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

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

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

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

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

Working with drawings

MRP/ERP – the first IT-system

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

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

The concept

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

These new ideas were shared through sketches and prototypes.

The design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manufacturing Preparation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manufacturing

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

Configuration Management

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

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

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

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

Where is the BOM

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Unfortunate one more time and old post with some new comments in green as I am not yet able to type at regular speed. I promise this will be the last reprise as I am sure in one week from now I will be double-handed again. The reason I chose this six-year-old post is that the topic is still actual, however, at that time, digital transformation was not yet in fashion for PLM.

If you look at the comments to the article at that time (Feb 2013), you will see some well-known names and behaviors.  What I can state for the moment – there are still people doubting there is a need for PLM, there are still people blaming technology  for the lousy perception of PLM, and there is a large group of silent companies out there that have implemented the basics of PLM, perhaps not as advanced as vendors/consultants have suggested, and they are reaping the benefits.

The main question in upcoming blog posts; “Is this enough ?” Happy rereading!

How come PLM is boring? – Feb 2013

PLM is a popular discussion topic in various blogs, LinkedIn discussion groups, PLM Vendor web sites, and for the upcoming Product Innovation Congress in Berlin.  I look forward to the event to meet and discuss with attendees their experience and struggle to improve their businesses using PLM. (Meanwhile, PI PLMx London has passed – for a review look here –The weekend after PI PLMx London 2019)

From the other side, talking about pure PLM becomes boring. Sometimes it looks like PLM is a monotheistic topic:

  • “What is the right definition of PLM ?” (I will give you the right one)
  • “We are the leading PLM vendor” (and they all are)
  • A PLM system should be using technology XYZ (etc., etc.)
  • Digital Transformation and IoT have come into the picture now

Some meetings with customers in the past three weeks and two different blog posts I read recently made me aware of this ambiguity between boring and fun.

PLM dictating Business is boring

Oleg Shilovitsky´s sequence of posts (and comments) starting with A single bill of materials in 6 steps was an example of the boring part. (Sorry Oleg, as you publish so many posts, there are many that I like and some I  can use as an example). When reading the BOM-related posts,  I noticed they are a typical example of an IT- or Academic view on PLM, in particular on the BOM topic.

questionWill these posts help you after reading them? Do they apply to your business? Alternatively, do you feel more confused as a prolific PLM blogger makes you aware of all the different options and makes you think you should use a single bill of materials?

I learned from my customers and coaching and mediating hundreds of PLM implementations that the single BOM discussion is one of the most confusing and complicated topics. Moreover, for sure if you address it from the IT-perspective.

The customer might say:
“Our BOM is already in ERP – so if it is a single BOM, you know where it is – goodbye !”.

A different approach is to start looking for the optimal process for this customer, addressing the bottlenecks and pains they currently face.  It will be no surprise that PLM best practices and technology are often the building blocks for the considered solution. If it will be a single BOM or a collection of structures evolving through time, this depends on the situation, not on the ultimate PLM system.

Note: meanwhile Oleg has further materialized his thinking through OpenBOM, and he has not lost his speed of publishing

Business dictating PLM is fun

Therefore I was happy to read Stephen Porter´s opinion and comments in: The PLM state: Penny-wise Pound Foolish Pricing and PLM (unfortunate this post has disappeared) where he passes a similar message like mine, from a different starting point, the pricing models of PLM Vendors. My favorite part is in his conclusion:

A PLM decision is typically a long term choice so make sure the vendor and partners have the staying power to grow with your company. Also make sure you are identifying the value drivers that are necessary for your company’s success and do not allow yourself to be swayed by the trendy short term technology

Management in companies can be confused by starting to think they just need PLM because they hear from the analysts, that it improves business. They need to think first to solve their business challenges and change the way they currently work to improve. Moreover, next look for the way to implement this change.

Not:e Stephen wrote at that time an interesting series of post and promised a revival. However I haven’t seen new posts. Did anyone of my readers see new materials that I missed?

Changing the way to work is the problem, not PLM.

It is not the friendly user-interface of PLM system XYZ or the advanced technical capabilities of PLM system ABC,  that will make a PLM implementation easier. Nothing is solved on the cloud or by using a mobile device. If there is no change when implementing PLM, why implement and build a system to lock yourself in even more?

abbThis is what Thomas Schmidt (VP Head of Operational Excellence and IS at ABB’s Power Products Division) told last year at PLM Innovation 2012 in Munich. He was one of the keynote speakers and surprised the audience by stating he did not need PLM!

He explained this by describing the business challenges ABB has to solve: Being a global company but acting around the world as a local company. He needed product simplification, part reduction among product lines around the world, compliance, and more.

Note: Thomas Schmidt meanwhile moved forward in his career, identifying himself as Experienced “Change Leader”, digital transformation, mentor and coach

Another customer in a whole different industry mentioned they were looking for improving global instant collaboration as the current information exchange is too slow and error-prone. Besides, they want to capitalize on the work done and make it accessible and reusable in the future, authoring tool independent. However, they do not call it PLM as in their business nobody uses PLM!

Both cases should make a PLM reseller´s mouths water (watertanden in Dutch), as these companies are looking for critical capabilities available in most of the PLM systems. However, none of these companies asked for a single BOM or a service-oriented architecture. They wanted to solve their business issues. Moreover, for sure, it will lead to implementing PLM capabilities when business and IT-people together define and decide on the right balance.

Unfortunate here we still see a function-feature approach – if it is not there, we will build it

Management take responsibility

Combining PLM and new business needs is the responsibility of management in these companies. It is crucial that a business issue (or a new strategy) is the driving force for a PLM implementation. PLM is not about automating what we have.

In too many situations, the management decides that a new strategy is required. One or more bright business leaders decide they need PLM (note -the strategy has now changed towards buying and implementing a system). Together with IT and after doing an extensive selection process, the selected PLM system (disconnected from the strategy) will be implemented.

I believe we read something about such a case recently

Moreover, this is the place where all PLM discussions come together:

  • why PLM projects are difficult
  • why it is unclear what PLM does.

PLM Vendors and Implementers are not connected anymore at this stage to the strategy or business. They implement technology and do what the customer project team tells them to do (or what they think is best for their business model).

Successful implementations are those where the business and management are actively involved during the whole process and the change.  Involvement requires a significant contribution from their side, often delegated to business and change consultants.

PLM Implementations usually lead to a crisis at some moment in time, when the business is not leading, and the focus is on IT and User Acceptance. In the optimal situation, business is driving IT. However, in most cases, due to lack of time and priorities from the business people, they delegate this activity to IT and the implementation team. So here it is a matter of luck if they will be successful: how experienced is the team?

Will they implement a new business strategy or just automate and implement the way the customer worked before, but now in a digital manner? Do we blame the software when people do not change?

Some notes here: I believe the disconnect between management/PLM vendors and on the other side meanwhile, people in business has become more prominent, due to the digital transformation hype. The hype is moving faster than the organization. Second point: I will not talk about people change anymore – organizations can change – people can adapt within a specific range. It is up to the organization where to push the limits.

 

Back to fun

imageI would not be so passionate about PLM if it was boring. However looking back the fun and enthusiasm does not come from PLM. The fun comes from a pro-active business approach knowing that first the motivating the people and preparing the change are defined, before implementing PLM practices

I believe the future success for PLM technologies is when we know to speak and address real business value and only then use (PLM) technologies to solve them.

PLM becomes is a  logical result not the start. And don´t underestimate: change is required. What do you think – is it a dream ?

????

dontmissPLM is a popular discussion topic in various blogs, LinkedIn discussion groups, PLM Vendor web sites and for the upcoming Product Innovation congress in Berlin.  I look forward to the event to meet and discuss with attendees their experience and struggle to improve their businesses using PLM.

From the other side talking about pure PLM becomes boring. Sometimes it looks like PLM is a monotheistic topic:

  • “What is the right definition of PLM ?” (I will give you the right one)
  • “We are the leading PLM vendor” (and they all are)
  • A PLM system should be using technology XYZ (etc, etc)

Some meetings with customers  in the past three weeks and two different blog posts I read recently made me aware of this ambiguity between boring and fun.

PLM dictating Business is boring

Oleg Shilovitsky´s sequence of posts (and comments) starting with A single bill of materials in 6 steps was an example of the boring part. (Sorry Oleg, as you publish so many posts, there are many that I like and some I  can use as an example). When reading the BOM-related posts,  I noticed  they are a typical example of an IT- or Academic view on PLM, in particular on the BOM topic.

questionWill these posts help you after reading them ? Do they apply to your business ? Or do you feel more confused as a prolific PLM blogger makes you aware of all the different options and makes you think you should use a single bill of materials ?

I learned from my customers and coaching and mediating  hundreds of PLM implementations, that the single BOM discussion is one of the most confusing and complex topics. And for sure if you address it from the IT-perspective

The customer might say:
Our BOM is already in ERP – so if it is a single BOM you know where it is – goodbye !”.

A different approach is to start looking for the optimal process for this customer, addressing the bottlenecks and pains they currently face.  It will be no surprise that PLM best practices and technology are often the building blocks for the considered solution. If it will be a single BOM or a collection of structures evolving through time, this depends on the situation, not on the ultimate PLM system.

Business dictating PLM is fun

Therefore I was happy to read Stephen Porter´s opinion and comments in: The PLM state: Pennywise Pound Foolish Pricing and PLM where he passes a similar message as mine, from a different starting point, the pricing models of PLM Vendors. My favorite part is in his conclusion:

A PLM decision is typically a long term choice so make sure the vendor and partners have the staying power to grow with your company. Also make sure you are identifying the value drivers that are necessary for your company’s success and do not allow yourself to be swayed by the trendy short term technology

Management in companies can be confused by starting to think they just need PLM because they hear from the analysts, that it improves business. They need to think first to solve their business challenges and change the way they currently work in order to improve. And next look for the way to implement this change.

Changing the way to work is the problem, not PLM.

It is not the friendly user-interface of PLM system XYZ or the advanced technical capabilities of PLM system ABC,  that will make a PLM implementation easier. Nothing is solved on the cloud  or by using a mobile device. If there is no change when implementing PLM, why implement  and build a system to lock yourself in even more?

abbThis is what Thomas Schmidt (VP Head of Operational Excellence and IS at ABB’s Power Products Division) told last year at PLM Innovation 2012 in Munich. He was one of the keynote speakers and surprised the audience by stating he did not need PLM !

He explained this by describing the business challenges ABB has to solve: Being a global company but acting around the world as a local company. He needed product simplification, part reduction among product lines around the world, compliance and more.

Another customer in a total different industry mentioned they were looking for improving global instant collaboration as the current information exchange is too slow and error prone. In addition they want to capitalize on the work done and make it accessible and reusable in the future, authoring tool independent. But they do not call it PLM as in their business nobody uses PLM !

Both cases should make a PLM reseller´s mouths water (watertanden in Dutch), as these companies are looking for key capabilities available in  most of the PLM systems. But none of these companies asked for a single BOM or a service oriented architecture. They wanted to solve their business issues. And for sure it will lead into implementing PLM capabilities when business and IT-people together define and decide on the right balance.

Management take responsibility

And here lies the management responsibility of these companies. It is crucial that a business issue (or a new strategy) is the driving force for a PLM implementation.

In too many situations, the management decides that a new strategy is required. One or more bright business leaders decide they need PLM (note -the strategy has now changed towards buying and implementing a system). Together with IT and after an extensive selection process is done, the selected PLM system (disconnected from the strategy) will be implemented.

deaf_blindAnd this is the place where all PLM discussions come together:

– why PLM projects are difficult

– why it is unclear what PLM does.

PLM Vendors and Implementers are not connected anymore at this stage to the strategy or business. They implement technology and do what the customer project team tells them to do (or what they think is best for their business model).

Successful implementations are those where the business and management are actively involved during the whole process and the change.  And this requires a significant contribution from their side, often delegated to business and change consultants.

PLM Implementations usually lead to a crisis at some moment in time, when the business is not leading and the focus is on IT and User Acceptance. In the optimal situation business is driving IT. However in most cases due to lack of time and priorities from the business people, they delegate this activity to IT and the implementation team. And here it is a matter of luck if they will be successful:

  • how experienced is the team ?
  • Will they really implement a new business strategy or just automate and implement they way the customer worked before, but now in a digital manner ?
  • Do we blame the software when the people do not change ?

Back to fun

imageI would not be so passionate about PLM if it was boring. However looking back the fun and enthusiasm does not come from PLM. The fun comes from a pro-active business approach knowing that first the motivating the people and preparing the change are defined, before implementing PLM practices

I believe the future success for PLM technologies is when we know to speak and address real business value and only then use (PLM) technologies to solve them.

PLM becomes is a  logical result not the start.

And don´t underestimate: change is required.

What do you think – is it a dream ?

????
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