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Once and a while, the discussion pops up if, given the changes in technology and business scope, we still should talk about PLM. John Stark and others have been making a point that PLM should become a profession.

In a way, I like the vagueness of the definition and the fact that the PLM profession is not written in stone. There is an ongoing change, and who wants to be certified for the past or framed to the past?

However, most people, particularly at the C-level, consider PLM as something complex, costly, and related to engineering. Partly this had to do with the early introduction of PLM, which was a little more advanced than PDM.

The focus and capabilities made engineering teams happy by giving them more access to their data. But unfortunately, that did not work, as engineers are not looking for more control.

Old (current) PLM

Therefore, I would like to suggest that when we talk about PLM, we frame it as Product Lifecycle Data Management (the definition). A PLM infrastructure or system should be considered the System of Record, ensuring product data is archived to be used for manufacturing, service, and proving compliance with regulations.

In a modern way, the digital thread results from building such an infrastructure with related artifacts. The digital thread is somehow a slow-moving environment, connecting the various as-xxx structures (As-Designed, As-Planned, As-Manufactured, etc.). Looking at the different PLM vendor images, Aras example above, I consider the digital thread a fancy name for traceability.

I discussed the topic of Digital Thread in 2018:  Document Management or Digital Thread. One of the observations was that few people talk about the quality of the relations when providing traceability between artifacts.

The quality of traceability is relevant for traditional Configuration Management (CM). Traditional CM has been framed, like PLM, to be engineering-centric.

Both PLM and CM need to become enterprise activities – perhaps unified.

Read my blog post and see the discussion with Martijn Dullaart, Lisa Fenwick and Maxim Gravel when discussing the future of Configuration Management.

New digital PLM

In my posts, I talked about modern PLM. I described it as data-driven, often in relation to a model-based approach. And as a result of the data-driven approach, a digital PLM environment could be connected to processes outside the engineering domain. I wrote a series of posts related to the potential of such a new PLM infrastructure (The road to model-based and connected PLM)

Digital PLM, if implemented correctly, could serve people along the full product lifecycle, from marketing/portfolio management until service and, if relevant, decommissioning). The bigger challenge is even connecting eco-systems to the same infrastructure, in particular suppliers & partners but also customers. This is the new platform paradigm.

Some years ago, people stated IoT is the new PLM  (IoT is the new PLM – PTC 2017). Or MBSE is the foundation for a new PLM (Will MBSE be the new PLM instead of IoT? A discussion @ PLM Roadmap conference 2018).

Even Digital Transformation was mentioned at that time. I don’t believe Digital Transformation is pointing to a domain, more to an ongoing process that most companies have t go through. And because it is so commonly used, it becomes too vague for the specifics of our domain. I liked Monica Schnitger‘s LinkedIn post: Digital Transformation? Let’s talk. There is enough to talk about; we have to learn and be more specific.

 

What is the difference?

The challenge is that we need more in-depth thinking about what a “digital transformed” company would look like. What would impact their business, their IT infrastructure, and their organization and people? As I discussed with Oleg Shilovitsky, a data-driven approach does not necessarily mean simplification.

I just finished recording a podcast with Nina Dar while writing this post. She is even more than me, active in the domain of PLM and strategic leadership toward a digital and sustainable future. You can find the pre-announcement of our podcast here (it was great fun to talk), and I will share the result later here too.

What is clear to me is that a new future data-driven environment becomes like a System of Engagement. You can simulate assumptions and verify and qualify trade-offs in real-time in this environment. And not only product behavior, but you can also simulate and analyze behaviors all along the lifecycle, supporting business decisions.

This is where I position the digital twin. Modern PLM infrastructures are in real-time connected to the business. Still, PLM will have its system of record needs; however, the real value will come from the real-time collaboration.

The traditional PLM consultant should transform into a business consultant, understanding technology. Historically this was the opposite, creating friction in companies.

Starting from the business needs

In my interactions with customers, the focus is no longer on traditional PLM; we discuss business scenarios where the company will benefit from a data-driven approach. You will not obtain significant benefits if you just implement your serial processes again in a digital PLM infrastructure.

Efficiency gains are often single digit, where new ways of working can result in double-digit benefits or new opportunities.

Besides traditional pressure on companies to remain competitive, there is now a new additional driver that I have been discussing in my previous post, the Innovation Dilemma. To survive on our planet, we and therefore also companies, need to switch to sustainable products and business models.

This is a push for innovation; however, it requires a coordinated, end-to-end change within companies.

Be the change

When do you decide to change your business model from pushing products to the marker into a business model of Product as a Service? When do you choose to create repairable and upgradeable products? It is a business need. Sustainability does not start with the engineer. It must be part of the (new) DNA of a company.

Interesting to read is this article from Jan Bosch that I read this morning: Resistance to Change. Read the article as it makes so much sense, but we need more than sense – we need people to get involved. My favorite quote from the article:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.

Conclusion

PLM consultants should retrain themselves in System Thinking and start from the business. PLM technology alone is no longer enough to support companies in their (digital/sustainable) transformation. Therefore, I would like to introduce BLM (Business Lifecycle Management) as the new TLA.

However, BLM has been already framed as Black Lives Matter. I agree with that, extending it to ALM (All Lives Matter).

What do you think should we leave the comfortable term PLM behind us for a new frame?

After two quiet weeks of spending time with my family in slow motion, it is time to start the year.

First of all, I wish you all a happy, healthy, and positive outcome for 2022, as we need energy and positivism together. Then, of course, a good start is always cleaning up your desk and only leaving the relevant things for work on the desk.

Still, I have some books at arm’s length, either physical or on my e-reader, that I want to share with you – first, the non-obvious ones:

The Innovators Dilemma

A must-read book was written by Clayton Christensen explaining how new technologies can overthrow established big companies within a very short period. The term Disruptive Innovation comes up here. Companies need to remain aware of what is happening outside and ready to adapt to your business. There are many examples even recently where big established brands are gone or diminished in a short period.

In his book, he wrote about DEC (Digital Equipment Company)  market leader in minicomputers, not having seen the threat of the PC. Or later Blockbuster (from video rental to streaming), Kodak (from analog photography to digital imaging) or as a double example NOKIA (from paper to market leader in mobile phones killed by the smartphone).

The book always inspired me to be alert for new technologies, how simple they might look like, as simplicity is the answer at the end. I wrote about in 2012: The Innovator’s Dilemma and PLM, where I believed cloud, search-based applications and Facebook-like environments could disrupt the PLM world. None of this happened as a disruption; these technologies are now, most of the time, integrated by the major vendors whose businesses are not really disrupted. Newcomers still have a hard time to concur marketspace.

In 2015 I wrote again about this book, The Innovator’s dilemma and Generation change. – image above. At that time, understanding disruption will not happen in the PLM domain. Instead, I predict there will be a more evolutionary process, which I would later call: From Coordinated to Connected.

The future ways of working address the new skills needed for the future. You need to become a digital native, as COVID-19 pushed many organizations to do so. But digital native alone does not bring success. We need new ways of working which are more difficult to implement.

Sapiens

The book Sapiens by Yuval Harari made me realize the importance of storytelling in the domain of PLM and business transformation. In short, Yuval Harari explains why the human race became so dominant because we were able to align large groups around an abstract theme. The abstract theme can be related to religion, the power of a race or nation, the value of money, or even a brand’s image.

The myth (read: simplified and abstract story) hides complexity and inconsistencies. It allows everyone to get motivated to work towards one common goal. A Yuval says: “Fiction is far more powerful because reality is too complex”.

Too often, I have seen well-analyzed PLM projects that were “killed” by management because it was considered too complex. I wrote about this in 2019  PLM – measurable or a myth? claiming that the real benefits of PLM are hard to predict, and we should not look isolated only to PLM.

My 2020 follow-up post The PLM ROI Myth, eludes to that topic. However, even if you have a soundproof business case at the management level, still the myth might be decisive to justify the investment.

That’s why PLM vendors are always working on their myths: the most cost-effective solution, the most visionary solution, the solution most used by your peers and many other messages to influence your emotions, not your factual thinking. So just read the myths on their websites.

If you have no time to read the book, look at the above 2015 Ted to grasp the concept and use it with a PLM -twisted mind.

Re-use your CAD

In 2015, I read this book during a summer holiday (meanwhile, there is a second edition). Although it was not a PLM book, it was helping me to understand the transition effort from a classical document-driven enterprise towards a model-based enterprise.

Jennifer Herron‘s book helps companies to understand how to break down the (information) wall between engineering and manufacturing.

At that time, I contacted Jennifer to see if others like her and Action Engineering could explain Model-Based Definition comprehensively, for example, in Europe- with no success.

As the Model-Based Enterprise becomes more and more the apparent future for companies that want to be competitive or benefit from the various Digital Twin concepts. For that reason, I contacted Jennifer again last year in my post: PLM and Model-Based Definition.

As you can read, the world has improved, there is a new version of the book, and there is more and more information to share about the benefits of a model-based approach.

I am still referencing Action Engineering and their OSCAR learning environment for my customers. Unfortunately, many small and medium enterprises do not have the resources and skills to implement a model-based environment.

Instead, these companies stay on their customers’ lowest denominator: the 2D Drawing. For me, a model-based definition is one of the first steps to master if your company wants to provide digital continuity of design and engineering information towards manufacturing and operations. Digital twins do not run on documents; they require model-based environments.

The book is still on my desk, and all the time, I am working on finding the best PLM practices related to a Model-Based enterprise.

It is a learning journey to deal with a data-driven, model-based environment, not only for PLM but also for CM experts, as you might have seen from my recent dialogue with CM experts: The future of Configuration Management.

Products2019

This book was an interesting novelty published by John Stark in 2020. John is known for his academic and educational books related to PLM. However, during the early days of the COVID-pandemic, John decided to write a novel. The novel describes the learning journey of Jane from Somerset, who, as part of her MBA studies, is performing a research project for the Josef Mayer Maschinenfabrik. Her mission is to report to the newly appointed CEO what happens with the company’s products all along the lifecycle.

Although it is not directly a PLM book, the book illustrates the complexity of PLM. It Is about people and culture; many different processes, often disconnected. Everyone has their focus on their particular discipline in the center of importance. If you believe PLM is all about the best technology only, read this book and learn how many other aspects are also relevant.

I wrote about the book in 2020: Products2019 – a must-read if you are new to PLM if you want to read more details. An important point to pick up from this book is that it is not about PLM but about doing business.

PLM is not a magical product. Instead, it is a strategy to support and improve your business.

System Lifecycle Management

Another book, published a little later and motivated by the extra time we all got during the COVID-19 pandemic, was Martin Eigner‘s book System Lifecycle Management.

A 281-page journey from the early days of data management towards what Martin calls System Lifecycle Management (SysLM). He was one of the first to talk about System Lifecycle Management instead of PLM.

I always enjoyed Martin’s presentations at various PLM conferences where we met. In many ways, we share similar ideas. However, during his time as a professor at the University of Kaiserslautern (2003-2017), he explored new concepts with his students.

I briefly mentioned the book in my series The road to model-based and connected PLM (Part 5) when discussing SLM or SysLM. His academic research and analysis make this book very valuable. It takes you in a very structured way through the times that mechatronics becomes important, next the time that systems (hardware and software) become important.

We discussed in 2015 the applicability of the bimodal approach for PLM. However, as many enterprises are locked in their highly customized PDM/PLM environments, their legacy blocks the introduction of modern model-based and connected approaches.

Where John Stark’s book might miss the PLM details, Martin’s book brings you everything in detail and with all its references.

It is an interesting book if you want to catch up with what has happened in the past 20 years.

More Books …..

More books on my desk have helped me understand the past or that helped me shape the future. As this is a blog post, I will not discuss more books this time reaching my 1500 words.

Still books worthwhile to read – click on their images to learn more:

I discussed this book two times last year. An introduction in PLM and Modularity and a discussion with the authors and some readers of the book: The Modular Way – a follow-up discussion

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A book I read this summer contributed to a better understanding of sustainability. I mentioned this book in my presentation for the Swedish CATIA Forum in October last year – slide 29 of The Challenges of model-based and traditional plm. So you could see it as an introduction to System Thinking from an economic point of view.

System Thinking becomes crucial for a sustainable future, as I addressed in my post PLM and Sustainability.

Sustainability is my area of interest at the PLM Green Global Alliance, an international community of professionals working with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) enabling technologies and collaborating for a more sustainable decarbonized circular economy.

Conclusion

There is a lot to learn. Tell us something about your PLM bookshelf – which books would you recommend. In the upcoming posts, I will further focus on PLM education. So stay tuned and keep on learning.

As promised in my early November post – The road to model-based and connected PLM (part 9 – CM), I come back with more thoughts and ideas related to the future of configuration management. Moving from document-driven ways of working to a data-driven and model-based approach fundamentally changes how you can communicate and work efficiently.

Let’s be clear: configuration management’s target is first of all about risk management. Ensuring your company’s business remains sustainable, efficient, and profitable.

By providing the appropriate change processes and guidance,  configuration management either avoids costly mistakes and iterations during all phases of a product lifecycle or guarantees the quality of the product and information to ensure safety.

Companies that have not implemented CM practices probably have not observed these issues. Or they have not realized that the root cause of these issues is a lack of CM.

Similar to what is said in smaller companies related to PLM, CM is often seen as an overhead, as employees believe they thoroughly understand their products. In addition, CM is seen as a hurdle to innovation because of the standardization of practices. So yes, they think it is normal that there are sometimes problems. That’s life.

I already wrote about this topic in 2010 PLM, CM and ALM – not sexy 😦 – where ALM means Asset Lifecycle Management – my focus at that time.

Hear it from the experts

To shape the discussion related to the future of Configuration Management, I had a vivid discussion with three thought leaders in this field: Lisa Fenwick, Martijn Dullaart and Maxime Gravel. A short introduction of the three of them:

Lisa Fenwick, VP Product Development at CMstat, a leading company in Configuration Management and Data Management software solutions and consulting services for aviation, aerospace & defense, marine, and other high-tech industries. She has over 25 years of experience with CM and Deliverables Management, including both government and commercial environments.

Ms. Fenwick has achieved CMPIC SME, CMPIC CM Assessor, and CMII-C certifications. Her experience includes implementing CM software products, CM-related consulting and training, and participation in the SAE and IEEE standards development groups

Martijn Dullaart is the Lead Architect for Enterprise Configuration Management at ASML (Our Dutch national pride) and chairperson of the Industry 4.0 committee of the Institute  Process Excellence (IPX) Congress. Martijn has his own blog mdux.net, and you might have seen him recently during the PLM Roadmap & PDT Fall conference in November – his thoughts about the CM future can be found on his blog here

Maxime Gravel, Manager Model-Based Engineering at Moog Inc., a worldwide designer, manufacturer, and integrator of advanced motion control products. Max has been the director of the model-based enterprise at the Institute for Process Excellence (IPX) and Head of Configuration and Change Management at Gulfstream Aerospace which certified the first aircraft in a 3D Model-Based Environment.

What we discussed:

We had an almost one-hour discussion related to the following points:

  • The need for Enterprise Configuration Management – why and how
  • The needed change from document-driven to model-based – the impact on methodology and tools
  • The “neural network” of data – connecting CM to all other business domains, a similar view as from the PLM domain,

I kept from our discussion the importance of planning – as seen in the CMstat image on the left.

To plan which data you need to manage and how you will manage the data. How often are you doing this in your company’s projects?

Next, all participants stressed the importance of education and training on this topic – get educated. Configuration Management is not a topic that is taught at schools. Early next year, I will come back on education as the benefits of education are often underestimated. Not everything can be learned by “googling.”

 Conclusion

The journey towards a model-based and data-driven future is not a quick one to be realized by new technologies. However, it is interesting to learn that the future of connected data (the “neural network”) allows organizations to implement both CM and PLM in a similar manner, using graph databases and automation. When executed at the enterprise level, the result will be that CM and PLM become natural practices instead of other siloed system-related disciplines.

Most of the methodology is there; the implementation to make it smooth and embedded in organizations will be the topics to learn. Join us in discussing and learning!

 

When I started this series in July, I expected to talk mostly about new ways of working, enabled through a data-driven and model-based approach. However, when analyzing what is needed for such a future (part 3), it became apparent that many of these new ways of working are dependent on technology.

From coordinated to connected sounds like a business change;

however, it all depends on technology. And here I have to thank Marc Halpern (Gartner’s Research VP, Engineering and Design Technologies)  again, who came with this brilliant scheme below:

So now it is time to address the last point from my starting post:

Configuration Management requires a new approach. The current methodology is very much based on hardware products with labor-intensive change management. However, the world of software products has different configuration management and change procedures. Therefore, we need to merge them into a single framework. Unfortunately, this cannot be the BOM framework due to the dynamics in software changes.

Configuration management at this moment

PLM and CM are often considered overlapping. My March 2019 post: PLM and Configuration Management – a happy marriage? shares some thoughts related to this point

Does having PLM or PDM installed mean you have implemented CM? There is this confusion because revision management is considered the same as configuration management. Read my March 2020 post: What the FFF is happening? Based on a vivid discussion launched by  Yoann Maingon, CEO and founder of Ganister, an example of a modern, graph database-based, flexible PLM solution.

To hear it from a CM-side,  I discussed it with Martijn Dullaart in my February 2021 post: PLM and Configuration Management. We also zoomed in on CM2 in this post as a methodology.

Martijn is the Lead Architect for Enterprise Configuration Management at ASML (Our Dutch national pride) and chairperson of the Industry 4.0 committee of the Integrated Process Excellence (IPX) Congress.

As mentioned before in a previous post (part 6), he will be speaking at the PLM Roadmap & PDT Fall conference starting this upcoming week.

In this post, I want to talk about the CM future. For understanding the current situation, you can find a broad explanation here on Wikipedia. Have a look at CM in the context of the product lifecycle, ensuring that the product As-Specified and As-Designed information matches the As-Built and As-Operated product information.

A mismatch or inconsistency between these artifacts can lead to costly errors, particularly in later lifecycle stages. CM originated from the Aerospace and Defense industry for that reason. However, companies in other industries might have implemented CM practices too. Either due to regulations or thanks to the understanding that configuration mistakes can cause significant damage to the company.

Historically configuration management addresses the needs of “slow-moving” products. For example, the design of an airplane could take years before manufacturing started. Tracking changes and ensuring consistency of all referenced datasets was often a manual process.

On purpose, I wrote “referenced datasets,” as the information was not connected in a single environment most of the time. The identifier of a dataset ( an item or a document) was the primary information carrier used for mentally connecting other artifacts to keep consistency.

The Institute of Process Excellence (IPX) has been one of the significant contributors to configuration management methodology. They have been providing (and still offer) CM2 training and certification.

As mentioned before, PLM vendors or implementers suggest that a PLM system could fully support Configuration Management. However, CM is more than change management, release management and revision management.

As the diagram from Martijn Dullaart shows, PLM is one facet of configuration management.

Of course, there are also (a few) separate CM tools focusing on the configuration management process. CMstat’s EPOCH CM tool is an example of such software. In addition, on their website, you can find excellent articles explaining the history and their future thoughts related to CM.

The future will undoubtedly be a connected, model-based, software-driven environment. Naturally, therefore, configuration management processes will have to change. (Impressive buzz word sentence, still I hope you get the message).

From coordinated to connected has a severe impact on CM. Let’s have a look at the issues.

Configuration Management – the future

The transition to a data-driven and model-based infrastructure has raised the following questions:

  • How to deal with the granularity of data – each dataset needs to be validated. For example, a document (a collection of datasets) needs to be validated in the document-based approach. How to do this efficiently?
  • The behavior of a product (or system) will more and more dependent on software. Product CM practices have been designed for the hardware domain; now, we need a mix of hardware and software CM practices.
  • Due to the increased complexity of products (or systems) and the rapid changes due to software versions, how do we guarantee the As-Operated product is still matching the As-Designed / As-Certified definitions.

I don’t have answers to these questions. I only share observations and trends I see in my actual world.

Granularity of data

The concept of datasets has been discussed in my post (part 6). Now it is about how to manage the right sets of connected data.

The image on the left, borrowed from Erik Herzog’s presentation at the PDM Roadmap & PDT Fall conference in 2020, is a good illustration of the challenge.

At that time, Erik suggested that OSLC could be the enabler of a digital CM backbone for an enterprise. Therefore, it was a pleasure to see Erik providing an update at the yearly OSLC Fest conference this week.

You can find the agenda and Erik’s presentation here on day 2.

OSLC as a framework seems to be a good candidate for supporting modern CM scenarios. It allows a company to build full traceability between all relevant artifacts (if digital available). I can see the beauty of the technical infrastructure.

Still, it is about people and processes first. Therefore, I am curious to learn from my readers who believe and experiment with such a federated infrastructure.

More software

Traditional working companies might believe that software should be treated as part of the Bill of Materials. In this theory, you treat software code as a part, with a part number and revision. In this way, you might believe configuration management practices do not have to change. However, there are some fundamental differences in why we should decouple hardware and software.

First, for the same hardware solution, there might be a whole collection of valid software codes. Just like your computer. How many valid software codes, even from the same application, can you run on this hardware? Managing a computer system and its software through a Bill of Materials is unimaginable.

A computer, of course, is designed for running all kinds of software versions. However, modern products in the field, like cars, machines, electrical devices, all will have a similar type of software-driven flexibility.

For that reason, I believe that companies that deliver software-driven products should design a mechanism to check if the combination of hardware and software is valid. For a computer system, a software mismatch might not be costly or painful; for an industrial system, it might be crucial to ensure invalid combinations can exist. Click on the image to learn more.

Solutions like Configit or pure::variants might lead to a solution. In Feb 2021, I discussed in PLM and Configuration Lifecycle Management with Henrik Hulgaard, the CTO from Configit, the unique features of their solution.

I hope to have a similar post shortly with Pure Systems to understand their added value to configuration management.

Software change management is entirely different from hardware change management. The challenge is to have two different change management approaches under one consistent umbrella without creating needless overhead.

Increased complexity – the digital twin?

With the increased complexity of products and many potential variants of a solution, how can you validate a configuration? Perhaps we should investigate the digital twin concept, with a twin for each instance we want to validate.

Having a complete virtual representation of a product, including the possibility to validate the software behavior on the virtual product, would allow you to run (automated) validation tests to certify and later understand a product in the field.

No need for inspection on-site or test and fix upgrades in the physical world. Needed for space systems for sure, but why not for every system in the long term. When we are able to define and maintain a virtual twin of our physical product (on-demand), we can validate.

I learned about this concept at the 2020 Digital Twin conference in the Netherlands. Bart Theelen from Canon Production Printing explained that they could feed their simulation models with actual customer data to simulate and analyze the physical situation. In some cases, it is even impossible to observe the physical behavior. By tuning the virtual environment, you might understand what happens in the physical world.

An eye-opener and an advocate for the model-based approach. Therefore, I am looking forward to the upcoming PLM Roadmap & PDT Fall conference. Hopefully, Martijn Dullaart will share his thoughts on combining CM and working in a model-based environment. See you there?

Conclusion

Finally, we have reached in this series the methodology part, particularly the one related to configuration management and traceability in a very granular, digital environment.  

After the PLM Roadmap & PDT fall conference, I plan to follow up with three thought leaders on this topic: Martijn Dullaart (ASML), Maxime Gravel (Moog) and Lisa Fenwick (CMstat).  What would you ask them?

In my last post, I zoomed in on a preferred technical architecture for the future digital enterprise. Drawing the conclusion that it is a mission impossible to aim for a single connected environment. Instead, information will be stored in different platforms, both domain-oriented (PLM, ERP, CRM, MES, IoT) and value chain oriented (OEM, Supplier, Marketplace, Supply Chain hub).

In part 3, I posted seven statements that I will be discussing in this series. In this post, I will zoom in on point 2:

Data-driven does not mean we do not need any documents anymore. Read electronic files for documents. Likely, document sets will still be the interface to non-connected entities, suppliers, and regulatory bodies. These document sets can be considered a configuration baseline.

 

System of Record and System of Engagement

In the image below, a slide from 2016,  I show a simplified view when discussing the difference between the current, coordinated approach and the future, connected approach.  This picture might create the wrong impression that there are two different worlds – either you are document-driven, or you are data-driven.

In the follow-up of this presentation, I explained that companies need both environments in the future. The most efficient way of working for operations will be infrastructure on the right side, the platform-based approach using connected information.

For traceability and disconnected information exchanges, the left side will be there for many years to come. Systems of Record are needed for data exchange with disconnected suppliers, disconnected regulatory bodies and probably crucial for configuration management.

The System of Record will probably remain as a capability in every platform or cross-section of platform information. The Systems of Engagement will be the configured real-time environment for anyone involved in active company processes, not only ERP or MES, all execution.

Introducing SysML and SML

This summer, I received a copy of Martin Eigner’s System Lifecycle Management book, which I am reading at his moment in my spare moments. I always enjoyed Martin’s presentations. In many ways, we share similar ideas. Martin from his profession spent more time on the academic aspects of product and system lifecycle than I. But, on the other hand, I have always been in the field observing and trying to make sense of what I see and learn in a coherent approach. I am halfway through the book now, and for sure, I will come back on the book when I have finished.

A first impression: A great and interesting book for all. Martin and I share the same history of data management. Read all about this in his second chapter: Forty Years of Product Data Management

From PDM via PLM to SysLM, is a chapter that everyone should read when you haven’t lived it yourself. It helps you to understand the past (Learning for the past to understand the future). When I finish this series about the model-based and connected approach for products and systems, Martin’s book will be highly complementary given the content he describes.

There is one point for which I am looking forward to is feedback from the readers of this blog.

Should we, in our everyday language, better differentiate between Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and System Lifecycle Management(SysLM)?

In some customer situations, I talk on purpose about System Lifecycle Management to create the awareness that the company’s offering is more than an electro/mechanical product. Or ultimately, in a more circular economy, would we use the term Solution Lifecycle Management as not only hardware and software might be part of the value proposition?

Martin uses consistently the abbreviation SysLM, where I would prefer the TLA SLM. The problem we both have is that both abbreviations are not unique or explicit enough. SysLM creates confusion with SysML (for dyslectic people or fast readers). SLM already has so many less valuable meanings: Simulation Lifecycle Management, Service Lifecycle Management or Software Lifecycle Management.

For the moment, I will use the abbreviation SLM, leaving it in the middle if it is System Lifecycle Management or Solution Lifecycle Management.

 

How to implement both approaches?

In the long term, I predict that more than 80 percent of the activities related to SLM will take place in a data-driven, model-based environment due to the changing content of the solutions offered by companies.

A solution will be based on hardware, the solid part of the solution, for which we could apply a BOM-centric approach. We can see the BOM-centric approach in most current PLM implementations. It is the logical result of optimizing the product lifecycle management processes in a coordinated manner.

However, the most dynamic part of the solution will be covered by software and services. Changing software or services related to a solution has completely different dynamics than a hardware product.

Software and services implementations are associated with a data-driven, model-based approach.

The management of solutions, therefore, needs to be done in a connected manner. Using the BOM-centric approach to manage software and services would create a Kafkaesque overhead.

Depending on your company’s value proposition to the market, the challenge will be to find the right balance. For example, when you keep on selling disconnectedhardware, there is probably no need to change your internal PLM processes that much.

However, when you are moving to a connected business model providing solutions (connected systems / Outcome-based services), you need to introduce new ways of working with a different go-to-market mindset. No longer linear, but iterative.

A McKinsey concept, I have been promoting several times, illustrates a potential path – note the article was not written with a PLM mindset but in a business mindset.

What about Configuration Management?

The different datasets defining a solution also challenge traditional configuration management processes. Configuration Management (CM) is well established in the aerospace & defense industry. In theory, proper configuration management should be the target of every industry to guarantee an appropriate performance, reduced risk and cost of fixing issues.

The challenge, however, is that configuration management processes are not designed to manage systems or solutions, where dynamic updates can be applied whether or not done by the customer.

This is a topic to solve for the modern Connected Car (system) or Connected Car Sharing (solution)

For that reason, I am inquisitive to learn more from Martijn Dullaart’s presentation at the upcoming PLM Roadmap/PDT conference. The title of his session: The next disruption please …

In his abstract for this session, Martijn writes:

From Paper to Digital Files brought many benefits but did not fundamentally impact how Configuration Management was and still is done. The process to go digital was accelerated because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Forced to work remotely was the disruption that was needed to push everyone to go digital. But a bigger disruption to CM has already arrived. Going model-based will require us to reexamine why we need CM and how to apply it in a model-based environment. Where, from a Configuration Management perspective, a digital file still in many ways behaves like a paper document, a model is something different. What is the deliverable? How do you manage change in models? How do you manage ownership? How should CM adopt MBx, and what requirements to support CM should be considered in the successful implementation of MBx? It’s time to start unraveling these questions in search of answers.

One of the ideas I am currently exploring is that we need a new layer on top of the current configuration management processes extending the validation to software and services. For example, instead of describing every validated configuration, a company might implement the regular configuration management processes for its hardware.

Next, the systems or solutions in the field will report (or validate) their configuration against validation rules. A topic that requires a long discussion and more than this blog post, potentially a full conference.

Therefore I am looking forward to participating in the CIMdata/PDT FALL conference and pick-up the discussions towards a data-driven, model-based future with the attendees.  Besides CM, there are several other topics of great interest for the future. Have a look at the agenda here

 

Conclusion

A data-driven and model-based infrastructure still need to be combined with a coordinated, document-driven infrastructure.  Where the focus will be, depends on your company’s value proposition.

If we discuss hardware products, we should think PLM. When you deliver systems, you should perhaps talk SysML (or SLM). And maybe it is time to define Solution Lifecycle Management as the term for the future.

Please, share your thoughts in the comments.

 

My previous post introducing the concept of connected platforms created some positive feedback and some interesting questions. For example, the question from Maxime Gravel:

Thank you, Jos, for the great blog. Where do you see Change Management tool fit in this new Platform ecosystem?

is one of the questions I try to understand too. You can see my short comment in the comments here. However, while discussing with other experts in the CM-domain, we should paint the path forward. Because if we cannot solve this type of question, the value of connected platforms will be disputable.

It is essential to realize that a digital transformation in the PLM domain is challenging. No company or vendor has the perfect blueprint available to provide an end-to-end answer for a connected enterprise. In addition, I assume it will take 10 – 20 years till we will be familiar with the concepts.

It takes a generation to move from drawings to 3D CAD. It will take another generation to move from a document-driven, linear process to data-driven, real-time collaboration in an iterative manner.  Perhaps we can move faster, as the Automotive, Aerospace & Defense, and Industrial Equipment industries are not the most innovative industries at this time. Other industries or startups might lead us faster into the future.

Although I prefer discussing methodology, I believe before moving into that area, I need to clarify some more technical points before moving forward. My apologies for writing it in such a simple manner. This information should be accessible for the majority of readers.

What means data-driven?

I often mention a data-driven environment, but what do I mean precisely by that. For me, a data-driven environment means that all information is stored in a dataset that contains a single aspect of information in a standardized manner, so it becomes accessible by outside tools.

A document is not a dataset, as often it includes a collection of datasets. Most of the time, the information it is exposed to is not standardized in such a manner a tool can read and interpret the exact content. We will see that a dataset needs an identifier, a classification, and a status.

An identifier to be able to create a connection between other datasets – traceability or, in modern words, a digital thread.
A classification as the classification identifier will determine the type of information the dataset contains and potential a set of mandatory attributes

A status to understand if the dataset is stable or still in work.

Examples of a data-driven approach – the item

The most common dataset in the PLM world is probably the item (or part) in a Bill of Material. The identifier is the item number (ID + revision if revisions are used). Next, the classification will tell you the type of part it is.

Part classification can be a topic on its own, and every industry has its taxonomy.

Finally, the status is used to identify if the dataset is shareable in the context of other information (released, in work, obsolete), allowing tools to expose only relevant information.

In a data-driven manner, a part can occur in several Bill of Materials – an example of a single definition consumed in other places.

When the part information changes, the accountable person has to analyze the relations to the part, which is easy in a data-driven environment. It is normal to find this functionality in a PDM or ERP system.

When the part would change in a document-driven environment, the effort is much higher.

First, all documents need to be identified where this part occurs. Then the impact of change needs to be managed in document versions, which will lead to other related changes if you want to keep the information correct.

Examples of a data-driven approach – the requirement

Another example illustrating the benefits of a data-driven approach is implementing requirements management, where requirements become individual datasets.  Often a product specification can contain hundreds of requirements, addressing the needs of different stakeholders.

In addition, several combinations of requirements need to be handled by other disciplines, mechanical, electrical, software, quality and legal, for example.

As requirements need to be analyzed and ranked, a specification document would never be frozen. Trade-off analysis might lead to dropping or changing a single requirement. It is almost impossible to manage this all in a document, although many companies use Excel. The disadvantages of Excel are known, in particular in a dynamic environment.

The advantage of managing requirements as datasets is that they can be grouped. So, for example, they can be pushed to a supplier (as a specification).

Or requirements could be linked to test criteria and test cases, without the need to manage documents and make sure you work with them last updated document.

As you will see, also requirements need to have an Identifier (to manage digital relations), a classification (to allow grouping) and a status (in work / released /dropped)

Data-driven and Models – the 3D CAD model

3D PDF Model

When I launched my series related to the model-based approach in 2018, the first comments I got came from people who believed that model-based equals the usage of 3D CAD models – see Model-based – the confusion. 3D Models are indeed an essential part of a model-based infrastructure, as the 3D model provides an unambiguous definition of the physical product. Just look at how most vendors depict the aspects of a virtual product using 3D (wireframe) models.

Although we use a 3D representation at each product lifecycle stage, most companies do not have a digital continuity for the 3D representation. Design models are often too heavy for visualization and field services support. The connection between engineering and manufacturing is usually based on drawings instead of annotated models.

I wrote about modern PLM and Model-Based Definition, supported by Jennifer Herron from Action Engineering – read the post PLM and Model-Based Definition here.

If your company wants to master a data-driven approach, this is one of the most accessible learning areas. You will discover that connecting engineering and manufacturing requires new technology, new ways of working and much more coordination between stakeholders.

Implementing Model-Based Definition is not an easy process. However, it is probably one of the best steps to get your digital transformation moving. The benefits of connected information between engineering and manufacturing have been discussed in the blog post PLM and Model-Based Definition

Essential to realize all these exciting capabilities linked to Industry 4.0 require a data-driven, model-based connection between engineering and manufacturing.

If this is not the case, the projected game-changers will not occur as they become too costly.

Data-driven and mathematical models

To manage complexity, we have learned that we have to describe the behavior in models to make logical decisions. This can be done in an abstract model, purely based on mathematical equations and relations. For example, suppose you look at climate models, weather models or COVID infections models.

In that case, we see they all lead to discussions from so-called experts that believe a model should be 100 % correct and any exception shows the model is wrong.

It is not that the model is wrong; the expectations are false.

For less complex systems and products, we also use models in the engineering domain. For example, logical models and behavior models are all descriptive models that allow people to analyze the behavior of a product.

For example, how software code impacts the product’s behavior. Usually, we speak about systems when software is involved, as the software will interact with the outside world.

There can be many models related to a product, and if you want to get an impression, look at this page from the SEBoK wiki: Types of Models. The current challenge is to keep the relations between these models by sharing parameters.

The sharable parameters then again should be datasets in a data-driven environment. Using standardized diagrams, like SysML or UML,  enables the used objects in the diagram to become datasets.

I will not dive further into the modeling details as I want to remain at a high level.

Essential to realize digital models should connect to a data-driven infrastructure by sharing relevant datasets.

What does data-driven imply?

 

I want to conclude this time with some statements to elaborate on further in upcoming posts and discussions

  1. Data-driven does not imply there needs to be a single environment, a single database that contains all information. Like I mentioned in my previous post, it will be about managing connected datasets in a federated manner. It is not anymore about owned the data; it is about access to reliable data.
  2. Data-driven does not mean we do not need any documents anymore. Read electronic files for documents. Likely, document sets will still be the interface to non-connected entities, suppliers, and regulatory bodies. These document sets can be considered a configuration baseline.
  3. Data-driven means that we need to manage data in a much more granular manner. We have to look different at data ownership. It becomes more data accountability per role as the data can be used and consumed throughout the product lifecycle.
  4. Data-driven means that you need to have an enterprise architecture, data governance and a master data management (MDM) approach. So far, the traditional PLM vendors have not been active in the MDM domain as they believe their proprietary data model is leading. Read also this interesting McKinsey article: How enterprise architects need to evolve to survive in a digital world
  5. A model-based approach with connected datasets seems to be the way forward. Managing data in documents will become inefficient as they cannot contribute to any digital accelerator, like applying algorithms. Artificial Intelligence relies on direct access to qualified data.
  6. I don’t believe in Low-Code platforms that provide ad-hoc solutions on demand. The ultimate result after several years might be again a new type of spaghetti. On the other hand, standardized interfaces and protocols will probably deliver higher, long-term benefits. Remember: Low code: A promising trend or a Pandora’s Box?
  7. Configuration Management requires a new approach. The current methodology is very much based on hardware products with labor-intensive change management. However, the world of software products has different configuration management and change procedure. Therefore, we need to merge them in a single framework. Unfortunately, this cannot be the BOM framework due to the dynamics in software changes. An interesting starting point for discussion can be found here: Configuration management of industrial products in PDM/PLM

 

Conclusion

Again, a long post, slowly moving into the future with many questions and points to discuss. Each of the seven points above could be a topic for another blog post, a further discussion and debate.

After my summer holiday break in August, I will follow up. I hope you will join me in this journey by commenting and contributing with your experiences and knowledge.

 

 

 

 

After “The Doctor is IN,” now again a written post in the category of PLM and complementary practices/domains. In January, I discussed together with Henrik Hulgaard from Configit the complementary value of PLM and CLM (Configuration Lifecycle Management). For me, CLM is a synonym for Product Configuration Management.

PLM and Complementary Practices (feedback)

As expected, readers were asking the question:

“What is the difference between CLM (Configuration Lifecycle Management) and CM(Configuration Management)?”

Good question.

As the complementary role of CM is also a part of the topics to discuss, I am happy to share this blog today with Martijn Dullaart. You probably know Martijn if you are actively following topics on PLM and CM.

Martijn has his own blog mdux.net, and you might have seen him recently in Jenifer Moore’s PLM TV-episode: Why CM2 for Faster Change and Better Documentation. Martijn is the Lead Architect for Enterprise Configuration Management at ASML (Our Dutch national pride) and chairperson of the Industry 4.0 committee of the Integrated Process Excellence (IPX) Congress. Let us start.

Configuration Management and CM2

Martijn, first of all, can you bring some clarity in terminology. When discussing Configuration Management, what is the pure definition, what is CM2 as a practice, and what is IpX‘s role and please explain where you fit in this picture?

Classical CM focuses mainly on the product, the product definition, and actual configurations like as-built and as-maintained of the product. CM2 extends the focus to the entire enterprise, e.g., the processes and procedures (ways of working) of a company, including the IT and facilities, to support the company’s value stream.

CM2 expands the scope to all information that could impact safety, security, quality, schedule, cost, profit, the environment, corporate reputation, or brand recognition.

Basically, CM2 shifts the focus to Integrated Process Excellence and promotes continual improvement.

Next to this, CM2 provides the WHAT and the HOW, something most standards lack. My main focus is still around the product and promoting the use of CM outside the product domain.

For all CM related documentation, we are already doing this.

Configuration Management and PLM

People claim that if you implement PLM as an enterprise backbone, not as an engineering tool, you can do Configuration Management with your PLM environment.

What is your opinion?

Yes, I think that this is possible, provided that the PLM tool has the right capabilities. Though the question should be: Is this the best way to go about it. For instance, some parts of Configuration Management are more transactional oriented, e.g., registering the parts you build in or out of a product.

Other parts of CM are more iterative in nature, e.g., doing impact analysis and making an implementation plan. I am not saying this cannot be done in a PLM tool as an enterprise backbone. Still, the nature of most PLM tools is to support iterative types of work rather than a transactional type of work.

I think you need some kind of enterprise backbone that manages the configuration as an As-Planned/As-Released baseline. A baseline that shows not only the released information but also all planned changes to the configuration.

Because the source of information in such a baseline comes from different tools, you need an overarching tool to connect everything. For most companies, this means that they require an overarching system with their current state of enterprise applications.

Preferably I would like to use the data directly from the sources. Still, connectivity and performance are not yet to a level that we can do this. Cloud and modern application and database architectures are very promising to this end.

 

Configuration Management for Everybody?

I can imagine companies in the Aerospace industry need to have proper configuration management for safety reasons. Also, I can imagine that proper configuration management can be relevant for other industries. Do they need to be regulated, or are there other reasons for a company to start implementing CM processes?

I will focus the first part of my answer within the context of CM for products only.

Basically, all products are regulated to some degree. Aerospace & Defense and Medical Device and Pharma are highly regulated for obvious reasons. Other industries are also regulated, for example, through environmental regulations like REACH, RoHS, WEEE or safety-related regulations like the CE marking or FCC marking.

Customers can also be an essential driver for the need for CM. If, as a customer, you buy expensive equipment, you expect that the supplier of that equipment can deliver per commitment. The supplier can also maintain and upgrade the equipment efficiently with as few disruptions to your operations as possible.

Not just customers but also consumers are critical towards the traceability of the product and all its components.

Even if you are sitting on a rollercoaster, you presume the product is well designed and maintained. In other words, there is often a case to be made to apply proper configuration management in any company. Still, the extent to which you need to implement it may vary based on your needs.

 

The need for Enterprise Configuration Management is even more significant because one of the hardest things is to change the way an organization works and operates.

Often there are different ways of doing the same thing. There is a lot of tribal knowledge, and ways of working are not documented so that people can easily find it, let alone that it is structured and linked so that you can do an impact analysis when you want to introduce a change in your organization.

 

CM and Digital Transformation

One of the topics that we both try to understand better is how CM will evolve in the future when moving to a more model-based approach. In the CM-terminology, we still talk about documents as information objects to be managed. What is your idea of CM and a model-based future?

It is indeed a topic where probably new or changed methodology is required, and I started already describing CM topics in several posts on my enterprise MDUX blog. Some of the relevant posts in this context are:

First, let me say that model-based has the future, although, at the same time, the CM aspects are often overlooked.

When managing changes, too much detail makes estimating cost and effort for a business case more challenging, and planning information that is too granular is not desirable. Therefore, CM2 looks at datasets. Datasets should be as small as possible but not smaller. Datasets are sets of information that need to be released as a whole. Still, they can be released independently from other datasets. For example, a bill of materials, a BOM line item is not a dataset, but the complete set of BOM line items that make up the BoM of an assembly is considered a dataset. I can release a BoM independent from a test plan.

Data models need to facilitate this. However, today, in many PLM systems, a BOM and the metadata of a part are using the same revision. This means that to change the metadata, I need a revision of the BoM, while the BoM might not change. Some changes to metadata might not be relevant for a supplier. Communicating the changes to your supplier could create confusion.

I know some people think this is about document vs. model-centric, but it is not. A part is identified in the ‘physical world’ by its part ID. Even if you talk about allowing revisions in the supply chain, including the part ID’s revision, you create a new identifier. Now every new revision will end up in a different stock location. Is that what we want?

In any case, we are still in the early days, and the thinking about this topic has just begun and needs to take shape in the coming year(s).

 

CM and/or CLM?

As in my shared blog post with Henrik Hulgaard related to CLM, can you make a clear differentiation between the two domains for the readers?

 

Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM)  is mainly positioned towards Configurable Products and the configurable level of the product.

 

Why I think this, even though Configit’s  CLM declaration states that “Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) is the management of all product configuration definitions and configurations across all involved business processes applied throughout the lifecycle of a product.”,
it also states:

  • “CLM differs from other Enterprise Business Disciplines because it focuses on cross-functional use of configurable products.”
  • “Provides a Single Source of Truth for Configurable Data
  • “handles the ever-increasing complexity of Configurable Products“.

I find Configuration Lifecycle Management is a core Configuration Management practice you need to have in place for configurable products. The dependencies you need to manage are enormously complex. Software parameters that depend on specific hardware, hardware to hardware dependencies, commercial variants, and options.

Want to learn more?

In this post, we just touched the surface of PLM and Configuration Management. Where can an interested reader find more information related to CM for their company?

 

For becoming trained in CM2, people can reach out to the Institute for Process Excellence, a company that focuses on consultancy and methodology for many aspects of a modern, digital enterprise, including Configuration Management.

And there is more out there, e.g.:

Conclusion

Thanks, Martijn, for your clear explanations. People working seriously in the PLM domain managing the full product lifecycle should also learn and consider Configuration Management best practices. I look forward to a future discussion on how to perform Configuration Management in a model-based environment.

PLM, CLM, and CM – mind the overlap

 

 

 

 

It Is 2021, and after two weeks’ time-out and reflection, it is time to look forward. Many people have said that 2020 was a “lost year,” and they are looking forward to a fresh restart, back to the new normal. For me, 2020 was the contrary of a lost year. It was a year where I had to change my ways of working. Communication has changed, digitization has progressed, and new trends have become apparent.

If you are interested in some of the details, watch the conversation I had with Rob Ferrone from QuickRelease, just before Christmas: Two Santas looking back to 2020.

It was an experiment with video, and you can see there is a lot to learn for me. I agree with Ilan Madjar’s comment that it is hard to watch two people talking for 20 minutes. I prefer written text that I can read at my own pace, short videos (max 5 min), or long podcasts that I can listen to, when cycling or walking around.

So let me share with you some of the plans I have for 2021, and I am eager to learn from you where we can align.

PLM understanding

I plan a series of blog posts where I want to share PLM-related topics that are not necessarily directly implemented in a PLM-system or considered in PLM-implementations as they require inputs from multiple sources.  Topics in this context are: Configuration Management, Product Configuration Management, Product Information Management, Supplier Collaboration Management, Digital Twin Management, and probably more.

For these posts, I will discuss the topic with a subject matter expert, potentially a vendor or a consultant in that specific domain, and discuss the complementary role to traditional PLM. Besides a blog post, this topic might also be more explained in-depth in a podcast.

The PLM Doctor is in

Most of you might have seen Lucy from the Charley Brown cartoon as the doctor giving advice for 5¢. As an experiment, I want to set up a similar approach, however, for free.

These are my conditions:

  • Only one question at a time.
  • The question and answer will be published in a 2- 3 minute video.
  • The question is about solving a pain.

If you have such a question related to PLM, please contact me through a personal message on LinkedIn, and I will follow-up.

PLM and Sustainability

A year ago, I started with Rich McFall, the PLM Green Global Alliance.  Our purpose to bring people together, who want to learn and share PLM-related practices, solutions,  ideas contributing to a greener and more sustainable planet.

We do not want to compete or overlap with more significant global or local organizations, like the Ellen McArthur Foundation or the European Green Deal.

We want to bring people together to dive into the niche of PLM and its related practices.  We announced the group on LinkedIn; however, to ensure a persistent referential for all information and interactions, we have launched the website plmgreenaliance.com.

Here I will moderate and focus on PLM and Sustainability topics. I am looking forward to interacting with many of you.

PLM and digitization

For the last two years, I have been speaking and writing about the gap between current PLM-practices, based on shareable documents and files and the potential future based on shareable data, the Model-Based Enterprise.

Last year I wrote a series of posts giving insights on how we reached the current PLM-practices. Discovering sometimes inconsistencies and issues due to old habits or technology changes. I grouped these posts on a single blog page with the title:  Learning from the past.

This year I will create a collection of posts focusing on the transition towards a Model-Based Enterprise. Probably the summary page will be called: Working towards the future currently in private mode.

Your feedback

I am always curious about your feedback – to understand in which kind of environment your PLM activities take place. Which topics are unclear? What am I missing in my experience?

Therefore, I created a small anonymous survey for those who want to be interacting with me. On purpose, the link is at the bottom of the post, so when you answer the survey, you get my double appreciation, first for reaching the end of this post and second for answering the survey.

Take the survey here.

Conclusion

Most of us will have a challenging year ahead of us. Sharing and discussing challenges and experiences will help us all to be better in what we are doing. I look forward to our 2021 journey.

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

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