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This time in the series of complementary practices to PLM, I am happy to discuss product modularity. In my previous post related to Virtual Events, I mentioned I had finished reading the book “The Modular Way”, written by Björn Eriksson & Daniel Strandhammar, founders of the consulting company Brick Strategy.

The first time I got aware of Brick Strategy was precisely a year ago during the Technia Innovation Forum, the first virtual event I attended since COVID-19. Daniel’s presentation at that event was one of the four highlights that I shared about the conference. See My four picks from PLMIF.

As I wrote in my last post:

Modularity is a popular topic in many board meetings. How often have you heard: “We want to move from Engineering To Order (ETO) to more Configure To Order (CTO)”? Or another related incentive: “We need to be cleverer with our product offering and reduced the number of different parts”.

Next, the company buys a product that supports modularity, and management believes the work has been done. Of course, not. Modularity requires a thoughtful strategy.

I am now happy to have a dialogue with Daniel to learn and understand Brick Strategy’s view on PLM and Modularization. Are these topics connected? Can one live without the other? Stay tuned till the end if you still have questions for a pleasant surprise.

The Modular Way


Daniel, first of all, can you give us some background and intentions of the book “The Modular Way”?

 

Let me start by putting the book in perspective. In today’s globalized business, competition among industrial companies has become increasingly challenging with rapidly evolving technology, quickly changing customer behavior, and accelerated product lifecycles. Many companies struggle with low profitability.

To survive, companies need to master product customizations, launch great products quickly, and be cost-efficient – all at the same time. Modularization is a good solution for industrial companies with ambitions to improve their competitiveness significantly.

The aim of modularization is to create a module system. It is a collection of pre-defined modules with standardized interfaces. From this, you can build products to cater to individual customer needs while keeping costs low. The main difference from traditional product development is that you develop a set of building blocks or modules rather than specific products.

The Modular Way explains the concept of modularization and the ”how-to.” It is a comprehensive and practical guidebook, providing you with inspiration, a framework, and essential details to succeed with your journey. The book is based on our experience and insights from some of the world’s leading companies.

Björn and I have long thought about writing a book to share our combined modularization experience and learnings. Until recently, we have been fully busy supporting our client companies, but the halted activities during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic gave us the perfect opportunity.

PLM and Modularity


Did you have PLM in mind when writing the book?

 

Yes, definitely. We believe that modularization and a modular way of working make product lifecycle management more efficient. Then we talk foremost about the processes, roles, product structure, decision making etc. Companies often need minor adjustments to their IT systems to support and sustain the new way of working.

Companies benefit the most from modularization when the contents, or foremost the products, are well structured for configuration in streamlined processes.

Many times, this means “thinking ahead” and preparing your products for more configuration and less engineering in the sales process, i.e., go from ETO to CTO.

Modularity for Everybody?

It seems like the modularity concept is prevalent in the Scandinavian countries, with famous examples of Scania, LEGO, IKEA, and Electrolux mentioned in your book. These examples come from different industries. Does it mean that all companies could pursue modularity, or are there some constraints?

We believe that companies designing and manufacturing products fulfilling different customer needs within a defined scope could benefit from modularization. Off-the-shelf content, commonality and reuse increase efficiency. However, the focus, approach and benefits are different among different types of companies.

We have, for example, seen low-volume companies expecting the same benefits as high-volume consumer companies. This is unfortunately not the case.

Companies can improve their ability and reduce the efforts to configure products to individual needs, i.e., customization. And when it comes to cost and efficiency improvements, high-volume companies can reduce product and operational costs.

Image:

Low-volume companies can shorten lead time and increase efficiency in R&D and product maintenance. Project solution companies can shorten the delivery time through reduced engineering efforts.

 

As an example, Electrolux managed to reduce part costs by 20 percent. Half of the reduction came from volume effects and the rest from design for manufacturing and assembly.

All in all, Electrolux has estimated its operating cost savings at approximately SEK 4bn per year with full effect, or around 3.5 percentage points of total costs, compared to doing nothing from 2010–2017. Note: SEK 4 bn is approximate Euro 400 Mio

 

Where to start?

Thanks to your answer, I understand my company will benefit from modularity. To whom should I talk in my company to get started? And if you would recommend an executive sponsor in my company, who would recommend leading this initiative.

Defining a modular system, and implementing a modular way of working, is a business-strategic undertaking. It is complex and has enterprise-wide implications that will affect most parts of the organization. Therefore, your management team needs to be aligned, engaged, and prioritize the initiative.

The implementation requires a cross-functional team to ensure that you do it from a market and value chain perspective. Modularization is not something that your engineering or IT organization can solve on its own.

We recommend that the CTO or CEO owns the initiative as it requires horizontal coordination and agreement.

Modularity and Digital Transformation

 The experiences you are sharing started before digital transformation became a buzzword and practice in many companies. In particular, in the PLM domain, companies are still implementing past practices. Is modularization applicable for the current (coordinated) and for the (connected) future? And if yes, is there a difference?

Modularization means that your products have a uniform design based on common concepts and standardized interfaces. To the market, the end products are unique, and your processes are consistent. Thus, modularization plays a role independently of where you are on the digital transformation journey.

Digital transformation will continue for quite some time. Costs can be driven down even further through digitalization, enabling companies to address the connection of all value chain elements to streamline processes and accelerate speed to market. Digitalization will enhance the customer experience by connecting all relevant parts of the value chain and provide seamless interactions.

Industry 4.0 is an essential part of digitalization, and many companies are planning further investments. However, before considering investing in robotics and digital equipment for the production system, your products need to be well prepared.

image

The more complex products you have, the less efficient and costlier the production is, even with advanced production lines. Applying modularization means that your products have a uniform design based on common concepts and standardized interfaces. To the market, the end products are unique, and your production process is consistent. Thus, modularization increases the value of Industry 4.0. 

Want to learn more?

First of all, I recommend people who are new to modularity to read the book as a starting point as it is written for a broad audience. Now I want to learn more. What can you recommend?

As you say,  we also encourage you to read the book, reflect on it, and adapt the knowledge to your unique situation. We know that it could be challenging to take the next steps, so you are welcome to contact us for advice.

Please visit our website www.brickstrategy.com for more.

For readers of the book, we plan to organize a virtual meeting in May 2021 -the date and time to be confirmed with the audience. Duration approx. 1 hour.
Björn Eriksson and Daniel Strandhammar will answer questions from participants in the meeting. Also, we are curious about your comments/feedback.

To allow time for a proper discussion, we will invite a maximum of 4 guests. Therefore be fast to apply for this virtual meeting by sending an email to tacit@planet.nl or info@brickstrategy.com with your contact details
before May 7th.

I will moderate and record the meeting. We will publish the recording in a short post, allowing everyone to benefit from the discussion. Stay tuned if you are interested, and be fast to apply if you have a question to ask.

What I learned

  • Modularization is a strategy that applies to almost every business and increases the competitiveness of a company.
  • Modularization is not a technical decision to be executed by R&D and Engineering. It requires an effort from all stakeholders in the company. Therefore, it should be led by a CEO or CTO.
  • For future products, modularization is even more important to fulfill one of the promises of Industry 4.0: batch-size 1 (manufacturing a unique product for a single customer with the cost and effort as if it were done in a serial production mode)
  • Although we talk a lot about modularization in PLM implementations, it is a people and processes first activity. Then the PLM infrastructure has to support modularization. Do not buy a PLM system to start modularization. Think first!

Conclusion

Modularization is a popular topic at board meetings as it is easy to explain the business benefits. People in engineering and marketing often miss the time and skills to translate modularization into a framework that aligns all stakeholders. After reading the book “The Modular Way,” you will not have solved this issue. There are many, more academic books related to modularization. With this book, you will be better aware of where to start and how to focus.

There is another interesting virtual event in May: the CIMdata PLM Road Map & PDT Spring 2021conference. The theme:

DISRUPTION—the PLM Professionals’ Exploration of Emerging Technologies that Will Reshape the PLM Value Equation.

I look forward to seeing you at this conference and discuss and learn together the changes we have to make – DISRUPTION or EXTINCTION or EVOLUTION. More on this topic soon.

This Friday, February 26th, we had a PLM Green Global Alliance (PGGA) core team meeting to discuss our current status and next steps for 2021. If you are a PGGA member, you joined us because of the PLM Green Global Alliance LinkedIn group. The LinkedIn group is currently our primary channel for social interaction with the outside world.

Meanwhile, in the background, Rich McFall has been working on structuring the PLM Green Alliance website, which you can find here.

The PLM Green Alliance website is the place where we consolidate information and will experiment with forum discussions. LinkedIn is not the place to serve as an archive for information. Neither is LinkedIn a place for discussion on sensitive topics. Viewpoints on LinkedIn might even damage your current or future career if you have a controversial opinion. More about the forum discussions soon.

The PLM Green Alliance website

Therefore, the PLM Green Alliance website will be the place where interested parties can obtain information and active members can participate in forum discussions.
As a reminder, all our actions are related to PLM and PLM-related technologies – a niche environment bringing PLM-related skills and a Green and Sustainable society together.

Our actions are driven by a personal interest to contribute. With the limited time and means, we are aware of the differences with more prominent and professional organizations addressing a much broader scope and audience.

What makes us unique is the focus on PLM and PLM-related practices/technologies.

The PLM Green Themes

Although the website is still under development, our intentions become visible through the home page header.  I want to zoom in on the area where we are currently focusing, the PLM Green Themes.

We decided on five PLM Green Themes, with each of them having their dedicated moderation and focus. Although the themes can overlap, they will help us to specialize and dive deeper into specific topics.

PLM and Climate Change

You might argue PLM and its related technologies do not directly impact activities related to climate change. However, as the moderators of this theme group, Klaus Brettschneider, and Richard McFall state:

The goal of this PLM Green discussion forum and working group on Climate Change is to promote activities to understand, analyze and reduce human-generated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through PLM-enabling technologies. We hope to help to answer the question of what the role and value of PLM technologies is in addressing the most critical challenge facing humankind this century, climate change.

And although there are still individuals with other opinions, the group will focus on the targeted outcome: reducing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. What are the types of innovations that make this possible? Find interesting posts here and start contributing.

PLM and Sustainability

This theme will be moderated by me, Jos Voskuil. We are still looking for one or more volunteers to extend our capabilities here.

The topic of sustainability is again broad, as you can read on the Sustainability theme page.
To be more precise, the page states:

Specific topics we wish to discuss further in this forum include how PLM can be used to:

  • Make products and processes more efficient and greener.
  • Understand and measure the impact on the carbon footprint of design decisions and production processes, along with changes to them.
  • Develop, distribute, and use new sources of renewable green energy.
  • Design products and their lifecycles to be sustainable.
  • Recycle, reuse, or repurpose assets, materials, and natural resources.
  • Enhance the resiliency and Sustainability of infrastructures, communities, and economies.

In my early 2021 survey asked participants their viewpoint on PLM and Sustainability. As you can see from the scores, the majority of us are currently observing what is happening.

One of the interesting “other” responses I highlighted here: “I am not sure if you mean real sustainability or just greenwashing.”

Good point. Greenwashing is needed when you know you have something to fix/hide. We are not fixing or hiding; we will discuss and share information and probably dismantle greenwashing attempts.

PLM and Green Energy

Green energy is an important topic on its own as many of the issues related to a green and sustainable society are dealing with the transition from limited fossil energy sources to a sustainable energy model. The moderator of this theme group, Bjorn Fidjeland, is well known for his skills and coaching on PLM in the context of Plant Lifecycle Management through his PLMpartner website.

Of course, we are looking for an additional moderator to support Bjorn, so feel free to contact Bjorn through the website if you can and want to contribute. The theme group objectives are:

…. to share experiences, examples, and best practices in a collaborative mode to promote discussion, learning, and understanding with respect to the mentioned focus areas. We also plan to publish our own “industry heads up” news, articles and case studies illustrating all that is happening in the global race towards “going green” and a low-carbon economy.

PLM and a Circular Economy

As the Circular Economy is itself an innovation, it provides an opportunity to innovate business models and reimagine how we consider something to be a product, a service, or a product as a service. Similarly, a more circular way of thinking requires different expectations when it comes to Information Technology systems, including PLM, that support the enablement of these new business models and the execution of their commercial strategies.

This theme group is currently moderated by a real passionate follower of the Circular Economy, Hannes Lindfred, and also here we are looking to another volunteer.

A year ago, I saw Hannes Lindfred presentation at the TECHNIA PLM Innovation Forum and wrote about his lecture as one of the highlights from the first day.

See my blog post: The Weekend after the PLM Innovation Forum, where I mention his session in the Business drivers for Sustainable Manufacturing paragraph.

The circular economy framework nicely aligns with concepts like “Product as a Service” or Outcome-based services. The original manufacturer becomes responsible for the full lifecycle of their products. A theme group, I expect we can make a lot of progress through sharing.

Accordingly, the main objective within our theme discussion group is to provide a support network for PLM professionals who seek to overcome the legacy linear economy mindset that may be systemic in their jobs, products, employers, or industries. We hope to incite the development and use of road maps for employing both existing and new PLM technologies to implement Circular Economy principles and best practices.

 

PLM and Industry 4.0

A topic that is closely related to PLM is Industry 4.0. At first glance, Industry 4.0 is an initiative to manufacture products smarter, more flexible, more automated, more modular by using new technologies and practices, all with the goal for (initially German) companies to become more competitive.

We are pleased that the PLM and Industry 4.0 theme group’s moderator is Lionel Grealou, quite active in the area of knowledge sharing related to PLM. A second moderator would be more than welcome too for this theme.

Recently Lionel published this interesting article on engineering.com: Exploring the Intersection of PLM and Industry 4.0. In this article, Lionel touches briefly on the potential contribution of Industry 4.0 towards a circular economy, new business models, and waste reduction, thanks to the interaction of PLM and Industry 4.0.  There is a lot to explore, as Lionel states on the theme group introduction page:

This PLM Green theme group’s plan will explore the “intersection” of how PLM strategies and technologies enable the vision of Industry 4.0 for a more sustainable circular economy. In doing so, we plan to investigate the following questions concerning their green value:

  • How do data and product connectivity contribute to feeding smart factories and enhancing the product lifecycle practice?
  • How to improve feedback loops and data integration upstream-downstream of new product development to contribute positively to the circular economy?
  • How to drive downstream waste reduction by improving data traceability and accessibility with better product analytics throughout its lifecycle?
  • How to link more tightly manufacturing planning and execution?
  • How to more robustly connect and integrate engineering, manufacturing, and service/maintenance process operations?
  • How to reduce time to market, with both product development and production cost optimization, integrating co-creation from the design office to the shop floor?
  • How to align the digital and the physical worlds, delivering more customer-centric products enabled by fully horizontally-integrated PLM strategies, taking an ecosystem approach to collaboration, leveraging more agile and continual release processes?
  • How to reduce pre-launch costs and generate downstream manufacturing improvements?

Much more to do.

As you can see, the PLM Green Global Alliance is transforming slowly, as we are not marketing people, web designers, or a sponsored organization. We rely on our networks and your inputs to reach the next level of interaction. The majority of the PLM Themes need a second moderator to keep the workload balanced.

Do you want to contribute?

In the core team meeting, we also discussed improving ways to make the PLM Green Alliance more interactive, shifting and balancing the LinkedIn group’s activities and the persistent PLM Green Alliance website.

Conclusion

As a person, I cannot do big things for our future society; however, I can do small things. And if we all make sure our “small things” are directed to the same outcome, we achieve big things without a revolution. Be part of the active PLM Global Green Alliance with your small things.

It Is 2021, and after two weeks’ time-out and reflection, it is time to look forward. Many people have said that 2020 was a “lost year,” and they are looking forward to a fresh restart, back to the new normal. For me, 2020 was the contrary of a lost year. It was a year where I had to change my ways of working. Communication has changed, digitization has progressed, and new trends have become apparent.

If you are interested in some of the details, watch the conversation I had with Rob Ferrone from QuickRelease, just before Christmas: Two Santas looking back to 2020.

It was an experiment with video, and you can see there is a lot to learn for me. I agree with Ilan Madjar’s comment that it is hard to watch two people talking for 20 minutes. I prefer written text that I can read at my own pace, short videos (max 5 min), or long podcasts that I can listen to, when cycling or walking around.

So let me share with you some of the plans I have for 2021, and I am eager to learn from you where we can align.

PLM understanding

I plan a series of blog posts where I want to share PLM-related topics that are not necessarily directly implemented in a PLM-system or considered in PLM-implementations as they require inputs from multiple sources.  Topics in this context are: Configuration Management, Product Configuration Management, Product Information Management, Supplier Collaboration Management, Digital Twin Management, and probably more.

For these posts, I will discuss the topic with a subject matter expert, potentially a vendor or a consultant in that specific domain, and discuss the complementary role to traditional PLM. Besides a blog post, this topic might also be more explained in-depth in a podcast.

The PLM Doctor is in

Most of you might have seen Lucy from the Charley Brown cartoon as the doctor giving advice for 5¢. As an experiment, I want to set up a similar approach, however, for free.

These are my conditions:

  • Only one question at a time.
  • The question and answer will be published in a 2- 3 minute video.
  • The question is about solving a pain.

If you have such a question related to PLM, please contact me through a personal message on LinkedIn, and I will follow-up.

PLM and Sustainability

A year ago, I started with Rich McFall, the PLM Green Global Alliance.  Our purpose to bring people together, who want to learn and share PLM-related practices, solutions,  ideas contributing to a greener and more sustainable planet.

We do not want to compete or overlap with more significant global or local organizations, like the Ellen McArthur Foundation or the European Green Deal.

We want to bring people together to dive into the niche of PLM and its related practices.  We announced the group on LinkedIn; however, to ensure a persistent referential for all information and interactions, we have launched the website plmgreenaliance.com.

Here I will moderate and focus on PLM and Sustainability topics. I am looking forward to interacting with many of you.

PLM and digitization

For the last two years, I have been speaking and writing about the gap between current PLM-practices, based on shareable documents and files and the potential future based on shareable data, the Model-Based Enterprise.

Last year I wrote a series of posts giving insights on how we reached the current PLM-practices. Discovering sometimes inconsistencies and issues due to old habits or technology changes. I grouped these posts on a single blog page with the title:  Learning from the past.

This year I will create a collection of posts focusing on the transition towards a Model-Based Enterprise. Probably the summary page will be called: Working towards the future currently in private mode.

Your feedback

I am always curious about your feedback – to understand in which kind of environment your PLM activities take place. Which topics are unclear? What am I missing in my experience?

Therefore, I created a small anonymous survey for those who want to be interacting with me. On purpose, the link is at the bottom of the post, so when you answer the survey, you get my double appreciation, first for reaching the end of this post and second for answering the survey.

Take the survey here.

Conclusion

Most of us will have a challenging year ahead of us. Sharing and discussing challenges and experiences will help us all to be better in what we are doing. I look forward to our 2021 journey.

About a year ago we started the PLM Global Green Alliance, further abbreviated as the PGGA. Rich McFall, the main driver behind the PGGA started the website, The PLM Green Alliance, to have a persistent place to share information.

Also, we launched the PLM Global Alliance LinkedIn group to share our intentions and create a community of people who would like to share knowledge through information or discussion.

Our mission statement is:

The mission of the new PLM Green Alliance is to create global connection, communication, and community between professionals who use, develop, market, or support Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) related technologies and software solutions that have value in addressing the causes and consequences of climate change due to human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. We are motivated by the technological challenge to help create a more sustainable and green future for our economies, industries, communities, and all life forms on our planet that depend on healthy ecosystems.

My motivation

My personal motivation to support and join the PGGA was driven by the wish to combine my PLM-world with interest to create a more sustainable society for anyone around the world. It is a challenging combination. For example, PLM is born in the Aerospace and Defense industries, probably not the most sustainable industries.

Having worked with some companies in the Apparel and Retail industry, I have seen that these industries care more about their carbon footprint. Perhaps because they are “volume-industries” closely connected to their consumers, these industries actively build practices to reduce their carbon footprint and impact societies. The sense or non-sense of recycling is such a topic to discuss and analyze.

At that time, I got inspired by a session during the PLM Roadmap / PDT 2019 conference.

Graham Aid‘s from the Ragn-Sells group was a call to action. Sustainability and a wealthy economy go together; however, we have to change our habits & think patterns.  You can read my review from this session in this blog post: The weekend after PLM Roadmap / PDT 2019 – Day 1

Many readers of this post have probably never heard of the Ragn-Sells group or followed up on a call for action.  I have the same challenge. Being motivated beyond your day-to-day business (the old ways of working) and giving these activities priority above exploring and learning more about applying sustainability in my PLM practices.

And then came COVID-19.

I think most of you have seen the image on the left, which started as a joke. However, looking back, we all have seen that COVID-19 has led to a tremendous push for using digital technologies to modernize existing businesses.

Personally, I was used to traveling every 2 – 3 weeks to a customer, now I have left my home office only twice for business. Meanwhile, I invested in better communication equipment and a place to work. And hé, it remains possible to work and communicate with people.

Onboarding new people, getting to know new people takes more social interaction than a camera can bring.

In the PGGA LinkedIn community, we had people joining from all over the world. We started to organize video meetings to discuss their expectations and interest in this group with some active members.

We learned several things from these calls.

First of all, finding a single timeslot that everyone worldwide could participate in is a challenge. A late Friday afternoon is almost midnight in Asia and morning in the US. And is Friday the best day – we do not know yet.

Secondly, we realized that posts published in our LinkedIn group did not appear in everyone’s LinkedIn feed due to LinkedIn’s algorithms. For professionals, LinkedIn becomes less and less attractive as the algorithms seem to prefer frequency/spam above content.

For that reason, we are probably moving to the PLM Green Alliance website and combine this environment with a space for discussion outside the LinkedIn scope. More to come on the PGGA website.

Finally, we will organize video discussion sessions to ask the participants to prepare themselves for a discussion. Any member of the PGGA can bring in the discussion topics.

It might be a topic you want to clarify or better understand.

What’s next

For December 4th, we have planned a discussion meeting related to the Exponential Roadmap 2019 report, where  36  solutions to halve carbon emission by 2030 are discussed. In our video discussion, we want to focus on the chapter: Digital Industries.

We believe that this topic comes closest to our PLM domain and hopes that participants will share their thinking and potential activities within their companies.

You can download the Exponential Roadmap here or by clicking on the image. More details about the PLM Global Green Alliance you will find in the LinkedIn group. If you want to participate, let us know.

The PGGA website will be the place where more and more information will be collected per theme, to help you understand what is happening worldwide and the place where you can contribute to let us know what is happening at your side.

Conclusion

The PLM Global Green Alliance exists now for a year with 192 members. With approximately five percent active members, we have the motivation to grow our efforts and value. We learned from COVID-19 there is a need to become proactive as the costs of prevention are always lower than the costs of (trying) fixing afterward.

And each of us has the challenge to behave a little differently than before.

Will you be one of them ?

After the series about “Learning from the past,” it is time to start looking towards the future.  I learned from several discussions that I am probably working most of the time with advanced companies. I believe this would motivate companies that lag behind even to look into the future even more.

If you look into the future for your company, you need new or better business outcomes. That should be the driver for your company. A company does not need PLM or a Digital Twin. A company might want to reduce its time to market, improve collaboration between all stakeholders. These objectives can be realized by different ways of working and an IT-infrastructure to allow these processes to become digital and connected.

That is the “game”. Coming back to the future of PLM.  We do not need a discussion about definitions; I leave this to the academics and vendors. We will see the same applies to the concept of a Digital Twin.

My statement: The digital twin is not new. Everybody can have their own digital twin as long as you interpret the definition differently. Does this sound like the PLM definition?

The definition

I like to follow the Gartner definition:

A digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world entity or system. The implementation of a digital twin is an encapsulated software object or model that mirrors a unique physical object, process, organization, person, or other abstraction. Data from multiple digital twins can be aggregated for a composite view across a number of real-world entities, such as a power plant or a city, and their related processes.

As you see, not a narrow definition. Now we will look at the different types of interpretations.

Single-purpose siloed Digital Twins

  1. Simple – data only

One of the most straightforward applications of a digital twin is, for example, my Garmin Connect environment. When cycling, my device registers performance parameters (speed, cadence, power, heartbeat, location). After every trip, I can analyze my performance. I can see changes in my overall performance; compare my performance with others in my category (weight, age, sex).

Based on that, I can decide if I want to improve my performance. My personal business goal is to maintain and improve my overall performance, knowing I cannot stop aging by upgrading my body.

On November 4th, 2020, I am participating in the (almost virtual) Digital Twin conference organized by Bits&Chips in the Netherlands. In the context of human performance, I look forward to Natal van Riel’s presentation: Towards the metabolic digital twin – for sure, this direction is not simple. Natal is a full professor at the Technical University in Eindhoven, the “smart city” in the Netherlands

  1. Medium – data and operating models

Many connected devices in the world use the same principle. An airplane engine, an industrial robot, a wind turbine, a medical device, and a train carriage; all track the performance based on this connection between physical and virtual, based on some sort of digital connectivity.

The business case here is also monitoring performance, predict maintenance, and upgrade the product when needed.

This is the domain of Asset Lifecycle Management, a practice that exists for decades. Based on financial and performance models, the optimal balance between maintaining and overhaul has to be found. Repairs are disruptive and can be extremely costly. A manufacturing site that cannot produce can costs millions per day. Connecting data between the physical and the virtual model allows us to have real-time insights and be proactive. It becomes a digital twin.

  1. Advanced – data and connected 3D model

The ditial twin we see the most in marketing videos is a virtual twin, using a 3D-representation for understanding and navigation.  The 3D-representation provides a Virtual Reality (VR) environment with connected data. When pointing at the virtual components, information might appear, or some animation takes place.

Building such a virtual representation is a significant effort; therefore, there needs to be a serious business case.

The simplest business case is to use the virtual twin for training purposes. A flight simulator provides a virtual environment and behavior as-if you are flying in the physical airplane – the behavior model behind the simulator should match as good as possible the real behavior. However, as it is a model, it will never be 100 % reality and requires updates when new findings or product changes appear.

A virtual model of a platform or plant can be used for training on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). In the physical world, there is no place or time to conduct such training. Here the complexity might be lower. There is a 3D Model; however, serious updates can only be expected after a major maintenance or overhaul activity.

These practices are not new either and are used in places where the physical training cannot be done.

More challenging is the Augmented Reality (AR) use case. Here the virtual model, most of the time, a lightweight 3D Model, connects to real-time data coming from other sources. For example, AR can be used when an engineer has to service a machine. The AR-environment might project actual data from the machine, indicate service points and service procedures.

The positive side of the business case is clear for such an opportunity, ensuring service engineers always work with the right information in a real-time context. The main obstacle for implementing AR, in reality, is the access to data, the presentation of the data and keeping the data in the AR-environment matching the reality.

And although there are 3D Models in use, they are, to my knowledge, always created in siloes, not yet connected to their design sources.Have a look at the Digital Twin conference from Bits&Chips, as mentioned before.

Several of the cases mentioned above will be discussed here. The conference’s target is to share real cases concluded by Q & A sessions, crucial for a virtual event.

Connected Virtual Twins along the product lifecycle

So far, we have been discussing the virtual twin concept, where we connect a product/system/person in the physical world to a virtual model. Now let us zoom in on the virtual twins relevant for the early parts of the product lifecycle, the manufacturing twin, and the development twin. This image from Siemens illustrates the concept:

On slides they imagine a complete integrated framework, which is the future vision. Let us first zoom in on the individual connected twins.

The digital production twin

This is the area of virtual manufacturing and creating a virtual model of the manufacturing plant. Virtual manufacturing planning is not a new topic. DELMIA (Dassault Systèmes) and Tecnomatix (Siemens) are already for a long time offering virtual manufacturing planning solutions.

At that time, the business case was based on the fact that the definition of a manufacturing plant and process done virtually allows you to optimize the plant before investing in physical assets.

Saving money as there is no costly prototype phase to optimize production. In a virtual world, you can perform many trade-off studies without extra costs. That was the past (and for many companies still the current situation).

With the need to be more flexible in manufacturing to address individual customer orders without increasing the overhead of delivering these customer-specific solutions, there is a need for a configurable plant that can produce these individual products (batch size 1).

This is where the virtual plant model comes into the picture again. Instead of having a virtual model to define the ultimate physical plant, now the virtual model remains an active model to propose and configure the production process for each of these individual products in the physical plant.

This is partly what Industry 4.0 is about. Using a model-based approach to configure the plant and its assets in a connected manner. The digital production twin drives the execution of the physical plant. The factory has to change from a static factory to a dynamic “smart” factory.

In the domain of Industry 4.0, companies are reporting progress. However, to my experience, the main challenge is still that the product source data is not yet built in a model-based, configurable manner. Therefore, requiring manual rework. This is the area of Model-Based Definition, and I have been writing about this aspect several times. Latest post: Model-Based: Connecting Engineering and Manufacturing

The business case for this type of digital twin, of course, is to be able to customer-specific products with extremely competitive speed and reduced cost compared to standard. It could be your company’s survival strategy. As it is hard to predict the future, as we see from COVID-19, it is still crucial to anticipate the future, instead of waiting.

The digital development twin

Before a product gets manufactured, there is a product development process. In the past, this was pure mechanical with some electronic components. Nowadays, many companies are actually manufacturing systems as the software controlling the product plays a significant role. In this context, the model-based systems engineering approach is the upcoming approach to defining and testing a system virtually before committing to the physical world.

Model-Based Systems Engineering can define a single complex product and perform all kinds of analysis on the system even before there is a physical system in place.  I will explain more about model-based systems engineering in future posts. In this context, I want to stress that having a model-based system engineering environment combined with modularity (do not confuse it with model-based) is a solid foundation for dealing with unique custom products. Solutions can be configured and validated against their requirements already during the engineering phase.

The business case for the digital development twin is easy to make. Shorter time to market, improved and validated quality, and reduced engineering hours and costs compared to traditional ways of working. To achieve these results,  for sure, you need to change your ways of working and the tools you are using. So it won’t be that easy!

For those interested in Industry 4.0 and the Model-Based System Engineering approach, join me at the upcoming PLM Road Map 2020 and PDT 2020 conference on 17-18-19 November. As you can see from the agenda, a lot of attention to the Digital Twin and Model-Based approaches.

Three digital half-days with hopefully a lot to learn and stay with our feet on the ground.  In particular, I am looking forward to Marc Halpern’s keynote speech: Digital Thread: Be Careful What you Wish For, It Just Might Come True

Conclusion

It has been very noisy on the internet related to product features and technologies, probably due to COVIC-19 and therefore disrupted interactions between all of us – vendors, implementers and companies trying to adjust their future. The Digital Twin concept is an excellent framing for a concept that everyone can relate to. Choose your business case and then look for the best matching twin.

In the series learning from the past to understand the future, we have almost reached the current state of PLM before digitization became visible. In the last post, I introduced the value of having the MBOM preparation inside a PLM-system, so manufacturing engineering can benefit from early visibility and richer product context when preparing the manufacturing process.

Does everyone need an MBOM?

It is essential to realize that you do not need an EBOM and a separate MBOM in case of an Engineering To Order primary process. The target of ETO is to deliver a unique customer product with no time to lose. Therefore, engineering can design with a manufacturing process in mind.

The need for an MBOM comes when:

  • You are selling a specific product over a more extended period of time. The engineering definition, in that case, needs to be as little as possible dependent on supplier-specific parts.
  • You are delivering your portfolio based on modules. Modules need to be as long as possible stable, therefore independent of where they are manufactured and supplier-specific parts. The better you can define your modules, the more customers you can reach over time.
  • You are having multiple manufacturing locations around the world, allowing you to source locally and manufacture based on local plant-specific resources. I described these options in the previous post

The challenge for all companies that want to move from ETO to BTO/CTO is the fact that they need to change their methodology – building for the future while supporting the past. This is typically something to be analyzed per company on how to deal with the existing legacy and installed base.

Configurable EBOM and MBOM

In some previous posts, I mentioned that it is efficient to have a configurable EBOM. This means that various options and variants are managed in the same EBOM-structure that can be filtered based on configuration parameters (date effectivity/version identifier/time baseline). A configurable EBOM is often called a 150 % EBOM

The MBOM can also be configurable as a manufacturing plant might have almost common manufacturing steps for different product variants. By using the same process and filtered MBOM, you will manufacture the specific product version. In that case, we can talk about a 120 % MBOM

Note: the freedom of configuration in the EBOM is generally higher than the options in the configurable MBOM.

The real business change for EBOM/MBOM

So far, we have discussed the EBOM/MBOM methodology. It is essential to realize this methodology only brings value when the organization will be adapted to benefit from the new possibilities.

One of the recurring errors in PLM implementations is that users of the system get an extended job scope, without giving them the extra time to perform these activities. Meanwhile, other persons downstream might benefit from these activities. However, they will not complain. I realized that already in 2009, I mentioned such a case: Where is my PLM ROI, Mr. Voskuil?

Now let us look at the recommended business changes when implementing an EBOM/MBOM-strategy

  1. Working in a single, shared environment for engineering and manufacturing preparation is the first step to take.

Working in a PLM-system is not a problem for engineers who are used to the complexity of a PDM-system. For manufacturing engineers, a PLM-environment will be completely new. Manufacturing engineers might prepare their bill of process first in Excel and ultimately enter the complete details in their ERP-system. ERP-systems are not known for their user-friendliness. However, their interfaces are often so rigid that it is not difficult to master the process. Excel, on the other side, is extremely flexible but not connected to anything else.

And now, this new PLM-system requires people to work in a more user-friendly environment with limited freedom. This is a significant shift in working methodology. This means manufacturing engineers need to be trained and supported  over several months. Changing habits and keep people motivated takes energy and time. In reality, where is the budget for these activities?  See my 2016 post: PLM and Cultural Change Management – too expensive?

  1. From sequential to concurrent

Once your manufacturing engineers are able to work in a PLM-environment, they are able to start the manufacturing definition before the engineering definition is released. Manufacturing engineers can participate in design reviews having the information in their environment available. They can validate critical manufacturing steps and discuss with engineers potential changes that will reduce the complexity or cost for manufacturing. As these changes will be done before the product is released, the cost of change is much lower. After all, having engineering and manufacturing working partially in parallel will reduce time to market.

Reducing time to market by concurrent engineering

One of the leading business drivers for many companies is introducing products or enhancements to the market. Bringing engineering and manufacturing preparation together also means that the PLM-system can no longer be an engineering tool under the responsibility of the engineering department.

The responsibility for PLM needs to be at a level higher in the organization to ensure well-balanced choices. A higher level in the organization automatically means more attention for business benefits and less attention for functions and features.

From technology to methodology – interface issues?

The whole EBOM/MBOM-discussion often has become a discussion related to a PLM-system and an ERP-system. Next, the discussion diverted to how these two systems could work together, changing the mindset to the complexity of interfaces instead of focusing on the logical flow of information.

In an earlier PI Event in München 2016, I lead a focus group related to the PLM and ERP interaction. The discussion was not about technology, all about focusing on what is the logical flow of information. From initial creation towards formal usage in a product definition (EBOM/MBOM).

What became clear from this workshop and other customer engagements is that people are often locked in their siloed way of thinking. Proposed information flows are based on system capabilities, not on the ideal flow of information. This is often the reason why a PLM/ERP-interface becomes complicated and expensive. System integrators do not want to push for organizational change, they prefer to develop an interface that adheres to the current customer expectations.

SAP has always been promoting that they do not need an interface between engineering and manufacturing as their data management starts from the EBOM. They forgot to mention that they have a difficult time (and almost no intention) to manage the early ideation and design phase. As a Dutch SAP country manager once told me: “Engineers are resources that do not want to be managed.” This remark says all about the mindset of ERP.

After overlooking successful PLM-implementations, I can tell the PLM-ERP interface has never been a technical issue once the methodology is transparent. A company needs to agree on logical data flow from ideation through engineering towards design is the foundation.

It is not about owning data and where to store it in a single system. It is about federated data sets that exist in different systems and that are complementary but connected, requiring data governance and master data management.

The SAP-Siemens partnership

In the context of the previous paragraph, the messaging around the recently announced partnership between SAP and Siemens made me curious. Almost everyone has shared an opinion about the partnership. There is a lot of speculation, and many questions were imaginarily answered by as many blog posts in the field. Last week Stan Przybylinski shared CIMdata’s interpretations in a webinar Putting the SAP-Siemens Partnership In Context, which was, in my opinion, the most in-depth analysis I have seen.

For what it is worth, my analysis:

  • First of all, the partnership is a merger of slide decks at this moment, aiming to show to a potential customer that in the SAP/Siemens-combination, you find everything you need. A merger of slides does not mean everything works together.

  • It is a merger of two different worlds. You can call SAP a real data platform with connected data, where Siemens offering is based on the Teamcenter backbone providing a foundation for a coordinated approach. In the coordinated approach, the data flexibility is lower. For that reason, Mendix is crucial to make Siemens portfolio behave like a connected platform too.
    You can read my doubts about having a coordinated and connected system working together (see image above). It was my #1 identified challenge for this decade: PLM 2020 – PLM the next decade (before COVID-19 became a pandemic and illustrated we need to work connected)
  • The fact that SAP will sell TC PLM and Siemens will sell SAP PPM seems like loser’s statement, meaning our SAP PLM is probably not good enough, or our TC PPM capabilities are not good enough. In reality, I believe they both should remain, and the partnership should work on logical data flows with data residing in two locations – the federated approach. This is how platforms reside next to each other instead of the single black hole.

  • The fact that standard interfaces will be developed between the two systems is a subtle sales argument with relatively low value. As I wrote in the “from technology to methodology”-paragraph, the challenges are in the organizational change within companies. Technology is not the issue, although system integrators also need to make a living.
  • What I believe makes sense is that both SAP and Siemens, have to realize their Industry 4.0 end-to-end capabilities. It is a German vision now for several years and it is an excellent vision to strive for. Now it is time to build the two platforms working together. This will be a significant technical challenge mainly for Siemens as its foundation is based on a coordinated backbone.
  • The biggest challenge, not only for this partnership, is the organizational change within companies that want to build an end-to-end connected solution. In particular, in companies with a vast legacy, the targeted industries by the partnership, the chasm between coordinated legacy data and intended connected data is enormous. Technology will not fix it, perhaps smoothen the pain a little.

 

Conclusion

With this post, we have reached the foundation of the item-centric approach for PLM, where the EBOM and MBOM are managed in a real-time context. Organizational change is the biggest inhibitor to move forward. The SAP-Siemens partnership is a sales/marketing approach to create a simplified view for the future at C-level discussions.
Let us watch carefully what happens in reality.

Next time potentially the dimension of change management and configuration management in an item-centric approach.
Or perhaps Martijn Dullaart will show us the way before, following up on his tricky poll question

 

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.

 

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