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As human beings, we believe in the truth. We claim the truth. During my holiday in Greece, the question was, did the Greek Prime Minister tell the truth about the internal spy scandal?

In general, we can say, politicians never speak the real truth, and some countries are trying to make sure there is only one single source of truth – their truth. The concept of a Single Source Of Truth (SSOT) is difficult to maintain in politics.

On social media, Twitter and Facebook, people are claiming their truth. But unfortunately, without any scientific background, people know better than professionals by cherry-picking messages, statistics or even claiming non-existing facts.

Nicely described in The Dunning-Kruger effect. Unfortunately, this trend will not disappear.

If you want to learn more about the impact of social media, read this long article from The Atlantic:  Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid. Although the article is about the US, the content is valid for all countries where social media are still allowed.

The PLM and CM domain is the only place where people still rely on the truth defined by professionals. Manufacturing companies depend on reliable information to design, validate, manufacture and support their products. Compliance and safe products require an accurate and stable product definition based on approved information. Therefore, the concept of SSOT is crucial along the product lifecycle.

The importance may vary depending on the product type. The difference in complexity between an airplane and a plastic toy, for example. It is all about the risk and impact of a failure caused by the product.

During my holiday, the SSOT discussion was sparked on LinkedIn by Adam Keating, and the article starts with:

The “Single Source of Truth (SSOT)” wasn’t built for you. It was built for software vendors to get rich. Not a single company in the world has a proper SSOT.

A bit provocative, as there is nothing wrong with software vendors being profitable. Profitability guarantees the long-time support of the software solution. Remember the PLM consolidation around 2006, when SmarTeam, Matrix One (Dassault), Agile and Eigner & Partner (Oracle) were acquired, disappeared or switched to maintenance mode.

Therefore it makes sense to have a profitable business model or perhaps a real open source business model.

Still, the rest of the discussion was interesting, particularly in the LinkedIn comments. Adam mentioned the Authoritative Source of Truth (ASOT) as the new future. And although this concept becomes more and more visible in the PLM domain, I believe we need both. So, let’s have a look at these concepts.

 

Truth 1.0 – SSOT

Historically, manufacturing companies stored the truth in documents, first paper-based, later in electronic file formats and databases.

The truth consists of drawings, part lists, specifications, and other types of information.

Moreover, the information is labeled with revisions and versions to identify the information.

By keeping track of the related information through documents or part lists with significant numbers, a person in the company could find the correct corresponding information at any stage of the lifecycle.

Later, by storing all the information in a central (PLM) system, the impression might be created that this system is the Single Source Of Truth. The system Adam Keating agitated against in his LinkedIn post.

Although for many companies, the ERP has been the SSOT  (and still is). All relevant engineering information was copied into the ERP system as attached files. Documents are the authoritative, legal pieces of information that a company shares with suppliers, authorities, or customers. They can reside in PLM but also in ERP. Therefore, you need an infrastructure to manage the “truth.”

Note: The Truth 1.0 story is very much a hardware story.

Even for hardware, ensuring a consistent single version of the truth for each product remains difficult. In theory, its design specifications should match the manufacturing definition. The reality, however, shows that often this is not the case. Issues discovered during the manufacturing process are fixed in the plant – redlining the drawing  – is not always processed by engineering.

As a result, Engineering and Manufacturing might have a different version of what they consider the truth.

The challenge for a service engineer in the field is often to discover the real truth. So the “truth” might not always be in the expected place – no guaranteed Single Source Of Truth.

Configuration Management is a discipline connected to PLM to ensure that the truth is managed so that as-specified, as-manufactured, and as-delivered information has been labeled and documented unambiguously. In other words, you could say Configuration Management(CM) is aiming for the Single Source Of Truth for a product.

If you want to read more about the relation between PLM and CM  – read this post: PLM and Configuration Management (CM), where I speak with Martijn Dullaart about the association between PLM and CM.

Martijn has his blog mdux.net and is the Lead Architect for Enterprise Configuration Management at our Dutch pride ASML. Martijn is also Chairperson I4.0 Committee IPX Congress.

Summarizing: The Single Source Of Truth 1.0 concept is document-based and should rely on CM practices, which require skilled people and the right methodology. In addition, some industries require Truth 1.0.

Others take the risk of working without solid CM practices, and the PLM system might create the impression of the SSOT; it will not be the case, even for only hardware.

 Truth 2.0 – ASOT

Products have become more complex, mainly due to the combination of electronics and software. Their different lifecycles and the speed of change are hard to maintain using the traditional PLM approach of SSOT.

It will be impossible to maintain an SSOT, particularly if it is based on documents.

As CM is the discipline to ensure data consistency, it is important to look into the future of CM. At the end of last year, I discussed this topic with 3 CM thought leaders. Martijn Dullaart, Maxime Gravel and Lisa Fenwick discussed with me what they believe the change would be. Read and listen here: The future of Configuration Management.


From the discussion, it became clear that managing all the details is impossible; still, you need an overreaching baseline to identify the severity and impact of a change along the product lifecycle.

New methodologies can be developed for this, as reliable data can be used in algorithms to analyze a change impact. This brings us to the digital thread. According to the CIMdata definition used in the A&D digital twin phase 2 position paper:

The digital thread provides the ability for a business to have an Authoritative Source of Truth(ASOT), which is information available and connected in a core set of the enterprise systems across the lifecycle and supplier networks

The definition implies that, in the end, a decision is made on data from the most reliable, connected source. There might be different data in other locations. However, this information is less reliable. Updating or fixing this information does not make sense as the effort and cost of fixing will be too expensive and give no benefit.

Obviously, we need reliable data to implement the various types of digital twins.

As I am intrigued by the power of the brain – its strengths and weaknesses – the concept of ASOT can also be found in our brains. Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow talks about the two systems/modes our brain uses. The Fast one (System 1 – low energy usage) could be the imaginary SSOT, whereas the Slow one (System 2 – high energy required) is the ASOT. The brain needs both, and I believe this is the same in our PLM domain.

A new PLM Paradigm

In this context, there is a vivid discussion about the System of Record and Systems of Engagement. I wrote about it in June (post: A new PLM paradigm); other authors name it differently, but all express a similar concept. Have a look at these recent articles and statements from:

Author Link to content

Authentise

 

The challenge of cross-discipline collaboration …….

Beyond PLM

 

When is the right time to change your PLM system + discussion

Colab

 

The Single Source Of Truth wasn’t built for you …….

Fraunhofer institute

 

Killing the PLM Monolith – the Emergence of cloud-native System Lifecycle Management (SysLM)

SAAB Group

 

Don’t mix the tenses. Managing the Present and the Future in an MBSE context

Yousef Hooshmand

 

From a Monolithic PLM Landscape to a Federated Domain and Data Mesh

If you want to learn more about these concepts and discuss them with some of the experts in this domain, come to the upcoming PLM Roadmap PTD Europe conference on 18-19 October in Gothenburg, Sweden. Have a look at the final agenda here

Register before September 12 to benefit from a 15 % Early Bird discount, which you can spend for the dinner after day 1. I look forward to discussing the SSOT/ASOT topics there.


Conclusion

The Single Source Of Truth (SSOT) and the Authoritative Source of Truth (ASOT) are terms that illustrate the traditional PLM paradigm is changing thanks to digitization and connected stakeholders. The change is in the air. Now, the experience has to come. So be part of the change and discuss with us.

 

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