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In the past four weeks, I have been discussing PLM education from different angles through interviews with Peter Bilello (CIMdata), Helena Gutierrez (Share PLM), John Stark (John Stark Associates) and Dave Slawson (Quick Release). Each of these persons brought their specialized focus on PLM.

In this post, I want to conclude and put their expertise in the context of PLM – people, processes and tools.

CIMdata

Originally CIMdata became known for their CAD/CAM market analysis, later expanding into simulation and PLM vendors analysis. And they are still a reference for everyone following the PLM Market. They provide market numbers and projections related to PLM for that part. Together with ARC, they are for me the two sources to understand what is happening business-wise in the PLM market.

Thanks to the contacts with all the vendors, they have a good overview of what is happening. That makes their strategic advice and training useful for companies that want to benchmark where they are and understand the current trends, all vendor-independent.

Their PLM Roadmap conferences have been one of the few consistent vendor-independent conferences that still take place.

If you search for the term “The weekend after PLM Roadmap …..” you will find many of my reviews of these conferences.

Besides these activities, they are also facilitating industry action groups where similar companies in an industry discuss and evaluate various methodologies and how they could be implemented using various PLM systems – the most visible for me is the Aerospace & Defense PLM Action Group

Share PLM

Share PLM is still a young organization focusing on Humanizing PLM. Their focus is on the end-to-end PLM education process. Starting from an education strategy focusing on people, they can organize and help you build attractive and didactical training or elearnings related to your PLM processes and systems in use.

Besides their core offering, they are also justifying their name; they really share PLM information. So have a look at their Our Work tab with samples. In particular, as I mentioned in my interview with them, I like their podcasts.

 

In this post, I try to find similar people or companies to those I interviewed.

When looking at Share PLM, Action Engineering in the US comes to my mind. They are the specialists dedicated to helping organizations large and small achieve their Model-Based Definition (MBD) and Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) goals.

To refresh your memory, read my post with Jennifer Herron, the founder of Action Engineering here: PLM and Model-Based Definition

 

John Stark

Although John might be known as a leading writer of PLM books, he is also active in advising companies in their PLM journeys. Somehow similar to what I do, the big difference is that John takes the time to structure the information and write it down in a book. Just have a look at his list of published PLM books here.

My blog posts are less structured and reflect my observations depending on the companies and people I meet. Writing a foundational book about PLM would be challenging, as concepts are radically changing due to globalization and digitization.

John’s books are an excellent foundation for students who want to learn PLM’s various aspects during their academic years. Students can sit down and take the time to study PLM concepts. Later, suppose you want to acquire PLM knowledge relevant to your company.

In that case, you might focus on specialized training, like the ones CIMdata provides.

There are many books on PLM – have a look at this list. Which book to read depends probably a lot on your country and the university you are associated with. In my network, I have recently seen books from Martin Eigner and  Uthayan Elangovan.   Rosemary Astheimer’s book Model-Based Definition in the Product Lifecycle is still on my to-read list.

And then, there is a lot of research done by universities worldwide. So, if you are lucky, there is good education for PLM-related practices in your country.

Quick Release

My post with Quick Release illustrated the challenges of a PLM consultancy company. It showed their efforts to enable their consultants to be valuable for their customers and create a work environment that inspires them to grow and enjoy their work.

Quick Release aims for a competitive advantage to have their consultants participate in actual work for their customers.

Not only from the conceptual point of view but also to get their hands “dirty”.

There are many other PLM consultancy firms. Having worked with Atos, Accenture, Capgemini, Delloite, PWC, who have their PLM practices, you realize that these companies have their methodologies and preferences. The challenge of their engagements is often the translation of a vision into an affordable roadmap.

Example of Accenture Digital PLM message

Consultancy firms need to be profitable, too, and sometimes they are portrayed as a virus. Once they are in, it is hard to get rid of them.

I do not agree with that statement, as companies often keep relying on consultants because they do not invest in educating their own people. It is a lack of management prioritization or understanding of the importance. Sometimes the argument is: “We are too busy” – remember the famous cartoons.

Consultants cannot change your company; in the end, you have to own the strategy and execution.

And although large consultancy firms might have many trained resources, my experience with these companies is that success often depends on one or two senior consultants. Consultancy is also a human-centric job, being able to connect to the customer in their language and culture.

Good consultants show their value by creating awareness and clarity first. Next, by helping the customer execute their strategy without big risks or hiccups. Finally, a good consultant becomes redundant as the knowledge has been transferred and digested to the customer.

It is like growing up.

System Integrators

It is a small step from consultancy firms to system integrators, as many consultancy firms have specialists in their company that are familiar with certain vendors’ systems. And you might have discovered that the systems that require the most integration or configuration work have the largest practices globally.

So I did a “quick and dirty” search on LinkedIn, looking for people with the xxx PLM consultant role, where xxx is the name of the PLM Vendor.

This to understand how big is the job market for such a specialized PLM consultant.

The image shows the result and I let you draw your own conclusions.

System Integrators are usually the most important partners for a PLM implementation once you choose. Therefore, when I support a PLM selection process, I always look at the potential implementation partner. Their experience, culture and scale are as important as selecting the best tools.

System Integrators can benefit from their past experiences and best practices. It is a myth that every company is so unique and should be treated differently. Instead, companies are different because of historical reasons. And these differences to best practices are sometimes inhibitors instead of advantages.

Related to education, System Integrators are often focused on technical training. Still, they might also have separate experts in training or organizational change management.

 

PLM Vendors

For me, the PLM vendors are the ones that should inspire the customers. Have a look at the “famous” CIMdata slide illustrating the relation between vision, technology and implemented practices – there is a growing gap between the leaders and the followers.

PLM Vendors often use their unique technical capabilities as a differentiator to the competition and inspiration for C-level management. Just think about the terms: Industry 4.0, Digital Twin, Digital Thread, Digital Platform, Model-Based Enterprise and more about sustainability targeted offerings.

The challenge however is to implement these concepts in a consistent manner, allowing people in an organization to understand why and what needs to be done.

The PLM editor’s business model is based on software sales or rental. Therefore, they will focus on their benefits and what competitors fail to do. And as they have the largest marketing budgets, they are the most visible in the PLM-related media.

Of course reality is not that dramatic – education is crucial

You can compare PLM Vendors also with populists. The aim of a populist is to create an audience by claiming they can solve your problems (easily) by using simple framing sentences. However, the reality is that the world and the current digitalization in the PLM domain are not simple.

Therefore we need education, education and education from different sources to build our own knowledge. It is not about the tool first. It is people, process and then tools/technology

 

People, Process, Tools

Education and the right education for each aspect of PLM are crucial to making the right decision. To simplify the education message, I tried to visualize and rate each paragraph along with the People, Process and Tools assessment.

What do you think? Does this make sense related to education?

 

Conclusion

Education is crucial at every level of an organization and at every stage of your career. Take your time to read and digest the information you see and compare and discuss it with others. Be aware of the People, Process and Tools matrix when retrieving information. Where does it apply, and why.

I believe PLM is considered complex because we are dealing with people who all have different educational backgrounds and, therefore, an opinion. Invest in alignment to ensure the processes and tools will be used best.

In the past four weeks, I have been writing about the various aspects related to PLM Education. First, starting from my bookshelf, zooming in on the strategic angle with CIMdata (Part 1).

Next, I was looking at the educational angle and motivational angle with Share PLM (Part 2).

And the last time,  I explored with John Stark the more academic view of PLM education. How do you – students and others – learn and explore the full context of PLM (Part 3)?

Now I am talking with Dave Slawson from Quick Release_ , exploring their onboarding and educational program as a consultancy firm.

How do they ensure their consultants bring added value to PLM-related activities, and can we learn something from that four our own practices?

Quick Release

Dave, can you tell us something more about Quick Release, further abbreviated to QR, and your role in the organization?
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Quick Release is a specialist PDM and PLM consultancy working primarily in the automotive sector in Europe, North America, and Australia. Robust data management and clear reporting of complex subjects are essential.

Our sole focus is connecting the data silos within our client’s organizations, reducing program or build delays through effective change management.

Quick Release promise – PDT 2019

I am QR’s head of Learning and Development, and I’ve been with the company since late 2014.

I’ve always had a passion for developing people and giving them a platform to push themselves to realize their potential. QR wants to build talent from within instead of just hiring experienced people.

However, with our rapid growth, it became necessary to have dedicated full-time resources to faster onboarding and upskilling our employees. This is combined with having an ongoing development strategy and execution.

QRs Learning & Development approach

Let’s focus on Learning & Development internally at QR first. What type of effort and time does it take to onboard a new employee, and what is their learning program?
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We have a six-month onboarding program for new employees. Most starters join one of our “boot camps”, a three-week intensive program where a cohort of between 6 and 14 new starters receive classroom-style sessions led by our subject matter experts.

During this, new starters learn about technical PDM and PLM and high-performance business skills that will help them deliver excellence for or clients and feel confident in their work.

Quick Release BoB track process – click to enlarge

While the teams spend a lot of time with the program coordinator, we also bring in our various Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to ensure the highest quality and variety in these sessions. Some of these sessions are delivered by our founders and directors.

As a business, we believe in investing senior leadership time to ensure quality training and give our team members access to the highest levels of the company.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, we moved our training program to be primarily distance learning. However, some sessions are in person, with new starters attending workshops in our regional offices. Our sessions focus on engagement and “doing” instead of just watching a presentation. New starters have fed back that they are still just as enjoyable via distance learning.

Following boot camp, team members will start work on their client projects, supported by a Project Manager and a mentor. During this period, their mentor will help them use the on-the-job experience to build up their technical knowledge on top of their bootcamp learning. The mentor is also there to help them cope with what we know is a steep learning curve. Towards the end of the six months program, each new starter will carry out a self-evaluation designed to help them recognize their achievements to date and identify areas of focus for ongoing personal development.

We gather feedback from the trainers and trainees throughout the onboarding programs, ensuring that the former is shared with their mentors to help with coaching.

The latter is used to help us continuously improve our offering. Our trainers are subject matter experts, but we encourage them to evolve their content and approach based on feedback.

 

The learning journey

Some might say you only learn on the job – how do you relate to this statement? Where does QR education take place? Can you make a statement on ROI for Learning & Development?

It is important to always be curious related to your work. We encourage our team members to challenge themselves to learn new things and dig deeper. Indeed, constant curiosity is one of our core values. We encourage people to challenge the status quo, challenge themselves, and adopt a growth mindset through all development and feedback cycles.

The learning curve in PDM and PLM can be steep; therefore, we must give people the tools and feedback that they can use to grow. At QR, this starts with our onboarding program and flows into an employee’s full career with us. In addition, at the end of every quarter, team members receive performance feedback from their managers, which feeds into their development target setting.

We have a wealth of internal resources to support development, from structured training materials to our internally compiled PDM Wiki and our suite of development “playbooks” (curated learning journeys catering to a range of learning styles).

On-the-job learning is critically important. So after the boot camp, we put our team members straight into projects to make sure they apply and build on their baseline knowledge through real-world experience. Still, they are supported with formal training and ongoing access to development resources.

Regarding Return on Investment, while it is impossible to give a specific number, we would say that quality training is invaluable to our clients and us. In seven years, the company has grown from 60 to 300 employees. In addition, it now operates in three other continents, illustrating that our clients trust the quality of how we train our consultants!

We also carried out internal studies regarding the long-term retention of team members relative to onboarding quality. These studies show that team members who experience a more controlled and structured onboarding program are mostly more successful in roles.

Investing in education?

I understood some of your customers also want to understand PLM processes better and ask for education from your side. Would the investment in education be similar? Would they be able to afford such an effort?

Making a long-term and tangible impact for our clients is the core foundation of what QR are trying to achieve. We do not want to come in to resolve a problem, only for it to resurface once we’ve left. Nor do we want to do work that our clients could easily hire someone to do themselves.

Therefore the idea of delivering a version of our training and onboarding program to clients is very attractive to us. We offer clients a shortened version of our bootcamp (focused on technical PDM, PLM and complexity management without the consultancy skills to our clients).

This is combined with an ongoing support program that transitions the responsibilities within the client team away from our consultants towards the client’s own staff.

We’d look to run that program over approximately 6 months so that the client can be confident that their staff has reached the level of technical expertise. There would be an upfront cost to the client to manage this.

However, the program is designed to support quality skills development within their organization.

 

PLM and Digital Transformation?

Education and digital transformation is a question I always ask. Although QR is already established in the digital era, your customers are not. What are the specific parts of digital transformation that you are teaching your employees and customers

The most inefficient thing we see in the PDM space is the reliance on offline, “analog” data and the inability to establish one source of truth across a complex organization. To support business efficiency through digital transformation, we promote a few simple core tenets in everything we do:

  • Establish a data owner who not only holds the single reference point but also is responsible for its quality
  • Right view reporting – clearly communicate exactly what people need to know, recognizing that different stakeholders need to know different things and that no one has time to waste
  • Clear communications – using the right channels of communication to get the job done faster (including more informal channels such as instant messaging or collaborative online working documents)
  • Smart, data-led decision making – reviewing processes using accurate data that is analyzed thoroughly, and justifying recommendations based on a range of evidence
  • Getting your hands dirty! – Digital Transformation is not just a “systems” subject but relies on people and human interaction. So we encourage all of our consultants to actually understand how teams work. Not be afraid to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in instead of just analyzing from the outside!

Want to learn more?

Dave, Could you point us to relevant Learning & Development programs and resources that are valuable for the readers of this blog?
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If you are interested in learning within the PDM and PLM space, follow Quick Release on LinkedIn as we publish thought leadership articles designed to support industry development.

For those interested in Learning & Development strategy, there is lots of UK and Ireland guidance available from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Similar organizations exist in other countries, such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the USA) which are great resources for building Learning & Development specific skills.

In my research, I often find really thought-provoking articles that shape my approach and thinking regarding Learning & Development, HR and a business approach published by Forbes and Harvard Business Review.

 

What I learned

When I first discovered Quick Release as a company during one of the PLM Roadmap & PDT conferences (see “The weekend after PLM Roadmap & PDT 2019″) I was impressed by their young and energetic approach combined with being pragmatic and focused on making the data “flow”.  Their customers were often traditional automotive companies having the challenge to break the silos. You could say QR was working on the “connected” enterprise as I would name it.

PLM consultancy must change

Besides their pragmatic approach, I discovered through interactions with QR that they are a kind of management consultancy firm you would expect in the future. As everything is going to be faster experience counts. Instead of remaining conceptual and strategic, they do not fear being with their feet in the mud.

This requires a new type of consultant and training, as employees need to be able to connect both to specialists at their customers and also be able to communicate with management. These types of people are hard to get as this is the ideal profile of a future employee.

The broad profile

What I learned from Dave is that QR invests seriously in meaningful education and coaching programs for their employees – to give them a purpose and an environment where they feel valued. I would imagine this applies actually to every company of the future, therefore I am curious if you could share your experiences from the field, either through the comments to this post or contact me personally.

Conclusion

We have seen now four dimensions of PLM education and I wish they gave you insights into what is possible. For each of the companies, I interviewed there might be others with the same skills. What is important is to realize the domain of PLM needs those four dimensions. In my next (short) post I will provide a summary of what I learned and what I believe is the PLM education of the future. Stay connected!

And a bonus you might have seen before – the digital plumber:

In my previous post, “My PLM Bookshelf,” on LinkedIn, I shared some of the books that influenced my thinking related to PLM. As you can see in the LinkedIn comments, other people added their recommendations for PLM-related books to get inspired or more knowledgeable.

 

Where reading a book is a personal activity, now I want to share with you how to get educated in a more interactive manner related to PLM. In this post, I talk with Peter Bilello, President & CEO of CIMdata. If you haven’t heard about CIMdata and you are active in PLM, more to learn on their website HERE. Now let us focus on Education.

CIMdata

Peter, knowing CIMdata from its research valid for the whole PLM community, I am curious to learn what is the typical kind of training CIMdata is providing to their customers.

Jos, throughout much of CIMdata’s existence, we have delivered educational content to the global PLM industry. With a core business tenant of knowledge transfer, we began offering a rich set of PLM-related tutorials at our North American and pan-European conferences starting in the earlier 1990s.

Since then, we have expanded our offering to include a comprehensive set of assessment-based certificate programs in a broader PLM sense. For example, systems engineering and digital transformation-related topics. In total, we offer more than 30 half-day classes. All of which can be delivered in-person as a custom configuration for a specific client and through public virtual-live or in-person classes. We have certificated more than 1,000 PLM professionals since the introduction in 2009 of this PLM Leadership offering.

Based on our experience, we recommend that an organization’s professional education strategy and plans address the organization’s specific processes and enabling technologies. This will help ensure that it drives the appropriate and consistent operations of its processes and technologies.

For that purpose, we expanded our consulting offering to include a comprehensive and strategic digital skills transformation framework. This framework provides an organization with a roadmap that can define the skills an organization’s employees need to possess to ensure a successful digital transformation.

In turn, this framework can be used as an efficient tool for the organization’s HR department to define its training and job progression programs that align with its overall transformation.

 

The success of training

We are both promoting the importance of education to our customers. Can you share with us an example where Education really made a difference? Can we talk about ROI in the context of training?

Jos, I fully agree. Over the years, we have learned that education and training are often minimized (i.e., sub-optimized). This is unfortunate and has usually led to failed or partially successful implementations.

In our view, both education and training are needed, along with strong organizational change management (OCM) and a quality assurance program during and after the implementation.

In our terms, education deals with the “WHY” and training with the “HOW”. Why do we need to change? Why do we need to do things differently? And then “HOW” to use new tools within the new processes.

We have seen far too many failed implementations where sub-optimized decisions were made due to a lack of understanding (i.e., a clear lack of education). We have also witnessed training and education being done too early or too late.

This leads to a reduced Return on Investment (ROI).

Therefore a well-defined skills transformation framework is critical for any company that wants to grow and thrive in the digital world. Finally, a skills transformation framework needs to be tied directly to an organization’s digital implementation roadmap and structure, state of the process, and technology maturity to maximize success.

 

Training for every size of the company?

When CIMdata conducts PLM training, is there a difference, for example, when working with a big global enterprise or a small and medium enterprise?

You might think the complexity might be similar; however, the amount of internal knowledge might differ. So how are you dealing with that?

We basically find that the amount of training/education required mostly depends on the implementation scope. Meaning the scope of the proposed digital transformation and the current maturity level of the impacted user community.

It is important to measure the current maturity and establish appropriate metrics to measure the success of the training (e.g., are people, once trained, using the tools correctly).

CIMdata has created a three-part PLM maturity model that allows an organization to understand its current PLM-related organizational, process, and technology maturity.

The three-part PLM maturity model

The PLM maturity model provides an important baseline for identifying and/or developing the appropriate courses for execution.

This also allows us, when we are supporting the definition of a digital skills transformation framework, to understand how the level of internal knowledge might differ within and between departments, sites, and disciplines. All of which help define an organization-specific action plan, no matter its size.

 

Where is CIMdata training different?

Most of the time, PLM implementers offer training too for their prospects or customers. So, where is CIMdata training different?

 

For this, it is important to differentiate between education and training. So, CIMdata provides education (the why) and training and education strategy development and planning.

We don’t provide training on how to use a specific software tool. We believe that is best left to the systems integrator or software provider.

While some implementation partners can develop training plans and educational strategies, they often fall short in helping an organization to effectively transform its user community. Here we believe training specialists are better suited.

 

Digital Transformation and PLM

One of my favorite topics is the impact of digitization in the area of product development. CIMdata introduced the Product Innovation Platform concept to differentiate from traditional PDM/PLM. Who needs to get educated to understand such a transformation, and what does CIMdata contribute to this understanding.

We often start with describing the difference between digitalization and digitization. This is crucial to be understood by an organization’s management team. In addition, management must understand that digitalization is an enterprise initiative.

It isn’t just about product development, sales, or enabling a new service experience. It is about maximizing a company’s ROI in applying and leveraging digital as needed throughout the organization. The only way an organization can do this successfully is by taking an end-to-end approach.

The Product Innovation Platform is focused on end-to-end product lifecycle management. Therefore, it must work within the context of other enterprise processes that are focused on the business’s resources (i.e., people, facilities, and finances) and on its transactions (e.g., purchasing, paying, and hiring).

As a result, an organization must understand the interdependencies among these domains. If they don’t, they will ultimately sub-optimize their investment. It is these and other important topics that CIMdata describes and communicates in its education offering.

The Product Innovation Platform in a digital enterprise

More than Education?

As a former teacher, I know that a one-time education, a good book or slide deck, is not enough to get educated. How does CIMdata provide a learning path or coaching path to their customers?

Jos, I fully agree. Sustainability of a change and/or improved way of working (i.e., long-term sustainability) is key to true and maximized ROI. Here I am referring to the sustainability of the transformation, which can take years.

With this, organizational change management (OCM) is required. OCM must be an integral part of a digital transformation program and be embedded into a program’s strategy, execution, and long-term usage. That means training, education, communication, and reward systems all have to be managed and executed on an ongoing basis.

For example, OCM must be executed alongside an organization’s digital skills transformation program. Our OCM services focus on strategic planning and execution support. We have found that most companies understand the importance of OCM, often don’t fully follow through on it.

 

A model-based future?

During the CIMdata Roadmap & PDT conferences, we have often discussed the importance of Model-Based Systems Engineering methodology as a foundation of a model-based enterprise. What do you see? Is it only the big Aerospace and Defense companies that can afford this learning journey, or should other industries also invest? And if yes, how to start.

Jos, here I need to step back for a minute. All companies have to deal with increasing complexity for their organization, supply chain, products, and more.

So, to optimize its business, an organization must understand and employ systems thinking and system optimization concepts. Unfortunately, most people think of MBSE as an engineering discipline. This is unfortunate because engineering is only one of the systems of systems that an organization needs to optimize across its end-to-end value streams.

The reality is all companies can benefit from MBSE. As long as they consider optimization across their specific disciplines, in the context of their products and services and where they exist within their value chain.

The MBSE is not just for Aerospace and Defense companies. Still, a lot can be learned from what has already been done. Also, leading automotive companies are implementing and using MBSE to design and optimize semi- and high-automated vehicles (i.e., systems of systems).

The starting point is understanding your systems of systems environment and where bottlenecks exist.

There should be no doubt, education is needed on MBSE and how MBSE supports the organization’s Model-Based Enterprise requirements.

Published work from the CIMdata administrated A&D PLM Action Group can be helpful. Also, various MBE and systems engineering maturity models, such as one that CIMdata utilizes in its consulting work.

Want to learn more?

Thanks, Peter, for sharing your insights. Are there any specific links you want to provide to get educated on the topics discussed? Perhaps some books to read or conferences to visit?

x
Jos, as you already mentioned:

x

  • the CIMdata Roadmap & PDT conferences have provided a wealth of insight into this market for more than 25 years.
    [Jos: Search for my blog posts starting with the text: “The weekend after ….”]
  • In addition, there are several blogs, like yours, that are worth following, and websites, like CIMdata’s pages for education or other resources which are filled with downloadable reading material.
  • Additionally, there are many user conferences from PLM solution providers and third-party conferences, such as those hosted by the MarketKey organization in the UK.

These conferences have taken place in Europe and North America for several years. Information exchange and formal training and education are offered in many events. Additionally, they provide an excellent opportunity for networking and professional collaboration.

What I learned

Talking with Peter made me again aware of a few things. First, it is important to differentiate between education and training. Where education is a continuous process, training is an activity that must take place at the right time. Unfortunately, we often mix those two terms and believe that people are educated after having followed a training.

Secondly, investing in education is as crucial as investing in hard- or software. As Peter mentioned:

We often start with describing the difference between digitalization and digitization. This is crucial to be understood by an organization’s management team. In addition, management must understand that digitalization is an enterprise initiative.

System Thinking is not just an engineering term; it will be a mandate for managing a company, a product and even a planet into the future

Conclusion

This time a quote from Albert Einstein, supporting my PLM coaching intentions:

“Education is not the learning of facts
but the training of the mind to think.”

 

After two quiet weeks of spending time with my family in slow motion, it is time to start the year.

First of all, I wish you all a happy, healthy, and positive outcome for 2022, as we need energy and positivism together. Then, of course, a good start is always cleaning up your desk and only leaving the relevant things for work on the desk.

Still, I have some books at arm’s length, either physical or on my e-reader, that I want to share with you – first, the non-obvious ones:

The Innovators Dilemma

A must-read book was written by Clayton Christensen explaining how new technologies can overthrow established big companies within a very short period. The term Disruptive Innovation comes up here. Companies need to remain aware of what is happening outside and ready to adapt to your business. There are many examples even recently where big established brands are gone or diminished in a short period.

In his book, he wrote about DEC (Digital Equipment Company)  market leader in minicomputers, not having seen the threat of the PC. Or later Blockbuster (from video rental to streaming), Kodak (from analog photography to digital imaging) or as a double example NOKIA (from paper to market leader in mobile phones killed by the smartphone).

The book always inspired me to be alert for new technologies, how simple they might look like, as simplicity is the answer at the end. I wrote about in 2012: The Innovator’s Dilemma and PLM, where I believed cloud, search-based applications and Facebook-like environments could disrupt the PLM world. None of this happened as a disruption; these technologies are now, most of the time, integrated by the major vendors whose businesses are not really disrupted. Newcomers still have a hard time to concur marketspace.

In 2015 I wrote again about this book, The Innovator’s dilemma and Generation change. – image above. At that time, understanding disruption will not happen in the PLM domain. Instead, I predict there will be a more evolutionary process, which I would later call: From Coordinated to Connected.

The future ways of working address the new skills needed for the future. You need to become a digital native, as COVID-19 pushed many organizations to do so. But digital native alone does not bring success. We need new ways of working which are more difficult to implement.

Sapiens

The book Sapiens by Yuval Harari made me realize the importance of storytelling in the domain of PLM and business transformation. In short, Yuval Harari explains why the human race became so dominant because we were able to align large groups around an abstract theme. The abstract theme can be related to religion, the power of a race or nation, the value of money, or even a brand’s image.

The myth (read: simplified and abstract story) hides complexity and inconsistencies. It allows everyone to get motivated to work towards one common goal. A Yuval says: “Fiction is far more powerful because reality is too complex”.

Too often, I have seen well-analyzed PLM projects that were “killed” by management because it was considered too complex. I wrote about this in 2019  PLM – measurable or a myth? claiming that the real benefits of PLM are hard to predict, and we should not look isolated only to PLM.

My 2020 follow-up post The PLM ROI Myth, eludes to that topic. However, even if you have a soundproof business case at the management level, still the myth might be decisive to justify the investment.

That’s why PLM vendors are always working on their myths: the most cost-effective solution, the most visionary solution, the solution most used by your peers and many other messages to influence your emotions, not your factual thinking. So just read the myths on their websites.

If you have no time to read the book, look at the above 2015 Ted to grasp the concept and use it with a PLM -twisted mind.

Re-use your CAD

In 2015, I read this book during a summer holiday (meanwhile, there is a second edition). Although it was not a PLM book, it was helping me to understand the transition effort from a classical document-driven enterprise towards a model-based enterprise.

Jennifer Herron‘s book helps companies to understand how to break down the (information) wall between engineering and manufacturing.

At that time, I contacted Jennifer to see if others like her and Action Engineering could explain Model-Based Definition comprehensively, for example, in Europe- with no success.

As the Model-Based Enterprise becomes more and more the apparent future for companies that want to be competitive or benefit from the various Digital Twin concepts. For that reason, I contacted Jennifer again last year in my post: PLM and Model-Based Definition.

As you can read, the world has improved, there is a new version of the book, and there is more and more information to share about the benefits of a model-based approach.

I am still referencing Action Engineering and their OSCAR learning environment for my customers. Unfortunately, many small and medium enterprises do not have the resources and skills to implement a model-based environment.

Instead, these companies stay on their customers’ lowest denominator: the 2D Drawing. For me, a model-based definition is one of the first steps to master if your company wants to provide digital continuity of design and engineering information towards manufacturing and operations. Digital twins do not run on documents; they require model-based environments.

The book is still on my desk, and all the time, I am working on finding the best PLM practices related to a Model-Based enterprise.

It is a learning journey to deal with a data-driven, model-based environment, not only for PLM but also for CM experts, as you might have seen from my recent dialogue with CM experts: The future of Configuration Management.

Products2019

This book was an interesting novelty published by John Stark in 2020. John is known for his academic and educational books related to PLM. However, during the early days of the COVID-pandemic, John decided to write a novel. The novel describes the learning journey of Jane from Somerset, who, as part of her MBA studies, is performing a research project for the Josef Mayer Maschinenfabrik. Her mission is to report to the newly appointed CEO what happens with the company’s products all along the lifecycle.

Although it is not directly a PLM book, the book illustrates the complexity of PLM. It Is about people and culture; many different processes, often disconnected. Everyone has their focus on their particular discipline in the center of importance. If you believe PLM is all about the best technology only, read this book and learn how many other aspects are also relevant.

I wrote about the book in 2020: Products2019 – a must-read if you are new to PLM if you want to read more details. An important point to pick up from this book is that it is not about PLM but about doing business.

PLM is not a magical product. Instead, it is a strategy to support and improve your business.

System Lifecycle Management

Another book, published a little later and motivated by the extra time we all got during the COVID-19 pandemic, was Martin Eigner‘s book System Lifecycle Management.

A 281-page journey from the early days of data management towards what Martin calls System Lifecycle Management (SysLM). He was one of the first to talk about System Lifecycle Management instead of PLM.

I always enjoyed Martin’s presentations at various PLM conferences where we met. In many ways, we share similar ideas. However, during his time as a professor at the University of Kaiserslautern (2003-2017), he explored new concepts with his students.

I briefly mentioned the book in my series The road to model-based and connected PLM (Part 5) when discussing SLM or SysLM. His academic research and analysis make this book very valuable. It takes you in a very structured way through the times that mechatronics becomes important, next the time that systems (hardware and software) become important.

We discussed in 2015 the applicability of the bimodal approach for PLM. However, as many enterprises are locked in their highly customized PDM/PLM environments, their legacy blocks the introduction of modern model-based and connected approaches.

Where John Stark’s book might miss the PLM details, Martin’s book brings you everything in detail and with all its references.

It is an interesting book if you want to catch up with what has happened in the past 20 years.

More Books …..

More books on my desk have helped me understand the past or that helped me shape the future. As this is a blog post, I will not discuss more books this time reaching my 1500 words.

Still books worthwhile to read – click on their images to learn more:

I discussed this book two times last year. An introduction in PLM and Modularity and a discussion with the authors and some readers of the book: The Modular Way – a follow-up discussion

x

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A book I read this summer contributed to a better understanding of sustainability. I mentioned this book in my presentation for the Swedish CATIA Forum in October last year – slide 29 of The Challenges of model-based and traditional plm. So you could see it as an introduction to System Thinking from an economic point of view.

System Thinking becomes crucial for a sustainable future, as I addressed in my post PLM and Sustainability.

Sustainability is my area of interest at the PLM Green Global Alliance, an international community of professionals working with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) enabling technologies and collaborating for a more sustainable decarbonized circular economy.

Conclusion

There is a lot to learn. Tell us something about your PLM bookshelf – which books would you recommend. In the upcoming posts, I will further focus on PLM education. So stay tuned and keep on learning.

When I started this series in July, I expected to talk mostly about new ways of working, enabled through a data-driven and model-based approach. However, when analyzing what is needed for such a future (part 3), it became apparent that many of these new ways of working are dependent on technology.

From coordinated to connected sounds like a business change;

however, it all depends on technology. And here I have to thank Marc Halpern (Gartner’s Research VP, Engineering and Design Technologies)  again, who came with this brilliant scheme below:

So now it is time to address the last point from my starting post:

Configuration Management requires a new approach. The current methodology is very much based on hardware products with labor-intensive change management. However, the world of software products has different configuration management and change procedures. Therefore, we need to merge them into a single framework. Unfortunately, this cannot be the BOM framework due to the dynamics in software changes.

Configuration management at this moment

PLM and CM are often considered overlapping. My March 2019 post: PLM and Configuration Management – a happy marriage? shares some thoughts related to this point

Does having PLM or PDM installed mean you have implemented CM? There is this confusion because revision management is considered the same as configuration management. Read my March 2020 post: What the FFF is happening? Based on a vivid discussion launched by  Yoann Maingon, CEO and founder of Ganister, an example of a modern, graph database-based, flexible PLM solution.

To hear it from a CM-side,  I discussed it with Martijn Dullaart in my February 2021 post: PLM and Configuration Management. We also zoomed in on CM2 in this post as a methodology.

Martijn is the Lead Architect for Enterprise Configuration Management at ASML (Our Dutch national pride) and chairperson of the Industry 4.0 committee of the Integrated Process Excellence (IPX) Congress.

As mentioned before in a previous post (part 6), he will be speaking at the PLM Roadmap & PDT Fall conference starting this upcoming week.

In this post, I want to talk about the CM future. For understanding the current situation, you can find a broad explanation here on Wikipedia. Have a look at CM in the context of the product lifecycle, ensuring that the product As-Specified and As-Designed information matches the As-Built and As-Operated product information.

A mismatch or inconsistency between these artifacts can lead to costly errors, particularly in later lifecycle stages. CM originated from the Aerospace and Defense industry for that reason. However, companies in other industries might have implemented CM practices too. Either due to regulations or thanks to the understanding that configuration mistakes can cause significant damage to the company.

Historically configuration management addresses the needs of “slow-moving” products. For example, the design of an airplane could take years before manufacturing started. Tracking changes and ensuring consistency of all referenced datasets was often a manual process.

On purpose, I wrote “referenced datasets,” as the information was not connected in a single environment most of the time. The identifier of a dataset ( an item or a document) was the primary information carrier used for mentally connecting other artifacts to keep consistency.

The Institute of Process Excellence (IPX) has been one of the significant contributors to configuration management methodology. They have been providing (and still offer) CM2 training and certification.

As mentioned before, PLM vendors or implementers suggest that a PLM system could fully support Configuration Management. However, CM is more than change management, release management and revision management.

As the diagram from Martijn Dullaart shows, PLM is one facet of configuration management.

Of course, there are also (a few) separate CM tools focusing on the configuration management process. CMstat’s EPOCH CM tool is an example of such software. In addition, on their website, you can find excellent articles explaining the history and their future thoughts related to CM.

The future will undoubtedly be a connected, model-based, software-driven environment. Naturally, therefore, configuration management processes will have to change. (Impressive buzz word sentence, still I hope you get the message).

From coordinated to connected has a severe impact on CM. Let’s have a look at the issues.

Configuration Management – the future

The transition to a data-driven and model-based infrastructure has raised the following questions:

  • How to deal with the granularity of data – each dataset needs to be validated. For example, a document (a collection of datasets) needs to be validated in the document-based approach. How to do this efficiently?
  • The behavior of a product (or system) will more and more dependent on software. Product CM practices have been designed for the hardware domain; now, we need a mix of hardware and software CM practices.
  • Due to the increased complexity of products (or systems) and the rapid changes due to software versions, how do we guarantee the As-Operated product is still matching the As-Designed / As-Certified definitions.

I don’t have answers to these questions. I only share observations and trends I see in my actual world.

Granularity of data

The concept of datasets has been discussed in my post (part 6). Now it is about how to manage the right sets of connected data.

The image on the left, borrowed from Erik Herzog’s presentation at the PDM Roadmap & PDT Fall conference in 2020, is a good illustration of the challenge.

At that time, Erik suggested that OSLC could be the enabler of a digital CM backbone for an enterprise. Therefore, it was a pleasure to see Erik providing an update at the yearly OSLC Fest conference this week.

You can find the agenda and Erik’s presentation here on day 2.

OSLC as a framework seems to be a good candidate for supporting modern CM scenarios. It allows a company to build full traceability between all relevant artifacts (if digital available). I can see the beauty of the technical infrastructure.

Still, it is about people and processes first. Therefore, I am curious to learn from my readers who believe and experiment with such a federated infrastructure.

More software

Traditional working companies might believe that software should be treated as part of the Bill of Materials. In this theory, you treat software code as a part, with a part number and revision. In this way, you might believe configuration management practices do not have to change. However, there are some fundamental differences in why we should decouple hardware and software.

First, for the same hardware solution, there might be a whole collection of valid software codes. Just like your computer. How many valid software codes, even from the same application, can you run on this hardware? Managing a computer system and its software through a Bill of Materials is unimaginable.

A computer, of course, is designed for running all kinds of software versions. However, modern products in the field, like cars, machines, electrical devices, all will have a similar type of software-driven flexibility.

For that reason, I believe that companies that deliver software-driven products should design a mechanism to check if the combination of hardware and software is valid. For a computer system, a software mismatch might not be costly or painful; for an industrial system, it might be crucial to ensure invalid combinations can exist. Click on the image to learn more.

Solutions like Configit or pure::variants might lead to a solution. In Feb 2021, I discussed in PLM and Configuration Lifecycle Management with Henrik Hulgaard, the CTO from Configit, the unique features of their solution.

I hope to have a similar post shortly with Pure Systems to understand their added value to configuration management.

Software change management is entirely different from hardware change management. The challenge is to have two different change management approaches under one consistent umbrella without creating needless overhead.

Increased complexity – the digital twin?

With the increased complexity of products and many potential variants of a solution, how can you validate a configuration? Perhaps we should investigate the digital twin concept, with a twin for each instance we want to validate.

Having a complete virtual representation of a product, including the possibility to validate the software behavior on the virtual product, would allow you to run (automated) validation tests to certify and later understand a product in the field.

No need for inspection on-site or test and fix upgrades in the physical world. Needed for space systems for sure, but why not for every system in the long term. When we are able to define and maintain a virtual twin of our physical product (on-demand), we can validate.

I learned about this concept at the 2020 Digital Twin conference in the Netherlands. Bart Theelen from Canon Production Printing explained that they could feed their simulation models with actual customer data to simulate and analyze the physical situation. In some cases, it is even impossible to observe the physical behavior. By tuning the virtual environment, you might understand what happens in the physical world.

An eye-opener and an advocate for the model-based approach. Therefore, I am looking forward to the upcoming PLM Roadmap & PDT Fall conference. Hopefully, Martijn Dullaart will share his thoughts on combining CM and working in a model-based environment. See you there?

Conclusion

Finally, we have reached in this series the methodology part, particularly the one related to configuration management and traceability in a very granular, digital environment.  

After the PLM Roadmap & PDT fall conference, I plan to follow up with three thought leaders on this topic: Martijn Dullaart (ASML), Maxime Gravel (Moog) and Lisa Fenwick (CMstat).  What would you ask them?

In my previous post, I discovered that my header for this series is confusing. Although a future implementation of system lifecycle management (SLM/PLM) will rely on models, the most foundational change needed is a technical one to create a data-driven infrastructure for connected ways of working.

My previous article discussed the concept of the dataset, which led to interesting discussions on LinkedIn and in my personal interactions. Also, this time Matthias Ahrens (HELLA) shared again a relevant but very academic article in this context – how to harmonize company information.

For those who want to dive deeper into the concept of connected datasets, read this article: The euBusinessGraph ontology: A lightweight ontology for harmonizing basic company information.

The article illustrates that the topic is relevant for all larger enterprises (and it is not an easy topic).

This time I want to share my thoughts about the two statements from my introductory post, i.e.:

A model-based approach with connected datasets seems to be the way forward. Managing data in documents will become inefficient as they cannot contribute to any digital accelerator, like applying algorithms. Artificial Intelligence relies on direct access to qualified data.

A model-based approach with connected datasets

We discussed connected datasets in the previous post; now, let’s explore why models and datasets are related. In the traditional CAD-centric PLM domain, most people will associate the word model with a CAD model, to be more precise, the 3D CAD Model. However, there are many other types of models used related to product development, delivery and operations.

A model can be a:

Physical Model

  • A smaller-scale object for the first analysis, e.g., a city or building model, an airplane model

Conceptual Model

  • A conceptual model describes the entities and their relations, e.g., a Process Flow Diagram (PFD)
  • A mathematical model describes a system concept using a mathematical language, e.g., weather or climate models. Modelica and MATLAB would fall in this category
  • A CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) or 3D CAD model is probably the most associated model in the mind of traditional PLM practitioners
  • Functional and Logical Models describing the services and components of a system are crucial in an MBSE

Operational Model

  • A model providing performance analysis based on (real-time) data coming from selected data sources. It could be an operational business model, an asset performance model; even my Garmin’s training performance model is such an operating model.

The list of all models above is not extensive nor academically defined. Moreover, some model term definitions might overlap, e.g., where would we classify software models or manufacturing models?

All models are a best-so-far approach to describing reality. Based on more accurate data from observations or measurements, the model comes closer to what happens in reality.

A model and its data

Never blame the model when there is a difference between what the model predicts and the observed reality. It is still a model.  That’s why we need feedback loops from the actual physical world to the virtual world to fine-tune the model.

Part of what we call Artificial Intelligence is nothing more than applying algorithms to a model. The more accurate data available, the more “intelligent” the artificial intelligence solution will be.

By using data analysis complementary to the model, the model may get better and better through self-learning. Like our human brain, it starts with understanding the world (our model) and collecting experiences (improving our model).

There are two points I would like to highlight for this paragraph:

  • A model is never 100 % the same as reality – so don’t worry about deviations. There will always be a difference between virtual predicted and physical measured – most of the time because reality has much more influencing parameters.
  • The more qualified data we use in the model, the closer to reality – so focus on accurate (and the right) data for your model. Although, as most of the time, it is impossible to fully model a system, focus on the most significant data sources.

The ultimate goal: THE DIGITAL TWIN

The discussion related to data-driven and the usage of models might feel abstract and complex (and that’s the case). However the term “digital twin” is well known and even used in board rooms.

The great benefits of a digital twin for business operations and for sustainability are promoted by many software vendors and consultancy firms.

My statement and reason for this series of blog posts: Digital Twins do not run on documents, you need to have a data-driven, model-based infrastructure to efficiently benefit from digital twin concepts.

Unfortunate a reliable and sustainable implementation of a digital twin requires more than software – it is a learning journey to connect the right data to the right model.
A puzzle every company has to solve as there is no 100 percent blueprint at this time.

Are Low Code platforms the answer?

I mentioned the importance of accurate data. Companies have different systems or even platforms managing enterprise data. The digital dream is that by combining datasets from different systems and platforms, we can provide to any user the needed information in real-time. My statement from my introductory post was:

I don’t believe in Low-Code platforms that provide ad-hoc solutions on demand. The ultimate result after several years might be again a new type of spaghetti. On the other hand, standardized interfaces and protocols will probably deliver higher, long-term benefits. Remember: Low code: A promising trend or a Pandora’s Box?

Let’s look into some of the low-code platform messages mentioned by Low-Code advocates:

You will have an increasingly hard time finding developers to keep up with global app development demands (reason #1 for PEGA)

This statement reminded me of the early days of SmarTeam implementations. With a Data model Wizard, a Form Designer, and a Visual Basic COM API, you could create any kind of data management application with SmarTeam. By using its built-in behaviors for document lifecycle management, item lifecycle management, and CAD integrations combined with easy customizations.

The sky was the limit to satisfy end users.  No need for an experienced partner or to be a skilled programmer (this was 2003+). SmarTeam was a low-code platform the marketing department would say now.

A lot of my activities between 2003 and 2010 were related fixing the problems related to flexibility,  making sense (again) of customizations.  I wrote about this in a 2015 post: The importance of a (PLM) data model sharing the experiences of “fixing” issues created to flexibility.

Think first

The challenge is that an enthusiastic team creates a (low code) solution rapidly. Immediate success is celebrated by the people involved. However, the future impact of this solution is often forgotten – we did the job,  right?

Documentation and a broader visibility are often lacking when implementing such a solution.

For example, suppose your product data is going to be consumed by another app. In that case, you need to make sure that the information you consume is accurate. On the other hand, perhaps the information was valid when you created the app.

However, if your friendly co-worker has moved on to another job and someone with different data standards becomes responsible for the data you consume, the reliability might fail. So how do you guarantee its quality?

Easy tools have often led to spaghetti, starting from Clipper (the old days), Visual Basic (the less old days) to highly customizable systems (like Aras is promoting) and future low-code platforms (and Aras is there again).

However, the strength of being highly flexible is also the weaknesses if not managed and understood correctly. In particular, in a digital enterprise architecture, you need skilled people who guarantee a reliable anchorage of the solution.

The HBR article When Low-Code/No-Code Development Works — and When It Doesn’t mentions the same point:

There are great benefits from LC/NC software development, but management challenges as well. Broad use of these tools institutionalizes the “shadow IT phenomenon, which has bedeviled IT organizations for decades — and could make the problem much worse if not appropriately governed. Citizen developers tend to create applications that don’t work or scale well, and then they try to turn them over to IT. Or the person may leave the company, and no one knows how to change or support the system they developed.

The fundamental difference: from coordinated to connected

For the moment, I remain skeptical about the low-code hype, because I have seen this kind of hype before. The most crucial point companies need to understand is that the coordinated world and the connected world are incompatible.

Using new tools based on old processes and existing data is not a digital transformation. Instead, a focus on value streams and their needed (connected) data should lead to the design of a modern digital enterprise, not the optimization and connectivity between organizational siloes.
Before buying a tool (a medicine) to reduce the current pains, imagine your future ways of working, discover what is possible with your existing infrastructure and identify the gaps.

Next, you need to analyze if these gaps are so significant that it requires a technology change. Probably it does, as historically, systems were not designed to share data horizontally in an organization.

In this context, have a look at Lionel Grealou’s s article for Engineering.com:
Data Readiness in the new age of digital collaboration.

Conclusion

We discussed the crucial relation between models and data. Models have only value if they acquire the right and accurate data (exercise 1).

Next, even the simplest development platforms, like low-code platforms, require brains and a long-term strategy (exercise 2) – nothing is simple at this moment in transformational times.  

The next and final post in this series will focus on configuration management – a new approach is needed. I don’t have the answers, but I will share some thoughts

A recommended event and an exciting agenda and a good place to validate and share your thoughts.

I will be there and look forward to meeting you at this conference (unfortunate still virtually)

This week I attended the SCAF conference in Jonkoping. SCAF is an abbreviation of the Swedish CATIA User Group. First of all, I was happy to be there as it was a “physical” conference, having the opportunity to discuss topics with the attendees outside the presentation time slot.

It is crucial for me as I have no technical message. Instead, I am trying to make sense of the future through dialogues. What is sure is that the future will be based on new digital concepts, completely different from the traditional approach that we currently practice.

My presentation, which you can find here on SlideShare, was again zooming in on the difference between a coordinated approach (current) and a connected approach (the future).

The presentation explains the concepts of datasets, which I discussed in my previous blog post. Now, I focussed on how this concept can be discovered in the Dassault Systemes 3DExperience platform, combined with the must-go path for all companies to more systems thinking and sustainable products.

It was interesting to learn that the concept of connected datasets like the spider’s web in the image reflected the future concept for many of the attendees.

One of the demos during the conference illustrated that it is no longer about managing the product lifecycle through structures (EBOM/MBOM/SBOM).

Still, it is based on a collection of connected datasets – the path in the spider’s web.

It was interesting to talk with the present companies about their roadmap. How to become a digital enterprise is strongly influenced by their legacy culture and ways of working. Where to start to be connected is the main challenge for all.

A final positive remark.  The SCAF had renamed itself to SCAF (3DX), showing that even CATIA practices no longer can be considered as a niche – the future of business is to be connected.

Now back to the thread that I am following on the series The road to model-based. Perhaps I should change the title to “The road to connected datasets, using models”. The statement for this week to discuss is:

Data-driven means that you need to have an enterprise architecture, data governance and a master data management (MDM) approach. So far, the traditional PLM vendors have not been active in the MDM domain as they believe their proprietary data model is leading. Read also this interesting McKinsey article: How enterprise architects need to evolve to survive in a digital world

Reliable data

If you have been following my story related to PLM transition: From a connected to a coordinated infrastructure might have seen the image below:

The challenge of a connected enterprise is that you want to connect different datasets, defined in various platforms, to support any type of context. We called this a digital thread or perhaps even better framed a digital web.

This is new for most organizations because each discipline has been working most of the time in its own silo. They are producing readable information in neutral files – pdf drawings/documents. In cases where a discipline needs to deliver datasets, like in a PDM-ERP integration, we see IT-energy levels rising as integrations are an IT thing, right?

Too much focus on IT

In particular, SAP has always played the IT card (and is still playing it through their Siemens partnership). Historically, SAP claimed that all parts/items should be in their system. Thus, there was no need for a PDM interface, neglecting that the interface moment was now shifted to the designer in CAD. And by using the name Material for what is considered a Part in the engineering world, they illustrated their lack of understanding of the actual engineering world.

There is more to “blame” to SAP when it comes to the PLM domain, or you can state PLM vendors did not yet understand what enterprise data means. Historically ERP systems were the first enterprise systems introduced in a company; they have been leading in a transactional  “digital” world. The world of product development never has been a transactional process.

SAP introduced the Master Data Management for their customers to manage data in heterogeneous environments. As you can imagine, the focus of SAP MDM was more on the transactional side of the product (also PIM) than on the engineering characteristics of a product.

I have no problem that each vendor wants to see their solution as the center of the world. This is expected behavior. However, when it comes to a single system approach, there is a considerable danger of vendor lock-in, a lack of freedom to optimize your business.

In a modern digital enterprise (to be), the business processes and value streams should be driving the requirements for which systems to use. I was tempted to write “not the IT capabilities”; however, that would be a mistake. We need systems or platforms that are open and able to connect to other systems or platforms. The technology should be there, and more and more, we realize the future is based on connectivity between cloud solutions.

In one of my first posts (part 2), I referred to five potential platforms for a connected enterprise.  Each platform will have its own data model based on its legacy design, allowing it to service its core users in an optimized environment.

When it comes to interactions between two or more platforms, for example, between PLM and ERP, between PLM and IoT, but also between IoT and ERP or IoT and CRM, these interactions should first be based on identified business processes and value streams.

The need for Master Data Management

Defining horizontal business processes and value streams independent of the existing IT systems is the biggest challenge in many enterprises. Historically, we have been thinking around a coordinated way of working, meaning people shifting pieces of information between systems – either as files or through interfaces.

In the digital enterprise, the flow should be leading based on the stakeholders involved. Once people agree on the ideal flow, the implementation process can start.

Which systems are involved, and where do we need a connection between the two systems. Is the relationship bidirectional, or is it a push?

The interfaces need to be data-driven in a digital enterprise; we do not want human interference here, slowing down or modifying the flow. This is the moment Master Data Management and Data Governance comes in.

When exchanging data, we need to trust the data in its context, and we should be able to use the data in another context. But, unfortunately, trust is hard to gain.

I can share an example of trust when implementing a PDM system linked to a Microsoft-friendly ERP system. Both systems we able to have Excel as an interface medium – the Excel columns took care of the data mapping between these two systems.

In the first year, engineers produced the Excel with BOM information and manufacturing engineering imported the Excel into their ERP system. After a year, the manufacturing engineers proposed to automatically upload the Excel as they discovered the exchange process did not need their attention anymore – they learned to trust the data.

How often have you seen similar cases in your company where we insist on a readable exchange format?

When you trust the process(es), you can trust the data. In a digital enterprise, you must assume that specific datasets are used or consumed in different systems. Therefore a single data mapping as in the Excel example won’t be sufficient

Master Data Management and standards?

Some traditional standards, like the ISO 15926 or ISO 10303, have been designed to exchange process and engineering data – they are domain-specific. Therefore, they could simplify your master data management approach if your digitalization efforts are in that domain.

To connect other types of data, it is hard to find a global standard that also encompasses different kinds of data or consumers. Think about the GS1 standard, which has more of a focus on the consumer-side of data management.  When PLM meets PIM, this standard and Master Data Management will be relevant.

Therefore I want to point to these two articles in this context:

How enterprise architects need to evolve to survive in a digital world focusing on the transition of a coordinated enterprise towards a connected enterprise from the IT point of view.  And a recent LinkedIn post, Web Ontology Language as a common standard language for Engineering Networks? by Matthias Ahrens exploring the concepts I have been discussing in this post.

To me, it seems that standards are helpful when working in a coordinated environment. However, in a connected environment, we have to rely on master data management and data governance processes, potentially based on a clever IT infrastructure using graph databases to be able to connect anything meaningful and possibly artificial intelligence to provide quality monitoring.

Conclusion

Standards have great value in exchange processes, which happen in a coordinated business environment. To benefit from a connected business environment, we need an open and flexible IT infrastructure supported by algorithms (AI) to guarantee quality. Before installing the IT infrastructure, we should first have defined the value streams it should support.

What are your experiences with this transition?

In my last post in this series, The road to model-based and connected PLM, I mentioned that perhaps it is time to talk about SLM instead of PLM when discussing popular TLA’s for our domain of expertise. There were not so many encouraging statements for SLM so far.

SLM could mean for me, Solution Lifecycle Management, considering that the company’s offering more and more is a mix of products and services. Or SLM could mean System Lifecycle Management, in that case pushing the idea that more and more products are interacting with the outside world and therefore could be considered systems. Products are (almost) dead.

In addition, I mentioned that the typical product lifecycle and related configuration management concepts need to change as in the SLM domain. There is hardware and software with different lifecycles and change processes.

It is a topic I want to explore further. I am curious to learn more from Martijn Dullaart, who will be lecturing at the  PLM Road map and PDT 2021 fall conference in November. I hope my expectations are not too high, knowing it is a topic of interest for Martijn. Feel free to join this discussion

In this post, it is time to follow up on my third statement related to what data-driven implies:

Data-driven means that we need to manage data in a much more granular manner. We have to look different at data ownership. It becomes more about data accountability per role as the data can be used and consumed throughout the product lifecycle

On this topic, I have a list of points to consider; let’s go through them.

The dataset

In this post, I will often use the term dataset (you are also allowed to write the data set I understood).

A dataset means a predefined number of attributes and values that belong logically to each other. Datasets should be defined based on the purpose and, if possible, designated for a single goal. In this way, they can be stored in a database.

Combined with other datasets, a combination can result in relevant business information. Note a dataset is not only transactional data; a dataset could also describe geometry.

Identify the dataset

In the document-based world, a lot of information could be stored in a single file. In a data-driven world, we should define a dataset that contains a specific piece of information, logically belonging together. If we are more precise, a part would have various related datasets that make up the definition of a part. These definitions could be:

  • Core identification attributes like ID, Name, Type and Status
  • The Type could define a set of linked information. For example, a valve would have different characteristics as a resistor. Through classification, we can link data sets to the core definition of a part.
  • The part can have engineering-specific data (CAD and metadata), manufacturing-specific data, supplier-specific data, and service-specific data. Each of these datasets needs to be defined as a unique element in a data-driven environment
  • CAD is a particular case as most current CAD systems don’t treat geometry as a single dataset. In a file-based world, many other datasets are stored in the file (e.g., engineering or manufacturing details). In a data-driven environment, we want to have the CAD definition to be treated like a dataset. Dassault Systèmes with their CATIA V6 and 3DEXPERIENCE platform or PTC with OnShape are examples of this approach.Having CAD as separate datasets makes sharing and collaboration so much easier, as we can see from these solutions. The concept for CAD stored in a database is not new, and this approach has been used in various disciplines. Mechanical CAD was always a challenge.

Thanks to Moore’s Law (approximate every 2 years, processor power doubled – click on the image for the details) and higher network connection speed, it starts to make sense to have mechanical CAD also stored in a database instead of a file

An important point to consider is a kind of standardization of datasets. In theory, there should be a kind of minimum agreed collection of datasets. Industry standards provide these collections in their dictionary. Whenever you optimize your data model for a connected enterprise, make sure you look first into the standards that apply to your industry.

They might not be perfect or complete, but inventing your own new standard is a guarantee for legacy issues in the future. This remark is also valid for the software vendors in this domain. A proprietary data model might give you a competitive advantage.

Still, in the long term, there is always the need to connect with outside stakeholders.

 

Identify the RACI

To ensure a dataset is complete and well maintained, the concept of RACI could be used. RACI is the abbreviation for Responsible Accountable Consulted and Informed and a simplification of the RASCI Model, see also a responsibility assignment matrix.

In a data-driven environment, there is no data ownership anymore like you have for documents. The main reason that data ownership can no longer be used is that datasets can be consumed by anyone in the ecosystem. No longer only your department or the manufacturing or service department.

Data sets in a data-driven environment bring value when connected with other datasets in applications or dashboards.

A dataset describing the specification attributes of a part could be used in a spare part app and a service app. Of course, the dataset will be used in a different context – still, we need to ensure we can trust the data.

Therefore, per identified dataset, there should be governed by a kind of RACI concept. The RACI concept is a way to break the siloes in an organization.

Identify Inside / outside

There is a lot of fear that a connected, data-driven environment will expose Intellectual Property (IP). It came up in recent discussions. If you like storytelling and technology, read my old SmarTeam colleague Alex Bruskin’s post: The Bilbo Baggins Threat to PLM Assets. Alex has written some “poetry” with a deep technical message behind it.

It is true that if your data set is too big, you have the challenge of exposing IP when connecting this dataset with others. Therefore, when building a data model, you should make it possible to have datasets pure for internal usage and datasets for sharing.

When you use the concept of RACI, the difference should be defined by the I(informed) – is it PLM-data or PIM-data for example?

Tracking relations

Suppose we follow up on the concept of datasets. In that case, it becomes clear that relations between the datasets are as crucial as the dataset. In traditional PLM applications, these relations are often predefined as part of the core data model/

For example, the EBOM parts have relationships between themselves and specification data – see image.

The MBOM parts have links with the supplier data or the manufacturing process.

The prepared relations in a PLM system allow people to implement the system relatively quickly to map their approaches to this taxonomy.

However, traditional PLM systems are based on a document-based (or file-based) taxonomy combined with related metadata. In a model-based and connected environment, we have to get rid of the document-based type of data.

Therefore, the datasets will be more granular, and there is a need to manage exponential more relations between datasets.

This is why you see the graph database coming up as a needed infrastructure for modern connected applications. If you haven’t heard of a graph database yet, you are probably far from technology hypes. To understand the principles of a graph database you can read this article from neo4j:  Graph Databases for Beginners: Why graph technology is the future

As you can see from the 2020 Gartner Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence this technology is at the top of the hype and conceptually the way to manage a connected enterprise. The discussion in this post also demonstrates that besides technology there is a lot of additional conceptual thinking needed before it can be implemented.

Although software vendors might handle the relations and datasets within their platform, the ultimate challenge will be sharing datasets with other platforms to get a connected ecosystem.

For example, the digital web picture shown above and introduced by Marc Halpern at the 2018 PDT conference shows this concept. Recently CIMdata discussed this topic in a similar manner: The Digital Thread is Really a Web, with the Engineering Bill of Materials at Its Center
(Note I am not sure if CIMdata has published a recording of this webinar – if so I will update the link)

Anyway, these are signs that we started to find the right visuals to imagine new concepts. The traditional digital thread pictures, like the one below, are, for me, impressions of the past as they are too rigid and focusing on some particular value streams.

From a distance, it looks like a connected enterprise should work like our brain. We story information on different abstraction levels. We keep incredibly many relations between information elements. As the brain is a biological organ, connections degrade or get lost. Or the opposite other relationships become so strong that we cannot change them anymore. (“I know I am always right”)

Interestingly, the brain does not use the “single source of truth”-concept – there can be various “truths” inside a brain. This makes us human beings with all the good and the harmful effects of that.

As long as we realize there is no single source of truth.

In business and our technological world, we need sometimes the undisputed truth. Blockchain could be the basis for securing the right connections between datasets to guarantee the result is valid. I am curious if blockchain can scale to complex connected situations, although Moore’s Law might ultimately help us here too(if still valid).

The topic is not new – in 2014 I wrote a post with the title: PLM is doomed unless ….   Where I introduced the topic of owning and sharing in the context of the human brain.  In the post, I refer to the book On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins how tries to analyze what is human-based intelligence and how could we apply it to our technology concepts. Still a fascinating book worth reading if you have the time and opportunity.

 

Conclusion

A data-driven approach requires a more granular definition of information, leading to the concepts of datasets and managing relations between datasets. This is a fundamental difference compared to the past, where we were operating systems with information. Now we are heading towards connected platforms that provide a filtered set of real-time data to act upon.

I am curious to learn more about how people have solved the connected challenges and in what kind of granularity. Let us know!

 

 

In my last post, I zoomed in on a preferred technical architecture for the future digital enterprise. Drawing the conclusion that it is a mission impossible to aim for a single connected environment. Instead, information will be stored in different platforms, both domain-oriented (PLM, ERP, CRM, MES, IoT) and value chain oriented (OEM, Supplier, Marketplace, Supply Chain hub).

In part 3, I posted seven statements that I will be discussing in this series. In this post, I will zoom in on point 2:

Data-driven does not mean we do not need any documents anymore. Read electronic files for documents. Likely, document sets will still be the interface to non-connected entities, suppliers, and regulatory bodies. These document sets can be considered a configuration baseline.

 

System of Record and System of Engagement

In the image below, a slide from 2016,  I show a simplified view when discussing the difference between the current, coordinated approach and the future, connected approach.  This picture might create the wrong impression that there are two different worlds – either you are document-driven, or you are data-driven.

In the follow-up of this presentation, I explained that companies need both environments in the future. The most efficient way of working for operations will be infrastructure on the right side, the platform-based approach using connected information.

For traceability and disconnected information exchanges, the left side will be there for many years to come. Systems of Record are needed for data exchange with disconnected suppliers, disconnected regulatory bodies and probably crucial for configuration management.

The System of Record will probably remain as a capability in every platform or cross-section of platform information. The Systems of Engagement will be the configured real-time environment for anyone involved in active company processes, not only ERP or MES, all execution.

Introducing SysML and SML

This summer, I received a copy of Martin Eigner’s System Lifecycle Management book, which I am reading at his moment in my spare moments. I always enjoyed Martin’s presentations. In many ways, we share similar ideas. Martin from his profession spent more time on the academic aspects of product and system lifecycle than I. But, on the other hand, I have always been in the field observing and trying to make sense of what I see and learn in a coherent approach. I am halfway through the book now, and for sure, I will come back on the book when I have finished.

A first impression: A great and interesting book for all. Martin and I share the same history of data management. Read all about this in his second chapter: Forty Years of Product Data Management

From PDM via PLM to SysLM, is a chapter that everyone should read when you haven’t lived it yourself. It helps you to understand the past (Learning for the past to understand the future). When I finish this series about the model-based and connected approach for products and systems, Martin’s book will be highly complementary given the content he describes.

There is one point for which I am looking forward to is feedback from the readers of this blog.

Should we, in our everyday language, better differentiate between Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and System Lifecycle Management(SysLM)?

In some customer situations, I talk on purpose about System Lifecycle Management to create the awareness that the company’s offering is more than an electro/mechanical product. Or ultimately, in a more circular economy, would we use the term Solution Lifecycle Management as not only hardware and software might be part of the value proposition?

Martin uses consistently the abbreviation SysLM, where I would prefer the TLA SLM. The problem we both have is that both abbreviations are not unique or explicit enough. SysLM creates confusion with SysML (for dyslectic people or fast readers). SLM already has so many less valuable meanings: Simulation Lifecycle Management, Service Lifecycle Management or Software Lifecycle Management.

For the moment, I will use the abbreviation SLM, leaving it in the middle if it is System Lifecycle Management or Solution Lifecycle Management.

 

How to implement both approaches?

In the long term, I predict that more than 80 percent of the activities related to SLM will take place in a data-driven, model-based environment due to the changing content of the solutions offered by companies.

A solution will be based on hardware, the solid part of the solution, for which we could apply a BOM-centric approach. We can see the BOM-centric approach in most current PLM implementations. It is the logical result of optimizing the product lifecycle management processes in a coordinated manner.

However, the most dynamic part of the solution will be covered by software and services. Changing software or services related to a solution has completely different dynamics than a hardware product.

Software and services implementations are associated with a data-driven, model-based approach.

The management of solutions, therefore, needs to be done in a connected manner. Using the BOM-centric approach to manage software and services would create a Kafkaesque overhead.

Depending on your company’s value proposition to the market, the challenge will be to find the right balance. For example, when you keep on selling disconnectedhardware, there is probably no need to change your internal PLM processes that much.

However, when you are moving to a connected business model providing solutions (connected systems / Outcome-based services), you need to introduce new ways of working with a different go-to-market mindset. No longer linear, but iterative.

A McKinsey concept, I have been promoting several times, illustrates a potential path – note the article was not written with a PLM mindset but in a business mindset.

What about Configuration Management?

The different datasets defining a solution also challenge traditional configuration management processes. Configuration Management (CM) is well established in the aerospace & defense industry. In theory, proper configuration management should be the target of every industry to guarantee an appropriate performance, reduced risk and cost of fixing issues.

The challenge, however, is that configuration management processes are not designed to manage systems or solutions, where dynamic updates can be applied whether or not done by the customer.

This is a topic to solve for the modern Connected Car (system) or Connected Car Sharing (solution)

For that reason, I am inquisitive to learn more from Martijn Dullaart’s presentation at the upcoming PLM Roadmap/PDT conference. The title of his session: The next disruption please …

In his abstract for this session, Martijn writes:

From Paper to Digital Files brought many benefits but did not fundamentally impact how Configuration Management was and still is done. The process to go digital was accelerated because of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Forced to work remotely was the disruption that was needed to push everyone to go digital. But a bigger disruption to CM has already arrived. Going model-based will require us to reexamine why we need CM and how to apply it in a model-based environment. Where, from a Configuration Management perspective, a digital file still in many ways behaves like a paper document, a model is something different. What is the deliverable? How do you manage change in models? How do you manage ownership? How should CM adopt MBx, and what requirements to support CM should be considered in the successful implementation of MBx? It’s time to start unraveling these questions in search of answers.

One of the ideas I am currently exploring is that we need a new layer on top of the current configuration management processes extending the validation to software and services. For example, instead of describing every validated configuration, a company might implement the regular configuration management processes for its hardware.

Next, the systems or solutions in the field will report (or validate) their configuration against validation rules. A topic that requires a long discussion and more than this blog post, potentially a full conference.

Therefore I am looking forward to participating in the CIMdata/PDT FALL conference and pick-up the discussions towards a data-driven, model-based future with the attendees.  Besides CM, there are several other topics of great interest for the future. Have a look at the agenda here

 

Conclusion

A data-driven and model-based infrastructure still need to be combined with a coordinated, document-driven infrastructure.  Where the focus will be, depends on your company’s value proposition.

If we discuss hardware products, we should think PLM. When you deliver systems, you should perhaps talk SysML (or SLM). And maybe it is time to define Solution Lifecycle Management as the term for the future.

Please, share your thoughts in the comments.

 

After a short summer break with almost no mentioning of the word PLM, it is time to continue this series of posts exploring the future of “connected” PLM. For those who also started with a cleaned-up memory, here is a short recap:

In part 1, I rush through more than 60 years of product development, starting from vellum drawings ending with the current PLM best practice for product development, the item-centric approach.

In part 2, I painted a high-level picture of the future, introducing the concept of digital platforms, which, if connected wisely, could support the digital enterprise in all its aspects. The five platforms I identified are the ERP and CRM platform (the oldest domains).

Next, the MES and PIP platform(modern domains to support manufacturing and product innovation in more detail) and the IoT platform (needed to support connected products and customers).

In part 3, I explained what is data-driven and how data-driven is closely connected to a model-based approach. Here we abandon documents (electronic files) as active information carriers. Documents will remain, however, as reports, baselines, or information containers. In this post, I ended up with seven topics related to data-driven, which I will discuss in upcoming posts.

Hopefully, by describing these topics – and for sure, there are more related topics – we will better understand the connected future and make decisions to enable the future instead of freezing the past.

 

Topic 1 for this post:

Data-driven does not imply, there needs to be a single environment, a single database that contains all information. As I mentioned in my previous post, it will be about managing connected datasets federated. It is not anymore about owned the data; it is about access to reliable data.

 

Platform or a collection of systems?

One of the first (marketing) hurdles to take is understanding what a data platform is and what is a collection of systems that work together, sold as a platform.

CIMdata published in 2017 an excellent whitepaper positioning the PIP (Product Innovation Platform):  Product Innovation Platforms: Definition, Their Role in the Enterprise, and Their Long-Term Viability. CIMdata’s definition is extensive and covers the full scope of product innovation. Of course, you can find a platform that starts from a more focused process.

For example, look at OpenBOM (focus on BOM collaboration), OnShape (focus on CAD collaboration) or even Microsoft 365 (historical, document-based collaboration).

The idea behind a platform is that it provides basic capabilities connected to all stakeholders, inside and outside your company. In addition, to avoid that these capabilities are limited, a platform should be open and able to connect with other data sources that might be either local or central available.

From these characteristics, it is clear that the underlying infrastructure of a platform must be based on a multitenant SaaS infrastructure, still allowing local data to be connected and shielded for performance or IP reasons.

The picture below describes the business benefits of a Product Innovation Platform as imagined by Accenture in 2014

Link to CIMdata’s 2014 commentary of Digital PLM HERE

Sometimes vendors sell their suite of systems as a platform. This is a marketing trick because when you want to add functionality to your PLM infrastructure, you need to install a new system and create or use interfaces with the existing systems, not really a scalable environment.

In addition, sometimes, the collaboration between systems in such a marketing platform is managed through proprietary exchange (file) formats.

A practice we have seen in the construction industry before cloud connectivity became available. However, a so-called end-to-end solution working on PowerPoint implemented in real life requires a lot of human intervention.

 

Not a single environment

There has always been the debate:

“Do I use best-in-class tools, supporting the end-user of the software, or do I provide an end-to-end infrastructure with more generic tools on top of that, focusing on ease of collaboration?”

In the system approach, the focus was most of the time on the best-in-class tools where PLM-systems provide the data governance. A typical example is the item-centric approach. It reflects the current working culture, people working in their optimized siloes, exchanging information between disciplines through (neutral) files.

The platform approach makes it possible to deliver the optimized user interface for the end-user through a dedicated app. Assuming the data needed for such an app is accessible from the current platform or through other systems and platforms.

It might be tempting as a platform provider to add all imaginable data elements to their platform infrastructure as much as possible. The challenge with this approach is whether all data should be stored in a central data environment (preferably cloud) or federated.  And what about filtering IP?

In my post PLM and Supply Chain Collaboration, I described the concept of having an intermediate hub (ShareAspace) between enterprises to facilitate real-time data sharing, however carefully filtered which data is shared in the hub.

It may be clear that storing everything in one big platform is not the future. As I described in part 2, in the end, a company might implement a maximum of five connected platforms (CRM, ERP, PIP, IoT and MES). Each of the individual platforms could contain a core data model relevant for this part of the business. This does not imply there might be no other platforms in the future. Platforms focusing on supply chain collaboration, like ShareAspace or OpenBOM, will have a value proposition too.  In the end, the long-term future is all about realizing a digital tread of information within the organization.

Will we ever reach a perfectly connected enterprise or society? Probably not. Not because of technology but because of politics and human behavior. The connected enterprise might be the most efficient architecture, but will it be social, supporting all humanity. Predicting the future is impossible, as Yuval Harari described in his book:  21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Worth reading, still a collection of ideas.

 

Proprietary data model or standards?

So far, when you are a software vendor developing a system, there is no restriction in how you internally manage your data. In the domain of PLM, this meant that every vendor has its own proprietary data model and behavior.

I have learned from my 25+ years of experience with systems that the original design of a product combined with the vendor’s culture defines the future roadmap. So even if a PLM vendor would rewrite all their software to become data-driven, the ways of working, the assumptions will be based on past experiences.

This makes it hard to come to unified data models and methodology valid for our PLM domain. However, large enterprises like Airbus and Boeing and the major Automotive suppliers have always pushed for standards as they will benefit the most from standardization.

The recent PDT conferences were an example of this, mainly the 2020 Fall conference. Several Aerospace & Defense PLM Action groups reported their progress.

You can read my impression of this event in The weekend after PLM Roadmap / PDT 2020 – part 1 and The next weekend after PLM Roadmap PDT 2020 – part 2.

It would be interesting to see a Product Innovation Platform built upon a data model as much as possible aligned to existing standards. Probably it won’t happen as you do not make money from being open and complying with standards as a software vendor. Still, companies should push their software vendors to support standards as this is the only way to get larger connected eco-systems.

I do not believe in the toolkit approach where every company can build its own data model based on its current needs. I have seen this flexibility with SmarTeam in the early days. However, it became an upgrade risk when new, overlapping capabilities were introduced, not matching the past.

In addition, a flexible toolkit still requires a robust data model design done by experienced people who have learned from their mistakes.

The benefit of using standards is that they contain the learnings from many people involved.

 

Conclusion

I did not like writing this post so much, as my primary PLM focus lies on people and methodology. Still, understanding future technologies is an important point to consider. Therefore, this time a not-so-exciting post. There is enough to read on the internet related to PLM technology; see some of the recent articles below. Enjoy

 

Matthias Ahrens shared:  Integrated Product Lifecycle Management (Google translated from German)

Oleg Shilovitsky wrote numerous articles related to technology –
in this context:
3 Challenges of Unified Platforms and System Locking and
SaaS PLM Acceleration Trends

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