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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)

 

 

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

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.

At the beginning of this week, I was attending the 9th edition of the PI conference in London. Where it started as a popular conference with 300 – 400 attendees at its best, we were now back to a smaller number of approximately 100 attendees.

It illustrates that PLM as a standalone topic is no longer attracts a broad audience as Marketkey (the organization of the conference) confirms. The intention is that future conferences will be focusing on the broader scope of PLM, where business transformation will be one of the main streams.

In this post, I will share my highlights of the conference, knowing that other sessions might have been valuable too, but I had to make a choice.

It is about people

Armin Prommersberger, CTO from DIRAC and the chairman of the conference, made a great point: “What we will discuss in the upcoming two days, it is all about people not about technology.”

I am not sure if this opening has influenced the mood of the conference, as when I look back to what was the central theme: It is all about how we deal with people when explaining, implementing and justifying PLM.

AI at the Forefront of a Digital Transformation

Muhannad Alomari from R2 Data Labs as a separate unit within Rolls Royce to explore and provide data innovation started with his keynote speech sharing the AI initiatives within his team.

He talked about several projects where AI will become crucial.

For example, the EHM program related to engine behavior. How to detect anomalies, how to establish predictive maintenance and maximize the time an airplane engine is in operation. Interesting to mention is that Muhannad explained that most simulation models are based on simplified simulation models, not accurate enough to discover anomalies.

Modeling in the PLM world with feedback from reality

Machine learning and feedback loops are crucial to optimize the models both for the discovery of irregularities and, of course, to improve understanding of the engine behavior and predict maintenance. Currently, maintenance is defined based on the worst-case scenario for the engine, which in reality, of course, will not be the case for most engines. There is a lot (millions) to gain here for a company.

Interesting to mention is that Muhannad gave a realistic view of the current status of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is currently still dumb – it is a set of algorithms that need to be adapted whenever new patterns are discovered. Deep learning is still not there – currently, we still need human beings for that.

This was in contrast with the session from Kalypso later with the title: Supercharge your PLM with advanced analytics. It was a typical example of where a realistic story (R2 Data Labs) shows such a big difference with what is sold by PLM vendors or implementers. Kalypso introduced Product Lifecycle Intelligence (PLI) – you can see the dream on the left (click on the image to enlarge).

Combine PLM with Analytics, and you have Intelligence.  My main comment is, knowing from the field the first three phases in most companies have a lack of data quality and consistency. Therefore any “Intelligence” probably will be based on unreliable sources. Not an issue if you are working in the domain of politics, however when it comes to direct cost and quality implications, it can be a significant risk. We still have a way to go before we have a reliable PLM data backbone for analytics.

 

Keeping PLM Momentum after a Successful Campaign

Susanna Mäentausta from Kemira in Finland gave an exciting update of their PLM project. Where in 2019, she shared with us their PLM roadmap (see my 2019 post: The weekend after PI PLMx London 2019); this time, Susanna shared with us how they are keeping the PLM momentum.

Often PLM implementations are started based on a hypothetical business case (I talked about this in my post The PLM ROI Myth). But then, when you implement PLM, you need to take care you provide proof points to motivate the management. And this is exactly what the PLM team in Kemira has been doing. Often management believes that after the first investment, the project is done (“We bought the software – so we are done”) however the business and process change that will deliver the value is not reported.

Susanna shared with us how they defined measurable KPIs for two reasons.  First, to motivate the management that there are business progress and benefits, however, it is a journey. And secondary the facts are used to kill the legends that “Before PLM we were much faster or efficient.” These types of legends are often expressed loudly by persons who consider PLM as an overhead (killing their freedom) instead of a way to be more efficient in business. In the end, for a company, the business is more important than the person’s belief.

On the question for Susanna, what she would have done better with hindsight, she answered: “Communicate, communicate, communicate.” A response I fully support as often PLM teams are too busy completing their day-to-day work, that there is no spare time for communication. Crucial to achieving a business change.

My agreement: PLM needs facts based during implementation and support combined with the understanding we are dealing with people and their emotions too. Both need full attention.

Acceleration Digitalization at Stora Enso

Samuli Savo, Chief Digital Officer at Stora Enso, explained the principles of innovation, related to digitalization at his company. Stora Enso, a Swedish/Finish company, historically one of the largest forestry companies in the world as well as one of the most significant paper and packaging producers, is working on a transformation to become the renewable materials company. For me, he made two vital points on how Stora Enso’s digitalization’s journey is organized.

He pleads for experimentation funded by corporate as in the experimental stage, as it does not make sense to have a business case. First DO and then ANALYZE, where many companies have to policy first to ANALYZE and then DO, killing innovative thinking.

The second point was the active process to challenge startups to solve business challenges they foresee and, combined with a governance process for startups, allow these companies to be supported and become embedded within member companies of the Combient Foundry, like Stora Enso. By doing such in a structured way, the outcome must lead to innovation.

I was thinking about the hybrid enterprise model that I have been explaining in the past. Great story.

Cyber-security and Future Mobility

Out of interest, I followed the session from Madeline Cheah, Cybersecurity Innovation Lead at HORIBA MIRA. She gave an excellent and well-structured overview. Madeline leads the cybersecurity research program. Part of this job is investigating ways to prevent vehicles from being attacked.  In particular, when it comes to connected and autonomous vehicles. How to keep them secure.

She discussed the known gaps are and the cybersecurity implications of future mobility so extensive that I even doubted will there ever be an autonomous vehicle on the road. So much to define and explore. She looked at it from the perspective of the Internet of Everything, where Everything is divided into Things, Data, Processes, and People. Still, a lot of work to do, see image below

Good Times Ahead: Delay Mitigation Through a Plan for Every Part

Ian Quest, director at Quick Release, gave an overview of what their company aims to be. You could translate it as the plumbers of the automotive industry Where in the ideal world information should be flowing from design to release, there are many bottlenecks, leakages, hiccups that need to be resolved as the image shows.

Where their customers often do not have the time and expertise to fix these issues, Quick Release brings in various skillsets and common sense. For example, how to deal with the Bill of Materials, Configuration Management, and many other areas that you need to address with methodology first instead of (vendor-based) technology. I believe there is a significant need for this type of company in the PLM-domain.

The second part, presented by Nick Solly, with a focus on their QRonos tool, was perhaps a little too much a focus on the capabilities of the tool. Ian Quest, in his introduction,  already made the correct statement:

The QRonos tool, which is more or less a reporting tool, illustrates again that when people care about reliable data (planning, tasks, parts, deliverables, …..), you can improve your business significantly by creating visibility to delays or bottlenecks. The value lies in measurable activities and from there, learn to predict or enhance – see R2 Labs, Kemira and the PLI dream.

Conclusion

It is clear that a typical PLM conference is no longer a technology festival – it is about people. People are trying to change or improve their business. Trying to learn from each other, knowing that the technical concepts and technology are there.

I am looking forward to the upcoming PI events where this change will become more apparent.

 

It’s the beginning of the year. Companies are starting new initiatives, and one of them is potentially the next PLM-project. There is a common understanding that implementing PLM requires a business case with ROI and measurable results. Let me explain why this understanding is a myth and requires a myth.

I was triggered by a re-post from Lionel Grealou, titled: Defining the PLM Business Case.  Knowing Lionel is quite active in PLM and digital transformation, I was a little surprised by the content of the post. Then I noticed the post was from January 2015, already 5 years old. Clearly, the world has changed (perhaps the leadership has not changed).

So I took this post as a starting point to make my case.

In 2015, we were in the early days of digital transformation. Many PLM-projects were considered as traditional linear projects. There is the AS-IS situation, there is the TO-BE situation. Next, we know the  (linear) path to the solution and we can describe the project and its expected benefits.

It works if you understand and measure exactly the AS-IS situation and know almost entirely the TO-BE situation (misperception #1).

However,  implementing PLM is not about installing a new transactional system. PLM implementations deal with changing ways-of-working and therefore implementing PLM takes time as it is not just a switch of systems. Lionel was addressing this point:

“The inherent risks associated with any long term business benefit driven projects include the capability of the organization to maintain a valid business case with a benefit realization forecast that remains above the initial baseline. The more rework is required or if the program delivery slips, the more the business case gets eroded and the longer the payback period.”

Interestingly here is the mentioning ..the business case gets eroded – this is most of the time the case. Lionel proposes to track business benefits. Also, he mentions the justification of the PLM-project could be done by considering PLM as a business transformation tool (misperception #2) or a way to mitigate risk,s due to unsupported IT-solutions (misperception #3).

Let’s dive into these misperceptions

#1 Compare the TO-BE and the AS-IS situation

Two points here.

  1. Does your company measure the AS-IS situation? Do you know how your company performs when it comes to PLM related processes? The percentage of time spent by engineers for searching for data has been investigated – however, PLM goes beyond engineering. What about product management, marketing, manufacturing, and service?  Typical performance indicators mentioned are:
    • Time To Market (can you measure?)
    • Developing the right product – better market responsiveness (can you measure?)
    • Multidisciplinary collaboration (can you measure?)
  2. Do you know the exact TO-BE situation? In particular, when you implement PLM, it is likely to be in the scope of a digital transformation. If you implement to automate and consolidate existing processes, you might be able to calculate the expected benefits. However, you do not want to freeze your organization’s processes. You need to implement a reliable product data infrastructure that allows you to enhance, change, or add new processes when required. In particular, for PLM, digital transformation does not have a clear target picture and scope yet. We are all learning.

#2 PLM is a business transformation tool

Imagine you install the best product innovation platform relevant for your business and selected by your favorite consultancy firm. It might be a serious investment; however, we are talking about the future of the company, and the future is in digital platforms. So nothing can go wrong now.

Does this read like a joke? Yes, it is, however, this is how many companies have justified their PLM investment. First, they select the best tool (according to their criteria, according to their perception), and then business transformation can start. Later in time, the implementation might not be so successful; the vendor and/or implementer will be blamed. Read: The PLM blame game

When you go to PLM conferences, you will often hear the same mantras: Have a vision, Have C-level sponsoring/involved, No Big Bang, it is a business project, not an IT-project, and more. And vendor-sponsored sessions always talk about amazing fast implementations (or did they mean installing the POC ?)

However, most of the time, C-level approves the budget without understanding the full implications (expecting the tool will do the work); business is too busy or does not get enough allocated time to supporting implementation (expecting the tool will do the work). So often the PLM-project becomes an IT-project executed mainly by the cheapest implementation partner (expecting the tool will do the work). Again this is not a joke!

A business transformation can only be successful if you agree on a vision and a learning path. The learning path will expose the fact that future value streams require horizontal thinking and reallocation of responsibilities – breaking the silos, creating streams.

Small teams can demonstrate these benefits without disrupting the current organization. However, over time the new ways of working should become the standard, therefore requiring different types of skills (people), different ways of working (different KPIs and P&L for departments), and ultimate different tools.

As mentioned before, many PLM-projects start from the tools – a guarantee for discomfort and/or failure.

#3 – mitigate risks due to unsupported IT-solutions

Often PLM-projects are started because the legacy environment becomes outdated. Either because the hardware infrastructure is no longer supported/affordable or the software code dependencies on the latest operating systems are no longer guaranteed.

A typical approach to solve this is a big-bang project – the new PLM system needs to contain all the old data and meanwhile, to justify the project, the new PLM system needs to bring additional business value. The latter part is most of the time not difficult to identify as traditional PLM implementations most of the time were in reality cPDM environments with a focus on engineering only.

However, the legacy migration can have such a significant impact on the new PLM-system that it destroys the potential for the future. I wrote about this issue in The PLM Migration Dilemma

How to approach PLM ROI?

A PLM-project never will get a budget or approval from the board when there is no financial business case. Building the right financial business case for PLM is a skill that is often overlooked. During the upcoming PI PLMx London conference (3 – 4 February), I will moderate a Focus Group where we will discuss how to get PLM on the Exec’s agenda.

Two of my main experiences:

  • Connect your PLM-project to the business strategy. As mentioned before, isolated PLM fails most of the time because business transformation, organizational change and the targeted outcome are not included. If PLM is not linked to an actual business strategy, it will be considered as a costly IT-project with all its bad connotations. Have a look at my older post: PLM, ROI and disappearing jobs
  • Create a Myth. Perhaps the word Myth is exaggerated – it is about an understandable vision. Myth connects nicely to the observations from behavioral experts that our brain does not decide on numbers but by emotion. Big decisions and big themes in the world or in a company need a myth: “Make our company great again” could be the tagline. In such a case people get aligned without a deep understanding of what is the impact or business case; the myth will do the work – no need for a detailed business case. A typical human behavior, see also my post: PLM as a myth.

Conclusion

There should never be a business case uniquely for PLM – it should always be in the context of a business strategy requiring new ways of working and new tools. In business, we believe that having a solid business case is the foundation for success. Sometimes an overwhelming set of details and numbers can give the impression that the business case is solid.  Consultancy firms are experts in this area to build a business case based on emotion. They know how to combine numbers with a myth. Therefore look at their approach – don’t be too technical / too financial. If the myth will hold, at the end depends on the people and organization, not on the investments in tools and services.

 

 

For me, the joint conference from CIMdata and Eurostep is always a conference to look forward too. The conference is not as massive as PLM-Vendor conferences (slick presentations and happy faces); it is more a collection of PLM-practitioners (this time a 100+) with the intent to discuss and share their understanding and challenges, independent from specific vendor capabilities or features.  And because of its size a great place to network with everyone.

Day 1 was more a business/methodology view on PLM and Day 2 more in-depth focusing on standards and BIM. In this post, the highlights from the first day.

The State of PLM

 

 

Peter Bilello, CIMdata’s president, kicked of with a review of the current state of the PLM industry. Peter mentioned the PLM-market grew by 9.4 % to $47.8 billion (more than the expected 7 %). Good for the PLM Vendors and implementers.

However, Peter also mentioned that despite higher spending, PLM is still considered as a solution for engineering, often implemented as PDM/CAD data management. Traditional organizational structures, marketing, engineering, manufacturing, quality were defined in the previous century and are measured as such.

This traditional approach blocks the roll-out of PLM across these disciplines. Who is the owner of PLM or where is the responsibility for a certain dataset are questions to solve. PLM needs to transform to deliver end-to-end support instead of remaining the engineering silo. Are we still talking about PLM in the future? See Peter’s takeaways below:

 

 

We do not want to open the discussion if the the name PLM should change – too many debates – however unfortunate too much framing in the past too.

The Multi View BOM

 

 

Fred Feru from Airbus presented a status the Aerospace & Defense PLM action group are working on: How to improve and standardize on a PLM solution for multi-view BOM management, in particular, the interaction between the EBOM and MBOM. See below:

 

You might think this is a topic already solved when you speak with your PLM-vendor. However, all existing solutions at the participant implementations rely on customizations and vary per company. The target is to come up with common requirements that need to be addressed in the standard methodology. Initial alignment on terminology was already a first required step as before you standardize, you need to have a common dictionary. Moreover, a typical situation in EVERY PLM implementation.

 

 

An initial version was shared with the PLM Editors for feedback and after iterations and agreement to come with a solution that can be implemented without customization. If you are interested in the details, you can read the current status here with Appendix A en Appendix B.

 

Enabling the Circular Economy for Long Term Prosperity

Graham Aid gave a fascinating presentation related to the potentials and flaws of creating a circular economy. Although Graham was not a PLM-expert (till he left this conference), as he is the Strategy and Innovation Coordinator for the Ragn-Sells Group, which performs environmental services and recycling across Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Estonia. Have a look at their website here.

 

 

Graham shared with us the fact that despite logical arguments for a circular economy – it is more profitable at the end – however, our short term thinking and bias block us from doing the right things for future generations.

Look at the missing link for a closed resource-lifecycle view below.

Graham shared weird examples where scarce materials for the future currently were getting cheaper, and therefore there is no desire for recycling them. A sound barrier with rubble could contain more copper than copper ore in a mine.

In the PLM-domain, there is also an opportunity for supporting and working on more sustainable products and services. It is a mindset and can be a profitable business model. In the PDT 2014 conference, there was a session on circular product development with Xerox as the best example. Circular product development but also Product As A Service can be activities that contribute to a more sustainable world. Graham’s presentation was inspiring for our PLM community and hopefully planted a few seeds for the future. As it is all about thinking long-term.

 

 

With the PLM Green Alliance, I hope we will be able to create a larger audience and participation for a sustainable future. More about the PLM Green Alliance next week.

 

The Fundamental Role of PLM in Data-driven Product Portfolio Management

 

 

Hannu Hannila (Polar) presented his study related to data-driven product portfolio management and why it should be connected to PLM.  For many companies, it is a challenge to understand which products are performing well and where to invest. These choices are often supported by Data Damagement as Hannu called it.

An example below:

The result of this fragmented approach is that organizations make their decisions on subjective data and emotions. Where the assumption is that 20 % of the products a company is selling is related to 80 % of the revenue, Hannu found in his research companies where only 10 % of the products were contributing to the revenue. As PPM (Product Portfolio Management)  often is based on big emotions – who shouts the loudest mentality, influenced by the company’s pet products and influence by the HIPPO (HIghest Paid Person in the Office).  So how to get a better rationale?

 

 

Hannu explained a data-driven framework that would provide the right analytics on management level, depending on overall data governance from all disciplines and systems.  See below:

I liked Hannu’s conclusions as it aligns with my findings:

  • To be data-driven, you need Master Data Management and Data Governance
  • Product Portfolio Management is the driving discipline for PLM, and in a modern digital enterprise, it should be connected.

Sponsor sessions

Sponsors are always needed to keep a conference affordable for the attendees.  The sponsor sessions on day 1 were of good quality.  Here a quick overview and a link if you want to invest further

 

 

Configit – explaining the value of a configurator that connects marketing, technical and sales, introducing CLM (Configuration Lifecycle Management) – a new TLA

 

 

Aras – explaining their view on what we consider the digital thread

 

 

Variantum – explaining their CPQ solution as part of a larger suite of cloud offerings

 

 

Quick Release – bringing common sense to PLM implementations, similar to what I am doing as PLM coach – focusing on the flow of information

 

 

SAP – explaining the change in focus when a company moves toward a product as a service model

 

 

SharePLM – A unique company addressing the importance of PLM training delivered through eLearning

Conclusion

The first day was an easy to digest conference with a good quality of presentations. I only shared 50 % of the session as we already reached 1000+ words.  The evening I enjoyed the joint dinner, being able to network and discuss in depth with participants and finished with a social network event organized by SharePLM. Next week part 2.

In recent years, more and more PLM customers approached me with questions related to the usage of product information for downstream publishing. To be fair, this is not my area of expertise for the moment. However, with the mindset of a connected enterprise, this topic will come up.

For that reason, I have a strategic partnership with Squadra, a Dutch-based company, providing the same coaching model as TacIT; however, they have their roots in PIM and MDM.

Together we believe we can deliver a meaningful answer on the question: What are the complementary roles of PLM and PIM? In this post, our first joint introduction.

Note: The topic is not new. Already in 2005, Jim Brown from Tech-Clarity published a white-paper: The Complementary Roles of PIM and PLM. This all before digitization and connectivity became massive.

Let’s start with the abbreviations, the TLAs (Three-Letter-Acronyms) and their related domains

PLM – level 1
(Product Lifecycle Management – push)

For PLM, I want to stay close to the current definitions. It is the strategic approach to provide a governance infrastructure to deliver a product to the market. Starting from an early concept phase till manufacturing and in its extended definition also during its operational phase.
The focus with PLM is to reduce time to market by ensuring quality, cost, and delivery through more and more a virtual product definition, therefore being able to decide upfront for the best design choices, manufacturing options with the lowest cost. In the retail world, own-brand products are creating a need for PLM.

The above image is nicely summarizing the expected benefits of a traditional PLM implementation.

 

MDM (Master Data Management)

When product data is shared in an enterprise among multiple systems, there is a need for Master Data Management (MDM). Master Data Management focuses on a governance approach that information stored in various systems has the same meaning and shared values where relevant.

MDM guards and streamlines the way master data is entered, processed, guarded, and changed within the company, resulting in one single version of the truth and enabling different departments and systems to stay synced regarding their crucial data.

Interestingly, in the not-so-digital world of PLM, you do not see PLM vendors working on an MDM-approach. They do not care about an end-to-end connected strategy yet. I wrote about this topic in 2017 here: Master Data Management and PLM.

PIM (Product Information Management)

The need for PIM starts to become evident when selling products through various business channels. If you are a specialized machine manufacturer, your product information for potential customers might be very basic and based on a few highlights.

However, due to digitization and global connectivity, product information now becomes crucial to be available in real-time, wherever your customers are in the world.

In a competitive world, with an omnichannel strategy, you cannot survive without having your PIM streamlined and managed.

 

Product Innovation Platforms (PLM – Level 2 – Pull)

With the introduction of Product Innovation Platforms as described by CIMdata and Gartner, the borders of PLM, PIM, and MDM might become vague, as they might be all part of the same platform, therefore reducing the immediate need for an MDM-environment.  For example, companies like Propel, Stibo, and Oracle are building a joint PLM-PIM portfolio.

Let’s dive more profound in the two scenarios that we meet the most in business, PLM driving PIM (my comfort zone) and PIM driving the need for PLM (Squadra’s s area of expertise).

PLM driving PIM

Traditionally PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) has been focusing on several aspects of the product lifecycle. Here is an excellent definition for traditional PLM:

PLM is a collection of best practices, dependent per industry to increase product revenue, reduce product-related costs and maximize the value of the product portfolio  (source 2PLM)

This definition shows that PLM is a business strategy, not necessarily a system, but an infrastructure/approach to:

  • ensure shorter time to market with the right quality (increasing product revenue)
  • efficiently (reduce product-related costs – resources and scrap)
  • deliver products that bring the best market revenue (maximize the value of the product portfolio)

The information handled by traditional PLM consists mostly of design data, i.e., specifications, manufacturing drawings, 3D Models, and Bill of Materials (physical part definitions) combined with version and revision management. In elaborate environments combined with processes supporting configuration management.

PLM data is more focused on internal processes and quality than on targeting the company’s customers. Sometimes the 3D Design data is used as a base to create lightweight 3D graphics for quotations and catalogs, combining it with relevant sales data. Traditional marketing was representing the voice of the customer.

PLM implementations are more and more providing an enterprise backbone for product data. As a result of this expansion, there is a wish to support sales and catalogs, more efficiently, sharing master data from creation till publishing, combining the product portfolio with sales and service information in a digital way.

In particular, due to globalization, there was a need to make information globally available in different languages without a significant overhead of resources to manage the data or manage the disconnect from the real product data.

Companies that have realized the need for connected data understood that Product Master Data Management is more than only the engineering/manufacturing view. Product Master Data Management is also relevant to the sales and services view. Historically done by companies as a customized extension on their PLM-system, now more and more interfacing with specialized PIM-systems. Proprietary PLM-PIM interfaces exist. Hopefully, with digital transformation, a more standardized approach will appear.

 

PIM driving the need for PLM

Because of changes in the retail market, the need for information in the publishing processes is also changing. Retailers also need to comply with new rules and legislation. The source of the required product information is often in the design process of the product.

In parallel, there is an ongoing market trend to have more and more private label products in the (wholesale and retail) assortments. This means a growing number of retailers and wholesalers will become producers and will have their own Ideation and innovation process.

A good example is ingredients and recipe information in the food retail sector. This information needs to be provided now by suppliers or by their own brand department that owns the design process of the product. Similar to RoHS or REACH compliance in the industry.

Retail and Wholesale can tackle own brands reasonably well with their PIM systems (or Excels), making use of workflows and product statuses. However, over the years, the information demands have increased, and a need for more sophisticated lifecycle management has emerged and, therefore the need for PLM (in this case, PLM also stands for Private Label Management).

In the image below, illustrates a PLM layer and a PIM layer, all leading towards rich product information for the end-users (either B2B or B2C).

In the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) world, most innovative products are coming from manufacturers. They have pipelines with lots of ideas resulting in a limited number of sellable products. In the Wholesale and Retail business, the Private Label development process usually has a smaller funnel but a high pressure on time to market, therefore, a higher need for efficiency in the product data chain.

Technological changes, like 3D Printing, also change the information requirements in the retail and wholesale sectors. 3D printing can be used for creating spare parts on-demand, therefore changing the information flow in processes dramatically. Technical drawings and models that were created in the design process, used for mass production, are now needed in the retail process closer to the end customer.

These examples make it clear that more and more information is needed for publication in the sales process and therefore needs to be present in PIM systems. This information needs to be collected and available during the PLM release process. A seamless connection between the product release and sales processes will support the changing requirements and will reduce errors and rework in on data.

PLM and PIM are two practices that need to go hand in hand like a relay baton in athletics. Companies that are using both tools must also organize themselves in a way that processes are integrated, and data governance is in place to keep things running smoothly.

 

Conclusion

Market changes and digital transformation force us to work in value streams along the whole product lifecycle ensuring quality and time to market. PLM and PIM will be connected domains in the future, to enable smooth product go-to-market. Important is the use of data standards (PLM and PIM should speak a common language) – best based on industry standards so that cross-company communication on product data is possible.

What do you think? Do you see PLM and PIM getting together too, in your business?

Please share in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I read Verdi Ogewell’ s article:  PTC puts the Needle to the Digital Thread on Engineering.com where Verdi raised the question (and concluded) who is the most visionary PLM CEO – Bernard Charles from Dassault Systemes or Jim Heppelman from PTC. Unfortunate again, an advertorial creating more haziness around modern PLM than adding value.

People need education and Engineering.com is/was a respected site for me, as they state in their Engineering.com/about statement:

Valuable Content for Busy Engineers. Engineering.com was founded on the simple mission to help engineers be better.

Unfortunate this is not the case in the PLM domain anymore. In June, we saw an article related to the failing PLM migration at Ericsson – see The PLM migration dilemma. Besides the fact that a big-bang migration had failed at Ericsson, the majority of the article was based on rumors and suggestions, putting the sponsor of this article in a better perspective.

Of course, Engineering.com needs sponsoring to host their content, and vendors are willing to spend marketing money on that. However, it would be fairer to mention in a footnote who sponsored the article – although per article you can guess. Some more sincere editors or bloggers mention their sponsoring that might have influenced their opinion.

Now, why did the article PTC puts the Needle to the Digital Thread made me react ?

Does a visionary CEO pay off?

It can be great to have a visionary CEO however, do they make the company and their products/services more successful? For every successful visionary CEO, there are perhaps ten failing visionary CEOs as the stock market or their customers did not catch their vision.

There is no lack of PLM vision as Peter Bilello mapped in 2014 when imagining the gaps between vision, available technology, and implementations at companies (leaders and followers). See below:

The tremendous gap between vision and implementations is the topic that concerns me the most. Modern PLM is about making data available across the enterprise or even across the company’s ecosystem. It is about data democratization that allows information to flow and to be presented in context, without the need to recreate this information again.

And here the marketing starts. Verdi writes:

PTC’s Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital twin and augmented reality (AR) investments, as well as the collaboration with Rockwell Automation in the factory automation arena, have definitely placed the company in a leading position in digital product realization, distribution and aftermarket services

With this marketing sentence, we are eager to learn why

“With AR, for example, we can improve the quality control of the engines,” added Volvo Group’s Bertrand Felix, during an on-stage interview by Jim Heppelmann. Heppelmann then went down to a Volvo truck with the engine lifted out of its compartment. Using a tablet, he was able to show how the software identified the individual engine, the parts that were included, and he could also pick up the 3D models of each component and at the same time check that everything was included and in the right place.

Impressive – is it real?

The point is that this is the whole chain for digital product realization–development and manufacturing–that the Volvo Group has chosen to focus on. Sub-components have been set up that will build the chain, much is still in the pilot stage, and a lot remains to be done. But there is a plan, and the steps forward are imminent.

OK, so it is a pilot, and a lot remains to be done – but there is a plan. I am curious about the details of that plan, as a little later, we learn from the CAD story:

The Pro/ENGINEER “inheritor” Creo (engine, chassis) is mainly used for CAD and creation of digital twins, but as previously noted, Dassault Systémes’ CATIA is also still used. Just as in many other large industrial organizations, Autodesk’s AutoCAD is also represented for simpler design solutions.

There goes the efficient digital dream. Design data coming from CATIA needs to be recreated in Creo for digital twin support. Data conversion or recreation is an expensive exercise and needs to be reliable and affordable as the value of the digital twin is gone once the data is incorrect.

In a digital enterprise, you do not want silos to work with their own formats, you want a digital thread based on (neutral) models that share metadata/parameters from design to service.

So I dropped the article and noticed Oleg had already commented faster than me in his post: Does PLM industry need a visionary pageant? Oleg refers also to CIMdata, as they confirmed in 2018 that the concept of a platform for product innovation (PIP), or the beyond PLM is far from reality in companies. Most of the time, a PLM-implementation is mainly a beyond PDM environment, not really delivering product data downstream.

I am wholly aligned with Oleg’s  technical conclusion:

What is my(Oleg’s) conclusion? PLM industry doesn’t need another round of visionary pageants. I’d call democratization, downstream usage and openness as biggest challenges and opportunities in PLM applications. Recent decades of platform development demonstrated the important role network platforms played in the development of global systems and services. PLM paradigm change from isolated vertical platforms to open network services required to bring PLM to the next level. Just my thoughts..

My comments to Oleg’s post:

(Jos) I fully agree we do not need more visionary PLM pageants. It is not about technology and therefore I have to disagree with your point about Aras. You call it democratization and openness of data a crucial point – and here I agree – be it that we probably disagree about how to reach this – through standards or through more technology. My main point to be made (this post ) is that we need visionary companies that implement and rethink their processes and are willing to invest resources in that effort. Most digital transformation projects related to PLM fail because the existing status quo/ middle management has no incentive to change. More thoughts to come

And this the central part of my argumentation – it is not about technology (only).

Organizational structures are blocking digital transformation

Since 2014 I have been following several larger manufacturing companies on their path from pushing products to the market in a linear mode towards a customer-driven, more agile, fast responding enterprise. As this is done by taking benefit of digital technologies, we call this process: digital transformation.

(image depicting GE’s digital thread)

What I have learned from these larger enterprises, and both Volvo Trucks and GE as examples, that there is a vision for an end result. For GE, it is the virtual twin of their engines monitored and improved by their Predix platform. For Volvo Trucks, we saw the vision in the quote from Verdi’s article before.

However, these companies are failing in creating a horizontal mindset inside their companies. Data can only be efficient used downstream if there is a willingness to work on collecting the relevant data upstream and delivering this information in an accessible format, preferably data-driven.

The Middle Management Dilemma

And this leads to my reference to middle management. Middle managers learn about the C-level vision and are pushed to make this vision happen. However, they are measured and driven to solve these demands, mainly within their own division or discipline. Yes, they might create goodwill for others, but when it comes to money spent or changing people responsibilities, the status quo will remain.

I wrote about this challenge in The Middle Management dilemma. Digital transformation, of course, is enabled by digital technologies, but it does not mean the technology is creating the transformation. The crucial fact lies in making companies more flexible in their operations, yet establishing better and new contacts with customers.

It is interesting to see that the future of businesses is looking into agile, multidisciplinary teams that can deliver incremental innovations to the company’s portfolio. Somehow going back to the startup culture inside a more significant enterprise. Having worked with several startups, you see the outcome-focus as a whole in the beginning – everyone contributes. Then when the size of the company grows, middle-management is introduced, and most likely silos are created as the middle management gets their own profit & loss targets.

Digital Transformation myths debunked

This week Helmut Romer (thanks Helmut) pointed me to the following HBR-article: Digital does not need to be disruptive where the following myths are debunked:

  1. Myth: Digital requires radical disruption of the value proposition.
    Reality: It usually means using digital tools to better serve the known customer need.
  2. Myth: Digital will replace physical
    Reality: It is a “both/and.”
  3. Myth: Digital involves buying start-ups.
    Reality: It involves protecting start-ups.
  4. Myth: Digital is about technology.
    Reality: It’s about the customer
  5. Myth: Digital requires overhauling legacy systems.
    Reality: It’s more often about incremental bridging.

If you want to understand these five debunked myths, take your time to read the full article, very much aligned with my argumentation, albeit it that my focus is more on the PLM domain.

Conclusions

Vendor sponsoring at Engineering.com has not improved the quality of their PLM articles and creates misleading messages. Especially as the sponsor is not mentioned, and the sponsor is selling technology – the vision gap is too big with reality to compete around a vision.

Transforming companies to take benefit of new technologies requires an end-to-end vision and mindset based on achievable, incremental learning steps. The way your middle management is managed and measured needs to be reworked as the focus is on horizontal flow and understanding of customer/market-oriented processes.

 

This is the moment of the year, where at least in my region, most people take some time off to disconnect from their day-to-day business.  For me, it is never a full disconnect as PLM became my passion, and you should never switch off your passion.

On August 1st, 1999, I started my company TacIT, the same year the acronym PLM was born. I wanted to focus on knowledge management, therefore the name TacIT.  Being dragged into the SmarTeam world with a unique position interfacing between R&D, implementers and customers I found the unique sweet spot, helping me to see all aspects from PLM – the vendor position, the implementer’s view, the customer’s end-user, and management view.

It has been, and still, is 20 years of learning and have been sharing most in the past ten years through my blog. What I have learned is that the more you know, the more you understand that situations are not black and white. See one of my favorite blog pictures below.

So there is enough to overthink during the holidays. Some of my upcoming points:

From coordinated to connected

Instead of using the over-hyped term: Digital Transformation, I believe companies should learn to work in a connected mode, which has become the standard in our daily life. Connected means that information needs to be stored in databases somewhere, combined with openness and standards to make data accessible. For more transactional environments, like CRM, MES, and ERP, the connected mode is not new.

In the domain of product development and selling, we have still a long learning path to go as the majority of organizations is relying on documents, be it Excels, Drawings (PDF) and reports. The fact that they are stored in electronic file formats does not mean that they are accessible. There is still manpower needed to create these artifacts or to extract the required information from them.

The challenge for modern PLM is to establish new best practices around a model-based approach for systems engineering (MBSE), for engineering to manufacturing (MBD/MBE) and operations (Digital Twins). All these best practices should be generic and connected ultimately.  I wrote about these topics in the past, have a look at:

PLM Vendors are showing pieces of the puzzle, but it is up to the implementers to establish the puzzle, without knowing in detail what the end result will be. This is the same journey of Columbus. He had a boat and a target towards the unknown. He discovered a country with a small population, nowadays a country full of immigrants who call themselves natives.

However, the result was an impressive transformation.

Reading about transformation

Last year I read several books to get more insight into what motivates us, and how can we motivate people to change. In one way, it is disappointing to learn that we civilized human beings most of the time to not make rational decisions but act based on our per-historic brain.

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow from Daniel Kahneman was one of the first books in that direction as a must-read to understand our personal thinking and decision processes.

 

 

 

I read Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To from Dean Burnett, where he explains this how our brain appears to be sabotaging our life, and what on earth it is really up to. Interesting to read but could be a little more comprehensive

 

I got more excited from Dan Ariely”s book: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions as it was structured around topics where we handle completely irrational but predictable. And this predictability is used by people (sales/politicians/ management) to drive your actions. Useful to realize when you recognize the situation

 

These three books also illustrate the flaws of our modern time – we communicate fast (preferable through tweets) – we decide fast based on our gut feelings – so you realize towards what kind of world we are heading.  Going through a transformation should be considered as a slow, learning process. Like reading a book – it takes time to digest.

Once you are aiming at a business transformation for your company or supporting a company in its transformation, the following books were insightful:

Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation by George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee is maybe not the most inspiring book, however as it stays close to what we experience in our day-to-day-life it is for sure a book to read to get a foundational understanding of business transformation.

 

The book I liked the most recent was Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company’s Future by Nathan Furr, Kyle Nel, Thomas Zoega Ramsoy as it gives examples of transformation addressing parts of the irrational brain to get a transformation story. I believe in storytelling instead of business cases for transformation. I wrote about it in my blog post: PLM Measurable or a myth referring to Yuval Harari’s book Homo Sapiens

Note: I am starting my holidays now with a small basket of e-books. If you have any recommendations for books that I must read – please write them in the comments of this blog

Discussing transformation

After the summer holidays, I plan to have fruitful discussions around topics close to PLM. Working on a post and starting a conversation related to PLM, PIM, and Master Data Management. The borders between these domains are perhaps getting vaguer in a digital enterprise.

Further, I am looking forward to a discussion around the value of PLM assisting companies in developing sustainable products. A sustainable and probably circular economy is required to keep this earth a place to live for everybody. The whole discussion around climate change, however, is worrying as we should be Thinking – not fast and slow – but balanced.

A circular economy has been several times a topic during the joint CIMdata PLM Roadmap and PDT conferences, which bring me to the final point.

On 13th and 14th November this year I will participate again in the upcoming PLM Roadmap and PDT conference. This time in La Defense, Paris, France. I will share my experiences from working with companies trying to understand and implement pieces of a digital transformation related to PLM.

There will be inspiring presentations from other speakers, all working on some of the aspects of moving to facets of a connected enterprise. It is not a marketing event, it is done by professionals, serving professionals. Therefore I hope if you are passioned about the new aspects of PLM, no matter how you name label them, come and join, discuss and most of all, learn.

Conclusion

 

Modern life is about continuous learning  – make it a habit. Even a holiday is again a way to learn to disconnect.

How disconnected I was you will see after the holidays.

 

 

 

After my previous post about the PLM migration dilemma, I had several discussions with peers in the field why these PLM bad news are creating so much debate. For every PLM vendor, I can publish a failure story if I want. However, the reality is that the majority of PLM implementations do not fail.

Yes, they can cause discomfort or friction in an organization as implementing the tools often forces people to work differently.  And often working differently is not anticipated by the (middle) management and causes, therefore, a mismatch for the people, process & tools paradigm.

So we love bad news in real life. We talk about terrorism while meanwhile, a large number of people are dying through guns, cars, and even the biggest killer mosquitos. Fear stories sell better than success stories, and in particular, in the world of PLM Vendors, every failure of the competition is enlarged.  However, there are more actors involved in a PLM implementation, and if PLM systems would be that bad, they would not exist anymore and replace by ………?

Who to blame – the vendor?

Of course, it is the easiest way to blame the vendor as their marketing is promising to solve all problems. However, when you look from a distance to the traditional PLM vendor community, you see they are in a rat-race to deliver the latest and greatest technology ahead of their competition, often driven by some significant customers.

Their customers are buying the vision and expect it to be ready and industrialized, which is not the case – look at the digital twin hype or AI (Artificial Intelligence).  Released PLM software is not at the same maturity compared to office applications. Office applications do not innovate so much and have thousands of users during a beta-cycle and no dependency on processes.

Most PLM vendors are happy when a few customers jump on their latest release, combined with the fact that implementations of the most recent version are not yet a push on the button.  This might change in the long term if PLM Vendors can deliver cloud-based solutions.

PLM implementations within the same industry might look the same but often vary a lot due to existing practices, which will not change due to the tool – so there is a need for customization or configuration.

PLM systems with strong business rules inside their core might more and more develop towards configuration, where PLM toolkit-like systems might focus on ease of customization. Both approaches have their pro’s and con’s (in another blog post perhaps).

Another topic to blame the vendor is lack of openness.  You hear it in many discussions. If vendor X were open, they would not lock the data – a typical marketing slogan. If PLM vendors would be completely open, to which standards should they adhere?  Every PLM has its preferred collection of tools together – if you stay within their portfolio you have a minimum of compatibility or interface issues.

This logic started already with SAP in the previous century. For PLM vendors, there is no business model for openness. For example, the SmarTeam APIs for connecting and extracting data are available free of charge, leading to no revenue for the vendor and significant revenue for service providers. Without any license costs, they can build any type of interface/solution. In the end, when the PLM vendor has no sustainable revenue, the vendor will disappear as we have seen between 2000 and 2010, where several stand-alone PLM systems disappeared.

So yes, we can blame PLM vendors for their impossible expectations – coming to realistic expectations related to capabilities and openness is probably the biggest challenge.

Who to blame – the implementer?

The second partner in a PLM implementation is the implementation partner, often a specialized company related to the PLM vendor. There are two types of implementation partners – the strategic partners and the system integrators.

Let’s see where we can blame them.

Strategic partners, the consultancy firms,  often have a good relationship with the management, they help the company to shape the future strategy, including PLM. You can blame this type of company for their lack of connection to the actual business. What is the impact on the organization to implement a specific strategy, and what does this mean for current or future PLM?

Strategic partners should be the partner to support business change management as they are likely to have experience with other companies. Unfortunate, this type of companies does not have significant skills in PLM as the PLM domain is just a small subset of the whole potential business strategy.

You can blame them that they are useful in building a vision/strategy but fail to create a consistent connection to the field.

Implementation partners, the system integrators, are most of the times specialized in one or two PLM vendor’s software suites, although the smaller the implementation partner, the less broad their implementation skills. These implementation partners sometimes have built their own PLM best practices for a specific vendor and use this as a sales argument. Others just follow blindly what the vendor is promoting or what the customer is asking for.

They will do anything you request, as long as they get paid for it. The larger ones have loads of resources for offshore deliveries – the challenge you see here is that it might look cheap; however, it becomes expensive if there is no apparent convergence of the deliverables.

As I mentioned before they will never say No to a customer and claim to fill all the “gaps,” there are in the PLM environment.

You can blame implementation partners that their focus is on making money from services. And they are right, to remain in business your company needs to be profitable. It is like lawyers; they will invoice you based on their efforts. And the less you take on your plate, the more they will do for you.

The challenge for both consultancy partners as system integrators is to find a balance between experienced people, who really make it happen and educating juniors to become experts too. Often the customer pays for the education of these juniors

Who to blame – your company?

If your company is implementing PLM, then probably the perception is that that you made all the effort to make it successful.  You followed the advice of the strategic consultants, you selected the best PLM Vendor and system integrator, you created a budget – so what could go wrong?

This all depends on your company’s ambition and scope for PLM.

Implementing the as-is processes

If your PLM implementation is just there to automate existing practices and store data in a central location, this might work out. And this is most of the time when PLM implementations are successful. You know what to expect, and your system integrator knows what to expect.

This type of project can run close to budget, and some system integrators might be tempted to offer a fixed price. I am not a fan of fixed priced projects as you never know exactly what needs to be done. The system integrator might raise the target price with 20 – 40 % to cover their risk or you as a company might select the cheapest bid – another guarantee for failure. A PLM implementation is not a one-time project, it is an on-going journey. Therefore your choice needs to be sustainable.

My experience with this type of implementations is that it easy to blame the companies here too. Often the implementation becomes an IT-project, as business people are too busy to run their day-to-day jobs, therefore they only incidentally support the PLM project. The result is that at a specific moment, users confronted with the system feel not connected to the new system – it was better in the past. In particular, configuration management and change processes can become waterproof, leaving no freedom for the users. Then the blaming starts – first the software then the implementer.

But what if you have an ambitious PLM project as part of a business transformation?

In that case, the PLM platform is just one of the elements to consider. It will be the enabler for new ways of working, enabling customer-centric processes, multi-discipline collaboration, and more. All related to a digital transformation of the enterprise. Therefore, I mention PLM platform instead of PLM system. Future enterprises run on data through connected platforms. The better you can connect your disciplines, the more efficient and faster your company will operate. This, as opposed to the coordinated approach, which I have been addressing several times in the past.

A business transformation is a combination of end-to-end understanding of what to change – from management vision connected to the execution in the field. And as there is not an out-of-the-box template for business transformation, it is crucial a company experiments, evaluates and when successful, scales up new habits.

Therefore, it is hard to define upfront all the effort for the PLM platform and the implementation resources. What is sure is that your company is responsible for that, not an external part. So if it fails, your company is to blame.

Is everyone to blame?

You might have the feeling that everyone is to blame when a PLM implementation fails. I believe that is indeed the case. If you know in advance where all players have their strengths and weaknesses, a PLM implementation should not fail, but be balanced with the right resources. Depending on the scope of your PLM implementation, is it a consolidation or a transformation, you should take care of all stakeholders are participating in the anti-blame game.

The anti-blame game is an exercise where you make sure that the other parties in the game cannot blame you.

  • If you are a vendor – do not over commit
  • If you are a consultant or system integrator – learn to say NO
  • If you are the customer – make sure enough resources are assigned – you own the project. It is your project/transformation.

This has been several times my job in the past, where I was asked to mediate in a stalling PLM implementation. Most of the time at that time it was a blame game, missing the target to find a solution that makes sense. Here coaching from experienced PLM consultants makes sense.

 

Conclusion

Most of the time, PLM implementations are successful if the scope is well understood and not transformative. You will not hear a lot about these projects in the news as we like bad news.

To avoid bad news challenging PLM implementations should make sure all parties involved are challenging the others to remain realistic and invest enough. The role of an experienced external coach can help here.

 

 

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