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observation The past few weeks I have been busy in an area which I believe is crucial for understanding PLM. I had meetings, web meetings with prospects, with implementers and existing customers – of course all in the mid-market. And the generalized key question on the table was: “

 

question

Yes, we understand document management, and yes, CAD management is understandable to us, but why do you need to work with the BOM further down the product lifecycle, as this is ERP, isn’t it ?

I realized several topics play a role here:

  • Mid-market companies usually do not think top-down in their approach. As an example: they will not look at their whole organization’s business processes and then try to map all the activities cross departments, cross suppliers, etc.  Usually they are looking per department to optimize the way they are working.
    Classical enterprise PLM implementations are designed to go top-down. Describe the as-is situation, describe the the to-be situation and then transform the company to meet the to-be situation. Decisions are pushed to the people in the company as the to-be situation seems to be clear. Many of the classical PLM implementers still believe in this approach – and the risk / challenge is always that the to-be situation was not well understood, or that at the time we reach the to-be situation the environment of the company has changed and another to-be is needed.
  • Mid-market companies understand a central storage for documents brings a lot of benefits. Most companies realize that all this departmental archives of documents and files create too much overhead and a higher quality risk. Finding the absolute right file for a certain product release might be a quest and of course each of the departments claims that their solution fits exactly their needs. This is what I believe the main driver behind the success of SharePoint. As Microsoft Office is used as a common document authoring tool among all departments, why not use the Office Document Management tool as our common backbone ? PLM and ERP vendors might say we also manage documents, but usually these documents are managed in a structured manner – related to revisions of a product or to a product order. Usually an infrastructure to manage unstructured documents does not exist in ERP systems.
  • Mid-market companies do not understand the value of managing the BOM outside ERP. As I mentioned, everyone understands documents, but items seem to be the domain of an ERP system. Understandable as ERP was often the first IT-system implemented.  As mid-market companies usually do not have a holistic view, items will remain to be managed there (“as we invested so much in the first implementation the management will say – no other source for items !!!”)
    And here i believe is the crucial go-no/go point for a PLM implementation. Once the company starts to understand that the definition of items is not done in the ERP system, but is a result of the work done in the engineering department, only then the value of managing the BOM outside ERP become apparent. And here is the catch 22, we already manage our documents in environments without items (BOM’s) (SharePoint / CAD Documents management) – so no place for PLM ?

  So what to do as a mid-market company ?

point It is hard to understand the full picture (because of the above points), can you trust the selling PLM partner ?(we have been promised easy implementations in the past with other IT-systems too) and at the end you do not believe the value PLM can bring (as you cannot imagine and digest the impact of PLM to your company)

And just when thinking about this – three articles came to my attention as they all address this topic, somehow from a different perspective:

The first two posts deal with a packaged approach for mid-market companies, allowing them to implement PLM faster and with a faster ROI. As Jim (and many others are stating – in an economical down turn you cannot focus on efficiency only (the ERP slogan). It is innovation – better and more customer oriented and attractive products – brings much higher revenue as compared to doing more of the same more efficient.

Oleg focuses on the steps to implement PLM and I agree with most of the statements there. It needs to be gradual and implementing the business processes comes as the last phase.

There is one difference I see in my approach compared to what Jim and Oleg are writing. Both believe that PLM brings value (and i support this statement 100 % based on experiences with customers I have worked).

However the missing point to be addressed is the lack of understanding (and often also trust) of companies talking with a PLM vendor and committing to PLM.  I tried to explain these points in the above 3 statements. As long as those points are not addressed, each stepped approach will lead to the question:  “When are we really going to do PLM instead of CAD Document management or enhanced ERP ? “

My experiences with guiding successful PLM implementations are the following:stepped

  1. Start with basic document management and CAD data management. It aligns with the understanding of companies that a centralized and secure repository for documents brings ROI. This step introduces to the company that a company wide approach of data management brings value (and ROI). Some basic processes might be introduced here already- basic document approval as required by all quality systems.
  2. Once basic CAD and Document Management are introduced, the company will realize that it is missing ‘place holders’ to hook the information. If you work in a document management system only, the system implementer will say: Use projects to collect your product data and use folders to collect your item related data. A PLM vendor would say; Now you are ready to introduce Items in your system, as they are the logical place holders for information. Here PLM starts to be introduced.
  3. Once understood that the item is a needed place holder to manage development data, the understanding for managing items in a structure becomes clear. Here we introduce the EBOM and as Items also contain logistical data, this is the first point to start connecting PLM and ERP to work with a shared ‘place holder’ but with different focus on characteristics.
  4. Once the Engineering BOM is understood, the discussion starts around the MBOM. Who is responsible for defining how a product is manufactured ? PLM believes this is part of their duty, ERP vendors will say, we own the item historically ,so we manage the MBOM. As a 100 % PLM believer, I think it should be in PLM as it is not part of the execution but part of the product definition (See the post I wrote on this topic: Where is the MBOM).
    At the end the defined MBOM can be pushed to ERP once required.
  5. Once you are able to manage and centralize all data related to product development and definition, a company becomes ready to guarantee the quality and flow of the data, by implementing company wide engineering change and development processes. Much in line with Oleg’s PLM action plan.

I have supported implementations of the above approach in several mid-market companies and key success factors were:coop

  • the company understanding PLM brings benefits but also understands it will take a time to realize this vision.
    Management vision and support were always there. 
  • a PLM system that allows you to start simple with centralizing documents and keeping things understandable but also allows you to scale up to a PDM system and finally supporting the whole PLM vision once accepted and understood .
    Think Top-Down – Implement Bottom-Up
  • an implementer who understands that in the mid-market a push of concepts will bring rejections from the end-users, and where listening to the end-users only, it will result in an unguided system. The implementation partner needs to say No at the right time and to push for Yes when needed.
    The implementer is 50 % of the success !

expressConclusion:  A management vision, a scalable PLM system and an experienced implementation partner are needed to bring the innovation to survive in the long term – document management and ERP alone will not bring this unique value. The phased approach allows a company with digestible steps to grow to their ‘to-be’ situation – as building trust and understanding is still required in the mid-market of PLM

See also: ENOVIA SmarTeam Express

tornado_butterfly You might have heard about the chaos theory and the butterfly effect ? In general, the theory promoted by Edward Lorentz and others, claims that the flapping of the wings of a butterfly, somewhere in South America may influence ultimately the path of a tornado, either preventing or accelerating that a tornado may hit at a certain place in North America.

WOW, if a butterfly can do this, can you imagine the impact of all of us, flapping our notes and plans around PLM in an organization ?  What a chaos we can create ?

I came to this association, looking back on my activities the past three weeks. Talking with implementers and companies, who all had a tornado of wishes and activities,  trying to create order through a PLM implementation – the anti-chaos theory.

Most of the discussions were based on a typical mid-market approach.

What do I mean by a typical mid-market approach – and I am generalizing here. None of the people I have been talking to in the past weeks match the exact characteristics, however all contributed to the picture in my mind.

shout_left

 

Typical mid-market approach (my generalization):

 

  • (Power) User Driven / Do It yourself approach – inside the organization there are people who have the dream to improve the company with PDM / PLM and the energy to prove it. They build the plan and define the solutions. External resources are only hired to do specialized services, fitting in the thought process of the power users. They believe that everyone will see the benefits of the implementation and join their approach step-by-step enthusiastically.
  • Focus on technical details– often the wishes are based on implementing technical capabilities close to the understanding of users, usually requiring a minimum of change in the daily processes. For example the focus might be on a technical capability how to connect the PLM system to the ERP system (Middleware / XML /Web Services / …..)  instead of discussing how it will work from the process point of view – how is the process impacted ?
  • Task solving – much in combination with the previous point, the focus is on optimizing and/or automating tasks of a certain user. The end-user’s daily tasks/pains are the focus for solving, which means trying to automate as much as possible, providing as much as possible single system / single screen solutions. 
  • Risk Avoidance – often these companies do not have the capabilities (people / time / budget) to experiment with new directions. Approaches from other similar companies are followed (looking for references). For sure not a bad approach, however the result is it will be harder to be differentiate from your competitors. And of course risk avoidance should always be considered in the scope of manageable risks.
  • Lack of top-management investment / push – although the top management in these companies subscribe to the needs for PLM, the focus of the investment is usually mainly on the external costs (software and services), where internal resources are forced to do the PLM activities beside daily tasks. Later the management will wonder why things are going slow, as they did their job (they approved the investment– waiting for the results now)
  • Focus on business skills – the people in the project team are often well educated in their daily business and practices, but lack project management, risk management and change management skills. These ‘soft’ skills are often acquired by buying a book to be placed on the desk.

observation

 

After writing these generalizations, I had the feeling that instead of characteristics, i was writing about risks . As this was not the intention, let see the how to manage these risks:

 

  • The power users should realize that they are sent on a difficult mission which requires a lot of creativity to implement changes in the context of the PLM project. And strange as it seems the PLM software might not be the biggest challenge.
    The biggest challenge will be on choosing the right best practices and to implement them with acceptance of the users. This is change management combined with implementation knowledge / experience. They point for the power users should be to have an implementation partner with experience, who can explain why best practices work and explain how other companies address this issue. Without practical guidance the power users have become pioneers, which is something the management for sure wants to avoid.
    Often to avoid user objections, the project team decides on heavy customizations or ‘weird’ compromises – nice to keep the user community quiet, but bad for the future, as benefits will not be the same.
    This mainly happens as there is too much focus the ‘hard’ side of the project ( hardware /software /IT /Services ) , and no or limited attention to the human / change management side.
    Power Users – be aware !
  • The management should realize that it is a company’s decision and vision. So from their side a steering committee with a clear vision is required. Their job is to keep the vision, prioritize the activities and make sure the power users are not creating an isolated solution based on their dreams.
    The most important role of the management is to take continues responsibility for the project – it does not end by giving the approval for the project and budget. Where users might reluctantly accept changes, it is the job of the management to enforce the changes and support them.
    This can be done in a harsh way by imposing the changes, however this will cause resistance and the end users will demonstrate the management was wrong. This leads at the end to a situation where the company as a whole will be in a worse position as before.
    So managing by motivation should be the approach, as after all the power lies in motivated users, who understand the benefits of the changes and benefits for their future job.
    Management – be aware !
  • Make sure the focus and priority is on business not on IT. Sell and explain the business benefits internally all the time.
    All be aware !

To conclude:

  • The mid-market characteristics look like risks for a successful PLM implementation, if not addressed and taken seriously
  • There is significant management support and control needed to monitor, guide and sell the PLM project.
    To make sure the company benefits are targeted and not the individual users or departments demands only.
  • Implement bottom up but control and direct top-down
  • Your implementation partner should have resources with skills for both levels – so not only programmers who can do miracles, but also consultants that can explain, validate best practices based on other experiences

 

Understanding chaos – enjoy:

observationThe past month I was involved in a two ENOVIA SmarTeam projects, where both had the target to become the company’s PLM system. However the way these projects were executed lead to the conclusion that the first one was probably going to fail as a PLM system, were the second project was going to be successful. 

And only by looking back to the history of the first implementation, it became clear what prevented it from becoming implemented as a PLM system. It had all to do with a bottom-up approach and a top-down approach. I guess ENOVIA SmarTeam is one of the few products that allows a customer to make a choice between bottom-up or top-down.

Somehow also Jim Brown’s post was in line with this observation, but judge yourself.

Most classical PLM systems require a top-down approach as the PLM scope requires departments to work in a different way and to enforce a change on the organization. Organizational change usually only happens top-down based on the vision of the management.

cad ENOVIA SmarTeam however has the option to be implemented as a CAD data management system, managing the Product Data in the form of documents. This brings a lot of value to the engineering department and depending on the PLM awareness of the company they might try to replace the Excel based Bill Of Materials  into a BOM inside the system. As we are working in the scope of engineering this is in most of the cases the Engineering BOM.

There are also other CAD data management systems that claim to be an enterprise PDM system as they manage the product data (usually only the native CAD data) and the engineering BOM. As these systems do not contain capabilities to become an enterprise PLM system, it will be clear for the organization, where to position it – and to keep it in the engineering department.

There are engineering managers in mid-market companies that have the PLM vision and this was the case in the first implementation I mentioned. As his initial mission was to manage the product data based on SolidWorks and AutoCAD, the company decided that ENOVIA SmarTeam was the best multi-CAD data management solution for the company. Meanwhile the engineering manager had the hope (or dream) that once this implementation was completed all other departments would stand in a queue to get connected to ENOVIA SmarTeam too………

…. and this did not happen. Why ?

The main reason for that was that at the time the management had understood the PLM benefits and considered implementing PLM, they looked at SmarTeam and it was implemented too much as an engineering solution, too rich in functionality (and complexity) to be used and integrated by other departments. But when the company was looking to an PLM extension from their ERP system, the engineers refused to work with that system, as according to their opinion the system did not support their needs.

How could this be prevented ?

express This was done exactly in the second project. Also here the implementation started in the engineering department, but from the start it was clear for the management, that they would extend the implementation towards a full cross-departmental PLM implementation. The main difference was that the implementation was not focused on satisfying the designers, but from the start it was clear ENOVIA SmarTeam should be useful for other departments too. This implicated less customization on the existing product, more standard functionality. Yes, the designer had to change their way of working as they worked file-based before. But as the focus of the implementation was always on providing data access across the organization, the system remained attractive for the production planning and manufacturing people. It was not an engineering tool only.

Additionally the standard ENOVIA SmarTeam system required from all departments adaptations to their working methods, but as it was not heavily customized, it was much easier to extend the scope beyond engineering.

So what is the conclusion:

  • Do not try to build the ultimate engineering solution as step 1 in a PLM project. Remain with the core capabilities.
  • Keep the focus on storing information in such a way that it becomes usable for departments outside engineering. This requires less detailed data and more reporting capabilities
  • Do not hide the intentions to the management that ENOVIA SmarTeam can become the company’s PLM system. Make the management aware of that but also explain the benefits of a step-by-step implementation, starting with engineering and expanding when the time is ripe
  • It would not be the first time that ENOVIA SmarTeam was the best kept secret for the management. The engineering department was happy, but no-one made the effort to explain the full capabilities to the top management

And now a small advertisement add the end

sde The ENOVIA SmarTeam Express offering allows a customer to start design centric (SDE = SmarTeam Design Express) and to extend the scope step by step by applying engineering capabilities extending the scope from Concept to Manufacturing (SNE = SmarTeam Engineering Express), guiding a bottom-up implementation step-by-step.

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