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I was happy to take part at the PI PLMx London event last week. It was here and in the same hotel that this conference saw the light in 2011  – you can see my blog post from that event here: PLM and Innovation @ PLMINNOVATION 2011.

At that time the first vendor-independent PLM conference after a long time and it brought a lot of new people together to discuss their experience with PLM. Looking at the audience that time, many of the companies that were there, came back during the years, confirming the value this conference has brought to their PLM journey.

Similar to the PDT conference(s) – just announced for this year last week – here – the number of participants is diminishing.

Main hypotheses:

  1. the PLM-definition has become too vague. Going to a PLM conference does not guarantee it is your type of PLM discussions you expect to see?
  2. the average person is now much better informed related to PLM thanks to the internet and social media (blogs/webinars/ etc.) Therefore, the value retrieved from the PLM conference is not big enough any more?
  3. Digital Transformation is absorbing all the budget and attention downstream the organization not creating the need and awareness of modern PLM to the attention of the management anymore. g., a digital twin is sexier to discuss than PLM?

What do you think about the above three hypotheses – 1,2 and/or 3?

Back to the conference. The discussion related to PLM has changed over the past nine years. As I presented at PI from the beginning in 2011, here are the nine titles from my sessions:

2011       PLM – The missing link
2012       Making the case for PLM
2013       PLM loves Innovation
2014       PLM is changing
2015       The challenge of PLM upgrades
2016       The PLM identity crisis
2017       Digital Transformation affects PLM
2018       PLM transformation alongside Digitization
2019       The challenges of a connected Ecosystem for PLM

Where the focus started with justifying PLM, as well as a supporting infrastructure, to bring Innovation to the market, the first changes became visible in 2014. PLM was changing as more data-driven vendors appeared with new and modern (metadata) concepts and cloud, creating the discussion about what would be the next upgrade challenge.

The identity crisis reflected the introduction of software development / management combined with traditional (mechanical) PLM – how to deal with systems? Where are the best practices?

Then from 2017 on until now Digital Transformation and the impact on PLM and an organization became the themes to discuss – and we are not ready yet!

Now some of the highlights from the conference. As there were parallel sessions, I had to divide my attention – you can see the full agenda here:

How to Build Critical Architecture Models for the New Digital Economy

The conference started with a refreshing presentation from David Sherburne (Carestream) explaining their journey towards a digital economy.  According to David, the main reason behind digitization is to save time, as he quoted Harvey Mackay an American Businessman and Journalist,

Time is free, but it is priceless. You cannot own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you have lost it, you never can get it back

I tend to agree with this simplification as it makes the story easy to explain to everyone in your company. Probably I would add to that story that saving time also means less money spent on intermediate resources in a company, therefore, creating a two-sided competitive advantage.

David stated that today’s digital transformation is more about business change than technology and here I wholeheartedly agree. Once you can master the flow of data in your company, you can change and adapt your company’s business processes to be better connected to the customer and therefore deliver the value they expect (increases your competitive advantage).

Having new technology in place does not help you unless you change the way you work.

David introduced a new acronym ILM (Integrated Lifecycle Management) and I am sure some people will jump on this acronym.

David’s presentation contained an interesting view from the business-architectural point of view. An excellent start for the conference where various dimensions of digital transformation and PLM were explored.

Integrated PLM in the Chemical industry

Another interesting session was from Susanna Mäentausta  (Kemira oy)  with the title: “Increased speed to market, decreased risk of non-compliance through integrated PLM in Chemical industry.” I selected her session as from my past involvement with the process industry, I noticed that PLM adoption is very low in the process industry. Understanding Why and How they implemented PLM was interesting for me. Her PLM vision slide says it all:

There were two points that I liked a lot from her presentation, as I can confirm they are crucial.

  • Although there was a justification for the implementation of PLM, there was no ROI calculation done upfront. I think this is crucial, you know as a company you need to invest in PLM to stay competitive. Making an ROI-story is just consoling the people with artificial number – success and numbers depend on the implementation and Susanna confirmed that step 1 delivered enough value to be confident.
  • There were an end-to-end governance and a communication plan in place. Compared to PLM projects I know, this was done very extensive – full engagement of key users and on-going feedback – communicate, communicate, communicate. How often do we forget this in PLM projects?

Extracting More Value of PLM in an Engineer-to-Order Business

Sami Grönstrand & Helena Gutierrez presented as an experienced duo (they were active in PI P PLMx Hamburg/Berlin before) – their current status and mission for PLM @ Outotec. As the title suggests, it was about how to extract more value from PL M, in an Engineering to Order Business.

What I liked is how they simplified their PLM targets from a complex landscape into three story-lines.

If you jump into all the details where PLM is contributing to your business, it might get too complicated for the audience involved. Therefore, they aligned their work around three value messages:

  • Boosting sales, by focusing on modularization and encouraging the use of a product configurator. This instead of developing every time a customer-specific solution
  • Accelerating project deliverables, again reaping the benefits of modularization, creating libraries and training the workforce in using this new environment (otherwise no use of new capabilities). The results in reducing engineering hours was quite significant.
  • Creating New Business Models, by connecting all data using a joint plant structure with related equipment. By linking these data elements, an end-to-end digital continuity was established to support advanced service and support business models.

My conclusion from this session was again that if you want to motivate people on a PLM-journey it is not about the technical details, it is about the business benefits that drive these new ways of working.

Managing Product Variation in a Configure-To-Order Business

In the context of the previous session from Outotec, Björn Wilhemsson’s session was also addressing somehow the same topic of How to create as much as possible variation in your customer offering, while internally keep the number of variants and parts manageable.

Björn, Alfa Laval’s OnePLM Programme Director, explained in detail the strategy they implemented to address these challenges. His presentation was very educational and could serve as a lesson for many of us related to product portfolio management and modularization.

Björn explained in detail the six measures to control variation, starting from a model-strategy / roadmap (thinking first) followed by building a modularized product architecture, controlling and limiting the number of variants during your New Product Development process. Next as Alfa Laval is in a Configure-To-Order business, Björn the implementation of order-based and automated addition of pre-approved variants (not every variant needs to exist in detail before selling it), followed by the controlled introduction of additional variants and continuous analysis of quoted and sold variant (the power of a digital portfolio) as his summary slides shows below:

Day 1 closed with an inspirational keynote; Lessons-Learnt from the Mountaineering Experience 8848 Meter above sea level  – a mission to climb the highest mountain on each of the continents in 107 days – 9 hours – setting a new world record by Jonathan Gupta.

There are some analogies to discover between his mission and a PLM implementation. It is all about having the total picture in mind. Plan and plan, prepare step-by-step in detail and rely on teamwork – it is not a solo journey – and it is about reaching a top (deliverable phase) in the most efficient way.

The differences: PLM does not need world records, you need to go with the pace an organization can digest and understand. Although the initial PLM climate during implementation might be chilling too, I do not believe you have to suffer temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius.

During the morning, I was involved in several meetings, therefore unfortunate unable to see some of the interesting sessions at that time. Hopefully later available on PI.TV for review as slides-only do not tell the full story. Although there are experts that can conclude and comment after seeing a single slide. You can read it here from my blog buddy Oleg Shilovitsky’s post : PLM Buzzword Detox. I think oversimplification is exactly creating the current problem we have in this world – people without knowledge become louder and sure about their opinion compared to knowledgeable people who have spent time to understand the matter.

Have a look at the Dunning-Kruger effect here (if you take the time to understand).

 

PLM: Enabling the Future of a Smart and Connected Ecosystem

Peter Bilello from CIMdata shared his observations and guidance related to the current ongoing digital business revolution that is taking place thanks to internet and IoT technologies. It will fundamentally transform how people will work and interact between themselves and with machines. Survival in business will depend on how companies create Smart and Connected Ecosystems. Peter showed a slide from the 2015 World Economic Forum (below) which is still relevant:

Probably depending on your business some of these waves might have touched your organization already. What is clear that the market leaders here will benefit the most – the ones owning a smart and connected ecosystem will be the winners shortly.

Next, Peter explained why PLM, and in particular the Product Innovation Platform, is crucial for a smart and connected enterprise.  Shiny capabilities like a digital twin, the link between virtual and real, or virtual & augmented reality can only be achieved affordably and competitively if you invest in making the source digital connected. The scope of a product innovation platform is much broader than traditional PLM. Also, the way information is stored differs – moving from documents (files) towards data (elements in a database).  I fully agree with Peter’s opinion here that PLM is conceptually the Killer App for a Smart & Connected Ecosystem and this notion is spreading.

A recent article from Forbes in the category Leadership: Is Your Company Ready For Digital Product Life Cycle Management? shows there is awareness.  Still very basic and people are still confused to understand what is the difference with an electronic file (digital too ?) and a digital definition of information.

The main point to remember here: Digital information can be accessed directly through a programming interface (API/Service) without the need to open a container (document) and search for this piece of information.

Peter then zoomed in on some topics that companies need to investigate to reach a smart & connected ecosystem. Security (still a question hardly addressed in IoT/Digital Twin demos), Standards and Interoperability ( you cannot connect in all proprietary formats economically and sustainably) A lot of points to consider and I want to close with Peter’s slide illustrating where most companies are in reality

The Challenges of a Connected Ecosystem for PLM

I was happy to present after Peter Bilello and David Sherburne (on day 1) as they both gave a perspective on digital transformation complementary to what I submitted. My presentation was focusing on the incompatibility of current coordinated business systems and the concept of a connected ecosystem.

You can already download my slides from SlideShare here: The Challenges of a Connected Ecosystem for PLM . I will explain my presentation in an upcoming blog post as slides without a story might lead to the wrong interpretation, and we already reached 2000 words. Few words to come.

How to Run a PLM Project Using the Agile Manifesto

Andrew Lodge, head of Engineering Systems at JCB explained how applying the agile mindset towards a PLM project can lead to faster and accurate results needed by the business. I am a full supporter for this approach as having worked in long and waterfall-type of PLM implementations there was always the big crash and user dissatisfaction at the final delivery. Keeping the business involved every step seems to be the solution. The issue I discovered here is that agile implementation requires a lot of people, in particular, business, to be involved heavily. Some companies do not understand this need and dropped /reduced business contribution to the least, killing the value of an agile approach

 

Concluding

For me coming back to London for the PI PLMx event was very motivational. Where the past two, three conferences before in Germany might have led to little progress per year, this year, thanks to new attendees and inspiration, it became for me a vivid event, hopefully growing shortly. Networking and listening to your peers in business remains crucial to digest it all.

 

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This is the moment of the year to switch-off from the details. No more talking and writing about digital transformation or model-based approaches. It is time to sit back and relax. Two years ago I shared the PLM Songbook, now it is time to see one or more movies. Here are my favorite top five PLM movies:

Bruce Almighty

Bruce Nolan, an engineer in Buffalo, N.Y., is discontented with almost everything in the company despite his popularity and the love of his draftswoman Grace. At the end of the worst day of his life, Bruce angrily ridicules and rages against PLM and PLM responds. PLM appears in human form and, endowing Bruce with divine powers op collaboration, challenges Bruce to take on the big job to see if he can do it any better.

A movie that makes you modest and you realize there is more than your small ecosystem.

 

The good, the bad and the ugly

Blondie (The Good PLM consultant) is a professional who is out trying to earn a few dollars. Angel Eyes (The Bad PLM Vendor) is a PLM salesman who always commits to a task and sees it through, as long as he is paid to do so. And Tuco (The Ugly PLM Implementer) is a wanted outlaw trying to take care of his own hide. Tuco and Blondie share a partnership together making money off Tuco’s bounty, but when Blondie unties the partnership, Tuco tries to hunt down Blondie. When Blondie and Tuco come across a PLM implementation loaded with dead bodies, they soon learn from the only survivor (Bill Carson – the PLM admin) that he and a few other men have buried a stash of value on a file server. Unfortunately, Carson dies, and Tuco only finds out the name of the file server, while Blondie finds out the name on the hard disk. Now the two must keep each other alive in order to find the value. Angel Eyes (who had been looking for Bill Carson) discovers that Tuco and Blondie met with Carson and knows they know the location of the value. All he needs is for the two to ..

A movie that makes you realize that it is a challenging journey to find the value out of PLM. It is not only about execution – but it is also about all the politics of people involved – and there are good, bad and ugly people on a PLM journey.

The Grump

The Grump is a draftsman in Finland from the past. A man who knows that everything used to be so much better in the old days. Pretty much everything that’s been done after 1953 has always managed to ruin The Grump’s day. Our story unfolds The Grump opens a 3D Model on his computer, hurting his brain. He has to spend a weekend in Helsinki to attend a model-based therapy. Then the drama unfolds …….

A movie that makes you realize that progress and innovation do not come from grumps. In every environment when you want to do a change of the status quo, grumps will appear. With the exciting Finish atmosphere, a perfect film for Christmas.

Deliverance

The Cahulawassee River Valley company in Northern Georgia is one of the last analog companies in the state, which will soon change with the imminent implementation of a PLM system in the company, breaking down silos everywhere. As such, four Atlanta city slickers, alpha male Lewis Medlock, generally even-keeled Ed Gentry, slightly condescending Bobby Trippe, and wide-eyed Drew Ballinger decide to implement PLM in one trip, with only Lewis and Ed having experience in CAD. They know going in that the area is ethnoculturally homogeneous and isolated, but don’t understand the full extent of such until they arrive and see what they believe is the result of generations of inbreeding. Their relatively peaceful trip takes a turn for the worse when half way through they encounter a couple of hillbilly moonshiners. That encounter not only makes the four battle their way out of the PLM project intact and alive but threatens the relationships of the four as they do.

This movie, from 1972, makes you realize that in the early days of PLM starting a big-bang implementation journey into an area that is not ready for it, can be deadly, for your career and friendship. Not suitable for small children!

Diamonds Are Forever or Tron (legacy)

James Bond’s mission is to find out who has been drawing diamonds, which are appearing on blogs. He adopts another identity in the form of Don Farr. He joins up with CIMdata and acts as if he is developing diamonds, but everyone is hungry for these diamonds. He also has to avoid Mr. Brouwer and Mr. Kidd, the dangerous couple who do not leave anyone in their way when it comes to model-based. And Ernst Stavro Blofeld isn’t out of the question. He may have changed his looks, but is he linked with the V-shape? And if he is, can Bond finally defeat his ultimate enemy?

Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn, looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of virtual twins and augmented reality where his father has been living for 20 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant Quorra, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous. Meanwhile, the malevolent program IoT, who dominates the digital world, plans to invade the real world and will stop at nothing to prevent their escape

I could not decide about number five. The future is bright with Boeing’s new representation of Systems Engineering, see my post on CIMdata’s PLM Europe roadmap event where Don Farr presented his diamond(s). However, the future is also becoming a mix of real with virtual and here Tron (legacy) will help my readers to understand the beauty of a mixed virtual and real world. You can decide – or send me your favorite PLM movies.

Note: All movie reviews are based on IMBd.com story lines, and I thank the authors of these story lines for their contribution and hope they agree with the PLM-related twist. Click on the image to find the full details and original review.

Conclusion

2018 has been an exciting year with a lot of buzzwords combined with the reality that the current PLM approach is incompatible with the future. How we can address this issue more in 2019 – first at PI PLMx 2019 in London (be there – last chance to meet people in the UK when they are still Europeans and share/discuss plans for the upcoming year)

Wishing you all the best during the break and a happy and prosperous 2019

 

During my holiday I have read some interesting books. Some for the beauty of imagination and some to enrich my understanding of the human brain.

Why the human brain? It is the foundation and motto of my company: The Know-How to Know Now.
In 2012 I wrote a post: Our brain blocks PLM acceptance followed by a post in 2014  PLM is doomed, unless …… both based on observations and inspired by the following books (must read if you are interested in more than just PLM practices and technology):

In 2014, Digital Transformation was not so clear. We talked about disruptors, but disruption happened outside our PLM comfort zone.

Now six years later disruption or significant change in the way we develop and deliver solutions to the market has become visible in the majority of companies. To stay competitive or meaningful in a global market with changing customer demands, old ways of working no longer bring enough revenue to sustain.  The impact of software as part of the solution has significantly changed the complexity and lifecycle(s) of solutions on the market.

Most of my earlier posts in the past two years are related to these challenges.

What is blocking Model-Based Definition?

This week I had a meeting in the Netherlands with three Dutch peers all interested and involved in Model-Based Definition – either from the coaching point of view or the “victim” point of view.  We compared MBD-challenges with Joe Brouwer’s AID (Associated Information Documents) approach and found a lot of commonalities.

No matter which method you use it is about specifying unambiguously how a product should be manufactured – this is a skill and craftsmanship and not a technology. We agreed that a model-based approach where information (PMI) is stored as intelligent data elements in a Technical Data Package (TPD) will be crucial for multidisciplinary usage of a 3D Model and its associated information.

If we would store the information again as dumb text in a view, it will need human rework leading to potential parallel information out of sync, therefore creating communication and quality issues. Unfortunate as it was a short meeting, the intention is to follow-up this discussion in the Netherlands to a broader audience. I believe this is what everyone interested in learning and understanding the needs and benefits of a model-based approach (unavoidable) should do. Get connected around the table and share/discuss.

We realized that human beings indeed are often the blocking reason why new ways of working cannot be introduced. Twenty-five years ago we had the discussion moving from 2D to 3D for design. Now due to the maturity of the solutions and the education of new engineers this is no longer an issue. Now we are in the next wave using the 3D Model as the base for manufacturing definition, and again a new mindset is needed.

There are a few challenges here:

  • MBD is still in progress – standards like AP242 still needs enhancements
  • There is a lack of visibility on real reference stories to motivate others.
    (Vendor-driven stories often are too good to be true or too narrow in scope)
  • There is no education for (modern) business processes related to product development and manufacturing. Engineers with new skills are dropped in organizations with traditional processes and silo thinking.

Educate, or our brain will block the future!

The above points need to be addressed, and here the human brain comes again into the picture.  Our unconscious, reptile brain is continuously busy to spend a least amount of energy as described in Thinking, Fast and Slow. Currently, I am reading the Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To by Dean Burnett, another book confirming that our brain is not a logical engine making wise decisions

And then there is the Dunning-Kruger effect, explaining that the people with the lowest skills often have the most outspoken opinion and not even aware of this flaw. We see this phenomenon in particular now in social media where people push their opinion as if they are facts.

So how can we learn new model-based approaches and here I mean all the model-based aspects I have discussed recently, i.e., Model-Based Systems Engineering, Model-Based Definition/ Model-Based Enterprise and the Digital Twin? We cannot learn it from a book, as we are entering a new era.

First, you might want to understand there is a need for new ways of working related to complex products. If you have time, listen to Xin Guo Zhang’s opening keynote with the title: Co-Evolution of Complex Aeronautical Systems & Complex SE. It takes 30 minutes so force yourself to think slow and comprehend the message related to the needed paradigm shift for systems engineering towards model-based systems engineering

Also, we have to believe that model-based is the future. If not, we will find for every issue on our path a reason not to work toward the ultimate goal.

You can see this in the comments of my earlier post on LinkedIn, where Sami Grönstrand writes:

I warmly welcome the initiative to “clean up” these concepts  (It is time to clean up our model-based problem and above all, await to see live examples of transformations — even partial — coupled with reasonable business value identification. 

There are two kinds of amazing places: those you have first to see before you can believe they exist.
And then those kinds that you have to believe in first before you can see them…

And here I think we need to simplify en enhance the Model-Based myth as according to Yuval Harari in his book Sapiens, the power of the human race came from creating myths to align people to have long-term, forward-looking changes accepted by our reptile brain. We are designed to believe in myths. Therefore, the need for a Model-based myth.In my post PLM as a myth? from 2017, I discussed this topic in more detail.

Conclusion

There are so many proof points that our human brain is not as reliable as we think it is.  Knowing less about these effects makes it even harder to make progress towards a digital future. This post with all its embedded links can keep your brain active for a few hours. Try it, avoid to think fast and avoid assuming you know it all. Your thoughts?

 

Learning & Discussing more?
Still time to register for CIMdata PLM Roadmap and PDT Europe

 

 

This is my concluding post related to the various aspects of the model-driven enterprise. We went through Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) where the focus was on using models (functional / logical / physical / simulations) to define complex product (systems). Next we discussed Model Based Definition / Model-Based Enterprise (MBD/MBE), where the focus was on data continuity between engineering and manufacturing by using the 3D Model as a master for design, manufacturing and eventually service information.

And last time we looked at the Digital Twin from its operational side, where the Digital Twin was applied for collecting and tuning physical assets in operation, which is not a typical PLM domain to my opinion.

Now we will focus on two areas where the Digital Twin touches aspects of PLM – the most challenging one and the most over-hyped areas I believe. These two areas are:

  • The Digital Twin used to virtually define and optimize a new product/system or even a system of systems. For example, defining a new production line.
  • The Digital Twin used to be the virtual replica of an asset in operation. For example, a turbine or engine.

Digital Twin to define a new Product/System

There might be some conceptual overlap if you compare the MBSE approach and the Digital Twin concept to define a new product or system to deliver. For me the differentiation would be that MBSE is used to master and define a complex system from the R&D point of view – unknown solution concepts – use hardware or software?  Unknown constraints to be refined and optimized in an iterative manner.

In the Digital Twin concept, it is more about a defining a system that should work in the field. How to combine various systems into a working solution and each of the systems has already a pre-defined set of behavioral / operational parameters, which could be 3D related but also performance related.

You would define and analyze the new solution virtual to discover the ideal solution for performance, costs, feasibility and maintenance. Working in the context of a virtual model might take more time than traditional ways of working, however once the models are in place analyzing the solution and optimizing it takes hours instead of weeks, assuming the virtual model is based on a digital thread, not a sequential process of creating and passing documents/files. Virtual solutions allow a company to optimize the solution upfront instead of costly fixing during delivery, commissioning and maintenance.

Why aren’t we doing this already? It takes more skilled engineers instead of cheaper fixers downstream. The fact that we are used to fixing it later is also an inhibitor for change. Management needs to trust and understand the economic value instead of trying to reduce the number of engineers as they are expensive and hard to plan.

In the construction industry, companies are discovering the power of BIM (Building Information Model) , introduced to enhance the efficiency and productivity of all stakeholders involved. Massive benefits can be achieved if the construction of the building and its future behavior and maintenance can be optimized virtually compared to fixing it in an expensive way in reality when issues pop up.

The same concept applies to process plants or manufacturing plants where you could virtually run the (manufacturing) process. If the design is done with all the behavior defined (hardware-in-the-loop simulation and software-in-the-loop) a solution has been virtually tested and rapidly delivered with no late discoveries and costly fixes.

Of course it requires new ways of working. Working with digital connected models is not what engineering learn during their education time – we have just started this journey. Therefore organizations should explore on a smaller scale how to create a full Digital Twin based on connected data – this is the ultimate base for the next purpose.

Digital Twin to match a product/system in the field

When you are after the topic of a Digital Twin through the materials provided by the various software vendors, you see all kinds of previews what is possible. Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and more. All these presentations show that clicking somewhere in a 3D Model Space relevant information pops-up. Where does this relevant information come from?

Most of the time information is re-entered in a new environment, sometimes derived from CAD but all the metadata comes from people collecting and validating data. Not the type of work we promote for a modern digital enterprise. These inefficiencies are good for learning and demos but in a final stage a company cannot afford silos where data is collected and entered again disconnected from the source.

The main problem: Legacy PLM information is stored in documents (drawings / excels) and not intended to be shared downstream with full quality.
Read also: Why PLM is the forgotten domain in digital transformation.

If a company has already implemented an end-to-end Digital Twin to deliver the solution as described in the previous section, we can understand the data has been entered somewhere during the design and delivery process and thanks to a digital continuity it is there.

How many companies have done this already? For sure not the companies that are already a long time in business as their current silos and legacy processes do not cater for digital continuity. By appointing a Chief Digital Officer, the journey might start, the biggest risk the Chief Digital Officer will be running another silo in the organization.

So where does PLM support the concept of the Digital Twin operating in the field?

For me, the IoT part of the Digital Twin is not the core of a PLM. Defining the right sensors, controls and software are the first areas where IoT is used to define the measurable/controllable behavior of a Digital Twin. This topic has been discussed in the previous section.

The second part where PLM gets involved is twofold:

  • Processing data from an individual twin
  • Processing data from a collection of similar twins

Processing data from an individual twin

Data collected from an individual twin or collection of twins can be analyzed to extract or discover failure opportunities. An R&D organization is interested in learning what is happening in the field with their products. These analyses lead to better and more competitive solutions.

Predictive maintenance is not necessarily a part of that.  When you know that certain parts will fail between 10.000 and 20.000 operating hours, you want to optimize the moment of providing service to reduce downtime of the process and you do not want to replace parts way too early.


The R&D part related to predictive maintenance could be that R&D develops sensors inside this serviceable part that signal the need for maintenance in a much smaller time from – maintenance needed within 100 hours instead of a bandwidth of 10.000 hours. Or R&D could develop new parts that need less service and guarantee a longer up-time.

For an R&D department the information from an individual Digital Twin might be only relevant if the Physical Twin is complex to repair and downtime for each individual too high. Imagine a jet engine, a turbine in a power plant or similar. Here a Digital Twin will allow service and R&D to prepare maintenance and simulate and optimize the actions for the physical world before.

The five potential platforms of a digital enterprise

The second part where R&D will be interested in, is in the behavior of similar products/systems in the field combined with their environmental conditions. In this way, R&D can discover improvement points for the whole range and give incremental innovation. The challenge for this R&D organization is to find a logical placeholder in their PLM environment to collect commonalities related to the individual modules or components. This is not an ERP or MES domain.

Concepts of a logical product structure are already known in the oil & gas, process or nuclear industry and in 2017 I wrote about PLM for Owners/Operators mentioning Bjorn Fidjeland has always been active in this domain, you can find his concepts at plmPartner here  or as an eLearning course at SharePLM.

To conclude:

  • This post is way too long (sorry)
  • PLM is not dead – it evolves into one of the crucial platforms for the future – The Product Innovation Platform
  • Current BOM-centric approach within PLM is blocking progress to a full digital thread

More to come after the holidays (a European habit) with additional topics related to the digital enterprise

 

Happy New Year to all of you. A new year comes traditionally with good intentions for the upcoming year.  I would like to share my PLM intentions for this year with you and look forward to your opinion. I shared some of my 2017 thoughts in my earlier post: Time for a Break. This year will I focus on the future of PLM in a digital enterprise, current PLM practices and how to be ready for the future.

Related to these activities I will zoom in on people-related topics, like organizational change, business impact and PLM justification in an enterprise. When it happens during the year, or based on your demands, I will zoom in on architectural stuff and best practices.

The future of PLM

Accenture – Digital PLM

At this moment digital transformation is on the top of the hype curve and the impact varies of course per industry. For sure at the company’s C-level managers will be convinced they have the right vision and the company is on the path to success.

Statements like: “We will be the first digital industrial enterprise” or “We are now a software company” impress the outside world and often investors in the beginning.

 

Combined with investments in customer related software platforms a new digital world is relative fast created facing the outside world.  And small pilots are celebrated as significant successes.

What we do not see is that to show and reap the benefits of digital transformation companies need to do more than create a modern, outside facing infrastructure. We need to be able to connect and improve the internal data flow in an efficient way to stay competitive. Buzzwords like digital thread and digital twin are relevant here.

To my understanding we are still in the early phases of discovering the ideal architecture and practices for a digital enterprise. PLM Vendors and technology companies show us the impressive potential as-if the future already exists already now. Have a reality check from Marc Halpern (Gartner) in this article on engineering.com – Digital Twins: Beware of Naive Faith in Simplicity.

I will focus this year on future PLM combined with reality, hopefully with your support for real cases.

Current PLM practices

Although my curiosity is focused on future PLM, there is still a journey to go for companies that have just started with PLM.  Before even thinking of a digital enterprise, there is first a need to understand and implement PLM as an infrastructure outside the engineering department.

Many existing PLM implementations are actually more (complex) document management systems supporting engineering data, instead of using all available capabilities of a modern PLM systems. Topics like Systems Engineering, multidisciplinary collaboration, Model-Based Enterprise, EBOM-MBOM handling, non-intelligent numbering are all relevant for current and future PLM.

Not exploring and understanding them in your current business will make the gap towards the future even bigger. Therefore, keep on sending your questions and when time allows I will elaborate. For example, see last year’s PLM dialogue – you find these posts here: PLM dialogue and PLM dialogue (continued). Of course I will share my observations in this domain too when I bump into them.

 

To be ready for the future

The most prominent challenge for most companies however is how to transform their existing business towards a modern digital business where new processes and business opportunities need to be implemented inside an existing enterprise. These new processes and business opportunities are not just simple extensions of the current activities, they need new ways of working like delivering incremental results through agile and multidisciplinary teams. And these ways of working combined with never-existing-before interactivity with the market and the customer.

How to convince management that these changes are needed and do not happen without their firm support? It is easier to do nothing and push for small incremental changes. But will this be fast enough? Probably not as you can read from research done by strategic consultancy firms. There is a lot of valuable information available if you invest time in research. But spending time is a challenge for management.

I hope to focus on these challenges too, as all my clients are facing these challenges. Will I be able to help them? I will share successes and pitfalls with you, combined supporting information that might be relevant for others

Your input?

A blog is a modern way of communicating with anyone connected in the world. What I would like to achieve this year is to be more interactive. Share your questions – there are no stupid questions as we are all learning. By sharing and learning we should be able to make achievable steps and become PLM winners.

Best wishes to us all and be a winner not a tweeter …..

 

 

Dear readers, it is time for me to relax and focus on Christmas and a New Year upcoming. I realize that not everyone who reads my posts will be in the same mood. You might have had your New Year three months ago or have New Year coming up in a few months. This is the beauty and challenge of a global, multicultural diverse society. Imagine we are all doing the same, would you prefer such a world ? Perhaps it would give peace to the mind (no surprises, everything predictable) however for human survival we need innovation and new ways of life.

This mindset is also applicable to manufacturing companies. Where in the past companies were trying to optimize and standardize their processes driven by efficiency and predictability, now due to the dynamics of a globally connected world, businesses need to become extremely flexible however still reliable and profitable.

How will they make the change ?

Digital transformation is one of the buzz words pointing to the transition process. Companies need to go through a change to become flexible for the future and deliver products or solutions for the individual customer. Currently companies invest in digital transformation, most of the time in areas that bring direct visibility to the outside world or their own management, not necessarily delivering profitable results as a recent article from McKinsey illustrated: The case for digital reinvention.

And for PLM ?

I have investigated digital transformation in relation to PLM  with particular interest this year as I worked with several companies that preached to the outside world that they are changing or were going to make a change. However what is happening at the PLM level ? Most of the time nothing. Some new tools, perhaps some new disciplines like software engineering become more critical. However the organization and people do not change their ways of working as in particular the ongoing business and related legacy are blocking the change.

Change to ?

This is another difficult question to answer.  There is no clearly defined path to share. Yes, modern PLM will be digital PLM, it will be about data-driven connected information. A final blueprint for digital PLM does not exist yet. We are all learning and guessing.  You can read my thoughts here:

Software vendors in various domains are all contributing to support a modern digital product innovation management future. But where to start?  Is it the product innovation platform? Is it about federated solutions? Model-Based? Graph-databases? There are even people who want to define the future of PLM.  We can keep throwing pieces of the puzzle on the table, but all these pieces will not lead to a single solved puzzle. There will be different approaches based on your industry and your customers. Therefore, continuous learning and investing time to understand the digital future is crucial. This year’s PDT Europe conference was an excellent event to learn and discuss the themes around a model-based lifecycle enterprise. You can read my reviews here: The weekend after PDT Europe 2017 part 1 and part 2.

The next major event where I plan to discuss and learn about modern PLM topics is the upcoming PI PLMx event in Hamburg on February 19-20 organized by MarketKey. Here I will discuss the Model-Based Enterprise and lecture about the relation between PLM and digital transformation. Hoping to see some of you there for exciting discussions and actions.

Conclusion

Merry Christmas for those who are celebrating and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018 to all of you. Thanks for your feedback. Keep on asking questions or propose other thoughts as we are all learning. The world keeps on turning, however for me the next two weeks will the time relax.

Talk to you in 2018 !

 

When I started working with SmarTeam Corp.  in 1999, the company had several product managers, who were responsible for the whole lifecycle of a component or technology. The Product Manager was the person to define the features for the new release and provide the justification for these new features internally inside R&D.  In addition the Product Manager had the external role to visit customers and understand their needs for future releases and building and explaining a coherent vision to the outside and internal world. The product manager had a central role, connecting all stakeholders.

In the ideal situation the Product Manager was THE person who could speak in R&D-language about the implementation of features, could talk with marketing and documentation teams to explain the value and expected behavior and could talk with the customer describing the vision, meanwhile verifying the product’s vision and roadmap based on their inputs.All these expected skills make the role of a product manager challenging. Is the person too “techy” than he/she will enjoy working with R&D but have a hard time understanding customer demands. From the other side if the Product Manager is excellent in picking-up customer and market feedback he/she might not be heard and get the expected priorities from R&D. For me, it has always been clear that in software world a “bi-directional” Product Manager is crucial to success.

Where are the Product Managers in the Manufacturing Industry?

Approximate four years ago new concepts related to digitalization for PLM became more evident. How could a digital continuity connect the various disciplines around the product lifecycle and therefore provide end-to-end visibility and traceability? When speaking of end-to-end visibility most of the time companies talked about the way they designed and delivered products, visibility of what is happening stopped most of the time after manufacturing. The diagram to the left, showing a typical Build To Order organization illustrates the classical way of thinking. There is an R&D team working on Innovation, typically a few engineers and most of the engineers are working in Sales Engineering and Manufacturing Preparation to define and deliver a customer specific order. In theory, once delivered none of the engineers will be further involved, and it is up to the Service Department to react to what is happening in the field.

A classical process in the PLM domain is the New Product Introduction process for companies that deliver products in large volumes to the market, most of the time configurable to be able to answer to various customer or pricing segments. This process is most of the time linear and is either described in one stream or two parallel streams. In the last case, the R&D department develops new concepts and prepares the full product for the market. However, the operational department starts in parallel, initially involved in strategic sourcing, and later scaling-up manufacturing disconnected from R&D.

I described these two processes because they both illustrate how disconnected the source (R&D/ Sales)  are from the final result in the field. In both cases managed by the service department. A typical story that I learned from many manufacturing companies is that at the end it is hard to get a full picture from what is happening across the whole lifecycle, How external feedback (market & customers) have the option to influence at any stage is undefined. I used the diagram below even  before companies were even talking about a customer-driven digital transformation. Just understanding end-to-end what is happening with a product along the lifecycle is already a challenge for a company.

Putting the customer at the center

Modern business is about having customer or market involvement in the whole lifecycle of the product. And as products become more and more a combination of hardware and software, it is the software that allows the manufacturer to provide incremental innovation to their products. However, to innovate in a manner that is matching or even exceeding customer demands, information from the outside world needs to travel as fast as possible through an organization. In case this is done in isolated systems and documents, the journey will be cumbersome and too slow to allow a company to act fast enough. Here digitization comes in, making information directly available as data elements instead of documents with their own file formats and systems to author them. The ultimate dream is a digital enterprise where date “flows”, advocated already by some manufacturing companies for several years.

In the previous paragraph I talked about the need to have an infrastructure in place for people in an organization to follow the product along the complete lifecycle, to be able to analyze and improve the customer experience. However, you also need to create a role in the organization for a person to be responsible for combining insights from the market and to lead various disciplines in the organization, R&D, Sales, Services. And this is precisely the role of a Product Manager.

Very common in the world of software development, not yet recognized in manufacturing companies. In case a product manager role exists already in your organization, he/she can tell you how complicated it currently is to get an overall view of the product and which benefits a digital infrastructure would bring for their job. Once the product manager is well-supported and recognized in the organization, the right skill set to prioritize or discover actions/features will make the products more attractive for consumers. Here the company will benefit.

Conclusion

If your company does not have the role of a product manager in place, your business is probably not yet well enough engaged in the customer journey.  There will be broken links and costly processes to get a fast response to the market.  Consider the role of a Product Manager, which will emerge as seen from the software business.

NOTE 1: Just before publishing this post I read an interesting post from Jan Bosch: Structure Eats Strategy. Well fitting in this context

NOTE 2: The existence of a Product Manager might be a digital maturity indicator for a company, like for classical PLM maturity, the handling of the MBOM (PDM/PLM/ERP) gives insight into PLM maturity of a company.

Related to the MBOM, please read: The Importance of a PLM data model – EBOM and MBOM

 

 

 

 

 

reflectSummer holidays are upcoming. Time to look back and reflect on what happened so far. As a strong believer that a more data-driven PLM is required to support modern customer-focused business models, I have tried to explain this message to many individuals around Europe with mixed success.

Compared to a year ago the notion of a new PLM approach, digital and data-driven, has been resonating more and more. Two years ago I presented at the Product Innovation conference in Berlin a session with the title: Did you notice PLM is changing ? The feedback at that time was that it was a beautiful story, probably happening in the far future. Last year in Düsseldorf ( my review here), the digital trend (s) became clearer. And this year in Munich (my review here), people mentioned upcoming changes were unavoidable, in particular in the relation with IoT, how it could drastically change existing business models.

thinkFor me, the enjoyable thing of the PI Conferences is that they give a snapshot of what people care the most in the context of their product development and in particular PLM. When you are busy in day-to-day business, everything seems to move slowly forward. However, by looking back, I must admit the pace of change has increased dramatically, not the same pace as it was five or ten years ago.

Something is happening, and it happens fast !

And here I want to encourage my readers to step back for a moment from day-to-day business and look around what is happening, in business and in the world. It is all related !

imageJobs are disappearing in the middle class due to automation and direct connectivity with customers creates new types of businesses. Old jobs will never come back, not even when you close your border. And this is what worries many societies. This global, connected world has created a new way of doing business, challenging old and traditional businesses (and people) as their models become obsolete.

The primary reaction is trying to close the discomfort outside. Let´s act as if it never happened and just switch back to the good life in the previous century or centuries.

To be honest, it is all about the discomfort this new world brings to us. This new world requires new skills, in particular, more personal skills to develop continuously, learn and adapt for the future. Closing your mind and thought for the future, by hanging in the past, only brings you further away from the future and create more discomfort.

Are you talking PLM ?

Yes, the previous section was very generic, however also valid for PLM. Modern enterprises are changing the way they are going to do business and PLM is a crucial part of that total picture. Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, explains in a discussion with Microsoft´s CEO Satya Nadella what it takes for an organization to be ready for the future. He does not talk about PLM, he talks about the need for people to be different in attitude and responsibilities – it is a business transformation – people first. Have a look here:

And although Jeff does not mention PLM, the changing digital business paradigm will affect all classical system, PLM, ERP, CRM.  And your PLM vision and plans should anticipate for such a business transformation. Implementing PLM now in the same way is has been done for 10 years in the past, with the processes from the past in mind might make your company even more rigid than before.  See my recent blog post: The value of PLM at the C-level.

Take this thought into consideration during your holidays. Can you be comfortable in this world by keep on hanging on the past or should you consider an uncomfortable, but crucial change the way your company will remain (flexible) in future business?

My holiday this year will be in my ultimate comfort zone at the beach. Reading books, no internet, discussing with friends what moves us. Two weeks to charge the batteries for this exciting, rapidly changing world of business (and PLM). I look forward coming back with some of my findings in my upcoming blogs.

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Getting in and out of your comfort zone happens everywhere. Read this HBR article with a lot of similarities: If You’re Not Outside Your Comfort Zone, You Won’t Learn Anything

See you soon in the PLM (dis)comfort zone

changeBusiness is changing and becoming digital as you might have noticed. If you haven´t noticed it, you might be disconnected from the world or work in a stable silo. A little bit simplified and provocative otherwise you would not read further.

The change towards digital also has its effect on how PLM is evolving. Initially considered as an extension of PDM, managing engineering data, slowly evolving to an infrastructure to support the whole product lifecycle.

The benefits from a real PLM infrastructure are extremely high as it allows people to work smarter, identify issues earlier and change from being reactive towards proactive. In some industries, this change in working is they only way to stay in business. Others with still enough margin will not act.

Note: I am talking about a PLM infrastructure as I do not believe in a single PLM system anymore. For me PLM is supported through a collection of services across the whole product lifecycle, many potentially in one system or platform.

Changing from an engineering-centric system towards an infrastructure across the departmental silos is the biggest challenge for PLM. PLM vendors and ERP vendors with a PLM offering are trying provide this infrastructure and mainly fight against Excel. As an Excel file can easy pass the border from one department to the other. No vision needed for Excel.

A PLM infrastructure however requires a vision. A company has to look at its core business processes and decide on which information flows through the organization or even better their whole value chain.

Building this vision, understanding this vision and then being able to explain the vision is a challenge for all companies. Where sometime even management says

“Why do we need to have a vision, just fix the problem”

also people working in departments are not looking forward to change their daily routines because they need to share information. Here you here statements like

“Why people feel the need to look at the big picture. I want to have my work done.”

So if current businesses do not change, will there be a change?

Innovation

Here I see the digital world combined with search-based applications coming up. Search based applications allow companies to index their silos and external sources and get an understanding of the amount of data there exists. And from these results learn that there is a lot of duplicated data or invalid information at different places.

This awareness might create the understanding that if instead of having hundred thousands of Excels in the organization, it would be better to have the data inside a database, uniquely stored and connected to other relevant information.

I have described this process in my past three posts and agreed the context remains complex if you are not involved or interested in it.

To grasp this concept first of all, you need to have the will to understand it. There is a lot of strategic information out there from companies like Accenture, Capgemini and more.

Next if you want to understand it in a more down-to-earth manner it is important to listen and talk with your peers from other companies, other industries. This is currently happening all around the world and I invite you to participate.

Here is a list of events that I am attending or planned to attend but too far away:

October 7th Stockholm – ENOVIA user conference

imageHere I will participate as a panel member in the discussion around the concept of zero files. Here we want to explain and discuss to the audience what a data-centric approach means for an organization. Also, customers will share their experiences. This conference is focusing on the ENOVIA community – you can still register here

October 14th-15th Paris – Product Data Technology 2014 conference

pdteuropeHere I will speak about the PLM future (based on data) and what PLM should deliver for the future generations. This conference is much broader and addresses all PLM related topics in a broader perspective

October 28 Product Innovation conference in San Diego

picongressI have always enjoyed participating to this conference as like the PDT2014 it brings people together for networking and discussions. Mostly on business topics not on IT-issues.

November 26 Infuseit seminar in Copenhagen

imageRelative new in the Nordics Infuseit, a PLM consultancy company, is able to attract an audience that wants to work on understanding the PLM future. Instead of listening to presenters, here you are challenged to to discuss and contribute to build a common opinion. I will be there too.

 

Conclusion: It is time to prepare yourself for the change – it is happening and be educated an investment that will be rewarding for your company

What do you think – Is data-centric a dream ?

PLM is required to become customer focused is one of the marketing statements, in the same way as PLM and Innovation are connected. Before moving into PLM topics, I want to share some personal experiences related to customer focus. These experiences happened to me almost within a one-day timeframe.

imageTwo weeks ago I landed late in the evening at Schiphol airport. A bus took us from the plane to an arrival gate to go through security. With the other passengers, I arrived in a passage which was planned to be closed during the night as maintenance should take place. Two servicemen were frustrated by the crowd passing by.

One of them said: “How was it possible that passengers still arrive and disturb our work?” ** . The other serviceman said: “The bus driver has gone crazy to drop these passengers here where we are supposed to work?”**

** Free translated from a native Dutch local accent.

dontmissAs a customer, I realized this is a common problem of large enterprises. Most employees are not connected to their customers anymore. They focus only on their work, and every disruption (even by customers) is an element of irritation. They do not realize it is the customer at the end that pays their salary.

Next I went to the railway station to catch my train to Utrecht. Waiting on the platform, the announcement for my train to arrive did not pop up as expected on the billboard and disappeared from the list. A few minutes after the train should have departed from the station, a speaker announces the train to Utrecht has been cancelled.

imageWhy this happened nobody knows. There were no railway employees around to provide more information. (Perhaps too late – their shift was over?) Half an hour later the next train was supposed to come in. At the scheduled time, a train arrived at the platform, and everyone got into the train.

The train speaker announced that this is NOT THE TRAIN to Utrecht, and he advised all travelers for Utrecht to get out. Many passengers including me went outside looking for a railway employee who could explain what was happening. But there was no one around. At a certain moment, the right train arrived and finally after 1½ hour delay I came home and decided to file a complaint. Mainly because there was no interaction possible with any railway employee to understand why it happened, get rid of my annoyance, and what the alternatives to travel were.

Next surprise: It was not possible to file a complaint directly; you had to go through a virtual assistant named Eva. Probably they use a female name as men are usually more respectful in their conversation towards a woman than to man. Imagine it would have been Joe. Still lack of intelligence can be annoying for everyone as you can see below:

image

Only when you provide Eva with your personal details and email address, you get a mail back from customer service to which you can respond with your complaint. This is somehow the same principle as a firewall with a reverse proxy. How to shield yourself from customers / virus attacks.

So I sent my mail and got a confirmation mail that I would get a response within 2 working days. And indeed within two days the answer came. They were really sorry, and they have taken so many measures already in the past to avoid this kind of situations it was almost impossible this had happened. Sorry. It was a classical answer, and what was missing any link to the actual event – nobody probably inside the railway company would take an initiative to understand what has happened. Disappointing.

dontmissAs a customer, I realized this is a common problem of large enterprises. They are not connected to their customers anymore. They are afraid of direct contact and build a solid defense wall around their organization. They do not realize it is the customer at the end that pays their salary.

The next day ….

imageI had an issue with my telephone system (Murphy´s law). The telephone company, like the railway company, was in the past a state-owned company, meaning they had a monopoly for 50 years and more. They are still struggling to become customer centric as the older staff is still in control.
If you try to interact with them through the regular means, by phone (long waiting times – many times diverted to other departments), or by email (thank you for your email – we will try to respond within two working days), you will have a similar response.

dontmissAs a customer, I realized this is a common problem of large enterprises. They are not connected to their customers anymore. People try to do their best in their domain, and if it does not fit anymore you are diverted or set aside as there is enough to keep you busy. They do not realize it is the customer at the end that pays their salary.

Enough fun now, I am sure this happens in many other places.

Back to become customer centric

imageWhen you look at a small startup company, they are focused on the outside world. To gain market share and market attention they need to focus on their potential customers and learn to engage with them as soon as possible. They have a distinctive or new proposition and the faster they understand the dynamics of their potential market, the better they have the likelihood customers will choose their offering and become successful.

And as the company is small, everyone knows who is doing what. People are multitasking and flexible. Somehow the same characteristics you find in a small mid-market company. Every customer order is celebrated there and known.

When companies become large, people start to become specialized, and they create departments. There is a need for globalization and more people will join the company around the world, combined with a layer of middle management. And more and more the management approach becomes MBR (management by results) as this has become the standard. I wrote about MBR and about MBM (management by means) in a previous post – profit beyond measure.

The disadvantage of the MBR approach is that instead of having a company looking outside to their customers, the organization turns inwards. Instead of “I need to satisfy my customers as at the end they pay my salary” the mind switches towards “I need to satisfy my boss as he/she pays my salary”

imageDepartments optimize themselves to attain efficiency and get the numbers they need to provide. For many departments, here the decision is made that customers are too disruptive or evil as they disrupt the ideal process – customer interaction becomes a threat. It is safer to do nothing and keep responding to what your boss / management wants, instead of acting in a customer centric manner as it disrupts the daily work.

Still all companies want to be customer centric as this is THE WAY to stay in business. If you know what your customers want or even better, if you can give them their unique experiences, you are ahead of the competition. And keep in mind to think glocal (global but act local – customer centric)

Glocaliszation ?

How can we bring the customer centric approach to large companies, where most departments work totally isolated from customers for various reasons? In my younger days, when I was connected with software development, I noticed most R&D organizations want to spend all day and their energy on developing new (cool) things, instead of optimizing existing (boring) stuff. Where optimizing existing stuff is what customers want, and new stuff is perhaps what marketing and sales think is needed. I think there is a lot of coolness possible in optimizing boring stuff (look at Apple).

christensenClayton Christensen wrote in his book “The Innovators Dilemma -When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail” about why leading companies lose their connection with the market. They focus on their large customers and want to satisfy these large ones. The strange situation is here that they are customer centric but only for a few, where the benefit often lies in volumes of customers. Big companies focusing on key customers do not see disruption and innovations coming up, and at a certain moment they can become obsolete. Read his book if you work for a great firm. I wrote about his thoughts in the context of PLM –: The Innovators Dilemma and PLM

Finally, the extreme you find in governmental organizations. With their lack of competition and most of the time tax money coming in, there is no need to be customer centric. Even if an individual wants to be customer centric, the system will not allow this person much room to act different.

However, there is hope, and my hope is based on the Millenials or the so called “generation Y”. I described them in a recent post after reading the book Fast Future: Mixing past and future generations with a PLM sauce

If we go back to my problem with the telephone system and the large phone company, there a change is happening. A year ago I discovered they have a “social” helpdesk. If you send them a direct message through Facebook or Twitter; you receive a response within a few hours. And next they pick up the issue and take the initiative to solve it.

The same is valid for my favorite airline, KLM. As part of the big joint venture with Air France, all official contact through mail became hopeless, but their responses through Facebook are fast and to the point.

imageWhat happens behind the scenes in these two companies, and I am sure it happens in more companies, is that new employees (generation Y) become the focal point to the customer and they take away the burden of dealing with a large, rigid organization. Because they understand the company better and are considered as one-of-us inside the company, they have access to the information. They can push and pull information, initiate actions and at the end come back with a customer focused response.

This approach of personal customer interaction brings you in a better mood, although I must say in the case of the activities with the telephone company, issues were not resolved much faster. The old processes internally were still not in sync with each other. Probably because there is not “a single version of the truth”-concept like in most companies. Different systems for different purposes, not integrated cause mistakes, especially when the customer wants an immediate response and resolution.

Maybe an example to explain this approach. When working in a classical PLM system, it is all about the data inside the system with the right status and version. In modern PLM, it could be the most credible information the system could provide based on (search) algorithms. It is the similar to the way Google translate works – this was a translation a year ago:

image

In Dutch, the text is only about men, but as the combination women and kitchen was more commonly found, Google translated the sentence as above. Sexistic, based on historic associations. If you try the same sentence now, you get:

image

An accurate translation based on error fixing once. Google does not keep the one-to-one translation of words but presents the sentence with the highest probability. And when corrected it reminds the fix. This is somehow in the same manner as our brain associates information. Ultimately in a few years these engines can become as powerful as an experienced worker.

But what intrigued me more was the fact that these “social employees” somehow became the glue in the organization, connecting people and departments internally. Bringing to the customer a positive experience. Instead of specialists there was a need for generalists who can communicate.

Could this also work in the context of PLM? Instead of trying to tear down the silos, use a team of “social workers” who will interact with customers or the people in the field?

imageI am not sure. The type of customer interaction I described was mainly related to standard products and services. Not sure if this approach of generalists (data miners) would work in manufacturing companies.

When asking myself this question in the PLM domain, it realized it is somehow describing the work I am doing most of the time. Working with companies implementing PLM, working with PLM vendors and implementers on building plans to solve or resolve issues, without being part of a single project (silo) all the time – a “social worker” – a generalist is becoming an expert in generalizations.

So I am interested to learn, is anyone of the readers of this post aware of the “social approach” in their environment? Do you see companies hire generalists (generation Y) to connect the old world back to their customers?

The downside of the “social worker” is that the internal organization is even more shielded from annoying customers who disturb their plans and daily rhythm. It does not solve the silo problem.

However look at it from the modern data centric (PLM) approach, where storing information is no longer the goal. It is about identifying the right data in the context of an activity where data might come from different sources. Exactly what generation Y is used to do, the data scientist. With their mindset of connecting data instead of owning data, this generation might produce the next evolution of PLM.

Will the future be working towards access to information as likely the single truth, or will we keep on working towards a single version of the truth? If it is going to be disruptive? (Probably yes) If it is in the near future? (Why not) this is still unclear to me.

image
No conclusion this time.
Many questions ……
Your thoughts / comments?

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