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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.

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?

 

 

After the series about “Learning from the past,” it is time to start looking towards the future.  I learned from several discussions that I am probably working most of the time with advanced companies. I believe this would motivate companies that lag behind even to look into the future even more.

If you look into the future for your company, you need new or better business outcomes. That should be the driver for your company. A company does not need PLM or a Digital Twin. A company might want to reduce its time to market, improve collaboration between all stakeholders. These objectives can be realized by different ways of working and an IT-infrastructure to allow these processes to become digital and connected.

That is the “game”. Coming back to the future of PLM.  We do not need a discussion about definitions; I leave this to the academics and vendors. We will see the same applies to the concept of a Digital Twin.

My statement: The digital twin is not new. Everybody can have their own digital twin as long as you interpret the definition differently. Does this sound like the PLM definition?

The definition

I like to follow the Gartner definition:

A digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world entity or system. The implementation of a digital twin is an encapsulated software object or model that mirrors a unique physical object, process, organization, person, or other abstraction. Data from multiple digital twins can be aggregated for a composite view across a number of real-world entities, such as a power plant or a city, and their related processes.

As you see, not a narrow definition. Now we will look at the different types of interpretations.

Single-purpose siloed Digital Twins

  1. Simple – data only

One of the most straightforward applications of a digital twin is, for example, my Garmin Connect environment. When cycling, my device registers performance parameters (speed, cadence, power, heartbeat, location). After every trip, I can analyze my performance. I can see changes in my overall performance; compare my performance with others in my category (weight, age, sex).

Based on that, I can decide if I want to improve my performance. My personal business goal is to maintain and improve my overall performance, knowing I cannot stop aging by upgrading my body.

On November 4th, 2020, I am participating in the (almost virtual) Digital Twin conference organized by Bits&Chips in the Netherlands. In the context of human performance, I look forward to Natal van Riel’s presentation: Towards the metabolic digital twin – for sure, this direction is not simple. Natal is a full professor at the Technical University in Eindhoven, the “smart city” in the Netherlands

  1. Medium – data and operating models

Many connected devices in the world use the same principle. An airplane engine, an industrial robot, a wind turbine, a medical device, and a train carriage; all track the performance based on this connection between physical and virtual, based on some sort of digital connectivity.

The business case here is also monitoring performance, predict maintenance, and upgrade the product when needed.

This is the domain of Asset Lifecycle Management, a practice that exists for decades. Based on financial and performance models, the optimal balance between maintaining and overhaul has to be found. Repairs are disruptive and can be extremely costly. A manufacturing site that cannot produce can costs millions per day. Connecting data between the physical and the virtual model allows us to have real-time insights and be proactive. It becomes a digital twin.

  1. Advanced – data and connected 3D model

The ditial twin we see the most in marketing videos is a virtual twin, using a 3D-representation for understanding and navigation.  The 3D-representation provides a Virtual Reality (VR) environment with connected data. When pointing at the virtual components, information might appear, or some animation takes place.

Building such a virtual representation is a significant effort; therefore, there needs to be a serious business case.

The simplest business case is to use the virtual twin for training purposes. A flight simulator provides a virtual environment and behavior as-if you are flying in the physical airplane – the behavior model behind the simulator should match as good as possible the real behavior. However, as it is a model, it will never be 100 % reality and requires updates when new findings or product changes appear.

A virtual model of a platform or plant can be used for training on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). In the physical world, there is no place or time to conduct such training. Here the complexity might be lower. There is a 3D Model; however, serious updates can only be expected after a major maintenance or overhaul activity.

These practices are not new either and are used in places where the physical training cannot be done.

More challenging is the Augmented Reality (AR) use case. Here the virtual model, most of the time, a lightweight 3D Model, connects to real-time data coming from other sources. For example, AR can be used when an engineer has to service a machine. The AR-environment might project actual data from the machine, indicate service points and service procedures.

The positive side of the business case is clear for such an opportunity, ensuring service engineers always work with the right information in a real-time context. The main obstacle for implementing AR, in reality, is the access to data, the presentation of the data and keeping the data in the AR-environment matching the reality.

And although there are 3D Models in use, they are, to my knowledge, always created in siloes, not yet connected to their design sources.Have a look at the Digital Twin conference from Bits&Chips, as mentioned before.

Several of the cases mentioned above will be discussed here. The conference’s target is to share real cases concluded by Q & A sessions, crucial for a virtual event.

Connected Virtual Twins along the product lifecycle

So far, we have been discussing the virtual twin concept, where we connect a product/system/person in the physical world to a virtual model. Now let us zoom in on the virtual twins relevant for the early parts of the product lifecycle, the manufacturing twin, and the development twin. This image from Siemens illustrates the concept:

On slides they imagine a complete integrated framework, which is the future vision. Let us first zoom in on the individual connected twins.

The digital production twin

This is the area of virtual manufacturing and creating a virtual model of the manufacturing plant. Virtual manufacturing planning is not a new topic. DELMIA (Dassault Systèmes) and Tecnomatix (Siemens) are already for a long time offering virtual manufacturing planning solutions.

At that time, the business case was based on the fact that the definition of a manufacturing plant and process done virtually allows you to optimize the plant before investing in physical assets.

Saving money as there is no costly prototype phase to optimize production. In a virtual world, you can perform many trade-off studies without extra costs. That was the past (and for many companies still the current situation).

With the need to be more flexible in manufacturing to address individual customer orders without increasing the overhead of delivering these customer-specific solutions, there is a need for a configurable plant that can produce these individual products (batch size 1).

This is where the virtual plant model comes into the picture again. Instead of having a virtual model to define the ultimate physical plant, now the virtual model remains an active model to propose and configure the production process for each of these individual products in the physical plant.

This is partly what Industry 4.0 is about. Using a model-based approach to configure the plant and its assets in a connected manner. The digital production twin drives the execution of the physical plant. The factory has to change from a static factory to a dynamic “smart” factory.

In the domain of Industry 4.0, companies are reporting progress. However, to my experience, the main challenge is still that the product source data is not yet built in a model-based, configurable manner. Therefore, requiring manual rework. This is the area of Model-Based Definition, and I have been writing about this aspect several times. Latest post: Model-Based: Connecting Engineering and Manufacturing

The business case for this type of digital twin, of course, is to be able to customer-specific products with extremely competitive speed and reduced cost compared to standard. It could be your company’s survival strategy. As it is hard to predict the future, as we see from COVID-19, it is still crucial to anticipate the future, instead of waiting.

The digital development twin

Before a product gets manufactured, there is a product development process. In the past, this was pure mechanical with some electronic components. Nowadays, many companies are actually manufacturing systems as the software controlling the product plays a significant role. In this context, the model-based systems engineering approach is the upcoming approach to defining and testing a system virtually before committing to the physical world.

Model-Based Systems Engineering can define a single complex product and perform all kinds of analysis on the system even before there is a physical system in place.  I will explain more about model-based systems engineering in future posts. In this context, I want to stress that having a model-based system engineering environment combined with modularity (do not confuse it with model-based) is a solid foundation for dealing with unique custom products. Solutions can be configured and validated against their requirements already during the engineering phase.

The business case for the digital development twin is easy to make. Shorter time to market, improved and validated quality, and reduced engineering hours and costs compared to traditional ways of working. To achieve these results,  for sure, you need to change your ways of working and the tools you are using. So it won’t be that easy!

For those interested in Industry 4.0 and the Model-Based System Engineering approach, join me at the upcoming PLM Road Map 2020 and PDT 2020 conference on 17-18-19 November. As you can see from the agenda, a lot of attention to the Digital Twin and Model-Based approaches.

Three digital half-days with hopefully a lot to learn and stay with our feet on the ground.  In particular, I am looking forward to Marc Halpern’s keynote speech: Digital Thread: Be Careful What you Wish For, It Just Might Come True

Conclusion

It has been very noisy on the internet related to product features and technologies, probably due to COVIC-19 and therefore disrupted interactions between all of us – vendors, implementers and companies trying to adjust their future. The Digital Twin concept is an excellent framing for a concept that everyone can relate to. Choose your business case and then look for the best matching twin.

On March 22 this year, I wrote Time to Think (and act differently) in de middle of a changing world. We were entering a lockdown in the Netherlands due to the COVID-19 virus. As it was such a disruptive change, it was an opportunity to adapt their current ways of working.

The reason for that post was my experience when discussing PLM-initiatives with companies. Often they have no time to sit down, discuss and plan their PLM targets as needed. Crucial people are too busy, leading to an implementation of a system that, in the best case, creates (some) benefits.

The well-known cartoon says it all. We are often too busy doing business as usual, making us feel comfortable. Only when it is too late, people are forced to act.  As the second COVID-19 wave seems to start in the Netherlands, I want to look back on what has happened so far in my eco-system.

Virtual Conferences

As people could not travel anymore, traditional PLM-conferences could not be organized anymore. What was going to be the new future for conferences? TECHNIA, apparently clairvoyant, organized their virtual PLM Innovation Forum as one of the first, end of April.

A more sustainable type of PLM-conference was already a part of their plans, given the carbon footprint a traditional conference induces.  The virtual conference showed that being prepared for a virtual conference pays off during a pandemic with over 1000 participants.

Being first does not always mean being the best,  as we have to learn. While preparing my session for the conference, I felt the same excitement as for a traditional conference. You can read about my initial experience here: The weekend after the PLM Innovation Forum.

Some weeks later, having attended some other virtual conferences, I realized that some points should be addressed/solved:

  • Video conferencing is a must – without seeing people talking, it becomes a podcast.
  • Do not plan long conference days. It is hard to sit behind a screen for a full day. A condensed program makes it easier to attend.
  • Virtual conferences mean that they can be attended live from almost all around the globe. Therefore, finding the right timeslots is crucial for the audience – combined with the previous point – shorter programs.
  • Playing prerecorded sessions without a Q&A session should be avoided. It does not add value.
  • A conference is about networking and discussion – I have not seen a solution for this yet. Fifty percent of the conference value for me comes from face-to-face discussions and coffee meetings. A virtual conference needs to have private chat opportunities between attendees.

In the last quarter of this year, I will present at several merely local conferences, sometimes a mix between “live” with a limited number of attendees, if it will be allowed.

And then there is the upcoming PLM Road Map & PDT Fall 2020 (virtual) conference on 17-18-19 November.

This conference has always been my favorite conference thanks to its continued focus on sharing experiences, most of the time, based on industry standards. We discuss topics and learn from each other. See my previous posts: The weekend after 2019 Day 1, 2019 Day 2, 2018 Day 1, 2018 Day2, 2017 Day 1, 2017 Day 2, etc.

The theme Digital Thread—the PLM Professionals’ Path to Delivering Innovation, Efficiency, and Quality has nothing to do with marketing. You can have a look at the full schedule here. Although there is a lot of buzz around Digital Thread, presenters discuss the reality and their plans

Later in this post, see the paragraph Digital Thread is not a BOM, I will elaborate on this theme.

Getting tired?

I discovered I am getting tired as I am missing face-to-face interaction with people. Working from home, having video calls, is probably a very sustainable way of working.  However, non-planned social interaction, meeting each other at the coffee machine, or during the breaks at a conference or workshop, is also crucial for informal interaction.

Apparently, several others in my eco-system are struggling too. I noticed a tsunami of webinars and blog posts where many of them were an attempt to be noticed. Probably the same reason: traditionally businesses have stalled. And it is all about Digital Transformation and SaaS at this moment. Meaningless if there is no interaction.

In this context, I liked Jan Bosch’s statement in his article: Does data-driven decision-making make you boring? An article not directly addressing the PLM-market; however, there is a lot of overlap related to people’s reluctance to imagine a different future.

My favorite quote:

 I still meet people that continue to express beliefs about the world, their industry, their customers or their own performance that simply aren’t true. Although some, like Steve Jobs, were known for their “reality distortion field,” for virtually all of us, just wishing for something to be true doesn’t make it so. As William Edwards Deming famously said: in God we trust; all others must bring data.

I fully concur with this statement and always get suspicious when someone claims the truth.

Still, there are some diamonds.

I enjoyed all episodes from Minerva PLM TV – Jennifer Moore started these series in the early COVID19-days (coincidence?). She was able to have a collection of interviews with known and less-known people in the PLM-domain. As most of them were vendor-independent, these episodes are a great resource to get educated.

The last episode with Angela Ippisch illustrates how often PLM in companies depends on a few enthusiastic persons, who have the energy to educate themselves. Angela mentions there is a lot of information on the internet; the challenge is to separate the useful information from marketing.

I have been publishing the past five months a series of posts under the joint theme learning from the past to understand the future. In these posts, I explained the evolution from PDM to PLM, resulting in the current item-centric approach with an EBOM, MBOM, and SBOM.

On purpose, one post per every two weeks – to avoid information overflow. Looking back, it took more posts than expected, and they are an illustration of the many different angles there are in the PLM domain – not a single truth.

Digital Thread is not a BOM

I want to address this point because I realized that in the whole blogging world there appear to be two worlds when discussing PLM terminology. Oleg Shilovitsky, CEO@OpenBOM, claims that Digital Thread and Digital Twin topics are just fancy marketing terms. I was even more surprised to read his post: 3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Using The Word “Model” In PLM. Read the comments and discussion in these posts (if LinkedIn allows you to navigate)

Oleg’s posts have for me most of the time, always something to discuss. I would be happier if other people with different backgrounds would participate in these discussions too – A “Like” is not a discussion. The risk in a virtual world is that it becomes a person-to-person debate, and we have seen the damage such debates can do for an entire community.

In the discussion we had related to Digital Thread and BOM, I realized that when we talk about traditional products, the BOM and the Digital Thread might be the same. This is how we historically released products to the market. Once produced, there were no more changes. In these situations, you could state a PLM-backbone based on BOM-structures/views, the EBOM, MBOM, and SBOM provide a Digital Thread.

The different interpretation comes when talking about products that contain software defining its behavior. Like a computer, the operating system can be updated on the fly; meanwhile, the mechanical system remains the same. To specify and certify the behavior of the computer, we cannot rely on the BOM anymore.

Having software in the BOM and revise the BOM every time there is a software change is a mission impossible. A mistake suggested ten years ago when we started to realize the different release cycles of hardware and software. Still, it is all about the traceability of all information related to a product along its whole lifecycle.

In a connected environment, we need to manage relationships between the BOM and relations to other artifacts. Managing these relations in a connected environment is what I would call the Digital Thread – a layer above PLM. While writing this post, I saw Matthias Ahrens’ post stating the same (click on the image to see the post)

When we discuss managing all the relations, we touch the domain of Configuration Management.  Martijn Dullaart/Martin Haket’s picture shares the same mindset – here, CM is the overlapping layer.

However, in their diagram, it is not a system picture; the different systems do not need to be connected. Configuration Management is the discipline that maintains the correct definition of every product – CM maintains the Thread. When it becomes connected, it is a Digital Thread.

As I have reached my 1500 words, I will not zoom in on the PLM and Model discussion – build your opinion yourself. We have to realize that the word Model always requires a context. Perhaps many of us coming from the traditional PDM/PLM world (managing CAD data) think about CAD models. As I studied physics before even touching CAD, I grew up with a different connotation

Lars Taxén’s comment in this discussion perhaps says it all (click on the image to read it). If you want to learn and discuss more about the Digital Thread and Models, register for the PLM Roadmap & PDT2020 event as many of the sessions are in this context (and not about 3D CAD).

Conclusion

I noticed I am getting tired of all the information streams crying for my attention and look forward to real social discussions, not broadcasted. Time to think differently requires such discussion, and feel free to contact me if you want to reflect on your thoughts. My next action will be a new series named Painting the future to stay motivated. (As we understand the past).

I believe we are almost at the end of learning from the past. We have seen how, from an initial serial CAD-driven approach with PDM, we evolved to PLM-managed structures, the EBOM and the MBOM. Or to illustrate this statement, look at the image below, where I use a Tech-Clarity image from Jim Brown.

The image on the right describes perfectly the complementary roles of PLM and ERP. The image on the left shows the typical PDM-approach. PDM feeding ERP in a linear process. The image on the right, I believe it is from 2004, shows the best practice before digital transformation. PLM is supporting product innovation in an iterative approach, pushing released information to ERP for execution.

As I think in images, I like the concept of a circle for PLM and an arrow for ERP. I am always using those two images in discussions with my customers when we want to understand if a particular activity should be in the PLM or ERP-domain.

Ten years ago, the PLM-domain was conceptually further extended by introducing support for products in operations and service. Similar to the EBOM (engineering) and the MBOM (manufacturing), the SBOM (service) was introduced to support product information for products in operation. In theory a full connected cicle.

Asset Lifecycle Management

At the same time, I was promoting PLM-practices for owners/operators to enhance Asset Lifecycle Management. My first post from June 2010 was called: PLM for Asset Lifecycle Management and Asset Development introduces this approach.

Conceptually the SBOM and Asset Lifecycle Management have a lot in common. There is a design product, in this case, an asset (plant, machine) running in the field, and we need to make sure operators have the latest information about the asset. And in case of asset changes, which can be a maintenance operation, a repair or complete overall, we need to be sure the changes are based on the correct information from the as-built environment. This requires full configuration management.

Asset changes can be based on extensive projects that need to be treated like new product development projects, with a staged approach that can take weeks, months, sometimes years. These activities are typical activities performed in PLM-systems, not in MRO-systems that are designed to manage the actual operation. Again here we see the complementary roles of PLM (iterative) and MRO (execution).

Since 2008, I have worked a lot in this environment, mainly in the nuclear and process industry. If you want to learn more about this aspect of PLM, I recommend looking at the PLMpartner website, where Bjørn Fidjeland, in cooperation with SharePLM, published a course on Plant Information Management. We worked together in several projects and Bjørn has done a great effort to describe the logical model to be used instead of a function-feature story.

Ten years ago, we were not calling this concept the “Digital Twin,” as the aim was to provide end-to-end support of asset information from engineering, procurement, and construction towards operation in a coordinated manner. The breaking point in the relation between the EPCs and Owner/Operators is the data-handover – how much of your IP can/do you expose and what is needed. Nowadays, we would call striving for end-to-end data continuity the Digital Thread.

Hot from the press in this context, CIMdata just published a commentary Managing the Digital Thread in Global Value Chains describing Eurostep’s ShareAspace capabilities and experiences in managing an end-to-end information flow (Digital Thread) in a heterogeneous environment based on exchange standards like ISO 10303-239 PLCS.  Their solution is based on what I consider a more modern approach for managing digital continuity compared to the traditional approach I described before. Compare the two images in this paragraph. The first image represents the old/current way with a disconnected handover, the second represents ShareAspace connected approach based on a real digital thread.

The Service BOM

As discussed with Asset Lifecycle Management, there is a disconnect between the engineering disciplines and operations in the field, looking from the point of view of an Asset owner/operator.

Now when we look from the perspective of a manufacturing company that produces assets to be serviced, we can identify a different dataflow and a new structure, the Service BOM (SBOM).

The SBOM provides information on how a product needs to be serviced. What are the parts that require service, and what are the service kits that are possible for that product? For that reason, service engineering should be done in parallel to product engineering. When designing a product, the engineer needs to identify which the wearing parts (always require service in time) and which parts might be serviceable.

There are different ways to look at the SBOM. Conceptually, the SBOM could be created in close relation with the EBOM. At the moment you define your product, you also should specify how the product will be services. See the image below

From this example, it is clear that part standardization and modularization have a considerable benefit for services downstream. What if you have only one serviceable part that applies to many products? The number of parts to have in stock will be strongly reduced instead of having many similar parts that only fit in a single product?

Depending on the type of product, the SBOM can be generic, serving many products in the field. In that case, the company has to deal with catalogs, to be defined in PLM. Or the SBOM can be aligned with the As-Built of a capital product in the field. In that case, the concepts of Asset Lifecycle Management apply. Click on the image to see a clear picture.

The SBOM on its own,  in such an environment, will have links to specific documents, service instructions, operating manuals.

If your PLM-system allows it, extending the EBOM and MBOM with an SBOM is not a complex effort. What is crucial to understand is that the SBOM has its own lifecycle, which can even last longer than the active product sold. So sometimes, manufacturing specifications, related to service parts need to be maintained too, creating a link between the SBOM and potential MBOM(s).

ECM = Enterprise Change Management

When I discussed ECM in my previous post in the context of Engineering Change Management, I got the feedback that nowadays, everyone talks about Enterprise Change Management. Engineering Change Management is old school.

In the past, and even in a 2014 benchmark, a customer had two change management systems. One in PLM and one in ERP, and companies were looking into connecting these two processes. Like the BOM-interaction between PLM and ERP, this is technology-wise, never a real problem.

The real problem in such situations was to come to a logical flow of events. Many times the company insisted that every change should start from the ERP-system as we like to standardize. This means that even an engineering change had to be registered first in the ERP-system

Luckily the reach of PLM has grown. PLM is no longer the engineering tool (IT-system thinking). PLM has become the information backbone for product information all along the product lifecycle. Having the MBOM and SBOM available through a PLM-infrastructure allows organizations to streamline their processes.

Aras – digital thread through connected structures

And in this modern environment, enterprise change management might take place mostly in a PLM-infrastructure. The PLM-infrastructure providing a digital thread, as the Aras picture above illustrates, provides the full traceability to support configuration management.

However, we still have to remember that configuration management and engineering change management, first of all, are based on methodology and processes. Next, the combination of tools to be used will vary.

I like to conclude this topic with a quote from Lee Perrin’s comment on my previous blog post

I would add that aerospace companies implemented CM, to avoid fatal consequences to their companies, but also to their flying customers.

PLM provides the framework within which to carry out Configuration Management. CM can indeed be carried out without PLM, as was done in the old paper-based days. As you have stated, PLM makes the whole CM process much more efficient. I think more transparent too.

Conclusion

After nine posts around the theme Learning from the past to understand the future, I walked through the history of CAD, PDM and PLM in a fast mode, pointing to practices and friction points. In the blogging space, it is hard to find this information as most blog posts are coming from software vendors explaining why their tool is needed. Hopefully, these series have helped many of you to understand a broader context. Now I want to focus on the future again in my upcoming blog posts.

Still, feel free to contact me and discuss methodology topics.

Picture by Christi Wijnen – a good friend and photographer in the Netherlands

In the previous seven posts, learning from the past to understand the future, we have seen the evolution from manual 2D drawing handling. Next, the emerge of ERP and CAD followed by data management systems (PDM/PLM) and methodology (EBOM/MBOM) to create an infrastructure for product data from concept towards manufacturing.

Before discussing the extension to the SBOM-concept, I first want to discuss Engineering Change Management and Configuration Management.

ECM and CM – are they the same?

Often when you talk with people in my PLM bubble, the terms Change Management and Configuration Management are mixed or not well understood.

When talking about Change Management, we should clearly distinguish between OCM (Organizational Change Management) and ECM (Engineering Change Management). In this post, I will focus on Engineering Change Management (ECM).

When talking about Configuration Management also here we find two interpretations of it.

The first one is a methodology describing technically how, in your PLM/CAD-environment, you can build the most efficient way connected data structures, representing all product variations. This technology varies per PLM/CAD-vendor, and therefore I will not discuss it here. The other interpretation of Configuration Management is described on Wiki as follows:

Configuration management (CM) is a systems engineering process for establishing and maintaining consistency of a product’s performance, functional, and physical attributes with its requirements, design, and operational information throughout its life.

This is also the area where I will focus on this time.

And as-if great minds think alike and are synchronized, I was happy to see Martijn Dullaart’s recent blog post, referring to a poll and follow-up article on CM.

Here Martijn precisely touches the topic I address in this post. I recommend you to read his post: Configuration Management done right = Product-Centric first and then follow with the rest of this article.

Engineering Change Management

Initially, engineering change management was a departmental activity performed by engineering to manage the changes in a product’s definition. Other stakeholders are often consulted when preparing a change, which can be minor (affecting, for example, only engineering) or major (affecting engineering and manufacturing).

The way engineering change management has been implemented varies a lot. Over time companies all around the world have defined their change methodology, and there is a lot of commonality between these approaches. However, terminology as revision, version, major change, minor change all might vary.

I described the generic approach for engineering change processes in my blog post: ECR / ECO for Dummies from 2010.

The fact that companies have defined their own engineering change processes is not an issue when it works and is done manually. The real challenge came with PDM/PLM-systems that need to provide support for engineering change management.

Do you leave the methodology 100 % open, or do you provide business logic?

I have seen implementations where an engineer with a right-click could release an assembly without any constraints. Related drawings might not exist, parts in the assembly are not released, and more. To obtain a reliable engineering change management process, the company had to customize the PLM-system to its desired behavior.

An exercise excellent for a system integrator as there was always a discussion with end-users that do not want to be restricted in case of an emergency  (“we will complete the definition later” / “too many clicks” / “do I have to approve 100 parts ?”). In many cases, the system integrator kept on customizing the system to adapt to all wishes. Often the engineering change methodology on paper was not complete or contained contradictions when trying to digitize the processes.

For that reason, the PLM-vendors that aim to provide Out-Of-The-Box solutions have been trying to predefine certain behaviors in their system. For example, you cannot release a part, when its specifications (drawings/documents) are not released. Or, you cannot update a released assembly without creating a new revision.

These rules speed-up the implementation; however, they require more OCM (Organizational Change Management) as probably naming and methodology has to change within the company. This is the continuous battle in PLM-implementations. In particular where the company has a strong legacy or lack of business understanding, when implementing PLM.

There is an excellent webcast in this context on Minerva PLM TV – How to Increase IT Project Success with Organizational Change Management.

Click on the image or link to watch this recording.

Configuration Management

When we talk about configuration management, we have to think about managing the consistency of product data along the whole product lifecycle, as we have seen from the Wiki-definition before.

Wiki – the configuration Activity Model

Configuration management existed long before we had IT-systems. Therefore, configuration management is more a collection of activities (see diagram above) to ensure the consistency of information is correct for any given product. Consistent during design, where requirements match product capabilities. Consistent with manufacturing, where the manufacturing process is based on the correct engineering specifications. And consistent with operations, meaning that we have the full definition of product in the field, the As-Built, in correct relation to its engineering and manufacturing definition.

Source: Configuration management in aerospace industry

This consistency is crucial for products where the cost of an error can have a massive impact on the manufacturer. The first industries that invested heavily in configuration management were the Aerospace and Defense industries. Configuration management is needed in these industries as the products are usually complex, and failure can have a fatal impact on the company. Combined with many regulatory constraints, managing the configuration of a product and the impact of changes is a discipline on its own.

Other industries have also introduced configuration management nowadays. The nuclear power industry and the pharmaceutical industry use configuration management as part of their regulatory compliance. The automotive industry requires configuration management partly for compliance, mainly driven by quality targets. An accident or a recall can be costly for a car manufacturer. Other manufacturing companies all have their own configuration management strategies, mainly depending on their own risk assessment. Configuration management is a pro-active discipline – it costs money – time, people and potential tools to implement it. In my experience, many of these companies try to do “some” configuration management, always hoping that a real disaster will not happen (or can happen). Proper configuration management allows you to perform reliable impact analysis for any change (image above)

What happens in the field?

When introducing PLM in mid-market companies, often, the dream was that with the new PLM-system configuration, management would be there too.

Management believes the tools will fix the issue.

Partly because configuration management deals with a structured approach on how to manage changes, there was always confusion with engineering change management. Modern PLM-systems all have an impact analysis capability. However, most of the time, this impact analysis only reaches the content that is in the PLM-system. Configuration Management goes further.

If you think that configuration management is crucial for your company, start educating yourselves first before implementing anything in a tool. There are several places where you can learn all about configuration management.

  • Probably the best-known organization is IpX (Institute for Process Excellence), teaching the CM2 methodology. Have a look here: CM2 certification and courses
  • Closely related to IpX, Martijn Dullaart shares his thoughts coming from the field as Lead Architect for Enterprise Configuration Management at ASML (one of the Dutch crown jewels) in his blog: MDUX
  • CMstat, a configuration and data management solution provider, provides educational posts from their perspective. Have a look at their posts, for example, PLM or PDM or CM
  • If you want to have a quick overview of Configuration Management in general, targeted for the mid-market, have a look at this (outdated) course: Training for Small and Medium Enterprises on CONFIGURATION MANAGEMENT. Good for self-study to get an understanding of the domain.

 

To summarize

In regulated industries, Configuration Management and PLM are a must to ensure compliance and quality. Configuration management and (engineering) change management are, first of all, required methodologies that guarantee the quality of your products. The more complex your products are, the higher the need for change and configuration management.

PLM-systems require embedded engineering change management – part of the PDM domain. Performing Engineering Change Management in a system is something many users do not like, as it feels like overhead. Too much administration or too many mouse clicks.

So far, there is no golden egg that performs engineering change management automatically. Perhaps in a data-driven environment, algorithms can speed-up change management processes. Still, there is a need for human decisions.

Similar to configuration management. If you have a PLM-system that connects all the data from concept, design, and manufacturing in a single environment, it does not mean you are performing configuration management. You need to have processes in place, and depending on your product and industry, the importance will vary.

Conclusion

In the first seven posts, we discussed the design and engineering practices, from CAD to EBOM, ending with the MBOM. Engineering Change Management and, in particular, Configuration Management are methodologies to ensure the consistency of data along the product lifecycle. These methodologies are connected and need to be fit for the future – more on this when we move to modern model-based approaches.

Closing note:

While finishing this blog post today I read Jan Bosch’s post: Why you should not align. Jan touches the same topic that I try to describe in my series Learning from the Past ….., as my intention is to make us aware that by holding on to practices from the past we are blocking our future. Highly recommended to read his post – a quote:

The problem is, of course, that every time you resist change, you get a bit behind. You accumulate some business, process and technical debt. You become a little less “fitting” to the environment in which you’re operating

In the series learning from the past to understand the future, we have almost reached the current state of PLM before digitization became visible. In the last post, I introduced the value of having the MBOM preparation inside a PLM-system, so manufacturing engineering can benefit from early visibility and richer product context when preparing the manufacturing process.

Does everyone need an MBOM?

It is essential to realize that you do not need an EBOM and a separate MBOM in case of an Engineering To Order primary process. The target of ETO is to deliver a unique customer product with no time to lose. Therefore, engineering can design with a manufacturing process in mind.

The need for an MBOM comes when:

  • You are selling a specific product over a more extended period of time. The engineering definition, in that case, needs to be as little as possible dependent on supplier-specific parts.
  • You are delivering your portfolio based on modules. Modules need to be as long as possible stable, therefore independent of where they are manufactured and supplier-specific parts. The better you can define your modules, the more customers you can reach over time.
  • You are having multiple manufacturing locations around the world, allowing you to source locally and manufacture based on local plant-specific resources. I described these options in the previous post

The challenge for all companies that want to move from ETO to BTO/CTO is the fact that they need to change their methodology – building for the future while supporting the past. This is typically something to be analyzed per company on how to deal with the existing legacy and installed base.

Configurable EBOM and MBOM

In some previous posts, I mentioned that it is efficient to have a configurable EBOM. This means that various options and variants are managed in the same EBOM-structure that can be filtered based on configuration parameters (date effectivity/version identifier/time baseline). A configurable EBOM is often called a 150 % EBOM

The MBOM can also be configurable as a manufacturing plant might have almost common manufacturing steps for different product variants. By using the same process and filtered MBOM, you will manufacture the specific product version. In that case, we can talk about a 120 % MBOM

Note: the freedom of configuration in the EBOM is generally higher than the options in the configurable MBOM.

The real business change for EBOM/MBOM

So far, we have discussed the EBOM/MBOM methodology. It is essential to realize this methodology only brings value when the organization will be adapted to benefit from the new possibilities.

One of the recurring errors in PLM implementations is that users of the system get an extended job scope, without giving them the extra time to perform these activities. Meanwhile, other persons downstream might benefit from these activities. However, they will not complain. I realized that already in 2009, I mentioned such a case: Where is my PLM ROI, Mr. Voskuil?

Now let us look at the recommended business changes when implementing an EBOM/MBOM-strategy

  1. Working in a single, shared environment for engineering and manufacturing preparation is the first step to take.

Working in a PLM-system is not a problem for engineers who are used to the complexity of a PDM-system. For manufacturing engineers, a PLM-environment will be completely new. Manufacturing engineers might prepare their bill of process first in Excel and ultimately enter the complete details in their ERP-system. ERP-systems are not known for their user-friendliness. However, their interfaces are often so rigid that it is not difficult to master the process. Excel, on the other side, is extremely flexible but not connected to anything else.

And now, this new PLM-system requires people to work in a more user-friendly environment with limited freedom. This is a significant shift in working methodology. This means manufacturing engineers need to be trained and supported  over several months. Changing habits and keep people motivated takes energy and time. In reality, where is the budget for these activities?  See my 2016 post: PLM and Cultural Change Management – too expensive?

  1. From sequential to concurrent

Once your manufacturing engineers are able to work in a PLM-environment, they are able to start the manufacturing definition before the engineering definition is released. Manufacturing engineers can participate in design reviews having the information in their environment available. They can validate critical manufacturing steps and discuss with engineers potential changes that will reduce the complexity or cost for manufacturing. As these changes will be done before the product is released, the cost of change is much lower. After all, having engineering and manufacturing working partially in parallel will reduce time to market.

Reducing time to market by concurrent engineering

One of the leading business drivers for many companies is introducing products or enhancements to the market. Bringing engineering and manufacturing preparation together also means that the PLM-system can no longer be an engineering tool under the responsibility of the engineering department.

The responsibility for PLM needs to be at a level higher in the organization to ensure well-balanced choices. A higher level in the organization automatically means more attention for business benefits and less attention for functions and features.

From technology to methodology – interface issues?

The whole EBOM/MBOM-discussion often has become a discussion related to a PLM-system and an ERP-system. Next, the discussion diverted to how these two systems could work together, changing the mindset to the complexity of interfaces instead of focusing on the logical flow of information.

In an earlier PI Event in München 2016, I lead a focus group related to the PLM and ERP interaction. The discussion was not about technology, all about focusing on what is the logical flow of information. From initial creation towards formal usage in a product definition (EBOM/MBOM).

What became clear from this workshop and other customer engagements is that people are often locked in their siloed way of thinking. Proposed information flows are based on system capabilities, not on the ideal flow of information. This is often the reason why a PLM/ERP-interface becomes complicated and expensive. System integrators do not want to push for organizational change, they prefer to develop an interface that adheres to the current customer expectations.

SAP has always been promoting that they do not need an interface between engineering and manufacturing as their data management starts from the EBOM. They forgot to mention that they have a difficult time (and almost no intention) to manage the early ideation and design phase. As a Dutch SAP country manager once told me: “Engineers are resources that do not want to be managed.” This remark says all about the mindset of ERP.

After overlooking successful PLM-implementations, I can tell the PLM-ERP interface has never been a technical issue once the methodology is transparent. A company needs to agree on logical data flow from ideation through engineering towards design is the foundation.

It is not about owning data and where to store it in a single system. It is about federated data sets that exist in different systems and that are complementary but connected, requiring data governance and master data management.

The SAP-Siemens partnership

In the context of the previous paragraph, the messaging around the recently announced partnership between SAP and Siemens made me curious. Almost everyone has shared an opinion about the partnership. There is a lot of speculation, and many questions were imaginarily answered by as many blog posts in the field. Last week Stan Przybylinski shared CIMdata’s interpretations in a webinar Putting the SAP-Siemens Partnership In Context, which was, in my opinion, the most in-depth analysis I have seen.

For what it is worth, my analysis:

  • First of all, the partnership is a merger of slide decks at this moment, aiming to show to a potential customer that in the SAP/Siemens-combination, you find everything you need. A merger of slides does not mean everything works together.

  • It is a merger of two different worlds. You can call SAP a real data platform with connected data, where Siemens offering is based on the Teamcenter backbone providing a foundation for a coordinated approach. In the coordinated approach, the data flexibility is lower. For that reason, Mendix is crucial to make Siemens portfolio behave like a connected platform too.
    You can read my doubts about having a coordinated and connected system working together (see image above). It was my #1 identified challenge for this decade: PLM 2020 – PLM the next decade (before COVID-19 became a pandemic and illustrated we need to work connected)
  • The fact that SAP will sell TC PLM and Siemens will sell SAP PPM seems like loser’s statement, meaning our SAP PLM is probably not good enough, or our TC PPM capabilities are not good enough. In reality, I believe they both should remain, and the partnership should work on logical data flows with data residing in two locations – the federated approach. This is how platforms reside next to each other instead of the single black hole.

  • The fact that standard interfaces will be developed between the two systems is a subtle sales argument with relatively low value. As I wrote in the “from technology to methodology”-paragraph, the challenges are in the organizational change within companies. Technology is not the issue, although system integrators also need to make a living.
  • What I believe makes sense is that both SAP and Siemens, have to realize their Industry 4.0 end-to-end capabilities. It is a German vision now for several years and it is an excellent vision to strive for. Now it is time to build the two platforms working together. This will be a significant technical challenge mainly for Siemens as its foundation is based on a coordinated backbone.
  • The biggest challenge, not only for this partnership, is the organizational change within companies that want to build an end-to-end connected solution. In particular, in companies with a vast legacy, the targeted industries by the partnership, the chasm between coordinated legacy data and intended connected data is enormous. Technology will not fix it, perhaps smoothen the pain a little.

 

Conclusion

With this post, we have reached the foundation of the item-centric approach for PLM, where the EBOM and MBOM are managed in a real-time context. Organizational change is the biggest inhibitor to move forward. The SAP-Siemens partnership is a sales/marketing approach to create a simplified view for the future at C-level discussions.
Let us watch carefully what happens in reality.

Next time potentially the dimension of change management and configuration management in an item-centric approach.
Or perhaps Martijn Dullaart will show us the way before, following up on his tricky poll question

 

In this post in the series Learning from the past to understand the future, I want to leave the 3D CAD structures behind. But before doing so, I want to mention some of the lessons learned:

In Part 1:  “Intelligent” drawing numbers were the source for “intelligent” part numbers as often there was a one-to-one relationship between the drawing and the part(s) on a drawing.

In Part 2: 3D CAD has been introduced in the automotive and aerospace industry due to process optimization, where a 3D CAD environment created better collaboration possibilities (DMU). The introduction of 3D CAD in the mid-market was different. Here 3D CAD is used as an engineering tool, not changing any processes.

The complexity grew because also file names needed to be managed, introducing the need for PDM-systems.

In Part 3: we discussed the challenges of working with file-based 3D CAD structures. The versioning problem with check-in/check-out of structure in particular in the case of data reuse. Here the best practice was introduced to have physical parts with a different lifecycle than 3D CAD parts and assemblies.

Now engineers need to create valid configurations based on links between the physical part and the 3D/2D object. This requires a PDM-system with BOM and CAD-files as standard information objects.

In Part 4: we discussed the relations between the BOM and 3D CAD structures without neglecting the fact the 2D Drawing is still the primary legal information carrier for manufacturing/suppliers. The point discussed in this post was the fact that most companies used a kind of ETO-approach. Starting from the 3D CAD-system, adding sometimes manufacturing parts in this structure, to generate a BOM that can be served as input for the ERP-system.

I want to follow up from the last conclusion:

Changing from ETO to CTO requires modularity and a BOM-driven approach. Starting from a 3D CAD-structure can still be done for the lowest levels – the modules, the options. In a configure to order process, it might not be relevant anymore to create a full 3D-representation of the product.

Starting from a conceptual structure

Most companies that deliver products to the market do not start from scratch, as we discussed. They will start from either copying an existing product definition (not recommend) or trying to manage the differences between them, meanwhile keeping shared components under revision control.

This cannot be done based on 3D CAD-structures anymore. At that time (we are in the early 2000s) in the mid-market, the PDM-system was used to manage these structures, in particular, they used the BOM-capabilities.

The BOM-structure was often called the EBOM, as engineers were defining the EBOM. But is it really an EBOM? Let us have a look wat defines an EBOM.

What characterizes an EBOM?

There are many personal definitions of what is considered as an EBOM.  Also, the Wiki-definition here does not help us a lot. So here is my personal 2004 definition:

  • The EBOM reflects the engineering view of a product and, therefore, can have a logical structure of assemblies and subassemblies based on functionality, modularity, and standardization.
  • The EBOM is a part structure specifying a product from its design intent, specifying parts, materials, tolerances, finishing.
  • The EBOM-structure is allowing multidisciplinary teams to work together on a joint definition of the product

The picture below illustrates the above definition.

In this EBOM-structure, we see that the first two levels actually are more a logical division of functional groups, either as units, product/discipline-specific definitions (cabling/software). These components should not be in the EBOM if you have support for logical structures in your PLM-environment. However, in 2004 – PLM was not that mature in the mid-market, and this approach was often chosen.

If we look at the Line Feed module, which could also be used in other products, there is the typical mechanical definition and in parallel the electrical definition. Having them inside a single EBOM gives the advantage of being able to do a “where-used” and status/impact-analysis.

1 – Purchased parts

Motor P280 is an interesting EBOM-part to consider. This motor is required; however, in an EBOM, you should not specify the supplier part number directly. As supplier part availability and preference will change over time, you do not want to revise the EBOM every time a supplier part gets changed.

Therefore, the Motor P280 should have an internal part number in the EBOM. Next, it will be engineering that specifies which motors fulfill the need for Motor P280.   Preferably they will create an Approved Manufacturing List for this motor to give manufacturing/purchasing the flexibility to decide per order where to purchase the motor and from which supplier.

The relation between the Approved Manufacturing List and the Approved Vendor List is shown in the diagram above.

Or follow the link to this image to read more in Arena’s glossary. In particular, for electronic components, this concept is needed as high-level specifications for electronic parts might be the same.

However, the details (tolerances/environment) can be decisive, which component is allowed. Besides, due to the relatively short lifecycle of electronic components, the EBOM needs to be designed in such a manner to anticipate changes in suppliers.

You can only benefit from this approach if, from the beginning of your designs, there are no supplier-specific parts in your EBOM. For Engineering, to Order companies that want to become more Build to Order, this is a challenging but critical point to consider.

Note: The functional characteristics for the motor will come from the electrical definition, and through a reference designator, we create the link between the functional definition and the physical implementation in the product.

2 – Make Parts

Secondly, if we look to the conveyor block D1020 rev A, this block is a make part, with probable a whole assembly of parts below it. As it is a make part, there is at least an assembly drawing and, more likely, a related technical data package linked to D1020 rev A. Make parts still carry a revision as here the Form-Fit-Function discussion can be used when implementing a change of the part.

Note: I used for the final assembly drawing the same number scheme as this is how most companies work. However, in my previous post, I described that if you have a PDM-system in place, the numbering can be different. Maintaining the relations between a part and the related drawing is, in this case, crucial.

The Configured EBOM

The image on the left, we used to illustrate the typical mid-market EBOM in a PDM-system, will become more complicated if we also add options and variants to the EBOM. I assume you know the difference between a variant and an option.

In this case, the EBOM the definition for the full product range. Actually, the top part of the EBOM does not exist as an instance. It is the placeholder to select a resolved EBOM for a specific product configuration.  For the ease of use, I have simplified the initial diagram, now zooming in on variants and options, apologizing for my artistic capabilities as the purpose of a blog is different from a book.

If we look at the diagram, this configured structure contains variants and options.

First, on the logical definition, we see a new grouping. There are two types of Line Feed available, one specific for the X-123 and a later, more generic designed LF100, suitable for all X-1nn variants.

As the LF100 is more generic designed, the customer can select between two motors, the standard P280 and the more advanced version P360, with better service capabilities.

For the Line Feed LF200, there is an option to order a Noise Reduction Cover. It was sold once to an existing customer, and as the cover fits all X-123, it has been linked here as an option to the X-123 definition. So, the customer solution with the Noise Reduction Cover does not have an isolated, copied structure in the EBOM.

Also, in the Logical Structure, we see there is a cabling definition for the X-123 or the default cabling set for all other products.

The diagram illustrates what many mid-market companies have been doing more or less in their PDM-system to avoid copying of EBOM structures per customer order.
It is an example of where a tool (the PDM-system) is slowly abused for administrative reasons. Let me explain why.

The link between Products and (E)BOMs

If we look at the upper part of the configured EBOM structure, this is a logical product definition. Or to say it in different words, it is a portfolio definition, which products and modules a company can sell to the market. Some of the grouping of the portfolio is purely based on business reasons, which products and options do we want to sell.

In most companies, the product portfolio is managed in (marketing) documents without a direct connection to the engineering world. However, we will see in an upcoming post, this relation is crucial for a digital enterprise. Meanwhile, look at on old blog post: Products, BOMs and Parts if you want to be faster

The Engineering definition below the red dashed line is a real EBOM, representing the engineering definition of a system, a module, or a component. When these systems and modules are defined in a single structure that can be filtered based on selection criteria, we talk about a Configured EBOM or sometimes a 150 % EBOM.

Each of the components in the configured EBOM can have a related 3D CAD structure or specification that can be developed traditionally.

The result of a resolved EBOM is a variant that can be delivered to the customer. In this EBOM-driven approach, there is not always a full 3D-representation of the customer product.

Again, size (1500+) words make me stop this story, where next time we will go from product to EBOM and introduce the need for an MBOM in specific industries.

Conclusion

A pure EBOM only specifies a product and contains all relevant information in context – designs & specifications. The EBOM should not be mixed or confused with a logical grouping, belonging to a portfolio definition (even if the system allows you to do it)

On my previous post shared on LinkedIn Ilan Madjar, a long-time PLM colleague reacted with the following point (full thread here)

Ilan is pointing to the right challenge in many companies. Changing the way you work is though exercise and requires a good understanding, vision, and execution to move forward. Do not trust the tool to work for you – it is about human understanding and process re-engineering to be more efficient. And if you do not practice this on the basic PDM-level as discussed so far, imagine the impossibility of going through a digital transformation.

 

This time a short post (for me) as I am in the middle the series “Learning from the past to understand the future” and currently collecting information for next week’s post. However, recently Rob Ferrone, the original Digital Plumber, pointed me to an interesting post from Scott Taylor, the Data Whisperer.

In code: The Virtual Dutchman discovered the Data Whisperer thanks to the original Digital Plumber.

Scott’s article with the title: “Data Management Hasn’t Failed, but Data Management Storytelling Has” matches precisely the discussion we have in the PLM community.

Please read his article, and just replace the words Data Management by PLM, and it could have been written for our community. In a way, PLM is a specific application of data management, so not a real surprise.

Scott’s conclusions give food for thought in the PLM community:

To win over business stakeholders, Data Management leadership must craft a compelling narrative that builds urgency, reinvigorates enthusiasm, and evangelizes WHY their programs enable the strategic intentions of their enterprise. If the business leaders whose support and engagement you seek do not understand and accept the WHY, they will not care about the HOW. When communicating to executive leadership, skip the technical details, the feature functionality, and the reference architecture and focus on:

  • Establishing an accessible vocabulary
  • Harmonizing to a common voice
  • Illuminating the business vision

When you tell your Data Management story with that perspective, it can end happily ever after.

It all resonates well with what I described in the PLM ROI Myth – it is clear that when people hear the word Myth, they have a bad connotation, same btw for PLM.

The fact that we still need to learn storytelling is because most of us are so much focused on technology and sometimes on discovering the new name for PLM in the future.

Last week I pointed to a survey from the PLMIG (PLM Interest Group) and XLifcycle, inviting you to help to define the future definition of PLM.

You are still welcome here: Towards a digital future: the evolving role of PLM in the future digital world.

Also, I saw a great interview with Martin Eigner on Minerva PLM TV interview by Jennifer Moore. Martin is well known in the PLM world and has done foundational work for our community

. According to Jennifer, he is considered as The Godfather of PLM.  This tittle fits nicely in today’s post. Those who have seen his presentations in recent years will remember Martin is talking about SysLM (System Lifecycle Management) as the future for PLM.

It is an interesting recording to watch – click on the image above to see it. Martin explains nicely why we often do not get the positive feedback from PLM implementations – starting at minute 13 for those who cannot wait.

In the interview, you will discover we often talk too much about our discipline capabilities where the real discussion should be talking business. Strategy and objectives are discussed and decided at the management level of a company. By using storytelling, we can connect to these business objectives.

The end result will be more likely that a company understands why to invest significantly in PLM as now PLM is part of its competitiveness and future continuity.

Conclusion

I shared links to two interesting posts from the last weeks. Studying them will help you to create a broader view. We have to learn to tell the right story. People do not want PLM – they have personal objectives. Companies have business objectives, and they might lead to the need for a new and changing PLM. Connecting to the management in an organization, therefore, is crucial.

Next week again more about learning from the past to understand the future

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