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Last week I shared my first review of the PLM Roadmap / PDT Fall 2020 conference, organized by CIMdata and Eurostep. Having digested now most of the content in detail, I can state this was the best conference of 2020. In my first post, the topics I shared were mainly the consultant’s view of digital thread and digital twin concepts.

This time, I want to focus on the content presented by the various Aerospace & Defense working groups who shared their findings, lessons-learned (so far) on topics like the Multi-view BOM, Supply Chain Collaboration, MBSE Data interoperability.

These sessions were nicely wrapped with presentations from Alberto Ferrari (Raytheon), discussing the digital thread between PLM and Simulation Lifecycle Management and Jeff Plant (Boeing) sharing their Model-Based Engineering strategy.

I believe these insights are crucial, although there might be people in the field that will question if this research is essential. Is not there an easier way to achieve to have the same results?

Nicely formulated by Ilan Madjar as a comment to my first post:

Ilan makes a good point about simplifying the ideas to the masses to make it work. The majority of companies probably do not have the bandwidth to invest and understand the future benefits of a digital thread or digital twins.

This does not mean that these topics should not be studied. If your business is in a small, simple eco-system and wants to work in a connected mode, you can choose a vendor and a few custom interfaces.

However, suppose you work in a global industry with an extensive network of partners, suppliers, and customers.

In that case, you cannot rely on ad-hoc interfaces or a single vendor. You need to invest in standards; you need to study common best practices to drive methodology, standards, and vendors to align.

This process of standardization is so crucial if you want to have a sustainable, connected enterprise. In the end, the push from these companies will lead to standards, allowing the smaller companies to ad-here or connect to.

The future is about Connected through Standards, as discussed in part 1 and further in this post. Let’s go!

Global Collaboration – Defining a baseline for data exchange processes and standards

Katheryn Bell (Pratt & Whitney Canada) presented the progress of the A&D Global Collaboration workgroup. As you can see from the project timeline, they have reached the phase to look towards the future.

Katheryn mentioned the need to standardize terminology as the first point of attention. I am fully aligned with that point; without a standardized terminology framework, people will have a misunderstanding in communication.

This happens even more in the smaller businesses that just pick sometimes (buzz) terms without a full understanding.

Several years ago, I talked with a PLM-implementer telling me that their implementation focus was on systems engineering. After some more explanations, it appeared they were making an attempt for configuration management in reality. Here the confusion was massive. Still, a standard, common terminology is crucial in our domain, even if it seems academic.

The group has been analyzing interoperability standards, standards for long-time archival and retrieval (LOTAR), but also has been studying the ISO 44001 standard related to Collaborative business relationship management systems

In the Q&A session, Katheryn explained that the biggest problem to solve with collaboration was the risk of working with the wrong version of data between disciplines and suppliers.

Of course, such errors can lead to huge costs if they are discovered late (or too late). As some of the big OEMs work with thousands of suppliers, you can imagine it is not an issue easily discovered in a more ad-hoc environment.

The move to a standardized Technical Data Package based on a Model-Based Definition is one of these initiatives in this domain to reduce these types of errors.

You can find the proceedings from the Global Collaboration working group here.

 

Connect, Trace, and Manage Lifecycle of Models, Simulation and Linked Data: Is That Easy?

I loved Alberto Ferrari‘s (Raytheon) presentation how he described the value of a model-based digital thread, positioning it in a targeted enterprise.

Click on the image and discover how business objectives, processes and models go together supported by a federated infrastructure.

Alberto’s presentation was a kind of mind map from how I imagine the future, and it is a pity if you have not had the chance to see his session.

Alberto also focused on the importance of various simulation capabilities combined with simulation lifecycle management. For Alberto, they are essential to implement digital twins. Besides focusing on standards, Alberto pleas for a semantic integration, open service architecture with the importance of DevSecOps.

Enough food for thought; as Alberto mentioned, he presented the corporate vision, not the current state.

More A&D Action Groups

There were two more interesting specialized sessions where teams from the A&D action groups provided a status update.

Brandon Sapp (Boeing) and Ian Parent (Pratt & Whitney) shared the activities and progress on Minimum Model-Based Definition (MBD) for Type Design Certification.

As Brandon mentioned, MBD is already a widely used capability; however, MBD is still maturing and evolving.  I believe that is also one of the reasons why MBD is not yet accepted in mainstream PLM. Smaller organizations will wait; however, can your company afford to wait?

More information about their progress can be found here.

Mark Williams (Boeing) reported from the A&D Model-Based Systems Engineering action group their first findings related to MBSE Data Interoperability, focusing on an Architecture Model Exchange Solution.  A topic interesting to follow as the promise of MBSE is that it is about connected information shared in models. As Mark explained, data exchange standards for requirements and behavior models are mature, readily available in the tools, and easily adopted. Exchanging architecture models has proven to be very difficult. I will not dive into more details, respecting the audience of this blog.

For those interested in their progress, more information can be found here

Model-Based Engineering @ Boeing

In this conference, the participation of Boeing was significant through the various action groups. As the cherry on the cake, there was Jeff Plant‘s session, giving an overview of what is happening at Boeing. Jeff is Boeing’s director of engineering practices, processes, and tools.

In his introduction, Jeff mentioned that Boeing has more than 160.000 employees in over 65 countries. They are working with more than 12.000 suppliers globally. These suppliers can be manufacturing, service or technology partnerships. Therefore you can imagine, and as discussed by others during the conference, streamlined collaboration and traceability are crucial.

The now-famous MBE Diamond symbol illustrates the model-based information flows in the virtual world and the physical world based on the systems engineering approach. Like Katheryn Bell did in her session related to Global Collaboration, Jeff started explaining the importance of a common language and taxonomy needed if you want to standardize processes.

Zoom in on the Boeing MBE Taxonomy, you will discover the clarity it brings for the company.

I was not aware of the ISO 23247 standard concerning the Digital Twin framework for manufacturing, aiming to apply industry standards to the model-based definition of products and process planning. A standard certainly to follow as it brings standardization on top of existing standards.

As Jeff noted: A practical standard for implementation in a company of any size. In my opinion, mandatory for a sustainable, connected infrastructure.

Jeff presented the slide below, showing their standardization internally around federated platforms.

This slide resembles a lot the future platform vision I have been sharing since 2017 when discussing PLM’s future at PLM conferences, when explaining the differences between Coordinated and Connected – see also my presentation here on Slideshare.

You can zoom in on the picture to see the similarities. For me, the differences were interesting to observe. In Jeff’s diagram, the product lifecycle at the top indicates the platform of (central) interest during each lifecycle stage, suggesting a linear process again.

In reality, the flow of information through feedback loops will be there too.

The second exciting detail is that these federated architectures should be based on strong interoperability standards. Jeff is urging other companies, academics and vendors to invest and come to industry standards for Model-Based System Engineering practices.  The time is now to act on this domain.

It reminded me again of Marc Halpern’s message mentioned in my previous post (part 1) that we should be worried about vendor alliances offering an integrated end-to-end data flow based on their solutions. This would lead to an immense vendor-lock in if these interfaces are not based on strong industry standards.

Therefore, don’t watch from the sideline; it is the voice (and effort) of the companies that can drive standards.

Finally, during the Q&A part, Jeff made an interesting point explaining Boeing is making a serious investment, as you can see from their participation in all the action groups. They have made the long-term business case.

The team is confident that the business case for such an investment is firm and stable, however in such long-term investment without direct results, these projects might come under pressure when the business is under pressure.

The virtual fireside chat

The conference ended with a virtual fireside chat from which I picked up an interesting point that Marc Halpern was bringing in. Marc mentioned a survey Gartner has done with companies in fast-moving industries related to the benefits of PLM. Companies reported improvements in accuracy and product development. They did not see so much a reduced time to market or cost reduction. After analysis, Gartner believes the real issue is related to collaboration processes and supply chain practices. Here lead times did not change, nor the number of changes.

Marc believes that this topic will be really showing benefits in the future with cloud and connected suppliers. This reminded me of an article published by McKinsey called The case for digital reinvention. In this article, the authors indicated that only 2 % of the companies interview were investing in a digital supply chain. At the same time, the expected benefits in this area would have the most significant ROI.

The good news, there is consistency, and we know where to focus for early results.

Conclusion

It was a great conference as here we could see digital transformation in action (groups). Where vendor solutions often provide a sneaky preview of the future, we saw people working on creating the right foundations based on standards. My appreciation goes to all the active members in the CIMdata A&D action groups as they provide the groundwork for all of us – sooner or later.

On March 22 this year, I wrote Time to Think (and act differently) in de middle of a changing world. We were entering a lockdown in the Netherlands due to the COVID-19 virus. As it was such a disruptive change, it was an opportunity to adapt their current ways of working.

The reason for that post was my experience when discussing PLM-initiatives with companies. Often they have no time to sit down, discuss and plan their PLM targets as needed. Crucial people are too busy, leading to an implementation of a system that, in the best case, creates (some) benefits.

The well-known cartoon says it all. We are often too busy doing business as usual, making us feel comfortable. Only when it is too late, people are forced to act.  As the second COVID-19 wave seems to start in the Netherlands, I want to look back on what has happened so far in my eco-system.

Virtual Conferences

As people could not travel anymore, traditional PLM-conferences could not be organized anymore. What was going to be the new future for conferences? TECHNIA, apparently clairvoyant, organized their virtual PLM Innovation Forum as one of the first, end of April.

A more sustainable type of PLM-conference was already a part of their plans, given the carbon footprint a traditional conference induces.  The virtual conference showed that being prepared for a virtual conference pays off during a pandemic with over 1000 participants.

Being first does not always mean being the best,  as we have to learn. While preparing my session for the conference, I felt the same excitement as for a traditional conference. You can read about my initial experience here: The weekend after the PLM Innovation Forum.

Some weeks later, having attended some other virtual conferences, I realized that some points should be addressed/solved:

  • Video conferencing is a must – without seeing people talking, it becomes a podcast.
  • Do not plan long conference days. It is hard to sit behind a screen for a full day. A condensed program makes it easier to attend.
  • Virtual conferences mean that they can be attended live from almost all around the globe. Therefore, finding the right timeslots is crucial for the audience – combined with the previous point – shorter programs.
  • Playing prerecorded sessions without a Q&A session should be avoided. It does not add value.
  • A conference is about networking and discussion – I have not seen a solution for this yet. Fifty percent of the conference value for me comes from face-to-face discussions and coffee meetings. A virtual conference needs to have private chat opportunities between attendees.

In the last quarter of this year, I will present at several merely local conferences, sometimes a mix between “live” with a limited number of attendees, if it will be allowed.

And then there is the upcoming PLM Road Map & PDT Fall 2020 (virtual) conference on 17-18-19 November.

This conference has always been my favorite conference thanks to its continued focus on sharing experiences, most of the time, based on industry standards. We discuss topics and learn from each other. See my previous posts: The weekend after 2019 Day 1, 2019 Day 2, 2018 Day 1, 2018 Day2, 2017 Day 1, 2017 Day 2, etc.

The theme Digital Thread—the PLM Professionals’ Path to Delivering Innovation, Efficiency, and Quality has nothing to do with marketing. You can have a look at the full schedule here. Although there is a lot of buzz around Digital Thread, presenters discuss the reality and their plans

Later in this post, see the paragraph Digital Thread is not a BOM, I will elaborate on this theme.

Getting tired?

I discovered I am getting tired as I am missing face-to-face interaction with people. Working from home, having video calls, is probably a very sustainable way of working.  However, non-planned social interaction, meeting each other at the coffee machine, or during the breaks at a conference or workshop, is also crucial for informal interaction.

Apparently, several others in my eco-system are struggling too. I noticed a tsunami of webinars and blog posts where many of them were an attempt to be noticed. Probably the same reason: traditionally businesses have stalled. And it is all about Digital Transformation and SaaS at this moment. Meaningless if there is no interaction.

In this context, I liked Jan Bosch’s statement in his article: Does data-driven decision-making make you boring? An article not directly addressing the PLM-market; however, there is a lot of overlap related to people’s reluctance to imagine a different future.

My favorite quote:

 I still meet people that continue to express beliefs about the world, their industry, their customers or their own performance that simply aren’t true. Although some, like Steve Jobs, were known for their “reality distortion field,” for virtually all of us, just wishing for something to be true doesn’t make it so. As William Edwards Deming famously said: in God we trust; all others must bring data.

I fully concur with this statement and always get suspicious when someone claims the truth.

Still, there are some diamonds.

I enjoyed all episodes from Minerva PLM TV – Jennifer Moore started these series in the early COVID19-days (coincidence?). She was able to have a collection of interviews with known and less-known people in the PLM-domain. As most of them were vendor-independent, these episodes are a great resource to get educated.

The last episode with Angela Ippisch illustrates how often PLM in companies depends on a few enthusiastic persons, who have the energy to educate themselves. Angela mentions there is a lot of information on the internet; the challenge is to separate the useful information from marketing.

I have been publishing the past five months a series of posts under the joint theme learning from the past to understand the future. In these posts, I explained the evolution from PDM to PLM, resulting in the current item-centric approach with an EBOM, MBOM, and SBOM.

On purpose, one post per every two weeks – to avoid information overflow. Looking back, it took more posts than expected, and they are an illustration of the many different angles there are in the PLM domain – not a single truth.

Digital Thread is not a BOM

I want to address this point because I realized that in the whole blogging world there appear to be two worlds when discussing PLM terminology. Oleg Shilovitsky, CEO@OpenBOM, claims that Digital Thread and Digital Twin topics are just fancy marketing terms. I was even more surprised to read his post: 3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Using The Word “Model” In PLM. Read the comments and discussion in these posts (if LinkedIn allows you to navigate)

Oleg’s posts have for me most of the time, always something to discuss. I would be happier if other people with different backgrounds would participate in these discussions too – A “Like” is not a discussion. The risk in a virtual world is that it becomes a person-to-person debate, and we have seen the damage such debates can do for an entire community.

In the discussion we had related to Digital Thread and BOM, I realized that when we talk about traditional products, the BOM and the Digital Thread might be the same. This is how we historically released products to the market. Once produced, there were no more changes. In these situations, you could state a PLM-backbone based on BOM-structures/views, the EBOM, MBOM, and SBOM provide a Digital Thread.

The different interpretation comes when talking about products that contain software defining its behavior. Like a computer, the operating system can be updated on the fly; meanwhile, the mechanical system remains the same. To specify and certify the behavior of the computer, we cannot rely on the BOM anymore.

Having software in the BOM and revise the BOM every time there is a software change is a mission impossible. A mistake suggested ten years ago when we started to realize the different release cycles of hardware and software. Still, it is all about the traceability of all information related to a product along its whole lifecycle.

In a connected environment, we need to manage relationships between the BOM and relations to other artifacts. Managing these relations in a connected environment is what I would call the Digital Thread – a layer above PLM. While writing this post, I saw Matthias Ahrens’ post stating the same (click on the image to see the post)

When we discuss managing all the relations, we touch the domain of Configuration Management.  Martijn Dullaart/Martin Haket’s picture shares the same mindset – here, CM is the overlapping layer.

However, in their diagram, it is not a system picture; the different systems do not need to be connected. Configuration Management is the discipline that maintains the correct definition of every product – CM maintains the Thread. When it becomes connected, it is a Digital Thread.

As I have reached my 1500 words, I will not zoom in on the PLM and Model discussion – build your opinion yourself. We have to realize that the word Model always requires a context. Perhaps many of us coming from the traditional PDM/PLM world (managing CAD data) think about CAD models. As I studied physics before even touching CAD, I grew up with a different connotation

Lars Taxén’s comment in this discussion perhaps says it all (click on the image to read it). If you want to learn and discuss more about the Digital Thread and Models, register for the PLM Roadmap & PDT2020 event as many of the sessions are in this context (and not about 3D CAD).

Conclusion

I noticed I am getting tired of all the information streams crying for my attention and look forward to real social discussions, not broadcasted. Time to think differently requires such discussion, and feel free to contact me if you want to reflect on your thoughts. My next action will be a new series named Painting the future to stay motivated. (As we understand the past).

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