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This time a post, imagining the future of a PLM infrastructure for companies embracing the concepts of a digital enterprise. When you read (marketing) posts on the internet a lot of well-known companies are proud about their digital customer platform in the cloud. These platforms are a typical example of how companies transform their business to be closer connected to their customers. And to be as close as possible to the client, the apps they provide on the platform provides the customer with “delightful” experiences, information and usability they never have seen before. Meanwhile, the hosting company benefits from collecting all the data from their customers to better understand the behavior and use cases of their clients. A win-win situation, don’t you think so?

Microservices and APIs

In order to enhance and enrich the customer experience and the internal efficiency, companies are digitizing their back office processes too. Connecting their suppliers and vendors in a digital manner, optimizing processes from paper-based, through file-based towards a digital, data-driven process. The advantages: “high-speed” and “high quality and rich context” delivered with a lower cost than currently.

As it is not easy to change existing enterprise business systems. A service oriented architecture (SOA) based on web-services is used to connect enterprise business systems in a structured manner. A SOA-architecture is used when the systems and processes are stable.

However, all companies are discovering the modern digital enterprise, and here nothing is permanent and most likely nothing with remain stable. You will see companies making data available from various systems through APIs (Application Program Interface). In the past the meaning of API was directly tied to one system, now it is a wider concept, read for example  APIs for Dummies)

The usage of Micro Services allows companies to provide consumers (internal and external) with an experience based on an API layer with data coming from various sources. The user does not care and benefits from almost real-time information in the right context of the microservice. For more detail read: The difference between microservices and web services

Where it is easy for companies to create new experiences for their customers and internal employees through Apps on a platform and the usage of Micro Services, it is natural to extend this thought process toward the world of product data, the PLM domain. When I visit companies with an excellent digital image towards their customers, I am most of the time surprised to see their PLM environment still based on previous century’s concepts. And there is a reason for that, read my recent post: Why PLM is the forgotten domain in digital transformation.

PLM services?

Five years ago there was an interesting debate on engineering.com following upon a discussion between Jim Brown and Chad Jackson with the theme: Granularity vs. Integration: Suites vs. Best-in-class PLM. The power of this episode comes from the discussion afterwards that it is clear two different viewpoints exist, which will not easily merge. Read the comments if you have time.

Now the discussion has become similar for future PLM. Should you use best-of-breed, powerful cloud PLM-services to build an end-to-end connected PLM journey for the customer and the company?  Or should you still need one platform with apps (ideally coming from the best-of-breed vendors)?

You can find examples of cloud-based services popping up since a few years. I wrote about them in the past: The Netherlands and PLM. 2 events – 2 extremes – 1 future. In this post from 2015 I was pessimistic about the progress in the construction industry and confident about the startups I met to build an end-to-end customer experience through cloud solutions (KE-works, TradeCloud integrated with traditional PDM (Autodesk based) through web-services. Others like Kimonex, BOM management for product design, did not get enough momentum. And of course at this moment, OnShape (full cloud CAD) and OpenBOM (cloud-based Bill of Material management), For sure there are more if you do your research a little further.

On the other side, PLM-platforms can be found from the classical PLM vendors, Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM and PTC have their platforms coming from the classical PLM world, all with some different variations in focus. Aras and Autodesk do not rely necessary on the classical engineering environments and position themselves as a new, modern PLM.

And of course there are other platforms that provide PLM functionality, like traditionally SAP and Oracle, but also Propel on Salesforce. These platforms come from an ERP / CRM side of the business and can be interesting for companies too, depending on their primary business processes.

We will discover in the next 5-10 years how these various offerings will evolve and survive, knowing the PLM world is extremely slow. Read also; PLM and Cultural Change Management. Too Expensive ?

IP and Traceability questions

What I am curious to learn from the new PLM-services providers is how they will manage their customer’s data with IP protection and Traceability.  Companies are always worries about their IP and their IP can be in various domains, not only design or engineering. It can be manufacturing IP or even customer relation’s IP. How would a company maintain an overview of all its IP? Do they need to add a new “service”, called IP Services? (Perhaps an idea for a next startup ?)
Besides IP protection many manufacturing companies have the duty to keep their data available for 5 – 10 – 25 – 50 years, depending on their industry. Here I am also curious to learn what is the exit strategy for using a PLM service. Imagine the PLM service company is purchased by a company you cannot work with (new prices / new polices). How easy is it to step out and stop your subscription? And what is the alternative? Falling back on a classical PLM platform?

To my opinion you can divide these PLM Services in two groups:

  • PLM services that perform clever activities (algorithms / analysis) on your data and provides the company with feedback. This could be BOM compliance services, automated workflows, configurators or simulation services. This group of PLM services provide process support to be more efficient and scaleable, but they leave the data under control of the company.
  • PLM services that store data from the customer, CAD Models, Bill of Materials, Manufacturing Operations, Issues, Workflows. What happens when you stop using these services? Is there an “easy” exit strategy through standards? Are there standards?

Conclusion

The PLM domain is a different domain than other enterprise data as is deals also with data that needs to remain available for IP protection and traceability. Using an analogy of Micro Services or APIs is an unexplored already for PLM service provides, with serious risks for the customer. We are no longer worried about up-time of the cloud, but more worried about who owns the data and how can I maintain my ownership as company.

cloud.jpgLooking forward to your point of view !

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

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

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

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

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

Our brain blocks PLM acceptance (Aug 2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our brain blocks PLM acceptance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flaw 1: Overconfidence

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

Flaw 2: Mental accounting

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

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

Flaw 3: The status quo bias

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

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

Flaw 4: Anchoring

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

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

Flaw 5: The sunk-cost effect

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

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

Flaw 6: The herding instinct

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

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

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

Flaw 7: Misestimating future hedonistic states

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

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

Flaw 8: False consensus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

What does simplicity mean in the context of PLM?

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

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

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

What can you do?

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

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

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

Reducing complexity by making the system rigid?

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

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

There are two downsides to this approach

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

My challenge:

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

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

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

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

 

Customers (Industrial companies)

Oleg wrote:

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

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

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

 

PLM Vendors

Oleg wrote:

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

 

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

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

 

Implementation and Service Providers

Oleg wrote:

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

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

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

 

PLM Consultants

Here Oleg wrote:

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

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

My conclusion:

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

 

Your opinion?

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

simple

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

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

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

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

Never implement the past, implement the future

And there are changes ……

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

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

Never implement the past, implement the future

And there will be changes …..

youtube

Digital Transformation & PLM on YouTube

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

We all have to learn

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

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

Conclusion

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

A month ago I attended PI Berlin 2017 and discussed how digital transformation should affect PLM. You can find the presentation here on Slideshare.  One of the conclusions of my presentation was that PLM is the forgotten domain in digital transformation, which lead to the tweet below from Nick Leeder from SKF.

PI-tweet

I am from the generation who believes answering complex issues through tweets is not a best practice. Therefore, I dedicate this post to answer Nick’s question.

Digital Transformation

OldTicket.pngA digital enterprise is the next ultimate dream after the paperless office. Where the paperless office was focusing on transforming paper-based information into electronic information, there was not a mind-shift in the way people could work. Of course, when information became available in an electronic format, you could easily centralize it and store in places accessible to many others. Centralizing and controlling electronic information is what we did in the previous century with document management, PDM, and classical PLM.  An example: your airline ticket now provided as a PDF-file – electronic, not digital.

This process is not a digital transformation

dig_ticketDigital Transformation means that information is broken down into granular information objects that can be stored in a database in the context of other information objects. As they have a status and/or relation to other information objects, in a certain combination they bring, in real-time, relevant information to a user. The big difference with electronic information is that the content does not need a person to format, translate or pre-process the data. An example: your boarding app, showing the flight, the departure time, the gate all in real-time. If there is a change, you are immediately updated.

 

Digital Transformation for an enterprise

In a digital enterprise, information needs to be available as granular information objects related to each other providing the end-to-end continuity of data. End-to-end continuity does not mean that all data is stored in a single environment. The solution can be based on digital platforms working together potentially enriched by “micro-services” to cover specific gaps the digital platforms do not deliver.

ERP platformERP systems by nature have been designed to be digital. Logistical information, financial information, part information for scheduling, etc., all is managed in database tables, to allow algorithms and calculations to take place in real-time. Documents are generated to store snapshots of information (a schedule / a report), or there are pointers to documents that should contain digital, unmanaged information, like contracts, drawings, models. Therefore, the digital transformation does not impact ERP so much.

IOTCustomer connected platforms are a typical new domain for manufacturers, as this is where the digital transformation takes place in business. Connecting either to your products in the field or connecting to your consumers in the market have been the typical business changes almost every manufacturer is implementing, thanks to IoT and thanks to global connectivity. As this part of the business is new for a company, there is no legacy to deal with and therefore exciting to present to the outside world and the management.

The problem of legacy

And here comes the problem why companies try to neglect their PLM environments. There is so much legacy data, stored in documents (electronic formats) that cannot be used in a digital PLM environment. Old PLM quality processes were about validating documents, the container of information, not about the individual information objects inside the document. And when information changes, there is no guarantee the document is going to be updated, due to economic reasons (time & resources)

IntNumber.jpgTo give an example. A year ago I wrote a post:  The Impact of Non-Intelligent Part Numbers where I explained in a digitally connected enterprise part numbers no longer need to have a meaning. As long as they are unique throughout the enterprise, automation will take care PLM, and ERP are connected. In one of the comments to this post, a reader mentioned that they were implementing now non-intelligent numbers in their company and the ERP consultant recommended to renumber all the old part numbers to have a clean start. From the ERP point of view, no issue. The consultant probably never had learned about the fact that part numbers are used in drawings, instructions, spare part manuals, which are all documents in the engineering domain. Renumbering them would be a waste of resources and money, just to have a “pure” part number. In the world of PLM, you have to deal with legacy.

The need for business transformation

Companies currently do not fully recognize that the old way of working in PLM, based on a document-driven approach, is not compatible with a modern data-driven approach. The old approach makes documents the formal decision carrier for product information. Documents are reviewed and approved and once approved stored. When information is changing, documents are most of the time not updated due to the cost of maintaining all these versions of documents in the context of the related products. Documents lock information and do not guarantee the information inside the document remains actual.

In a data-driven environment, we work in a much more granular manner, directly with the data. Working data-driven reduces the need for people in the organization to collect and transform information into documents for further communication.

GartnerWorkforce

As both approached do not match in a single business process or a single PLM system, the challenge for companies is to decide how to keep the old environment available and meanwhile introducing the new data-driven approach for PLM. Customizing this upon your old PLM environment would be a problem for the future as customizations are hard to maintain, in particular, if these are the customizations that need to support the future.

Building everything in a new environment, designed for a data-driven approach, will also be a guarantee for failure. The old data, stored in documents, does not have the granular quality a data-driven environment needs.

Combined with the fact that different people will be needed to support old or new businesses, the topic of solving PLM for the future is not an easy one.

And when things are not easy, it is hard to find the right support for changes. Management usually does not spend enough time to understand the big picture; politics come into play.

Unfortunately, it’s usually safer and better for one’s career to cut costs a little further than to try to hit the rare innovation homerun

Quote from Political Realities of PLM-Implementation Projects in Engineering.com

Conclusion

Why PLM is the forgotten domain in digital transformation is quite understandable, although it requires more than a tweet to picture the full story.  Understanding the reasons is the first step, making PLM part of the digital transformation is the main challenge – who has the energy and power to lead?

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

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

PLM: The Foundation for Enterprise Digitalization

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

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

Boosting the value of PLM through
Advanced Analytics Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overcoming integration challenges –
Outotec´s Digital Journey

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

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

ElephantAndAnts

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

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

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

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

Final conclusion from PI Berlin 2017

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

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

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

Last week I got the following question:

Many companies face the challenges relevant to the cooperation and joint ventures and need to integrate in a smart way the portfolio’s to offer integrated solutions. In the world of sharing and collaboration, this may be a good argument to dig into. Is PLM software ready for this challenge with best practice solutions or this is a matter that is under specific development case by case? Any guidelines?

Some history

When PLM solutions were developed their core focus was on bringing hardware products to the market in a traditional manner as shown in the figure below. clip_image001

Products were pushed to the market based on marketing research and closed innovation. Closed innovation meant companies were dependent on their internal R&D to provide innovative products. And this is the way most PLM systems are implemented: supporting internal development. Thanks to global connectivity, the internal development teams can collaborate together connected to a single PLM backbone/infrastructure.

Third Party Products (TPP) at that time were sometimes embedded in the EBOM, and during the development phase, there would be an exchange of information between the OEM and the TPP provider. Third Party Products were treated in a similar manner as purchase items. And as the manufacturing of the product was often defined in the ERP system, there the contractual and financial interactions with the TTP provider were handled, creating a discontinuity between what has been defined for the product and what has been shipped. The disconnect between the engineering intent and actual delivery to the customer often managed in Excel spreadsheets or proprietary databases developed to soften the pain

What is happening now?

In the past 10 – 15 years there is the growing importance of first electronic components and their embedded software now followed by new go-to-market approaches, where the customer proposition changes from just a product, towards a combined offering of hardware, software, and services. Let´s have a look how this could be done in a PLM environment.

From Products to Solutions

The first step is to manage the customer proposition in a logical manner instead of managing all in a BOM definition. In traditional businesses, most companies still work around multiple Bill of Materials. For example, read this LinkedIn post: The BOM is King. This approach works when your company only delivers hardware.

Not every PLM system supports Out-Of-The-Box a logical structure. I have seen implementations where this logical structure was stored in an external database (not preferred) or as a customized structure in the PLM system. Even in SmarTeam, this methodology was used to support Asset Lifecycle Management. I wrote about this concept early 2014 in the context of Service Lifecycle Management(SLM) two posts: PLM and/or SLM ? and PLM and/or SLM (continued). It is no coincidence that concepts used for connecting SLM to PLM are similar to defining customer propositions.

PropositionIn the figure to the left, you can see the basic structure to manage a customer proposition and how it would connect to the aspects of hardware, software, and services. In an advanced manner, the same structure could be used with configuration rules to define and create a portfolio of propositions. More about this topic potential in a future blog post.

For hardware, most PLM systems have their best practices based on the BOM as discussed before. When combining the hardware with embedded software, we enter the world of systems. The proposition is no longer a product it becomes a system or even an experience.

For managing systems, I see two main additions to the classical PLM approach:

  1. The need for connected systems engineering. As the behavior of the system is much more complicated than just a hardware product, companies discover the need to spend more time on understanding all the requirements for the system and its potential use cases in operation – the only way to define the full experience. Systems Engineering practices coming from Automotive & Aerospace are now coming into the world of high-tech, industrial equipment, and even consumer goods.
  2. The need to connect software deliverables. Software introduces a new challenge for companies, no matter if the software is developed internally or embedded through TTP. In both situations, there is the need to manage change in a fast and iterative manner. Classical ECR /ECO processes do not work here anymore. Working agile and managing a backlog becomes the mode. Application Lifecycle Management connected to PLM becomes a need.

In both domains, systems engineering, and ALM, PLM vendors have their offerings, and on the marketing side, they might all look the same to you. However, there is a fundamental need that is not always visible on the marketing slides, the need for complete openness.

Openness

opennessTo manage a portfolio based on systems a company can no longer afford to manually check in multiple management systems all the dependencies between the product and its components combined with the software deliverables and TTPs. Automation, traceability on changes and notifications are needed in a modern, digital environment, which you might call a product innovation platform. My high-speed blog buddy Oleg Shilovitsky just dedicated a post to “The Best PLM for Product Innovation Platform” sharing several quotes from CIMdata´s talk about characteristics of a Product Innovation Platform and stressing the need for openness.

It is true if you can only manage your hardware (mechanics & electronics) and software in dedicated systems, your infrastructure will be limited and rigid as the outside world is in constant and fast changes. No ultimate solution or product does it all and will do it all in the future. Therefore openness is crucial.

Services

In several companies, original in the Engineering, Procurement & Construction industry, I have seen the need to manage services in the context of the customer delivery too. Highly customized systems and/or disconnected systems were used here. I believe the domain of managing a proposition, a combination of hardware, software, AND services in a connected environment is still in its early days. Therefore the question marks in the diagram.

Conclusion

How Third Party Products management are supported by PLM depends very much on the openness of the PLM system. How it connects to ALM and how the PLM system is able to manage a proposition. If your PLM system has been implemented as a supporting infrastructure for Engineering only, you are probably not ready for the modern digital enterprise.

Other thoughts ???

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

What is Digital Transformation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IP Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion:

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

Be aware. To be continued…

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

First, Happy New Year!! I wish all my readers a healthy, happy and successful 2017. Increasing your understanding of modern PLM based on field experiences is my pledge to you this year. PLM as part of a business strategy is mentioned more and more at management level in companies. However, the meaning and impact of PLM can be diffuse therefore requiring more clarification to management. To save your time, I’m pleased to share some images/slides I have used to explain fundamental PLM concepts. Use them in your PLM meetings.

People, Processes, and Tools

PeopleProcessTools

A company should not implement a PLM system just because people say they need a PLM system. Most likely, PLM supports a business transformation, enabling new ways of working and new business processes.

PeopleProcessToolsTweet

Read more related to People, Processes, and Tools:

Old and New PLM

OldNewPLM

When your company wants to implement PLM today, it is important to realize all businesses are transitioning from old linear processes, pushing products to the market towards incremental customer-oriented processes. With a change from a document-driven approach towards a data-driven approach, implementing PLM requires a new approach:

Read more about how PLM is changing:

PLM Selection

PLM selection

Selecting the right PLM system is just the top of the iceberg. Most PLM systems have lots of functionalities in common. Therefore, when selecting a PLM system, take into account the topics below the waterline. The deeper you get, the more important they are for a successful PLM implementation.

Read more about PLM selection:

The Maturity of an Organization

Gartner maturity

Can you run before you can walk? Is PLM only valid for large companies? I do not think so. Large companies usually have a higher need to make their products less dependent on specific individual skills. Therefore, they will focus more on repeatable processes and as next steps, integrating internally and externally. This slide was presented by Marc Halpern at PDT2015 and illustrates the maturity journey a company can grow through, and how this journey affects the focus for PDM, PLM, and future integration,

Read more about the PLM journey and Maturity:

Don’t Choose the Easiest Path

gartner benefits

Another “classical” Gartner slide explaining what everybody knows, yet what most companies fail to do. Two important messages with this slide.

  • Every change in technology will cause a dip in the company’s performance. Give your people the time to adapt by changing performance KPIs for that period
  • Introducing new technology combined with introducing new processes and a change in culture will bring the highest value

Read more about Cultural Change:

Digital Transformation is Coming

The world is becoming rapidly digital. Digitization is destroying jobs that can be automated. A great article about the onrushing wave can be found in the Economist, describing which jobs are likely to stay and which are likely to disappear. And, disappearing jobs will not come back again as some populists might promise. The good news, however, is that new business models and processes require many new jobs for which we are not educated (yet). Self-learning becomes crucial.

Read more about Digital Transformation:

Evolution, Disruption or Bimodal?

bimodal

Companies that have implemented their classical PLM environment fail to move to a PLM infrastructure supporting modern customer-driven delivery of products and services. However, the evolutionary approach takes too long; the alternative is to disrupt your business. Or try a bimodal PLM-approach. The bimodal PLM approach is inspired by Gartner’s bimodal IT approach.

Read more about Disruption or Bimodal:

See You Soon?

2017 is going to be an interesting and challenging year for all of us. What will be the further impact of digitization on your business? Will we tweet our PLM strategy in the future? I hope to discuss these developments with you on my blog and during the upcoming PI Berlin.

PIBerlin2017

Let’s communicate !

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