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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.


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)


elevator_thumb.jpgRecently I connected with a fellow countryman, Flip, through LinkedIn and we had a small dialogue related to PLM. Flip describes himself as a millennial thinking loud about PLM and shared some of his thoughts trying to define “the job of PLM.” Instead of keeping it a Dutch dialogue, I would like to open the dialogue to all (millennials), as we need a new generation of PLM consultants

Point 1

observation_thumb.png(Flip) You cannot automate design activities easily, but the rest you can. Isn’t PLM an evolution of 3D Design tooling (and with that the next step in design – theory)

think_thumb.pngYou are right. Historically PLM originated from managing 3D design in a collaborative manner, although at that time we would call it cPDM (Collaborative Product Data Management).  PDM was very design focused. However, PDM also supported the connection to an Engineering Bill of Materials (EBOM) and connected engineering change processes (Engineering Change Request / Engineering Change Order – read more: ECR/ECO for Dummies)

PTC’s Windchill was the first modern cPDM software that still exists. At the same time, Dassault Systemes and Siemens extended the support for design towards the manufacturing planning and execution, introducing the term PLM (Product Lifecycle Management). In the following years, PLM systems started to support the full go-to-market lifecycle as the figure shows below.


This linear go-to-market process is currently rapidly changing because PLM is changing.

plm_txt_thumb.pngThe P standing for Product now represents a System (hardware & software interacting with the environment). The L standing for Lifecycle is also under change.

Support for the Lifecycle of a “product” has changed in two ways. First, the lifecycle is no longer going to be a linear process, but also be more iterative and incremental for the same “product.” Secondly, the lifecycle is stretched to support the “products” in the fields thanks to feedback from sensors (IoT – Internet of Things). That’s why PTC now claims IoT is PLM. Read more: Best Practices or Next Practices.

Finally, the M from Management is under change as thanks to a data-driven approach we should be able to (semi-)automate processes using algorithms. Favorite buzz words here are machine-learning, cobots (collaborative robots) and preventive actions thanks to data analysis & trends.

Point 2

observation_thumb.png (Flip) Storing data in a structured manner creates more complexity (you need to choose what to store). With simulation, complexity could be reduced to make meaningful (design) decisions, so PLM is about clever data hoarding?

image_thumb.pngI believe there is always a challenge with managing structured data for two reasons. People often only create the data they require.  Adding more context more data or a richer context is often considered “extra work,” for with the department is not rewarded or adding more data is not known as these persons do not know the future use of their information. This is a typical exercise for companies now engaging in a digital transformation. (read more: The importance of accurate data)

think_thumb.pngWhen you talk about simulation, I immediately thought about the current trend to work towards a model-based enterprise, where the model is the center of all information. And with the model, we do not only mean the 3D Model but also the functional and logical model which we can simulate. (Read more: Digital PLM requires a Model-Based Enterprise)

Point 3

observation_thumb.png(Flip) Automation from manufacturing with more and more resources requires new ways to drive manufacturing so a team of 8 people can do the work of 80 people through a PLM system?

Industry4Here you are addressing exactly the point that initiatives like Industry 4.0 or in the Netherlands Smart Industry are addressing. Instead of a linear, document-driven process, where each step new versions of information need to be created, the dream is to work around a model (the model-based enterprise).

The idea is that data is flowing through the organization – digital continuity / digital thread – without conversion and by using algorithms and machine learning, the data is consumed and created during the manufacturing process in an automated manner. Indeed, reducing the amount of people involved drastically.

think_thumb.pngI am not sure of we still would call this PLM, it is more a digital enterprise, where digital platforms interact together. PLM could be considered the source for the Product Innovation Platform, but there will also be Execution platforms (ERP and MES as the main source) and customer related platform (CRM as a source). As vendors from all these platforms will provide overlapping functionality, it will be hard to draw exact lines. The main goal for a company will be that the data is flowing and not locked into a proprietary format or systems. And here we still have a lot of work to do,


No conclusion this time as it is an on-going dialogue. Feel free to comment or send your questions, and we can all learn from the dialogue (always better than a monologue).

Your thoughts?

Although I have a PLM-twisted brain, I try to read in my free time books and articles that have no direct link with PLM. My main interest goes to people. How do they behave and decide in a society, in a company? What makes them decide to change an existing business?

SapiensI am currently reading the book from Yuval Noah Harari, called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. I still have to finish the book but got intrigued by the following text when he tried to explain why homo sapiens was able to motivate and mobilize larger groups than a tribe:

How did Homo sapiens manage to a critical threshold, eventually founding cities comprising tens of thousands of inhabitants and empires ruling hundreds of millions? The secret was probably the appearance of fiction. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths.

Here my PLM-twisted brain woke up. What if we could create a  digital PLM myth? Currently, a lot of the PLM arguments are about functions and features, technical capabilities and perceived Return On Investment (ROI). For a digital transformation ROI is hard to estimate as the future state is not known and stable. What if the future state is a myth?  I will think about it when I finish the book and write the myth 🙂

Meanwhile, the rest of this blog post will be a reprint of a post I wrote almost five years ago in a similar context. PLM (old and new) are concepts against our evolution history. Enjoy and discover.

Our brain blocks PLM acceptance (Aug 2012)

tacit_logo.pngThe brain has become popular in the Netherlands in the past two years. Brain scientists have been publishing books sharing their interpretations on various topics of human behavior and the brain.

The common theme of all: The brain is influencing your perceptions, thoughts, and decisions without you even being aware of it.

clip_image005.jpg< added this post: in April 2013 Daniel Kahneman published his book Thinking Fast and Slow I referred in my post from May 2014 to this book – PLM is doomed, unless …>

Some even go that far by claiming certain patterns in the brain can be a proof if you have a certain disorder. It can be for better or for worse.

“It was not me that committed this crime; it was my brain and more…”

Anyway, this post will be full of quotes as I am not the brain expert, still giving the brain an important role (even in PLM)

Our brain blocks PLM acceptance

“My brain? That´s my second favorite organ” – Woody Allen

It is good to be aware of the influence of the brain. I wrote about this several times in the past, when discussing PLM vendor/implementer selection or when even deciding for PLM. Many of my posts are related to the human side of justifying and implementing PLM.

As implementing PLM for me primary is a business change instead of a combination of IT-tools to implement, it might be clear that understanding the inhibitors for PLM change are important to me.

In the PLM communities, we still have a hard job to agree between each other what is the meaning of PLM and where it differs from ERP. See for example this post, and in particular, the comments on LinkedIn (if you are a member of this group): PLM is a business process, not a (software) tool

Moreover, why it is difficult for companies to implement PLM beside ERP (and not as an extension of ERP) – search for PLM and ERP and you find zillions of thoughts and answers (mine too).

Charles_Roxburgh.jpgThe brain plays a major role in the Why PLM we have ERP battle (blame the brain). A week ago I read an older publication from Charles Roxburgh (published in May 2003 by McKinsey) called: Hidden flaws in strategy subtitle: Can insights from behavioral economics explain why good executives back bad strategies.

COULD read, hear and download the full article when you are a registered user. Unfortunate the link has been broken now>

The article has been written long before the financial and global crises were on the agenda and Mr. Roxburgh describes 8 hidden flaws that influence our strategic decision making (and PLM is a strategy).  Note all quotes below are from his publication.

Flaw 1: Overconfidence

We often make decisions with too much confidence and optimism as the brain makes us feel overconfident and overoptimistic about our own capabilities.

Flaw 2: Mental accounting

Avoiding mental accounting traps should be easier if you adhere to a basic rule: that every pound (or dollar or euro) is worth exactly that, whatever the category. In this way, you will make sure that all investments are judged on consistent criteria and be wary of spending that has been reclassified. Be particularly skeptical of any investment labeled “strategic.”

Here I would relate to the difference in IT-spending and budget when you compare ERP and PLM. ERP spending is normal (or strategic) where PLM spending is not understood.

Flaw 3: The status quo bias

People would rather leave things as they are. One explanation for the status quo bias is an aversion to loss—people are more concerned about the risk of loss than they are excited by the prospect of gain.

Another reason why adopting and implementing PLM in an organization is more difficult than for example just automating what we already do.

Flaw 4: Anchoring

Anchoring can be dangerous—particularly when it is a question of becoming anchored to the past

PLM has been anchored with being complex and expensive. Autodesk is trying to change the anchoring. Other PLM-like companies stop talking about PLM due to the anchoring and name what they do differently: 3DExperience, Business Process Automation, …..

Flaw 5: The sunk-cost effect

A familiar problem with investments is called the sunk-cost effect, otherwise known as “throwing good money after bad.” When large projects overrun their schedules and budgets, the original economic case no longer holds, but companies still keep investing to complete them.

I have described several cases in the past anonymously; where companies kept on investing and customizing their ERP environment to achieve PLM goals. Although it never reached the level of acceptance and quality a PLM system could offer, stopping these projects was impossible.

Flaw 6: The herding instinct

This desire to conform to the behavior and opinions of others is a fundamental human trait and an accepted principle of psychology.

Warren Buffett put his finger on this flaw when he wrote, “Failing conventionally is the route to go; as a group, lemmings may have a rotten image, but no individual lemming has ever received bad press.”

A quote in a quote but so true. Innovative thinking, introducing PLM in a company requires a change. Who needs to be convinced? If you do not have consensus (which usually happens as PLM is vague) you battle against the other lemmings.

Flaw 7: Misestimating future hedonistic states

Social scientists have shown that when people undergo major changes in circumstances, their lives typically are neither as bad nor as good as they had expected—another case of how bad we are at estimating. People adjust surprisingly quickly, and their level of pleasure (hedonistic state) ends up, broadly, where it was before

A typical situation every PLM implementation faces: users complaining they cannot work as efficient anymore due to the new system and their work will be a mess if we continue like this. Implementers start to customize quickly, and we are trapped. Let these people ‘suffer’ with the right guidance and motivation for some months (but this is sometimes not the business model the PLM implementer pushes as they need services as income)

Flaw 8: False consensus

People tend to overestimate the extent to which others share their views, beliefs, and experiences—the false-consensus effect. Research shows many causes, including these:

  • confirmation bias, the tendency to seek out opinions and facts that support our own beliefs and hypotheses

  • selective recall, the habit of remembering only facts and experiences that reinforce our assumptions

  • biased evaluation, the quick acceptance of evidence that supports our hypotheses, while contradictory evidence is subjected to rigorous evaluation and almost certain rejection; we often, for example, impute hostile motives to critics or question their competence

  • group-think, the pressure to agree with others in team-based cultures

Although positioned as number 8 by Mr. Roxburgh, I would almost put it on the top when referring to PLM and PLM selection processes. So often a PLM decision has not been made in an objective manner, and PLM selection paths are driven to come to the conclusion we already knew. (Or is this my confirmation bias too )


As scientists describe, and as Mr. Roxburgh describes our strategic thinking is influenced by the brain, and you should be aware of that. PLM is a business strategy and when rethinking your PLM strategy tomorrow, be prepared to avoid these flaws mentioned in this post today.

simpleMy recent posts were around the words Simple (PLM is not simple) and Simplicity  (Human Beings, PLM and Simplicity).  Combined with a blog dialogue with Oleg Shilovitsky (Small manufacturers and search of simple solutions)  and comments to these posts, the theme Simple has been discussed in various ways. Simple should not be confused with Simplicity. The conclusion: A PLM implementation should reduce complexity for an organization, aiming for increasing simplicity. The challenge: Achieving more simplicity is not simple (the picture related to this paragraph)

What does simplicity mean in the context of PLM?

My definition would be that compared to the current state, the future state should bring measurable benefits by reducing or eliminating non-value added activities. Typical non-value added PLM activities are collecting data from various disciplines to get a management understanding, conversion of file formats to support other disciplines or collecting and distributing data for change and approval processes.

If you can reduce or eliminate these steps, significant benefits can be achieved: reducing iterations, increasing quality and (re)acting faster to changes. These benefits are the whole idea behind Digital PLM. See Accenture’s explanation or read my post: Best Practices or Next Practices.DigitalPLM

Simplicity comes from the fact that the user does not need to depend on intermediate people or data formats to have an understanding of “the best so far truth.” Empowered users are a characteristic of modern digital processes. Empowered users need to have different skills than persons working in a traditional environment where exchange and availability of information are more controlled through communication between silos.  Some people can make the change, some will never make the change.

What can you do?

On LinkedIn, I found some good suggestions from Peter Weis in his CIO article: The most painful, gut-wrenching part of leading transformation. Peter’s post is about the challenges within a company going through a transformation and to keep the pace. My favorite part:

For me, the most difficult and gut-wrenching part of leading our transformation was not the technology involved. It was making and acting on those tough decisions about who was not going to succeed. In some cases, people had been with the company for decades and had been rewarded and encouraged for the very work they were no longer required to do. These were good people, skilled talent, who provided a great service to the company – but the technology and the cultural gap were just too wide for them to bridge.

Peter describes a dilemma that many of us consultants should face when implementing a business change. Keeping on board all employees is a mission impossible. But what if you want to keep them all on board?

Reducing complexity by making the system rigid?

One of the companies, I am currently working with, decided to keep all employees on board by demanding for a PLM system that is so rigid and automated that a user cannot make mistakes or wrong decisions. For example: Instead of allowing the user to decide which approval path should be chosen, the predefined workflow should be started where all participants are selected by automation. The idea: reducing the complexity for the (older) user. The user does not have to learn how to navigate in a new environment to decide what is the best option. There is always one option. Simple isn’t it?

I believe it reduces any user to a person that clicks on buttons and writes some comments. It is not about real empowerment.

There are two downsides to this approach

  • To make the PLM system, so incredibly rigid additional customizations are needed (which come with a cost). However more costly will be the upgrades in the future and the maintenance of every change in business process which is hard coded currently.
  • The system will be so rigid that even future, more digital native users, will dislike the system as it does not challenge them to think. Implementing the past or pushing for the future?

My challenge:

  • A rigid system creates the illusion that the system is secure and simple for the existing employees (who you do not want to challenge to change)
  • A rigid system leads by default to complexity in the future with high costs of change.

I am curious to learn how you would approach my challenge (a PLM consultant’s challenge)
Making the customer happy or being the “bad news” guy who creates fear for the future?
I assume a topic many PLM consultants should face nowadays – your opinion?

My last blog post was about reasons why PLM is not simple. PLM supporting a well-planned business transformation requires business change / new ways of working. PLM is going through different stages. We are moving from drawing-centric (previous century), through BOM-centric (currently) towards model-centric (current and future). You can read the post here: PLM is not simple!

I was happy to see  my blog buddy Oleg Shilovitsky chimed in on this theme, with his post: Who needs Simple PLM? Oleg reviewed the stakeholders around a PLM implementation. An analytical approach which could be correct in case predictive human beings were involved. Since human beings are not predictive and my focus is on the combination of PLM and human beings, here are some follow comments on the points Oleg made:


Customers (Industrial companies)

Oleg wrote:

A typical PLM customer isn’t a single user. A typical PLM buyer is engineering IT organization purchasing software to solve business problem. His interest to solve business problem, but not really to make it simple. Complex software requires more people, an increased budget and can become an additional reason to highlight IT department skills and experience. End-users hate complex software these days,therefore, usability is desired, but not top priority for enterprise PLM.

My comments on this part: PLM becomes more and more an infrastructure for product information along the whole lifecycle. PLM is no longer an engineering tool provided by IT.

There are now many other stakeholders that need product data, in particular when we are moving to a digital enterprise. A model-based approach connects Manufacturing and Service/Operations through a digital thread. It is the business demanding for PLM to manage their complexity. IT will benefit from a reduction in silo applications.


PLM Vendors

Oleg wrote:

…most PLM vendors are far away from a desired level of simplicity. Marketing will like “simple” messages, but if you know how to sell complex software, you won’t be much interested to see “simple package” everyone can sell. However, for the last decade, PLM vendors were criticized a lot for complexity of their solutions, so they are pretty much interested how to simplify things and present it as a competitive differentiation.


Here we are aligned. All PLM vendors are dreaming of simplifying their software. Imagine: if you have a simple product everyone can use, you would be the market leader and profitable like crazy without a big effort as the product is simple. Of course, this only works, assuming this dream can be realized.

Some vendors believe that easy customization or configuration of the system means simplification. Others believe a simple user-interface is the key differentiator. Compared to mass-consumer software products in the market, a PLM system is still a niche product, with a limited amount of users working with the exact same version of the software. Combined with the particular needs (customizations) every company has (“we are different”), there will never be a simple PLM solution. Coming back to the business transformation theme, human beings are the weakest link.


Implementation and Service Providers

Oleg wrote:

Complex software, customization, configuration, know-hows, best practices, installation… you name it.More of these things can only lead to more services which is core business of PLM service providers. PLM industry is very much competitive, but simplicity is not a desired characteristic for PLM when it comes to service business. Guess what… customer can figure it out how to make it and stop paying for services.

Here we are totally aligned. In the past, I have been involved in potential alliances where certain service providers evaluated SmarTeam as a potential tool for their business. In particular, the major PLM service providers did not see enough value in an easy to configure and relatively cheap product. Cheap means no budget for a huge amount of services.

Still, the biggest problem SmarTeam had after ten years was the fact that every implementation became a unique deployment. Hard to maintain and guarantee for the future. In particular, when new functionality was introduced which potentially already existed as customization.  Implementation and service providers will never say NO to a customer when it comes to further customization of the system. Therefore, the customer should be in charge and own the implementation. For making strategic decision support can come from a PLM consultant or coach.


PLM Consultants

Here Oleg wrote:

Complex software can lead to good consulting revenues. It was true many years for enterprise software. Although, most of PLM consultants are trying to distant from PLM software and sell their experience “to implement the future”, simplicity is not a favorite word in consulting language. Customer will hire consulting people to figure out the future and how to transform business, but what if software is simple enough to make it happen without consultant? Good question to ask, but most of them will tell you it is not a realistic scenario. Which is most probably true today. But here is the hint – remember the time PC technicians knew how to configured jumpers on PC cards to make printer actually print something?

Here we are not aligned. Business transformations will never happen because of simple tools. People are measured and pushed to optimize their silos in the organization. A digital transformation, which is creating a horizontal flow and transparency of information, will never happen through a tool. The organization needs to change, and this is always driven by a top-down strategy. PLM consultants are valuable to explain the potential future, to coach all levels of the organization. In theory, a PLM consultant’s job is tool independent. However, the challenge of being completely disconnected from the existing tools might allow for dreams that never can be realized. In reality, most PLM consultants are experienced in one or more specific tools they have been implementing. The customer should be aware of that and make sure they own the PLM roadmap.

My conclusion:

Don’t confuse PLM with a tool, simple or complex. All PLM tools have a common base and depending on your industry and company’s vision there will be a short list. However, before you touch the tools, understand your business and the transformation path you want to take. And that is not simple !!


Your opinion?

Oleg and I can continue this debate for a long time.  We would be interested in learning your view on PLM and Simplicity – please tune in through the comments section below:


In my previous post, I shared my thoughts Why PLM is the forgotten domain in digital transformation. Legacy data, (legacy) people and slow organizations are the main inhibitors to moving forward. Moreover, all this legacy makes it hard to jump on the digital wagon.

When you talk with vendors and implementers of PLM solutions, they will all focus on the fact that with their solution and support PLM is simple. It is simple because:plm-vendor_thumb.jpg

  • We have the largest market share in your industry segment
  • We have the superior technology
  • We are cloud-based
  • We are insane customizable
  • Gartner is talking about us
  • We have implemented at 100+ similar companies

For my customers, implementing PLM was never simple as every PLM implementation was driving a business change. In the early days of SmarTeam, we had the theme “We work the way you work”, which is in hindsight a very bad statement. You do not want to automate the way a company is currently working. You want to use a PLM implementation to support a business change.

Never implement the past, implement the future

And there are changes ……

When I was discussing PLM with my potential customers ten years ago, the world was different. PLM was in a transition from being a PDM-tool from engineering into an extended PDM-tool centered around product development. A major theme for this kind of implementations was to move from a document-driven environment towards an item-centric environment. Instead of managing documents (CAD files and other files like Excel) the implementation was based on providing a data continuity, where the item (the physical part or in SAP terms the material) would be the main information placeholder. The continuity is implemented around EBOMs and MBOMs and thanks to automation the MBOM can be connected to the ERP system in a continuous flow.

Just search for item-centric or BOM-centric, and you will find many references from vendors and consultants for this approach.  Implementing PLM item-centric is already a big step forward in efficiency and quality for companies. However,…

Never implement the past, implement the future

And there will be changes …..


Digital Transformation & PLM on YouTube

Digital transformation is changing the way we do business and is changing the way companies should organize their data. A BOM-centric approach is no longer the ultimate implementation concept. To support a digital enterprise, the next step is a model-based enterprise. The model (not necessary the 3D-model) and its maturity and configurations are intended to be the reference for an organization. The model and its representation can connect hardware and software in a data-driven environment through the whole lifecycle. A model is needed to support smart manufacturing and the digital twin concept.There are many impressive marketing movies on YouTube explaining how companies/vendors implement digital continuity. Unfortunate the gap between marketing and reality is big at this time because moving to a model based enterprise is not an easy step. Coming back to the LEGACY-statement at the beginning of this post, it is not simple.

We all have to learn

PDT2017Digital transformation is just starting in the domain of PLM. Sharing and collecting knowledge is crucial, independent from particular solutions. For me, the upcoming PDT-conference in October is going to be a reference point where we are on this journey. In case your company has the experience to share related to this topic, please react to this link:

In case you want to learn and believe it is not simple, wait till the program it will be announced. The PDT conference has always been a conference where details are discussed. Looking forward and discuss with you.


Implementing and continuing with PLM is not simple for a company due to changes in paradigms. Digital transformation forces companies to investigate the details how to make it happen. Implementing PLM in scope of a digital transformation requires learning and time, not products first.

GettyImages-157335388[1]Last week I shared my observation from day 1 of the PI Berlin 2017 conference. If you have not read this review look here: The weekend after PI Berlin 2017.

Day 1 was the most significant day for me. I used the second day more for networking and some selective sessions that I wanted to attend. The advantage for the reader, this post is not as long as the previous one. Some final observations from day 2

PLM: The Foundation for Enterprise Digitalization

Peter Bilello from CIMdata gave an educational speech about digitalization and the impact of digitalization on current businesses. Peter considers digitalization as a logic next step in the PLM evolution process. See picture below.


Although it is an evolution process, the implementation of this next step requires a revolution. Digitalization will create a disruption in companies as the digital approach will reshape business models, internal business processes, roles and responsibilities. Peter further elaborated on the product innovation platform and its required characteristics. Similar to what I presented on the first day Peter concluded that we are in a learning stage how to build new methodology/infrastructure for PLM. For example, a concept of creating and maintaining a digital twin needs a solid foundation.
His conclusion: Digitalization requires PLM:

Boosting the value of PLM through
Advanced Analytics Assessment

autolivPaul Haesman from Autoliv introduced the challenges they have as a typical automotive company. Digitalization is reshaping the competitive landscape and the demands on more technology, still guaranteeing the highest safety levels of their products. In that context, they invited Tata Technologies to analyze their current PLM implementation and from there to provide feedback about their as-is readiness for the future.

Chris Hind from Tata Technologies presented their methodology where they provide benchmark information, a health check, impact and potential roadmap for PLM. A method that is providing great insights for both parties and I encourage companies that haven´t done such an assessment to investigate in such an activity. The major value of a PLM assessment is that it provides an agreed baseline for the company that allows management to connect the Why to the What and How. Often PLM implementations focus on What and How with not a real alignment to the Why, which results in unrealistic expectations or budgets due to the perceived value.


An interesting point address by Chris (see picture above) is that Document Management is considered as a trending priority !!!

It illustrates that digitalization in PLM has not taken off yet and companies still focusing on previous century capabilities 😦

The second highlight rating Manufacturing Process Management as the most immature PLM pillar can be considered in the same context. PLM systems are still considered engineering systems and manufacturing process management is in the gray area between PLM systems and ERP systems.

The last two bullets are clear. The roots of PLM are in managing quality and compliance and improving time to market.

Overcoming integration challenges –
Outotec´s Digital Journey

Outotec_RGBHelena Gutiérrez and Sami Grönstand explained in an entertaining manner the Outotec (providing technologies and services for the metal and mineral processing industries) company and their digital journey. Outotec has been working already for several years on simplifying their IT-landscape meanwhile trying to standardize in a modern, data-driven manner the flow of information.

Sami provided with great detail how the plant process definition is managed in PLM. The process definition is driven by the customer´s needs and largely defines the costs of a plant to build. Crucial for the quotation phase but also important if you want to create a digital continuity. Next, the process definition is further detailed with detailed steps, defining the key parameters characteristics of the main equipment.


And then the challenge starts. In the context of the plant structure, the right equipment needs to be selected. Here it is where plant meets product or as the Outotec team said where the elephant and ants do the tango.

In the end, as much as possible standardized products need to match the customer specific solution. The dream of most of these companies: combining Engineering To Order and Configure To Order and remember this in the context of digital continuity.

So far, a typical EPC (Engineering Procurement Construction) project, however, Outotec wants to extend the digital continuity to support also their customer´s installed plant. I remembered one of their quotes for the past: “Buy one (plant) and get two (a real one and a virtual one). “This concept managed in a digital continuity is something that will come up in many other industries – the digital twin.


Where companies like Outotec are learning to connect all data from the initiation of their customer specific solution through delivery and services, other product manufacturing companies are researching the same digital continuity for their product offerings to the field of consumers. Thanks to digitization these concepts become more and more similar. I wrote about this topic recently in my post PLM for Owner/Operators.

Final conclusion from PI Berlin 2017

It is evident participants and speakers are talking about the strategic value and role PLM can have an organization.

With digitalization, new possibilities arise where the need and value for end-to-end connectivity pop up in every industry.

We, the PLM community, are all learning and building new concepts. Keep sharing and meeting each other in blogs, forums, and conferences.

clip_image002It is already the 6th consecutive year that MarketKey organized the Product Innovation conference with its primary roots in PLM. For me, the PI conferences have always been a checkpoint for changes and progress in the field.

This year about 100 companies participated in the event with the theme: Digital Transformation. From Hype to Value? Sessions were split into three major streams: digital transformation, extended PLM, and Business Enabled Innovation larded with general keynote speeches. I wanted to attend all sessions (and I will do virtually later through PI.TV), but in this post, my observations are from the event highlights from the extended PLM sessions.

From iCub to R1

ittGiorgio Metta gave an overview of the RobotCub project, where teams are working on developing a robot that can support human beings in our day-to-day live. Some of us are used to industrial robots and understand their constraints. A robot to interact with human beings is extreme more complex, and its development is still in the early stages. This type of robot needs to learn and interpret its environment while remaining accurate and safe for the persons interacting with the robot.

One of the interesting intermediate outcome from the project is that a human-like robot with legs and arms is far too expensive and complicated to handle. Excellent for science fiction movies, but in reality too difficult to control its balance and movements.

This was an issue with the iCUB robot. Now Giorgio and the teams are working on the new R1 robot, maybe not “as-human” as the iCUB robot, but more affordable. It is not only the mechanics that challenge the researchers. Also, the software supporting the artificial intelligence required for a self-learning and performing safe robot is still in the early days.


An inspiring keynote speech to start the conference.

Standardizing PLM Components

The first Extended PLM session was Guido Klette (Rheinmetall), describing the challenges the Rheinmetall group has related to develop and support PLM needs. The group has several PLD/PLM-like systems in place. Guido does not believe in one size fits all to help every business in the group. They have already several PLM “monsters” in their organization. For more adequate support, Rheinmetall has defined a framework with PLM components and dependencies to a more granular choice of functionality to meet individual businesses.

Rheinmetal components

A challenge for this approach, identified by a question from the audience, is that it is a very scientific approach not addressing the difference in culture between countries. Guido agreed and mentioned that despite culture, companies joining the Rheinmetall group most of the time were happy to adhere to such a structured approach.

My takeaway: the component approach fits very well with the modern thinking that PLM should not be supported by a single “monster” system but can be addressed by components providing at the end the right business process support.

PLM as a business asset

husqvarnagroupBjörn Axling gave an excellent presentation describing the PLM perspective from the Husqvarna group. He addressed the external and internal challenges and opportunities for the group in a structured and logical approach which probably apply for most manufacturing companies in a global market. Björn explained that in the Husqvarna group PLM is considered as a business approach, more than ever, Product Lifecycle Management needs to be viewed as the DNA of a company which was the title of one of his slides.


I like his eleven key imperatives (see the above picture) in particular key imperative #9 which is often forgotten:

Take definitions, nomenclature and data management very seriously – the devil is in the details.

This point will always fire back on you if you did not give it the needed attention from the start. Of course, the other ten points are also relevant. The challenge in every PLM project is to get these points addressed and understood in your company.

How to use PLM to enable Industry 4.0?

EignerMartin Eigner´s presentation was building upon his consistent messages that PDM and PLM should be evolving into SysML with a growing need for Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) support.

The title of the presentation was related to Industry 4.0 more focusing on innovation in for Germany´s manufacturing industry. Germany has always been strong in manufacturing, not so strong in product innovation. Martin mentioned that later this year the German government will start another initiative, Engineering 4.0, which should be exciting for our PLM community.

Martin elaborated on the fact that end-to-end support for SysLM can be achieved through a backbone based on linked data. Do not try to solve all product information views in a single system is the lesson learned and preached.


For me, it was interesting to see that also Martin picked up on the bimodal approach for PLM, required to support a transition to a modern digital enterprise (see picture). We cannot continue to build upon our old PLM environments to support, future digital businesses.

PLM and Digital Transformation

In my afternoon session (Jos Voskuil), I shared the observations that companies invest a lot in digital transformation downstream by introducing digital platforms for ERP, CRM, MES and Operations. PLM is often the forgotten platform that needs to change to support a digital enterprise with all its benefits. You can see my presentation here on SlideShare. I addressed here the bimodal approach as discussed in a previous blog post, introduced in Best Practices or Next Practices.


In case your company is not ready yet for a digital transformation or bimodal approach I addressed the need to become model-driven instead of document-driven. And of course for a digital enterprise, the quality of the data counts. I wrote about these topics recently: Digital PLM requires a Model-Based Enterprise and The importance of accurate data: ACT NOW!

Closed-Loop PLM

The last extended PLM presentation from day 1 was given by Felix Nyffenegger, professor for PLM/CAx at HSR (University of Applied Science in Rapperswil (CH)). Felix shared his discovery journey into Industry 4.0, and IoT combined with experiences from the digitalLab@HSR, leading into the concept of closed-loop PLM.


I liked in particular how Felix brought the various views on the product together into one diagram, telling the full story of closed-loop PLM – necessary for a modern implementation framework.

A new age for airships

The last presentation of the day was from Chris Daniels describing the journey of Hybrid Air Vehicles with their Airlander 10 project. Where the classical airships, the most infamous perhaps the Hindenburg, have disappeared due to their flaws, the team of Hybrid Air Vehicles built upon the concept of airships in a defense project with the target to deliver a long endurance multi-intelligence vehicle. The advantage of airships is that they can stay in the air for several days, serving as communication hotspot, communication or rescue ship for places hard to reach with traditional aircraft or helicopter. The Airlander can be operation without going back to a base for 5 days, which is extremely long when you compare this to other aircraft.


The Airlander project is a typical example of incremental innovation used to optimize and extend the purpose of an airship. Combined with the fact that Chris was an excellent speaker made it a great closure of the day


This post is just an extract of one day and one stream of the conference. Already too large for a traditional blog post. Next week I will follow-up with day two and respond beyond 140 characters to the tweet below:


PLM and IPTwo terms pass me every day: Digital Transformation appears in every business discussion, and IP Security, a topic also discussed in all parts of society. We realize it is easy to steal electronic data without being detected (immediately).

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation is reshaping business processes to enable new business models, create a closer relation with the market, and react faster while reducing the inefficiencies of collecting, converting and processing analog or disconnected information.

Digital Transformation became possible thanks to the lower costs of technology and global connectivity, allowing companies, devices, and customers to interact in almost real-time when they are connected to the internet.

IOTIoT (Internet of Things) and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) are terms closely related to Digital Transformation. Their focus is on creating connectivity with products (systems) in the field, providing a tighter relation with the customer and enabling new (upgrade) services to gain better performance. Every manufacturing company should be exploring IoT and IIoT possibilities now.

Digital Transformation is also happening in the back office of companies. The target is to create a digital data flow inside the company and with the outside stakeholders, e.g., customers, suppliers, authorities. The benefits are mainly improved efficiency, faster response and higher quality interaction with the outside world.

digitalPLMThe part of Digital Transformation that concerns me the most is the domain of PLM. As I have stated in earlier posts (Best Practices or Next Practices ? / What is Digital PLM ?), the need is to replace the classical document-driven product to market approach by a modern data-driven interaction of products and services.

I am continually surprised that companies with an excellent Digital Transformation profile on their websites have no clue about Digital Transformation in their product innovation domain. Marketing is faster than reality.

PIBerlin2017-1I am happy to discuss this topic with many of my peers in the product innovation world @ PI Berlin 2017, three weeks from now. I am eagerly looking to look at how and why companies do not embrace the Digital Transformation sooner and faster. The theme of the conference, “Digital Transformation: From Hype to Value “ says it all. You can find the program here, and I will report about this conference the weekend after.

IP Security

The topic of IP protection has always been high on the agenda of manufacturing companies. Digital Transformation brings new challenges. Digital information will be stored somewhere on a server and probably through firewalls connected to the internet. Some industries have high-security policies, with separate networks for their operational environments. Still, many large enterprises are currently struggling with IP security policies as sharing data while protecting IP between various systems creates a lot of administration per system.

dropboxCloud solutions for sharing data are still a huge security risk. Where is the data stored and who else have access to it? Dropbox came in the news recently as “deleted” data came back after five years, “due to a bug.” Cloud data sharing cannot be trusted for real sensitive information.

Cloud providers always claim that their solutions are safer due to their strict safety procedures compared to the improvident behavior of employees. And, this is true. For example, a company I worked with had implemented Digital Rights Management (DRM) for internal sharing of their IP, making sure that users could only read information on the screen, and not store it locally if they had an issue with the server. “No problem”, one of the employees said, “I have here a copy of the documents on my USB-drive.

lockedCloud-based PLM systems are supposed to be safer. However, it still matters where the data is stored; security and hacking policies of countries vary. Assume your company´s IP is safe for hacking. Then the next question is “How about ownership of your data?”

Vendor lock-in and ownership of data are topics that always comes back at the PDT conferences (see my post on PDT2016). When a PLM cloud provider stores your product data in a proprietary data format, you will always be forced to have a costly data migration project when you decide to change from the provider.

Why not use standards for data storage? Hakan Kårdén triggered me on this topic again with his recent post: Data Is The New Oil So Make Sure You Ask For The Right Quality.



Digital Transformation is happening everywhere but not always with the same pace and focus. New PLM practices still need to be implemented on a larger scale to become best practices. Digital information in the context of Intellectual Property creates extra challenges to be solved. Cloud providers do not offer yet solutions that are safe and avoiding vendor lock-in.

Be aware. To be continued…

Many thanks (again) to Dick Bourke for his editing suggestions

clip_image002At this moment I am finalizing my session for PDT2016 where I will talk about the importance of accurate data. Earlier this year I wrote a post about that theme: The importance of accurate data. Act now!

My PDT session will be elaborating on this post, with a focus on why and how we need this change in day-to-day business happen. So if you are interested in a longer story and much more interesting topics to learn and discuss, come to Paris on 9 and 10 November.

Dreaming is free

Recently I found a cartoon on LinkedIn and shared it with my contacts, illustrating the optimistic view companies have when they are aiming to find the best solution for their business, going through an RFI phase, the RFP phase, and ultimately negotiation the final deal with the PLM solution provider or vendor. See the image below:


All credits to the author – I found this image here

The above cartoon gives a humoristic view of the (PLM) sales process (often true). In addition, I want to share a less optimistic view related to PLM implementations after the deal has been closed. Based on the PLM projects if have been coaching in the past, the majority of these projects became in stress mode once the stakeholders involved only focused on the software, the functions and features and centralizing data. Implementing the software without a business transformation caused a lot of discomfort.

clip_image005Users started to complain that the system did not allow them to do their day-to-day work in the same way. And they were right! They should have a new day-to-day work in the future, with different priorities based on the new PLM infrastructure.

This cultural change (and business change) was often not considered as the PLM system was implemented from an IT-perspective, not with a business perspective.

Over time, a better understanding of PLM and the fact that vendors and implementers have improved their portfolio and implementation skills, classical PLM implementations are now less disruptive.

A classical PLM implementation can be done quickly is because the system most of the time does not change the roles and responsibilities of people. Everyone remains working in his/her own silo. The difference: we store information in a central place so it can be found. And this approach would have worked if the world was not changing.

The digital enterprise transformation.

With the upcoming digitization and globalization of the market, enterprises are forced to adapt their business to become more customer-driven. This will have an impact on how PLM needs to be implemented. I wrote about this topic in my post: From a linear world to fast and circular. The modern digital enterprise has new roles and responsibilities and will eliminate roles and responsibilities that can be automated through a data-driven, rule-based approach. Therefore implementing PLM in a modern approach should be related (driven) by a business transformation and not the other way around!

Benefits realization

In the past two years, I have explained this story to all levels inside various organizations. And nobody disagreed. Redefining the processes, redefining roles was the priority. And we need a team to help people to make this change – these people are change management experts. The benefits diagram from Gartner as shown below was well understood, and most companies agreed the ambition should be to the top curve, in any case, stay above the red curve


But often reality relates to the first cartoon. In the majority of the implementations I have seen the past two years, the company did not want to invest in change management, defining the new process and new roles first for an optimum flow of information. They spent the entire budget on software and implementation services. With a minimum of staff, the technology was implemented based on existing processes – no change management at all. Disappointing, as short-term thinking destroyed the long-term vision and benefits were not as large as they had been dreaming.

Without changing business processes and cultural change management, the PLM team will fight against the organization, instead of surfing on the wave of new business opportunities and business growth.


If your company is planning to implement modern PLM which implicit requires a business transformation, make sure cultural change management is part of your plan and budget. It will bring the real ROI. Depending on your company´s legacy, if a business transformation is a mission impossible, it is sometimes easier to start a new business unit with new processes, new roles and potentially new people. Otherwise, the benefits will remain (too) low from your PLM implementation.

I am curious to learn your experience related to (the lack) of change management – how to include it into the real scope – your thoughts ?

As a reaction to this post, Oleg Shilovitsky wrote a related blog post: PLM and the death spiral of cultural change.  See my response below to this post as it will contribute to the understanding of this post

Oleg, thanks for contributing to the theme of cultural change. Your post illustrates that my post was not clear enough, or perhaps too short. I do not believe PLM is that difficult because of technology, I would even claim that technology is a the bottom of my list of priorities. Not stating it is not important, but meaning that when you are converging with a company to a vision for PLM, you probably know the kind of technologies you are going to use.

The highest priority to my opinion is currently the business transformation companies need to go through in order to adapt their business to remain relevant in a digital world. The transformation will require companies to implement PLM in a different manner, less silo-oriented, more focus on value flows starting from the customer.

Working different means cultural change and a company needs to allocate time, budget and energy to that. The PLM implementation is supporting the cultural change not driving the cultural change.

And this is the biggest mistake I have seen everywhere. Management decides to implement a new PLM as the driver for cultural change, instead of the result of cultural change. And they reason this is done, is most of the time due to budget thinking as cultural change is ways more complex and expensive than a PLM implementation.



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