In the past two weeks I had some interesting observations related to the core of PLM. Reading posts and some in-depth discussions with customers lead to the statements below:
Single version of truth ?
First I am going back to the intent of PLM – companies that implement PLM are not looking for a system where they can store information in a single database. Often the single version of the truth story is translated into technology . To illustrate this statement I was explaining a medical device company some weeks before how in PLM practices the interaction of requirements, integrated with regulatory compliance verification speeds up the product development process as deviations are early discovered during the development stage. The astonishing answer from the customer was; “Yes we already store this information in our well-known ERP system – so no need for PLM to handle this”
For this person the conclusion was that once data is stored in a system, it is managed. However what the company never tried was to track each requirement individually (and its possible change) during the engineering process and have a direct connection to regulatory demands.
In that area Excel, people’s knowledge and stored documents were used to collaborate. Off course with the late discovery of errors and several extra iterations due to it. As long as this company does not understand that the PLM system is not yet another tool to store data, but an enabler to work different and more efficient, these tools based statements will not bring them further. But as nobody get fired for selecting a well-known ERP system, but trying to change the way people work is a risk, often the first option is chosen.
And the more conservative the company culture, the more likely this will happen.
Tools do not make a change
In a last week meeting I met a VP of a business group of a real global company. I am stressing the word real as there are many global companies, that actually have one main location where the IP and influence comes from – as compared to the real global companies where all around the world the knowledge and IP of the company is invented and spread from there. Although the discussion was on the current status and quality of the tools in use, during breaks we concluded that although the discussion is about tools, the hardest part for implementing PLM in their company is to master and motivate the changes in the way of working towards the users.
In several blog posts from Oleg (and others) I see the hope that new user interfaces, user data handling can provide a break through here. I partly agree here – in the eighties/nineties we had the single window terminal screens, which were easy to understand (no multi-tasking / no multi-windows). Slowly the current workforce got used to windows (still no multi-tasking) and the new generation (generation-Y) is less and less single tasking and has different ways of solving issues. New interfaces can contribute to the acceptation of a tool, but as in the end we are still doing the same – storing data in a central system without changing the way we work – there is nothing improved
MBOM in PLM
Another interesting statement of this VP was also that they are in the process of bringing all engineering data coming from different disciplines in their R&D / PLM environment. Originally it was the ERP system that was used to combine all data coming from different disciplines. However the disadvantage was that this product definition resided partly in an ERP (there is no concept of a single ERP as manufacturing differ so much globally) and partly in PLM. Their future plan was therefore to extend the coverage of PLM toward the whole preparation for manufacturing – my favorite topic too: see Where is the MBOM ?
Conclusion so far
In day to day relations customers and PLM vendors, implementers are talking about functions and features to implement and where and how data is stored. The major driver should be the concept of changing the way we work to be more efficient, more clever and with higher quality. This is not reached by storing data, but by having the right data available at the right moment. And this moment changes when implementing PLM
- PLM Customers: Make sure that change of doing business is the target of your PLM implementation – do not look for tools only – check with your implementer and vendor which experience they have.
- PLM Implementers: Schedule time and activities during the implementation to understand the business change and the customer to adapt. It is a different type of skill required but as important.
- PLM Vendors: You have a hard time – as all are talking about the tools, you do not want to talk about the changes PLM implies – a pity but most customers do not want to hear this side during their PLM selection process