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

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

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

Virtual Conferences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting tired?

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

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

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

My favorite quote:

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

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

Still, there are some diamonds.

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

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

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

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

Digital Thread is not a BOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Already five posts since we started looking at the roots of PLM, where every step illustrated that new technical capabilities could create opportunities for better practices. Alternatively, sometimes, these capabilities introduced complexity while maintaining old practices.  Where the previous posts were design and engineering-centric, now I want to make the step moving to manufacturing-preparation and the MBOM. In my opinion, if you start to manage your manufacturing BOM in the context of your product design, you are in the scope of PLM.

For the moment, I will put two other related domains aside, i.e., Configuration Management and Configured Products. Note these domains are entirely different from each other.

Some data model principles

In part five, I introduced the need to have a split between a logical product definition and a technical EBOM definition. The logical product definition is more the system or modular structure to be used when configuring solutions for a customer. The technical EBOM definition is, most of the time, a stable engineering specification independent of how and where the product is manufactured. The manufacturing BOM (the MBOM) should represent how the product will be manufactured, which can vary per location and vary over time. Let us look in some of the essential elements of this data model

The Product

The logical definition of the product, which can also be a single component if you are a lower tier-supplier, has an understandable number, like 6030-10B. A customer needs to be able to order this product or part without a typo mistake. The product has features or characteristics that are used to sell the product. Usually, products do not have a revision, as it is a logical definition of a set of capabilities. Most of the time, marketing is responsible for product definition. This would be the sales catalog, which can be connected in a digital PLM environment. Like the PDM-ERP relation, there is a similar discussion related to where the catalog resides—more on the product side later in time.

The EBOM

Related to the product or component in the logical definition, there is an actual EBOM, which represents the technical specification of the product. The image above shows the relation represented by the blue “current” link.

Note: not all systems will support such a data model, and often the marketing sides in managed disconnected from the engineering side. Either in Excel or in a specialized Product Line Engineering (PLE) tools.

We discussed in the previous post that if you want to minimize maintenance, meaning fewer revisions on your EBOM, you should not embed manufacturer-specific parts in your EBOM.

The EBOM typically contains purchase parts and make parts. The purchased parts are sourced based on their specification, and you might have a single source in the beginning. The make parts are entirely under your engineering control, and you define where they are produced and by whom. For the rest, the EBOM might have functional groupings of modules and subassemblies that are defined for reuse by engineering.

Note: An EBOM is the place where multidisciplinary collaboration comes together. This post mainly deals with the mechanical part (as we are looking at the past)

Note: An EBOM can contain multiple valid configurations which you can filter based on a customer or market-specific demand. In this case, we talk about a Configured EBOM or a 150 % EBOM.

The MBOM

The MBOM represents the way the unique product is going to be manufactured. This means the MBOM-structure will represent the manufacturing steps. For each EBOM-purchase-part, the approved manufacturer for that plant needs to be selected. For each make-part in the EBOM, if made in this plant per customer order, the EBOM parts need to be resolved by one or more manufacturing steps combined with purchased materials.

Let us look at some examples:

The flat MBOM

Some companies do not have real machinery anymore in their plants, the product they deliver to the market is only assembled at the best financial location. This means that all MBOM-parts should arrive at the shop floor to be assembled there.  As an example, we have plant A below.

Of course, this is a simplified version to illustrate the basics of the MBOM. The flat MBOM only makes sense if the product is straightforward to assemble. Based on the engineering specifications, the assembly drawing(s) people on the shop floor will know what to do.

The engineering definition specifies that the chassis needs to be painted, and fitting the axles requires grease. These quantities are not visible in the EBOM; they will appear in the MBOM. The quantities and the unit of measure are, of course, relevant here.

Note: The exact quantities for paint and grease might be adjusted in the MBOM when a series of Squads have been manufactured.

The MBOM and Bill of Process

Most of the time, a product is manufactured in several process steps. For that reason, the MBOM is closely related to the Bill of Process or the Routing definitions. The image below illustrates the relationship between an MBOM and the operations in a plant.

If we continue with our example of the Squad, let us now assume that the wheels and the axle are joined together in a work cell. In addition, the chassis is painted in a separate cell. The MBOM would look like the image below:

In the image, we see that the same Engineering definition now results in a different MBOM. A company can change the MBOM when optimizing the production, without affecting the engineering definition. In this MBOM, the Axle assembly might also be used in other squads manufactured by the company.

The MBOM and purchased parts

In the previous example, all components for the Squad were manufactured by the same company with the option to produce in Plant A or in Plant B.  Now imagine the company also has a plant C in a location where they cannot produce the wheels and axle assembly. Therefore plant C has to “purchase” the Wheel-Axle assembly, and lucky for them plant B is selling the Wheel+Axle assembly to the market as a product.

The MBOM for plant C would look like the image below:

For Plant C, they will order the right amount of the Wheel+Axle product, according to its specifications (HF-D240). How the Wheel+Axle product is manufactured is invisible for Plant C, the only point to check is if the Wheel+Axle product complies with the Engineering Definition and if its purchase price is within the target price range.

Why this simple EBOM-MBOM story?

For those always that have been active in the engineering domain, a better understanding of the information flow downstream to manufacturing is crucial. Historically this flow of information has been linear – and in many companies, it is still the fact. The main reason for that lies in the fact that engineering had their own system (PDM or PLM), and manufacturing has their own system (ERP).

Engineers did their best to provide the best engineering specification and release the data to ERP. In the early days, as discussed in Part 4, the engineering specification was most of the time based on a kind of hybrid BOM containing engineering and manufacturing parts already defined.

Next, manufacturing engineering uses the engineering specifications to define the manufacturing BOM in the ERP system. Based on the drawings and parts list, they create a preferred manufacturing process (MBOM and BOP) – most of the time, a manual process.  Despite the effort done by engineering, there might be a need to change the product. A different shape or dimension make manufacturing more efficient or done with existing tooling. This means an iteration, which causes delays and higher engineering costs.

The first optimization invented was the PDM-ERP interface to reduce the manual work and introduction of typos/misunderstanding of data.  This topic was “hot” between 2000 and 2010, and I visited many SmarTeam customers and implementers to learn and later explain that this is a mission impossible. The picture below says it all.

We have an engineering BOM (with related drawings). Through an interface, this EBOM will be restructured into a manufacturing BOM, thanks to all kinds of “clever” programming based on particular attributes.  Discussed in Part 3

The result, however, was that the interface was never covering all situations and became the most expensive part of the implementation.

Good business for the implementing companies, bad for the perception of PDM/PLM.

The lesson learned from all these situations: If you have a PLM-system that can support both the EBOM and MBOM in the same environment, you do not need this complex interface anymore. You can still use some automation to move from an EBOM to an MBOM.

However, three essential benefits come from this approach

  1. Working in a single environment allows manufacturing engineers to work directly in the context of the EBOM, proposing changes to engineering in the same environment and perform manual restructuring on the MBOM as programming logic does not exist. Still, compare tools will ensure all EBOM-parts are resolved in the manufacturing definition.
  2. All product Intellectual Property is now managed in a single environment. There is no scattered product information residing in local ERP-systems. When companies moved towards multiple plants for manufacturing, there was the need for a centralized generic MBOM to be resolved for the local plant (local suppliers / local plant conditions). Having the generic MBOM and Bill of Process in PLM was the solution.
  3. When engineers and manufacturing engineers work in the same environment, manufacturing engineering can start earlier with the manufacturing process definition, providing early feedback to engineering even when the engineering specification has not been released. This approach allows real concurrent engineering, reducing time to market and cost significantly

Conclusion

Again 1600 words this time. We are now at the stage that connecting the EBOM and the MBOM in PLM has become a best practice in most standard PLM-systems. If implemented correctly, the interface to ERP is no longer on the critical path – the technology never has been the limitation – it is all about methodology.

Next time a little bit more on advanced EBOM/MBOM interactions

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to follow up from the last conclusion:

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

Starting from a conceptual structure

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

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

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

What characterizes an EBOM?

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

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

The picture below illustrates the above definition.

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

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

1 – Purchased parts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 – Make Parts

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

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

The Configured EBOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The link between Products and (E)BOMs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

 

Last time in the series Learning from the past to understand the future, we zoomed in on how the 3D CAD-structure in the mid-market had to evolve. In a typical Engineering To Order (ETO) scenario, it makes sense to extract from the 3D CAD-structure a BOM-structure to collect all the individual parts that are needed for manufacturing. Combined with the drawings generated based on the 3D CAD assemblies/parts, the complete manufacturing information could be provided. Let’s have a look.

The BOM in ERP (part 1)

To understand what most mid-market companies have been doing, I created the image below. When you click on it, you will have an enlarged version.

Note: for educational purposes an extremely simplified example

There is a lot to explain here.

First, on the right we see the 3D CAD assembly, two phantom assemblies, grouping the wheels and the axle. And at the end, the individual parts, i.e. chassis, axle, and wheel. The 3D CAD-structure is an instance-based structure; therefore, there are no quantities in the structure (all quantity 1)

For the individual parts, there are drawings. Also, for the product, we have an assembly drawing. The drawings are essential as we want to have them in the ERP-system for manufacturing.

Finally, the physical parts, now with a different ID than the drawing as we learned this one-to-one relation created a lot of extra work. The physical parts are often called Items or Materials (SAP naming). Unfortunately, for engineering, there is a different meaning behind Materials. Still, SAP’s data model was not built with an engineering mindset.

The physical part structure, which we call the BOM contains quantities. Most PDM-CAD-integrations can filter out phantom assemblies and summarize the parts on the same level

I am still reluctant to call the Part-structure an EBOM as the design of the product has been mainly focusing on extracting manufacturing information, parts, and drawings.

The BOM in ERP (part 2)

In customized PDM-implementations, some implementers created an interface from the BOM-structure to ERP, so the ERP-system would have the basic definition of the parts and a copy of the relevant drawings.

Now manufacturing could create the manufacturing definition without the need to go into the PDM-system.

Some “clever” – Dick Bourke would say “smart – therefore lazy” – proposed to “draw” also manufacturing entities in the 3D CAD-structure, so the PDM-CAD-interface would automatically deliver manufacturing parts too inside the ERP. In the example below, we added paint for the body and grease needed for the axels.

Although “smart, a new problem was introduced here – the 3D CAD-structure, instance-based, always has quantities 1. The extracted BOM would have rounded numbers when considering design parts. Now the grease comes with an estimate of  0.025 kg, assuming quantities are based on SI-units. We could also add other manufacturing information to this BOM, like 0.3-liter paint. Anyway, the result would look like below:

Important to notice from the diagram here: There are placeholders for grease and paint “drawn” in the 3D CAD-structure – parts without a geometrical definition and, therefore, not having an associated drawing. However, these parts have a material specification, and therefore in the BOM-structure, they appear as Materials.

Next in the BOM-structure, the engineers would enter the expected/required quantity – which is no longer a rounded number.

At this stage, you cannot call the BOM on the left an EBOM. It is a kind of hybrid structure, combining engineering and manufacturing data. A type of BOM we discover a lot in companies that started with a type of ETO-product.

The ETO-product

Many companies that developed specialized machinery have started with a base product, from where they developed the custom solution – their IP. Next, with more and more customers, the original solution was extended by creating either new or changed capabilities.

I worked a lot with companies that moved to the full definition of their products in 3D CAD, creating a correct 3D CAD-structure per customer order. Instead of creating new BOM variants, companies were often tempted/forced to make the configuration inside the 3D CAD-model.

The 3D CAD vendor often provided functionality to have multiple configurations of the same part/product inside a single file. A nice feature for designers as there are fewer files to maintain, however, a crime for data management.

Every time one of the configurations of the part would change, or a new configuration was added, the file has to be revised.

And if the change was at level five of a 3D CAD-structure, many assembly files needed to be updated. The versioning problem illustrates the challenge of managing configurations inside a 3D CAD-file, meanwhile creating complexity for the PDM/PLM-system.

Last week Tech-Clarity published the highlights of their survey: Bringing Custom-Engineered Products to Market with a link to the full report, sponsored by Propel.

As you can imagine, this survey is more about PLM collaboration, breaking down the silos and acting agile. Unfortunately, the report does not expose required methodologies, like modularity and “common sense” engineering practices that we discuss here. Still worthwhile to read as the report addresses precisely the type of companies I am referring too here.

If we look at the methodology of custom-engineered products, let us look at how their “best practice” from the past is blocking the future.

When a new customer request is coming in, sales engineering is looking for the best match of delivered products. Hopefully, 80-90 % remains the same, and engineering has to focus only on the differences.

First, the best-match 3D CAD-structure is copied to a new project. As you can see most 3D CAD-systems provide the functionality to create a derived structure from an original 3D CAD-structure. From there, a traditional ETO-process starts as described at the beginning of this post. We complete the 3D CAD-structure with manufacturing in mind, generate the BOM and drawings, and we can deliver. In the case of purchase parts, the generated BOM often contains already the supplier part number in the 3D CAD-structure as we are focusing on this single delivery.

The disadvantage of this approach that in theory, we have to check if the structure that we reused is really the best so far, otherwise we introduce errors again.

The second disadvantage is that if one supplier part in the structure becomes obsolete and needs to be revised, the company has to go through all the 3D CAD-structures to fix it.

Also, having supplier parts in the 3D CAD-structure makes it more difficult to standardize, as the chosen supplier part matched the criteria for that customer at that time. Will it match the criteria also in other situations?

From ETO to BTO to CTO

Many companies that started with custom-engineered products, the ETO-approach, want to move towards a Configure To Order (CTO) approach – or if not possible at least Build To Order (BTO). More reuse, less risk,  instead of creating every time a new solution for the next customer, as discussed before.

This is not a mission impossible; however, often, I have seen that companies do not set the right priorities to move towards a configure to order environment. There are a few changes needed to become a configure to order company (if possible):

  1. Analyze your solution and define modules and options. Instead of defining a full solution, the target now is to discover a commonality between the various solutions. Based on commonality, define modules and options in such a manner that they can be used in different situations. Crucial for these modules is that there is a standard interface to the rest of the product. Every company needs to master this specific methodology for their products
  2. Start defining products from a logical structure, defining how products, modules and options are compatible and which combinations are allowed (or preferred). For companies that are not familiar with logical structure, often a configured EBOM is used to define the solutions. Not the optimal way; however, this was the first approach most companies took ten years ago. I will explain the configured EBOM below.
  3. A product definition and its modules now should start from a real EBOM, not containing manufacturing characteristics. The EBOM should represent the logical manner of how a product is defined. You will notice this type of EBOM might be only 2 – 3 levels deep. At the lowest level, you have the modules that have their own lifecycle and isolated definition.
  4. You should no longer use supplier part numbers in your EBOMs. As the engineering definition of a module or option should not depend over time from a single supplier. We will discuss in the next post the relation between EBOM parts and the Approved Manufacturer List (AML)

To conclude for today

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

However, when we look forward, it would be greatly beneficial to have the 3D-representation of every specific solution delivered. This is where concepts as augmented/virtual reality and digital twin come in.

Next time more on the BOM-structures – as we have just touched the upcoming of the EBOM – enough to clarify next week(s).

To understand our legacy in the PLM-domain, what are the types of practices we created, I started this series of posts: Learning from the past to understand the future. My first post (The evolution of the BOM) focused on the disconnected world between engineering  – generation of drawings as a  deliverable – and execution MRP/ERP – the first serious IT-systems in a company.

At that time, due to minimal connectivity, small and medium-sized companies had, most of the time, an informal connection between engineering and manufacturing. I remember a statement at that time, PLM was just introduced. One person during a conference claimed:

“You guys make our lives so difficult with your systems. If we have a problem, we gather around the machine, and we fix it.”

PLM started at large enterprises

Of course, large enterprises could not afford such behavior as they operate globally. The leading enterprises for PDM/PLM were the Aerospace & Defense and Automotive companies. They needed consistent processes and formal ways of working to guarantee quality output.

In that sense, I was happy with the reaction from Jean-Jacques Urban-Galindo, who shared in the LinkedIn comments a reference to a relevant chapter of John Stark’s PLM book. In the pdf describing the evolution of CAD / PDM / PLM at PSA. Jean-Jacques was responsible at that time for Responsible for the re-engineering of the Product & Process Engineering processes using digital tools (CAD/CAM, DMU, and more).

Read the PSA story here: PLM at GROUPE PSA. It describes nicely where 3D CAD and EBOM are coming in.  In large enterprise like PSA, the need for tools are driven by the processes. When you read it to the end, you will also see the need for a design and a manufacturing view. A topic I will touch in future posts too.

The introduction of 3D CAD in the mid-market

Where large automotive and aerospace companies already invested in (expensive) 3D CAD hard and software, for the majority of the midsize companies, the switch from 2D CAD (AutoCAD mainly) towards 3D CAD (SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Inventor) started at the end of the 20th century.

It was the time that Microsoft NT became a serious platform beside the existing mainframe and mini-computer based CAD-systems. The switch to PCs went so fast that the disruption from DEC (Digital Equipment Company) is one of the cases discussed by Clayton Christensen in his groundbreaking book: The Innovator’s dilemma

3D CAD introduced a lot of new capabilities, like DMU (Digital Mock-Up), for clash detection, and above all, a better understanding of a product’s behavior. The introduction of 3D CAD introduced a new set of challenges to be resolved.

For example, the concept of reusing 3D CAD parts. Mid-market companies, most of the time, are buying productivity tools. Can I design my product faster and with higher quality in 3D instead of using only the 2D definitions?

Mid-market companies usually do not redesign their business processes – no people available for strategy – the pain of lack of strategy is felt in a different way compared to large enterprises—a crucial differentiator for the future of PLM.

Reuse of (3D) CAD parts / Assemblies

In the 2D CAD world, there was not so much reuse of CAD parts. Standard parts were saved in libraries or generated on demand by parametric libraries. Now with 3D CAD, designers might spend more time to define the part. The benefits come from the reuse of small sub-assemblies (modules) into a larger product assembly. Something not relevant in the 2D CAD world.

As every 3D CAD part had to have a file name, it became difficult to manage the file names without a system. How do you secure that the file with name Part01.xxx is unique? Another designer might also create an assembly, where the 3D CAD tool would suggest Part01.xxx as the name. And what about revisions? Do you store them in the filename, and how do you know you have the correct and latest version of the file?

Companies had already part naming rules for drawings, often related to the part’s usage similar to “intelligent” numbers I mentioned in my previous post.

With 3D CAD it became a little more complicated as now in electronic formats, companies wanted to maintain the relation:

Drawing ID = Part ID = File Name

The need for a PDM-system,

If you look to the image on the left, which I found in one of my old SmarTeam files, there is a part number combined with additional flags A-A-C, which also have meaning (I don’t know ☹ ) and a description.

 

The purpose of these meaningful flags was to maintain the current ways of working. Without a PDM-system, parts of the assembly could be shared with an OEM or a supplier. File-based 3D CAD without using a PDM-system was not a problem for small and medium enterprises.

The 3D CAD-system maintained the relations in the assembly files, including relations to the 2D Drawings. Despite the introduction of 3D CAD, the 2D Drawing remained the deliverable the rest of the company or supply chain, was waiting for. Preferably a drawing containing a parts list and balloon numbers, the same as it has been done before.  Why would you need a PDM-system?

PDM for traceability and reuse

If you were working in your 3D CAD-system for a single product, or on individual projects for OEMs, there was no significant benefit for a PDM-system. All deliveries needed for the engineering department were in the 3D CAD environment. Assembly files and drawing files are already like small databases, containing references to the source files of the part (image above).

A PDM-system at this stage could help you build traceability and prevent people from overwriting files. The ROI for this part only depends on the cost and risks of making mistakes.

However, when companies started to reuse parts or subassemblies, there was a need for a system that could manage the 3D models separately. This had an impact on the design methodology.

Now parts could be used in various products. How do you discover parts for reuse, and how do you know you have the last released version.  For sure their naming cannot be related anymore to a single product or project (a practice still used a lot)

This is where PDM-systems came in. Using additional attributes per file combined with relations between parts,  allowing companies to structure and deliver more details related to a part. A detailed description for internal usage, a part type (classification), and the part material were commonly used attributes. And not to forget the status and revision.

For reuse, it was important that the creators of content had a strategy to define a part for future reuse or discovery. Engineerings were not used to provide such services, filling in data in a PDM-system was seen as an overhead – bureaucracy.

As they were measured on the number of drawings they produced, why do extra work with no immediate benefits?

The best compromise was to have the designer fill in properties in the CAD-file when creating a part. Using the CAD-integration with the PDM-system could be used to fill attributes in the PDM-system.

This “beautiful” simple concept lead later to a lot of complexity.

Is the CAD-model the source of data, meaning designers should always start from CAD when designing a product. If someone added or modified data in the PDM-system, should we open the CAD-file to update some properties? Changing a file means it is a new version. What happens if the CAD-file is released, and I update some connected attributes in PDM?

To summarize this topic. Companies have missed the opportunity here to implement data governance. However, none of the silos (manufacturing preparation, service) recognized the need. Implementing new tools (3D CAD and PDM) did not affect the company’s way of working.

Instead of people, processes, tools, the only focus was on new tools and satisfying the people withing the same process.

Of course, when introducing PDM, which happened for mid-market companies at the beginning of this century, there was no PLM vision. Talking about lifecycle support was a waste of time for management. As we will discover in the future posts, large enterprises and small and medium enterprises have the same PLM needs. However, there is already a fundamentally different starting point. Where large enterprises are analyzing and designing business processes, the small and medium enterprises are buying tools to improve the current ways of working

The Future?

Although we have many steps to take in the upcoming posts, I want to raise your attention to an initiative from the PLM Interest Group together with Xlifecycle.com. The discussion is about what will be PLM’s role in digital transformation.

As you might have noticed, there are people saying the word PLM is no longer covering the right context, and all kinds of alternatives have been suggested. I recommend giving your opinion without my personal guidance. Feel free to answer the questionnaire, and we will be all looking forward to the results.

Find the survey here: Towards a digital future: the evolving role of PLM in the future digital world

 

Conclusion

We are going slow. Discovering here in this post the split in strategy between large enterprises (process focus) and small and medium enterprises (tool focus) when introducing 3D CAD. This different focus, at this time for PDM, is one of the reasons why vendors are creating functions and features that require methodology solving – however, who will provide the methodology.

Next time more on 3D CAD structures and EBOM

In my series of blog posts related to the (PLM) data model, I talked about Product, BOMs and Parts. This time I want to focus on the EBOM and (CAD) Documents relation. This topic became relevant with the introduction of 3D CAD.

Before companies were using 3D CAD systems, there was no discussion about EBOM or MBOM (to my knowledge). Engineering was producing drawings for manufacturing and not every company was using the mono-system (for each individual part a specifying drawing). Drawings were mainly made to assist production and making a drawing for an individual part was a waste of engineering time. Parametric drawings were used to specify similar parts. But now we are in the world of 3D!

imageWith the introduction of 3D CAD systems for the mainstream in the nineties (SolidWorks, Solid Edge, Inventor) there came a need for PDM systems managing the individual files from a CAD assembly. The PDM system was necessary to manage all the file versions. Companies that were designing simple products sometimes remained working file-based, introducing the complexity of how to name a file and how to deal with revisions. Ten years ago I was investigating data management for the lower tiers of the automotive supply chain. At that time still 60 % of the suppliers were using CATIA were working file-based. Data management was considered as an extra complexity still file version control was a big pain.

This has changed for several reasons:

  • More and more OEMs were pushing for more quality control of the design data (read PDM)
  • Products became more modular, which means assemblies can be used as subassemblies in other products, pushing the need for where used control
  • Products are becoming more complex and managing only mechanical CAD files is not enough anymore – Electronics & Software – mechatronics – became part of the product

Most PDM systems at that time (I worked with SmarTeam) were saving the 3D CAD structure as a quantity-based document structure, resembling a lot a structure called the EBOM.

CAD DOC structure

 

This is one of the most common mistakes made in PLM implementations.

The CAD structure does not represent the EBOM !!!

Implementers started to build all kind of customizations to create automatically from the CAD structure a Part structure, the EBOM. Usually these customizations ended up as a mission impossible, in particular when customers started to ask for bidirectional synchronization. They expected that when a Part is removed in the EBOM, it would be deleted in the CAD assembly too.

And then there was the issue that companies believed the CAD Part ID should be equal to the Part ID. This might be possible for a particular type of design parts, but does not function anymore with flexible parts, such as a tube or a spring. When this Part is modeled in a different position, it created a different CAD Document, breaking the one-to-one relation.

Finally another common mistake that I have seen in many PDM implementations is the addition of glue, paint and other manufacturing type of parts to the CAD model, to be able to generate a BOM directly from the CAD.

imageFrom the data model perspective it is more important to understand that Parts and CAD documents are different type of objects. In particular if you want to build a PLM implementation where data is shared across all disciplines. For a PDM implementation I care less about the data model as the implementation is often not targeting enterprise continuity of data but only engineering needs.

A CAD Document (Assembly / Part / Drawing / …) behaves like a Document. It can be checked-in and checked out any time a change is made inside the file. A check-in operation would create a new version of the CAD Document (in case you want to trace the history of changes).

Meanwhile the Part specified by the CAD Document does not change in version when the CAD Document is changed. Parts usually do not have versions; they remain in the same revision as long as the specifying CAD Document matures.

Moving from PDM to PLM

For a PLM implementation it is important to think “Part-driven” which means from an initial EBOM, representing the engineering specification of the Product, maturing the EBOM with more and more design specification data. Design specification data can be mechanical assemblies and parts, but also electrical parts. The EBOM from a PCB might come from the Electrical Design Application as in the mechanical model you will not create every component in 3D.

And once the Electrical components are part of the EBOM, also the part definition of embedded software can be added to the BOM. For example if software is needed uploaded in flash memory chips. By adding electrical and software components to the EBOM, the company gets a full overview of the design maturity of ALL disciplines involved.

The diagram below shows how an EBOM and its related Documents could look like:

EBOM.docs

 

This data model contains a lot of details:

  • As discussed in my previous post – for the outside world (the customer) there is a product defined without revision
  • Related to the Product there is an EBOM (Part assembly) simplified as a housing (a mechanical assembly), a connector (a mechanical art) and a PCB (a mechanical representation). All these parts behave like Mechanical Parts; they have a revision and status.
  • The PCB has a second representation based on an electrical schema, which has only (for simplification) two electrical parts, a resistor and a memory chip. As you can see these components are standard purchasable parts, they do not have a revision as they are not designed.
  • The Electrical Part Flash Memory has a relation to a Software Part which is defined by Object Code (a zip-file?) which of course is specified by a software specification (not in the diagram). The software object code has a version, as most of the time software is version managed, as it does not follow the classical rules of mechanical design.

Again I reached my 1000 words, a sign to stop explaining this topic. For sure there are a lot of details to explain to this data model part too.

Most important:

  • A CAD structure is not an EBOM (it can be used to generate a part of the EBOM)
  • CAD documents and EBOM parts have a different behavior. CAD documents have versions, Parts do not have versions (most of the time
  • The EBOM is the place where all disciplines synchronize their data, providing during the development phase a single view of the design status.

Let me know if this was to abstract and feel free to ask questions. Important for this series of blog post is to provide a methodology baseline for a real PLM data model.

I am looking forward to your questions or remarks to spark up the discussion.

observation

First of all happy new year to all of you. As there is no “End of the World”  risk anymore in the near future , we can start looking forward and set our goals for the next 5 years or is it a 7-years plan Oleg ?.

Christmas, the moment the light returns on the Northern hemisphere, plus the food , cycling and the preparations for the next Product Innovation conference in Berlin were the drivers for this blog post.

The title might give you the impression that it is an IQ-quiz: “Which word does not fit in this sequence”?  Well, It’s not, they are all related.  Let’s put them in a chronological order.

Frogs

frogFrogs existed first, and were exploring the world before us humans.  Paleontologists assume they had no notion of what was global.  In their world it was probably a few ponds in size.  For certain, they did not have anything to do with innovation.  At that time, survival depended on the slow process of evolution.

Millions of years later, the first Homos appeared on the earth surface;  Homo Sapiens, Homo Erectus, Homo Ludens and perhaps more.  They all had something in common: Instead of waiting for the evolution which was ongoing, they started in parallel to innovate.  First by walking upright, using a more advanced language to communicate and learning to have tools to achieve more.  Their world was still within a reasonable walking distance and probably they started to eat frogs.

Human evolution

This evolution continued for thousands of years.  Human beings started to spread around the world and in waves they brought innovation. They built stone temples, learned to sail, discovered gunpowder, electricity, the universe, the internet and more.  It is interesting to see that every time a major innovation was born, these innovators enriched their region in wealth and culture, using their innovation as a competitive advantage to dominate their neighbors.

In many cases 1000 years later, this innovation became a commodity and other civilizations stood up with their innovation and dominated their regional environment which became bigger and bigger in size.  Where possible they made use of the cheap resources (modern word for what was initially called slaves) to enrich their civilization.  For certain, the most civilized were eating frogs!

Market expansion – innovation pace

During the last century, the pace of innovation went faster and faster.  New ways of communication and transportation became available and affordable, which made it impossible for innovations to stay within a specific civilization. Innovation became available for everyone around the world and the domination shifted towards companies and markets.

SNAGHTML4a560dcCompanies with a strategy to innovate, discovered that there were new ways needed to respond faster than before to market opportunities.  This was the driving force behind PDM, as an first attempt to get a better grip and understanding of their fast evolving, more complex products, that require more and more global collaboration between design teams.

PDM is now accepted as critical by all manufacturing companies around the world, to guarantee quality and efficiency.  Customer focus became the next demand from the market and interestingly enough, the demand for frogs decreased.

However this wave of innovation was followed by a wave with even greater impact on the global society.  New technologies, the availability of internet and social media, suddenly changed society. Combined with the financial crisis in the US and Europe, it became clear that the way we worked in the past is no longer the way to survive in the future.

Faster and global

plm_txtPLM was introduced early this century as a new strategy to become more customer-centric, being able to respond faster and better to market demands by bringing innovation to the market before the competition. PLM requires a different approach by companies to work internally and interact with the (global) outside world.  The need to implement the PLM vision requires change and as it cannot be considered as an evolutionary process over several generations, it will be a business change. However, in general, human beings do not like rapid change.  Here the frogs come back into the picture, now as the boiling frog metaphor.

It is based on 19th century anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive.  The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.  The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually.  This metaphor is very applicable for the classical approach companies bring their products to the market, where innovation is more a lucky coincidence than a result of a strategy.

Here it all comes together again.

marketleaderInnovation is the only way for companies to avoid becoming a commodity – not able to differentiate for your potential customers.  Now the title of this post should be clear: “Do not be a boiling frog, use PLM to support your innovation and become available for the global market”

As the new year has started and it is still time to extend your good intentions, add Innovation, PLM and Change to your survival list.

I look forward to your comments and hope to discuss with you the relation between PLM and Innovation during the upcoming Product Innovation event in Berlin, where I present a session with the title: “PLM loves Innovation ?”

(when you know me, you know the answer, but there are always surprises)

image

image
Confused? You won’t be after this episode of Soap. “

Who does not remember this tagline from the first official Soap series starting in 1977 and released in the Netherlands in 1979?

Every week the Campbells and the Tates entertained us with all the ingredients of a real soap: murder, infidelity, aliens’ abduction, criminality, homosexuality and more.

The episode always ended with a set of questions, leaving you for a week in suspense , hoping the next episode would give you the answers.

For those who do not remember the series or those who never saw it because they were too young, this was the mother of all Soaps.

What has it to do with PLM?

Soap has to do with strange people that do weird things (I do not want to be more specific). Recently I noticed that this is happening even in the PLM blogger’s world. Two of my favorite blogs demonstrated something of this weird behavior.

First Steve Ammann in his Zero Wait-State blog post: A PLM junkie at sea point-solutions versus comprehensive mentioned sailing from Ventura CA to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on a 35 foot sailboat and started thinking about PLM during his night shift. My favorite quote:

Besides dealing with a couple of visits from Mexican coast guard patrol boats hunting for suspected drug runners, I had time alone to think about my work in the PLM industry and specifically how people make decisions about what type of software system or systems they choose for managing product development information. Yes only a PLM “junkie” would think about PLM on a sailing trip and maybe this is why the Mexican coast guard was suspicious.

Second Oleg in his doomsday blog post: The End of PLM Communism, was thinking about PLM all the weekend. My favorite quote:

I’ve been thinking about PLM implementations over the weekend and some perspective on PLM concepts. In addition to that, I had some healthy debates over the weekend with my friends online about ideas of centralization and decentralization. All together made me think about potential roots and future paths in PLM projects.

imageIt demonstrates the best thinking is done during out-of-office time and on casual locations. Knowing this from my long cycling tours in the weekend, I know it is true.
I must confess that I have PLM thoughts during cycling.

Perhaps the best thinking happens outside an office?

I leave the follow up on this observation to my favorite Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel, who apparently is out of office too.

Now back to serious PLM

Both posts touch the topic of a single comprehensive solution versus best-of-breed solutions. Steve is very clear in his post. He believes that in the long term a single comprehensive solution serves companies better, although user performance (usability) is still an issue to consider. He provides guidance in making the decision for either a point solution or an integrated solution.

And I am aligned with what Steve is proposing.

Oleg is coming from a different background and in his current position he believes more in a distributed or network approach. He looks at PLM vendors/implementations and their centralized approach through the eyes of someone who knows the former Soviet Union way of thinking: “Centralize and control”.

imageThe association with communism which was probably not the best choice when you read the comments. This association makes you think as the former Soviet Union does not exist anymore, what about former PLM implementations and the future? According to Oleg PLM implementations should be more focused on distributed systems (on the cloud ?), working and interacting together connecting data and processes.

And I am aligned with what Oleg is proposing.

Confused? You want be after reading my recent experience.

I have been involved in the discussion around the best possible solution for an EPC contractor (Engineering Procurement Construction) in the Oil & Gas industry. The characteristic of their business is different from standard manufacturing companies. EPC contractors provide services for an owner/operator of a plant and they are selected because of their knowledge, their price, their price, their price, quality and time to deliver.

This means an EPC contractor is focusing on execution, making sure they have the best tools for each discipline and this is the way they are organized and used to work. The downside of this approach is everyone is working on its own island and there is no knowledge capitalization or sharing of information. The result each solution is unique, which brings a higher risk for errors and fixes required during construction. And the knowledge is in the head of experience people ….. and they retire at a certain moment.

So this EPC contractor wanted to build an integrated system, where all disciplines are connected and sharing information where relevant. In the Oil & Gas industry, ISO15926 is the standard. This standard is relative mature to serve as the neutral exchange standard of information between disciplines. The ideal world for best in class tools communicating with each other, or not ?

imageImagine there are 6 discipline tools, an engineering environment optimized for plant engineering, a project management environment, an execution environment connecting suppliers and materials, a delivery environment assuring the content of a project is delivered in the right stages and finally a knowledge environment, capitalizing lessons learned, standards and best practices.

This results in 6 tools and 12 interfaces to a common service bus connecting these tools. 12 interfaces as information needs to be send and received from the service bus per application. Each tools will have redundant data for its own execution.

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What happens if a PLM provider could offer three of these tools on a common platform? This would result into 4 tools to install and only 8 interfaces. The functionality in the common PLM system does not require data redundancy but shares common information and therefore will provide better performance in a cross-discipline scenario.

In the ultimate world all tools will be on one platform, providing the best performance and support for this EPC contractor. However this is utopia. It is almost impossible to have a 100 % optimized system for a group of independent companies working together. Suppliers will not give up their environment and own IP to embed it in a customer´s ideal environment. So there is always a compromise to find between a best integrated platform (optimal performance – reduced cost of interfaces and cost of ownership) and the best connected environment (tools connection through open standards).

And this is why both Steve and Oleg have a viewpoint that makes sense. Depending on the performance of the tools and the interaction with the supplier network the PLM platform can provide the majority of functionality. If you are a market dominating OEM you might even reach 100 % coverage for your own purpose, although the modern society is more about connecting information where possible.

MY CONCLUSION after reading both posts:

  • Oleg tries to provoke, and like a soap, you might end up confused after each episode.
  • Steve in his post gives a common sense guidance, useful if you spend time on digesting it, not a soap.

Now I hope you are not longer confused and wish you all a successful and meaningful 2013. The PLM soap will continue in alphabetical order:

  • Will Aras survive 21-12-2012 and support the Next generation ?
  • Will Autodesk get of the cloud or have a coming out ?
  • Will Dassault get more Experienced ?
  • Will Oracle PLM customers understand it is not a database ?
  • Will PTC get out of the CAD jail  and receive $ 200 ?
  • Will SAP PLM be really 3D  and user friendly ?
  • Will Siemens PLM become a DIN or ISO standard ?

See the next episodes of my PLM blog in 2013

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blog_start

May 24th, 2008 was the date I posted my first blog post as a Virtual Dutchman aiming to share PLM related topics for the mid-market.

I tried to stay away from technology and function/feature debates and based on my day to day observations, describe the human side of the PLM  – what people do and why . All  from a personal perspective and always open to discuss and learn more.

Looking back and reviewing my 86 posts and 233 comments so far, I would like to share a summary around some of the main topics in my blog.

PLM

PLM_profIn 2008, PLM awareness was much lower – at that time one of the reasons for me to start blogging. There was still a need to explain that PLM was a business strategy needed beside ERP and PDM.

PLM will bring more efficiency, and in better quality, new innovative products to the market due to better collaboration between teams and departments.

At that time the big three, Dassault Systemes, Siemens and PTC  were all offering a very CAD-centric, complex approach for PLM. There was no real mid-market offering, although their marketing organizations tried to sell as-if a mid-marketing offering existed.  Express, Velocity, ProductPoint where are these offerings now ?

Now, In 2012 there is an established PLM awareness as everyone is talking about (their interpretation of) PLM and with Autodesk, a company that knows how to serve the mid-market, also acknowledged there is a need for PLM in their customer base, the term PLM is widespread

The new PLM providers focus on a disconnect between PDM and PLM, as in particular the handling of enterprise data outside the PDM scope is a white space for many mid-market companies that need to operate on a global platform.

PLM & ERP

NoChangeIn the relation between PLM and ERP, I haven’t seen a big change the past four years. The two dominating ERP originated vendors, SAP and Oracle were paying attention to PLM in 2008 in their marketing and portfolio approach.

However their PLM offerings in my perception, haven’t moved much forward. SAP is selling ERP and yes there is a PLM module and Oracle is having PLM systems, but I haven’t seen a real targeted PLM campaign explaining the needs and value of PLM integrated with ERP.

Historically ERP is the main IT-system and gets all the management attention. PLM is more considered something for engineering (and gets less focus and budget). Understanding PLM and how it connects to ERP remains a point of attention and the crucial point of interaction is the manufacturing BOM and the place where it is defined. The two most read posts from my blog are: Where is the MBOM and next Bill of Materials for Dummies – ETO, indicating there is a lot of discussion around this topic.

I am happy to announce here that in October this year during PLM Innovation US, I will present and share my thoughts in more detail with the audience, hoping for good discussions

New trends

There are three new trends that became more clear the past four years.

dummies_logoThe first one to mention is the upcoming of Search Based Applications (SBA). Where PLM systems require structured and controlled data, search based applications assist the user by “discovering” data anywhere in the organization, often in legacy systems or possible in modern communication tools.

I believe companies that develop an integrated concept of PLM and SBA can benefit the most. PLM and ERP vendors should think about combining these two approaches in an integrated offering. I wrote about this combined topic in my post: Social Media and PLM explained for Dummies

cloudThe second trend is the cloud. Where two-three years ago social media combined with PLM was the hype as a must for product innovation and collaboration, currently cloud is in focus.

Mainly driven and coming for the US, where the big marketing engine from Autodesk is making sure it is on the agenda of mid-market companies.

In Europe there is less a hype at this moment, different countries and many languages to support plus discussions around security take the overhand here.

For me a cloud solution for sure is lowering the threshold for mid-market companies to start implementing PLM. However how to make the change in your company ? It is not only an IT-offering. Like a similar discussion around Open Source PLM, there is still a need to provide the knowledge and change push  inside a company to implement PLM correct. Who will provide these skills ?

alm_1The third trend is the applicability of PLM systems outside the classical manufacturing industries.

I have been writing about the usage of PLM systems for Owner/Operators and the civil / construction industry, where the PLM system becomes the place to store all plant related information, connected to assets and with status handling. Currently I am participating in several projects in these new areas and the results are promising

People and Change

frogI believe PLM requires a change in an organization not only from the IT perspective but more important from the way people will work in an organization and the new processes they require.

The change is in sharing information, making it visible and useful for others in order to be more efficient and better informed to make the right decisions much faster.

This is a global trend and you cannot stay away from it. Keeping data locked in your reach might provide job security but in the long term it kills all jobs in the company as competiveness is gone.

The major task here lies with the management that should be able to understand and execute a vision that is beyond their comfort zone. I wrote about this topic in my series around PLM 2.0

Modern companies with a new generation of workers will have less challenges with this change and I will try to support the change with arguments and experiences from the field.

Audience

Since February this year, WordPress provides much more statistics and interesting is the map below indicating in which countries my blog is read. As you can see there are only a few places left on earth where PLM is not studied.  Good news !!

audience

Although most of my observations come from working in Europe, it is the US that provides the most readers (30 %) , followed by India (9 %) and on the third place the UK (6 %).

This might be related to the fact that I write my blog in English  (not in 100 % native English as someone commented once).

It makes me look forward to be in October in Atlanta during the PLM Innovation US conference to meet face to face with many of my blog readers and share experiences.

Conclusion

Reading back my posts since 2008, it demonstrated for me that the world of PLM is not a static environment. It is even that dynamic that some of the posts I wrote in the early days have become obsolete. 

At the end of 2008 I predicted the future of PLM in 2050 – here we are on the right track.

There is still enough blogging to do without falling into repetitions and  I am looking forward to your opinion, feedback and topics to discuss.

 

PLM_inno_2012

I am just back from an exciting PLM Innovation 2012 conference. With a full program and around 250 participants, it was two intensive days of PLM interaction.

What I liked the most is that the majority of the audience was focusing on PLM business related topics. The mood of PLM has changed.

In this post, I will give an impression of the event, how I experienced it without going into the details of each session.

Several interesting sessions were in parallel so I could not attend them all, but MarketKey, the organizer of the conference confirmed that all presentations are filmed and will become available on-line for participants. So more excitement to come.

First my overall impression: Compared to last year’s conference there was more a focus on the PLM business issues and less on PLM IT or architecture issues (or was it my perception ?)

DAY 1

Gerard Litjens (CIMdata Director European Operations) opened the conference as CIMdata co-hosted the conference. In his overview he started with CIMdata’s PLM definition – PLM is a strategic business approach. (Everyone has his own definition as Oleg noticed too). Next he presented what CIMdata sees as the hottest topics. No surprises here: Extension from PLM to new industries, extending PDM towards PLM, Integration of Social Media, Cloud, Open Source, Enterprise integration and compliance.

abbNext speaker was Thomas Schmidt (Vice President, Head of Operational Excellence and IS – ABB’s Power Products Division) was challenging the audience with his key note speech: PLM: Necessary but not sufficient. With this title it seemed that the force was against him (thanks Oleg for sharing).

Thomas explained that the challenge of ABB is being a global company and at the same time acting as a ‘local’ company everywhere around the world. In this perspective he placed PLM as part of a bigger framework to support operational excellence and presented some major benefits from a platform approach. I believe the Q&A session was an excellent part to connect Thomas’s initial statements to the PLM focused audience.

Marc Halpern from Gartner gave his vision on PLM. Also Marc started with the Gartner definition of PLM, where they characterized PLM as a discipline. Gartner identified the following 5 major trends: Software everywhere in products, usage of social media for product development and innovation, using analytics tools to support the whole product lifecycle – after sales, service, connecting to the customer. Opportunities for existing products to deliver them through services (media content, transportation)

PLM_profNext I attended the Autodesk session, a PLM journey using the cloud, where I was eager to learn their approach towards PLM. Autodesk (Mike Lieberman) let Linda Maepa, COO from Electron Vault in the USA explain the benefits of the Autodesk PLM 360 solution. Electron Vault, a young, high-tech company, has implemented the solution within 2 weeks. And here I got disconnected . Also when the suggestion was raised that you do not need time to specify the requirements for the system (old-fashioned stuff),

I suddenly got into a trance and saw a TV advert from a new washing power, with numerous features (program management, new product introduction, …..) that was washing whiter than all the others and a happy woman telling it to the world. I believe if Autodesk wants to be considered as serious in the PLM world it should also work with existing customers and managing the change in these organizations. Usually it takes already more than two weeks to get them aligned and agree on the requirements. Unfortunate I did not have time during the breaks to meet Autodesk at their booth as I would love to continue the discussion about reality as my experience and focus is on mid-market companies. Waiting for a next opportunity.

After Autodesk, I presented in my session what are the main drivers for making the case for PLM. I also started with my favorite PLM definition (a collection of best practices – 2PLM) and explained that PLM starts with the management vision and targets for the future. Is it about efficiency, quality, time to market, knowledge capture or a more challenging task: creating the platform for innovation?

hydroQNext I followed the Energy tracks, where I listened to Charles Gagnon from Hydro Quebec, who gave an interesting lecture called: Implementing Open Innovation and Co-Development.

At first glance this is a sensitive topic. When you innovate it is all about creating new intellectual property, and the fear that when working with partners the IP might be out of the company, Charles explained how this process of collaborative innovation was started and monitored. At the end he reported they measured a significant gain in R&D value perceived when working with external partners. And they did not use a PLM system to manage Innovation (to be investigated how they could survive)

After the lunch I continued with Jonas Hagner from WinWinD, a young manufacturer of windmills that are targeted to operate in extreme climate conditions ( a niche market). They are both implementing PLM and ERP in parallel and they did not have to suffer from years of ERP before PLM and therefore could have a more balanced discussion around part information availability / part number and more. Still I believe they have the challenge to connect in an efficient manner the services of the windmills back to their R&D organization, to do a full PLM circle.

Karer consulting together with Siemens Energy presented the case how they have designed and starting the implement the interface between their PLM system (Teamcenter) and ERP system (SAP). What was disappointing to see was that the interface between Teamcenter and SAP was relative complex (bi-directional with engineering activities in both sides) . Almost 1½ years of development of this interface and one of the main reasons, because SAP was first and they start the engineering order in SAP.

ebom_mbom_problem

Apparently 2 years later Siemens Energy could not implement a clear distinct separation between PLM and ERP anymore and will not have to live with this complex interface. In the past I have written several times about this complexity that companies seem to accept due to political or historical reasons. Sad story for PLM – Where is the MBOM ?.

ebom_mbom_plm

The day finished with a closing keynote from Peter Bilello, explaining how a successful PLM implementation could look like. Many wise statements that everyone should follow in case you want to come to a successful implementation (and define correctly what success is)

Thanks to Autodesk we had a nice evening reception, discussion and evaluating with peers the first day.

Day 2

mioDay 2 started for me with an interesting lecture from Peter Fassbender, Head Design Center Fiat Latin America, describing how in Brazil the Fiat Mio experiment used modern social media techniques, like crowdsourcing, communities and user involvement to guide the innovation and development of a potential car. A unique experiment demonstrating that this type of projects are influence the brand reputation positively (if managed correct) and for me an example of what PLM could bring if R&D is connected to the outside world.

Christian Verstraete Chief Technologist – Cloud Strategy from HP gave an inspiring session about the open frontiers of innovation. The speed of business in the past 30 years has increased dramatically (you need to be from an older generation to be aware of this – the definition of response time has changed due to new technologies) Christian pushed everyone to think Out of the Box and to be innovative, which made me wonder how long will companies in the future build standard boring products. Will keep on innovating in this amazing pace as we did in the past 30 years ?

lf1Graeme Hackland, IT/IS director from the UK based Lotus F1 team presented the challenges a F1 team has to face every year due to changing regulations. I visited Lotus F1 last year and was impressed by the fact that over 500 engineers are all working around one carper year to optimize the car mainly for aerodynamics, but next to assure it performs during the years. Thousands of short interactions, changes to be implemented a.s.a.p. challenge the organization to collaborate in an optimum manner. And of course this is where PLM contributes. All the F1 fans could continue to dream and listen to Graeme’s stories but Jeremie Labbe from Processia brought us back to earth by explaining how Processia assisted Lotus F1 in a PLM value assessment as a next step.

Meanwhile I had some side discussions on various PLM topics and went back to the sessions, seeing how David Sherburne, Director of Global R&D Effectiveness from Carestream Health presented his case (open source PLM) and his analysis why an open source PLM model (based on Aras) is very appealing in their case. Indeed the business value perceived and significant lower operational costs for the software are appealing for his organization and for sure will influence the other PLM vendors in their pricing model.

Pierfrancesco Manenti, from IDC Manufacturing Insights gave a clear presentation indicating the future directions for PLM: managing operational complexity, not product complexity. As you could expect from IDC Manufacturing Insights all was well based on surveys in the manufacturing industry and clearly indicating that there is still a lot to do for companies to efficient share and work around a common product development and operational platform. New technologies (the four IT forces: mobility, cloud, social business and big data analytics) will help them to improve.

eso

The closing keynote came from Jason Spyromilio , who was director of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (http://www.eso.org) and he gave us the insights in designing (and building) the biggest eye on the sky. Precision challenges for such a huge telescope mirror, being built in the high mountains of Chili in an earthquake sensitive area demonstrate that all participants are required to contribute their IQ in order to realize such a challenge.

Conclusion: This PLM Innovation 2012 event doubled the 2011 event from a year ago in all dimensions. Thanks to the sponsors, the organization and high quality lectures, I expect next year we could double again – in participants, in content and innovation. It shows PLM is alive. But comming back to the title of this post: I saw some interesting innovation concepts – now how to enabale them with PLM ? 

Note: looking at the pictures in this postyou will notice PLM is everywhere. I published this post on February 29th – a unique day which happens only every 4 years. In May this year my blog will be 4 years old.

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