates and baselines to share information with others.

It looks like the Gartner bimodal approach.

An example: If you manage your product requirements in your PLM system as connected objects to your product portfolio, you will and still can generate a product specification document to share with a supplier, a development partner or a certification company.

So do not throw away your current System of Record. Instead, imagine which types of Systems of Engagement your company needs. Most Systems of Engagement might look like a siloed solution; however, remember they are designed for the real-time collaboration of a certain community – designers, engineers, operators, etc.

The real challenge will be connecting them efficiently with your System of Record backbone, which is preferable to using standard interface protocols and standards.

 

The Hybrid Approach

For those of you following my digital transformation story related to PLM, this is the point where the McKinsey report from 2017 becomes actual again.

 

Conclusion

The concepts are evolving and maturing for a digital enterprise using a System of Record and one or more Systems of Engagement. Early adopters are now needed to demonstrate these concepts to agree on standards and solution-specific needs. It is time to experiment (fast). Where are you in this process of learning?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While preparing my presentation for the Dutch Model-Based Definition solutions event, I had some reflections and experiences discussing Model-Based Definition. Particularly in traditional industries. In the Aerospace & Defense, and Automotive industry, Model-Based Definition has become the standard. However, other industries have big challenges in adopting this approach. In this post, I want to share my observations and bring clarifications about the importance.

 

What is a Model-Based Definition?

The Wiki-definition for Model-Based Definition is not bad:

Model-based definition (MBD), sometimes called digital product definition (DPD), is the practice of using 3D models (such as solid models, 3D PMI and associated metadata) within 3D CAD software to define (provide specifications for) individual components and product assemblies. The types of information included are geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), component level materials, assembly level bills of materials, engineering configurations, design intent, etc.

By contrast, other methodologies have historically required the accompanying use of 2D engineering drawings to provide such details.

When I started to write about Model-Based definition in 2016, the concept of a connected enterprise was not discussed. MBD mainly enhanced data sharing between engineering, manufacturing, and suppliers at that time. The 3D PMI is a data package for information exchange between these stakeholders.

The main difference is that the 3D Model is the main information carrier, connected to 2D manufacturing views and other relevant data, all connected in this package.

 

MBD – the benefits

There is no need to write a blog post related to the benefits of MBD. With some research, you find enough reasons. The most important benefits of MBD are:

  • the information is and human-readable and machine-readable. Allowing the implementation of Smart Manufacturing / Industry 4.0 concepts
  • the information relies on processes and data and is no longer dependent on human interpretation. This leads to better quality and error-fixing late in the process.
  • MBD information is a building block for the digital enterprise. If you cannot master this concept, forget the benefits of MBSE and Virtual Twins. These concepts don’t run on documents.

To help you discover the benefits of MBD described by others – have a look here:

 

MBD as a stepping stone to the future

When you are able to implement model-based definition practices in your organization and connect with your eco-system, you are learning what it means to work in a connected matter. Where the scope is limited, you already discover that working in a connected manner is not the same as mandating everyone to work with the same systems or tools. Instead, it is about new ways of working (skills & people), combined with exchange standards (which to follow).

Where MBD is part of the bigger model-based enterprise, the same principles apply for connecting upstream information (Model-Based Systems Engineering) and downstream information(IoT-based operation and service models).

Oleg Shilovitsky addresses the same need from a data point of view in his recent blog: PLM Strategy For Post COVID Time. He makes an important point about the Digital Thread:

Digital Thread is one of my favorite topics because it is leading directly to the topic of connected data and services in global manufacturing networks.

I agree with that statement as the digital thread is like MBD, another steppingstone to organize information in a connected manner, even beyond the scope of engineering-manufacturing interaction. However, Digital Thread is an intermediate step toward a full data-driven and model-based enterprise.

To master all these new ways is working, it is crucial for the management of manufacturing companies, both OEM and their suppliers, to initiate learning programs. Not as a Proof of Concept but as a real-life, growing activity.

Why MBD is not yet a common practice?

If you look at the success of MBD in Aerospace & Defense and Automotive, one of the main reasons was the push from the OEMs to align their suppliers. They even dictated CAD systems and versions to enable smooth and efficient collaboration.

In other industries, there we not so many giant OEMs that could dictate their supply chain. Often also, the OEM was not even ready for MBD. Therefore, the excuse was often we cannot push our suppliers to work different, let’s remain working as best as possible (the old way and some automation)

Besides the technical changes, MBD also had a business impact. Where the traditional 2D-Drawing was the contractual and leading information carrier, now the annotated 3D Model has to become the contractual agreement. This is much more complex than browsing through (paper) documents; now, you need an application to open up the content and select the right view(s) or datasets.

In the interaction between engineering and manufacturing, you could hear statements like:

you can use the 3D Model for your NC programming, but be aware the 2D drawing is leading. We cannot guarantee consistency between them.

In particular, this is a business change affecting the relationship between an OEM and its suppliers. And we know business changes do not happen overnight.

Smaller suppliers might even refuse to work on a Model-Based definition, as it is considered an extra overhead they do not benefit from.

In particular, when working with various OEMs that might have their own preferred MBD package content based on their preferred usage. There are standards; however, OEMs often push for their preferred proprietary format.

It is about an orchestrated change.

Implementing MBD in your company, like PLM, is challenging because people need to be aligned and trained on new ways of working. In particular, this creates resistance at the end-user level.

Similar to the introduction of mainstream CAD (AutoCAD in the eighties) and mainstream 3D CAD (Solidworks in the late nineties), it requires new processes, trained people, and matching tools.

This is not always on the agenda of C-level people who try to avoid technical details (because they don’t understand them – read this great article: Technical Leadership: A Chronic Weakness in Engineering Enterprises.

I am aware of learning materials coming from the US, not so much about European or Asian thought leaders. Feel free to add other relevant resources for the readers in this post’s comments. Have a look and talk with:

Action Engineering with their OSCAR initiative: Bringing MBD Within Reach. I spoke with Jennifer Herron, founder of Action Engineering, a year ago about MBD and OSCAR in my blog post: PLM and Model-Based Definition.

Another interesting company to follow is Capvidia. Read their blog post to start with is MBD model-based definition in the 21st century.

The future

What you will discover from these two companies is that they focus on the connected flow of information between companies while anticipating that each stakeholder might have their preferred (traditional) PLM environment. It is about data federation.

The future of a connected enterprise is even more complex. So I was excited to see and download Yousef Hooshmand’s paper:  ”From a Monolithic PLM Landscape to a Federated Domain and Data Mesh”.

Yousef and some of his colleagues report about their PLM modernization project @Mercedes-Benz AG, aiming at transforming a monolithic PLM landscape into a federated Domain and Data Mesh.

This paper provides a lot of structured thinking related to the concepts I try to explain to my audience in everyday language. See my The road to model-based and connected PLM thoughts.

This paper has much more depth and is a must-read and must-discuss writing for those interested – perhaps an opportunity for new startups and a threat to traditional PLM vendors.

Conclusion

Vellum drawings are almost gone now – we have electronic 2D Drawings. The model-based definition has confirmed the benefits of improving the interaction between engineering, manufacturing & suppliers. Still, many industries are struggling with this approach due to process & people changes needed. If you are not able or willing to implement a model-based definition approach, be worried about the future. The eco-systems will only run efficiently (and survive) when their information exchange is based on data and models. Start learning now.

p.s. just out of curiosity:
If you are model-based advocate support this post with a

 

Once and a while, the discussion pops up if, given the changes in technology and business scope, we still should talk about PLM. John Stark and others have been making a point that PLM should become a profession.

In a way, I like the vagueness of the definition and the fact that the PLM profession is not written in stone. There is an ongoing change, and who wants to be certified for the past or framed to the past?

However, most people, particularly at the C-level, consider PLM as something complex, costly, and related to engineering. Partly this had to do with the early introduction of PLM, which was a little more advanced than PDM.

The focus and capabilities made engineering teams happy by giving them more access to their data. But unfortunately, that did not work, as engineers are not looking for more control.

Old (current) PLM

Therefore, I would like to suggest that when we talk about PLM, we frame it as Product Lifecycle Data Management (the definition). A PLM infrastructure or system should be considered the System of Record, ensuring product data is archived to be used for manufacturing, service, and proving compliance with regulations.

In a modern way, the digital thread results from building such an infrastructure with related artifacts. The digital thread is somehow a slow-moving environment, connecting the various as-xxx structures (As-Designed, As-Planned, As-Manufactured, etc.). Looking at the different PLM vendor images, Aras example above, I consider the digital thread a fancy name for traceability.

I discussed the topic of Digital Thread in 2018:  Document Management or Digital Thread. One of the observations was that few people talk about the quality of the relations when providing traceability between artifacts.

The quality of traceability is relevant for traditional Configuration Management (CM). Traditional CM has been framed, like PLM, to be engineering-centric.

Both PLM and CM need to become enterprise activities – perhaps unified.

Read my blog post and see the discussion with Martijn Dullaart, Lisa Fenwick and Maxim Gravel when discussing the future of Configuration Management.

New digital PLM

In my posts, I talked about modern PLM. I described it as data-driven, often in relation to a model-based approach. And as a result of the data-driven approach, a digital PLM environment could be connected to processes outside the engineering domain. I wrote a series of posts related to the potential of such a new PLM infrastructure (The road to model-based and connected PLM)

Digital PLM, if implemented correctly, could serve people along the full product lifecycle, from marketing/portfolio management until service and, if relevant, decommissioning). The bigger challenge is even connecting eco-systems to the same infrastructure, in particular suppliers & partners but also customers. This is the new platform paradigm.

Some years ago, people stated IoT is the new PLM  (IoT is the new PLM – PTC 2017). Or MBSE is the foundation for a new PLM (Will MBSE be the new PLM instead of IoT? A discussion @ PLM Roadmap conference 2018).

Even Digital Transformation was mentioned at that time. I don’t believe Digital Transformation is pointing to a domain, more to an ongoing process that most companies have t go through. And because it is so commonly used, it becomes too vague for the specifics of our domain. I liked Monica Schnitger‘s LinkedIn post: Digital Transformation? Let’s talk. There is enough to talk about; we have to learn and be more specific.

 

What is the difference?

The challenge is that we need more in-depth thinking about what a “digital transformed” company would look like. What would impact their business, their IT infrastructure, and their organization and people? As I discussed with Oleg Shilovitsky, a data-driven approach does not necessarily mean simplification.

I just finished recording a podcast with Nina Dar while writing this post. She is even more than me, active in the domain of PLM and strategic leadership toward a digital and sustainable future. You can find the pre-announcement of our podcast here (it was great fun to talk), and I will share the result later here too.

What is clear to me is that a new future data-driven environment becomes like a System of Engagement. You can simulate assumptions and verify and qualify trade-offs in real-time in this environment. And not only product behavior, but you can also simulate and analyze behaviors all along the lifecycle, supporting business decisions.

This is where I position the digital twin. Modern PLM infrastructures are in real-time connected to the business. Still, PLM will have its system of record needs; however, the real value will come from the real-time collaboration.

The traditional PLM consultant should transform into a business consultant, understanding technology. Historically this was the opposite, creating friction in companies.

Starting from the business needs

In my interactions with customers, the focus is no longer on traditional PLM; we discuss business scenarios where the company will benefit from a data-driven approach. You will not obtain significant benefits if you just implement your serial processes again in a digital PLM infrastructure.

Efficiency gains are often single digit, where new ways of working can result in double-digit benefits or new opportunities.

Besides traditional pressure on companies to remain competitive, there is now a new additional driver that I have been discussing in my previous post, the Innovation Dilemma. To survive on our planet, we and therefore also companies, need to switch to sustainable products and business models.

This is a push for innovation; however, it requires a coordinated, end-to-end change within companies.

Be the change

When do you decide to change your business model from pushing products to the marker into a business model of Product as a Service? When do you choose to create repairable and upgradeable products? It is a business need. Sustainability does not start with the engineer. It must be part of the (new) DNA of a company.

Interesting to read is this article from Jan Bosch that I read this morning: Resistance to Change. Read the article as it makes so much sense, but we need more than sense – we need people to get involved. My favorite quote from the article:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.

Conclusion

PLM consultants should retrain themselves in System Thinking and start from the business. PLM technology alone is no longer enough to support companies in their (digital/sustainable) transformation. Therefore, I would like to introduce BLM (Business Lifecycle Management) as the new TLA.

However, BLM has been already framed as Black Lives Matter. I agree with that, extending it to ALM (All Lives Matter).

What do you think should we leave the comfortable term PLM behind us for a new frame?

In February, the PLM Global Green Alliance published our first interview discussing the relationship between PLM and Sustainability with the main vendors. We talked with Darren West from SAP.

You can find the interview here: PLM and Sustainability: talking with SAP. We spoke with Darren about SAP’s Responsible Design and Production module, allowing companies to understand their environmental and economic impact by calculating fees and taxes and implement measures to reduce regulatory costs. The high reliance on accurate data was one of the topics in our discussion.

In March,  we interviewed Zoé Bezpalko and Jon den Hartog from Autodesk. Besides Autodesk’s impressive sustainability program, we discussed Autodesk’s BIM technology helping the construction industry to become greener and their Generative Design solution to support the designer in making better material usage or reuse decisions.

The discussion ended with discussing Life Cycle Assessment tools to support the engineer in making sustainable decisions.

In my last blog post, the Innovation Dilemma, I explored the challenges of a Life Cycle Assessment. As it appears, it is not about just installing a tool. The concepts of a data-driven PLM infrastructure and digital twins are strong transformation prerequisites combined with the Inner Development Goals (IDG).

The IDGs are a human attitude needed besides the Sustainability Development Goals.

Therefore we were happy to discuss last week with Florence Verzelen, Executive Vice President Industry, Marketing & Sustainability and Xavier Adam, Worldwide Sustainability Senior Manager from Dassault Systemes. We discussed Dassault Systemes’ business sustainability goals and product offerings based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Have a look at the discussion below:


The slides shown in the recording can be found HERE.

What I learned

Dassault Systemes’ purpose has been to help their customers imagine sustainable innovations capable of harmonizing product, nature, and life for many years. A statement that now is slowly bubbling up in other companies too. Dassault Systemes has set a clear and interesting target for themselves in 2025. In that year two/thirds of their sales should come from solutions that make their customers more sustainable.

Their Eco-design solution is one of the first offerings to reach this objective. Their Life Cycle Assessment solution can govern your (virtual) product design on multiple criteria, not only greenhouse gas emissions.  It will be interesting to follow up on this topic to see how companies make the change internally by relying on data and virtual twins of a product or a manufacturing process.

Want to learn more?

Conclusion

80 % of the environmental impact of products is decided during the design phase. A Lifecycle Assessment Solutions combined with a virtual product model, the virtual design twin, allows you to decide on trade-offs in the virtual space before committing to the physical solution. Creating a data-driven, closed-loop between design, engineering, manufacturing and operations based on accurate data is the envisioned infrastructure for a sustainable future.

Yes, it is not a typo. Clayton Christensen famous book written in 1995 discussed the Innovator’s Dilemma when new technologies cause great firms to fail. This was the challenge two decades ago. Existing prominent companies could become obsolete quickly as they were bypassed by new technologies.

The examples are well known. To mention a few: DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation), Kodak, and Nokia.

Why the innovation dilemma?

This decade the challenge has become different. All companies are forced to become more sustainable in the next ten years. Either pushed by global regulations or because of their customer demands. The challenge is this time different. Besides the priority of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there is also the need to transform our society from a linear, continuous growth economy into a circular doughnut economy.

The circular economy makes the creation, the usage and the reuse of our products more complex as the challenge is to reduce the need for raw materials and avoid landfills.

The circular economy concept – the regular product lifecycle in the middle

The doughnut economy makes the values of an economy more complex as it is not only about money and growth, human and environmental factors should also be considered.

Doughnut Economics: Trying to stay within the green boundaries

To manage this complexity, I wrote SYSTEMS THINKING – a must-have skill in the 21st century, focusing on the logical part of the brain. In my follow-up post, Systems Thinking: a second thought, I looked at the human challenge. Our brain is not rational and wants to think fast to solve direct threats. Therefore, we have to overcome our old brains to make progress.

An interesting and thought-provoking was shared by Nina Dar in this discussion, sharing the video below. The 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) describe what needs to be done. However, we also need the Inner Development Goals (IDGs) and the human side to connect. Watch the movie:

Our society needs to change and innovate; however, we cannot. The Innovation Dilemma.

The future is data-driven and digital.

What is clear to me is that companies developing products and services have only one way to move forward: becoming data-driven and digital.

Why data-driven and digital?

Let’s look at something companies might already practice, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals). This European directive, introduced in 2007, had the aim to protect human health and protect the environment by communicating information on chemicals up and down the supply chain. This would ensure that manufacturers, importers, and their customers are aware of information relating to the health and safety of the products supplied.

The regulation is currently still suffering in execution as most of the reporting and evaluation of chemicals is done manually. Suppliers report their chemicals in documents, and companies report the total of chemicals in their summary reports. Then, finally, authorities have to go through these reports.

Where the scale of REACH is limited, the manual effort to have end-to-end reporting is relatively high. In addition, skilled workers are needed to do the job because reporting is done in a document-based manner.

Life Cycle Assessments (LCA)

Where you might think REACH is relatively simple, the real new challenges for companies are the need to perform Life Cycle Assessments for their products. In a Life Cycle Assessment. The Wiki definition of LCA says:

Life cycle assessment or LCA (also known as life cycle analysis) is a methodology for assessing environmental impacts associated with all the stages of the life cycle of a commercial product, process, or service. For instance, in the case of a manufactured product, environmental impacts are assessed from raw material extraction and processing (cradle), through the product’s manufacture, distribution and use, to the recycling or final disposal of the materials composing it (grave)

This will be a shift in the way companies need to define products. Much more thinking and analysis are required in the early design phases. Before committing to a physical solution, engineers and manufacturing engineers need to simulate and calculate the impact of their design decisions in the virtual world.

This is where the digital twin of the design and the digital twin of the manufacturing process becomes relevant. And remember: Digital Twins do not run on documents – you need connected data and various types of models to calculate and estimate the environmental impact.

LCA done in a document-based manner will make your company too slow and expensive.

I described this needed transformation in my series from last year: The road to model-based and connected PLM – nine posts exploring the technology and concept of a model-based, data-driven PLM infrastructure.

Digital Product Passport (DPP)

The European Commission has published an action plan for the circular economy, one of the most important building blocks of the European Green Deal. One of the defined measures is the gradual introduction of a Digital Product Passport (DPP). As the quality of an LCA depends on the quality and trustworthy information about products and materials, the DPP is targeting to ensure circular economy metrics become reliable.

This will be a long journey. If you want to catch a glimpse of the complexity, read this Medium article: The digital product passport and its technical implementation related to the DPP for batteries.

The innovation dilemma

Suppose you agree with my conclusion that companies need to change their current product or service development into a data-driven and model-based manner. In that case, the question will come up: where to start?

Becoming data-driven and model-based, of course, is not the business driver. However, this change is needed to be able to perform Life Cycle Assessments and comply with current and future regulations by remaining competitive.

A document-driven approach is a dead-end.

Now let’s look at the real dilemmas by comparing a startup (clean sheet / no legacy) and an existing enterprise (experience with the past/legacy). Is there a winning approach?

The Startup

Having lived in Israel – the nation where almost everyone is a startup – and working with startups afterward in the past 10 years, I always get inspired by these people’s energy in startup companies. They have a unique value proposition most of the time, and they want to be visible on the market as soon as possible.

This approach is the opposite of systems thinking. It is often a very linear process to deliver this value proposition without exploring the side effects of such an approach.

For example, the new “green” transportation hype. Many cities now have been flooded with “green” scooters and electric bikes to promote transportation as a service. The idea behind this concept is that citizens do not require to own polluting motorbikes or cars anymore, and transportation means will be shared. Therefore, the city will be cleaner and greener.

However, these “green” vehicles are often designed in the traditional linear way. Is there a repair plan or a plan to recycle the batteries? Reuse of materials used.? Most of the time, not. Please, if you have examples contradicting my observations, let me know. I like to hear good news.

When startup companies start to scale, they need experts to help them grow the company. Often these experts are seasoned people, perhaps close to retirement. They will share their experience and what they know best from the past:  traditional linear thinking.

As a result, even though startup companies can start with a clean sheet, their focus on delivering the product or service blocks further thinking. Instead, the seasoned experts will drive the company towards ways of working they know from the past.

Out of curiosity: Do you know or work in a startup that has started with a data-driven and model-based vision from scratch?  Please add the name of this company in the comments, and let’s learn how they did it.

The Existing company

Working in an established company is like being on board a big tanker. Changing its direction takes a clear eye on the target and navigation skills to come there. Unfortunately, most of the time, these changes take years as it is impossible to switch the PLM infrastructure and the people skills within a short time.

From the bimodal approach in 2015 to the hybrid approach for companies, inspired by this 2017 McKinsey article: Toward an integrated technology operating model, I discovered that this is probably the best approach to ensure a change will happen. In this approach – see image – the organization keeps running on its document-driven PLM infrastructure. This type of infrastructure becomes the system of record. Nothing different from what PLM currently is in most companies.

In parallel, you have to start with small groups of people who independently focus on a new product, a new service. Using the model-based approach, they work completely independently from the big enterprise in a data-driven approach. Their environment can be considered the future system of engagement.

The data-driven approach allows all disciplines to work in a connected, real-time manner. Mastering the new ways of working is usually the task of younger employees that are digital natives. These teams can be completed by experienced workers who behave as coaches. However, they will not work in the new environment; these coaches bring business knowledge to the team.

People cannot work in two modes, but organizations can. As you can see from the McKinsey chart, the digital teams will get bigger and more important for the core business over time. In parallel, when their data usage grows, more and more data integration will occur between the two operation modes. Therefore, the old PLM infrastructure can remain a System of Record and serve as a support backbone for the new systems of engagement.

The Innovation Dilemma conclusion

The upcoming ten years will push organizations to innovate their ways of working to become sustainable and competitive. As discussed before, they must learn to work in a data-driven, connected manner. Both startups and existing enterprises have challenges – they need to overcome the “thinking fast and acting slow” mindset. Do you see the change in your company?

 

Note: Before publishing this post, I read this interesting and complementary post from Jan Bosch Boost your digitalization: instrumentation.

It is in the air – grab it.

 

Two weeks ago, I wrote a generic post related to System Thinking, in my opinion, a must-have skill for the 21st century (and beyond). Have a look at the post on LinkedIn; in particular interesting to see the discussion related to Systems Thinking: a must-have skill for the 21st century.

I liked Remy Fannader’s remark that thinking about complexity was not something new.

This remark is understandable from his personal context. Many people enjoy thinking – it was a respected 20th-century skill.

However, I believe, as Daniel Kahneman describes in his famous book: Thinking Fast and Slow, our brain is trying to avoid thinking.

This is because thinking consumes energy, the energy the body wants to save in the case of an emergency.

So let’s do a simple test (coming from Daniel):

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A bat and a ball cost together $ 1.10 –  the bat costs one dollar more than the ball. So how much does the ball cost?

Look at the answer at the bottom of this post. If you have it wrong, you are a fast thinker. And this brings me to my next point. Our brain does not want to think deeply; we want fast and simple solutions. This is a challenge in a complex society as now we hear real-time information coming from all around the world. What is true and what is fake is hard to judge.

However, according to Kahneman, we do not want to waste energy on thinking. We create or adhere to simple solutions allowing our brains to feel relaxed.

This human behavior has always been exploited by populists and dictators: avoid complexity because, in this way, you lose people. Yuval Harari builds upon this with his claim that to align many people, you need a myth. I wrote about the need for myths in the PLM space a few times, e.g., PLM as a myth? and The myth perception

And this is where my second thoughts related to Systems Thinking started. Is the majority of people able and willing to digest complex problems?

My doubts grew bigger when I had several discussions about fighting climate change and sustainability.

 

 

Both Brains required

By coincidence, I bumped on this interesting article Market-led Sustainability is a ‘Fix that Fails’…

I provided a link to the post indirectly through LinkedIn. If you are a LinkedIn PLM Global Green Alliance member, you can see below the article an interesting analysis related to market-led sustainability, system thinking and economics.

Join the PLM Global Green Alliance group to be part of the full discussion; otherwise, I recommend you visit Both Brains Required, where you can find the source article and other related content.

It is a great article with great images illustrating the need for systems thinking and sustainability. All information is there to help you realize that sustainability is not just a left-brain exercise.

The left brain is supposed to be logical and analytical. That’s systems thinking, you might say quickly. However, the other part of our brain is about our human behavior, and this side is mostly overlooked. My favorite quote from the article:

Voluntary Market-Led activities are not so much a solution to the sustainability crisis as a symptom of more profoundly unsustainable foundations of human behavior.

The article triggered my second thoughts related to systems thinking. Behavioral change is not part of systems thinking. It is another dimension harder to address and even harder to focus on sustainability.

The LinkedIn discussion below the article Market-led Sustainability is a ‘Fix that Fails’… is a great example of the talks we would like to have in our PLM Global Green Alliance group. Nina Dar, Patrick Hillberg and Richard McFall brought in several points worth discussing. Too many to discuss them all here – let’s take two fundamental issues:

1. More than economics

An interesting viewpoint in this discussion was the relation to economics. We don’t believe that economic growth is the main point to measure. Even a statement like:  “Sustainable businesses will be more profitable than traditional ones” is misleading when companies are measured by shareholder value or EBIT (Earnings Before Interest or Taxes). We briefly touched on Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics.

This HBR article mentioned in the discussion: Business Schools Must Do More to Address the Climate Crisis also shows it is not just about systems thinking.
We discussed the challenges of supply chains, not about resilience but about sustainability. Where an OEM can claim to be sustainable, there are often not aware of what happens at the level of their suppliers. As the OEM measure their suppliers mostly on Quality/Reliability and Cost, they usually do not care about local human issues or sustainability issues.

We have seen this in the Apparel industry with the horrible collapse of a factory in Bangladesh  (2013). Still, the inhumane accidents happen in southeast Asia. I like to quote Chris Calverley in his LinkedIn article: Making ethical apparel supply chains achievable on a global scale.

 

No one gets into business because they want to behave unethically. On the contrary, a lack of ethics is usually driven by a common desire to operate more efficiently and increase profit margins. 

In my last post, I shared a similar example from an automotive tier 2  supplier. Unfortunately, suppliers are not measured or rewarded for sustainability efforts; only efficiency and costs are relevant.

The seventeen Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), as defined by the United Nations, are the best guidance for sustainable drivers beyond money. Supporting the SDGs enforce systems thinking when developing a part, a product, or a solution. Many other stakeholders need to be taken care of, at least if you truly support sustainability as a company.

2. The downside of social media

The LinkedIn discussion related to Market-led Sustainability is a ‘Fix that Fails’… The thread shows that LinkedIn, like other social media, is not really interested in supporting in-depth discussions – try to navigate what has been said in chronological order. With Patrick, Nina and Richard, we agreed to organize a follow-up discussion in our PLM Global Green Alliance Group.

And although we are happy with social media as it allows each of us to reach a global audience, there seems to be a worrying contra-productive impact. If you read the book Stolen Focus. A quote:

All over the world, our ability to pay attention is collapsing. In the US, college students now focus on one task for only 65 seconds, and office workers, on average, manage only three minutes

This is worrying, returning to Remy Fannader’s remark: thinking about complexity was not something new. The main difference is that it is not new. However, our society is changing towards thinking too fast, not rewarding systems thinking.

Even scarier, if you have time, read this article from The Atlantic: about the impact of social media on the US Society. It is about trust in science and data. Are we facing the new (Trump) Tower of Babel in our modern society? As the writers state: Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to the country’s future—and to us as a people.

 

I have talked in previous posts about the Dunner-Kruger effect, something that is blocking systems thinking. The image to the left says it all. Due to social media and the safe place behind a keyboard, many of us consider ourselves confident experts explaining to the real expert why they are wrong. For addressing the topics of sustainability and climate change, this attitude is killing. It is the opposite of systems thinking, which costs energy.

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Congratulations

support

The fact that you reached this part of the post means your attention span has been larger than 3 minutes, showing there is hope for people like you and me. As an experiment to discover how many people read the post till here, please answer with the “support” icon if you have reached this part of the post.

I am curious to learn how many of us who saw the post came here.

 

Conclusion

Systems Thinking is a must-have skill for the 21st century. Many of us working in the PLM domain focus on providing support for systems thinking, particularly Life Cycle Assessment capabilities. However, the discussion with Patrick Hillberg, Nina Darr and Richard McFall made me realize there is more: economics and human behavior. For example, can we change our economic models, measuring companies not only for the money profit they deliver? What do?

Answering this type of question will be the extended mission for PLM consultants of the future – are you ready?

 

The answer to the question with the ball and the bat:

A fast answer would say the price of the ball is 10 cents. However, this would make the price of the bat $1.10, giving a total cost of $1.20. So the right answer should be 5 cents. To be honest, I got tricked the first time too. Never too late to confirm you make mistakes, as only people who do not do anything make no mistakes.

In several discussions and posts I wrote, I talked about systems thinking, assuming everyone has the same understanding.

For example last year with the PLM Global Green Alliance (PGGA) we had a discussion with Frank Popielas Managing Partner and Co-founder of SMS_ThinkTank™ related to sustainability. We used the term “Systems Thinking” several times assuming everyone knows the concept.

I should have known better. When using terms in your profession, you always have to verify if the others have the same meaning. Crucial when you start a PLM implementation project.

For example, several years ago, I was asked to audit a PLM implementation that got stalled because the PDM and ERP-system capabilities created a conflict. In my first interview with the PLM team, they mentioned they were quite advanced in Systems Engineering. Everyone in the core team confirmed this. However, when diving into the details of the “Systems Engineering” activities, it appeared that they were talking about (product) Configuration Management.

When working with different people, always make sure you have a common dictionary.

What is a part? What is a material? What is a Workflow, and is it different from a Business Process? And also, for Configuration Management, you often see two definitions.

One focuses on the consistency of the product’s definition, the other more on the allowed configurations of a product. So now let’s dive into Systems Thinking which is not the same as Systems Engineering.

Systems thinking – a definition

When I checked on Wiki, I found this complex definition:

Systems thinking
is a way of making sense of the complexity of the world by looking at it in terms of wholes and relationships rather than by splitting it down into its part. It has been used as a way of exploring and developing effective action in complex contexts. Systems thinking draws on and contributes to systems theory and the system sciences.

A careful reader would extract from this definition that the focus for systems thinking is looking at the bigger picture, the whole, a holistic approach. Of course, when using a holistic approach, you take more relationships or possibilities into account,  which broadens your thinking (or value of your solution). The opposite of Systems Thinking is to focus on a single issue or part and describe it best. Let me explain this by an example:

The BIC ballpoint

You might remember the first BIC ballpoints with the sharp cap when you are as old as me.

This image is from the time I was born. The BIC ballpoint, with the pointed cap, was one of the most popular ballpoints during my teenage years.

In primary school not allowed, as we first had to learn to write with an ink pen or fountain pen. The BIC pen at that time was designed as a product with a single purpose: enabling people to write affordable, comfortable, and fast.

With a more holistic view of the BIC pen, you might say: “What happens when children play with it?” And apparently, there were accidents with children stabbing themselves in the eye with the sharp cap.

And this was indeed the case when considering the BIC ballpoint as a system; other stakeholders and scenarios were considered.

Now the cap is flattened (safe for children). The cap’s open end is apparently there to support performing a tracheotomy when no medical equipment is available (just a sharp knife and the BIC ballpoint are needed).

Don’t try this at home for fun: Performing the Tracheotomy

I hope the example illustrates that you can look at a product differently.

First as a product with a single purpose (single stakeholder) or as a system interacting with other stakeholders (writing, safe for children, first aid support).

System Thinking, therefore, is an attitude which not natural for humans. In his famous book Thinking Fast & Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains that our evolutionary brain always wants to save energy.

Therefore our brain is pushing us to make fast intuitive decisions, not always the ones that you would make after serious thinking.

Systems Thinking costs energy for the brain.

Often we hear that companies want to reduce their costs and time spent on engineering – more efficiency.

Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering are aiming for the opposite – spend more time thinking and analyzing in the virtual world, before committing to the physical world. Fixing issues once you are in the physical world is much more costly than in the virtual world.

Click on the image to see the details.

This brings us to the relationship with Systems Engineering

Systems thinking and Systems Engineering

You could say Systems Engineering is the best example of Systems Thinking. There are various viewpoints on Systems Engineering, best characterized in these two directions (Wiki here):

  • Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary field of engineering and engineering management that focuses on how to design, integrate, and manage complex systems over their life cycles. At its core, systems engineering utilizes systems thinking principles to organize this body of knowledge. The individual outcome of such efforts, an engineered system, can be defined as a combination of components that work in synergy to collectively perform a useful function. Here the focus is on managing in a proven manner complexity
  • Systems engineering focuses on analyzing and eliciting customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem, the system lifecycle. This includes fully understanding all of the stakeholders involved. Here the focus is on delivering the best product for the relevant stakeholders involved, not necessarily managing the complexity of the product.

To manage complexity, we have always used models. The weather forecast is based on models, the profitability of a business is based on models, and the behavior of a product can be predicted and analyzed using models. This is Model-Based Systems Engineering MBSE), and I wrote a lot about the Model-Based approach last year. Read The road to model-based and connected PLM

When it comes to extending the support for different stakeholders, we have seen the example of the BIC ballpoint.

However, when we start to talk about sustainability, we will see that by enlarging the number of stakeholders and their importance, we observe another way of Systems Thinking.

Systems thinking and sustainability

The title of this post is related to the challenges we have with sustainability, our society and even our planet. Currently, reducing carbon emissions gets the highest priority as we see the impact on our planet. Perhaps the awareness is not the same for everyone; the richer you are, the less you might feel impacted by climate change. Still, indisputably it is happening as the IPCC is reporting.

Now let’s look at the relation between systems thinking and sustainability.

Let’s imagine I work for a tier 2 or tier 3 supplier of an OEM. This means the OEM wants a component for their solution with the highest quality and the lowest price.

In the traditional approach, the supplier will try to find the cheapest materials that match the required quality. They will look for the most inexpensive manufacturing process to build their component. Everything extra will reduce their chances of remaining the OEM contractor and profitable. The only stakeholder in this process is the OEM and potentially some existing regulations. For example, ROHS controls the usage of hazardous materials.

Next, imagine a supplier that wants to be more sustainable. They will add sustainability requirements to their component design. They start to treat their product as a system. What would be the difference between choosing material A over material B or choosing production process ABC over production Process XYZ?

If it is up to the OEM, it is only costs, quality and compliance. Suppose the supplier will select an alternative material that has less impact on the environment. For example, recycling or needing less energy (carbon emissions) is easier to produce. In that case, this option might be more expensive. It is up to the OEM to decide if they accept this higher cost price to be more sustainable with their products.

To understand the sustainability of a product, we need to dive into a full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is at the heart of PLM.

When a product or component is designed, the LCA will give you the information related to the impact of your product, assuming you have the accurate data to make the assessment. This is currently one of the major areas to focus on when it comes to sustainability – how can we measure the environmental impact of each part through its whole lifecycle.

With sustainability, the needs are no longer defined by the OEM. Other stakeholders, like authorities and consumers, will also have an impact. Realistically, we will see that mainly regulations will be the biggest driver towards sustainability as consumers still want the lowest price.

Currently, we see this behavior with the rising energy prices. Unfortunately, people complain about the price instead of realizing the price has always been too low. Changing behavior (energy consumption) might be the best path for the future, but that is more difficult than complaining.

Systems Thinking and the Circular Economy

Finally, I want to mention one topic closely related to Systems Thinking and Sustainability: the Circular Economy. The Circular Economy is well explained by the Ellen McArthur Foundation. Follow the link and get educated as the Circular Economy is about a system. A system that tries to minimize the leakage of resources and the need for new raw materials. Each loop is a process to consider.

With the PLM Global Green Alliance, we discussed the circular economy together with Darren West from SAP in our session: PLM and Sustainability: talking with SAP. I hope and trust we will learn more about companies to follow the principle of a circular economy.

Want to learn more?

There is so much more to say about Systems Thinking in general, and I will come back to this topic in a future post. Meanwhile, I recommend this post for all of you who want to learn more about systems thinking and sustainability: Systems Thinking can help build a sustainable world:  A Beginning Conversation from the MAHB (Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere). There is so much to learn and discuss if you are actively looking for it.

Conclusions

Systems Thinking is needed to solve the issues in a complex society. It is an attitude, not a new approach. Systems Thinking helps to manage a complex system, it helps to address sustainability, and it helps fight against populism. Simple answers do not exist – looking to the bigger picture, using systems thinking will make you better informed wherever you are on this limited planet

War is a place where young people who don’t know each other, and don’t hate each other, kill each other, by the decision of old people who know each other, and hate each other, but don’t kill each other…”

 

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