I was sitting outside in the garden during Ascension Day, which is (still) a national holiday in the Netherlands (Thanks God). It was again nice and warm, and it made me think about the parallels between Global warming and PLM.
Climate change has always been there if we look at the history of our planet. We started to talk about Global Warming when scientist indicated that this time the climate change is caused by human intervention. As a result of vast amounts of carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse effect started to become visible. When the first rumors came that global warming began to come up, environmentalists started preaching we have to act NOW before it is too late. Meanwhile at the other side, people began arguing that it was just a coincidence, an opinion.
There is no scientific proof, so why worry?
In the past ten years, the signs and proofs of global warming have become evident and climate conferences filled with people who want to act and on the other side the blockers, try to create progress in the battle against global warming. In particular in Europe governments and companies are starting to become aware that they can contribute to a more sustainable society.
Not enough according to the environmentalists and scientists. As our brains still operate mostly in a prehistoric mode (day-to-day survival, food, home, social status), slow changes and sustainability for next generations are not part of most people concerns. And those people, who make us aware of this lack of priority for sustainability, are considered annoying as they disrupt our lives.
Companies that have invested (heavily) in sustainable business models often have a challenging path to survive against traditional businesses. As the majority of consumers wants cheap. Some examples:
- Energy: most power plants are heated by burning coal as this is the cheapest option. Shale gas winning became attractive because we need cheap fuel. Alternatives like solar, wind and others cannot compete on price level as long as we do not pay for the damage to nature.
- Food: produced in bio-farms, where animal wellness or health is not part of the plan. The goal is to deliver xx kilos of meat for the lowest price. Alternative like more natural ways of growing meat or even revolutionary ways (the grown hamburger) cannot compete on price currently unless we are willing to pay for it.
- The Fashion industry where down in its supply chains human beings are treated like slaves. When you buy a cheap garment, you know somebody has been suffering.
Governments sometimes subsidize or push sustainable technologies as they realize that something has to happen (most of the time for the public opinion – their voters) but there is no consistent strategy as liberals believe every form of support is against open competition. And as long as we let our prehistoric brain run our choices, the earth gets warmer with the consequences being visible more and more.
We know we have to act, but we do not act seriously
Now let´s switch to PLM. The association started when I saw Chad Jackson’s retweet from Lifecycle insights related to top PLM challenges.
Clearly the message illustrates that costs, time, and technology have priority. Not about what PLM really can establish (even in the context of global warming).
PLM started end of the previous century, initially invented by some of the major CAD vendors, Dassault Systemes, PTC, and Siemens. Five years later it was taken more seriously, as also enterprise software vendors, like SAP and Oracle, started to work on their PLM offering. And some years ago even the most skeptic company related to PLM, Autodesk, began to sell a PLM offering.
So like global warming we can conclude: PLM is recognized, and now we can act.
The early adopters of PLM are also in a challenging situation. Their first PLM implementations were very much focused on an IT-infrastructure, allowing data to flow through a global organization, without disrupting the day-to-day business model too much. These implementations are now a burden to many of them: costly and almost impossible to change. Look at the PLM stories from some of the major automotive companies, like Daimler, JLR, PSA, Renault, , Volvo Cars and more.
They are all somehow kept hostage by their old implementations (as business continues) however due to changing ownership, business models and technology they cannot benefit from modern PLM concepts as it would be a disruption.
Meanwhile, PLM has evolved from an IT-infrastructure into a business-driven approach to support global, more flexible and customer-driven business processes. Younger companies that are now starting in Asia do not suffer from this legacy and are faster established based on the know-how from the early adopters.
And this is not only happing in the automotive industry. In the recent years, I have seen examples in the Oil & Gas industry, the High-Tech industry (which in theory is relative young) and the Manufacturing industry.
Coming back to the 2015 PLM challenges tweeted by Chad Jackson, it looks like they are related to time and costs. Obviously it is not clear what values PLM can bring to a company outside efficiency gains (ERP/Lean thinking). Modern PLM allows companies to change their business model as I wrote recently: From a linear to fast and circular. No longer is the PLM mission to support companies with product information from cradle to grave but from cradle to cradle. Sustainability and becoming connected to customers are new demands: Operational services instead of selling products, linking it with the need for IoT to understand what is happening.
In the 2015 PLM, the discussion with executives is about purchasing technology instead of the need to change our business for long-term survival. Most investors do not like long-term visions as their prehistoric brains are tuned to be satisfied in the short-term.
Therefore, as long as the discussion about PLM is about IT and infrastructure and not about business change, there will be this stall, identical to what happens with addressing global warming. Short term results are expected by the stakeholders, trying to keep up the current model. Strategists and business experts are all talking about the new upcoming digital era, similar to global warming.
We know we have to act, but we do not act seriously
When I posted a short version of this post on LinkedIn on Ascension Day, I got some excellent feedback which I want to share here:
Dieter de Vroomen (independent advisor, interim manager & neighbor) wrote me an email. Dieter does not have a PLM-twisted brain. Therefore I like his opinion:
PLM and Global Warming are both assumptions, mental constructs that we can make plausible with technology and data. Both mindsets save us from disasters through the use of technology. And that’s what both sell. But is that what they produce, what we want? Apple and associates think vice versa, making what first we want and explain later the underlying technology. I miss that with global warming, but certainly PLM. That’s why it sells so bad CxO’s.
I think the point Dieter is making is interesting as he is a non-PLM guy -showing the way CxO might be thinking. As long as we (PLMers) do not offer a packaged solution, an end-to-end experience, it is hard to convince the C-level. This is one of the significant differences between ERP (its purpose is clearly is tangible) and PLM (see my post PLM at risk! It does not have a clear target).
A more motivating comment came from Ben Muis, consultant and entrepreneur in the fashion industry. We met at the PI Apparel 2013 conference, and I like his passion for bringing innovation to the fashion industry. Read his full comments on my post on LinkedIn as he combined in his career sustainability and PLM. Two quotes from Ben:
As you may know I did quite a bit of work on how the fashion industry could and should be more sustainable in its approach. This was at a time where only a handful of people at best were willing to even think about this. Knowing that in reality the decisions around cost and commercialism were driving the agenda, I drew the conclusion that by improving processes within the industry I could actually cause a sustainability improvement that was driven by commercial desire.
Explaining how you can become involved in the bigger picture and for Ben it is the possibility to keep on working on his passion in a real-time world. And finally:
So there you have it… my reasons for initially thinking your title was very close to the reason I shifted my focus from pure sustainability advice to PLM implementations to begin with. I could drive a real result much quicker. This, as I am sure you will agree, in itself supports the reason for taking PLM seriously
The topics PLM and Global Warming have a lot in common. The awareness exists. However when it comes to action, we are blocked by our prehistoric brain, thinking about short term benefits. This will not change in the next 1000 years. Therefore, we need organizations and individuals that against all odds take the steep path and have a vision of change, breaking the old models and silos. It will cost money, it will require a sacrifice and the reward will only be noticed by next generations. What a shame
A final quote before going back to standard PLM matter in upcoming posts:
“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.”
Robert A. Heinlein