The title of this post came in my mind when looking back on some of the activities I was involved in, in the past two weeks. I was discussing with several customers their progress or status of the current PLM integration. One of the trends was, that despite the IT department did their best to provide a good infrastructure for project or product related information, the users always found a problem ,why they could not use the system.
I believe the biggest challenge for every organization implementing PDM and later PLM is, to get all users aligned to store their information in a central location and to share it with others. Only in this manner a company can achieve the goal of having a single version of the truth.
With single version of the truth I mean – if I look in the PLM system I find there all the needed data to explain me the exact status of a product or a project.
If it is not in the PLM system, it does not exist !
How many companies can make that statement ?
If your company does not have the single version of the truth implemented yet , you might be throwing away money and even bring your company at risk in the long term. Why ? Let’s look at some undisclosed examples I learned in the past few weeks:
- A company ordering 16 pumps which on arrival where not the correct ones –
1 M Euro lost
- During installation at a drilling site the equipment did not fit and had many clashes – 20 M Dollar lost, due to rework and penalties
- 7000 K Euro lost due to a wrong calculation based on the wrong information
- A major bid lost due to high price estimation due to lack of communication between the estimator and the engineering department
- 500 K Euro penalty for delivering the wrong information (and too late)
All the above examples – and I am sure it is just a tip of what is happening around the world – were related to the power & process industry, where of course high-capital projects run and the losses might look small related to the size of the projects.
But what was the source of all this: Users
Although the companies were using a PLM system, in one company a user decided that some of the data should not be in the system, but should be in his drawer, to assure proper usage (according to his statement, as otherwise when the data is public available, people might misuse the data) – or was it false job security as at the end you loose your job by this behavior.
People should bring value in collaboration not in sitting on the knowledge.
Another frequently heard complaint is that users decide the PLM system is too complex for them and it takes too much time for them to enter data. And as engineers have not been bothered by any kind of strict data management, as ERP users are used to work with, their complaints are echoed to the PLM implementer. The PLM implementer can spend a lot of time to customize or adapt the system to the user’s needs.
But will it be enough ? It is always subjective and from my experience, the more you customize the higher the future risks. What about upgrades or changes in the process ?
And can we say NO to the next wish of this almighty user ?
Is the PLM system to blame ?
The PLM system is often seen as the enemy of the data creator, as it forces a user in a certain pattern. Excel is much easier to use, some home-made macros and the user feels everything is under control (as long as he is around).
Open Source PLM somehow seems to address this challenge, as it does not create the feeling, that PLM Vendors only make their money from complex, unneeded functionality. Everything is under own control for the customer, they decide if the system is good enough.
PLM On Demand has even a harder job to convince the unwilling user, therefore they also position themselves as easy to use, friend of the user and enemy of the software developer. But at the end it is all about users committing to share and therefore adapt themselves to changes.
So without making a qualification of the different types of PLM systems, for me it is clear that:
The first step all users in a company should realize is that, by working together towards a single version of the truth for all product or project related data, it brings huge benefits. Remember the money lost due to errors because another version of data existed somewhere. This is where the most ROI for PLM is reported
Next step is to realize, it is a change process and by being open minded towards change, either motivated or pushed by the management, the change will make everyone’s work more balanced – not in the first three months but in the longer term.
Conclusion: Creating the single version of the truth for project or product data is required in any modern organization, to remain competitive and profitable. Reaching this goal might not be as easy for every person or company but the awards are high when reaching this very basic goal.
At the end it is about human contribution – not what the computer says: