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In my last post related to Learning from the past to understand the future, I discussed what happened when 3D CAD became available for the mid-market. In the large automotive or aerospace & defense companies, 3D CAD has been introduced along the path of defining processes and selecting tools. In the mid-market 3D CAD started from the other side, first as a productivity tool, not thinking further to change methodologies or processes.

The approach starting with 3D CAD without changing processes, has created several complexities. Every company that is aiming to move towards a digital future needs to reduce complexity to remain competitive. Now let us focus on the relation between the 3D CAD-structure and a BOM.

The 3D CAD-structure

When building a product in a 3D CAD system, the concept is that you have individual parts designed in 3D.  Every single part has a unique identifier.

If possible, the (file) name would equal the physical part number.

Next, a group of parts could be stored as a subassembly. Such an assembly is sometimes called a phantom assembly, in case they only group together several 3D parts. The usage of this type of assemblies increased CAD productivity. For data management reasons, these assemblies need to have a unique identifier, preferably not with the same numbering scheme for physical part numbers. It would consume part numbers that would never be used during manufacturing.

Note: in the early days of connecting 3D CAD to ERP, there was a considerable debate about which system could generate the part number.

ERP has always been the leading system for parts definition, why change ? And why generate part numbers that might not be used later in production. “Wasting” part numbers was a bad practice as historically, the part number was like a catalog number: 6 to 7 digits.

Next, there is also another group of subassemblies that represent one or more primary components of a product. For example, a pump assembly, that might be the combination of the pump, the motor, and the base frame. This type of assembly appears most of the time high in the CAD-structure. They can be considered as a phantom assembly too, regarding a required identifier for this subassembly.

Finally, there might be parts in the CAD-structure that will not exist in reality as part but need to be created during the manufacturing process. Sheet metal parts are created during the manufacturing process. Cappings, strips and cables shown in the CAD-structure might come from materials that are purchased in standardized sizes (1 meter / 2 meter / 10 meter) and need to be cut during manufacturing. Here the instances in the CAD-structure will have a unique identifier. What type of identifier to use depends on the manufacturing process. It might be a physical part number, as it is a half-fabricate,  or it remains a unique identifier for the CAD-structure only.

The reason I am coming back to these identifiers is that as described before, companies wanted to keep a relation between the part number and the file name.

There was a problem with flexible parts. A rubber hose with a specific length could be shaped differently in an assembly based on its connection. Two different shapes would create two files and therefore break the rule of a part number equals file name. The 3D CAD vendors “solved” this issue by storing configurable views of the same part inside one file and allow the user to select the active view.

Later we will see that management of views inside the 3D CAD model is not a wrong choice. This, contrary to managing different configurations of a part/product inside a single file, which creates complexity in the PLM domain.

In the end, the product became an assembly with several levels of subassemblies. At that time, when I worked a lot with CAD-integrations, the average depth of 3D CAD-structures was 6 to 7 levels deep, with exceptions in both directions.

The entire product CAD-structure is mainly used for a final digital mock-up, to allow engineers to analyze the full product behavior.  One of my favorite YouTube movies is the one from Airbus – seven years ago, they described the power of a full digital mock-up used for the A380.

In ETO-processes, the 3D CAD-structure is unique for a given customer solution – like the A380.

In the case of large assemblies with a lot of parts and subassemblies,  there were situations where the full product could not be resolved anymore. For Airbus a must, for the mid-market not always easy to reach.  Graphics memory, combined with the way graphics were represented, are the major constraint. This performance issue is resolved in the gaming world, however then the 3D representation had no longer the required accuracy or definition.

The Version pop-up problem

Working with a 3D CAD structure created a new problem when designers were sharing parts and assemblies between themselves and suppliers. The central storage of the files required a versioning mechanism, supported by a check-in and check-out mechanism.

Depending on the type of 3D CAD integration, the PDM system generated a new minor revision of the file after check-in again. In this way, there was full traceability of the changes before release. The image below shows an example of how SmarTeam was dealing with minor and major revisions combined with lifecycle stages.

When revising a part, all assemblies that contained the changed part need to be updated too, in case you want to have traceability and preventing others from overwriting your version. Making sure this assembly file points to the right file again. In the cases of a 6-level deep CAD-structure, this has led to a lot of methodology problems on how to deal (or not to deal) with file changes.

In the case of a unique delivery for a customer, the ETO-process, the issue might not be so big. As everything in the 3D CAD-structure is work in progress, you only need to be sure during the release process of the 3D CAD-structure that all parts and assemblies are resolved to the latest version (and verified)

Making changes on an existing product is way more complicated, as assemblies are released, and parts exist in production.  In that case, the Bill of Material is the leading structure to control the versions and the change impact, as we will see.

Note: Most CAD- and PLM-vendors loved to show you their demos, where starting from the CAD-structure, a product gets created (the ETO-process). The reality is that most companies do not start from the CAD-structure, but from an existing Bill of Material. In 2010, I wrote a few posts, discussing the relation between CAD and the BOM:

to explain there is more than a CAD-driven scenario.

The EBOM

In most PDM-systems with CAD-integrations, it is possible to create a Bill of Materials from the 3D CAD-structure. The Bill of Materials will be based on the parts inside the 3D CAD-structure. There is often the option to filter out phantom assemblies.

The structures are not the same. The 3D CAD-structure is instance-based, where the extracted Bill of Materials will summarize the part quantities on the same level.  See the image below. There are four Wheel instances in the CAD structure, in the EBOM-structure, we have only one Wheel reference with quantity 4.

I named the structure on the right the EBOM as the structure represents the Bill of Materials from the engineering point of view. This definition is a little arbitrary, as we will see. In companies that started to develop products based on a conceptual BOM, often, this conceptual BOM was an “early” EBOM that had to be developed further. This EBOM was more representing a logical or modular structure driving the design, instead of an extract from the 3D CAD-structure. In the next post, I will zoom in on these differences. I want to conclude this time with a critical methodology needed to manage the 3D CAD structure changes in relation to an EBOM.

Breaking the rule Drawing ID (Model ID)  = Part ID

Although I have been writing mostly about the 3D CAD structure, I want to remind us that the 3D Model in the mid-market is mainly used for design purposes. The primary delivery for manufacturing or a supplier is still a 2D-drawing for most companies. The 3D Model might be “nice to have” for CAM- or quality usage. Still, in case of a dispute, the 2D Drawing will be leading.

For that reason, in many mid-market companies, there was the following relation below:

In an environment without file versioning through check-in/check-out, this relation was easy to maintain. In the electronic world, every change in the 3D Model (which could be an assembly) triggers a new file version and, therefore, most of the time, a new version of the drawing and the physical part. However, you do not want to have a physical part with many revisions, in particular when this part could be again part of a Bill of Material.

To solve this issue, the Physical Part and the related Drawing/Model should have different lifecycles. The relation between the Physical Part and the Drawing Model should no longer be based on numbers but on a relation in the PDM/PLM-system. One of the main characteristics of a PDM/PLM-system is that it allows users to navigate through relations to find information in context.  For example, solving a Where Used – question is a (few) mouse-click(s) in a PDM/PLM-system.

Click on the image to see the details.

Breaking this one-to-one numbering rule is a must if you want to evolve to an item-centric or data-driven PLM-environment. When to introduce this change and how to implement this new behavior is a methodology exercise, not an implementation of a new tool.

There is a lot to read about this topic as it is related to the Form-Fit-Function-discussion we had earlier this year. A collection of information can be found in these two LinkedIn-post, where the comments are providing the insights:

 

I will not dive deeper into this theme (reached 1700 words ☹) – next time I will zoom in on the EBOM and leave the world of 3D CAD behind (for a while)

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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 last post, My four picks from PLMIF,  I ended with the remark that the discussion related to the Multiview BOM concept was not complete. The session presented by James Roche focused on the Aerospace & defense domain and touched the surface. There is a lot of confusion related to best practices associated with BOM-handling. Sometimes created to promote unique vendor capabilities or to hide system complexity.

Besides, we need to consider the past as, in particular, for PLM, the burden of legacy processes and data is significant. Some practices even come from the previous, paper-based century, later mixed with behavior from 3D CAD-systems.

Therefore, to understand the future, I will take you through the past to understand why certain practices were established. Next, in a few upcoming posts, I want to explain the evolution of BOM-practices. How each new technology step introduced new capabilities that enabled companies to improve their product delivery process.

I will describe the drawing approach (for PLM – the past), the item-centric approach (for PLM – the current), and the model-driven approach(for PLM – the future). How big this sequence will become is not clear at this stage.

Whenever I come close to 1200 – 1500 words, I will stop and conclude. Based on my To-do list and your remarks, I will continue in a follow-up post.  The target will be to have a vendor-neutral collection of information to help you identify your business and the next possible steps.

Working with drawings

MRP/ERP – the first IT-system

For this approach, I go back fifty years in time, when companies were starting to work with their first significant IT-system, the MRP-system. MRP stands for Material Requirements Planning. This system became the heart of the company, scheduling the production. The extension to ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) quickly after, made it possible to schedule other resources and, essential for the management, to report financials. Now execution could be monitored by generating all kinds of reports.

Still, the MRP/ERP-system was wholly disconnected from the engineering world as the image shows below. Let us have a look at how this worked at that time.

The concept

Products have never been designed from scratch by jumping to drawings. In the concept phase, a product was analyzed, mainly on its mechanical behavior. Was there anything else at that time? Many companies thank their existence from a launching product which someone, most of the time, the founder of the company, invented in a workshop. The company than improved and enriched this product by starting from the core product, creating enhancements in various areas of applicability.

These new ideas were shared through sketches and prototypes.

The design

The detail design of a product is delivered by a technical documentation set, often a package of manufacturing drawings containing a list of parts on the drawing, assembly with instructions. Balloon numbers are used to indicate parts in an assembly or section view.  In addition, there are the related fabrication drawings. The challenge for this approach is that all definitions must be there uniquely and complete to avoid ambiguity, which could lead to manufacturing errors.

The parts list contains make-parts, supplier parts, and standard parts. The make-parts are specified again by manufacturing drawings, identified by a number that uniquely identifies the correct drawing version. A habit here: Part number = Drawing Number (+ revision)

As the part is identified by a drawing the part most of the time got an “intelligent” part number and a revision. Intelligent to support easy recognition and revisions as at the end we do not want to generate a new part number when there is an evolution of the part. Read more about this in What the FFF is happening and “Intelligent” part numbers?

The standardized parts can be either company standard parts or external standard parts. There is a difference between them.

A company standard part could be a certain bracket, a frame. Anything that the company decided to standardize on for its own products Company standard parts are treated like make parts; they have an identifier related to their manufacturing drawings.  Again, here the habit: Part Number = Drawing Number (+ revision)

The supplier part is coming from a supplier that manufactures this part based on the supplier or market specifications. You can specify this part by using the supplier’s catalog number or refer to the standard.

For example, the part that has been specified under a certain ISO/ANSI/DIN-standard. For example, a stainless-steel bolt M8 x 1,25 x 20, meaning a metric bolt with a head diameter of 8 mm, a speed of 1,25 mm, and a length of 20 mm. You specify the standard part according to the standard. Purchasing will decide where to buy this part

Manufacturing Preparation

This is the most inefficient stage when working in a traditional drawing approach. At this stage, the information provided in drawings needs to be entered into the MRP/ERP-system to start production. This is the place where information is thrown over the wall as some might say.

This means a person needs to create process steps in the ERP-system based on the drawing information. For each manufacturing step, there needs to be a reference to the right drawing. Most ERP-systems have a placeholder where you can type the drawing number(s). Later, when companies were using CAD, there could be a reference to a file.

The part number in the ERP-system might be the same as the drawing number; however, the ERP-system requires unique numbers. In the beginning, ERP-systems were the number-generator for new parts. The unique number was often 6 to 7 digits in size, because it fits in our human short-term memory.

The parts list on the drawings had to be entered in the ERP-system too. A manual operation that often required additional research from the manufacturing engineer. As the designer might have specified the SS Bolt M8 x 1,25 x 20 as such, manufacturing preparation has to search in the ERP-system for the company’s part number.

Suppliers have to be sourced for outside manufactured make-parts. In case you do not want to depend on a single supplier, you have to send drawings and specifications to the supplier before the product is released. The supplier will receive a drawing number with revision and status warning.

If everything worked well the first time, there would be no iterations between engineering and manufacturing preparation. However, this is a utopia: prototype changes, potential manufacturing issues will require changes in the drawings. These changes require updates in the drawings, which will lead to new versions. How do you keep consistency between all identifiers?

Manufacturing

During manufacturing, orders are processed based on information from the ERP-system. The shop floor gets the drawing provided to the link in ERP. Sometimes there are issues during manufacturing. In coordination with engineering, some adaptations will be made to the manufacturing process. e.g., a changed fit or tolerance. Instead of going back to engineering to provide a new documentation set, the relevant drawings are redlined. Engineering will update these drawings whenever they touch them in the future (yeah, yeah).

Configuration Management

But will they update them? Perhaps already a new version existed due to the product’s evolution. Everything needs to be coordinated manually. Smaller companies heavily rely on people knowing things and talking together.

Larger companies cannot work in the same manner; therefore, they introduce procedures to guarantee that the information flow is consistent and accurate. Here the practices from configuration management come in.

There are many flavors of configuration management. Formal CM was first used in the 1950s to control the technical documentation for complex space and weapons systems. (Source ESA CM initiative for SME’s – © 2000) We will see it come back in future posts dealing with more complex products and the usage of computer systems.

Last year I wrote a few times about PLM and configuration management (PLM and CM – a happy marriage?) not relevant at this moment as there is no PLM yet.

Where is the BOM

As you might have noticed, there was no mentioning of a BOM so far. At this stage, there is only one Bill of Materials managed in the ERP-system. The source from the BOM comes from the various parts lists on the drawings, completed with manual additions.

Nobody talks in this stage about an EBOM or MBOM as there is only one BOM, a kind of hybrid BOM, where manufacturing steps were driving the way parts are grouped. Because the information was processed step by step, why would you like to have a multilevel BOM or a BOM tree?
Note: The image on the left was one of my first images in 2008 when I started my blog.

Summary

Working with drawings introduced “intelligent” part numbers as the documents have to be identified by manual interpretations. The intelligence of the part number was there to prevent people from making mistakes as the number already was a kind of functional identifier. Combined with a revision and versioning in the number, nothing could go wrong if handled consistently.

The disadvantage was that new employees had to master a numbering system. Next, the risk for all employees that a released drawing will not change its status. Only manual actions (retract/replace) will avoid making mistakes. And then, there are the disconnected redline drawings.

The “drawing number equals part number”  relation created a constraint that will be hard to maintain in the future.  Therefore you should worry if you still work according the above principles.

Conclusion

I reached the 1500 words – a long story – probably far from complete. I encourage readers to provide enhancements that might be relevant in the comments. This post might look like a post for dummies. However, to understand what is applicable to the future, we first need to understand why certain practices have been defined in the past.
I am looking forward to your comments and enhancements to make this a relevant stream of public information for all.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the PLM Innovation Forum, a virtual conference organized by TECHNIA, where I described some of my experiences with the event and the different ways of interaction in a virtual conference.

The content remains available till May 31st, so I had time to stroll through the rich content offered. In particular, if you are already familiar with the Dassault Systèmes & TECHNIA offerings, the content is extremely rich.

From the “auditorium“, I selected four presentations that have a logical relation to each other. I believe they will help you understand some of the aspects of PLM independent of the PLM vendor. Let’s start.

Value-Driven Implementation

In this session, Johannes Storvik, you can identify three parts. In the first part, Johannes talks about how to select the best PLM-approach, discussing the various options from custom, standardized, or even fully Out-Of-The-Box, comparing these options with building types. An interesting comparison, however, there is a risk with this approach.

Many companies are now stating they only need a collection of Commercial of the Shelf (COTS) systems and prefer only OOTB. The challenge with this approach is that you start from the tools, constraining the business from the start.

I would state start from your business goals, and ultimately they will lead to requirements for the tools. And then, if available, you find solutions that require no or minor adaptation. Starting from the business is crucial, and Johannes elaborates more on that.

The second part discussing PLM benefits, and if you are looking for confirmation PLM brings value, have a look at the topics, areas, and numbers mentioned. Most benefits and areas are quite traditional, related to a coordinated organization (if you follow my coordinated to connected typology).

The last part, connecting the dots from business to enablers, a Benefits Dependency Network, is a methodology that I recommend. Originally developed by Cranfield School of Management, it allows you to connect your PLM-needs to the company’s business needs and strategies. You can read more about this methodology in this HBR article: A tool to map your next digital initiative.

Benefits Dependency Network: note the potential storyline you can build

My experience from this methodology is that it allows you to extract one, two perhaps three storylines. These storylines then help you to explain why the PLM enablers are needed connecting to a business case into one understandable storyline, suitable for all levels in the company

With Johannes, we went from PLM-characteristics towards connecting PLM to the business and exec management, making PLM implicit visible at the management level. Now the next step.

Industrialization of the Construction Industry

The theme of this session might be misleading. Arto Tolonen, from the LETHO group, has a long history in PLM as a practitioner and at the University of Oulu, where he specialized in Product Data Management and Product Portfolio Management.

The last part of his presentation is dealing with transformational thinking for the construction industry from a one-off construction towards thinking in repeatable processes, using PLM practices. With his dry humor, he asks:
“Why are all buildings prototypes ?” and more.

For many years, I have been preaching PLM practices to be valuable for other industries too. See this 2013 post: PLM for all industries?  The most common challenge was to respond to the question:  “What does your tool do?”   PLM practices only become valuable if you think in repeatable processes.

The exciting part is when Arto talks about the disconnect between the exec level in an organization and reality in the field. Understanding how products are performing, and how each product contributes to the profit of the company, is usually blurred with subjective information. Your company’s love baby might be the worst performer but never dropped from the product portfolio for sentimental reasons.

Arto explains the importance of (digital) portfolio management, connecting the economic data with the technical data. And by doing so, use portfolio management to drive the development of new offerings based on market needs and numbers. Or to decommission products.

I am fully aligned with Arto and believe that a digital transformation should include a connected product portfolio management environment, driving new development projects. Product Portfolio management is not the same as BOM-management.

The portfolio items are facing the outside world, your customers. How the products are built, is defined in the inside world of BOMs and design data.

Now combining product portfolio management with product management makes a lot of more sense if you are going to use it to support the modularization of your products. Based on solution platforms, you can design your products to become modular, leading to a lot of business benefits.

With Arto, we discovered the need to have digital portfolio management connecting business performance and product development. Another implicit reason for PLM to your business explained with humor. Now the next step.

Modularization

Closely related to product portfolio management is the topic of modularization.  If you want to optimize your offering with a great variety of choices for your customers, without spending more time to develop an individual solution, you need to implement modularization for your products.

Daniel Strandhammar van Brick Strategy explains this topic in his session. So many companies I am working with a claim that they want to move from and ETO (Engineering To Order) model to a CTO (Configure To Order) model. Unfortunately, many of them keep on talking about that without making steps towards more configurable products.

Although in many PLM-infrastructures, the capabilities exist to support the modularity of a product portfolio, it requires thinking and analysis outside the tools. The tools are there to support the modularization. Still, it depends on your engineering teams to transform the company’s portfolio step by step into a more modular product.  Brick Strategy is typical such a company that can help you and coach you in a modularization process.

If you look at the benefits Daniel is mentioning related to modularization, these benefits are significant. However, as Daniel also explains per type of business, the effects of modularization might be different, still in every situation worth to invest.

It is interesting to know that many of the modularization methodologies come from Scandinavian countries. Perhaps a region, with companies like Scania (master of modularization), IKEA and others leading the ways towards modularization. Is it a surprise that LEGO is also a Scandinavian company?

Daniel continues by explaining how a roadmap for modularization could look like. If you are struggling with that point, have a look at the video. It is a crucial part of the story.

Note: There is also a presentation from Anders Malmberg fro Scania talking about their Starling project. Not particularly related to modularization, more related to how to organize significant PLM transformations.

With Daniel’s presentation, we see the relation between a product portfolio and modularization. Another implicit reason for PLM to improve your business explained. Now let’s do it.

 

Making Multi-view BOM a reality

My ultimate dream was that James Roche from CIMdata would complete the storyline. We went from business initiatives through product portfolio management and modularization through a flow of organizational topics to enhance your business outcome using PLM.

With James, I was hoping we now would get the final necessary part, the need for a multi-view BOM, and how to establish this. As I mentioned before with modularization, many companies started with a kind of ETO-approach to deliver solutions for their customers. The downside of this approach is that, when designing a product, the manufacturing process was already leading the way the BOM will be structured. Many of the companies that I work with are in this situation. There is no clear EBOM and MBOM, the situation is a kind of hybrid BOM, blocking modularity and multi-plant manufacturing.

James’s presentation unfortunate started with a 10 min technical delay, and then the next part is crucial to understand. He explains nicely what it means to have a “hybrid” single BOM and more to a multi-view EBOM/MBOM. James addressed this topic, both using an example looking at it from a technological and organizational view.

As James is the CIMdata Practice Director for Aerospace & Defense, this was the industry in focus and even example provided above is not necessarily the best solution for every A&D company. Organizational change and managing risks are crucial in such a transition, and that is where James spent even more time. It would be great, and I consider it one of my next blog options, to discuss and share best practices for other types of industries. Is there always a need for a multi-view BOM and are they all the same?

With James we concluded the PLM value story, making it my fourth pick of the PLMIF conference, giving you an end-to-end storyline why PLM is important and how it is connected to your business results.

 

Conclusion

The four presentations that I highlighted here show a storyline that is crucial to understand and pitch when you talk about the business value of PLM. It is not about technical features and functions. It is part of a business strategy, building the right portfolio, manage it in a modular manner, and use multiple BOM views to optimize the delivery of your products.

 

Note: two more weeks to see the full presentations of PLMIF – go and have a look in case you haven’t done so: http://www.plmif.org

 

 

 

I usually write a post after participating in a PLM conference. Last week, I participated in TECHNIA’s PLM Innovation Forum, which was a 100 % virtual event with over 1500 registered participants from 58 countries. These numbers show the power of a virtual conference during these difficult times. It is an excellent option for a sustainable future – less travel to be there.

The additional beauty of this event is that, although the live sessions are over, all the content will be available until May 31st. You can still join!

It was (and is) a well-organized and massive event with over 70 sessions; the majority pre-recorded. As you can imagine 70 live sessions in two days would be too massive to grasp. Today the Friday after the event, I have been watching other sessions that have my interest, and it felt like another conference day.

TECHNIA, globally the largest Dassault Systèmes (DS)  implementer after DS themselves as Jonas Geyer, Technia’s CEO,  mentioned in his introduction speech, illustrated the breadth of their industry and technology skills complementary or based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

TECHNIA was supported by Dassault Systèmes Execs and subject experts. In addition, a larger group of companies and interest groups supported the conference, even our humble PLM Green Alliance as you can see in the image above.

I followed the full two live days in real-time, meanwhile man sitting in my virtual booth to chat with virtual visitors. To my surprise, the anxiety during the conference felt like a physical conference – you get energized.

The positive point for me,  no finger food or a standing lunch and decent coffee when needed. The point to enhance and learn for this type of event, is to make the booth a little more human – perhaps supported by video?

At the end,  a great event, and if you are interested in the Dassault Systèmes/TECHNIA combined offering, supported by customer stories, take the chance till the end of May to register and browse the rich content.

 

Now I will share some of my picks from the live event. Another post will come based on my additional discoveries and networking discussions.

 

 

The B.CONNECT project

Fabien Hoefer and Philip Haller both from B.Braun, a medical device, and pharmaceutical company, with a wide range of products.  Their massive PLM-project, approx. sixty persons involved was driven by the fact that every product has a lot of related data stored in different silos that it becomes impossible to have the correct understanding and status and to maintain it for the product and service lifecycle, on average, 10 – 15 years.

Their target is a real PLM-platform implementation connecting the people, the processes, data, and systems. Their aim is really about the “connected” approach, a characteristic of a digital company.

As you can still watch the presentation, look at the following topics discussed:

  • focus on product archetypes instead of division (portfolio management)
  • data templates based on classification, global and specific data sets (data governance)
  • the need to have a Master Data Management in place (data governance)
  • the unique product identifier (remember the FFF-discussion in my blog)
  • data-driven documentation (a perfect example of a digital PLM implementation)
  • platform strategy (one application for one capability in a heterogeneous systems environment)
  • Ownership of the PLM implementation at board level (it is not an engineering tool)
  • in the Q&A – the mix of waterfall & agile – the hybrid approach (as in the medical world the validation of the system is required – a point we missed in the SmarTeam FDA toolkit – validation of a system is needed when the system/processes change)

In the Q&A session, it was clear that the big elephant in the room, the migration, has been identified, but no answers yet. See my presentation to understand the reference to the elephant.  I am curious about B. Braun’s approach, given my experience with PLM digital transformations. Will it be entirely digital or hybrid.

Looking forward to learning more from Fabien or Philip.

Business drivers for Sustainable Manufacturing

This session, presented by Hannes Lindfred from TECHNIA, was one of my favorite presentations,  as it links tightly to what we want to achieve with the PLM Green Alliance.

The subtitle of the presentation says it all: “How PLM can support Supply chain transparency, Circular economy, and System oriented product development”.

In a relaxed and entertaining manner, he explained the concepts and the needs of a circular economy, combined with examples from reality. In particular, I liked his closing statement linking the potential of digitization, modern PLM, and the circular economy. We have to learn to think and act circular. Highly recommended to watch!

Leading PLM Trends & Potential Disruptors

A PLM conference would not be a PLM-conference if Peter Bilello from CIMdata would not be speaking. We share a lot of insights related to digital transformation and the understanding it requires the involvement of PLM. However, it is not the traditional PLM that is needed.

PLM needs to be rethought, think about the concept of a Product Innovation Platform. A digital platform is required if we want end-to-end digitalization; otherwise, we keep working in optimized silos.

Peter shared some survey results (see below) from early this year. It illustrates that most companies currently invest in traditional PDM aspects. Restating the need for our PLM communities to learn and educate and rethink aspects of PLM and learn to communicate them.

Remarkably similar to some of the aspects I explained in my: From Coordinated to Connected presentations. Changing to data, changing workforce, changing processes meaning systems thinking. Another plea for everyone to invest in learning. See his concluding remarks:

The closing Q&A session was interesting, addressing additive manufacturing, the graph database, and potential PLM disruptors coming from outside the traditional PLM space.

I recommend, pay attention to the closing questions – so many good points to put PLM in perspective.

From Coordinated to Connected & Sustainable

Of course, I recommend you watch my presentation. It is one of the few opportunities to hear in a short time all the thoughts and concepts that I developed over the past 5 – 6 years. It saves you reading all my blog posts, which are less structured than this presentation.

I recommend you to watch this presentation in the context of Peter Bilello’s presentation as there are a lot of similarities, told in different words.

After my presentation, I appreciated the Q&A part, as it allowed me to point to some more of the related topics: Legacy CAD-issues – the incompatibility of the past and future data, Management vision and the Perception of ROI.

 

Professional PLM
Raise your standards and your horizons

An interesting presentation to watch, after seeing Peter Bilello’s presentation and my presentation,  is the one given by Roger Tempest. Roger is another veteran in the PLM-world and co-founder of the PLM Interest group. For many years Roger is striving to get the PLM professional recognized and certified. We both share the experience that being a PLM consultant is not a profession to become wealthy.

One of the reasons might be that the scope of PLM and what is the required skill level is not precise. PLM considered as an engineering tool and PLM having so many diverse definitions.

The challenge of Roger’s approach is that it tries to capture people within a standardized PLM framework, which becomes apparent in the Q&A session. Currently, he is in the stage of building a steering group, “looking for companies that are fairly committed to PLM”. So which companies are the ones interested in PLM to commit time and resources to build a professional PLM body? This can be only academic people and PLM Vendors/Implementers. The last group will probably not likely agree on standardization.

Also related to the question about the different industries and maturity levels for companies came with an unsatisfactory answer. He talks about “absolute” PLM and no need to compare PLM with other industries. Here I believe there is such a fundamental difference in the meaning of PLM when talking to the traditional manufacturing companies as compared to high-tech/software-driven industries. I inserted here Marc Halpern’s maturity/technology diagram that I have been referencing in my presentation too.

The final question about vendors joining the PLM standardization group seems to be a utopia. As I expressed in my presentation, referring to Marc Halpern’s business maturity diagram, the vendors show us the vision of various business aspects related to PLM.

Marc already indicated this is the phase of the Product Innovation Platform.

As long as the professional PLM organization is focusing on defining the standard, I foresee the outside world will move faster and be more diverse than a single PLM expert can handle. A typical issue with many other standards as you can see below.

What’s Next

I hope to see and participate more in virtual PLM conferences as it allows much larger audiences to connect compared to traditional conferences. However, there are things to improve, and therefore I want to propose some enhancements:

Make sure during the “live” sessions, there is the experience of “being live and connected”. Even when streaming a pre-recorded lecture, always follow-up immediately with a live Q&A session. I found the Q&A sessions very educative as they clarify or put the presentation in a broader context.

The current virtual booth as only a chat room is too primitive – it reminded me of the early days of internet communication – discussion groups in ASCII-terminal mode through Compuserve (remember). A booth could become a virtual meeting space on its own – all, of course, depending on the amount of bandwidth available. The feeling of “The Doctor is in”

It is great that the content is available for 30 days, and I agree there is a need for a time limit on the content; otherwise, the conference becomes more a library. What I would like to see after the “live” days to still have a kind of place for sharing. What are your favorite presentations, and why should others look at it?

 

Conclusion

A great event and learning experience for me. Virtual conferences are the future for sure, and I encourage others to develop this type of conferences related to PLM further. It is a way to share knowledge and discuss topics in a sustainable manner. In the upcoming 30 days, I will come back to the conference one more time, based on interesting topics discovered or discussion related to the content. 

Meanwhile, I encourage you too – if you are still in lockdown and if there is time to study – this is one of these unique opportunities.

 

Life goes on, and I hope you are all staying safe while thinking about the future. Interesting in the context of the future, there was a recent post from Lionel Grealou with the title: Towards PLM 4.0: Hyperconnected Asset Performance Management Framework.

Lionel gave a kind of evolutionary path for PLM. The path from PLM 1.0 (PDM) ending in a PLM 4.0 definition.  Read the article or click on the image to see an enlarged version to understand the logical order. Interesting to mention that PLM 4.0 is the end target, for sure there is a wishful mind-mapping with Industry 4.0.

When seeing this diagram, it reminded me of Marc Halpern’s diagram that he presented during the PDT 2015 conference. Without much fantasy, you can map your company to one of the given stages and understand what the logical next step would be. To map Lionel’s model with Marc’s model, I would state PLM 4.0 aligns with Marc’s column Collaborating.

In the discussion related to Lionel’s post, I stated two points. First, an observation that most of the companies that I know remain in PLM 1.0 or 2.0, or in Marc’s diagram, they are still trying to reach the level of Integrating.

Why is it so difficult to move to the next stage?

Oleg Shilovitsky, in a reaction to Lionel’s post, confirmed this. In Why did manufacturing stuck in PLM 1.0 and PLM 2.0? Oleg points to several integration challenges, functional and technical. His take is that new technologies might be the answer to move to PLM 3.0, as you can read from his conclusion.

What is my conclusion?

There are many promising technologies, but integration is remaining the biggest problem for manufacturing companies in adopting PLM 3.0. The companies are struggling to expand upstream and downstream. Existing vendors are careful about the changes. At the same time, very few alternatives can be seen around. Cloud structure, new data management, and cloud infrastructure can simplify many integration challenges and unlock PLM 3.0 for future business upstream and especially downstream. Just my thoughts…

Completely disconnected from Lionel’s post,  Angad Sorte from Plural Nordic AS wrote a LinkedIn post: Why PLM does not get attention from your CEO. Click on the image to see an enlarged version, that also neatly aligns with Industry 4.0. Coincidence, or do great minds think alike? Phil Collins would sing: It is in the air tonight

Angad’s post is about the historical framing of PLM as a system, an engineering tool versus a business strategy. Angrad believes once you have a clear definition, it will be easier to explain the next steps for the business. The challenge here is: Do we need, or do we have a clear definition of PLM? It is a topic that I do not want to discuss anymore due to a variety of opinions and interpretations.  An exact definition will never lead to a CEO stating, “Now I know why we need PLM.”

I believe there are enough business proof points WHY companies require a PLM-infrastructure as part of a profitable business. Depending on the organization, it might be just a collection of tools, and people do the work. Perhaps this is the practice in small enterprises?

In larger enterprises, the go-to-market strategy, the information needs, and related processes will drive the justification for PLM. But always in the context of a business transformation. Strategic consultancy firms are excellent in providing strategic roadmaps for their customers, indicating the need for a PLM-infrastructure as part of that.

Most of the time, they do not dive more in-depth as when it comes to implementation, other resources are needed.

What needs to be done in PLM 1.0 to 4.0 per level/stage is well described in all the diagrams on a high-level. The WHAT-domain is the domain of the PLM-vendors and implementers. They know what their tools and skillsets can do, and they will help the customer to implement such an environment.

The big illusion of all the evolutionary diagrams is that it gives a false impression of evolution.  Moving to the next level is not just switching on new or more technology and involve more people.

So the big question is HOW and WHEN to make progress.

HOW to make progress

In the past four years, I have learned that digital transformation in the domain of PLM is NOT an evolution. It is disruptive as the whole foundation for PLM changes. If you zoom in on the picture on the left, you will see the data model on the left, and the data model on the right is entirely different.

On the left side of the chasm, we have a coordinated environment based on data-structures (items, folders, tasks) to link documents.

On the right side of the chasm, we have a connected environment based on federated data elements and models (3D, Logical, and Simulation models).

I have been discussing this topic in the past two years at various PLM conferences and a year ago in my blog: The Challenges of a connected ecosystem for PLM

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, register for the upcoming virtual PLM Innovation Forum organized by TECHNIA. Registration is for free, and you will be able to watch the presentation, either live or recorded for 30 days.

At this moment, the detailed agenda has not been published, and I will update the link once the session is visible.  My presentation will not only focus on the HOW to execute a digital transformation, including PLM can be done, but also explain why NOW is the moment.

NOW to make progress

When the COVID19-related lockdown started, must of us thought that after the lockdown, we will be back in business as soon as possible. Now understanding the impact of the virus on our society, it is clear that we need to re-invent ourselves for a sustainable future, be more resilient.

It is now time to act and think differently as due to the lockdown, most of us have time to think.  Are you and your company looking forward to creating a better future? Or will you and your company try to do the same non-sustainable rat race of the past and being caught by the next crises.

McKinsey has been publishing several articles related to the impact of COVID19 and the article: Beyond coronavirus: The path to the next normal very insightful

As McKinsey never talks about PLM, therefore I want to guide you to think about more sustainable business.

Use a modern PLM-infrastructure, practices, and tools to remain competitive, meanwhile creating new or additional business models. Realizing concepts as digital twins, AR/VR-based business models require an internal transition in your company, the jump from coordinated to connected. Therefore, start investigating, experimenting in these new ways of working, and learn fast. This is why we created the PLM Green Alliance as a platform to share and discuss.

If you believe there is no need to be fast, I recommend you watch Rebecka Carlsson’s presentation at the PLMIF event. The title of her presentation: Exponential Tech in Sustainability. Rebecca will share insights for business development about how companies can upgrade to new business models based on the new opportunities that come with sustainability and exponential tech.

The reason I recommend her presentation because she addresses the aspect of exponential thinking nicely. Rebecka states we are “programmed” to think local-linear as mankind. Exponential thinking goes beyond our experience. Something we are not used doing until with the COVID19-virus we discovered exponential growth of the number of infections.

Finally, and this I read this morning, Jan Bosch wrote an interesting post: Why Agile Matters, talking about the fact that during the design and delivery of the product to the market, the environment and therefore the requirements might change. Read his post, unless as Jan states:

Concluding, if you’re able to perfectly predict the optimal set of requirements for a system or product years ahead of the start of production or deployment and if you’re able to accurately predict the effect of each requirement on the user, the customer and the quality attributes of the system, then you don’t need Agile.

What I like about Jan’s post is the fact that we should anticipate changing requirements. This statement combined with Rebecka’s call for being ready for exponential change, with an emerging need for sustainability, might help you discuss in your company how a modern New Product Introduction process might look like, including requirements for a sustainable future that might come in later (per current situation) or can become a practice for the future

Conclusion

Now is the disruptive moment to break with the old ways of working.  Develop plans for the new Beyond-COVID19-society.  Force yourselves to work in more sustainable modes (digital/virtual), develop sustainable products or services (a circular economy), and keep on learning. Perhaps we will meet virtually during the upcoming PLM Innovation Forum?

Note: You have reached the end of this post, which means you took the time to read it all. Now if you LIKE or DISLIKE the content, share it in a comment. Digital communication is the future. Just chasing for Likes is a skin-deep society. We need arguments.
Looking forward to your feedback.

Meanwhile, two weeks of a partial lockdown have passed here in the Netherlands, and we have at least another 3 weeks to go according to the Dutch government. The good thing in our country, decisions, and measures are made based on the advice of experts as we cannot rely on politicians as experts.

I realize that despite the discomfort for me, for many other people in other countries, it is a tragedy. My mental support to all of you, wherever you are.

So what has happened since Time to Think (and act differently)?

All Hands On Deck

In the past two weeks, it has become clear that a global pandemic as this one requires an “All Hands On Deck” mentality to support the need for medical supplies and in particular respiration devices, so-called ventilators. Devices needed to save the lives of profoundly affected people. I have great respect for the “hands” that are doing the work in infectious environments.

Due to time pressure, innovative thinking is required to reach quick results in many countries. Companies and governmental organizations have created consortia to address the urgent need for ventilators. You will not see so much PR from these consortia as they are too busy doing the real work.

Still, you see from many of the commercial participants their marketing messages, why, and how they contribute to these activities.

One of the most promoted capabilities is PLM collaboration on the cloud as there is a need for real-time collaboration between people that are under lockdown. They have no time setting-up environments and learning new tools to use for collaboration.

For me, these are grand experiments, can a group of almost untrained people corporate fast in a new environment.

For sure, offering free cloud software, PLM, online CAD or 3D Printing, seems like a positive and compassionate gesture from these vendors. However, this is precisely the wrong perception in our PLM-world – the difficulty with PLM does not lie necessary in the tools.

 

It is about learning to collaborate outside your silo.

Instead of “wait till I am done” it should become “this is what I have so far – use it for your progress”. This is a behavior change.

Do we have time for behavioral changes at this moment? Time will tell if the myth will become a reality so fast.

A lot of thinking

The past two weeks were weeks of thinking and talking a lot with PLM-interested persons along the globe using virtual meetings.

As long as the lockdowns will be there I keep on offering free of charge PLM coaching for individuals who want to understand the future of PLM.

Through all these calls, I really became THE VirtualDutchman in many of these meetings (thanks Jagan for the awareness).

I realized that there is a lot of value in virtual meetings, in particular with the video option on. Although I believe video works well when you had met before as most of my current meetings were with people, I have met before face-to-face. Hence, you know each other facial expressions already.

I am a big fan of face-to-face meetings as I learned in the past 20 years that despite all the technology and methodology issues, the human factor is essential. We are not rational people; we live and decide by emotions.

Still, I conclude that in the future, I could do with less travel, as I see the benefits from current virtual meetings.

Less face-to-face meetings will help me to work on a more sustainable future as I am aware of the impact flying has on the environment. Also, talking with other people, there is the notion that after the lockdowns, virtual conferencing might become more and more a best practice. Good for the climate, the environment, and time savings – bad for traditional industries like aircraft carriers, taxis, and hotels. I will not say 100 % goodbye but reduce.

A Virtual PLM conference!

I was extremely excited to participate in the upcoming PLM Innovation Forum (PLMIF) starting on April 28th, organized by TECHNIA. I have been visiting the event in the past a few times in Stockholm. It was a great place to meet many of the people from my network.

This time I am even more excited as the upcoming PLMIF will be a VIRTUAL conference with all the aspects of a real conference – read more about the conference here.

There will be an auditorium where lectures will be given, there are virtual booths, and it will be a place to network virtually. In my next post, I hope to zoom in on the conference.

Sustainability, a circular economy, and modern PLM should go together. Since 2014, these topics have been on the agenda of the joint CIMdata Roadmap/PDT conferences. Speakers like Amir Rashid KTH Sweden, Ken Webster Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and many others have been talking about the circular economy.

The Scandinavian mindset for an inclusive society for people and the environment for sure, has influenced the agenda. The links above lead to some better understanding of what is meant by a circular economy and a sustainable future, as also the short YouTube movie below:

The circular economy is crucial for a sustainable future. Therefore, I am looking forward to participating in the upcoming PLM Innovation Forum on April 28th, where it will be all about digitalization for sustainable product development and manufacturing. Hopefully, with the right balance towards the WHY-side of our brain, not so much about WHAT.

You are welcomed to register for free here: the virtual PLM Innovation Forum – we might meet there (virtually).

The PLM Green Alliance

The PLM Green Alliance had been announced some months ago, started by Rich McFall and supported by  Bjorn Fidjeland,  Oleg Shilovitsky, and me.

It was the first step to proactively bringing people together to discuss topics like reducing our carbon footprint, sharing and brainstorming about innovations that will lead to a sustainable future for ourselves and our children, grand-grand-children. The idea behind the PLM Green Alliance is that a proactive approach is much cheaper in the long term as we can still evaluate and discuss options.

This brings me back to the All hands On Deck approach we currently use for fighting the COVID-19 virus.

In a crisis mode, the damage to the people and the economy is severe. Besides, in a crisis mode, a lot of errors will be made, but don’t blame or joke about these people that are trying. Without failure, there is no learning.

We are in a potential time of disruption as the image shows below, but we do not have the complete answers for the future

Think about how you could pro-actively work on a sustainable future for all of us. This will be my personal target, combined with explaining and coaching companies related to topics of modern PLM, during the current lockdown and hopefully long after. The PLM Green Alliance is eager to learn from you and your companies where they are contributing to a more sustainable and greener future.

Do not feel your contribution is not needed, as according to research done by the Carr Center’s Erica Chenoweth: The ‘3.5% rule’: How a small minority can change the world. It could be an encouragement to act instead of watching who will determine your future.

Conclusion

While learning to live in a virtual world, we might be realizing that the current crisis is an opportunity to switch faster to a more sustainable and inclusive society. For PLM moving to data-driven, cloud-based environments, using a Model-Based approach along the whole lifecycle, is a path to reduce friction when delivering innovations. From years to weeks? Something we wished to have today already. Stay safe!

People, wherever you are, we are in a kind of lockdown. Some countries more restricted than others. Still, the challenge will be for most of us how to survive in two perhaps three months of being locked in your home and make the best of it. As I am not a virus expert, I will not give you any recommendations on this topic. As a PLM geek, I want to share with you the opportunities I see for the upcoming months.

A crisis is an opportunity

Most of us should be lucky that we do not live in the same situation as twenty years ago. At that time, internet connectivity was expensive and slow. Meaning working from home would mean isolation from the rest of the world. The positive point now is that we can be connected virtually without travel, without face-to-face meetings, and we are pushed to do so. This external push is an interesting point for me.

The traditional attitude for my PLM engagements was that face-to-face meetings are crucial for creating a human connection and trust. Now I ask myself is this a behavior of the past that should become obsolete in the future. Probably we cannot afford this approach anymore in the future if we take sustainability and the environment into consideration. We live now in a globally connected world, but should we act still in the old way?

Perhaps not. Let’s look at some of the examples that it is time to shift behaviors.

We might think in the Western world we know it all due to our dominance in the past hundred years. However, when you study history, you will see civilizations come to power and after hundreds of years, they lose power because they kill themselves internally. Apparently, a typical human property that will not disappear – still interesting to analyze when considering a globally connected world. Where is the point of gravity today?

Interestingly, the ancient Chinese population already knew that a crisis was an opportunity, as I am being told. The Chinese characters for crisis mean danger and opportunity, respectively, according to Wiki – see the image above. Joe Barkai was one of the first in my network that took action to explain that instead of focusing on the loss of what is happening now, we should take the opportunity to be better prepared for the future. You can read his post here: The Corona virus and your company’s brand. And these kinds of messages are popping up more frequently now. Let’s stay safe while thinking and preparing for the future.

Now a PLM related example.

Remember what the FFF is happening?

Two-three weeks ago, we had a vivid discussion in our PLM and CM community based on the famous FFF mnemonic.  What the FFF is happening was a post sharing my point of view, and there were a lot of reactions from different people.

The purpose of my post was to explain that the whole discussion was based on paradigms that drawings are defining the part. Because of that, we have a methodology to decide if YES or NO we need a new part number or revision. To me, this practice should no longer be a discussion.

A part has a unique identifier, and a document has a unique identifier. In PLM-systems, the information is managed by relations, no longer by identifiers – who knows the exact unique identifier? In a PLM-system information is connected, and the attributes of the part and document will tell you the details of the type of information. “Intelligent or meaningful” identifiers are in such an environment no longer relevant. Think about that…..

In the comments of my post, Jesse Leal was confirming this statement:

This in contrary to Joe Brouwer, who you might have noticed, always is spitting his opinion that the good old days of the draftsman are gone, Boeing made a tremendous mistake and that PLM is fake. This all combined with hyperlinks to his products and opinions. The comment below says it all:

Two points to observe in this response:

Hey, Bob, send me the new digital identifier”.

This statement assumes that if a person needs to retrieve information from someone else, they need to contact this person (Bob).

Bob then needs to drop his current work and answer to the response and send the latest version of a drawing?  This is old school. In a PLM-system,  information should be connected, and if Bob has released his latest drawing (no matter if it is FFF), any user could find the latest approved version, not even having to look at the identifier (which could be meaningless) but by following the relations between products, parts, and documents.

This is PLM!

One of the benefits, Bob does not get disturbed during the day by these kinds of questions and can focus on his critical work as an expert.

Second, if you need to sit with a designer to understand PLM, then you are probably talking with the wrong person. Designers work in the context of PDM. When we speak about PLM, we are talking about a broader scope beyond engineering and design.

This is a common mistake in a lot of marketing stories. Companies that focus on the design space only, some EBOM-integrations with CAD-systems, are most of the time focusing on PDM.  When Agile PLM came out (later Oracle E9) and later Aras without CAD-integrations, these companies were focusing on the flow of information inside the company, not necessarily driven by CAD. Of course, the traditional PLM companies combine CAD integration with other capabilities. Dassault Systèmes, Siemens, and PTC all have a strong relationship with their native CAD-systems. However, their offerings go way beyond CAD-integrations e.g. end-to-end governance, change processes and an item-centric backbone.

The diagram above explains the basics for the future. In a push-mode, the person in the middle has the responsibility to distribute information and ensure it remains accurate for all stakeholders. This makes this person crucial (good job security) but extremely inefficient compared to people working in the pull-mode, being responsible for getting the accurate data themselves. It may be clear the pull-mode is the model of a digital enterprise.

So if you have the time now, take this time to rethink how well your company is ready for a digital future. Companies that currently rely on Bob are in trouble as Bob is currently sitting at home. Companies that have learned to shift from the push-mode to the pull-mode could continue working as planned, as they do not need Bob. And don’t worry about your job. If you are in Bob’s position you will lose your job over time. However, when you keep on evolving, learning and adding value to your company, you will be always needed – don’t lock yourself in.

If you want to be inspired more in this area, read Jan Bosch’s post: This is not the end . Here Jan mentions the opportunity to move to digital practices (and more) – get out of our traditional patterns

 

What can you do?

Even though COVID-19 has, and will have, a dramatic impact on our society, this is also the moment to rewire some of our processes.  Because there was never time to think and act due to the running business. It reminded me of the financial crisis in 2008, when the market for PLM vendors was terrible, no significant sales for them as companies could not invest.

However, for me, 2008 was an extremely busy year,  thanks to all kinds of regulations from governments. There was time and budget to support employees to raise their skills and PLM was one of these domains. That year I conducted many workshops. It was also the year that I started my blog virtualdutchman.com.

Now we are in a similar situation and probably worse as now we are locked to our homes. However, we are also better connected. Imagine this situation without the internet. Now we can learn even better.

So let’s benefit from this connectivity and use the lockdown time to learn, think, and discuss with peers. Challenge and involve the management of your company how they see and lead to the future.


In that context, I am happy to spend on average one day per week on free conference calls if you need clarification or support for your PLM-related ideas.

Contact me through a personal message on LinkedIn, and we will find a way to connect.

 

Conclusion

This decade will be decisive for many of us. At the beginning of this year, I wrote PLM 2020- The next decade (4 challenges). With my narrow PLM-mind, I overlooked viruses. Bill Gates did not do that, as you can see from his 2015 TED talk: The next outbreak? We’re not ready.  Bill also explains that our traditional thinking patterns should change in a globally connected world.

I wish you all the time to think and educate yourself and prepare for a changed future. Stay safe inside, stay healthy, knowing for some of you it will be a big challenge.

One week ago, Yoann Maingon wrote an innocent post with the question: Has FFF killed?  The question was raised related to a 2014 problem at GM, where a changed part was causing fatal accidents.

The discussion started by Yoann and here my short extract. Assuming this problem was a configuration management issue and Yoann somehow indicated that the problem might be related to the fact that ERP-systems do not carry a revision on the part number – leading to an unnoticed change.  Therefore, he assumes there is a disconnect between the PLM-side (where we have parts with multiple lifecycle states and revisions) and ERP (where we have an industrial lifecycle – prototype/production).

He posted his thoughts, and then LinkedIn exploded (currently 116 comments), which means it is a topic that is of significant concern in our community. Next, if you read the comments, there are different viewpoints:

  • What does FFF really imply?
  • What about revisions of parts?
  • What are the best practices?

Let’s investigate these viewpoints with some comments

What does FFF really imply?

When we talk about FFF in engineering, we mean Form, Fit and Function – the three primary characteristics to describe a part  (source Wikipedia)

  • Form refers to such characteristics as external dimensions, weight, size, and visual appearance of a part or assembly. This is the element of FFF that is most affected by an engineer’s aesthetic choices, including enclosure, chassis, and control panel, that become the outward “face” of the product.
  • Fit refers to the ability of the part or feature to connect to, mate with, or join to another feature or part within an assembly. The “fit” allows the part to meet the required assembly tolerances to be useful.
  • Function is a criterion that is met when the part performs its stated purpose effectively and reliably. In an electronics product, for example, a function can depend on the solid-state components used, the software or firmware, and quite often on the features of the electronics enclosure selected.

One of the comments in Yoann’s post referred to Safe/Unsafe as a potential functional characteristic. I think this addition is not needed. Safety should be a requirement for the part, not a characteristic.

FFF was and still is an approach for engineers to decide if a new, improved version of the part would get a revision or needs a new part number.

I think before we dive deeper into the other viewpoints, it is crucial to define the part number a little more.

In a correct PLM data model, there are two types of part numbers. First, the internal part number that your company uses inside its engineering Bill of Materials to identify a part. This part number can be a meaningless part only to provide uniqueness inside the company.

In 2015 I wrote several posts related to best practices and data modeling for PLM. The most relevant posts to this discussion are here:

The part number can specify a part that needs to be manufactured according to specification, or it can be a part that needs to be purchased from an available supplier/manufacturer. The manufacturer part number is, most of the time, a meaningful number (6 – 7 characters) as these parts need to be ordered by your company. The manufacturer part number is the SKU for the manufacturer. As you can imagine in the manufacturer’s catalog, there isn’t a revision mentioned. In graphics, see the image below:

Your company might sell Product MP-323121 (note: the ID is meaningful to help the customer to order the product).

Internally there is a related EBOM that specifies the product. The EBOM top part is O122 (note: here, we can use a meaningless identifier as all is digitally connected).

For the manufacturing of O122, we need to resolve the EBOM according to its specifications. Therefore, for Part O124, the company needs to decide to purchase from their approved manufacturers either part ABC-21231 or XYZ-88818 (note: again, a meaningful ID as these companies are not digitally connected).

Now coming back to the FFF-discussion. For the orange parts, with a meaningful ID, no revision exists. However, if Assembly O122 is 100% FFF compatible, the Product ID MP-323121 will not change. It allows your company to optimize the EBOM and/or MBOM, meanwhile keeping 100% compatibility to the outside world. (note: the same principle applies to the two manufacturers for Part O124.)

In case Top Assembly O122 has new or changed parts – what should happen there?

At that moment, the definition has changed. The definitions, most of the time described in documents/drawings/models, are related information to the BOM. Therefore the Top Assembly O122 should get a new identifier. There is no need to name it a revision, it is a new data set in the PLM-system, again with a meaningless identifier as we are connected digitally,

What about revisions of parts?

Of course, the management of changes existed long before PLM-systems were introduced.

The specifications of a part were defined in drawings. The drawing contained all the information, not only the geometry definitions, but also specifications on how to manufacture the part.

For complex products, a considerable set of consistently related drawings would be released to manufacturing.  A release process with physical signatures on it.

At the same time, there was no discussion: the drawing represents the part. And as there was no digital connection, part numbers/drawing numbers were meaningful, often with the format of the drawing as part of the identifier.

In case changes were needed, for example, fixing a dimension or tolerance as discovered during manufacturing, the drawing had to be revised to remain consistent. First, in the original drawing, the issue or change was marked in red (redlining). Then engineering had to create a new version of the drawing.

Depending on the impact of change (here comes also the FFF-principle), people decided if a new part number was needed (FFF-change) or that the change only required an update of the drawing(s), meaning a revision.  If the difference was small (for example, adding a missing annotation), it could be called a minor change, all to be reflected in the drawing number, which equals the part number in this approach. So, when we talk about revisions of parts, we are talking about a document change.

A lousy practice from that approach is also that often manufacturing just redlines a drawing and keeps the redlined drawing as their source. It is too time-consuming or difficult to update the source drawing(s) through a change process. Engineering is not aware of this change, and when a later change comes through from engineering, these “fixes” might be missed as there is no traceability.

Generic example of a PLM data model and its relationsWhen PLM-systems were introduced, of course, companies did not want to disrupt their existing ways of working. Therefore, they were asking the PLM-editors to enable revisions on parts and so the PLM-editors did (or do).

Decoupling of parts and documents in a PLM data model

However, if you want to use the PLM-system in the best manner, you need to “decouple” the concept:  part number equals drawing number, combined with the possibility to start using meaningless identifiers, as relations between parts and drawings are managed in the PLM-system through relational links.

Relevant post related to the PLM data model are:

What are the best practices?

As some people mentioned in their comments to Yoann’s post, why do we have to answer this question as all is already well understood and described in best practices? I agree with that statement: Best Practices exist – so how to obtain them?

First, there is the whole framework of Configuration Management, which existed long before PLM-systems were introduced. If you follow their methodology, you can be (almost) guaranteed your information is consistent and correct. Configuration Management is crucial in areas where the impact of an error is enormous, like the GM-example Yoann referred to. Also, companies in the Aerospace and Defense industry are the ones that have strict configuration management in place.

Configuration management does not come for free. It requires an investment in skills, potentially a change in ways of working, and requires an overhead. Manufacturing companies that are creating less “risky” products often focus more on optimizing (= reducing) the cost of their internal processes instead of investing in proper methodologies to manage consistency.

If you want to learn more about CM, investigate the Institute of Process Excellence (IPX), the founders of the CM2 framework for Enterprise Configuration Management, and much more. Note: Their knowledge does not come for free, which I can understand. However, it also creates a barrier for the company’s further investment in CM as this kind of strategic investments are hard to sell at the management level by individuals in a company.

In the context of CM, I advise you to follow Martijn Dullaart, who is quite active in our social community. His latest blog post related to this thread is: It’s about Interchangeability and Traceability

With the introduction of PLM-system, these companies and the PLM-editors created the opportunity to implement configuration management in their system.

The data inside the system would be the “single version of the truth.” Unfortunately, this was most of the time, just a sales strategy, falsely giving the impression that information is under control now. Last year I wrote several posts related to the relation between PLM and CM, starting from PLM and Configuration Management – a happy marriage?

If you are interested in another resource for information related to these topics, have a look at the website from Jörg Eisenträger who also collected his best practices for PLM and CM for sharing (thanks Paul van der Ree for the link)

Don’t expect best practices from your PLM-vendors as their role is to sell software. It is the continuous discussion between:

  • A PLM-system that forces companies to work according to embedded methodology (hard to sell/implement but idealistically correct)

And

  • A flexible PLM-system that allows you to build and configure anything (easy to sell/challenging to implement correctly, depending on “wise” decisions)

The Future

Even though most companies are working drawing-centric, with or without a linked PLM-backbone for BOM-management, the next upcoming challenge is to evolve to model-based practices. The current CM-practices still talk about documents, although documents are already electronic datasets in that context. The future, however, in a model-based enterprise evolves related to connected models, 3D Models, but also simulation and software models, with different lifecycles and pace of change. For the model-based enterprise, we need to develop digital best practices that guarantee the same level of quality, however, executed and/or supported by (AI) Artificial Intelligence. AI is needed as human beings cannot physically analyze and understand all the impact of a change in such an environment.

Conclusion

The FFF-discussion illustrates that building a consistent framework within PLM is not an easy goal to achieve. My blog buddy Oleg Shilovitsky would claim that we consultants create the complexity. PLM-editors will never solve this complexity, it is up to your company’s mission to invest in knowledge to understand why and how to reduce the complexity. With this post and the related links and discussions, I hope more clarity will help you to make “wise” decisions.

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