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In the last two weeks, three events were leading to this post.

First, I read John Stark’s recent book Products2019. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the full reach of product lifecycle related activities. See my recent post: Products2019, a must-read if you are new to PLM

Afterwards, I talked with John, discussing the lack of knowledge and teaching of PLM, not to be confused by PLM capabilities and features.

Second, I participated in an exciting PI DX USA 2020 event. Some of the sessions and most of the roundtables provided insights to me and, hopefully, many other participants. You can get an impression in the post: The Weekend after PI DX 2020 USA.

A small disappointment in that event was the closing session with six vendors, as I wrote. I know it is evident when you put a group of vendors in the arena, it will be about scoring points instead of finding alignment. Still, having criticism does not mean blaming, and I am always open to having a dialogue. For that reason, I am grateful for their sponsorship and contribution.

Oleg Shilovitsky mentioned cleverly that this statement is a contradiction.

“How can you accuse PLM vendors of having a limited view on PLM and thanking them for their contribution?”

I hope the above explanation says it all, combined with the fact that I grew up in a Dutch culture of not hiding friction, meanwhile being respectful to others.

We cannot simplify PLM by just a better tool or technology or by 3D for everybody. There are so many more people and processes related to product lifecycle management involved in this domain if you want a real conference, however many of them will not sponsor events.

It is well illustrated in John Stark’s book. Many disciplines are involved in the product lifecycle. Therefore, if you only focus on what you can do with your tool, it will lead to an incomplete understanding.

If your tool is a hammer, you hope to see nails everywhere around you to demonstrate your value

The thirds event was a LinkedIn post from John Stark  – 16 groups needing Product Lifecycle Knowledge, which for me was a logical follow-up on the previous two events. I promised John to go through these 16 groups and provide my thoughts.

Please read his post first as I will not rewrite what has been said by John already.

CEOs and CTOs

John suggested that they should read his book, which might take more than eight hours.  CEOs and CTOs, most of the time, do not read this type of book with so many details, so probably mission impossible.

They want to keep up with the significant trends and need to think about future business (model).

New digital and technical capabilities allow companies to move from a linear, coordinated business towards a resilient, connected business. This requires exploring future business models and working methods by experimenting in real-life, not Proof of Concept. Creating a learning culture and allowing experiments to fail is crucial, as you only learn by failing.

CDO, CIOs and Digital Transformation Executives

They are the crucial people to help the business to imagine what digital technologies can do. They should educate the board and the business teams about the power of having reliable, real-time data available for everyone connected. Instead of standardizing on systems and optimizing the siloes, they should assist and lead in new infrastructure for connected services, end-to-end flows delivered on connected platforms.

These concepts won’t be realized soon. However, doing nothing is a big risk, as the traditional business will decline in a competitive environment. Time to act.

Departmental Managers

These are the people that should worry about their job in the long term. Their current mission might be to optimize their department within its own Profit & Loss budget. The future is about optimizing the information flow for the whole value chain, including suppliers and customers.

I wrote about it in “The Middle Management Dilemma.” Departmental Managers should become more team leaders inspiring and supporting the team members instead of controlling the numbers.

Products Managers

This is a crucial role for the future, assuming a product manager is not only responsible for the marketing or development side of the product but also gets responsibility for understanding what happens with the product during production and sales performance. Understanding the full lifecycle performance and cost should be their mission, supported by a digital infrastructure.

Product Developers

They should read the book Products2019 to be aware there is so much related to their work. From this understanding, a product developer should ask the question:

“What can I do better to serve my internal and external customers ?”

This question will no arise in a hierarchical organization where people are controlled by managers that have a mission to optimize their silo. Product Developers should be trained and coached to operate in a broader context, which should be part of your company’s mission.  Too many people complain about usability in their authoring and data management systems without having a holistic understanding of why you need change processes and configuration management.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) deployers

Here I have a little bit of the challenge that this might be read as PLM-system users. However, it should be clear that we mean here people using product data at any moment along the product lifecycle, not necessarily in a single system.

This is again related to your company’s management culture. In the ideal world, people work with a purpose and get informed on how their contribution fits the company’s strategy and execution.

Unfortunately, in most hierarchical organizations, the strategy and total overview get lost, and people become measured resources.

New Hires and others

John continues with five other groups within the organization. I will not comment on them, as the answers are similar to the ones above – it is about organization and culture.

Educators and Students

This topic is very close to my heart, and one of the reasons I continue blogging about PLM practices. There is not enough attention to product development methodology or processes. Engineers can get many years of education in specific domains, like product design principles, available tools and technologies, performing physical and logical simulations.

Not so much time is spent on educating current best practices, business models for product lifecycle management.

Check in your country how many vendor-independent methodology-oriented training you can find. Perhaps the only consistent organization I know is CIMdata, where the challenge is that they deliver training to companies after students have graduated. It would be great if education institutes would embed serious time for product lifecycle management topics in their curriculum. The challenge, of course, the time and budget needed to create materials and, coming next, prioritizing this topic on the overall agenda.

I am happy to participate to a Specialized Master education program aiming at the Products and Buildings Digital Engineering Manager (INGENUM). This program organized by Arts Et Metiers in France helps create the overview for understanding PLM and BIM – in the French language as before COVID-19 this was an on-site training course in Paris.

Hopefully, there are more institutes offering PLM eductation – feel free to add them in the comments of this post.

Consultants, Integrators and Software Company Employees

Of course, it would be nice if everyone in these groups understands the total flow and processes within an organization and how they relate to each other. Too often, I have seen experts in a specific domain, for example, a 3D CAD-system having no clue about revisioning, the relation of CAD to the BOM, or the fundamentals of configuration management.

Consultants, Integrators and Software Company Employees have their own challenges as their business model is often looking for specialized skills they can sell to their clients, where a broader and general knowledge will come from experience on-the-job.

And if you are three years working full-time on a single project or perhaps work in three projects, your broader knowledge does not grow fast. You might become the hammer that sees nails everywhere.

For that reason, I recommend everyone in my ecosystem to invest your personal time to read related topics of interest. Read LinkedIn-posts from others and learn to differentiate between marketing messages and people willing to share experiences. Don’t waste your time on the marketing messages and react and participate in the other discussions. A “Like” is not enough. Ask questions or add your insights.

In the context of my personal learning, I mentioned that I participated in the DigitalTwin-conference in the Netherlands this week. Unfortunately, due to the partial lockdown, mainly a virtual event.

I got several new insights that I will share with you soon. An event that illustrated Digital Twin as a buzzword might be hype, however several of the participants illustrated examples of where they applied or plan to apply Digital Twin concepts. A great touch with reality.

Another upcoming conference that will start next week in the PLM Roadmap 2020 – PDT conference. The theme: Digital Thread—the PLM Professionals’ Path to Delivering Innovation, Efficiency, and Quality is not a marketing theme as you can learn from the agenda. Step by step we are learning here from each other.

 

Conclusion

John Stark started with the question of who should need Product Lifecycle Knowledge. In general, Knowledge is power, and it does not come for free. Either by consultancy, reading or training. Related to Product Lifecycle Management, everyone must understand the bigger picture. For executives as they will need to steer the company in the right direction. For everyone else to streamline the company and enjoy working in a profitable environment where you contribute and can even inspire others.

An organization is like a human body; you cannot have individual cells or organs that optimize themselves only – we have a name for that disease. Want to learn more? Read this poem: Who should be the boss?

 

 

In the previous seven posts, learning from the past to understand the future, we have seen the evolution from manual 2D drawing handling. Next, the emerge of ERP and CAD followed by data management systems (PDM/PLM) and methodology (EBOM/MBOM) to create an infrastructure for product data from concept towards manufacturing.

Before discussing the extension to the SBOM-concept, I first want to discuss Engineering Change Management and Configuration Management.

ECM and CM – are they the same?

Often when you talk with people in my PLM bubble, the terms Change Management and Configuration Management are mixed or not well understood.

When talking about Change Management, we should clearly distinguish between OCM (Organizational Change Management) and ECM (Engineering Change Management). In this post, I will focus on Engineering Change Management (ECM).

When talking about Configuration Management also here we find two interpretations of it.

The first one is a methodology describing technically how, in your PLM/CAD-environment, you can build the most efficient way connected data structures, representing all product variations. This technology varies per PLM/CAD-vendor, and therefore I will not discuss it here. The other interpretation of Configuration Management is described on Wiki as follows:

Configuration management (CM) is a systems engineering process for establishing and maintaining consistency of a product’s performance, functional, and physical attributes with its requirements, design, and operational information throughout its life.

This is also the area where I will focus on this time.

And as-if great minds think alike and are synchronized, I was happy to see Martijn Dullaart’s recent blog post, referring to a poll and follow-up article on CM.

Here Martijn precisely touches the topic I address in this post. I recommend you to read his post: Configuration Management done right = Product-Centric first and then follow with the rest of this article.

Engineering Change Management

Initially, engineering change management was a departmental activity performed by engineering to manage the changes in a product’s definition. Other stakeholders are often consulted when preparing a change, which can be minor (affecting, for example, only engineering) or major (affecting engineering and manufacturing).

The way engineering change management has been implemented varies a lot. Over time companies all around the world have defined their change methodology, and there is a lot of commonality between these approaches. However, terminology as revision, version, major change, minor change all might vary.

I described the generic approach for engineering change processes in my blog post: ECR / ECO for Dummies from 2010.

The fact that companies have defined their own engineering change processes is not an issue when it works and is done manually. The real challenge came with PDM/PLM-systems that need to provide support for engineering change management.

Do you leave the methodology 100 % open, or do you provide business logic?

I have seen implementations where an engineer with a right-click could release an assembly without any constraints. Related drawings might not exist, parts in the assembly are not released, and more. To obtain a reliable engineering change management process, the company had to customize the PLM-system to its desired behavior.

An exercise excellent for a system integrator as there was always a discussion with end-users that do not want to be restricted in case of an emergency  (“we will complete the definition later” / “too many clicks” / “do I have to approve 100 parts ?”). In many cases, the system integrator kept on customizing the system to adapt to all wishes. Often the engineering change methodology on paper was not complete or contained contradictions when trying to digitize the processes.

For that reason, the PLM-vendors that aim to provide Out-Of-The-Box solutions have been trying to predefine certain behaviors in their system. For example, you cannot release a part, when its specifications (drawings/documents) are not released. Or, you cannot update a released assembly without creating a new revision.

These rules speed-up the implementation; however, they require more OCM (Organizational Change Management) as probably naming and methodology has to change within the company. This is the continuous battle in PLM-implementations. In particular where the company has a strong legacy or lack of business understanding, when implementing PLM.

There is an excellent webcast in this context on Minerva PLM TV – How to Increase IT Project Success with Organizational Change Management.

Click on the image or link to watch this recording.

Configuration Management

When we talk about configuration management, we have to think about managing the consistency of product data along the whole product lifecycle, as we have seen from the Wiki-definition before.

Wiki – the configuration Activity Model

Configuration management existed long before we had IT-systems. Therefore, configuration management is more a collection of activities (see diagram above) to ensure the consistency of information is correct for any given product. Consistent during design, where requirements match product capabilities. Consistent with manufacturing, where the manufacturing process is based on the correct engineering specifications. And consistent with operations, meaning that we have the full definition of product in the field, the As-Built, in correct relation to its engineering and manufacturing definition.

Source: Configuration management in aerospace industry

This consistency is crucial for products where the cost of an error can have a massive impact on the manufacturer. The first industries that invested heavily in configuration management were the Aerospace and Defense industries. Configuration management is needed in these industries as the products are usually complex, and failure can have a fatal impact on the company. Combined with many regulatory constraints, managing the configuration of a product and the impact of changes is a discipline on its own.

Other industries have also introduced configuration management nowadays. The nuclear power industry and the pharmaceutical industry use configuration management as part of their regulatory compliance. The automotive industry requires configuration management partly for compliance, mainly driven by quality targets. An accident or a recall can be costly for a car manufacturer. Other manufacturing companies all have their own configuration management strategies, mainly depending on their own risk assessment. Configuration management is a pro-active discipline – it costs money – time, people and potential tools to implement it. In my experience, many of these companies try to do “some” configuration management, always hoping that a real disaster will not happen (or can happen). Proper configuration management allows you to perform reliable impact analysis for any change (image above)

What happens in the field?

When introducing PLM in mid-market companies, often, the dream was that with the new PLM-system configuration, management would be there too.

Management believes the tools will fix the issue.

Partly because configuration management deals with a structured approach on how to manage changes, there was always confusion with engineering change management. Modern PLM-systems all have an impact analysis capability. However, most of the time, this impact analysis only reaches the content that is in the PLM-system. Configuration Management goes further.

If you think that configuration management is crucial for your company, start educating yourselves first before implementing anything in a tool. There are several places where you can learn all about configuration management.

  • Probably the best-known organization is IpX (Institute for Process Excellence), teaching the CM2 methodology. Have a look here: CM2 certification and courses
  • Closely related to IpX, Martijn Dullaart shares his thoughts coming from the field as Lead Architect for Enterprise Configuration Management at ASML (one of the Dutch crown jewels) in his blog: MDUX
  • CMstat, a configuration and data management solution provider, provides educational posts from their perspective. Have a look at their posts, for example, PLM or PDM or CM
  • If you want to have a quick overview of Configuration Management in general, targeted for the mid-market, have a look at this (outdated) course: Training for Small and Medium Enterprises on CONFIGURATION MANAGEMENT. Good for self-study to get an understanding of the domain.

 

To summarize

In regulated industries, Configuration Management and PLM are a must to ensure compliance and quality. Configuration management and (engineering) change management are, first of all, required methodologies that guarantee the quality of your products. The more complex your products are, the higher the need for change and configuration management.

PLM-systems require embedded engineering change management – part of the PDM domain. Performing Engineering Change Management in a system is something many users do not like, as it feels like overhead. Too much administration or too many mouse clicks.

So far, there is no golden egg that performs engineering change management automatically. Perhaps in a data-driven environment, algorithms can speed-up change management processes. Still, there is a need for human decisions.

Similar to configuration management. If you have a PLM-system that connects all the data from concept, design, and manufacturing in a single environment, it does not mean you are performing configuration management. You need to have processes in place, and depending on your product and industry, the importance will vary.

Conclusion

In the first seven posts, we discussed the design and engineering practices, from CAD to EBOM, ending with the MBOM. Engineering Change Management and, in particular, Configuration Management are methodologies to ensure the consistency of data along the product lifecycle. These methodologies are connected and need to be fit for the future – more on this when we move to modern model-based approaches.

Closing note:

While finishing this blog post today I read Jan Bosch’s post: Why you should not align. Jan touches the same topic that I try to describe in my series Learning from the Past ….., as my intention is to make us aware that by holding on to practices from the past we are blocking our future. Highly recommended to read his post – a quote:

The problem is, of course, that every time you resist change, you get a bit behind. You accumulate some business, process and technical debt. You become a little less “fitting” to the environment in which you’re operating

In this post in the series Learning from the past to understand the future, I want to leave the 3D CAD structures behind. But before doing so, I want to mention some of the lessons learned:

In Part 1:  “Intelligent” drawing numbers were the source for “intelligent” part numbers as often there was a one-to-one relationship between the drawing and the part(s) on a drawing.

In Part 2: 3D CAD has been introduced in the automotive and aerospace industry due to process optimization, where a 3D CAD environment created better collaboration possibilities (DMU). The introduction of 3D CAD in the mid-market was different. Here 3D CAD is used as an engineering tool, not changing any processes.

The complexity grew because also file names needed to be managed, introducing the need for PDM-systems.

In Part 3: we discussed the challenges of working with file-based 3D CAD structures. The versioning problem with check-in/check-out of structure in particular in the case of data reuse. Here the best practice was introduced to have physical parts with a different lifecycle than 3D CAD parts and assemblies.

Now engineers need to create valid configurations based on links between the physical part and the 3D/2D object. This requires a PDM-system with BOM and CAD-files as standard information objects.

In Part 4: we discussed the relations between the BOM and 3D CAD structures without neglecting the fact the 2D Drawing is still the primary legal information carrier for manufacturing/suppliers. The point discussed in this post was the fact that most companies used a kind of ETO-approach. Starting from the 3D CAD-system, adding sometimes manufacturing parts in this structure, to generate a BOM that can be served as input for the ERP-system.

I want to follow up from the last conclusion:

Changing from ETO to CTO requires modularity and a BOM-driven approach. Starting from a 3D CAD-structure can still be done for the lowest levels – the modules, the options. In a configure to order process, it might not be relevant anymore to create a full 3D-representation of the product.

Starting from a conceptual structure

Most companies that deliver products to the market do not start from scratch, as we discussed. They will start from either copying an existing product definition (not recommend) or trying to manage the differences between them, meanwhile keeping shared components under revision control.

This cannot be done based on 3D CAD-structures anymore. At that time (we are in the early 2000s) in the mid-market, the PDM-system was used to manage these structures, in particular, they used the BOM-capabilities.

The BOM-structure was often called the EBOM, as engineers were defining the EBOM. But is it really an EBOM? Let us have a look wat defines an EBOM.

What characterizes an EBOM?

There are many personal definitions of what is considered as an EBOM.  Also, the Wiki-definition here does not help us a lot. So here is my personal 2004 definition:

  • The EBOM reflects the engineering view of a product and, therefore, can have a logical structure of assemblies and subassemblies based on functionality, modularity, and standardization.
  • The EBOM is a part structure specifying a product from its design intent, specifying parts, materials, tolerances, finishing.
  • The EBOM-structure is allowing multidisciplinary teams to work together on a joint definition of the product

The picture below illustrates the above definition.

In this EBOM-structure, we see that the first two levels actually are more a logical division of functional groups, either as units, product/discipline-specific definitions (cabling/software). These components should not be in the EBOM if you have support for logical structures in your PLM-environment. However, in 2004 – PLM was not that mature in the mid-market, and this approach was often chosen.

If we look at the Line Feed module, which could also be used in other products, there is the typical mechanical definition and in parallel the electrical definition. Having them inside a single EBOM gives the advantage of being able to do a “where-used” and status/impact-analysis.

1 – Purchased parts

Motor P280 is an interesting EBOM-part to consider. This motor is required; however, in an EBOM, you should not specify the supplier part number directly. As supplier part availability and preference will change over time, you do not want to revise the EBOM every time a supplier part gets changed.

Therefore, the Motor P280 should have an internal part number in the EBOM. Next, it will be engineering that specifies which motors fulfill the need for Motor P280.   Preferably they will create an Approved Manufacturing List for this motor to give manufacturing/purchasing the flexibility to decide per order where to purchase the motor and from which supplier.

The relation between the Approved Manufacturing List and the Approved Vendor List is shown in the diagram above.

Or follow the link to this image to read more in Arena’s glossary. In particular, for electronic components, this concept is needed as high-level specifications for electronic parts might be the same.

However, the details (tolerances/environment) can be decisive, which component is allowed. Besides, due to the relatively short lifecycle of electronic components, the EBOM needs to be designed in such a manner to anticipate changes in suppliers.

You can only benefit from this approach if, from the beginning of your designs, there are no supplier-specific parts in your EBOM. For Engineering, to Order companies that want to become more Build to Order, this is a challenging but critical point to consider.

Note: The functional characteristics for the motor will come from the electrical definition, and through a reference designator, we create the link between the functional definition and the physical implementation in the product.

2 – Make Parts

Secondly, if we look to the conveyor block D1020 rev A, this block is a make part, with probable a whole assembly of parts below it. As it is a make part, there is at least an assembly drawing and, more likely, a related technical data package linked to D1020 rev A. Make parts still carry a revision as here the Form-Fit-Function discussion can be used when implementing a change of the part.

Note: I used for the final assembly drawing the same number scheme as this is how most companies work. However, in my previous post, I described that if you have a PDM-system in place, the numbering can be different. Maintaining the relations between a part and the related drawing is, in this case, crucial.

The Configured EBOM

The image on the left, we used to illustrate the typical mid-market EBOM in a PDM-system, will become more complicated if we also add options and variants to the EBOM. I assume you know the difference between a variant and an option.

In this case, the EBOM the definition for the full product range. Actually, the top part of the EBOM does not exist as an instance. It is the placeholder to select a resolved EBOM for a specific product configuration.  For the ease of use, I have simplified the initial diagram, now zooming in on variants and options, apologizing for my artistic capabilities as the purpose of a blog is different from a book.

If we look at the diagram, this configured structure contains variants and options.

First, on the logical definition, we see a new grouping. There are two types of Line Feed available, one specific for the X-123 and a later, more generic designed LF100, suitable for all X-1nn variants.

As the LF100 is more generic designed, the customer can select between two motors, the standard P280 and the more advanced version P360, with better service capabilities.

For the Line Feed LF200, there is an option to order a Noise Reduction Cover. It was sold once to an existing customer, and as the cover fits all X-123, it has been linked here as an option to the X-123 definition. So, the customer solution with the Noise Reduction Cover does not have an isolated, copied structure in the EBOM.

Also, in the Logical Structure, we see there is a cabling definition for the X-123 or the default cabling set for all other products.

The diagram illustrates what many mid-market companies have been doing more or less in their PDM-system to avoid copying of EBOM structures per customer order.
It is an example of where a tool (the PDM-system) is slowly abused for administrative reasons. Let me explain why.

The link between Products and (E)BOMs

If we look at the upper part of the configured EBOM structure, this is a logical product definition. Or to say it in different words, it is a portfolio definition, which products and modules a company can sell to the market. Some of the grouping of the portfolio is purely based on business reasons, which products and options do we want to sell.

In most companies, the product portfolio is managed in (marketing) documents without a direct connection to the engineering world. However, we will see in an upcoming post, this relation is crucial for a digital enterprise. Meanwhile, look at on old blog post: Products, BOMs and Parts if you want to be faster

The Engineering definition below the red dashed line is a real EBOM, representing the engineering definition of a system, a module, or a component. When these systems and modules are defined in a single structure that can be filtered based on selection criteria, we talk about a Configured EBOM or sometimes a 150 % EBOM.

Each of the components in the configured EBOM can have a related 3D CAD structure or specification that can be developed traditionally.

The result of a resolved EBOM is a variant that can be delivered to the customer. In this EBOM-driven approach, there is not always a full 3D-representation of the customer product.

Again, size (1500+) words make me stop this story, where next time we will go from product to EBOM and introduce the need for an MBOM in specific industries.

Conclusion

A pure EBOM only specifies a product and contains all relevant information in context – designs & specifications. The EBOM should not be mixed or confused with a logical grouping, belonging to a portfolio definition (even if the system allows you to do it)

On my previous post shared on LinkedIn Ilan Madjar, a long-time PLM colleague reacted with the following point (full thread here)

Ilan is pointing to the right challenge in many companies. Changing the way you work is though exercise and requires a good understanding, vision, and execution to move forward. Do not trust the tool to work for you – it is about human understanding and process re-engineering to be more efficient. And if you do not practice this on the basic PDM-level as discussed so far, imagine the impossibility of going through a digital transformation.

 

Meanwhile, two weeks of a partial lockdown have passed here in the Netherlands, and we have at least another 3 weeks to go according to the Dutch government. The good thing in our country, decisions, and measures are made based on the advice of experts as we cannot rely on politicians as experts.

I realize that despite the discomfort for me, for many other people in other countries, it is a tragedy. My mental support to all of you, wherever you are.

So what has happened since Time to Think (and act differently)?

All Hands On Deck

In the past two weeks, it has become clear that a global pandemic as this one requires an “All Hands On Deck” mentality to support the need for medical supplies and in particular respiration devices, so-called ventilators. Devices needed to save the lives of profoundly affected people. I have great respect for the “hands” that are doing the work in infectious environments.

Due to time pressure, innovative thinking is required to reach quick results in many countries. Companies and governmental organizations have created consortia to address the urgent need for ventilators. You will not see so much PR from these consortia as they are too busy doing the real work.

Still, you see from many of the commercial participants their marketing messages, why, and how they contribute to these activities.

One of the most promoted capabilities is PLM collaboration on the cloud as there is a need for real-time collaboration between people that are under lockdown. They have no time setting-up environments and learning new tools to use for collaboration.

For me, these are grand experiments, can a group of almost untrained people corporate fast in a new environment.

For sure, offering free cloud software, PLM, online CAD or 3D Printing, seems like a positive and compassionate gesture from these vendors. However, this is precisely the wrong perception in our PLM-world – the difficulty with PLM does not lie necessary in the tools.

 

It is about learning to collaborate outside your silo.

Instead of “wait till I am done” it should become “this is what I have so far – use it for your progress”. This is a behavior change.

Do we have time for behavioral changes at this moment? Time will tell if the myth will become a reality so fast.

A lot of thinking

The past two weeks were weeks of thinking and talking a lot with PLM-interested persons along the globe using virtual meetings.

As long as the lockdowns will be there I keep on offering free of charge PLM coaching for individuals who want to understand the future of PLM.

Through all these calls, I really became THE VirtualDutchman in many of these meetings (thanks Jagan for the awareness).

I realized that there is a lot of value in virtual meetings, in particular with the video option on. Although I believe video works well when you had met before as most of my current meetings were with people, I have met before face-to-face. Hence, you know each other facial expressions already.

I am a big fan of face-to-face meetings as I learned in the past 20 years that despite all the technology and methodology issues, the human factor is essential. We are not rational people; we live and decide by emotions.

Still, I conclude that in the future, I could do with less travel, as I see the benefits from current virtual meetings.

Less face-to-face meetings will help me to work on a more sustainable future as I am aware of the impact flying has on the environment. Also, talking with other people, there is the notion that after the lockdowns, virtual conferencing might become more and more a best practice. Good for the climate, the environment, and time savings – bad for traditional industries like aircraft carriers, taxis, and hotels. I will not say 100 % goodbye but reduce.

A Virtual PLM conference!

I was extremely excited to participate in the upcoming PLM Innovation Forum (PLMIF) starting on April 28th, organized by TECHNIA. I have been visiting the event in the past a few times in Stockholm. It was a great place to meet many of the people from my network.

This time I am even more excited as the upcoming PLMIF will be a VIRTUAL conference with all the aspects of a real conference – read more about the conference here.

There will be an auditorium where lectures will be given, there are virtual booths, and it will be a place to network virtually. In my next post, I hope to zoom in on the conference.

Sustainability, a circular economy, and modern PLM should go together. Since 2014, these topics have been on the agenda of the joint CIMdata Roadmap/PDT conferences. Speakers like Amir Rashid KTH Sweden, Ken Webster Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and many others have been talking about the circular economy.

The Scandinavian mindset for an inclusive society for people and the environment for sure, has influenced the agenda. The links above lead to some better understanding of what is meant by a circular economy and a sustainable future, as also the short YouTube movie below:

The circular economy is crucial for a sustainable future. Therefore, I am looking forward to participating in the upcoming PLM Innovation Forum on April 28th, where it will be all about digitalization for sustainable product development and manufacturing. Hopefully, with the right balance towards the WHY-side of our brain, not so much about WHAT.

You are welcomed to register for free here: the virtual PLM Innovation Forum – we might meet there (virtually).

The PLM Green Alliance

The PLM Green Alliance had been announced some months ago, started by Rich McFall and supported by  Bjorn Fidjeland,  Oleg Shilovitsky, and me.

It was the first step to proactively bringing people together to discuss topics like reducing our carbon footprint, sharing and brainstorming about innovations that will lead to a sustainable future for ourselves and our children, grand-grand-children. The idea behind the PLM Green Alliance is that a proactive approach is much cheaper in the long term as we can still evaluate and discuss options.

This brings me back to the All hands On Deck approach we currently use for fighting the COVID-19 virus.

In a crisis mode, the damage to the people and the economy is severe. Besides, in a crisis mode, a lot of errors will be made, but don’t blame or joke about these people that are trying. Without failure, there is no learning.

We are in a potential time of disruption as the image shows below, but we do not have the complete answers for the future

Think about how you could pro-actively work on a sustainable future for all of us. This will be my personal target, combined with explaining and coaching companies related to topics of modern PLM, during the current lockdown and hopefully long after. The PLM Green Alliance is eager to learn from you and your companies where they are contributing to a more sustainable and greener future.

Do not feel your contribution is not needed, as according to research done by the Carr Center’s Erica Chenoweth: The ‘3.5% rule’: How a small minority can change the world. It could be an encouragement to act instead of watching who will determine your future.

Conclusion

While learning to live in a virtual world, we might be realizing that the current crisis is an opportunity to switch faster to a more sustainable and inclusive society. For PLM moving to data-driven, cloud-based environments, using a Model-Based approach along the whole lifecycle, is a path to reduce friction when delivering innovations. From years to weeks? Something we wished to have today already. Stay safe!

In my previous post, I shared my observations from the past 10 years related to PLM. It was about globalization and digitization becoming part of our daily business. In the domain of PLM, the coordinated approach has become the most common practice.

Now let’s look at the challenges for the upcoming decade, as to my opinion, the next decade is going to be decisive for people, companies and even our current ways of living. So let’s start with the challenges from easy to difficult

Challenge 1: Connected PLM

Implementing an end-to-end digital strategy, including PLM, is probably business-wise the biggest challenge. I described the future vision for PLM to enable the digital twin –How PLM, ALM, and BIM converge thanks to the digital twin.

Initially, we will implement a digital twin for capital-intensive assets, like satellites, airplanes, turbines, buildings, plants, and even our own Earth – the most valuable asset we have. To have an efficient digital continuity of information, information needs to be stored in connected models with shared parameters. Any conversion from format A to format B will block the actual data to be used in another context – therefore, standards are crucial. When I described the connected enterprise, this is the ultimate goal to be reached in 10 (or more) years. It will be data-driven and model-based

Getting to connected PLM will not be the next step in evolution. It will be disruptive for organizations to maintain and optimize the past (coordinated) and meanwhile develop and learn the future (connected). Have a look at my presentation at PLM Roadmap PDT conference to understand the dual approach needed to maintain “old” PLM and work on the future.

Interesting also my blog buddy Oleg Shilovitsky looked back on the past decade (here) and looked forward to 2030 (here). Oleg looks at these topics from a different perspective; however, I think we agree on the future quoting his conclusion:

PLM 2030 is a giant online environment connecting people, companies, and services together in a big network. It might sound like a super dream. But let me give you an idea of why I think it is possible. We live in a world of connected information today.

 

Challenge 2: Generation change

At this moment, large organizations are mostly organized and managed by hierarchical silos, e.g., the marketing department, the R&D department, Manufacturing, Service, Customer Relations, and potentially more.

Each of these silos has its P&L (Profit & Loss) targets and is optimizing itself accordingly. Depending on the size of the company, there will be various layers of middle management. Your level in the organization depends most of the time on your years of experience and visibility.

The result of this type of organization is the lack of “horizontal flow” crucial for a connected enterprise. Besides, the top of the organization is currently full of people educated and thinking linear/analog, not fully understanding the full impact of digital transformation for their organization. So when will the change start?

In particular, in modern manufacturing organizations, the middle management needs to transform and dissolve as empowered multidisciplinary teams will do the job. I wrote about this challenge last year: The Middle Management dilemma. And as mentioned by several others – It will be: Transform or Die for traditionally managed companies.

The good news is that the old generation is retiring in the upcoming decade, creating space for digital natives. To make it a smooth transition, the experts currently working in the silos will be missed for their experience – they should start coaching the young generation now.

 

Challenge 3: Sustainability of the planet.

The biggest challenge for the upcoming decade will be adapting our lifestyles/products to create a sustainable planet for the future. While mainly the US and Western Europe have been building a society based on unlimited growth, the effect of this lifestyle has become visible to the world. We consume with the only limit of money and create waste and landfill (plastics and more) form which the earth will not recover if we continue in this way. When I say “we,” I mean the group of fortunate people that grew up in a wealthy society. If you want to discover how blessed you are (or not), just have a look at the global rich list to determine your position.

Now thanks to globalization, other countries start to develop their economies too and become wealthy enough to replicate the US/European lifestyle. We are overconsuming the natural resources this earth has, and we drop them as waste – preferably not in our backyard but either in the ocean or at fewer wealth countries.

We have to start thinking circular and PLM can play a role in this. From linear to circular.

In my blog post related to PLM Roadmap/PDT Europe – day 1,  I described Graham Aid’s (Ragn-Sells) session:

Enabling the Circular Economy for Long Term Prosperity.

He mentioned several examples where traditional thinking just leads to more waste, instead of starting from the beginning with a sustainable model to bring products to the market.

Combined with our lifestyle, there is a debate on how the carbon dioxide we produce influences the climate and the atmosphere. I am not a scientist, but I believe in science and not in conspiracies. So there is a problem. In 1970 when scientists discovered the effect of CFK on the Ozone-layer of the atmosphere, we ultimately “fixed” the issue. That time without social media we still trusted scientists – read more about it here: The Ozone hole

I believe mankind will be intelligent enough to “fix” the upcoming climate issues if we trust in science and act based on science. If we depend on politicians and lobbyists, we will see crazy measures that make no sense, for example, the concept of “biofuel.” We need to use our scientific brains to address sustainability for the future of our (single) earth.

Therefore, together with Rich McFall (the initiator), Oleg Shilovitsky, and Bjorn Fidjeland (PLM-peers), we launched the PLM Green Alliance, where we will try to focus on sharing ideas, discussion related to PLM and PLM-related technologies to create a network of innovative companies/ideas. We are in the early stages of this initiative and are looking for ways to make it an active alliance. Insights, stories, and support are welcome. More to come this year (and decade).

 

Challenge 4: The Human brain

The biggest challenge for the upcoming decade will be the human brain. Even though we believe we are rational, it is mainly our primitive brain that drives our decisions. Thinking Fast and Slow from Daniel Kahneman is a must-read in this area. Or Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that shape our decisions.  Note: these books are “old” books from years ago. However, due to globalization and social connectivity, they have become actual.

Our brain does not like to waste energy. If we see the information that confirms our way of thinking, we do not look further. Social media like Facebook are using their algorithms to help you to “discover” even more information that you like. Social media do not care about facts; they care about clicks for advertisers. Of course, controversial headers or pictures get the right attention. Facts are no longer relevant, and we will see this phenomenon probably this year again in the US presidential elections.

The challenge for implementing PLM and acting against human-influenced Climate Change is that we have to use our “thinking slow” mode combined with a general trust in science. I recommend reading Enlightenment now from Steven Pinker. I respect Steven Pinker for the many books I have read from him in the past. Enlightenment Now is perhaps a challenging book to complete. However, it illustrates that a lot of the pessimistic thinking of our time has no fundamental grounds. As a global society, we have been making a lot of progress in the past century. You would not go back to the past anymore.

Back to PLM.

PLM is not a “wonder tool/concept,” and its success is mainly depending on a long-term vision, organizational change, culture, and then the tools. It is not a surprise that it is hard for our brains to decide on a roadmap for PLM. In 2015 I wrote about the similarity of PLM and acting against Climate Change  – read it here: PLM and Global Warming

In the upcoming PI PLMx London conference, I will lead a Think Tank session related to Getting PLM on the Executive’s agenda. Getting PLM on an executive agenda is about connecting to the brain and not about a hypothetical business case only.  Even at exec level, decisions are made by “gut feeling” – the way the human brain decides. See you in London or more about this topic in a month.

Conclusion

The next decade will have enormous challenges – more than in the past decades. These challenges are caused by our lifestyles AND the effects of digitization. Understanding and realizing our biases caused by our brains is crucial.  There is no black and white truth (single version of the truth) in our complex society.

I encourage you to keep the dialogue open and to avoid to live in a silo.

 

 

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

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

The State of PLM

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

The Multi View BOM

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Enabling the Circular Economy for Long Term Prosperity

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

An example below:

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

 

 

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

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

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

Sponsor sessions

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Who to blame – the vendor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who to blame – the implementer?

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

Let’s see where we can blame them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who to blame – your company?

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

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

Implementing the as-is processes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is everyone to blame?

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

 

 

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 ?

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This time a post that has been on the table already for a long time – the importance of having established processes, in particular with implementing PLM.  By nature, most people hate processes as it might give the idea that their personal creativity is limited, where large organizations love processes as for them this is the way to guarantee a confident performance.  So let’s have a more in-depth look.

Where processes shine

In a transactional world, processes can be implemented like algorithms, assuming the data to be processed has the right quality. That is why MRP (Material Requirement Planning) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) don’t have the mindset of personal creativity. It is about optimized execution driven by financial and quality goals.

When I started my career in the early days of data management, before it was called PDM/PLM, I learned that there is a need for communication-related to product data. Terms are revisions, and versions started to pop-up combined with change processes. Some companies began to talk about configuration management.

Companies were not thinking PLM along the whole lifecycle. It was more PDM for engineering and ERP for manufacturing. Where PDM was ultimate a document-control environment, ERP was the execution engine relying on documented content, but not necessarily connected. Unfortunate this is still the case at many companies, and it has to do with the mindset. Traditionally a company’s performance has been measured based on financial reporting coming from the ERP system. Engineering was an unmanageable cost in the eyes of the manufacturing company’s management and ERP-software vendors.

In de middle of the nineties (previous century now ! ), I had a meeting with an ERP-country manager to discuss a potential partnership. The challenge was that he had no clue about the value and complementary need for PLM. Even after discussing with him the differences between iterative product development (with revisioning) and linear execution (on the released product), his statement was:

“Engineers are just resources that do not want to be managed, but we will get them”

Meanwhile, I can say this company has changed its strategy, giving PLM a space in their portfolio combined with excellent slides about what could be possible.

To conclude, for linear execution the meaning of processes is more or less close to algorithms and when there is no algorithm, the individual steps in place are predictable with their own KPIs.

Process certification

As I mentioned in the introduction, processes were established to guarantee a predictable outcome, in particular when it comes to quality. For that reason, in the previous century when globalization started companies were somehow forced to get ISO 900x certified. The idea behind these certifications was that a company had processes in place to guarantee an expected outcome and for when they failed, they would have procedures in place to fix these gaps. The reason companies were doing this because no social internet could name and shame bad companies. Having ISO 900x certification would be the guarantee to deliver quality.  In the same perspective, we could see, configuration management, a system of best practices to guarantee that product information was always correct.

Certification was and is heaven for specialized external auditors and consultants.  To get certification you needed to invest in people and time to describe your processes, and once these processes were defined, there were regular external audits to ensure the quality system has been followed.  The beauty of this system – the described procedures were more or less “best intentions” not enforced. When the auditor would come the company had to play some theater that processes were followed., the auditor would find some improvements for next year and the management was happy certification was passed.

This has changed early this century. In particular, mid-market companies were no longer motivated to keep up this charade. The quality process manual remained as a source of inspiration, but external audits were no longer needed. Companies were globally connected and reviewed, so reputation could be sourced easily.

The result: there are documented quality procedures, and there is a reality. The more disconnected employees became in a company due to mergers or growth, the more individual best-practices became the way to deliver the right product and quality, combined with accepted errors and fixes downstream or later. The hidden cost of poor quality is still a secret within many companies.  Talking with employees they all have examples where their company lost a lot of money due to quality mistakes. Yet in less regulated industries, there is no standard approach, like CAPA (Corrective And Preventive Actions), APQP or 8D to solve it.

Configuration Management and Change Management processes

When it comes to managing the exact definition of a product, either an already manufactured product or products that are currently made, there is a need for Configuration Management.  Before there were PLM systems configuration management was done through procedures defining configurations based on references to documents with revisions and versions. In the aerospace industry, separate systems for configuration management were developed, to ensure the exact configuration of an aircraft could be retrieved at any time. Less regulated industries used a more document-based procedural approach as strict as possible. You can read about the history of configuration management and PLM in an earlier blog post: PLM and Configuration Management – a happy marriage?

With the introduction of PDM and PLM-systems, more and more companies wanted to implement their configuration management and in particular their change management inside the system, as the changes are always related to product information that can reside in a PLM-system. The change of part can be proposed (ECR), analyzed and approved, leading to and implementation of the change (ECO) which is based on changed specifications, designs (3D Models / Drawings) and more. You can read the basics here: The Issue and ECR/ECO for Dummies (Reprise)

The Challenge (= Problem) of Digital Processes

More and more companies are implementing change processes fully in PLM, and this is the point that creates the most friction for a PLM implementation. The beauty of digital change processes is that they can be full-proof. No change gets unnoticed as everyone is forced to follow the predefined procedures, either a type of fast track in case of lightweight (= low risk) changes or the full change process when the product is already in a mature state.

Like the ISO-900x processes, the PLM-implementer is often playing the role of the consultancy firm that needs to recommend the company how to implement configuration management and change processes. The challenge here is that the company most of the time does not have a standard view for their change processes and for sure the standard change management inside PLM s not identical to their processes.

Here the battle starts….

Management believes that digital change processes, preferable out-of-the-box, a crucial to implement, where users feel their job becomes more an administrative job than a creative job. Users that create information don’t want to be bothered with the decisions for numbering and revisioning.

They expect the system to do that easily for them – which does not happen as old procedures, responsibilities, and methodologies do not align with the system. Users are not measured or challenged for data quality, they are measured on the work they deliver that is needed now. Let’s first get the work done before we make sure all is consisted defined in the PLM-system.

Digital Transformation allows companies to redefine the responsibilities for users related to the data they produce. It is no longer a 3D Model or a drawing, but a complete data set with properties/attributes that can be shared and used for analysis and automation.

Conclusion

Implementing digital processes for PLM is the most painful, but required step for a successful implementation. As long as data and processes are not consistent, we can keep on dreaming about automation in PLM. Therefore, digital transformation inside PLM should focus on new methods and responsibilities to create a foundation for the future. Without an agreement on the digital processes there will be a growing inefficiency for the future.

 

Image:  21stcenturypublicservant.wordpress.com/

I have talked a lot the past years about Digital Transformation and in particular its relation to PLM. This time I want to focus a little more on Digital Transformation and my observations related to big enterprises and small and medium enterprises. I will take you starting from the top, the C-level to the work floor and then try to reconnect through the middle management. As you can imagine from the title of this post, there is a challenge. And I am aware I am generalizing for the sake of simplicity.

Starting from the C-level of a large enterprise

Large and traditional enterprises are having the most significant challenge when aiming at a digital transformation for several reasons:

  • They have shareholders that prefer short-term benefits above long-term promising but unclear higher benefits. Shareholders most of the time have no personal interest in these companies, they just want to earn money above the average growth.
  • The CEO is the person to define the strategy which has to come with a compelling vision to inspire the shareholders, the customers and the employees in the company – most of the time in that order of priority.
  • The role of the CEO is to prioritize investments and stop or sell core components to make the transformation affordable. Every transformation is about deciding what to stop, what to start and what to maintain.
  • After four to seven years (the seven years’ itch) it is time for a new CEO to create a new momentum as you cannot keep the excitement up too long.
  • Meanwhile, the Stop-activities are creating fear within the organization – people start fearing their jobs and the start-activities are most of the time of such a small-scale that their successes are not yet seen. So at the work floor, there will be reservations about what’s next

Companies like ABB, Ericsson, GE, Philips – in alphabetical order – are all in several stages of their digital transformation and in particular I have followed GE as they were extremely visible and ambitious. Meanwhile, it is fair to say that the initial Digital Transformation plan from GE has stalled and a lot of lessons learned from that.

If you have time – read this article: The Only Way Manufacturers Can Survive – by Vijay Govindarajan & Jeff Immelt (you need to register). It gives useful insights about what the strategy and planning were for digital transformation. And note PLM is not even mentioned there J

Starting from the C-level of a small and medium enterprise

In a small or medium enterprise, the distance between the C-level and the work floor is most of the time much shorter and chances are that the CEO is a long-term company member in case of a long-standing family-owned business. In this type of companies, a long-term vision can exist and you could expect that digital transformation is more sustainable there.

Unfortunate most of the time it is not, as the C-level is often more active in current business strategies and capabilities close to their understanding instead of investing energy and time to digest the full impact of a digital transformation. These companies might invest in the buzz-words you hear in the market, IoT, Digital Twins and Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, all very visionary topics, however of low value when they are implemented in an isolated way.

In this paragraph, I also need to mention the small and medium enterprises that are in the hands of an investment company.  Here I feel sorry as the investment company is most of the time trying to optimize the current ways of working by simplifying or rationalizing the business, not creating a transformative vision (as they do not have the insights. In this type of companies, you will see on a lower scale the same investments done as in the other category of small and medium enterprises, be it on a lesser scale.

Do people need to change?

Often you hear that the problem with any change within the companies is because people do not want to change. I think this is too much a generalization. I have worked in the past five years with several companies where we explored the benefits and capabilities of PLM in a modern way, sometimes focusing on an item-centric approach, sometimes focusing on a model-based approach. In all these engagements there was no reluctance from the users to change.

However, there were two types of users in these discussions. I would characterize as evolutionary thinkers (most of the time ten years or more in the company) and love-to-change thinkers (most of them five years or less in the company). The difference between these groups was that the evolutionary thinkers were responding in the context of the existing business constraints where the love-to-change thinkers were not yet touched by the “knowledge how good everything was”.

For digital transformation, you need to create the love-to-change attitude while using the existing knowledge as a base to improve. And this is not a people change, it is an organizational change where you need to enable people to work in their best mode. It needs to be an end-to-end internal change – not changing the people, but changing the organizational parameters: KPIs, divisions, departments, priorities. Have a look at this short movie, you can replace the word ERP by PLM, and you will understand why I like this movie (and the relaxing sound)

The Middle Management dilemma

And here comes my last observation. At the C-level we can find inspiring visions often outcome-based, talking about a more agile company, closer to the customer, empowered workers, etc.  Then there is the ongoing business that cannot be disrupted and needs to perform – so the business units, the departments all get their performance KPIs, merely keeping the status quo in place.

Also, new digital initiatives need to be introduced. They don’t fit in the existing business and are often started in separation – like GE Digital division, and you can read Jeff Immelt’ s thoughts and strategy how this could work. (The Only Way Manufacturers Can Survive). However as the majority of the business runs in the old mode, the Digital Business became another business silo in the organization, as the middle management could not be motivated to embed digital in their business (no KPIs or very low significance of new KPIs)

I talked about the hybrid/bimodal approach several times in my blog posts, most recently in The Challenges of a Connected Ecosystem.  One of the points that I did not address was the fact that probably nobody wants to work in the old mode anymore once the new approach is successful and scaled up.

When the new mode of business is still small, people will not care so much and continue business as usual. Once the new mode becomes the most successful part of the company, people do want to join this success if they can. And here the change effort is needed. An interesting article in this context is The End of Two-Speed IT from the Boston Consultancy Group (2016). They already point at the critical role of middle management. Middle management can kill digital transformation or being part of it, by getting motivated and adopting too.

Conclusion

Perhaps too much text in this post and even more content when you dive more in-depth in the provided content. Crucial if you want to understand the digital transformation process in an existing company and the critical place of middle management. They are likely the killers of digital transformation if not give the right coaching and incentives.  Just an observation – not a thought 😉

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