First of all, thank you for the overwhelming response to the survey that I promoted last week: PLM 2021– your goals? It gave me enough inspiration and content to fill the upcoming months.

The first question of the survey was dealing with complementary practices or systems related to a traditional PLM-infrastructure.

As you can see, most of you are curious about Digital Twin management 68 % (it is hype). Second best are Configuration Management, Product Configuration Management and Supplier Collaboration Management, all with 58% of the votes. Click on the image to see the details. Note: you could vote for more than one topic.

Product Configuration Management

Therefore, I am happy to share this blog space with Configit’s CTO, Henrik Hulgaard. Configit is a company specialized in Product Configuration Management, or as they call it, Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM).

Recently Henrik wrote an interesting article on LinkedIn: How to achieve End-To-End Configuration.  A question that I heard several times from my clients. How to align the selling and delivery of configurable products, including sales, engineering and manufacturing?

Configit – the company / the mission

Henrik, thanks for helping me explaining the complementary value of end-to-end Product Configuration Management to traditional PLM systems. First of all, can you give a short introduction to Configit as a company and the unique value you are offering to your clients?

Hi Jos, thank you for having me. Configit has worked with configuration challenges for the last 20 years. We are approximately 200 people and have offices in Denmark, Germany, India, and in the US (Atlanta and Detroit) and work with some of the world’s largest manufacturing companies.

We are founded on patented technology, called Virtual Tabulation. The YouTube movie below explains the term Virtual Tabulation.

Virtual Tabulation compiles EVERY possible configuration scenario and then compresses that data into a very small file so that it can be used by everyone in your team.

Virtual Tabulations enables important capabilities such as:

  • Consolidation of all configuration data, both Engineering and Sales related, into single-source-of-truth.
  • Effortless maintenance of complicated rule data.
  • Fast and error-free configuration engine that provides perfect guidance to the customer across multiple platforms and channels..

As the only vendor, Configit provides a configuration platform that fully supports end-to-end configuration processes, from early design and engineering, over sales and manufacturing to support and service configurable products.

This is what we understand by Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM).

Why Configuration Lifecycle Management?

You have introduced the term Configuration Lifecycle Management – another TLA (Three Letter Acronym) and easy pronounce. However, why would a company being interested to implement Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM)?

CLM is a way to break down the siloed systems traditionally found in manufacturing companies where products are defined in a PLM system, sold using a CRM/CPQ system, manufactured using an ERP system and serviced by typically ad-hoc and home-grown systems.  A CLM system feeds these existing systems with an aligned and consistent view of what variants of a configurable product is available.

Organizations obtain several benefits when aligning across functions on what product variants it offers:

  • Engineering: faster time-to-market, optimized variability, and the assurance to only engineer products that are sold
  • Sales: reducing errors, making sure that what gets quoted is accurate, and reducing the time to close the deal. The configurator provides current, up-to-date, and accurate information.
  • Manufacturing: reducing errors and production stoppages due to miss-builds
  • Service: accurate information about the product’s configuration. The service technician knows precisely what capabilities to expect on the particular product to be serviced.

For example, one of our customers experienced a 95% reduction in the time – from a year to two weeks – it took them to create the configuration models needed to build and sell their products. This reduction meant a significant reduction in time to market and allowed additional product lines to be introduced.

CLM for everybody?

I can imagine that companies with products that are organized for mass-production still wanting to have the mindset of being as flexible as possible on the sales side. What type of companies would benefit the most from a CLM approach?

Any company that offers customized or configurable products or services will need to ensure that what is engineered is aligned with what is sold and serviced. Our customers typically have relatively high complexity with hundreds to thousands of configuration parameters.

CLM is not just for automotive companies that have high volume and high complexity. Many of our customers are in industrial components and machinery, offering complex systems and services. A couple of examples:

Philips Healthcare sells advanced scanners to hospitals and uses CLM to ensure that what is sold is aligned with what can be offered. They also would like to move to sell scanners as a service where the hospital may pay per MR scan.

Thyssenkrupp Elevators sell elevators that are highly customizable based on the needs and environment. The engineering rules start in the CAD environment. They are combined with commercial rules to provide guidance to the customer about valid options.

CLM and Digital Transformation

For me, CLM is an excellent example of what modern, digital enterprises need to do. Having product data available along the whole lifecycle to make real-time decisions. CLM is a connecting layer that allows companies to break the siloes between marketing, sales, engineering and operations. At C-level get excited by that idea as I can see the business value.

Now, what would you recommend realizing this idea?

  • The first step is to move away from talking about parts and instead talk about features when communicating about product capabilities.

This requires that an organization establishes a common feature “language” (sometimes this is called a master feature dictionary) that is shared across the different functions.

As the feature codes are essential in the communication between the functions, the creation and updating of the feature language must be carefully managed by putting people and processes in place to manage them.

  • The next step is typically to make information about valid configurations available in a central place, sometimes referred to as the single source of truth for configuration.

We offer services to expose this information and integrate it into existing enterprise systems such as PLM, ERP and CRM/CPQ.  The configuration models may still be maintained in legacy systems. Still, they are imported and brought together in the CLM system.

Once consuming systems all share a single configuration engine, the organization may move on to improve on the rule authoring and replace the existing legacy rule authoring applications found in PLM and ERP systems with more modern applications such as Configit Ace.

Customer Example: Connecting Sales, R&D and ERP

As can be seen from above, these steps all go across the functional silos. Thus, it is essential that the CLM journey has top-level management support, typically from the CIO.

COVID-19?

Related to COVID-19, I believe companies realized that they had to reconsider their supply chains due to limiting dependencies on critical suppliers. Is this an area where Configit would contribute too?

The digital transformation that many manufacturing companies have worked on for years clearly has been accelerated by the COVID-19 situation, and indeed they might now start to encode information about the critical suppliers in the rules.

We have seen this happening in 2011 with the tsunami in Japan when suddenly supplier could not provide certain parts anymore.  The organization then has to quickly adapt the rules so that the options requiring those parts are no longer available to order.

Therefore, the CLM vision also includes suppliers as configuration knowledge has to be shared across organizations to ensure that what is ordered also can be delivered.

Learning more?

It is clear that CLM is a complementary layer to standard PLM-infrastructures and complementary to CRM and ERP.  A great example of what is possible in a modern, digital enterprise. Where can readers find more information?

Configit offers several resources on Configuration Lifecycle Management on our website, including our blog,  webinars and YouTube videos, e.g., Tech Chat on Manufacturing and Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM)

Besides these continuous growing resources, there is the whitepaper “Accelerating Digital Transformation in Manufacturing with Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM)” available here among other whitepapers.

What I have learned

  • Configuration Lifecycle Management is relevant for companies that want to streamline their business functions, i.e., sales, engineering, manufacturing, and service. CLM will reduce the number of iterations in the process, reduce costly fixing when trying to align to customer demands, and ultimately create more service offerings by knowing customer existing configurations.
  • The technology to implement CLM is there. Configit has shown in various industries, it is possible. It is an example of adding value on top of a digital information infrastructure (CRM, PLM, and ERP)
  • The challenge will be on aligning the different functions to agree and align on one standard configuration authority. Therefore, responsibility should lie at the top-level of an organization, likely the modern CIO or CDO.
  • I was glad to learn that Henrik stated:

    “The first step is to move away from talking about parts and instead talk about features when communicating about product capabilities”.

    A topic I will discuss soon when talking about Product & Portfolio Management with PLM.

Conclusion

It was a pleasure to work with Configit, in particular, Henrik Hulgaard, learning more about Configuration Lifecycle Management or whatever you may name it. More important, I hope you find this post insightful for your understanding if and where it applies to your business.

Always feel free to ask more questions related to the complimentary value of PLM and Product Configuration Management(CLM)

Last week I shared my plans for 2021 related to my blog, virtualdutchman.com. Those of you who follow my blog might have noticed my posts are never short as I try to discuss or explain a topic from various aspects. This sometimes requires additional research from my side. The findings will provide benefits for all of us. We keep on learning.

At the end of the post, I asked you to participate in a survey to provide feedback on the proposed topics. So far, only one percent of my readers have responded to this short survey. The last time I shared a short survey in 2018, the response was much more significant.

Perhaps you are tired of the many surveys; perhaps you did not make it to the end. Please make an effort this time. Here is on more time the survey

The results so far

To understand the topics below, please make sure you have read the previous blog post to understand each paragraph’s context.

PLM understanding

For PLM-related topics that I proposed, Product Configuration Management, Supplier Collaboration Management, and  Digital Twin Management got the most traction. I started preparing for them, combined with a few new suggested topics that I will further explore. You can click on the images below to read the details.

PLM Deep dive

From the suggested topics for a PLM deep-dive, it is interesting to see most respondents want to learn more about Product Portfolio Management and Systems Engineering within PLM. Traditional topics like Enterprise/Engineering Change Management, BOM Management, or PLM implementation methodologies have been considered less relevant.

The PLM Doctor is in

Several questions were coming in for the “PLM Doctor,” and I started planning the first episodes. The formula: A single question and an answer through a video recording – max. 2 – 3 minutes. Suitable for fast consumers of information.

PLM and Sustainability

Here we can see the majority is observing what is happening. Only a few persons reported interest in sustainability and probably not disconnected; they work for a company that takes sustainability seriously.

 

 

PLM and digitization

When discussing PLM’s digitization, I believe one of the fundamental changes that we need to implement (and learn to master) is a more Model-Based approach for each phase of the product life cycle. Also, most respondents have a notion of what model-based means and want to apply these practices to engineering and manufacturing.

 

Your feedback

I think you all have heard this statement before about Lies and Statistics. Especially with social media, there are billions of people digging for statistics to support their theories. Don’t worry about my situation; I would like to make my statement based on some larger numbers, so please take the survey here if you haven’t done so.

 

Conclusion

I am curious about your detailed inputs, and the next blog post will be the first of the 2021 series.

 

 

 

 

 

It Is 2021, and after two weeks’ time-out and reflection, it is time to look forward. Many people have said that 2020 was a “lost year,” and they are looking forward to a fresh restart, back to the new normal. For me, 2020 was the contrary of a lost year. It was a year where I had to change my ways of working. Communication has changed, digitization has progressed, and new trends have become apparent.

If you are interested in some of the details, watch the conversation I had with Rob Ferrone from QuickRelease, just before Christmas: Two Santas looking back to 2020.

It was an experiment with video, and you can see there is a lot to learn for me. I agree with Ilan Madjar’s comment that it is hard to watch two people talking for 20 minutes. I prefer written text that I can read at my own pace, short videos (max 5 min), or long podcasts that I can listen to, when cycling or walking around.

So let me share with you some of the plans I have for 2021, and I am eager to learn from you where we can align.

PLM understanding

I plan a series of blog posts where I want to share PLM-related topics that are not necessarily directly implemented in a PLM-system or considered in PLM-implementations as they require inputs from multiple sources.  Topics in this context are: Configuration Management, Product Configuration Management, Product Information Management, Supplier Collaboration Management, Digital Twin Management, and probably more.

For these posts, I will discuss the topic with a subject matter expert, potentially a vendor or a consultant in that specific domain, and discuss the complementary role to traditional PLM. Besides a blog post, this topic might also be more explained in-depth in a podcast.

The PLM Doctor is in

Most of you might have seen Lucy from the Charley Brown cartoon as the doctor giving advice for 5¢. As an experiment, I want to set up a similar approach, however, for free.

These are my conditions:

  • Only one question at a time.
  • The question and answer will be published in a 2- 3 minute video.
  • The question is about solving a pain.

If you have such a question related to PLM, please contact me through a personal message on LinkedIn, and I will follow-up.

PLM and Sustainability

A year ago, I started with Rich McFall, the PLM Green Global Alliance.  Our purpose to bring people together, who want to learn and share PLM-related practices, solutions,  ideas contributing to a greener and more sustainable planet.

We do not want to compete or overlap with more significant global or local organizations, like the Ellen McArthur Foundation or the European Green Deal.

We want to bring people together to dive into the niche of PLM and its related practices.  We announced the group on LinkedIn; however, to ensure a persistent referential for all information and interactions, we have launched the website plmgreenaliance.com.

Here I will moderate and focus on PLM and Sustainability topics. I am looking forward to interacting with many of you.

PLM and digitization

For the last two years, I have been speaking and writing about the gap between current PLM-practices, based on shareable documents and files and the potential future based on shareable data, the Model-Based Enterprise.

Last year I wrote a series of posts giving insights on how we reached the current PLM-practices. Discovering sometimes inconsistencies and issues due to old habits or technology changes. I grouped these posts on a single blog page with the title:  Learning from the past.

This year I will create a collection of posts focusing on the transition towards a Model-Based Enterprise. Probably the summary page will be called: Working towards the future currently in private mode.

Your feedback

I am always curious about your feedback – to understand in which kind of environment your PLM activities take place. Which topics are unclear? What am I missing in my experience?

Therefore, I created a small anonymous survey for those who want to be interacting with me. On purpose, the link is at the bottom of the post, so when you answer the survey, you get my double appreciation, first for reaching the end of this post and second for answering the survey.

Take the survey here.

Conclusion

Most of us will have a challenging year ahead of us. Sharing and discussing challenges and experiences will help us all to be better in what we are doing. I look forward to our 2021 journey.

For those living in the Northern Hemisphere: This week, we had the shortest day, or if you like the dark, the longest night. This period has always been a moment of reflection. What have we done this year?

Rob Ferrone (Quick Release), the Santa on the left (the leftist), and Jos Voskuil (TacIT), the Santa on the right (the rightist), share in a dialogue their highlights from 2020

Wishing you all a great moment of reflection and a smooth path into a Corona-proof future.

It will be different; let’s make it better.

 

I am still digesting all the content of the latest PLM Roadmap / PDT Fall 2020 conference and the new reality that starts to appear due to COVID-19. There is one common theme:

The importance of a resilient and digital supply chain.

Most PLM implementations focus on aligning disciplines internally; the supply chain’s involvement has always been the next step. Perhaps now it is time to make it the first step? Let’s analyze.

No Time to Market improvement due to disconnected supply chains?

During the virtual fireplace chat at the PLM Roadmap/PDT conference, just as a small bonus. You can read the full story here – the quote:

Marc mentioned a survey Gartner has done with companies in fast-moving industries related to the benefits of PLM. Companies reported improvements in accuracy of product data and product development. They did not see so much a reduced time to market or reduced product development costs. After analysis, Gartner believes the real issue is related to collaboration processes and supply chain practices. Here lead times did not change, nor the number of changes.

Of course, he spoke about fast-moving industries where the interaction was done in a disconnected manner. Gartner believes that the cloud would, for sure, start creating these benefits of a reduced time to market and cost of change when the supply chain is connected.

Therefore I want to point again to an old McKinsey article named The case for Digital Reinvention, published in February 2017. Here the authors looked at the various areas of investment in digital technologies and their ROI.  See the image on the left for the areas investigated and the percentage of companies that invested in these areas at that time.

In the article, you will see the ROI analysis for these areas. For example, the marketing and distribution investments did not necessarily have a positive ROI when disconnected from other improvement areas. Digital supply chains were mentioned as the area with the potential highest ROI. However, another important message in the article for all these areas is: You need to have a complete digitization strategy. This is a point I fail to see in many companies. Often an area gets all the attention, however as it remains disconnected from the rest, the real efficiencies are not there. The McKinsey article ends with the conclusion that the digital winners at that time are the ones with bold strategies win:

we found a mismatch between today’s digital investments and the dimensions in which digitization is most significantly affecting revenue and profit growth. We also confirmed that winners invest more and more broadly and boldly than other companies do

The “connected” supply chain

Image: A&D Action Group – Global Collaboration

Of course, the traditional industries that invented PLM have invested in a kind of connected supply chain. However, is it really a connected supply chain? Aerospace and Defense companies had their supplier portals.

A supplier had to download their information or upload their designs combined with additional metadata.

These portals were completely bespoke and required on both sides “backbreaking” manual work to create, deliver, and validate the required exchange packages. The OEMs were driving the exchange process. More or less, by this custom approach, they made it difficult for suppliers to have their own PLM-environment. The downside of this approach was that the supplier had separate environments for each OEM.

In 2006 I worked with SmarTeam on the concept of the “Supply Chain Express,” an offering that allowed a supplier to have their own environment using SmarTeam as a PDM/PLM-system the Supply Chain Express package to create an intelligent import and export package. The content was all based on files and configurable metadata based on the OEM-Supplier relation.

Some other PLM-vendors or implementers have built similar exchange solutions to connect the world of the OEM and the supplier.

The main characteristic was that it is file-based with custom metadata, often in an XML-format or otherwise using Excel as the metadata carrier.

In my terminology of Coordinated – Connected, this would be Coordinated and “old school.”

 

The “better connected” supply chain

As I mentioned in my previous post about the PLM Roadmap/PDT Fall conference,  Katheryn Bell (Pratt & Whitney Canada) presented the progress of the A&D Global Collaboration workgroup. As part of the activities, they classified the collaboration between the OEM and the supplier in 3 levels, as you can see from the image:

This post mainly focuses on the L1 collaboration as this is probably the most used scenario.

In the Aerospace and Automotive industry, the OEM and suppliers’ data exchange has improved twofold by using Technical Data Packages where the content is supported by Model-Based Definition.

The first advantages of Model-Based Definition are mainly related to a consistent information package where the model is leading. The manufacturing views are explicitly defined on the 3D Model. Therefore there is a reduced chance of error for a misconnect between the “drawings” and the 3D Model.

The Model-Based definition still does not solve working with the latest (approved) version of the information. This still remains a “human-based” process in this case, and Kathryn Bell confirmed this was the biggest problem to solve.

The second advantage of using one of the interoperability standards for Model-Based Definition is the disconnect between application-specific data on the OEM side and the supplier side.

A significant advantage of Model-Based Definition is that there are a few interoperability standards, i.e., ISO 10303 – STEP, ISO14306 – JT, and  ISO32000/14739 (PRC for 3D PDF). In the end, the ideal would be that these standards merge into one standard, completely vendor-independent with a clearly defined scope of its purpose.

The benefit of these standards is also they increase the longevity of product data as the information is stored in an application-independent format. As long as the standard does not change (fast), storing data even internally in these neutral formats can save upgrade or maintenance costs.

However, I think you all know the joke below.

 

The connected supply chain

The ultimate goal in the long term will be the connected supply chain. Information shared between an OEM, and a supplier does not require human-based interfaces to ensure everyone works with the correct data.

The easiest way, and this is what some of the larger OEMs have done, is to consider suppliers as part of your PLM-infrastructure and give them access to all relevant data in the context of the system, the product, or the part they are responsible for. For the OEM, the challenge will be to connect suppliers – to motivate and train them to work in this environment.

For the supplier, the challenge is their IP-management. If they work for 100 percent in the OEM-environment, everything is exposed. If they want to work in their own environment, there is probably double work and a disconnect.

Of course, everything depends on the complexity of your interaction with the supplier.

With its Fusion Cloud Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Oracle was one of the first to shift the attention to the connected supply chain.

If you search for PLM on the Oracle website, you will find it under Fusion Supply Chain and Manufacturing. It is a logical step as traditional ERP-vendors have never provided a full, rich portfolio for product design. CAD-integrations do not get a focus, and the future path to Model-Bases approaches (MBSE / MBD /MBE) is not visible at all.

Almost similar to what the Siemens-SAP alliance is showing. SAP more or less confirms that you should not rely on SAP PLM for more advanced PLM-scenarios but on Siemens’s offering.

For less complex but fast-moving products, for example, in the apparel industry, you see the promise of connecting all suppliers in one environment is time to market and traceability. This industry does not suffer from products with a long lifecycle with upgrades and services.

So far, the best collaboration platform in the cloud I have seen in Shareaspace from Eurostep. Its foundation based on the PLCS standard allows an OEM and Supplier to connect through their “shared space” – you can look at their supply chain offering here.

Slide: PDT Europe 2016 RENAULT PLM Challenges

In the various PDT-conferences, we have seen how even two OEMs could work in a joined environment (Renault-Nissan-Daimler) or how  BAE Systems used the ShareAspace environment to collaborate and consolidate all the data coming from the various system suppliers into one standards-based environment.

In 2021, I plan to write a series of blog posts related to possible add-on services for PLM. Supplier collaboration platforms, Configuration Management, End-to-end configurators, Product Information Management, are some of the themes I am currently exploring.

Conclusion

COVID-19 has illustrated the volatility of supply chains. Changing suppliers, working with suppliers in the traditional ways, still hinder reducing time to market. However, the promise of a real connected supply chain is enormous. As Boeing demonstrated in my previous post and explained in this post, standards are needed to become future proof.

Will 2021 have more focus on the connected supply chain?

 

Last week I shared my first review of the PLM Roadmap / PDT Fall 2020 conference, organized by CIMdata and Eurostep. Having digested now most of the content in detail, I can state this was the best conference of 2020. In my first post, the topics I shared were mainly the consultant’s view of digital thread and digital twin concepts.

This time, I want to focus on the content presented by the various Aerospace & Defense working groups who shared their findings, lessons-learned (so far) on topics like the Multi-view BOM, Supply Chain Collaboration, MBSE Data interoperability.

These sessions were nicely wrapped with presentations from Alberto Ferrari (Raytheon), discussing the digital thread between PLM and Simulation Lifecycle Management and Jeff Plant (Boeing) sharing their Model-Based Engineering strategy.

I believe these insights are crucial, although there might be people in the field that will question if this research is essential. Is not there an easier way to achieve to have the same results?

Nicely formulated by Ilan Madjar as a comment to my first post:

Ilan makes a good point about simplifying the ideas to the masses to make it work. The majority of companies probably do not have the bandwidth to invest and understand the future benefits of a digital thread or digital twins.

This does not mean that these topics should not be studied. If your business is in a small, simple eco-system and wants to work in a connected mode, you can choose a vendor and a few custom interfaces.

However, suppose you work in a global industry with an extensive network of partners, suppliers, and customers.

In that case, you cannot rely on ad-hoc interfaces or a single vendor. You need to invest in standards; you need to study common best practices to drive methodology, standards, and vendors to align.

This process of standardization is so crucial if you want to have a sustainable, connected enterprise. In the end, the push from these companies will lead to standards, allowing the smaller companies to ad-here or connect to.

The future is about Connected through Standards, as discussed in part 1 and further in this post. Let’s go!

Global Collaboration – Defining a baseline for data exchange processes and standards

Katheryn Bell (Pratt & Whitney Canada) presented the progress of the A&D Global Collaboration workgroup. As you can see from the project timeline, they have reached the phase to look towards the future.

Katheryn mentioned the need to standardize terminology as the first point of attention. I am fully aligned with that point; without a standardized terminology framework, people will have a misunderstanding in communication.

This happens even more in the smaller businesses that just pick sometimes (buzz) terms without a full understanding.

Several years ago, I talked with a PLM-implementer telling me that their implementation focus was on systems engineering. After some more explanations, it appeared they were making an attempt for configuration management in reality. Here the confusion was massive. Still, a standard, common terminology is crucial in our domain, even if it seems academic.

The group has been analyzing interoperability standards, standards for long-time archival and retrieval (LOTAR), but also has been studying the ISO 44001 standard related to Collaborative business relationship management systems

In the Q&A session, Katheryn explained that the biggest problem to solve with collaboration was the risk of working with the wrong version of data between disciplines and suppliers.

Of course, such errors can lead to huge costs if they are discovered late (or too late). As some of the big OEMs work with thousands of suppliers, you can imagine it is not an issue easily discovered in a more ad-hoc environment.

The move to a standardized Technical Data Package based on a Model-Based Definition is one of these initiatives in this domain to reduce these types of errors.

You can find the proceedings from the Global Collaboration working group here.

 

Connect, Trace, and Manage Lifecycle of Models, Simulation and Linked Data: Is That Easy?

I loved Alberto Ferrari‘s (Raytheon) presentation how he described the value of a model-based digital thread, positioning it in a targeted enterprise.

Click on the image and discover how business objectives, processes and models go together supported by a federated infrastructure.

Alberto’s presentation was a kind of mind map from how I imagine the future, and it is a pity if you have not had the chance to see his session.

Alberto also focused on the importance of various simulation capabilities combined with simulation lifecycle management. For Alberto, they are essential to implement digital twins. Besides focusing on standards, Alberto pleas for a semantic integration, open service architecture with the importance of DevSecOps.

Enough food for thought; as Alberto mentioned, he presented the corporate vision, not the current state.

More A&D Action Groups

There were two more interesting specialized sessions where teams from the A&D action groups provided a status update.

Brandon Sapp (Boeing) and Ian Parent (Pratt & Whitney) shared the activities and progress on Minimum Model-Based Definition (MBD) for Type Design Certification.

As Brandon mentioned, MBD is already a widely used capability; however, MBD is still maturing and evolving.  I believe that is also one of the reasons why MBD is not yet accepted in mainstream PLM. Smaller organizations will wait; however, can your company afford to wait?

More information about their progress can be found here.

Mark Williams (Boeing) reported from the A&D Model-Based Systems Engineering action group their first findings related to MBSE Data Interoperability, focusing on an Architecture Model Exchange Solution.  A topic interesting to follow as the promise of MBSE is that it is about connected information shared in models. As Mark explained, data exchange standards for requirements and behavior models are mature, readily available in the tools, and easily adopted. Exchanging architecture models has proven to be very difficult. I will not dive into more details, respecting the audience of this blog.

For those interested in their progress, more information can be found here

Model-Based Engineering @ Boeing

In this conference, the participation of Boeing was significant through the various action groups. As the cherry on the cake, there was Jeff Plant‘s session, giving an overview of what is happening at Boeing. Jeff is Boeing’s director of engineering practices, processes, and tools.

In his introduction, Jeff mentioned that Boeing has more than 160.000 employees in over 65 countries. They are working with more than 12.000 suppliers globally. These suppliers can be manufacturing, service or technology partnerships. Therefore you can imagine, and as discussed by others during the conference, streamlined collaboration and traceability are crucial.

The now-famous MBE Diamond symbol illustrates the model-based information flows in the virtual world and the physical world based on the systems engineering approach. Like Katheryn Bell did in her session related to Global Collaboration, Jeff started explaining the importance of a common language and taxonomy needed if you want to standardize processes.

Zoom in on the Boeing MBE Taxonomy, you will discover the clarity it brings for the company.

I was not aware of the ISO 23247 standard concerning the Digital Twin framework for manufacturing, aiming to apply industry standards to the model-based definition of products and process planning. A standard certainly to follow as it brings standardization on top of existing standards.

As Jeff noted: A practical standard for implementation in a company of any size. In my opinion, mandatory for a sustainable, connected infrastructure.

Jeff presented the slide below, showing their standardization internally around federated platforms.

This slide resembles a lot the future platform vision I have been sharing since 2017 when discussing PLM’s future at PLM conferences, when explaining the differences between Coordinated and Connected – see also my presentation here on Slideshare.

You can zoom in on the picture to see the similarities. For me, the differences were interesting to observe. In Jeff’s diagram, the product lifecycle at the top indicates the platform of (central) interest during each lifecycle stage, suggesting a linear process again.

In reality, the flow of information through feedback loops will be there too.

The second exciting detail is that these federated architectures should be based on strong interoperability standards. Jeff is urging other companies, academics and vendors to invest and come to industry standards for Model-Based System Engineering practices.  The time is now to act on this domain.

It reminded me again of Marc Halpern’s message mentioned in my previous post (part 1) that we should be worried about vendor alliances offering an integrated end-to-end data flow based on their solutions. This would lead to an immense vendor-lock in if these interfaces are not based on strong industry standards.

Therefore, don’t watch from the sideline; it is the voice (and effort) of the companies that can drive standards.

Finally, during the Q&A part, Jeff made an interesting point explaining Boeing is making a serious investment, as you can see from their participation in all the action groups. They have made the long-term business case.

The team is confident that the business case for such an investment is firm and stable, however in such long-term investment without direct results, these projects might come under pressure when the business is under pressure.

The virtual fireside chat

The conference ended with a virtual fireside chat from which I picked up an interesting point that Marc Halpern was bringing in. Marc mentioned a survey Gartner has done with companies in fast-moving industries related to the benefits of PLM. Companies reported improvements in accuracy and product development. They did not see so much a reduced time to market or cost reduction. After analysis, Gartner believes the real issue is related to collaboration processes and supply chain practices. Here lead times did not change, nor the number of changes.

Marc believes that this topic will be really showing benefits in the future with cloud and connected suppliers. This reminded me of an article published by McKinsey called The case for digital reinvention. In this article, the authors indicated that only 2 % of the companies interview were investing in a digital supply chain. At the same time, the expected benefits in this area would have the most significant ROI.

The good news, there is consistency, and we know where to focus for early results.

Conclusion

It was a great conference as here we could see digital transformation in action (groups). Where vendor solutions often provide a sneaky preview of the future, we saw people working on creating the right foundations based on standards. My appreciation goes to all the active members in the CIMdata A&D action groups as they provide the groundwork for all of us – sooner or later.

Last week I was happy to attend the PLM Roadmap / PDT Fall 2020 conference as usual organized by CIMdata and Eurostep. I wrote about the recent PI DX conference, which touched a lot on the surface of PLM and Digital Transformation. This conference is really a conference for those who want to understand the building blocks needed for current and future PLM.

In this conference, usually with approximately 150 users on-site, now with over 250 connected users for 3 (half) days. Many of us, following every session of the conference. As an active participant in the physical events, it was a little disappointing not to be in the same place with the other participants this time. The informal network meetings in this conference have always been special thanks to a relatively small but stable group of experts.  Due to the slightly reduced schedule, there was this time, less attention for some of the typical PDT-topics most of the time coming from Sweden and related to sustainability.

The conference’s theme was Digital Thread—the PLM Professionals’ Path to Delivering Innovation, Efficiency, and Quality and might sound like a marketing statement.  However, the content presented was much more detailed than just marketing info. The fact that you watched the presentation on your screen made it an intense conference with many valuable details.

Have a look at the agenda, and I will walk you through some of the highlights for me. As there was so much content to discuss, I will share this time part 1. Next week, in part 2, you will see the coherence of all the presentations.

As if there was a Coherent Thread.

Digital Twin, It Requires a Digital Thread

Peter Bilello, President & CEO, CIMdata, ‘s keynote with the title Digital Twin, It Requires a Digital Thread was immediately an illustration of discussing reality.  When I stated at the Digital Twin conference in the Netherlands that “Digital Twins do not run on Documents“, it had the same meaning as when Peter stated,” A Digital Twin without a Digital Thread is an orphan”.

Digital Thread

And Peter’s statement, “All companies do PLM, most of the time however disconnected”, is another way to stimulate companies working in a connected manner.

As usual Peter’s session was a good overview of the various aspect related to the Digital Thread and Digital Twin.

Digital Twin

The concept of a virtual twin is not new. The focus is as mentioned before now more on the term “Connected” Peter provided the CIMdata definition for Digital Thread and Digital Twin. Click on the images to the left to read the full definition.

Peter’s overview also referred to the Boeing Diamond, illustrating the mapping of the physical and virtual world, connected through a Digital Thread the various Digital Twins that can exist. The Boeing Diamond was one of the favorites during the conference.

When you look at Peter’s conclusions, there is an alignment with what I wrote in the post: A Digital Twin for Everyone and the fact that we need to strive for a connected enterprise. Only then we can benefit from a Digital Twin concept.

 

The Multi-view BOM Solution Evaluation
– Process, Results, and Industry Impacts

The reports coming from the various A&D PLM action groups are always engaging sessions to watch. Here, nine companies, even competitors, discuss and explore PLM themes between themselves supported by CIMdata.

These companies were the first that implemented PLM; it is interesting to watch how they move forward like supertankers. They cannot jump from one year to another year on a new fashionable hype. Their PLM-infrastructure needs to be consistent and future-proof due to their data’s longevity and the high standards for regulatory compliance and safety.

However, these companies are also pioneers for the future. They have been practicing Model-Based approaches for over ten years already and are still learning. In next week’s post, you will read later that these frontrunners are pushing for standards to make a Model-Based future affordable and achievable.

In that context, the action group Multi-View BOM shared their evaluation results for a study related to the multi-view BOM. A year ago, I wrote about this topic when Fred Feru from Airbus presented the intermediate results at the CIMdata Roadmap/PDT 2019 conference.

Dan Ganser (Gulfstream) and Javier Reines (Airbus) presented the findings. The conclusion was that the four vendors evaluated, i.e., Aras, Dassault Systems, PTC and Siemens, all passed the essential requirements and use cases. You can find the report and the findings here: Multi-view Bill of Materials

One interesting remark.

When the use cases were evaluated, the vendors could score on a level from 0 to 5, see picture. Interesting to see that apparently, it was possible to exceed the requirement, something that seems like a contradiction.

In particular, in this industry, where formal requirements management is a must – either you meet a requirement or not.

Dan Ganser explained that the current use cases were defined based on the minimum expectations, therefore there was the option to exceed the requirement. I still would be curious to see what does it mean to exceed the requirement. Is it usability, time, or something innovative we might have missed?

 

5G for Digital Twins & Shadows

I learned a lot from the presentation from Niels Koenig, working at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology. Niels explained how important 5G is for realizing the Industry 4.0 targets. At the 5G Industry Campus, several projects are running to test and demonstrate the value of 5G in relation to manufacturing.

If you want to get an impression of the 5G Industry Campus – click on the Youube movie.

One of the examples Niels discussed was closed-loop manufacturing. Thanks to the extremely low latency (< 1ms), a connected NC machine can send real-time measurements to be compared with the expected values. For example, in the case of resonance, the cutting might not be smooth. Thanks to the closed-loop, the operator will be able to interfere or adjust the operation. See the image below.

Digital Thread: Be Careful What you Wish For, It Just Might Come True

I was looking forward to Marc Halpern‘s presentation. Marc often brings a less technical viewpoint but a more business-related viewpoint to the discussion. Over the past ten years, there have been many disruptive events, most recently the COVID-pandemic.

Companies are asking themselves how they can remain resilient. Marc shared some of his thoughts on how Digital Twins and Digital Threads can support resilience.

In that context, Gartner saw a trend that their customers are now eagerly looking for solutions related to Digital Twin, Digital Thread, Model-Based Approaches, combined with the aim to move to the cloud. Related to Digital Thread and Digital Twin, most of Gartner’s clients are looking for traceability and transparency along the product lifecycle. Most Digital Twin initiatives focus on a twin of operational assets, particularly inside the manufacturing facility. Nicely linking to Niels Konig’s session related to 5G.

Marc stated that there seems to be a consensus that a Digital Thread is compelling enough for manufacturers to invest. In the end, they will have to. However, there are also significant risks involved. Marc illustrated the two extremes; in reality, companies will end up somewhere in the middle, illustrated later by Jeff Plant from Boeing. The image on the left is a sneaky preview for next week.

When discussing the Digital Thread, Marc again referred to it more as a Digital Net, a kind of connected infrastructure for various different threads based on the various areas of interest.

I show here a slide from Marc’s presentation at the PDT conference in 2018. It is more an artist’s impression of the same concept discussed during this conference again, the Boeing Diamond.

Related to the risk of implementing a Digital Thread and Digital Twin, Marc showed another artistic interpretation; The two extremes of two potential end states of Digital Thread investment. Marc shared the critical risks for both options.

For the Vendor Black Hole, his main points were that if you choose a combined solution, diminished negotiating power, higher implementation costs, and potentially innovative ideas might not be implemented as they are not so relevant for the vendor. They have the power!

As an example of combined solutions Marc mentioned, the recently announced SAP-Siemens partnership, the Rockwell Automation-PTC partnership, the Schneider Electric-Aveva-partnership, and the ABB-Dassault Systemes partnership.

Once you are in the black hole, you cannot escape. Therefore, Marc recommended making sure you do not depend on a few vendors for your Digital Twin infrastructure.

The picture on the left illustrates the critical risks of the Enterprise Architecture “Mess”. It is a topic that I am following for a long time. Suppose you have a collection of services related to the product lifecycle, like Workflow-services, 3D Modeling-services, BOM-services, Manufacturing-services.

Together they could provide a PLM-infrastructure.

The idea behind this is that thanks to openness and connectivity, every company can build its own unique enterprise architecture. No discussion about standard best practices. You build your company’s best practices (for the future, the current ?)

It is mainly promoted as a kind of bottom-up PLM. If you are missing capabilities, just build them yourselves, using REST-services, APIs, using Low-Code platforms. It seems attractive for the smaller enterprises, however most of the time, only a short time. I fully concur with Marc’s identified risks here.

As I often illustrated in presentations related to a digital future, you will need a mix of both. Based on your point of focus, you could imagine five major platforms being connected together to cover all aspects of a business. Depending on your company’s business model and products, one of them might be the dominant one. With my PLM-focus, this would be the Product Innovation Platform, where the business is created.

Marc ended with five priorities to enable a long-term Digital Thread success.

  • First of all – set the ground rules for data governance. A topic often mentioned but is your company actively engaging on that already?
  • Next, learn from Model-Based Systems Engineering as a foundation for a Model-Based Enterprise.  A topic often discussed during the previous CIMdata Roadmap / PDT-conference.
  • The change from storing and hiding information in siloes towards an infrastructure and mindset of search and access of data, in particular, the access to Bill of Materials

The last point induced two more points.

  • The need for an open architecture and standards. We would learn more on this topic on day 3 of the conference.
  • Make sure your digital transformation sticks within the organization by investing and executing on organizational change management.

Conclusion

The words “Digital Thread” and “Digital Twin” are mentioned 18 times in this post and during the conference even more. However, at this conference, they were not hollow marketing terms. They are part of a dictionary for the future, as we will see in next week’s post when discussing some of the remaining presentations.

Closing this time with a point we all agreed upon: “A Digital Twin without a Digital Thread is an orphan”. Next week more!

About a year ago we started the PLM Global Green Alliance, further abbreviated as the PGGA. Rich McFall, the main driver behind the PGGA started the website, The PLM Green Alliance, to have a persistent place to share information.

Also, we launched the PLM Global Alliance LinkedIn group to share our intentions and create a community of people who would like to share knowledge through information or discussion.

Our mission statement is:

The mission of the new PLM Green Alliance is to create global connection, communication, and community between professionals who use, develop, market, or support Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) related technologies and software solutions that have value in addressing the causes and consequences of climate change due to human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. We are motivated by the technological challenge to help create a more sustainable and green future for our economies, industries, communities, and all life forms on our planet that depend on healthy ecosystems.

My motivation

My personal motivation to support and join the PGGA was driven by the wish to combine my PLM-world with interest to create a more sustainable society for anyone around the world. It is a challenging combination. For example, PLM is born in the Aerospace and Defense industries, probably not the most sustainable industries.

Having worked with some companies in the Apparel and Retail industry, I have seen that these industries care more about their carbon footprint. Perhaps because they are “volume-industries” closely connected to their consumers, these industries actively build practices to reduce their carbon footprint and impact societies. The sense or non-sense of recycling is such a topic to discuss and analyze.

At that time, I got inspired by a session during the PLM Roadmap / PDT 2019 conference.

Graham Aid‘s from the Ragn-Sells group was a call to action. Sustainability and a wealthy economy go together; however, we have to change our habits & think patterns.  You can read my review from this session in this blog post: The weekend after PLM Roadmap / PDT 2019 – Day 1

Many readers of this post have probably never heard of the Ragn-Sells group or followed up on a call for action.  I have the same challenge. Being motivated beyond your day-to-day business (the old ways of working) and giving these activities priority above exploring and learning more about applying sustainability in my PLM practices.

And then came COVID-19.

I think most of you have seen the image on the left, which started as a joke. However, looking back, we all have seen that COVID-19 has led to a tremendous push for using digital technologies to modernize existing businesses.

Personally, I was used to traveling every 2 – 3 weeks to a customer, now I have left my home office only twice for business. Meanwhile, I invested in better communication equipment and a place to work. And hé, it remains possible to work and communicate with people.

Onboarding new people, getting to know new people takes more social interaction than a camera can bring.

In the PGGA LinkedIn community, we had people joining from all over the world. We started to organize video meetings to discuss their expectations and interest in this group with some active members.

We learned several things from these calls.

First of all, finding a single timeslot that everyone worldwide could participate in is a challenge. A late Friday afternoon is almost midnight in Asia and morning in the US. And is Friday the best day – we do not know yet.

Secondly, we realized that posts published in our LinkedIn group did not appear in everyone’s LinkedIn feed due to LinkedIn’s algorithms. For professionals, LinkedIn becomes less and less attractive as the algorithms seem to prefer frequency/spam above content.

For that reason, we are probably moving to the PLM Green Alliance website and combine this environment with a space for discussion outside the LinkedIn scope. More to come on the PGGA website.

Finally, we will organize video discussion sessions to ask the participants to prepare themselves for a discussion. Any member of the PGGA can bring in the discussion topics.

It might be a topic you want to clarify or better understand.

What’s next

For December 4th, we have planned a discussion meeting related to the Exponential Roadmap 2019 report, where  36  solutions to halve carbon emission by 2030 are discussed. In our video discussion, we want to focus on the chapter: Digital Industries.

We believe that this topic comes closest to our PLM domain and hopes that participants will share their thinking and potential activities within their companies.

You can download the Exponential Roadmap here or by clicking on the image. More details about the PLM Global Green Alliance you will find in the LinkedIn group. If you want to participate, let us know.

The PGGA website will be the place where more and more information will be collected per theme, to help you understand what is happening worldwide and the place where you can contribute to let us know what is happening at your side.

Conclusion

The PLM Global Green Alliance exists now for a year with 192 members. With approximately five percent active members, we have the motivation to grow our efforts and value. We learned from COVID-19 there is a need to become proactive as the costs of prevention are always lower than the costs of (trying) fixing afterward.

And each of us has the challenge to behave a little differently than before.

Will you be one of them ?

In the last two weeks, three events were leading to this post.

First, I read John Stark’s recent book Products2019. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the full reach of product lifecycle related activities. See my recent post: Products2019, a must-read if you are new to PLM

Afterwards, I talked with John, discussing the lack of knowledge and teaching of PLM, not to be confused by PLM capabilities and features.

Second, I participated in an exciting PI DX USA 2020 event. Some of the sessions and most of the roundtables provided insights to me and, hopefully, many other participants. You can get an impression in the post: The Weekend after PI DX 2020 USA.

A small disappointment in that event was the closing session with six vendors, as I wrote. I know it is evident when you put a group of vendors in the arena, it will be about scoring points instead of finding alignment. Still, having criticism does not mean blaming, and I am always open to having a dialogue. For that reason, I am grateful for their sponsorship and contribution.

Oleg Shilovitsky mentioned cleverly that this statement is a contradiction.

“How can you accuse PLM vendors of having a limited view on PLM and thanking them for their contribution?”

I hope the above explanation says it all, combined with the fact that I grew up in a Dutch culture of not hiding friction, meanwhile being respectful to others.

We cannot simplify PLM by just a better tool or technology or by 3D for everybody. There are so many more people and processes related to product lifecycle management involved in this domain if you want a real conference, however many of them will not sponsor events.

It is well illustrated in John Stark’s book. Many disciplines are involved in the product lifecycle. Therefore, if you only focus on what you can do with your tool, it will lead to an incomplete understanding.

If your tool is a hammer, you hope to see nails everywhere around you to demonstrate your value

The thirds event was a LinkedIn post from John Stark  – 16 groups needing Product Lifecycle Knowledge, which for me was a logical follow-up on the previous two events. I promised John to go through these 16 groups and provide my thoughts.

Please read his post first as I will not rewrite what has been said by John already.

CEOs and CTOs

John suggested that they should read his book, which might take more than eight hours.  CEOs and CTOs, most of the time, do not read this type of book with so many details, so probably mission impossible.

They want to keep up with the significant trends and need to think about future business (model).

New digital and technical capabilities allow companies to move from a linear, coordinated business towards a resilient, connected business. This requires exploring future business models and working methods by experimenting in real-life, not Proof of Concept. Creating a learning culture and allowing experiments to fail is crucial, as you only learn by failing.

CDO, CIOs and Digital Transformation Executives

They are the crucial people to help the business to imagine what digital technologies can do. They should educate the board and the business teams about the power of having reliable, real-time data available for everyone connected. Instead of standardizing on systems and optimizing the siloes, they should assist and lead in new infrastructure for connected services, end-to-end flows delivered on connected platforms.

These concepts won’t be realized soon. However, doing nothing is a big risk, as the traditional business will decline in a competitive environment. Time to act.

Departmental Managers

These are the people that should worry about their job in the long term. Their current mission might be to optimize their department within its own Profit & Loss budget. The future is about optimizing the information flow for the whole value chain, including suppliers and customers.

I wrote about it in “The Middle Management Dilemma.” Departmental Managers should become more team leaders inspiring and supporting the team members instead of controlling the numbers.

Products Managers

This is a crucial role for the future, assuming a product manager is not only responsible for the marketing or development side of the product but also gets responsibility for understanding what happens with the product during production and sales performance. Understanding the full lifecycle performance and cost should be their mission, supported by a digital infrastructure.

Product Developers

They should read the book Products2019 to be aware there is so much related to their work. From this understanding, a product developer should ask the question:

“What can I do better to serve my internal and external customers ?”

This question will no arise in a hierarchical organization where people are controlled by managers that have a mission to optimize their silo. Product Developers should be trained and coached to operate in a broader context, which should be part of your company’s mission.  Too many people complain about usability in their authoring and data management systems without having a holistic understanding of why you need change processes and configuration management.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) deployers

Here I have a little bit of the challenge that this might be read as PLM-system users. However, it should be clear that we mean here people using product data at any moment along the product lifecycle, not necessarily in a single system.

This is again related to your company’s management culture. In the ideal world, people work with a purpose and get informed on how their contribution fits the company’s strategy and execution.

Unfortunately, in most hierarchical organizations, the strategy and total overview get lost, and people become measured resources.

New Hires and others

John continues with five other groups within the organization. I will not comment on them, as the answers are similar to the ones above – it is about organization and culture.

Educators and Students

This topic is very close to my heart, and one of the reasons I continue blogging about PLM practices. There is not enough attention to product development methodology or processes. Engineers can get many years of education in specific domains, like product design principles, available tools and technologies, performing physical and logical simulations.

Not so much time is spent on educating current best practices, business models for product lifecycle management.

Check in your country how many vendor-independent methodology-oriented training you can find. Perhaps the only consistent organization I know is CIMdata, where the challenge is that they deliver training to companies after students have graduated. It would be great if education institutes would embed serious time for product lifecycle management topics in their curriculum. The challenge, of course, the time and budget needed to create materials and, coming next, prioritizing this topic on the overall agenda.

I am happy to participate to a Specialized Master education program aiming at the Products and Buildings Digital Engineering Manager (INGENUM). This program organized by Arts Et Metiers in France helps create the overview for understanding PLM and BIM – in the French language as before COVID-19 this was an on-site training course in Paris.

Hopefully, there are more institutes offering PLM eductation – feel free to add them in the comments of this post.

Consultants, Integrators and Software Company Employees

Of course, it would be nice if everyone in these groups understands the total flow and processes within an organization and how they relate to each other. Too often, I have seen experts in a specific domain, for example, a 3D CAD-system having no clue about revisioning, the relation of CAD to the BOM, or the fundamentals of configuration management.

Consultants, Integrators and Software Company Employees have their own challenges as their business model is often looking for specialized skills they can sell to their clients, where a broader and general knowledge will come from experience on-the-job.

And if you are three years working full-time on a single project or perhaps work in three projects, your broader knowledge does not grow fast. You might become the hammer that sees nails everywhere.

For that reason, I recommend everyone in my ecosystem to invest your personal time to read related topics of interest. Read LinkedIn-posts from others and learn to differentiate between marketing messages and people willing to share experiences. Don’t waste your time on the marketing messages and react and participate in the other discussions. A “Like” is not enough. Ask questions or add your insights.

In the context of my personal learning, I mentioned that I participated in the DigitalTwin-conference in the Netherlands this week. Unfortunately, due to the partial lockdown, mainly a virtual event.

I got several new insights that I will share with you soon. An event that illustrated Digital Twin as a buzzword might be hype, however several of the participants illustrated examples of where they applied or plan to apply Digital Twin concepts. A great touch with reality.

Another upcoming conference that will start next week in the PLM Roadmap 2020 – PDT conference. The theme: Digital Thread—the PLM Professionals’ Path to Delivering Innovation, Efficiency, and Quality is not a marketing theme as you can learn from the agenda. Step by step we are learning here from each other.

 

Conclusion

John Stark started with the question of who should need Product Lifecycle Knowledge. In general, Knowledge is power, and it does not come for free. Either by consultancy, reading or training. Related to Product Lifecycle Management, everyone must understand the bigger picture. For executives as they will need to steer the company in the right direction. For everyone else to streamline the company and enjoy working in a profitable environment where you contribute and can even inspire others.

An organization is like a human body; you cannot have individual cells or organs that optimize themselves only – we have a name for that disease. Want to learn more? Read this poem: Who should be the boss?

 

 

It was a pleasure to participate this last week in the PI DX USA conference for several reasons. First, because Marketkey has been able to organize the event in the same manner as before. Meaning presentations, networking meetings, and roundtable discussions. Virtual, of course, however, in the same spirit. Secondly, the 3-day event took place during a late afternoon for Europe lasted 4 – 5 hours per day, allowing a larger audience to learn from each other. Before we had the European viewpoints and American viewpoints separate, now we had the chance to discuss and listen together.  A single version of the truth!

A few highlights of the sessions that I attended. There was enough to choose from if you look at the agenda from these three days.

Creating a Digital Enterprise: What are the Challenges and Where to Start?

The conference started with a panel discussion lead by David Sherburne. The three panelists came from entirely different industries Jaswinder Walia, CIO Engineering, GE Aviation, Erik Olson, VP Product Innovation and Development, Crocs and Samuli Savo, SVP Product Management & Innovation, Stora Enso. It was interesting to see the commonalities and differences between these companies, all working towards a digital enterprise.

David’s last question was about getting advice from these gentlemen.

What mistakes to avoid and what to share?

Jaswinder: The mistake of doing too much analysis paralyzed the organization. Sometimes you need to move ahead and adapt during the journey – do not wait. Sometimes there is too much focus on the quality of a business solution and not enough attention to the flow of information

Eric: COVID-19 was THE success. It pushed people to work with digital tools. They had immediately proof points delivering a deal within 6 weeks.

Samuli: The success is in funding ideas. Samuli had a more extended session on this topic during the event. Do not invest in long time projects – visible success is needed in a few months, not in 1 year.

Probably I liked these three pieces of advice so much as it is the same as what I am advising companies. Moving from a traditional PLM-approach towards a more model-based approach. Instead of waiting and looking till others master this topic, start learning (small) and make sure you make progress. Learning is crucial for a digital transformation in the PLM-domain.

What is Stopping Manufacturers from Implementing Industry 4.0

This roundtable session was structured by Gavin Hill and Jonathan Bray, both from the AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre), who gave several insights and examples from what AMRC has been doing as research in the context of Industry 4.0.

A roundtable is supposed to be an interactive session, which would have been a challenge as I noticed 49 people subscribed to this session.  However, during the session, it became clear there was a significant silent majority.

Gavin and Jonathan had a lot to share. When the time came to interact with the audience, it was mostly other vendors talking about their Industry 4.0 vision or capabilities.
Vendors are perhaps more than ten years ahead with their vision as CIMdata’s image on the left states. When you would implement all these beautiful concepts, you will discover many frustrating gaps as your existing company’s processes, people, and skills are not that easy to change.

Smart Manufacturing: Simulating Workflows to Drive Efficiency and Productivity

A company that has been active in Smart Manufacturing is AGCO, who has been presenting several times their future strategy and lessons learned at PI.

See Susan Lauda’s presentation in The weekend after PLMx Hamburg 2018

In this session, Andreas Frank and Dominik Hammerl shared how AGCO utilizes line balancing simulation to identify bottlenecks and create a productive, efficient workflow as one of the projects within their Smart Factory strategy.

Their current solution was introducing a new that that had fast user adoption. The big elephant in the room remains to connect all these tools, having a flow of consistent data between all enterprise systems.

No problem at this time, as I heard in most of the sessions that I attended – stop analyzing and solving all the details upfront – start doing and learning – keeping the ultimate vision in mind/

Transforming to a Software-Centric Business Model: How the Need for Data is Changing Business

This was an exciting session to see digital transformation in action. Subramanian Kunchithapatham, VP Engineering of Sensormatic Solutions (Johnson Controls) who are focusing on the brick and mortar retail shops.

These shops have been evolving as online shopping. The shift of focus towards customer experience in the shop requires these businesses to adapt. By using a digital twin concept for shop behavior and operations, they can now sell software solutions that improve their customer’s performance, as you can see from the image below.

To What Degree Do We Need To Integrate PLM, ERP and MES?

This roundtable session, excellently moderated by Jan Johansson, Senior Director Digital Transformation at Terma A/S, was the type of roundtable you would like to participate in. I think the theme is actual for all of us

Statements varied from”ERP is our only system of truth as here we manage our financial execution” till”We should include CRM, CPQ and all other TLAs inside an enterprise – the connected enterprise”

My observation was that many of us are still thinking in systems, an ERP-system, a PLM-system. We talk about”owning data” instead of”being accountable” for data in that context.

Another observation was to check who is responsible for PLM in your company. If it is engineering, probably your PLM-system is considered an engineering tool, not an infrastructure that enables product data to be available along the product lifecycle.

How to deal with legacy data, a challenge in the aerospace industry. Store data in neutral formats or select a preferred vendor-related format and stick to it.

A great roundtable that hopefully inspired the participants to explore some of the options discussed or connect and learn more from each other experiences.

Overcoming Data Management Challenges with AI

Nicely complementary to the previous roundtable was the session moderated by Mo (Muhannad)Alomari’s, AI Hub Lead at Rolls Royce plc. As an introduction, Mo dazzled us with the amount of data/knowledge related to gas turbines. Impossible to comprehend or access by human beings without the support of Artificial Intelligence.

Mo also brought the knowledge graph to our attention through this movie from the Google Knowledge Graph. We discussed this concept and its applicability for the PLM-domain. For sure, technology can bring high value for discovering information. However, there will still be a human-based interpretation required to filter out incorrect or unwanted associations. I think we all observe the challenges introduced by the”knowledge” algorithms on social media. Instead of building your knowledge, they try to drag you into even more absurd “facts.”

Mo also shared how, through AI, they are setting up data conversion practices. As you can imagine, a lot of Rolls Royce legacy data came from the era of paper/scanned drawings. Which text is meaningful on a drawing. Is the text a remark or an official annotation?  AI-based best practices are not yet affordable for mainstream companies.

I believe we are all looking forward to learning from the best and bad practices of these frontrunners.  As the group was small, it was an interesting discussion and learning session that you only can have by participating actively.

Embracing Digital in Face of Pandemic Disruption

I want to close my highlights by pointing to the final panel discussion. Where the theme was to”hear from experts who have been guiding customers through digital transformation projects before COVID-19 and supporting their clients throughout the crisis,” you would expect an expert discussion.

Indeed, the first part illustrated the trend that COVID-19 accelerated the focus on an inclusive and flexible supply chain. Perhaps traditional PLM-systems have a massive engineering focus, now most panelists report a shifted focus to the supply chain. The point of gravity has shifted.

The discussion started to shift, where the newcomers in PLM started to claim that they do not have an upgrade issue thanks to their cloud offering. An when Paul Powers started to pitch that upgrades should be as easy as smartphone upgrades and BOM-updates do not need people anymore because we have machine learning, it reminded me of my 2015 PDT presentation.

In The Perfect Storm or a Fatal Tsunami session (here on Slideshare) , I predicted that AI and machine learning would remove many traditional PLM-related processes in the long-term. However, the future solutions must be rigid, not just a demo.

The discussion drifted toward “openness” and “PLM is dying out.” Again, here you could see the vendors’ fixation to talk about a single tool, not about a business strategy.

A statement like “PLM sucks” does not help the strategy. It shows these vendors cannot understand the PLM domain and prefer to create their own terminology, cornering PLM in the mechanical domain to be different. I will not go into the PLM sucks discussion as I mentioned this acronym at the PI 2016 event in Munich (slideshare).

However, we should be grateful that these companies sponsored this event. They imagine the (their) ideal future and thanks to their contribution, we were able to be in this event with fruitful discussions. Therefore my thanks to all the sponsors making this event happen.The challenge is always to imagine the future and next have a realistic path to get there on-time.

Conclusion

It was exciting to participate in this PI DX event. The Marketkey-team has transposed the conference concept to a virtual event, very close to the physical event. In particular, well-moderated roundtable sessions based on Teams are the big differentiator for me compared to other virtual events I have seen.

Expecting COVID-19 will not disappear next week, I look forward to the next event with such an interaction.

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