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On March 22 this year, I wrote Time to Think (and act differently) in de middle of a changing world. We were entering a lockdown in the Netherlands due to the COVID-19 virus. As it was such a disruptive change, it was an opportunity to adapt their current ways of working.

The reason for that post was my experience when discussing PLM-initiatives with companies. Often they have no time to sit down, discuss and plan their PLM targets as needed. Crucial people are too busy, leading to an implementation of a system that, in the best case, creates (some) benefits.

The well-known cartoon says it all. We are often too busy doing business as usual, making us feel comfortable. Only when it is too late, people are forced to act.  As the second COVID-19 wave seems to start in the Netherlands, I want to look back on what has happened so far in my eco-system.

Virtual Conferences

As people could not travel anymore, traditional PLM-conferences could not be organized anymore. What was going to be the new future for conferences? TECHNIA, apparently clairvoyant, organized their virtual PLM Innovation Forum as one of the first, end of April.

A more sustainable type of PLM-conference was already a part of their plans, given the carbon footprint a traditional conference induces.  The virtual conference showed that being prepared for a virtual conference pays off during a pandemic with over 1000 participants.

Being first does not always mean being the best,  as we have to learn. While preparing my session for the conference, I felt the same excitement as for a traditional conference. You can read about my initial experience here: The weekend after the PLM Innovation Forum.

Some weeks later, having attended some other virtual conferences, I realized that some points should be addressed/solved:

  • Video conferencing is a must – without seeing people talking, it becomes a podcast.
  • Do not plan long conference days. It is hard to sit behind a screen for a full day. A condensed program makes it easier to attend.
  • Virtual conferences mean that they can be attended live from almost all around the globe. Therefore, finding the right timeslots is crucial for the audience – combined with the previous point – shorter programs.
  • Playing prerecorded sessions without a Q&A session should be avoided. It does not add value.
  • A conference is about networking and discussion – I have not seen a solution for this yet. Fifty percent of the conference value for me comes from face-to-face discussions and coffee meetings. A virtual conference needs to have private chat opportunities between attendees.

In the last quarter of this year, I will present at several merely local conferences, sometimes a mix between “live” with a limited number of attendees, if it will be allowed.

And then there is the upcoming PLM Road Map & PDT Fall 2020 (virtual) conference on 17-18-19 November.

This conference has always been my favorite conference thanks to its continued focus on sharing experiences, most of the time, based on industry standards. We discuss topics and learn from each other. See my previous posts: The weekend after 2019 Day 1, 2019 Day 2, 2018 Day 1, 2018 Day2, 2017 Day 1, 2017 Day 2, etc.

The theme Digital Thread—the PLM Professionals’ Path to Delivering Innovation, Efficiency, and Quality has nothing to do with marketing. You can have a look at the full schedule here. Although there is a lot of buzz around Digital Thread, presenters discuss the reality and their plans

Later in this post, see the paragraph Digital Thread is not a BOM, I will elaborate on this theme.

Getting tired?

I discovered I am getting tired as I am missing face-to-face interaction with people. Working from home, having video calls, is probably a very sustainable way of working.  However, non-planned social interaction, meeting each other at the coffee machine, or during the breaks at a conference or workshop, is also crucial for informal interaction.

Apparently, several others in my eco-system are struggling too. I noticed a tsunami of webinars and blog posts where many of them were an attempt to be noticed. Probably the same reason: traditionally businesses have stalled. And it is all about Digital Transformation and SaaS at this moment. Meaningless if there is no interaction.

In this context, I liked Jan Bosch’s statement in his article: Does data-driven decision-making make you boring? An article not directly addressing the PLM-market; however, there is a lot of overlap related to people’s reluctance to imagine a different future.

My favorite quote:

 I still meet people that continue to express beliefs about the world, their industry, their customers or their own performance that simply aren’t true. Although some, like Steve Jobs, were known for their “reality distortion field,” for virtually all of us, just wishing for something to be true doesn’t make it so. As William Edwards Deming famously said: in God we trust; all others must bring data.

I fully concur with this statement and always get suspicious when someone claims the truth.

Still, there are some diamonds.

I enjoyed all episodes from Minerva PLM TV – Jennifer Moore started these series in the early COVID19-days (coincidence?). She was able to have a collection of interviews with known and less-known people in the PLM-domain. As most of them were vendor-independent, these episodes are a great resource to get educated.

The last episode with Angela Ippisch illustrates how often PLM in companies depends on a few enthusiastic persons, who have the energy to educate themselves. Angela mentions there is a lot of information on the internet; the challenge is to separate the useful information from marketing.

I have been publishing the past five months a series of posts under the joint theme learning from the past to understand the future. In these posts, I explained the evolution from PDM to PLM, resulting in the current item-centric approach with an EBOM, MBOM, and SBOM.

On purpose, one post per every two weeks – to avoid information overflow. Looking back, it took more posts than expected, and they are an illustration of the many different angles there are in the PLM domain – not a single truth.

Digital Thread is not a BOM

I want to address this point because I realized that in the whole blogging world there appear to be two worlds when discussing PLM terminology. Oleg Shilovitsky, CEO@OpenBOM, claims that Digital Thread and Digital Twin topics are just fancy marketing terms. I was even more surprised to read his post: 3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Using The Word “Model” In PLM. Read the comments and discussion in these posts (if LinkedIn allows you to navigate)

Oleg’s posts have for me most of the time, always something to discuss. I would be happier if other people with different backgrounds would participate in these discussions too – A “Like” is not a discussion. The risk in a virtual world is that it becomes a person-to-person debate, and we have seen the damage such debates can do for an entire community.

In the discussion we had related to Digital Thread and BOM, I realized that when we talk about traditional products, the BOM and the Digital Thread might be the same. This is how we historically released products to the market. Once produced, there were no more changes. In these situations, you could state a PLM-backbone based on BOM-structures/views, the EBOM, MBOM, and SBOM provide a Digital Thread.

The different interpretation comes when talking about products that contain software defining its behavior. Like a computer, the operating system can be updated on the fly; meanwhile, the mechanical system remains the same. To specify and certify the behavior of the computer, we cannot rely on the BOM anymore.

Having software in the BOM and revise the BOM every time there is a software change is a mission impossible. A mistake suggested ten years ago when we started to realize the different release cycles of hardware and software. Still, it is all about the traceability of all information related to a product along its whole lifecycle.

In a connected environment, we need to manage relationships between the BOM and relations to other artifacts. Managing these relations in a connected environment is what I would call the Digital Thread – a layer above PLM. While writing this post, I saw Matthias Ahrens’ post stating the same (click on the image to see the post)

When we discuss managing all the relations, we touch the domain of Configuration Management.  Martijn Dullaart/Martin Haket’s picture shares the same mindset – here, CM is the overlapping layer.

However, in their diagram, it is not a system picture; the different systems do not need to be connected. Configuration Management is the discipline that maintains the correct definition of every product – CM maintains the Thread. When it becomes connected, it is a Digital Thread.

As I have reached my 1500 words, I will not zoom in on the PLM and Model discussion – build your opinion yourself. We have to realize that the word Model always requires a context. Perhaps many of us coming from the traditional PDM/PLM world (managing CAD data) think about CAD models. As I studied physics before even touching CAD, I grew up with a different connotation

Lars Taxén’s comment in this discussion perhaps says it all (click on the image to read it). If you want to learn and discuss more about the Digital Thread and Models, register for the PLM Roadmap & PDT2020 event as many of the sessions are in this context (and not about 3D CAD).

Conclusion

I noticed I am getting tired of all the information streams crying for my attention and look forward to real social discussions, not broadcasted. Time to think differently requires such discussion, and feel free to contact me if you want to reflect on your thoughts. My next action will be a new series named Painting the future to stay motivated. (As we understand the past).

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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