Happy New Year to all of you. It has been a period of reflection – first disconnected from PLM and then again slowly getting my PLM-twisted brain back to work. And although my mind is already running in a “What’s next mode,” I would like to share with you first some of the lessons learned from last year.

Model-Based confusion

Most of the topics related to model-based approaches, from systems engineering, through engineering and manufacturing, leading to digital twins, are very futuristic; an end-to-end model-driven enterprise is not in reach for most of us. There are several reasons for that:

  • Not every company has this need or discovered the need to have digital continuity and almost real-time availability of information end-to-end. As a result, there are still slow businesses.
  • Understanding the needs for a model-driven enterprise takes time and effort. There are no available solutions on the market yet, so there is no baseline available to discuss and compare. For sure, solutions will be a combination of connected capabilities based on model-driven paradigms. It will take time to develop and understand the benefits.
  • Model-Based approaches are not just a marketing invention, as some disbelievers suggest. In particular, in Asia, where people deal with less legacy (and skepticism) than our western engineering/manufacturing world, companies embrace these concepts faster. One more time, if you didn’t look at Zhang Xin Guo’s keynote speech at the Incose annual symposium last year, watch the speech below and learn to understand the needed paradigm change. Is it a coincidence that a Chinese speaker gives the best explanation so far?

Technology hype?

The (Industrial) Internet of Things, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented reality, Virtual Reality, and Digit Twin appear in the news. But, most of the time, they are associated with tremendous opportunities, changing business models and potentially high profits. For example, read this quote from Jim Heppelmann after the acquisition of Frustum:

“PTC is pushing the boundaries of innovation with this acquisition,” said Jim Heppelmann, president and CEO, PTC. “Creo is core to PTC’s overall strategy, and the embedded capabilities from ANSYS and, later, Frustum will elevate Creo to a leading position in the world of design and simulation. With breakthrough new technologies such as AR/VR, high-performance computing, IoT, AI, and additive manufacturing entering the picture, the CAD industry is going through a renaissance period, and PTC is committed to leading the way.”

Of course, vendors have to sell their capabilities; the major challenge for companies is to make a valuable business from all these capabilities (if possible). In that context, I was happy to read one of Joe Barkai’s recent posts: When the Party is Over — Industrial Internet of Things Industry Snapshot and Predictions, where he puts the IIoT hype in a business perspective.

Can technology change business?

If you look back over the past 50 years, various changes in technology have affected the world of PLM. Assuming the current definition of PLM could exist in 1970 even without a PLM system – PLM was invented in 1999. First, there was the journey from drawing boards to electronic drawings and 3D models. Next global connectivity and an affordable infrastructure boosted product development collaboration. Still, many organizations work in a silo-ed way, inside the organization and outside with their suppliers. Still, the 2D Drawing is the legal information carrier combined with additional specification documents. Changing the paradigm to a connected 3D Model is already possible, however not pushed or implemented by manufacturing companies as it requires a change in ways of working (people) and related processes.

A business change has to come from the top of an organization, which is the challenge for PLM. What is the value of collaboration? How do you measure innovation capabilities? How do you impact time to market?

Time to market might be understood at the board level. There is an existing NPI (New Product Introduction) process in place, and by analyzing the process, fixing bottlenecks, an efficiency gain can be achieved. Every innovation goes through the same process. This is where traditional PLM plays a significant role as it is partly measurable.

But how to improve collaboration or innovation speed?

At the board level, often numbers rule and based on numbers, decisions are taken. This mindset often leads to narrow thinking. Adjustments are made by prioritizing one topic above the other. Complex topics like the needed change of business and business models are not really understood and passed to the middle management (who will kill it to guarantee the status quo).

Organizations need a myth!

One of the significant challenges for PLM is that there is no end-to-end belief in its purpose. According to Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens, the primary success factor why homo sapiens became the dominant species on earth is because they can collaborate in large groups driven by abstract themes. It can be religion. A lot is done on behalf of faith. It can also be a charismatic CEO who can create the myth – think about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk.

Organizations that want to go through a digital transformation need to create their myth and deliver product/business innovation through new ways of working should be part of that. I wrote about myths in the context of PLM in the past: PLM as a myth? . I believe the domain of PLM is too small for a myth still. However, it is a crucial part of digital transformation.

In the upcoming year, I will focus again on how organizations can benefit from new technologies. But, again, not focusing on WHAT is possible, but mainly on WHY and HOW – all based on the myth that we can do so much better as organizations when innovation and customer focus are part of everyone’s empowered mind.

I am looking forward to meeting in face-to-face discussions, Skype calls, or during events and conferences.
Let’s understand and create the myth together – first in London.