You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Customer centric’ category.

Last week I read Verdi Ogewell’ s article:  PTC puts the Needle to the Digital Thread on Engineering.com where Verdi raised the question (and concluded) who is the most visionary PLM CEO – Bernard Charles from Dassault Systemes or Jim Heppelman from PTC. Unfortunate again, an advertorial creating more haziness around modern PLM than adding value.

People need education and Engineering.com is/was a respected site for me, as they state in their Engineering.com/about statement:

Valuable Content for Busy Engineers. Engineering.com was founded on the simple mission to help engineers be better.

Unfortunate this is not the case in the PLM domain anymore. In June, we saw an article related to the failing PLM migration at Ericsson – see The PLM migration dilemma. Besides the fact that a big-bang migration had failed at Ericsson, the majority of the article was based on rumors and suggestions, putting the sponsor of this article in a better perspective.

Of course, Engineering.com needs sponsoring to host their content, and vendors are willing to spend marketing money on that. However, it would be fairer to mention in a footnote who sponsored the article – although per article you can guess. Some more sincere editors or bloggers mention their sponsoring that might have influenced their opinion.

Now, why did the article PTC puts the Needle to the Digital Thread made me react ?

Does a visionary CEO pay off?

It can be great to have a visionary CEO however, do they make the company and their products/services more successful? For every successful visionary CEO, there are perhaps ten failing visionary CEOs as the stock market or their customers did not catch their vision.

There is no lack of PLM vision as Peter Bilello mapped in 2014 when imagining the gaps between vision, available technology, and implementations at companies (leaders and followers). See below:

The tremendous gap between vision and implementations is the topic that concerns me the most. Modern PLM is about making data available across the enterprise or even across the company’s ecosystem. It is about data democratization that allows information to flow and to be presented in context, without the need to recreate this information again.

And here the marketing starts. Verdi writes:

PTC’s Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital twin and augmented reality (AR) investments, as well as the collaboration with Rockwell Automation in the factory automation arena, have definitely placed the company in a leading position in digital product realization, distribution and aftermarket services

With this marketing sentence, we are eager to learn why

“With AR, for example, we can improve the quality control of the engines,” added Volvo Group’s Bertrand Felix, during an on-stage interview by Jim Heppelmann. Heppelmann then went down to a Volvo truck with the engine lifted out of its compartment. Using a tablet, he was able to show how the software identified the individual engine, the parts that were included, and he could also pick up the 3D models of each component and at the same time check that everything was included and in the right place.

Impressive – is it real?

The point is that this is the whole chain for digital product realization–development and manufacturing–that the Volvo Group has chosen to focus on. Sub-components have been set up that will build the chain, much is still in the pilot stage, and a lot remains to be done. But there is a plan, and the steps forward are imminent.

OK, so it is a pilot, and a lot remains to be done – but there is a plan. I am curious about the details of that plan, as a little later, we learn from the CAD story:

The Pro/ENGINEER “inheritor” Creo (engine, chassis) is mainly used for CAD and creation of digital twins, but as previously noted, Dassault Systémes’ CATIA is also still used. Just as in many other large industrial organizations, Autodesk’s AutoCAD is also represented for simpler design solutions.

There goes the efficient digital dream. Design data coming from CATIA needs to be recreated in Creo for digital twin support. Data conversion or recreation is an expensive exercise and needs to be reliable and affordable as the value of the digital twin is gone once the data is incorrect.

In a digital enterprise, you do not want silos to work with their own formats, you want a digital thread based on (neutral) models that share metadata/parameters from design to service.

So I dropped the article and noticed Oleg had already commented faster than me in his post: Does PLM industry need a visionary pageant? Oleg refers also to CIMdata, as they confirmed in 2018 that the concept of a platform for product innovation (PIP), or the beyond PLM is far from reality in companies. Most of the time, a PLM-implementation is mainly a beyond PDM environment, not really delivering product data downstream.

I am wholly aligned with Oleg’s  technical conclusion:

What is my(Oleg’s) conclusion? PLM industry doesn’t need another round of visionary pageants. I’d call democratization, downstream usage and openness as biggest challenges and opportunities in PLM applications. Recent decades of platform development demonstrated the important role network platforms played in the development of global systems and services. PLM paradigm change from isolated vertical platforms to open network services required to bring PLM to the next level. Just my thoughts..

My comments to Oleg’s post:

(Jos) I fully agree we do not need more visionary PLM pageants. It is not about technology and therefore I have to disagree with your point about Aras. You call it democratization and openness of data a crucial point – and here I agree – be it that we probably disagree about how to reach this – through standards or through more technology. My main point to be made (this post ) is that we need visionary companies that implement and rethink their processes and are willing to invest resources in that effort. Most digital transformation projects related to PLM fail because the existing status quo/ middle management has no incentive to change. More thoughts to come

And this the central part of my argumentation – it is not about technology (only).

Organizational structures are blocking digital transformation

Since 2014 I have been following several larger manufacturing companies on their path from pushing products to the market in a linear mode towards a customer-driven, more agile, fast responding enterprise. As this is done by taking benefit of digital technologies, we call this process: digital transformation.

(image depicting GE’s digital thread)

What I have learned from these larger enterprises, and both Volvo Trucks and GE as examples, that there is a vision for an end result. For GE, it is the virtual twin of their engines monitored and improved by their Predix platform. For Volvo Trucks, we saw the vision in the quote from Verdi’s article before.

However, these companies are failing in creating a horizontal mindset inside their companies. Data can only be efficient used downstream if there is a willingness to work on collecting the relevant data upstream and delivering this information in an accessible format, preferably data-driven.

The Middle Management Dilemma

And this leads to my reference to middle management. Middle managers learn about the C-level vision and are pushed to make this vision happen. However, they are measured and driven to solve these demands, mainly within their own division or discipline. Yes, they might create goodwill for others, but when it comes to money spent or changing people responsibilities, the status quo will remain.

I wrote about this challenge in The Middle Management dilemma. Digital transformation, of course, is enabled by digital technologies, but it does not mean the technology is creating the transformation. The crucial fact lies in making companies more flexible in their operations, yet establishing better and new contacts with customers.

It is interesting to see that the future of businesses is looking into agile, multidisciplinary teams that can deliver incremental innovations to the company’s portfolio. Somehow going back to the startup culture inside a more significant enterprise. Having worked with several startups, you see the outcome-focus as a whole in the beginning – everyone contributes. Then when the size of the company grows, middle-management is introduced, and most likely silos are created as the middle management gets their own profit & loss targets.

Digital Transformation myths debunked

This week Helmut Romer (thanks Helmut) pointed me to the following HBR-article: Digital does not need to be disruptive where the following myths are debunked:

  1. Myth: Digital requires radical disruption of the value proposition.
    Reality: It usually means using digital tools to better serve the known customer need.
  2. Myth: Digital will replace physical
    Reality: It is a “both/and.”
  3. Myth: Digital involves buying start-ups.
    Reality: It involves protecting start-ups.
  4. Myth: Digital is about technology.
    Reality: It’s about the customer
  5. Myth: Digital requires overhauling legacy systems.
    Reality: It’s more often about incremental bridging.

If you want to understand these five debunked myths, take your time to read the full article, very much aligned with my argumentation, albeit it that my focus is more on the PLM domain.

Conclusions

Vendor sponsoring at Engineering.com has not improved the quality of their PLM articles and creates misleading messages. Especially as the sponsor is not mentioned, and the sponsor is selling technology – the vision gap is too big with reality to compete around a vision.

Transforming companies to take benefit of new technologies requires an end-to-end vision and mindset based on achievable, incremental learning steps. The way your middle management is managed and measured needs to be reworked as the focus is on horizontal flow and understanding of customer/market-oriented processes.

 

In my previous post, the PLM blame game, I briefly mentioned that there are two delivery models for PLM. One approach based on a PLM system, that contains predefined business logic and functionality, promoting to use the system as much as possible out-of-the-box (OOTB) somehow driving toward a certain rigidness or the other approach where the PLM capabilities need to be developed on top of a customizable infrastructure, providing more flexibility. I believe there has been a debate about this topic over more than 15 years without a decisive conclusion. Therefore I will take you through the pros and cons of both approaches illustrated by examples from the field.

PLM started as a toolkit

The initial cPDM/PLM systems were toolkits for several reasons. In the early days, scalable connectivity was not available or way too expensive for a standard collaboration approach. Engineering information, mostly design files, needed to be shared globally in an efficient manner, and the PLM backbone was often a centralized repository for CAD-data. Bill of Materials handling in PLM was often at a basic level, as either the ERP-system (mostly Aerospace/Defense) or home-grown developed BOM-systems(Automotive) were in place for manufacturing.

Depending on the business needs of the company, the target was too connect as much as possible engineering data sources to the PLM backbone – PLM originated from engineering and is still considered by many people as an engineering solution. For connectivity interfaces and integrations needed to be developed in a time that application integration frameworks were primitive and complicated. This made PLM implementations complex and expensive, so only the large automotive and aerospace/defense companies could afford to invest in such systems. And a lot of tuition fees spent to achieve results. Many of these environments are still operational as they became too risky to touch, as I described in my post: The PLM Migration Dilemma.

The birth of OOTB

Around the year 2000, there was the first development of OOTB PLM. There was Agile (later acquired by Oracle) focusing on the high-tech and medical industry. Instead of document management, they focused on the scenario from bringing the BOM from engineering to manufacturing based on a relatively fixed scenario – therefore fast to implement and fast to validate. The last point, in particular, is crucial in regulated medical environments.

At that time, I was working with SmarTeam on the development of templates for various industries, with a similar mindset. A predefined template would lead to faster implementations and therefore reducing the implementation costs. The challenge with SmarTeam, however, was that is was very easy to customize, based on Microsoft technology and wizards for data modeling and UI design.

This was not a benefit for OOTB-delivery as SmarTeam was implemented through Value Added Resellers, and their major revenue came from providing services to their customers. So it was easy to reprogram the concepts of the templates and use them as your unique selling points towards a customer. A similar situation is now happening with Aras – the primary implementation skills are at the implementing companies, and their revenue does not come from software (maintenance).

The result is that each implementer considers another implementer as a competitor and they are not willing to give up their IP to the software company.

SmarTeam resellers were not eager to deliver their IP back to SmarTeam to get it embedded in the product as it would reduce their unique selling points. I assume the same happens currently in the Aras channel – it might be called Open Source however probably it is only high-level infrastructure.

Around 2006 many of the main PLM-vendors had their various mid-market offerings, and I contributed at that time to the SmarTeam Engineering Express – a preconfigured solution that was rapid to implement if you wanted.

Although the SmarTeam Engineering Express was an excellent sales tool, the resellers that started to implement the software began to customize the environment as fast as possible in their own preferred manner. For two reasons: the customer most of the time had different current practices and secondly the money come from services. So why say No to a customer if you can say Yes?

OOTB and modules

Initially, for the leading PLM Vendors, their mid-market templates were not just aiming at the mid-market. All companies wanted to have a standardized PLM-system with as little as possible customizations. This meant for the PLM vendors that they had to package their functionality into modules, sometimes addressing industry-specific capabilities, sometimes areas of interfaces (CAD and ERP integrations) as a module or generic governance capabilities like portfolio management, project management, and change management.

The principles behind the modules were that they need to deliver data model capabilities combined with business logic/behavior. Otherwise, the value of the module would be not relevant. And this causes a challenge. The more business logic a module delivers, the more the company that implements the module needs to adapt to more generic practices. This requires business change management, people need to be motivated to work differently. And who is eager to make people work differently? Almost nobody,  as it is an intensive coaching job that cannot be done by the vendors (they sell software), often cannot be done by the implementers (they do not have the broad set of skills needed) or by the companies (they do not have the free resources for that). Precisely the principles behind the PLM Blame Game.

OOTB modularity advantages

The first advantage of modularity in the PLM software is that you only buy the software pieces that you really need. However, most companies do not see PLM as a journey, so they agree on a budget to start, and then every module that was not identified before becomes a cost issue. Main reason because the implementation teams focus on delivering capabilities at that stage, not at providing value-based metrics.

The second potential advantage of PLM modularity is the fact that these modules supposed to be complementary to the other modules as they should have been developed in the context of each other. In reality, this is not always the case. Yes, the modules fit nicely on a single PowerPoint slide, however, when it comes to reality, there are separate systems with a minimum of integration with the core. However, the advantage is that the PLM software provider now becomes responsible for upgradability or extendibility of the provided functionality, which is a serious point to consider.

The third advantage from the OOTB modular approach is that it forces the PLM vendor to invest in your industry and future needed capabilities, for example, digital twins, AR/VR, and model-based ways of working. Some skeptic people might say PLM vendors create problems to solve that do not exist yet, optimists might say they invest in imagining the future, which can only happen by trial-and-error. In a digital enterprise, it is: think big, start small, fail fast, and scale quickly.

OOTB modularity disadvantages

Most of the OOTB modularity disadvantages will be advantages in the toolkit approach, therefore discussed in the next paragraph. One downside from the OOTB modular approach is the disconnect between the people developing the modules and the implementers in the field. Often modules are developed based on some leading customer experiences (the big ones), where the majority of usage in the field is targeting smaller companies where people have multiple roles, the typical SMB approach. SMB implementations are often not visible at the PLM Vendor R&D level as they are hidden through the Value Added Reseller network and/or usually too small to become apparent.

Toolkit advantages

The most significant advantage of a PLM toolkit approach is that the implementation can be a journey. Starting with a clear business need, for example in modern PLM, create a digital thread and then once this is achieved dive deeper in areas of the lifecycle that require improvement. And increased functionality is only linked to the number of users, not to extra costs for a new module.

However, if the development of additional functionality becomes massive, you have the risk that low license costs are nullified by development costs.

The second advantage of a PLM toolkit approach is that the implementer and users will have a better relationship in delivering capabilities and therefore, a higher chance of acceptance. The implementer builds what the customer is asking for.

However, as Henry Ford said, if I would ask my customers what they wanted, they would ask for faster horses.

Toolkit considerations

There are several points where a PLM toolkit can be an advantage but also a disadvantage, very much depending on various characteristics of your company and your implementation team. Let’s review some of them:

Innovative: a toolkit does not provide an innovative way of working immediately. The toolkit can have an infrastructure to deliver innovative capabilities, even as small demonstrations, the implementation, and methodology to implement this innovative way of working needs to come from either your company’s resources or your implementer’s skills.

Uniqueness: with a toolkit approach, you can build a unique PLM infrastructure that makes you more competitive than the other. Don’t share your IP and best practices to be more competitive. This approach can be valid if you truly have a competing plan here. Otherwise, the risk might be you are creating a legacy for your company that will slow you down later in time.

Performance: this is a crucial topic if you want to scale your solution to the enterprise level. I spent a lot of time in the past analyzing and supporting SmarTeam implementers and template developers on their journey to optimize their solutions. Choosing the right algorithms, the right data modeling choices are crucial.

Sometimes I came into a situation where the customer blamed SmarTeam because customizations were possible – you can read about this example in an old LinkedIn post: the importance of a PLM data model

Experience: When you plan to implement PLM “big” with a toolkit approach, experience becomes crucial as initial design decisions and scope are significant for future extensions and maintainability. Beautiful implementations can become a burden after five years as design decisions were not documented or analyzed. Having experience or an experienced partner/coach can help you in these situations. In general, it is sporadic for a company to have internally experienced PLM implementers as it is not their core business to implement PLM. Experienced PLM implementers vary from size and skills – make the right choice.

 

Conclusion

After writing this post, I still cannot write a final verdict from my side what is the best approach. Personally, I like the PLM toolkit approach as I have been working in the PLM domain for twenty years seeing and experiencing good and best practices. The OOTB-box approach represents many of these best practices and therefore are a safe path to follow. The undecisive points are who are the people involved and what is your business model. It needs to be an end-to-end coherent approach, no matter which option you choose.

 

 

 

After my previous post about the PLM migration dilemma, I had several discussions with peers in the field why these PLM bad news are creating so much debate. For every PLM vendor, I can publish a failure story if I want. However, the reality is that the majority of PLM implementations do not fail.

Yes, they can cause discomfort or friction in an organization as implementing the tools often forces people to work differently.  And often working differently is not anticipated by the (middle) management and causes, therefore, a mismatch for the people, process & tools paradigm.

So we love bad news in real life. We talk about terrorism while meanwhile, a large number of people are dying through guns, cars, and even the biggest killer mosquitos. Fear stories sell better than success stories, and in particular, in the world of PLM Vendors, every failure of the competition is enlarged.  However, there are more actors involved in a PLM implementation, and if PLM systems would be that bad, they would not exist anymore and replace by ………?

Who to blame – the vendor?

Of course, it is the easiest way to blame the vendor as their marketing is promising to solve all problems. However, when you look from a distance to the traditional PLM vendor community, you see they are in a rat-race to deliver the latest and greatest technology ahead of their competition, often driven by some significant customers.

Their customers are buying the vision and expect it to be ready and industrialized, which is not the case – look at the digital twin hype or AI (Artificial Intelligence).  Released PLM software is not at the same maturity compared to office applications. Office applications do not innovate so much and have thousands of users during a beta-cycle and no dependency on processes.

Most PLM vendors are happy when a few customers jump on their latest release, combined with the fact that implementations of the most recent version are not yet a push on the button.  This might change in the long term if PLM Vendors can deliver cloud-based solutions.

PLM implementations within the same industry might look the same but often vary a lot due to existing practices, which will not change due to the tool – so there is a need for customization or configuration.

PLM systems with strong business rules inside their core might more and more develop towards configuration, where PLM toolkit-like systems might focus on ease of customization. Both approaches have their pro’s and con’s (in another blog post perhaps).

Another topic to blame the vendor is lack of openness.  You hear it in many discussions. If vendor X were open, they would not lock the data – a typical marketing slogan. If PLM vendors would be completely open, to which standards should they adhere?  Every PLM has its preferred collection of tools together – if you stay within their portfolio you have a minimum of compatibility or interface issues.

This logic started already with SAP in the previous century. For PLM vendors, there is no business model for openness. For example, the SmarTeam APIs for connecting and extracting data are available free of charge, leading to no revenue for the vendor and significant revenue for service providers. Without any license costs, they can build any type of interface/solution. In the end, when the PLM vendor has no sustainable revenue, the vendor will disappear as we have seen between 2000 and 2010, where several stand-alone PLM systems disappeared.

So yes, we can blame PLM vendors for their impossible expectations – coming to realistic expectations related to capabilities and openness is probably the biggest challenge.

Who to blame – the implementer?

The second partner in a PLM implementation is the implementation partner, often a specialized company related to the PLM vendor. There are two types of implementation partners – the strategic partners and the system integrators.

Let’s see where we can blame them.

Strategic partners, the consultancy firms,  often have a good relationship with the management, they help the company to shape the future strategy, including PLM. You can blame this type of company for their lack of connection to the actual business. What is the impact on the organization to implement a specific strategy, and what does this mean for current or future PLM?

Strategic partners should be the partner to support business change management as they are likely to have experience with other companies. Unfortunate, this type of companies does not have significant skills in PLM as the PLM domain is just a small subset of the whole potential business strategy.

You can blame them that they are useful in building a vision/strategy but fail to create a consistent connection to the field.

Implementation partners, the system integrators, are most of the times specialized in one or two PLM vendor’s software suites, although the smaller the implementation partner, the less broad their implementation skills. These implementation partners sometimes have built their own PLM best practices for a specific vendor and use this as a sales argument. Others just follow blindly what the vendor is promoting or what the customer is asking for.

They will do anything you request, as long as they get paid for it. The larger ones have loads of resources for offshore deliveries – the challenge you see here is that it might look cheap; however, it becomes expensive if there is no apparent convergence of the deliverables.

As I mentioned before they will never say No to a customer and claim to fill all the “gaps,” there are in the PLM environment.

You can blame implementation partners that their focus is on making money from services. And they are right, to remain in business your company needs to be profitable. It is like lawyers; they will invoice you based on their efforts. And the less you take on your plate, the more they will do for you.

The challenge for both consultancy partners as system integrators is to find a balance between experienced people, who really make it happen and educating juniors to become experts too. Often the customer pays for the education of these juniors

Who to blame – your company?

If your company is implementing PLM, then probably the perception is that that you made all the effort to make it successful.  You followed the advice of the strategic consultants, you selected the best PLM Vendor and system integrator, you created a budget – so what could go wrong?

This all depends on your company’s ambition and scope for PLM.

Implementing the as-is processes

If your PLM implementation is just there to automate existing practices and store data in a central location, this might work out. And this is most of the time when PLM implementations are successful. You know what to expect, and your system integrator knows what to expect.

This type of project can run close to budget, and some system integrators might be tempted to offer a fixed price. I am not a fan of fixed priced projects as you never know exactly what needs to be done. The system integrator might raise the target price with 20 – 40 % to cover their risk or you as a company might select the cheapest bid – another guarantee for failure. A PLM implementation is not a one-time project, it is an on-going journey. Therefore your choice needs to be sustainable.

My experience with this type of implementations is that it easy to blame the companies here too. Often the implementation becomes an IT-project, as business people are too busy to run their day-to-day jobs, therefore they only incidentally support the PLM project. The result is that at a specific moment, users confronted with the system feel not connected to the new system – it was better in the past. In particular, configuration management and change processes can become waterproof, leaving no freedom for the users. Then the blaming starts – first the software then the implementer.

But what if you have an ambitious PLM project as part of a business transformation?

In that case, the PLM platform is just one of the elements to consider. It will be the enabler for new ways of working, enabling customer-centric processes, multi-discipline collaboration, and more. All related to a digital transformation of the enterprise. Therefore, I mention PLM platform instead of PLM system. Future enterprises run on data through connected platforms. The better you can connect your disciplines, the more efficient and faster your company will operate. This, as opposed to the coordinated approach, which I have been addressing several times in the past.

A business transformation is a combination of end-to-end understanding of what to change – from management vision connected to the execution in the field. And as there is not an out-of-the-box template for business transformation, it is crucial a company experiments, evaluates and when successful, scales up new habits.

Therefore, it is hard to define upfront all the effort for the PLM platform and the implementation resources. What is sure is that your company is responsible for that, not an external part. So if it fails, your company is to blame.

Is everyone to blame?

You might have the feeling that everyone is to blame when a PLM implementation fails. I believe that is indeed the case. If you know in advance where all players have their strengths and weaknesses, a PLM implementation should not fail, but be balanced with the right resources. Depending on the scope of your PLM implementation, is it a consolidation or a transformation, you should take care of all stakeholders are participating in the anti-blame game.

The anti-blame game is an exercise where you make sure that the other parties in the game cannot blame you.

  • If you are a vendor – do not over commit
  • If you are a consultant or system integrator – learn to say NO
  • If you are the customer – make sure enough resources are assigned – you own the project. It is your project/transformation.

This has been several times my job in the past, where I was asked to mediate in a stalling PLM implementation. Most of the time at that time it was a blame game, missing the target to find a solution that makes sense. Here coaching from experienced PLM consultants makes sense.

 

Conclusion

Most of the time, PLM implementations are successful if the scope is well understood and not transformative. You will not hear a lot about these projects in the news as we like bad news.

To avoid bad news challenging PLM implementations should make sure all parties involved are challenging the others to remain realistic and invest enough. The role of an experienced external coach can help here.

 

 

I am writing this post during the Easter weekend in the Netherlands. Easter / Passover / Pascha / are religious festivities that happen around this time, depending on full moons, etc. I am not the expert here, however, what I like about Easter is that is it is an optimistic religious celebration, connecting history, the “dark days,” and the celebration of new life.

Of course, my PLM-twisted brain never stops associating and looking into an analogy, I saw last week a LinkedIn post from Mark Reisig, about Aras ACE 2019 opening with the following statement:

Digital Transformation – it used to be called PLM,” said Aras CEO Peter Schroer, as he opened the conference with some thoughts around attaining sustainable Digital Transformation and owning the lifecycle.

Was this my Easter Egg surprise? I thought we were in the middle of the PLM Renaissance as some other vendors and consultants talk about this era. Have a look at a recent Engineering.com TV-report: Turning PLM on its head

All jokes aside, the speech from Peter Schroer contained some interesting statements and I want to elaborate on them in this post as the space to comment in LinkedIn is not designed for a long answer.

PLM is Digital Transformation?

In the past few years, there has been a discussion if the acronym PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is perhaps outdated. PTC claimed thanks to IoT (Internet of Things) now PLM equals IoT, as you can read in  Mark Taber’s 2018 guest article in Digital Engineering: IoT Equals PLM.
Note: Mark is PTC’s vice president of marketing and go-to-market marketing according to the bio at the bottom of the article. So a lot of marketing words, which  strengthens the believers of the old world, that everything new is probably marketing.

Also during the PDT conferences, we discussed if PLM should be replaced by a new acronym and I participated in that discussion too – my Nov 2018 postWill MBSE be the new PLM instead of IoT? is a reflection of my thoughts at that time.

For me, Digital Transformation is a metamorphosis from a document-driven, sequential processes towards data-driven, iterative processes. The metamorphosis example used a lot at this moment, is the one from Caterpillar towards the Butterfly. This process is not easy when it comes to PLM-related information, as I described in my PI PLMx 2019 London Presentation and blog post: The Challenges of a Connected Ecosystem for PLM. The question is even: Will there be a full metamorphosis at the end or will we keep on working in two different modes of operations?

However, Digital Transformation does not change the PLM domain. Even after a successful digital transformation, there will be PLM. The only significant difference in the future – PLM boarders will not be so evident anymore when implementing capabilities in a system or a platform. The upcoming of digital platforms will dissolve or fade the traditional PLM-mapped capabilities.

You can see these differences already by taking an in-depth look at how Oracle, SAP or Propel address PLM. Each of them starts from a core platform with different PLM-flavored extensions, sometimes very different from the traditional PLM Vendors. So Digital transformation is not the replacement of PLM.

Back to Peter Schroer’s rebuttal of some myths. Note: DX stands for Digital Transformation

Myth #1: DX leverages disruptive tech

Peter Schroer:

 It’s easy to get excited about AI, AR, and the 3D visual experience. However, let’s be real. The first step is to get rid of your spreadsheets and paper documentation – to get an accurate product data baseline. We’re not just talking a digital CAD model, but data that includes access to performance data, as-built parts, and previous maintenance work history for everyone from technicians to product managers

Here I am fully aligned with Peter. There are a lot of fancy features discussed by marketing teams, however, when working in the field with companies, the main challenge is to get an organization digital aligned, sharing data accessible along the whole lifecycle with the right quality.

This means you need to have a management team, understanding the need for data governance, data quality and understanding the shift from data ownership to data accountability.  This will only happen with the right mix of vision, strategy and the execution of the strategy – marketing does not make it happen

 

Myth #2: DX results in increased market share, revenue, and profit

Peter Schroer:

Though there’s a lot of talk about it – there isn’t yet any compelling data which proves this to be true. Our goal at Aras is to make our products safer and faster. To support a whole suite of industrial applications to extend your DX strategy quite a bit further.

Here I agree and disagree, depending on the context of this statement. Some companies have gone through a digital transformation and therefore increased their market share, revenue, and profit. If you read books like Leading Transformation or Leading Digital, you will find examples of companies that have gone through successful digital transformations. However, you might also discover that most of these companies haven’t transformed their PLM-domain, but other parts of their businesses.

Also, it is interesting to read a 2017 McKinsey post: The case for digital reinvention, where you will get the confirmation that a lot of digital initiatives did not bring more top-line revenue and most of the times lead to extra costs. Interesting to see where companies focus their digital strategies – picture below:

Where only 2 percent of the respondents were focusing on supply chains, this is, according to the authors of the article, one of the areas with the highest potential ROI. And digital supply chains are closely related to modern PLM – so this is an area with enough work to do by all PLM practitioners– connecting ecosystems (in real-time)

Myth #3: Market leaders are the most successful at DX

Peter Schroer:

If your company is hugely profitable at the moment, it’s highly likely that your organization is NOT focused on Digital Transformation. The lifespan of S&P 500 companies continuing to shrink below 20 years.

How to Attain Sustainable Digital Transformation

– Stop buying disposable systems. It’s about an adaptable platform – it needs to change as your company changes.

– Think incremental. Do not lose momentum. Continuous change is a multi-phase journey. If you are in or completed phase I, then that means there is a phase II, a phase III, and so on.

– Align people & processes.  Mistakes will happen, “the tech side is only 50% of DX” – Aras CEO.

Here I agree with Peter on the business side, be it that some of the current market leaders are already digital. Look at Apple, Google, and Amazon. However, the majority of large enterprises have severe problems with various aspects of a digital transformation as the started in the past before digital technologies became affordable..

Digitization allows information to flow without barriers within an organization, leading to rapid insights and almost direct communication with your customers, your supply chain or other divisions within your company. This drives the need to learn and build new, lean processes and get people aligned to them. Learning to work in a different mode.

And this is extremely difficult for a market leader – as market leader fear for the outside changing world is often not felt. Between the C-level vision and people working in the company, there are several layers of middle management. These layers were created to structure and stabilize the old ways of working.

I wrote about the middle management challenge in my last blog post: The Middle Management dilemma. Almost in the same week there was an article from McKinsey: How companies can help midlevel managers navigate agile transformations.
Conclusion: It is not (only) about technology as some of the tech geeks may think.

Conclusion

Behind the myths addressed by Peter Schroer, there is a complex transformation on-going. Probably not a metamorphosis. With the Easter spirit in mind connected to PLM, I believe digital transformations are possible – Not as a miracle but driven by insights into all aspects. I hope this post gave you some more ideas and please read the connected articles – they are quite relevant if you want to discover what’s below the surface.

Image:  21stcenturypublicservant.wordpress.com/

I have talked a lot the past years about Digital Transformation and in particular its relation to PLM. This time I want to focus a little more on Digital Transformation and my observations related to big enterprises and small and medium enterprises. I will take you starting from the top, the C-level to the work floor and then try to reconnect through the middle management. As you can imagine from the title of this post, there is a challenge. And I am aware I am generalizing for the sake of simplicity.

Starting from the C-level of a large enterprise

Large and traditional enterprises are having the most significant challenge when aiming at a digital transformation for several reasons:

  • They have shareholders that prefer short-term benefits above long-term promising but unclear higher benefits. Shareholders most of the time have no personal interest in these companies, they just want to earn money above the average growth.
  • The CEO is the person to define the strategy which has to come with a compelling vision to inspire the shareholders, the customers and the employees in the company – most of the time in that order of priority.
  • The role of the CEO is to prioritize investments and stop or sell core components to make the transformation affordable. Every transformation is about deciding what to stop, what to start and what to maintain.
  • After four to seven years (the seven years’ itch) it is time for a new CEO to create a new momentum as you cannot keep the excitement up too long.
  • Meanwhile, the Stop-activities are creating fear within the organization – people start fearing their jobs and the start-activities are most of the time of such a small-scale that their successes are not yet seen. So at the work floor, there will be reservations about what’s next

Companies like ABB, Ericsson, GE, Philips – in alphabetical order – are all in several stages of their digital transformation and in particular I have followed GE as they were extremely visible and ambitious. Meanwhile, it is fair to say that the initial Digital Transformation plan from GE has stalled and a lot of lessons learned from that.

If you have time – read this article: The Only Way Manufacturers Can Survive – by Vijay Govindarajan & Jeff Immelt (you need to register). It gives useful insights about what the strategy and planning were for digital transformation. And note PLM is not even mentioned there J

Starting from the C-level of a small and medium enterprise

In a small or medium enterprise, the distance between the C-level and the work floor is most of the time much shorter and chances are that the CEO is a long-term company member in case of a long-standing family-owned business. In this type of companies, a long-term vision can exist and you could expect that digital transformation is more sustainable there.

Unfortunate most of the time it is not, as the C-level is often more active in current business strategies and capabilities close to their understanding instead of investing energy and time to digest the full impact of a digital transformation. These companies might invest in the buzz-words you hear in the market, IoT, Digital Twins and Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, all very visionary topics, however of low value when they are implemented in an isolated way.

In this paragraph, I also need to mention the small and medium enterprises that are in the hands of an investment company.  Here I feel sorry as the investment company is most of the time trying to optimize the current ways of working by simplifying or rationalizing the business, not creating a transformative vision (as they do not have the insights. In this type of companies, you will see on a lower scale the same investments done as in the other category of small and medium enterprises, be it on a lesser scale.

Do people need to change?

Often you hear that the problem with any change within the companies is because people do not want to change. I think this is too much a generalization. I have worked in the past five years with several companies where we explored the benefits and capabilities of PLM in a modern way, sometimes focusing on an item-centric approach, sometimes focusing on a model-based approach. In all these engagements there was no reluctance from the users to change.

However, there were two types of users in these discussions. I would characterize as evolutionary thinkers (most of the time ten years or more in the company) and love-to-change thinkers (most of them five years or less in the company). The difference between these groups was that the evolutionary thinkers were responding in the context of the existing business constraints where the love-to-change thinkers were not yet touched by the “knowledge how good everything was”.

For digital transformation, you need to create the love-to-change attitude while using the existing knowledge as a base to improve. And this is not a people change, it is an organizational change where you need to enable people to work in their best mode. It needs to be an end-to-end internal change – not changing the people, but changing the organizational parameters: KPIs, divisions, departments, priorities. Have a look at this short movie, you can replace the word ERP by PLM, and you will understand why I like this movie (and the relaxing sound)

The Middle Management dilemma

And here comes my last observation. At the C-level we can find inspiring visions often outcome-based, talking about a more agile company, closer to the customer, empowered workers, etc.  Then there is the ongoing business that cannot be disrupted and needs to perform – so the business units, the departments all get their performance KPIs, merely keeping the status quo in place.

Also, new digital initiatives need to be introduced. They don’t fit in the existing business and are often started in separation – like GE Digital division, and you can read Jeff Immelt’ s thoughts and strategy how this could work. (The Only Way Manufacturers Can Survive). However as the majority of the business runs in the old mode, the Digital Business became another business silo in the organization, as the middle management could not be motivated to embed digital in their business (no KPIs or very low significance of new KPIs)

I talked about the hybrid/bimodal approach several times in my blog posts, most recently in The Challenges of a Connected Ecosystem.  One of the points that I did not address was the fact that probably nobody wants to work in the old mode anymore once the new approach is successful and scaled up.

When the new mode of business is still small, people will not care so much and continue business as usual. Once the new mode becomes the most successful part of the company, people do want to join this success if they can. And here the change effort is needed. An interesting article in this context is The End of Two-Speed IT from the Boston Consultancy Group (2016). They already point at the critical role of middle management. Middle management can kill digital transformation or being part of it, by getting motivated and adopting too.

Conclusion

Perhaps too much text in this post and even more content when you dive more in-depth in the provided content. Crucial if you want to understand the digital transformation process in an existing company and the critical place of middle management. They are likely the killers of digital transformation if not give the right coaching and incentives.  Just an observation – not a thought 😉

In this post, I will explain the story behind my presentation at PI PLMx London. You can read my review of the event here: “The weekend after ……” and you can find my slides on SlideShare: HERE.

For me, this presentation is a conclusion of a thought process and collection of built-up experiences in the past three to  five years, related to the challenges digital transformation is creating for PLM and what makes it hard to go through compared to other enterprise business domains.  So here we go:

Digital transformation or disruption?

Slide 2 (top image) until 5 are dealing with the common challenges of business transformation. In nature, the transformation from a Caterpillar (old linear business) to a Butterfly (modern, agile, flexible) has the cocoon stage, where the transformation happens. In business unfortunate companies cannot afford a cocoon phase, it needs to be a parallel change.

Human beings are not good at change (slide 3 & 4), and the risk is that a new technology or a new business model will disrupt your business if you are too confident – see examples from the past. The disruption theory introduced by Clayton Christensen in his book, the Innovators Dilemma is an excellent example of how this can happen.  Some of my thoughts are in The Innovator’s dilemma and generation change (2015)

Although I know some PLM vendors consider themselves as disruptor, I give them no chance in the PLM domain. The main reason: The existing PLM systems are so closely tied to the data they manage, that switching from one PLM system to a more modern PLM system does not pay off.  The data models are so diverse that it is better to stay with the existing environment.

What is clear for modern digital businesses is that if you could start from scratch or with almost no legacy you can move faster forward than the rest. But only if supported by a strong leadership , a(understandable) vision and relentless execution.

The impression of evolution

Marc Halpern’s slide presented at PDT 2015 is one of my favorite slides, as it maps business maturity to various characteristics of an organization, including the technologies used.

 

Slide 7 till 18 are zooming in on the terms Coordinated and Connected and the implications it has for data, people and business. I have written about Coordinated and Connected recently: Coordinated or Connected (2018)

A coordinated approach: Delivering the right information at the right moment in the proper context is what current PLM implementations try to achieve. Allowing people to use their own tools/systems as long as they deliver at the right moment their information (documents/files) as part of the lifecycle/delivery process. Very linear and not too complicated to implement you would expect. However it is difficult ! Here we already see the challenge of just aligning a company to implement a horizontal flow of data. Usability of the PLM backbone and optimized silo thinking are the main inhibitors.

In a connected approach: Providing actual information for anyone connected in any context the slide on the left shows the mental picture we need to have for a digital enterprise. Information coming from various platforms needs to be shareable and connected in real-time, leading, in particular for PLM, to a switch from document-based deliverables to models and parameters that are connected.

Slide 15 has examples of some models.  A data-driven approach creates different responsibilities as it is not about ownership anymore but about accountability.

The image above gives my PLM-twisted vision of which are the five core platforms for an enterprise.  The number FIVE is interesting as David Sherburne just published his Five Platforms that Enable Digital Transformation and in 2016 Gartner identified Five domains for the digital platform .- more IT-twisted ? But remember the purpose of digital transformation is: FIVE!

From Coordinated to Connected is Digital Transformation

Slide 19 till 27 further elaborate on the fact that for PLM there is no evolutionary approach possible, going from a Coordinated technology towards a Connected technology.

For three reasons:  different type of data (document vs. database elements), different people (working in a connected environment requires modern digital skills) and different processes (the standard methods for mechanical-oriented PLM practices do not match processes needed to deliver systems (hardware & software) with an incremental delivery process).

Due to the incompatibility of the data, more and more companies discover that a single PLM-instance cannot support both modes – staying with your existing document-oriented PLM-system does not give the capabilities needed for a model-driven approach. Migrating the data from a traditional PLM-environment towards a modern data-driven environment does not bring any value. The majority of the coordinated data is not complete and with the right quality to use a data-driven environment. Note: in  a data-driven environment you do not have people interpreting the data – the data should be correct for automation / algorithms.

The overlay approach, mentioned several times in various PLM-blogs, is an intermediate solution. It provides traceability and visibility between different data sources (PLM, ALM, ERP, SCM, …). However it does not make the information in these systems better accessible.

So the ultimate conclusion is: You need both approaches, and you need to learn to work in a hybrid environment !

What can various stakeholders do?

For the management of your company, it is crucial they understand the full impact of digital transformation. It is not about a sexy customer website, a service platform or Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality case for the shop floor or services. When these capabilities are created disconnected from the source (PLM), they will deliver inconsistencies in the long-term. The new digital baby becomes another silo in the organization. Real digital transformation comes from an end-to-end vision and implementation.  The result of this end-to-end vision will be the understanding that there is a duality in data, in particular for the PLM domain.

Besides the technicalities, when going through a digital transformation, it is crucial for the management to share their vision in a way it becomes a motivational story, a myth, for all employees. As Yuval Harari, writer of the book Sapiens,  suggested, we (Home Sapiens) need an abstract story, a myth to align a larger group of people to achieve a common abstract goal. I discussed this topic in my posts: PLM as a myth? (2017)  and PLM – measurable or a myth?

Finally, the beauty of new digital businesses is that they are connected and can be monitored in real-time. That implies you can check the results continuously and adjust – scale of fail!

Consultants and strategists in a company should also take the responsibility, to educate the management and when advising on less transformational steps, like efficiency improvements: Make sure you learn and understand model-based approaches and push for data governance initiatives. This will at least narrow the gap between coordinated and connected environments.

This was about strategy – now about execution:

For PLM vendors and implementers, understanding the incompatibility of data between current PLM practices – coordinated and connected – it will lead to different business models. Where traditionally the new PLM vendor started first with a rip-and-replace of the earlier environment – no added value – now it is about starting a new parallel environment.  This implies no more big replacement deals, but more a long-term. strategic and parallel journey.  For PLM vendors it is crucial that being able to offer to these modes in parallel will allow them to keep up their customer base and grow. If they would choose for coordinated or connected only it is for sure a competitor will work in parallel.

For PLM users, an organization should understand that they are the most valuable resources, realizing these people cannot make a drastic change in their behavior. People will adapt within their capabilities but do not expect a person who grew up in the traditional ways of working (linear / analogue) to become a successful worker in the new mode (agile / digital). Their value lies in transferring their skills and coaching new employees but do not let them work in two modes. And when it comes to education: permanent education is crucial and should be scheduled – it is not about one or two trainings per year – if the perfect training would exist, why do students go to school for several years ? Why not give them the perfect PowerPoint twice a year?

Conclusions

I believe after three years of blogging about this theme I have made my point. Let’s observe and learn from what is happening in the field – I remain curious and focused about proof points and new insights. This year I hope to share with you new ideas related to digital practices in all industries, of course all associated with the human side of what we once started to call PLM.

Note: Oleg Shilovitsky just published an interesting post this weekend: Why complexity is killing PLM and what are future trajectories and opportunities? Enough food for discussion. One point: The fact that consumers want simplicity does not mean PLM will become simple – working in the context of other information is the challenge – it is human behavior – team players are good in anticipating – big egos are not. To be continued…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps an ambiguous title this time as it can be interpreted in various ways. I think that all these interpretations are one of the most significant problems with PLM. Ambiguity everywhere. Its definition, its value and as you might have noticed from the past two blog posts the required skill-set for PLM consultants.

As I am fine-tuning my presentation for the upcoming PLMx 2018 Event in Hamburg, some things become clearer for me. This is one of the advantages of blogging, speaking at PLM conferences and discussing PLM with companies that are eager to choose to right track for PLM. You are forced to look in more depth to be consistent and need to have arguments to support your opinion about what is happening in the scope of PLM. And from these learnings I realize often that the WHY PLM remains a big challenge for various reasons.

Current PLM

In the past twenty years, companies have implemented PLM systems, where the primary focus was on the P (Product) only from Product Lifecycle Management. PLM systems have been implemented as an engineering tool, as an evolution of (Product Data Management).

PLM systems have never been designed from the start as an enterprise system. Their core capabilities are related to engineering processes and for that reason that is why most implementations start with engineering.  Later more data-driven PLM-systems like Aras and Autodesk have begun from another angle, data connectivity between different disciplines as a foundation, avoiding to get involved with the difficulty of engineering first.

This week I saw the publication of the PLMPulse survey results by i42R / MarketKey where they claim:

The results from first industry-led survey on our status of Product Lifecycle Management and future priorities

The PLMPulse report is based on five different surveys as shown in the image above. Understanding the various aspects of PLM from usage, business value, organizational constraints, information value and future potential. More than 350 people from all around the world answered the various questions related to these survey.  Unfortunate inputs from some Asian companies are missing. We are all curious what happens in China as there, companies do not struggle with the same legacy related to PLM as other countries. Are they more embracing PLM in a different way?

The results as the editors also confirm, are not shocking and confirming that PLM has the challenge to get out of the engineering domain. Still, I recommend downloading the survey as it has interesting details. After registration you can download the report from here.

What’s next

During the upcoming PLMx 2018 Hamburg conference there will be a panel discussion where the survey results will be discussed. I am afraid that this debate will result again in a discussion where we will talk about the beauty and necessity of PLM and we wonder why PLM is not considered crucial for the enterprise.

There are a few challenges I see for PLM and hopefully they will be addressed. Most discussions are about WHAT PLM should/could do and not WHY.  If you want to get to the WHY of PLM, you need to be able to connect the value of PLM to business outcomes that resonate at C-level. Often PLM implementations are considered costly and ROI and business value are vague.

As the PLMPulse report also states, the ROI for PLM is most of the time based on efficiency and cost benefits related to the current way of working. These benefits usually do not offer significant ROI numbers. Major benefits come for working in a different way and focusing on working closer to your customer. Business value is hard to measure.

How do you measure the value of multidisciplinary collaboration or being more customer-centric? What is the value of being better connected to your customer and being able to react faster? These situations are hard to prove at the board level, as here people like to see numbers, not business transformations.

Focus on the WHY and HOW

A lot of the PLM messages that you can read through various marketing or social channels are related to futuristic concepts and high-level dreams that will come true in the next 10-20 years. Most companies however have a planning horizon of 2 years max 5 years. Peter Bilello from CIMdata presented one of their survey results at the PDT conference in 2014, shown below:

Technology and vision are way ahead of reality. Even the area where the leaders focusing the distance between technology and vision gets bigger. The PLM focus is more down-to-earth and should not be on what we are able to do, but the focus should be on what would be the next logical step for our company to progress to the future.

System of Record and System of Engagement

At the PLMx conference I will share my experiences related to PLM transformations with the audience. One and a half-year ago we started talking about the bi-modal approach. Now more and more I see companies adopting the concepts of bi-modal related to PLM.  Still most organizations struggle with the fact that their PLM should be related to one PLM system or one PLM vendor, where I believe we should come to the conclusion that there are two PLM modes at this moment. And this does not imply there need to be only one or two systems – it will become a federated infrastructure.

Current modes could be an existing PLM backbone, focusing on capturing engineering data, the classical PLM system serving as a system of record. And a second, new growing PLM-related infrastructure which will be a digital, most likely federated, platform where modern customer-centric PLM processes will run. As the digital platform will provide real-time interaction it might be considered as a system of engagement, complementary to the system of record.

It will be the system of engagement that should excite the board members as here new ways of working can be introduced and mastered. As there are no precise blueprints for this approach, this is the domain where innovative thinking needs to take place.

That’s why I hope that neutral PLM conferences will less focus on WHAT can be done. Discussions like MBSE, Digital Thread, Digital Twin, Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality are all beautiful to watch. However, let’s focus first on WHY and HOW. For me besides the PLMx Hamburg conference, other upcoming events like PDT 2018 (this time in the US and Europe) are interesting events and currently PDT the call for papers is open and hopefully we  find speakers that can teach and inspire.

CIMdata together with Eurostep are organizing these events in May (US) and October (Europe). The theme for the CIMdata roadmap conference will be “Charting the Course to PLM Value together – Expanding the value footprint of PLM and Tackling PLM’s Persistent Pain Points” where PDT will focus on Collaboration in the Engineering Supply Chain – the extended digital thread.  These themes need to be addressed first before jumping into the future. Looking forward to meeting you there.

 

Conclusions

In the world of PLM, we are most of the time busy with explaining WHAT we (can/will) do. Like a cult group sometimes we do not understand why others do not see the value or beauty of our PLM concepts. PLM dialogues and conferences should therefore focus more on WHY and HOW. Don’t worry, the PLM vendors/implementers will always help you with WHAT they can do and WHY it is different.

 

 

For those who have followed my blog over the years, it must be clear that I am advocating for a digital enterprise explaining benefits of a data-driven approach where possible. In the past month an old topic with new insights came to my attention: Yes or No intelligent Part Numbers or do we mean Product Numbers?

 

 

What’s the difference between a Part and a Product?

In a PLM data model, you need to have support for both Parts and Products and there is a significant difference between these two types of business objects. A Product is an object facing the outside world, which can be a company (B2B) or customer (B2C) related. Examples of B2C products are the Apple iPhone 8, the famous IKEA Billy, or my Garmin 810 and my Dell OptiPlex 3050 MFXX8.  Examples of B2B products are the ABB synchronous motor AMZ 2500, the FESTO standard cylinder DSBG.  Products have a name and if there are variants of the product, they also have an additional identifier.

A Part represents a physical object that can be purchased or manufactured. A combination of Parts appears in a BOM. In case these Parts are not yet resolved for manufacturing, this BOM might be the Engineering BOM or a generic Manufacturing BOM. In case the Parts are resolved for a specific manufacturing plant, we talk about the MBOM.

I have discussed the relation between Parts and Products in a earlier post Products, BOMs and Parts which was a follow-up on my LinkedIn post, the importance of a PLM data model. Although both posts were written more than two years ago, the content is still valid. In the upcoming year, I will address this topic of products further, including software and services moving to solutions / experiences.

Intelligent number for Parts?

As parts are company internal business objects, I would like to state if the company is serious about becoming a digital enterprise, parts should have meaningless unique identifiers. Unique identifiers are the link between discipline or application specific data sets. For example, in the image below, where I imagined attributes sets for a part, based on engineering and manufacturing data sets.

Apart from the unique ID, there might be a common set of attributes that will be exposed in every connected system. For example, a description, a classification and one or more status attributes might be needed.

Note 1: A revision number is not needed when you create every time a new unique ID for a new version of the part.  This practice is already common in the electronics industry. In the old mechanical domain, we are used to having revisions in particular for make parts based on Form-Fit-Function rules.

Note 2: The description might be generated automatically based on a concatenation of some key attributes.

Of course if you are aiming for a full digital enterprise, and I think you should, do not waste time fixing the past. In some situations, I learned that an external consultant recommended the company to rename their old meaningful part numbers to the new non-intelligent part numbering scheme. There are two mistakes here. Renumbering is too costly, as all referenced information should be updated. And secondly as long as the old part numbers have a unique ID for the enterprise, there is no need to change. The connectivity of information should not depend on how the unique ID is formatted.

Read more if you want here: The impact of Non-Intelligent Part Numbers

Intelligent numbers for Products?

If the world was 100 % digital and connected, we could work with non-intelligent product numbers. However, this is a stage beyond my current imagination.  For products we will still need a number that allows customers to refer to, for when they communicate with their supplier / vendor or service provider. For many high-tech products the product name and type might be enough. When I talk about the Samsung S5 G900F 16G, the vendor knows which kind of configuration I am referring too. Still it is important to realize that behind these specifications, different MBOMs might exist due to different manufacturing locations or times.

However, when I refer to the IKEA Billy, there are too many options to easily describe the right one consistent in words, therefore you will find a part number on the website, e.g. 002.638.50. This unique ID connects directly to a single sell-able configuration. Here behind this unique ID also different MBOMs might exist for the same reason as for the Samsung telephone. The number is a connection to the sales configuration and should not be too complicated as people need to be able to read and recognize it when you go to a warehouse.

Conclusion

There is a big difference between Product and Part numbers because of the intended scope of these business objects. Parts will soon exist in connected, digital enterprises and therefore do not need any meaningful number anymore. Products need to be identified by consumers anywhere around the world, not yet able or willing to have a digital connection with their vendors. Therefore smaller and understandable numbers will remain needed to support exact communication between consumer and vendor.

When I started working with SmarTeam Corp.  in 1999, the company had several product managers, who were responsible for the whole lifecycle of a component or technology. The Product Manager was the person to define the features for the new release and provide the justification for these new features internally inside R&D.  In addition the Product Manager had the external role to visit customers and understand their needs for future releases and building and explaining a coherent vision to the outside and internal world. The product manager had a central role, connecting all stakeholders.

In the ideal situation the Product Manager was THE person who could speak in R&D-language about the implementation of features, could talk with marketing and documentation teams to explain the value and expected behavior and could talk with the customer describing the vision, meanwhile verifying the product’s vision and roadmap based on their inputs.All these expected skills make the role of a product manager challenging. Is the person too “techy” than he/she will enjoy working with R&D but have a hard time understanding customer demands. From the other side if the Product Manager is excellent in picking-up customer and market feedback he/she might not be heard and get the expected priorities from R&D. For me, it has always been clear that in software world a “bi-directional” Product Manager is crucial to success.

Where are the Product Managers in the Manufacturing Industry?

Approximate four years ago new concepts related to digitalization for PLM became more evident. How could a digital continuity connect the various disciplines around the product lifecycle and therefore provide end-to-end visibility and traceability? When speaking of end-to-end visibility most of the time companies talked about the way they designed and delivered products, visibility of what is happening stopped most of the time after manufacturing. The diagram to the left, showing a typical Build To Order organization illustrates the classical way of thinking. There is an R&D team working on Innovation, typically a few engineers and most of the engineers are working in Sales Engineering and Manufacturing Preparation to define and deliver a customer specific order. In theory, once delivered none of the engineers will be further involved, and it is up to the Service Department to react to what is happening in the field.

A classical process in the PLM domain is the New Product Introduction process for companies that deliver products in large volumes to the market, most of the time configurable to be able to answer to various customer or pricing segments. This process is most of the time linear and is either described in one stream or two parallel streams. In the last case, the R&D department develops new concepts and prepares the full product for the market. However, the operational department starts in parallel, initially involved in strategic sourcing, and later scaling-up manufacturing disconnected from R&D.

I described these two processes because they both illustrate how disconnected the source (R&D/ Sales)  are from the final result in the field. In both cases managed by the service department. A typical story that I learned from many manufacturing companies is that at the end it is hard to get a full picture from what is happening across the whole lifecycle, How external feedback (market & customers) have the option to influence at any stage is undefined. I used the diagram below even  before companies were even talking about a customer-driven digital transformation. Just understanding end-to-end what is happening with a product along the lifecycle is already a challenge for a company.

Putting the customer at the center

Modern business is about having customer or market involvement in the whole lifecycle of the product. And as products become more and more a combination of hardware and software, it is the software that allows the manufacturer to provide incremental innovation to their products. However, to innovate in a manner that is matching or even exceeding customer demands, information from the outside world needs to travel as fast as possible through an organization. In case this is done in isolated systems and documents, the journey will be cumbersome and too slow to allow a company to act fast enough. Here digitization comes in, making information directly available as data elements instead of documents with their own file formats and systems to author them. The ultimate dream is a digital enterprise where date “flows”, advocated already by some manufacturing companies for several years.

In the previous paragraph I talked about the need to have an infrastructure in place for people in an organization to follow the product along the complete lifecycle, to be able to analyze and improve the customer experience. However, you also need to create a role in the organization for a person to be responsible for combining insights from the market and to lead various disciplines in the organization, R&D, Sales, Services. And this is precisely the role of a Product Manager.

Very common in the world of software development, not yet recognized in manufacturing companies. In case a product manager role exists already in your organization, he/she can tell you how complicated it currently is to get an overall view of the product and which benefits a digital infrastructure would bring for their job. Once the product manager is well-supported and recognized in the organization, the right skill set to prioritize or discover actions/features will make the products more attractive for consumers. Here the company will benefit.

Conclusion

If your company does not have the role of a product manager in place, your business is probably not yet well enough engaged in the customer journey.  There will be broken links and costly processes to get a fast response to the market.  Consider the role of a Product Manager, which will emerge as seen from the software business.

NOTE 1: Just before publishing this post I read an interesting post from Jan Bosch: Structure Eats Strategy. Well fitting in this context

NOTE 2: The existence of a Product Manager might be a digital maturity indicator for a company, like for classical PLM maturity, the handling of the MBOM (PDM/PLM/ERP) gives insight into PLM maturity of a company.

Related to the MBOM, please read: The Importance of a PLM data model – EBOM and MBOM

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I published a dialogue I had with Flip van der Linden, a fellow Dutchman and millennial, eager to get a grip on current PLM. You can read the initial post here: A PLM dialogue.  In the comments, Flip continued the discussion (look here).  I will elaborate om some parts of his comments and hope some others will chime in. It made me realize that in the early days of blogging and LinkedIn, there were a lot of discussions in the comments. Now it seems we become more and more consumers or senders of information, instead of having a dialogue. Do you agree? Let me know.

Point 1

(Flip) PLM is changing – where lies the new effort for (a new generation of) PLM experts.  I believe a huge effort for PLM is successful change management towards ‘business Agility.’ Since a proper response to an ECR/ECO would evidently require design changes impacting manufacturing and even after-sales and/or legal.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

 

You are right, the main challenge for future PLM experts is to explain and support more agile processes, mainly because software has become a major part of the solution. The classical, linear product delivery approach does not match the agile, iterative approach for software deliveries. The ECR/ECO process has been established to control hardware changes, in particular because there was a big impact on the costs. Software changes are extremely cheap and possible fast, leading to different change procedures. The future of PLM is about managing these two layers (hardware/software) together in an agile way. The solution for this approach is that people have to work in multi-disciplinary teams with direct (social) collaboration and to be efficient this collaboration should be done in a digital way.

A good article to read in this context is Peter Bilello’s article: Digitalisation enabled by product lifecycle management.

 

(Flip) What seems to be missing is an ‘Archetype’ of the ideal transformed organization. Where do PLM experts want to go with these businesses in practice? Personally, I imagine a business where DevOps is the standard, unique products have generic meta-data, personal growth is an embedded business process and supply chain related risks are anticipated on and mitigated through automated analytics. Do you know of such an evolved archetypal enterprise model?

I believe the ideal archetype does not exist yet. We are all learning, and we see examples from existing companies and startups pitching their story for a future enterprise. Some vendors sell a solution based on their own product innovation platform, others on existing platforms and many new vendors are addressing a piece of the puzzle, to be connected through APIs or Microservices. I wrote about these challenges in Microservices, APIs, Platforms and PLM Services.  Remember, it took us “old PLM experts” more than 10-15 years to evolve from PDM towards PLM, riding on an old linear trajectory, caught up by a new wave of iterative and agile processes. Now we need a new generation of PLM experts (or evolving experts) that can combine the new concepts and filter out the nonsense.

Point 2

(Flip) But then given point 2: ‘Model-based enterprise transformations,’ in my view, a key effort for a successful PLM expert would also be to embed this change mgt. as a business process in the actual Enterprise Architecture. So he/she would need to understand and work out a ‘business-ontology’ (Dietz, 2006) or similar construct which facilitates at least a. business processes, b. Change (mgt.) processes, c. emerging (Mfg.) technologies, d. Data structures- and flows, e. implementation trajectory and sourcing.

And then do this from the PLM domain throughout the organization per optimization.  After all a product-oriented enterprise revolves around the success of its products, so eventually, all subsystems are affected by the makeup of the product lifecycle. Good PLM is a journey, not a trip. Or, does a PLM expert merely facilitates/controls this enterprise re-design process? And, what other enterprise ontologism tools and methods do you know of?

Only this question could be a next future blog post. Yes, it is crucial to define a business ontology to support the modern flow of information through an enterprise. Products become systems, depending on direct feedback from the market. Only this last sentence already requires a redefinition of change processes, responsibilities. Next, the change towards data-granularity introduces new ways of automation, which we will address in the upcoming years. Initiatives like Industry 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing / IIoT all contribute to that. And then there is the need to communicate around a model instead of following the old documents path. Read more about it in Digital PLM requires a Model-Based Enterprise. To close this point:  I am not aware of anyone who has already worked and published experiences on this topic, in particular in the context of PLM.

 

Point 3

(Flip) Where to draw the PLM line in a digital enterprise? I personally think this barrier will vanish as Product Lifecycle Management (as a paradigm, not necessarily as a software) will provide companies with continuity, profitability and competitive advantage in the early 21st century. The PLM monolith might remain, but supported by an array of micro services inside and outside the company (next to IoT, hopefully also external data sets).

I believe there is no need to draw a PLM line. As Peter’s article: Digitalisation enabled by product lifecycle management already illustrated there is a need for a product information backbone along the whole (circular) lifecycle, where product information can interact with other enterprise platforms, like CRM, ERP and MES and BI services. Sometimes we will see overlapping functionality, sometimes we will see the need to bridge the information through Microservices. As long as these bridges are data-driven and do not need manual handling/transformation of data, they fit in the future, lean digital enterprise.

Conclusion:

This can be an ongoing dialogue, diving into detailed topics of a modern PLM approach. I am curious to learn from my readers, how engaged they are in this topic? Do you still take part in PLM dialogues or do you consume? Do you have “tips and tricks” for those who want to shape the future of PLM?


Let your voice be heard! (and give Flip a break)

 

%d bloggers like this: