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Recently, I have written about classical PLM (document-driven and sequential) and modern PLM (data-driven and iterative) as part of the upcoming digital transformation that companies will have to go through to be fit for the future. Some strategic consultancy companies, like Accenture, talk about Digital PLM when referring to a PLM environment supporting the digital enterprise.
From classical PLM to Digital PLM?
The challenge for all companies is to transform their businesses to become customer-centric and find a transformation path from the old legacy PLM environment towards the new digital environment. Companies want to do this in an evolutionary mode. However my current observations are that the pace of an evolutionary approach is too slow related to what happens in their market. This time the change is happening faster than before.
A Big Bang approach towards the new environment seems to be a big risk. History has taught us that this is very painful and costly. To be avoided too. So what remains is a kind of bimodal approach, which I introduced in my recent blog posts (Best Practices or Next Practices). Although one of my respected readers and commenters Ed Lopategui mentioned in his comment (here) bimodal is another word for coexistence. He is not optimistic about this approach either
So, what remains is disruption?
And disruption is a popular word and my blog buddy Oleg Shilovitsky recently dived into that topic again with his post: How to displace CAD and PLM industry incumbents. An interesting post about disruption and disruption patterns. My attention was caught by the words: digital infrastructure.
How it might happen? Here is one potential answer – digital infrastructure. Existing software is limited to CAD files stored on a desktop and collaboration technologies developed 15-20 years using relational database and client-server architecture.
As I mentioned the words, Digital Infrastructure triggered me to write this post. At this moment, I see companies marketing their Digital Transformation story in a slick way, supported by all the modern buzz words like; customer-centric, virtual twin and data-driven. You would imagine as a PLM geek that they have already made the jump from the old document-driven PLM towards modern digital PLM. So what does a modern digital PLM environment look like ?
The reality, however, behind this slick marketing curtain, is that there are still the old legacy processes, where engineers are producing drawings as output for manufacturing. Because drawings are still legal and controlled information carriers. There is no digital infrastructure behind the scenes. So, what would you expect behind the scenes?
Model-Based Definition as part of the digital infrastructure
Crucial to be ready for a digital infrastructure is to transform your company´s product development process from a file-based process where drawings are leading towards a model-based enterprise. The model needs to be the leading authority (single source of truth) for PMI (Product Manufacturing Information) and potentially for all upfront engineering activities. In this case, we call it Model-Based Systems Engineering sometimes called RFLP (Requirements-Functional-Logical-Product), where even the product can be analyzed and simulated directly based on the model.
A file-based process is not part of a digital infrastructure or model-based enterprise architecture. File-based processes force the company to have multiple instances and representations of the same data in different formats, creating an overhead of work to keep up quality and correctness of data, that is not 100 % secure. A digital infrastructure works with connected data in context.
Therefore, if your company is still relying on drawings and you want to be ready for the future, a first step towards a digital infrastructure would be fixing your current processes to become model-based. Some good introductions can be found here at ENGINEERING.com – search for MBD and you will find:
Moving to Mode-Based is already a challenging transformation inside your company before touching the challenge of moving towards a full digital enterprise, through evolution, disruption or bimodal approach – let the leading companies show the way.
Companies should consider and investigate how to use a Model-Based Engineering approach as a first step to becoming lean and fit for a digital future. The challenge will be different depending on the type of industry and product.
I am curious to learn from my readers where they are on the path to a digital enterprise.
Two weeks ago I got this message from WordPress, reminding me that I started blogging about PLM on May 22nd in 2008. During some of my spare time during weekends, I began to read my old posts again and started to fix links that have been disappearing.
Initially when I started blogging, I wanted to educate mid-market companies about PLM. A sentence with a lot of ambiguities. How do you define the mid-market and how do you define PLM are already a good start for a boring discussion. And as I do not want to go into a discussion, here are my “definitions”
Warning: This is a long post, full of generalizations and a conclusion.
PLM and Mid-market
The mid-market companies can be characterized as having a low-level of staff for IT and strategic thinking. Mid-market companies are do-ers and most of the time they are good in their domain based on their IP and flexibility to deliver this to their customer base. I did not meet mid-market companies with a 5-year and beyond business vision. Mid-market companies buy systems. They bought an ERP system 25-30 years ago (the biggest trauma at that time). They renewed their ERP system for the Y2K problem/fear and they switched from drawing board towards a 2D CAD system. Later they bought a 3D CAD system, introducing the need for a PDM system to manage all data.
PLM is for me a vision, a business approach supported by an IT-infrastructure that allows companies to share and discover and connect product related information through the whole lifecycle. PLM enables companies to react earlier and better in the go-to-market process. Better by involving customer inputs and experience from the start in the concept and design phases. Earlier thanks to sharing and involving other disciplines/suppliers before crucial decisions are made, reducing the amount of iterations and the higher costs of late changes.
Seven years ago I believed that a packaged solution, combined with a pre-configured environment and standard processes would be the answer for mid-market companies. The same thought currently PLM vendors have with a cloud-based solution. Take it, us it as it is and enjoy.
Here I have changed my opinion in the past seven years. Mid-market companies consider PLM as a more complex extension of PDM and still consider ERP (and what comes with that system) as the primary system in the enterprise. PLM in mid-market companies is often seen as an engineering tool.
LESSON 1 for me:
The benefits of PLM are not well-understood by the mid-market
To read more:
Globalization and Education
In the past seven years, globalization became an important factor for all type of companies. Companies started offshoring labor intensive work to low-labor-cost countries introducing the need for sharing product data outside their local and controlled premises. Also, acquisitions by larger enterprises and by some of the dominant mid-market companies, these acquisitions introduced a new area of rethinking. Acquisitions introduced discussions about: what are real best practices for our organization? How can we remain flexible, meanwhile adapt and converge our business processes to be future ready?
Here I saw two major trends in the mid-market:
Lack of (PLM) Education
To understand and implement the value of PLM, you need to have skills and understanding of more than just a vendor-specific PLM system. You need to understand the basics of change processes (Engineering Change Request, Engineering Change Order, Manufacturing Change Order and more). And you need to understand the characteristics of a CAD document structure, a (multidisciplinary) EBOM, the MBOM (generic and/or plant specific) and the related Bill of Processes. This education does not exist in many countries and people are (mis-)guided by their PLM/ERP vendor, explaining why their system is the only system that can do the job.
Interesting enough the most read posts on my blog are about the MBOM, the ETO, BTO and CTO processes. This illustrates there is a need for a proper, vendor-independent and global accepted terminology for PLM
Some educational posts:
Bill of Materials for Dummies – ETO ranked #1
ECR/ECO for Dummies ranked #2
BOM for Dummies – CTO ranked #4
BOM for Dummies: BOM and CAD ranked #7
The dominance of ERP
As ERP systems were introduced long before PLM (and PDM), these systems are often considered by the management of a mid-market company as the core. All the other tools should be (preferably) seen as an extension of ERP and if possible, let´s implement ERP vendor´s functionality to support PLM – the Swiss knife approach – one tool for everything. This approach is understandable as at the board level there are no PLM discussions. Companies want to keep their “Let´s do it”-spirit and not reshuffle or reorganize their company, according to modern insights of sharing. Strangely enough, you see in many businesses the initiative to standardize on a single ERP system first, instead of standardizing on a single PLM approach first. PLM can bring the global benefits of product portfolio management and IP-sharing, where ERP is much more about local execution.
PLM is not understood at the board level, still considered as a tool
Some post related to PLM and ERP
Where is the MBOM ? ranked #3
The human factor
A lot of the reasons why PLM has the challenge to become successful have to do with its broad scope. PLM has an unclear definition and most important, PLM forces people to share data and work outside their comfort zones. Nobody likes to share by default. Sharing makes day-to-day life more complicated, sharing might create visibility on what you actually contribute or fix. In many of my posts, I described these issues from various viewpoints: the human brain, the innovators dilemma, the way the older generation (my generation) is raised and used to work. Combined with the fact that many initial PLM/PDM implementations have created so many legacies, the need to change has become a risk. In the discussion and selection of PLM I have seen many times that in the end a company decides to keep the old status quo (with new tools) instead of really having the guts to move toward the future. Often this was a result of investors not understanding (and willing to see) the long term benefits of PLM.
PLM requires a long-term vision and understanding, which most of the time does not fit current executive understanding (lack of education/time to educate) and priority (shareholders)
Many recent posts are about the human factor:
The digital transformation
The final and most significant upcoming change is the fact that we are entering a complete new era: From linear and predictable towards fast and iterative, meaning that classical ways we push products to the market will become obsolete. The traditional approach was based on lessons learned from mechanical products after the second world-war. Now through globalization and the importance of embedded software in our products, companies need to deliver and adapt products faster than the classical delivery process as their customers have higher expectations and a much larger range to choose from. The result from this global competitiveness is that companies will change from delivering products towards a more-and-more customer related business model (continuous upgrades/services). This requires companies to revisit their business and organization, which will be extremely difficult. Business wise and human change require new IT concepts – platform? / cloud services? / Big data?
Older enterprises, mid-market and large enterprises will be extremely challenged to make this change in the upcoming 10 years. It will be a matter of survival and I believe the Innovator´s Dilemma applies here the most.
The digital transformation is apparent as a trend for young companies and strategic consultants. This message is not yet understood at the board level of many businesses.
Some recent post related to this fast upcoming trend:
ROI (Return On Investment)
I also wrote about ROI – a difficult topic to address as in most discussions related to ROI, companies are talking about the costs of the implementation, not about the tremendous larger impact a new business approach or model can have, once enabled through PLM. Most PLM ROI discussions are related to efficiency and quality gains, which are significant and relevant. However these benefits are relative small and not comparable with the ability to change your business (model) to become more customer centric and stay in business.
Some of the ROI posts:
A (too) long post this time however perhaps a good post to mark 7 years of blogging and use it as a reference for the topics I briefly touched here. PLM has many aspects. You can do the further reading through the links.
From the statistics it is clear that the education part scores the best – see rankings. For future post, let me know by creating a comment what you are looking for in this blog: PLM Mid-Market, Education, PLM and ERP, Business Change, ROI, Digitalization, or …??
Also I have to remain customer centric – thanks for reading and providing your feedback
This is the fifth year that marketkey organized their vendor-independent conference in Europe around Product Innovation, where PLM is the major cornerstone. Approximate 100 companies attended this conference coming from various industries. As there were most of the time two till four parallel tracks (program here), it will still take time for me to digest all the content. However here a first impression and a comparison to what has changed since the PI Conference in 2014 – you can read my review from that conference here.
First of all the keynote speeches for this conference were excellent and were a good foundation for attendees to discuss and open their mind. Secondly I felt that this conference was actually dealing with the imminent shift from classic, centralized businesses towards the data-centric approach to connectivity of information coming from anyone / anything connected. Naturally the Internet of Everything (IoE) and the Internet of Things (IoT) were part of the discussion combined with changing business models: moving from delivering products toward offering services (CAPEX versus OPEX).
Some of the highlights here:
The first keynote speaker was Carlo Rati Director, MIT Senseable Lab. He illustrated through various experiments and examples how being connected through devices we can change and improve our world: tagging waste, mobile phone activity in a city and the Copenhagen Wheel. His main conclusion (not a surprise): For innovation there is a need to change collaboration. Instead of staying within the company / discipline boundaries solving problems through collaboration between different disciplines will lead to different thinking. How is your company dealing with innovation?
The second session I attended was John Housego from W.L. Gore and Associates who explained the company’s model for continuous growth and innovation. The company’s future is not based on management but based on leadership of people working in teams in a flat organization. Every employee is an associate, directly involved and challenged to define the company’s future. Have a read about the company’s background here on Wikipedia.
Although the company is 50 years old, I realized that their cultural model is a perfect match with the future of many businesses. More and more companies need to be lean and flexible and support direct contact between the field, customers, market and experts inside the company. Implementing a modern PLM platform should be “a piece of cake” if the technology exists, as W.L. Gore’s associates will not block the change if they understand the value. No silos to break down.
My presentation “The Challenge of PLM Upgrades as We See the Rules of Business Change” was based around two themes (perpetual software ? / seamless upgrades ?) and from there look towards the future what to expect in business. When we look back, we see that every 10 years there is a major technology change, which makes the past incompatible to upgrade. Now we are dreaming that cloud-based solutions are the future to guarantee seamless upgrades (let’s wait 10 years). To my opinion companies should not consider a PLM upgrade at this moment.
The changes in business models, people behavior and skills plus technology change, will enable companies to move towards a data-centric approach. Companies need to break with the past (a linear, mechanical-design-based, product development approach) and redesign a platform for the future (a business-innovation platform based on the data). In my upcoming blog post(s) I will give more background on this statement.
Trond Zimmerman from the Volvo Group Truck explained the challenges and solution concept they experienced as they are currently implementing answering the challenge of working in a joint venture with Dongfeng Commercial Vehicles. As in a joined venture you want to optimize sharing of common parts, still you cannot expect a single PLM solution for the total joint venture. For that reason, Volvo Group Truck is implementing Share-A-Space from Eurostep to have a controlled collaboration layer between the two joint venture partners.
This is, to my opinion, one of the examples of future PLM practices, where data will not be stored in a single monolithic system, but data will be connected through information layers and services. The case is similar to what has been presented last year at Product Innovation 2014 where Eurostep and Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery implemented a similar layer on top of their PDM environment to enable controlled sharing with their suppliers.
David Rowan from wired.co.uk closed the day with his keynote: Understanding the New Rules of Product Innovation. He touched the same topic as John Housego from W.L. Gore somehow: it is all about democratization. Instead of hierarchy we are moving to network-based activities. And this approach has a huge impact on businesses. David’s message: Prepare for constant change. Where in the past we lived in a “linear” century, change according to Moore’s law, we are entering now an exponential century where change is going faster and faster. Besides examples of the Internet of Thing, David also gave some examples of the Internet of Stupid Things. He showed a quote from Steve Balmer stating that nobody would pay $ 500 for a phone (Apple). The risk he made is that by claiming some of these stupid inventions might lead to a quote in the future. I think the challenge is always to stay open-minded without judging as at the end the market will decide.
PLM and ERP
I spent the evening networking with a lot of people, most of them excited about the future capabilities that have been presented. In parallel, the discussion was also about the conservative behavior of many companies. Topics that are already for ten years under discussion – how to deal and connect PLM and ERP, where is the MBOM, what are the roles of PLM and ERP for an organization, are still thankful topics for a discussion, showing where most companies now are with their business understanding.
In parallel to a product innovation conference apparently there is still a need to agree on basic PLM concepts from the previous century.
The second day opened with an excellent keynote speech from Dirk Schlesinger from Cisco. He talked about the Internet of Everything and provided examples of the main components of IoE: Connectivity, Sensors, Platform, Analytics, and Mobility. In particular the example of Connectivity was demonstrating the future benefits modern PLM platforms can bring. Dirk talked about a project with Dundee Mining where everything in the mine was tagged with RFI devices (people, equipment, vehicles, and resources) and the whole mine was equipped with Wi-Fi.
Based on this approach the execution and planning of what happened was done in their HQ through a virtual environment, giving planners immediate visibility of what happens and allowing them to decide on real data. This is exactly the message I have posted in my recent blog posts.
The most fascinating part were the reported results. This project is ongoing now for 3 years and the first year they achieved a production increase of 30 %. Now they are aiming for this year for a 400 % production increase and a 250 % efficiency increase. These are the numbers to imagine when you implement a digital strategy. It is no longer any more about making our classical processes more efficient, it is about everyone connected and everyone collaborates.
Marc Halpern from Gartner gave an good presentation connecting the hype of the Internet of Things with the world of PLM again, talking about Product Innovation Platforms. Marc also touched on the (needed) upcoming change in engineering processes. More and more we will develop complex products, which need system thinking. Systems of Systems to handle this complexity, As Marc stated: “Product, process, culture is based on electro-mechanical products where the future trend is all about software.” We should reconsider our Bill of Materials (mechanical) and think probably more about a Bill of Features (software). Much of Marc’s presentation contained the same elements as I discussed in my PDT2014 blog post from October last year.
I was happy to see Jenni Ala-Mantila presenting the usage of PLM system for Skanska Oy. Skanska is one of the largest construction companies operating global. See one of their beautiful corporate videos here. I always have been an advocate to use PLM practices and PLM infrastructure to enhance, in particular, the data-continuity in a business where people work in silos with separate tools. There are so many benefits to gain by having an end-to-end visibility of the project and its related data. Jenni’s presentation was confirming this.
By implementing a PLM backbone with a focus on project management, supplier collaboration and risk management, she confirmed that PLM has contributed significant to their Five Zero – vision: Zero loss-making projects, Zero Environmental incidents, Zero Accidents, Zero Ethical breaches and Zero Defects. Skanska is really a visionary company although it was frustrating to learn that there was still a need to build a SharePoint connection with their PLM environment. The future of data-centric has not reached everyone in the organization yet.
The last two sessions of the conference, a panel discussion “Why is Process Innovation Challenging & What can be done about it” plus the final keynote “Sourcing Growth where Growth Takes Place” had some commonality which I expressed in some twitter quotes:
Where last year I had the impression that the PLM world was somehow in a static mode, not so much news in 2014. It became clear in this 2015 conference that the change towards new business paradigms is really happening and at a faster pace than expected. From mechanical development processes to software processes, from linear towards continuous changes. Moe to come this year
This is for the moment the last post about the difference between files and a data-oriented approach. This time I will focus on the need for open exchange standards and the relation to proprietary systems. In my first post, I explained that a data-centric approach can bring many business benefits and is pointing to background information for those who want to learn more in detail. In my second post, I gave the example of dealing with specifications.
It demonstrated that the real value for a data-centric approach comes at the moment there are changes of the information over time. For a specification that is right the first time and never changes there is less value to win with a data-centric approach. Moreover, aren’t we still dreaming that we do everything right the first time.
The specification example was based on dealing with text documents (sometimes called 1D information). The same benefits are valid for diagrams, schematics (2D information) and CAD models (3D information)
The challenge for a data-oriented approach is that information needs to be stored in data elements in a database, independent of an individual file format. For text, this might be easy to comprehend. Text elements are relative simple to understand. Still the OpenDocument standard for Office documents is in the background based on a lot of technical know-how and experience to make it widely acceptable. For 2D and 3D information this is less obvious as this is for the domain of the CAD vendors.
CAD vendors have various reasons not to store their information in a neutral format.
- First of all, and most important for their business, a neutral format would reduce the dependency on their products. Other vendors could work with these formats too, therefore reducing the potential market capture. You could say that in a certain manner the Autodesk 2D format for DXF (and even DWG) have become a neutral format for 2D data as many other vendors have applications that read and write back information in the DXF-data format. So far DXF is stored in a file but you could store DXF data also inside a database and make it available as elements.
- This brings us to the second reason why using neutral data formats are not that evident for CAD vendors. It reduces their flexibility to change the format and optimize it for maximal performance. Commercially the significant, immediate disadvantage of working in neutral formats is that it has not been designed for particular needs in an individual application and therefore any “intelligent” manipulations on the data are hard to achieve..
The same reasoning can be applied to 3D data, where different neutral formats exist (IGES, STEP, …. ). It is very difficult to identify a common 3D standard without losing many benefits that an individual 3D CAD format brings currently. For example, CATIA is handling 3D CAD data in a complete different way as Creo does, and again handled different compared to NX, SolidWorks, Solid Edge and Inventor. Even some of them might use the same CAD kernel.
However, it is not only about the geometry anymore; the shapes represent virtual objects that have metadata describing the objects. In addition other related information exists, not necessarily coming from the design world, like tasks (planning), parts (physical), suppliers, resources and more
PLM, ERP, systems and single source of truth
This brings us in the world of data management, in my world mainly PLM systems and ERP systems. An ERP system is already a data-centric application, the BOM is already available as metadata as well as all the scheduling and interaction with resources, suppliers and financial transactions. Still ERP systems store a lot of related documents and drawings, containing content that does not match their data model.
PLM systems have gradually becoming more and more data centric as the origin was around engineering data, mostly stored in files. In a data-centric approach, there is the challenge to exchange data between a PLM system and an ERP system. Usually there is a need to share information between two systems, mainly the items. Different definitions of an item on the PLM and ERP side make it hard to exchange information from one system to the other. It is for that reason why there are many discussions around PLM and ERP integration and the BOM.
In the modern data-centric approach however we should think less and less in systems and more and more in business processes performed on actual data elements. This requires a company-wide, actually an enterprise-wide or industry-wide data definition of all information that is relevant for the business processes. This leads into Master Data Management, the new required skill for enterprise solution architects
The data-centric approach creates the impression that you can achieve a single source of the truth as all objects are stored uniquely in a database. SAP solves the problem by stating everything fits in their single database. To my opinion this is more a black hole approach: Everything gets inside, but even light cannot escape. Usability and reuse of information that was stored with the intention not to be found is the big challenge here.
Other PLM and ERP vendors have different approaches. Either they choose for a service bus architecture where applications in the background link and synchronize common data elements from each application. Therefore, there is some redundancy, however everything is connected. More and more PLM vendors focus on building a platform of connected data elements, where on top applications will run, like the 3DExperience platform from Dassault Systèmes.
As users we are more and more used to platforms as Google, Apple provide these platforms already in the cloud for common use on our smartphones. The large amount of apps run on shared data elements (contacts, locations …) and store additional proprietary data.
Platforms, Networks and standards
And here we enter an interesting area of discussion. I think it is a given that a single database concept is a utopia. Therefore, it will be all about how systems and platforms communicate with each other to provide in the end the right information to the user. The systems and platforms need to be data-centric as we learned from the discussion around the document (file centric) or data-centric approach.
In this domain, there are several companies already active for years. Datamation from Dr. Kais Al-Timimi in the UK is such a company. Kais is a veteran in the PLM and data modeling industry, and they provide a platform for data-centric collaboration. This quote from one of his presentations, illustrates we share the same vision:
“……. the root cause of all interoperability and data challenges is the need to transform data between systems using different, and often incompatible, data models.
It is fundamentally different from the current Application Centric Approach, in that data is SHARED, and therefore, ‘NOT OWNED’ by the applications that create it.
This means in a Data Centric Approach data can deliver MORE VALUE, as it is readily sharable and reusable by multiple applications. In addition, it removes the overhead of having to build and maintain non-value-added processes, e.g. to move data between applications.”
Another company in the same domain is Eurostep, who are also focusing on business collaboration between in various industries. Eurostep has been working with various industry standards, like AP203/214, PLCS and AP233. Eurostep has developed their Share-A-space platform to enable a data-centric collaboration.
This type of data collaboration is crucial for all industries. Where the aerospace and automotive industry are probably the most mature on this topic, the process industry and construction industry are currently also focusing on discovering data standards and collaboration models (ISO 15926 / BIM). It will be probably the innovators in these industries that clear the path for others. For sure it will not come from the software vendors as I discussed before.
If you reach this line, it means the topic has been interesting in depth for you. In the past three post starting from the future trend, an example and the data modeling background, I have tried to describe what is happening in a simplified manner.
If you really want to dive into the PLM for the future, I recommend you visit the upcoming PDT 2014 conference in Paris on October 14 and 15. Here experts from different industries will present and discuss the future PLM platform and its benefits. I hope to meet you there.
Some more to read:
In my previous post, I talked about the unstoppable trend towards digital information and knowledge based on data becoming the new business paradigm.
Building knowledge based on information extracted from data, instead of working with documents and people, who need to manipulate these documents.
Moreover, the reasons to move towards a digital data-oriented approach are the immense business benefits it can bring to an organization. Having online visibility on information in context of other information from different stakeholders allows companies to be more proactive.
A proactive company will react faster to the market or customer. This will reduce waste and resources (materials / people) and therefore in the end be more competitive. This is all described in my first post, with relevant links to various global references.
In this post, I want to describe in an example what the differences are between a document-oriented and a data-oriented approach and how it affects people and business. This might give you an impression of the expected business benefits.
The ultimate goal behind a data-oriented approach is to have a single version of the truth for a product, project or plant. This can be realized by treating information as data elements in various connected database, where on demand reports or dashboards can be created based on actual information, instead of documents generated by duplicating data in new systems and locations. Digital data will provide paperless processes accessible almost anywhere around the world.
As an example, I will explain the difference between document-centric and data-centric when dealing with specifications.
Everyone knows the challenge with specifications. Most of the time in printed documents describing how a product or service should work from the client point of view. There are two principles behind specifications:
- Complexity. The more complex product or service is, the bigger chance that specifications are not complete or hundred percent understood, leading to an iterative change process. The challenge here is to manage the change and the consistency of the full specifications.
- Industry and margins. In a repetitive business, for example, the automotive or other mass consumer products, products can be quiet complex and once sold hard to maintain and repair. In a competitive business, an error in the field can consume a lot of the expected profit. In the construction industry, where most of the time single projects are executed by a chain of disciplines, the industry (still) accepts the costs overrun and the high costs of fixing issues in the field, instead of being clearer upfront during the design and planning.
Let’s stay with the example in the middle of complexity and industry volume. In color the various stages of the process.
The document based specification – 1
When the document based specification arrives, the company has to get an understanding of the content. The project manager has a first read through the document (100+ pages) and decides to send the document (it is a pdf) to sales, engineering, legal and planning. Engineering decides to distribute the document internally to mechanical, electrical and quality (for compliance).
The project manager stresses everyone on a weekly base to deliver the responses and tries to understand if the answers will come in time. There are some meetings needed with the stakeholders as the whole understanding needs to be consistent. Based on several iterations a response is compiled.
The data-oriented approach – 1
When the document based specification arrives, the project leader first stores the document as a reference in the PLM system and extracts all the customer requirements as data elements in the system. While extracting the requirements, the projects manager groups them into digital folders (functional / non-functional, contractual, regulations, etc.) and assigns them to the relevant stakeholders, who get notified by the system. Each of the persons assigned, again the engineering manager has distributed the discipline specific requirements internally.
The project manager watches the progress of the requirements analyses which are around a virtual model. There is still a need for meetings with the stakeholders to agree on the solution approach. Everything is stored and visible online in the system. This visibility has helped some of the stakeholders to be better-aligned upfront. In the end, the response is generated and converted to the customer’s format.
Not much benefit for step 1
If you compare the two approaches, there is mainly one person happy: the project manager. Instead of spending time to collect the status of all information, direct visibility on the response helps him/her to prioritize of focus where attention is needed, instead of discovering it on a weekly base.
There is some small benefit from the virtual model as other stakeholders can have a better understanding of the actual progress.
However, for the rest, all stakeholders are complaining. It is difficult to work. (Fl)Excel was much easier. Moreover, thinking about a virtual model takes time as we are not used working in this way. Typically something for aerospace you might think.
And now the benefits come – step 2
The customer has placed the order, and the project has started. The design has started, and people start to discover discrepancies or ambiguous demands that need to be negotiated with the customer. Is it part of the project and if not, should it become part of the project and at which costs (for whom)
The document oriented approach – 2
Several engineers are now discussing with the counterparts at the customer the detailed interpretation of the requirements, either through face-to-face meetings or emails. Changes are collected and sent to the project manager, who tries to understand what has changed and how to merge it in an on-going specification document. To avoid many revisions, he/she tries to update the document on a bi-weekly base, send it to the internal stakeholders for review and with their feedback generates a specification document for the customer that supposed to cover the latest agreements.
Unfortunate not all changes have reached the document as some of the stakeholders were busy and forgot to include some of the changes agreed with the customer as they were in a lost email. Also, a previous change of a requirement was overwritten as an update from quality used the old data. Finally, some design solutions were changed, which raised the costs. And not sure if the product with all its changes will be compliant after delivery. However, luckily nobody noticed so far, not even the customer
The data-oriented approach – 2
Thanks to the virtual model and the relations between all the requirements, any change in a requirement gets notified in the system. When a requirement is further clarified, it is updated in the system. When a requirement needs to be changed, it is clear what the impact of this change is. A change workflow assures that decisions are made visible and approved. Potentially changes that lead to more work were quoted to the customer for acceptance. Luckily the compliancy engineer noted that the change of materials used would lead to a compliancy issue. On a bi-weekly base, the project manager generates an agreed specification for the customer based on the data in the system.
Benefits are growing.
The project manager remains the happiest person and is even happier as less discussion is needed about who changed what and why. Alternatively, discussions about changes that should exist and cannot be found. The time saved by the project manager could be used to collaborate even better with the teams (without annoying them) or perhaps a second project to manage in parallel.
Other stakeholders start to enjoy the data-oriented approach too. Less ambiguity on their side too, fewer iterations because changes were not apparent. As all information is related to the virtual model online, the actual status is clear when making a decision. Less fixing afterwards and luckily still project meeting between the stakeholders to synchronize. The PLM system does not eliminate communication; it provides a reliable baseline of the truth. No need (and option) to look in your archives.
At this stage, benefits start to become clear. Fewer iterations and better decisions will have an impact on the costs and project stress. Still a complaint from the engineers might be that they need to do too much upfront thinking although some years later they might discover that this will be their main job. Fixing issues from the past have diminished.
And then the ultimate benefits
Now the project has reached the physical state. It is manufactured or under commissioning.
The document oriented approach – 3
In the document oriented approach, many issues might pop-up because they have not been considered in the early phase, or they got lost during document exchanges. Does the product work as specified? Is the building certified as specified?
The customer is king and for manufacturing companies this might lead to product recalls or launch delays. In the construction world, people in the field, will fix the issues by using skilled resources and creating a waste of materials and/or resources.
Data handover to the owner is a nightmare for a the project-centric delivery. Several people have been searching for documents, specifications and emails to build and compile the required documents for handover.
The data-oriented approach – 3
In the data-centric approach, the behavior of the physical product works as expected as most of the issues have been solved in the virtual model. When testing the product it works as specified as the specifying requirements have always been linked to the product. Moreover, they have been agreed and approved by the relevant stakeholders. Where relevant, the customer has paid for the extra work specified.
The handover process was not so stressful as before with the document-oriented approach. As the required information was known and specified upfront related to the requirements, the maturity process of the virtual model assured this data exists in the system. Now the as-built information matches the as-specified information. What a relief.
It is clear that the significant benefits can be found in step 3. I wrote the comparison in an extreme manner, knowing that reality lies in the middle. Excellent people can comprehend and fix more upfront because of their experience. Building the ultimate virtual model is not yet an easy achievement either.
The savings in materials and required resources are significant in a data-oriented approach. The time savings and the quality enhancements might change your company into a market-leader. The cost savings achieved through a pro-active approach will make your margin growing (unless competition does the same) and enable you to innovate.
One final remark on business change
However, if you change to a data-centric approach, it will be a though change process and therefore once implemented you will leave competitors behind that keep on hanging on the past.
I will be attending the annual Product Innovation conference again in Berlin next week. Looking forward to this event, as it is one of the places where you have the chance to network and listen to presentations from people that are PLM minded. A kind of relaxation, as strangely enough, most of the companies I am visiting, considerer PLM still considered as something difficult, something related to engineering, not so much connected to the future of their business.
I believe one of the reasons is that people have founded their opinion on the past. An expensive implementation horror story, an engineering focuses implementation or other stories that have framed PLM in a certain manner.
However PLM has changed and it significance has grown !
During the Product Innovation conference, I will present in more depth this topic related to the change of PLM.,with more examples and a surprising projection to the future. Later, when time permits, I will share the more in-depth observations in my blog, hopefully extended based on discussions during the conference. And if you attend the conference, don’t miss my session.
the term PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) was introduced as a logical extension to cPDM (collaborative Product Data Management). Where the initial focus was of global file sharing of mechanical CAD data, PLM extended the scope with multidisciplinary support, connecting manufacturing preparation and providing an infrastructure for change management.
In the nineties product data management was in transition.
In the early 90s, UNIX dominated, and installing a PDM system was the work of IT-experts. Large enterprises, already operating globally, were pushing for standardization, and control of data to connect their engineers in a more efficient manner. Connectivity was achieved through expensive lease lines; people like me, had to connect to the internet through dial-up modems and its usage was limited, providing static web pages with minimal graphics.
It was obvious that cPDM and the first PLM projects were extremely expensive. There was no experience; it was learning on the job. The costs were high and visible at the management level. Giving the management the impression that PLM is potentially the same challenge as ERP, but with a less clear scope. And the projects were executed by IT-experts, end-users were not really in the game.
At the end of the 90s, a small revolution started to take place. The power of the PC combined with Microsoft technology provided a much cheaper and flexible alternative for a complex UNIX based implementation.
Affordable 3D CAD emerged in the mid-market, leading to the need for Windows-based PDM systems and with Windows came Excel, the PDM/PLM killer application.
A person with some rudimentary Visual Basic skills could do magic with Excel and although not an IT-expert would become the champion of the engineering department.
At that time, PLM conferences provided a platform on which industry could discuss and share their tips and tricks on how to implement in the best manner a system. The focus was mainly on the IT-side and large enterprises. The scope was engineering centric, connecting the various disciplines including mechanical, electrical and simulation, in a database and connecting files and versions.
most large enterprises had already started to implement a PLM system. The term PLM became an accepted acronym associated with something that is needed for big companies and is complex and expensive, a logical statement based on the experiences of early adopters.
PLM was the infrastructure that could connect product information between disciplines and departments working from different locations. The NPI (New Product Introduction) process became a topic pushed by all enterprise PLM vendors and was a practice that demonstrated the value of providing visibility on information across a large, dispersed company, to better decision-making.
As this process was more data-centric instead of CAD-centric, these capabilities promoted the recognition and introduction of PLM in non-traditional manufacturing industries like Consumer Packaged Goods, Pharmaceuticals and Apparel where planning and coordination of information leads, instead of a Bill of Material.
In large enterprises, PLM still lay with the IT-architects as they were the ones deciding the standards and software to be used. PLM and ERP connectivity was an expensive topic.
For the mid-market, many PLM vendors were working on offers to standardize a PLM implementation; this usually involved a stripped-down or limited version from the full PLM system, a preconfigured system with templates or something connected to SharePoint. Connectivity was much easier then 15 years ago, thanks to a better internet infrastructure and the deployment of VPN.
For me at that time selling PLM to the mid-market was challenging; how do you explain the value and minimize the risk while current business was still running well? What was so wrong with the existing practices based on Excel? In summary, with good margins and growing business, wasn’t everything under control without the need for PLM? This was the time I started to share my experiences in my blog: A Virtual Dutchman´s introduction
Mid-market PLM projects focused on departmental needs, with IT providing implementation support and guidance. As the number of IT-staff is usually limited in these companies and often organized around ERP and what they learned from its implementation, it was hard to find business experts for PLM in the implementation teams.
the financial crisis had started, and globalization had started to become real through world-wide connectivity – better infrastructure and WEB 2.0. The world became an open space for consumers and competitors; the traditional offshore countries became consumers and began to invest in developing products and services for their domestic market but also targeted the rest of the world. Large enterprises were still expanding their huge PLM implementations though some were challenged because of a change of ownership. Capital investors did not come from the US or Europe anymore but from the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries, forcing some established companies to restructure and refocus.
In response to the crisis, mid-market companies started to reduce costs and focus on efficiency. Lots of discussions related to PLM began as it appeared to be THE strategy needed to survive, though a significant proportion of the investment in PLM was cancelled or postponed by management due to uncertainty and impact on the organization.
PLM conferences showed that almost all of the big enterprises and the mid-market companies still using PLM for connecting departments without fundamentally integrating them in one complete PLM concept. It is easier to streamline the sequential process (thinking lean) instead of making it a concurrent process with a focus on the market needs. PLM conferences were being attended by a greater mix of IT and Business representatives from different businesses learning from each other.
everyone in the world is connected and consequently, the amount of data is piling up. And now it is more about data than about managing document. The introduction of smart devices has had an impact on how people want to work; instead of sharing files and documents, we start sharing and producing huge amounts of data. In addition the upcoming “Internet of Things” demonstrates we are moving to a world where connectivity through data becomes crucial.
Sharing data is the ideal strategy for modern PLM. PLM vendors and other leading companies in enterprise software are discovering that the classical method of storing all information into one database does not work anymore and will not work in the future.
In the future, a new generation of PLM systems, either as an evolution of existing systems or as a disruption from the current market, will come. No longer will the target be to store all information in one system; the goal will be to connect and interpret data and make the right decisions based on that. This is similar to what the new generation of workers are used to, and they will replace the (my) older generation in the upcoming decade
Combined with more and more cloud-based solutions and platforms, the role of IT will diminish, and the importance of business people driving PLM will become ever more crucial.
PLM has become a business-driven strategy and requires people that are strong enough to develop, justify and implement this approach in their companies. New champions are needed !
The value of communities, blogs and conferences
is bringing together the global brainpower in social environments. Complemented with presentations, opinions and discussions from all different industries and domains the ideal environment to grow new ideas. Here you can associate the information, question its relevancy for your business and network with others – the perfect base for innovating and securing your future business.
Therefore, do not use communities or conferences to stick to your opinion but be open and learn.
One of my favorite quotes