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In my previous posts dedicated to PLM education, I shared my PLM bookshelf, spoke with Peter Bilello from CIMdata about their education program and talked with Helena Gutierrez from SharePLM about their education mission.

In that last post, I promised this post will be dedicated to PLM education before s**t hits the fan. This statement came from my conversation with John Stark when we discussed where proper PLM education starts (before it hits the fan).

John is a well-known author of many books. You might have read my post about his book: Products2019: A project to map and blueprint the flow and management of products across the product lifecycle: Ideation; Definition; Realisation; Support of Use; Retirement and Recycling. A book with a very long title reflecting the complexity of a PLM environment.

John is also a long-time PLM consultant known in the early PLM community for his 2PLM e-zine. The 2PLM e-zine was an information letter he published between 1998 and 2017 before blogging and social interaction, updating everyone in the PLM community with the latest news. You probably were subscribed to this e-zine if you are my age.

So, let’s learn something more from John Stark

John Stark

John, first of all, thanks for this conversation. We have known each other for a long time. First of all, can you briefly introduce yourself and explain where your passion for PLM comes from?

The starting point for my PLM journey was that I was involved in developing a CAD system. But by the 1990s, I had moved on to being a consultant. I worked with companies in different industry sectors, with very different products.

I worked on application and business process issues at different product lifecycle stages – Ideation; Definition; Realization; Support of Use; Retirement and Recycling.

However, there was no name for the field I was working in at that time. So, I decided to call it Product Lifecycle Management and came up with the following definition:
‘PLM is the business activity of managing, in the most effective way, a company’s products all the way across their lifecycles; from the very first idea for a product, all the way through until it is retired and disposed of’.

PLM is the management system for a company’s products. It doesn’t just manage one of its products. It manages all of its parts and products and the product portfolio in an integrated way.’

I put that definition at the beginning of a book, ‘Product Lifecycle Management: Paradigm for 21st Century Product Realization’, published in 2004 and has since become the most cited book about PLM. I included my view of the five phases of the product lifecycle

and created the PLM Grid to show how everything (products, applications, product data, processes, people, etc.) fits together in PLM.

From about 2012, I started giving a blended course, The Basics of PLM, with the PLM Institute in Geneva.

As for the passion, I see PLM as important for Mankind. The planet’s 7 billion inhabitants all rely on products of various types, and the great majority would benefit from faster, easier access to better products. So PLM is a win-win for us all.

That’s interesting. I also had a nice definition picture I used in my early days. x

PI London 2011

and I had my view of the (disconnected) lifecycle.

PI Apparel London 2014

The education journey

John, as you have been active in PLM education for more than twenty years, do you feel that PLM Education and Training has changed.

PLM has only existed for about twenty years. Initially, it was so new that there was just one approach to PLM education and training, but that’s changed a lot.

Now there are specific programs for each of the different types of people interested or involved with PLM. So, for example, now there are specific courses for students, PLM application vendor personnel, PLM Managers, PLM users, PLM system integrators, and so on. Each of these groups has a different need for knowledge and skills, so they need different courses.

Another big change has been in the technologies used to support PLM Education and Training. Twenty years ago, the course was usually a deck of PowerPoint slides and an overhead projector. The students were in the same room as the instructor.

These days, courses are often online and use various educational apps to help course participants learn.

Who should be educated?

Having read several of your books, they are very structured and academic. Therefore, they will never be read by people at the C-level of an organization. Who are you targeting with your books, and why?

Initially, I wasn’t targeting anybody. I was just making my knowledge available. But as time went by, I found that my books were mainly used in further education and ongoing education courses.

So now, I focus on a readership of students in such organizations. For example, I’ve adapted some books to have 15 chapters to fit within a 15-week course.

Students make up a good readership because they want to learn to pass their exams. In addition, and it’s a worldwide market, the books are used in courses in more than twenty countries. Also, these courses are sufficiently long, maybe 150 hours, for the students to learn in-depth about PLM. That’s not possible with the type of very short PLM training courses that many companies provide for their employees.

PLM education

Looking at publicly available PLM education, what do you think we can do better to get PLM out of the framing of an engineering solution and become a point of discussion at the C-level

Even today, PLM is discussed at C-level in some companies. But in general, the answer is to provide more education about PLM. Unfortunately, that will take time, as PLM remains very low profile for most people.

For example, I’m not aware of a university with a Chair of Product Lifecycle Management. But then, PLM is only 20 years old, that’s very young.

It often takes two generations for new approaches and technologies to become widely accepted in the industry.

So another possibility would be for leading vendors of PLM applications to make the courses they offer about PLM available to a wider audience.

A career with PLM?

Educating students is a must, and like you and me, there are a lot of institutions that have specialized PLM courses. However, I also noticed a PLM expert at C-level in an organization is an exception; most of the time, people with a financial background get promoted. So, is PLM bad for your career?

No, people can have a good career in PLM, especially if they keep learning. There are many good master’s courses if they want to learn more outside the PLM area. I’ve seen people with a PLM background become a CIO or a CEO of a company with thousands of employees. And others who start their own companies, for example, PLM consulting or PLM training. And others become PLM Coaches.

PLM and Digital Transformation

A question I ask in every discussion. What is the impact of digital transformation on your area of expertise? In this case, how do you see PLM Education and Training looking in 2042, twenty years in the future?

I don’t see digital transformation really changing the concept of PLM over the next twenty years. In 2042, PLM will still be the business activity of managing a company’s products all the way across their lifecycles.

So, PLM isn’t going to disappear because of digital transformation.

On the other hand, the technologies and techniques of PLM Education and Training are likely to change – just as they have over the last twenty years. And I would expect to see some Chairs of Product Lifecycle Management in universities, with more students learning about PLM. And better PLM training courses available in companies.

I see digital transformation making it possible to have an entire connected lifecycle without a lot of overhead.

Digital Transformation – platforms working together

 Want to learn more?

My default closing question is always about giving the readers pointers to more relevant information. Maybe an overkill looking at your oeuvre as a writer. Still, the question is, where can readers from this blog learn more?

x
Three suggestions:
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What I learned

By talking with John and learning his opinion, I see the academic approach to define PLM as a more scientific definition,  creating a space for the PLM professional.

We had some Blog /LinkedIn interaction related to PLM:  Should PLM become a Profession? In the past (2017).

When I search on LinkedIn, I find 87.000 persons with the “PLM Consultant” tag. From those, I know in my direct network, I am aware there is a great variety of skills these PLM Consultants have. However, I believe it is too late to establish the PLM Professional role definition.

John’s focus is on providing students and others interested in PLM a broad fundamental knowledge to get into business. In their day-to-day jobs, these people will benefit from knowing the bigger context and understanding the complexity of PLM.

This is also illustrated in Product2019, where the focus is on the experience – company culture and politics.

Due to the diversity of PLM, we will never be able to define the PLM professional job role compared to the Configuration Manager. Two disciplines are crucial and needed for a sustainable, profitable enterprise.

Conclusion

In this post, we explored a third dimension of PLM Education, focusing on a foundational approach, targeting in particular students to get educated on all the aspects of PLM. John is not the only publisher of educational books. I have several others in my network who have described PLM in their wording and often in their language. Unfortunately, there is no central point of reference, and I believe we are too late for that due to the tremendous variety in PLM.

Next week I will talk with a Learning & Development leader from a company providing PLM consultancy – let’s learn how they enable their employees to support their customers. 

In my previous posts dedicated to PLM education, I shared my and spoke with Peter Bilello from CIMdata about their education program. This time I am talking with Helena Gutierrez, one of the founders of Share PLM.

They are a young and energetic company with a mission to make PLM implementations successful, not through technology or customization, but through education and training.

Let’s discover their mission.

Share PLM

Helena, let me start with the brilliant name you have chosen for the company: Share PLM. Sharing (information) is the fundamental concept of PLM; if you don’t aim to share from the start, you won’t be able to fix it later. Can you tell us more about Share PLM’s mission and where you fit in the PLM ecosystem? 

Jos, first of all, thank you for the invitation to your blog! That’s a great question. In my previous job, as a young PLM director at the former Outotec, nowadays Metso Outotec, I realized how much I could learn from sharing experiences with other professionals.

I thought that by bringing people together from different companies with different backgrounds, PLM professionals could learn and get prepared for some of their projects.

In the beginning, I envisioned some kind of a marketplace, where people could also sell their own resources. A resource I often missed was some kind of POC template for a new deployment, these kinds of things.

I still remember my boss’s face at that time when I told him, Sami Grönstrand, that I wanted to sell templates. [laugh]

A lot has happened since then and we have evolved into a small niche where we can offer a lot of value.

Software vendors keep their PLM systems generic. And almost every company needs to adapt their systems to their company reality: their processes, their system architecture, and their people.

The key questions are: How can I map my company’s processes and the way we work to the new system? How can I make sense of the new systems and help people understand the big picture behind the system clicks?

That’s where we come in.

Education or Training

With Peter Bilello, we discussed the difference between education and training. Where would you position Share PLM?

This is an interesting differentiation – I must say I hadn’t heard of it before, but it makes sense.

I think we are in the middle of the two: theory and practice. You see, many consulting companies focus on the “WHY”, the business needs. But they don’t touch the systems. So don’t tell them to go into Teamcenter or OpenBOM because they want to stay at a theoretical level.

Some system integrators get into the system details, but they don’t connect the clicks to the “WHY” to the big picture.

The connection between the “WHY” and the “HOW” is really important to get the context, to understand how things work.

So that’s where we are very strong. We help companies connect the “WHY” and the “HOW”. And that’s powerful.

 

The success of training

We are both promoting the importance of adequate training as part of a PLM implementation. Can you share with us a best-in-class example where training really made a difference? Can we talk about ROI in the context of training?

Jos, I think when I look at our success stories, most good examples share some of the following characteristics:
xxxx

  • All start with “WHY”, and they have a story. 

In today’s world, people want to understand the “WHY”. So in practical terms, we work with customers to prepare a storyline that helps understand the “WHY” in a practical and entertaining manner.

  • All have a clear, top-down visualization of the process and related use cases.

This is simple, but it’s a game-changer. When people see the big picture, something “clicks,” and they feel “safe” at first sight. They know there is a blueprint for how things work and how they connect.

  • All have quick, online answers to their questions. 

A digital knowledge base where people can find quick answers and educate themselves.

This is one example of a knowledge base from one of our customers, OpenBOM. As you can see from the link below, they have documented how the system should be used in their knowledge base. In addition, they have a set of online eLearning courses that users can take to get started.

  • All involve people in the training and build a “movement”.  

People want to be heard and be a part of something. Engaging people in user communities is a great way to both learn from your users, and make them a part of your program. Bringing people together and putting them at the center of your training. I think this is key to success.

 

Training for all types of companies?

Do you see a difference between large enterprises and small and medium enterprises regarding training? Where would your approach fit best?

Yes, absolutely. And I think the most important difference is speed.

A big company can afford to work on all the elements I described before at the same time because they have the “horse-power” to drive different tracks. They can involve different project managers, and they can finance the effort.

Small companies start small and build their training environment slowly. Some might do some parts by themselves and use our services to guide them through the process.

I enjoy both worlds – the big corporations have big budgets, and you can do cool stuff.

But the small startups have big brains, and they often are very passionate about what they are doing. I enjoy working with startups because they dare to try new things and they are very creative.

Where Is Share PLM Training Different?

I see all system integrators selling PLM training. In my SmarTeam days I also built some “Express” training – Where are you different?

When I started Share PLM, we participated in a startup accelerator. When I was explaining our business model, they asked me the question: “Aren’t the software vendors or the system integrators doing exactly what you do?”

And the answer, incredibly, is that system integrators are often not interested in training and documentation, and they just don’t do it well as they have no didactical background.

Sometimes it’s even the same guy configuring the system who gets the task to create the training. Those people produce boring “technical’ manuals, using thousands of PowerPoint slides with no soul – who wants to read that?

No wonder PLM training has a bad reputation!

We are laser-focused on digital training, and our training is very high quality. We are good at connecting pieces of information and making sense of complex stuff. We also are strong at aesthetics, and our training looks good. The content is nicely presented when you open our courses, and people look forward to reading it!

Digital Transformation and PLM

I always ask when talking with peers in the PLM domain: How do you see the digital transformation happening at your customers, and how can you help them?

An interesting question. I see that boundaries between systems are getting thinner. For example, some time ago, you would have a program to deploy a PLM system.

Now I see a lot of “outcome-based” programs, where you focus on the business value and use adequate systems to get there.

For example, a program to speed up product deliveries or improve quality. That type of program involves many different systems and teams. It relates to your “connected enterprise” concept.

This transformation is happening, and I think we are well-positioned to help companies make sense of the connection between different systems and how they digitize their processes.

 

Want to learn more?

Thanks, Helena, for sharing your insights. Are there any specific links you want to provide to learn more? Perhaps some books to read or conferences to visit?

Thanks so much, Jos, for allowing me to discuss this with you today. Yes, I always recommend reading blogs and books to stay up-to-date.

  • We both have good blogging and reading lists on our websites. See on our blog the post The 12 Best PLM Blogs To Follow or the recommendations on your PLM Bookshelf
  • Conferences are also great for connecting with other people. In general, I think it’s very helpful to see examples from other companies to get inspired.
  • And we have our podcast, to my knowledge the only one when you search for PLM – because the interaction is new.

I’m happy to provide some customer references for people who want to learn more about how good training looks practically. Just get in touch with me on LinkedIn or through our website.

What I learned

I know the founders from Share PLM since they were active in Outotec, eager to discuss and learn new PLM concepts. It is impressive to see how they made the next step to launch their company Share PLM and find the niche place that somehow I try to cover too in a similar manner.

When I started my blog virtualdutchman.com in 2008, I wanted to share PLM experiences and knowledge.

Read my 2008 opening post here. It was a one-way sharing – modern at that time – probably getting outdated in the coming years.

However, Helena and the SharePLM team have picked up my mission in a modern manner. They are making PLM accessible and understandable in your company, using a didactical and modern approach to training.

SharePLM perhaps does not focus on the overall business strategy for PLM yet as their focus is on the execution level with a refreshing and modern approach – focussing on the end-user, didactics and attractiveness.  I expect in ten years from now, with the experience and the professional team, they will pick up this part too, allowing me to retire.

 Conclusion

This was the second post around PLM and Education, mainly focussing on what is happening in the field. Where I see CIMdata’s focus on education on the business strategy level, I see Share PLM’s focus on the execution level, making sure the PLM implementation is fun for the end-user and therefore beneficial for the company. The next post will be again about PLM Education, this time before the s** t hits the fan. Stay tuned.

 

Regularly (young) individuals approach me looking for advice to start or boost their PLM career. One of the questions the PLM Doctor is IN quickly could answer.

Before going further on this topic, there is also the observation that many outspoken PLM experts are “old.” Meanwhile, all kinds of new disruptive technologies are comping up.

Can these old guys still follow and advise on all trends/hypes?

My consultant’s answer is: “Yes and No” or “It depends”.

The answer illustrates the typical nature of a consultant. It is almost impossible to give a binary answer; still, many of my clients are looking for binary answers. Generalizing further, you could claim: “Human beings like binary answers”, and then you understand what is happening now in the world.

The challenge for everyone in the PLM domain is to keep an open mindset and avoid becoming binary. Staying non-binary means spending time to digest what you see, what you read or what you hear. Ask yourself always the question: Is it so simple? Try to imagine how the content you read fits in the famous paradigm: People, Processes and Tools. It would help if you considered all these aspects.

Learning by reading

I was positively surprised by Helena Gutierrez’s post on LinkedIn: The 8 Best PLM blogs to follow. First of all, Helena’s endorsement, explaining the value of having non-academic PLM information available as a foundation for her learnings in PLM.

And indeed, perhaps I should have written a book about PLM. However, it would be a book about the past. Currently, PLM is not stable; we are learning every day to use new technologies and new ways of working. For example, the impact and meaning of model-based enterprise.

However, the big positive surprise came from the number of likes within a few days, showing how valuable this information is for many others on their PLM journey. I am aware there are more great blogs out in the field, sometimes with the disadvantage that they are not in English and therefore have a limited audience.

Readers of this post, look at the list of 8 PLM blogs and add your recommended blog(s) in the comments.

Learning by reading (non-binary) is a first step in becoming or staying up to date.

Learning by listening

General PLM conferences have been an excellent way to listen to other people’s experiences in the past. Depending on the type of conference, you would be able to narrow your learning scope.

This week I started my preparation for the upcoming PLM Roadmap and PDT conference. Here various speakers will provide their insight related to “disruption,” all in the context of disruptive technologies for PLM.

Good news, also people and business aspects will be part of the conference.

Click on the image for the agenda and registration

My presentation with the title: DISRUPTION – EXTINCTION or still EVOLUTION? I will address all these aspects. We have entered a decisive decade to prove we can disrupt our old habits to save the planet for future generations.

It is challenging to be interactive as a physical conference; it is mainly a conference to get inspired or guided in your thinking about new PLM technologies and potential disruption.

Learning by listening and storing the content in your brain is the second step in becoming or staying up to date.

Learning by discussing

One of the best learnings comes from having honest discussions with other people who all have different backgrounds. To be part of such a discussion, you need to have at least some basic knowledge about the topic. This avoids social media-like discussions where millions of “experts” have an opinion behind the keyboard. (The Dunning-Kruger effect)

There are two upcoming discussions I want to highlight here.

1. Book review: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

On Thursday, May 13th, I will moderate a PLM Global Green Alliance panel discussion on Zoom to discuss Bill Gates’ book: “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”. As you can imagine, Bill Gates is not known as a climate expert, more as a philanthrope and technology geek. However, the reviews are good.

What can we learn from the book as relevant for our PLM Global Green Alliance?

If you want to participate, read all the details on our PGGA website.

The PGGA core team members, Klaus Brettschneider, Lionel Grealou, Richard McFall, Ilan Madjar and Hannes Lindfred, have read the book.

 

2. The Modular Way Questions & Answers

In my post PLM and Modularity, I announced the option for readers of “The Modular Way” to ask the authors (Björn Eriksson & Daniel Strandhammar) or provide feedback on the book together with a small audience. This session is also planned to take place in May and to be scheduled based on the participants’ availability. At this moment, there are still a few open places. Therefore if you have read the book and want to participate, send an email to tacit@planet.nl or info@brickstrategy.com.

Learning by discussing is the best way to enrich your skills, particularly if you have Active Listening skills – crucial to have for a good discussion.

 

Conclusion

No matter where you are in your career, in the world of PLM, learning never stops. Twenty years of experience have no value if you haven’t seen the impact of digitalization coming. Make sure you learn by reading, by listening and by discussing.

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

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

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

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

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

Oleg Shilovitsky mentioned cleverly that this statement is a contradiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CEOs and CTOs

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

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

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

CDO, CIOs and Digital Transformation Executives

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

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

Departmental Managers

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

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

Products Managers

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

Product Developers

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

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

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

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) deployers

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

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

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

New Hires and others

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

Educators and Students

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

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

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

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

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

Consultants, Integrators and Software Company Employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

 

 

Some of you following my blog this year might not feel so connected with the content I have written many posts related to digitization and the future needs for model-driven approaches, not so much about topics that might keep you awake at this time.

When I look in my blog statistics, the most popular post is ECO/ECR for Dummies, leading with more than 30.000 views since I wrote this post in 2010. You can read the original post here: ECR/ECO for Dummies (2010)

Meanwhile, in most companies, the scope of PLM has broadened, and instead of a change process within the engineering department, it will be part of enterprise change management, connecting all options for change. Therefore, in this post, I will explain the basics of a modern enterprise change process.

It can start with an Issue

Already 10 years ago I was promoting the Issue-object in a PLM data model as this could be the starting point for many activities in the enterprise, product-related, technology-related, customer-related and more.

My definition of an Issue is that it is something happening that was not expected and requires follow-up. In our day-to-day life, we solve many issues by sending an e-mail or picking up the phone, and someone down the chain will resolve the issue (or make it disappear).

The disadvantage of this approach is that there is no collective learning for the organization. Imagine that you could see in your PLM-system how many issues there were with a project, can you learn from that and improve it for the future. Or when you notice you have had several costly issues during manufacturing, but you were never aware of them, because it happened in another country and it was solved there.

By creating issues in the PLM-system related to the object(s), it concerns (a product, a part, a customer, a manufacturing process, an installation, …..) you will create traceability and visibility based on global facts. By classifying the issues, you can run real-time reports on what is happening and what has happened unforeseen in your enterprise.

The challenge is to find a user-interface that can compete with e-mail as an entry point. So far PLM-system providers haven’t invested in highly user-friendly Issue management, leaving the email path possible. PLM Vendors – there is work to do!

Next, depending on the Issue various follow-up processes can start en some of them will be connected. See the diagram below and forgive me my graphical talent.

In this post we will focus only on the ECR and ECO path, leaving the other processes above open for next time.

The Engineering Change Request-process

The term ECR, meaning Engineering Change Request, might not be correct anymore for requested changes in an enterprise. Therefore, sometimes, you might also see the term CR only, without the reference to Engineering. For example, in the software world, you will not follow the same process as used for the hardware world, due to the different lifecycle, speed, and cost involved with software changes.  I will focus only on the ECR here.

As the picture above shows, there are two entry points for an engineering change request. Either someone in the enterprise has an issue that leads to an ECR, or someone in the enterprise has an idea to improve the products and sends it in as a request.

The next steps are quite standard for a typical ECR-process:

Analysis

In the Analysis step assigned individuals will evaluate the request. If it is well understood. Potential solution paths will be evaluated and rated. In case it is a change on a running product, what is the impact of performing this change on current products, current, and future manufacturing, finance, etc. In the analysis-phase there will be no detail design, it is more a feasibility study. In companies already having a well-structured PLM and ERP infrastructure, many of the impact analysis can be done rather fast, as for example the “Where Used” capability is a standard in every PLM-system.

CCB

The abbreviation stands for Change Control Board, a term also used in the software industry. In the case of hardware products, the CCB usually consists of engineering, manufacturing, purchasing, finance and potentially sales, based on the context of the ECR. This group of people decides what will be the next step of the ECR. They have four options:

  1. Ask for further analysis – a decision is not possible.
  2. Mandate the proposed change to be planned immediately by promoting it to an Engineering Change Order, which means the change is going to be executed as needed (Immediate for example in case of a product stop/customer issue – Longer Term when old stock needs to be consumed first)
  3. The proposed change can become a Candidate for the next product release/upgrade and put on hold to be implemented together with other candidates for a release.
  4. The ECR can also be Cancelled meaning the proposed change will potential not create business benefits for the company. Implementing the change might create more complexity as desired.

Engineering Change Order

The image above is an illustration of a possible flow for an ECO. When an ECO is launched a first analysis and planning is required. The ECO can be based on multiple ECRs, or the ECO can be depending on other ECO’s that need to be coordinated.

The ECO process is quite similar to a release process. There will be multidisciplinary collaboration (mechanical/electrical/ …) leading to a complete engineering definition (based on the EBOM). Next Manufacturing Preparation and Planning can be done, where the implementation at the manufacturing plant(s) will be depending on the ECO context.

Note: When only a change in manufacturing will be implemented, for example when certain parts/materials are not available or affordable, we do not name it an ECO but an MCO instead. MCO stands for Manufacturing Change Order and assumes the engineering specification will remain the same.

Conclusion

The ECR/ECO-process is slowly changing due to digitization and a broader implementation scope for PLM – it is no longer a mechanical engineering change process. The availability of digital connected information will offer a base for algorithms in the future, speeding up the process and reducing the effort for a CCB during the ECR-process.

Will these processes still be there in 2025?

 

 

 

7years

Two weeks ago I got this message from WordPress, reminding me that I started blogging about PLM on May 22nd in 2008. During some of my spare time during weekends, I began to read my old posts again and started to fix links that have been disappearing.

Initially when I started blogging, I wanted to educate mid-market companies about PLM. A sentence with a lot of ambiguities. How do you define the mid-market and how do you define PLM are already a good start for a boring discussion. And as I do not want to go into a discussion, here are my “definitions”

Warning: This is a long post, full of generalizations and a conclusion.

PLM and Mid-market

The mid-market companies can be characterized as having a low-level of staff for IT and strategic thinking. Mid-market companies are do-ers and most of the time they are good in their domain based on their IP and flexibility to deliver this to their customer base. I did not meet mid-market companies with a 5-year and beyond business vision. Mid-market companies buy systems. They bought an ERP system 25-30 years ago (the biggest trauma at that time). They renewed their ERP system for the Y2K problem/fear and they switched from drawing board towards a 2D CAD system. Later they bought a 3D CAD system, introducing the need for a PDM system to manage all data.

PLM is for me a vision, a business approach supported by an IT-infrastructure that allows companies to share and discover and connect product related information through the whole lifecycle. PLM enables companies to react earlier and better in the go-to-market process. Better by involving customer inputs and experience from the start in the concept and design phases. Earlier thanks to sharing and involving other disciplines/suppliers before crucial decisions are made, reducing the amount of iterations and the higher costs of late changes.

PLM_profSeven years ago I believed that a packaged solution, combined with a pre-configured environment and standard processes would be the answer for mid-market companies. The same thought currently PLM vendors have with a cloud-based solution. Take it, us it as it is and enjoy.

Here I have changed my opinion in the past seven years. Mid-market companies consider PLM as a more complex extension of PDM and still consider ERP (and what comes with that system) as the primary system in the enterprise. PLM in mid-market companies is often seen as an engineering tool.

LESSON 1 for me:
The benefits of PLM are not well-understood by the mid-market

To read more:

PLM for the mid-market – mission impossible?

PLM for the SMB – a process or culture change ?

Culture change in a mid-sized company – a management responsibility

Mid-market PLM – what did I learn in 2009 ?

Implementing PLM is a change not a tool

Mid-market deadlocks for PLM

Who decides for PLM in a mid-market company ?

More on: Who decides for PLM in a mid-market company ?

Globalization and Education

globalIn the past seven years, globalization became an important factor for all type of companies. Companies started offshoring labor intensive work to low-labor-cost countries introducing the need for sharing product data outside their local and controlled premises. Also, acquisitions by larger enterprises and by some of the dominant mid-market companies, these acquisitions introduced a new area of rethinking. Acquisitions introduced discussions about: what are real best practices for our organization? How can we remain flexible, meanwhile adapt and converge our business processes to be future ready?

Here I saw two major trends in the mid-market:

Lack of (PLM) Education

dummies_logoTo understand and implement the value of PLM, you need to have skills and understanding of more than just a vendor-specific PLM system. You need to understand the basics of change processes (Engineering Change Request, Engineering Change Order, Manufacturing Change Order and more). And you need to understand the characteristics of a CAD document structure, a (multidisciplinary) EBOM, the MBOM (generic and/or plant specific) and the related Bill of Processes. This education does not exist in many countries and people are (mis-)guided by their PLM/ERP vendor, explaining why their system is the only system that can do the job.

Interesting enough the most read posts on my blog are about the MBOM, the ETO, BTO and CTO processes. This illustrates there is a need for a proper, vendor-independent and global accepted terminology for PLM

Some educational posts:

Bill of Materials for Dummies – ETO  ranked #1

ECR/ECO for Dummies ranked #2

BOM for Dummies – CTO  ranked #4

BOM for Dummies: BOM and CAD  ranked #7

BOM for Dummies – BTO

Where does PLM start beyond document management ?

The dominance of ERP

swissAs ERP systems were introduced long before PLM (and PDM), these systems are often considered by the management of a mid-market company as the core. All the other tools should be (preferably) seen as an extension of ERP and if possible, let´s implement ERP vendor´s functionality to support PLM – the Swiss knife approach – one tool for everything. This approach is understandable as at the board level there are no PLM discussions. Companies want to keep their “Let´s do it”-spirit and not reshuffle or reorganize their company, according to modern insights of sharing. Strangely enough, you see in many businesses the initiative to standardize on a single ERP system first, instead of standardizing on a single PLM approach first. PLM can bring the global benefits of product portfolio management and IP-sharing, where ERP is much more about local execution.

LESSON 2:
PLM is not understood at the board level, still considered as a tool

Some post related to PLM and ERP

Where is the MBOM ?  ranked #3

Connecting PLM and ERP (post 1)(post 2)(post 3) ranked #8

Can ERP vendors do PLM ?

PLM and ERP – the culture change

PLM and ERP – continued

5 reasons not to implement PLM – Reason #3 We already have an ERP system

The human factor

whyworryA lot of the reasons why PLM has the challenge to become successful have to do with its broad scope. PLM has an unclear definition and most important, PLM forces people to share data and work outside their comfort zones. Nobody likes to share by default. Sharing makes day-to-day life more complicated, sharing might create visibility on what you actually contribute or fix. In many of my posts, I described these issues from various viewpoints: the human brain, the innovators dilemma, the way the older generation (my generation) is raised and used to work. Combined with the fact that many initial PLM/PDM implementations have created so many legacies, the need to change has become a risk. In the discussion and selection of PLM I have seen many times that in the end a company decides to keep the old status quo (with new tools) instead of really having the guts to move toward the future. Often this was a result of investors not understanding (and willing to see) the long term benefits of PLM.

LESSON 3:
PLM requires a long-term vision and understanding, which most of the time does not fit current executive understanding (lack of education/time to educate) and priority (shareholders)

Many recent posts are about the human factor:

The Innovator´s dilemma and PLM

Our brain blocks PLM acceptance

PLM and Blockers

The PLM paradox for 2015

PLM and Global Warming

Τα πάντα ρεί

PLM is doomed, unless ……

How to get users excited or more committed to a new PLM system?

The digital transformation

econimistThe final and most significant upcoming change is the fact that we are entering a complete new era: From linear and  predictable towards fast and iterative, meaning that classical ways we push products to the market will become obsolete. The traditional approach was based on lessons learned from mechanical products after the second world-war. Now through globalization and the importance of embedded software in our products, companies need to deliver and adapt products faster than the classical delivery process as their customers have higher expectations and a much larger range to choose from. The result from this global competitiveness is that companies will change from delivering products towards a more-and-more customer related business model (continuous upgrades/services). This requires companies to revisit their business and organization, which will be extremely difficult. Business wise and human change require new IT concepts – platform? / cloud services? / Big data?

Older enterprises, mid-market and large enterprises will be extremely challenged to make this change in the upcoming 10 years. It will be a matter of survival and I believe the Innovator´s Dilemma applies here the most.

LESSON 4:
The digital transformation is apparent as a trend for young companies and strategic consultants. This message is not yet understood at the board level of many businesses.

 

Some recent post related to this fast upcoming trend:

From a linear world to fast and circular ?

Did you notice PLM is changing?

Documents or Intelligent Data ?

The difference between files and data-oriented – a tutorial (part 1)(part 2)(part 3)

PLM is dead, long live …… ?

PLM, Soccer and game changing

PLM and/or SLM? – (part 1)(part 2)

Breaking down the silos with data

ROI (Return On Investment)

No_roiI also wrote about ROI – a difficult topic to address as in most discussions related to ROI, companies are talking about the costs of the implementation, not about the tremendous larger impact a new business approach or model can have, once enabled through PLM. Most PLM ROI discussions are related to efficiency and quality gains, which are significant and relevant. However these benefits are relative small and not comparable with the ability to change your business (model) to become more customer centric and stay in business.

Some of the ROI posts:

To PLM or Not to PLM – measuring the planning phase  ranked #5

Free PLM Software does not help companies  ranked #6

PLM: What is the target?

PLM selection–additional thoughts

PLM Selection: Proof Of Concept observations

Where is my PLM Return On Investment (ROI) ?

A PLM success story with ROI

Conclusion

A (too) long post this time however perhaps a good post to mark 7 years of blogging and use it as a reference for the topics I briefly touched here. PLM has many aspects. You can do the further reading through the links.

From the statistics it is clear that the education part scores the best – see rankings. For future post, let me know by creating a comment what you are looking for in this blog: PLM Mid-Market, Education, PLM and ERP, Business Change, ROI, Digitalization, or …??

Also I have to remain customer centric – thanks for reading and providing your feedback

nochangecartoon

Above Image courtesy of the marketoonist.com – Tom Fishburne
Image related to digital transformation: The Economist – the onrushing wave

image

Two weeks ago I attended the Nobletek PLM forum in Belgium, where a group of experts, managers and users discussed topics related to my favorite theme: “Is PLM changing? “

Dick Terleth (ADSE) lead a discussion with title “PLM and Configuration Management as a proper profession” or "How can the little man grow?". The context of the discussion was related to the topic: “How is it possible that the benefits of PLM (and Configuration Management) are not understood at C-level?” or with other words: “Why is the value for Configuration Management and PLM not obvious?”.

In my previous post, PLM is doomed unless …., I quoted Ed Lopategui (www.eng-eng.com), who commented that being a PLM champion (or a Configuration Management expert as Dick Terleth would add) is bad for your career. Dick Terleth asked the same question, showing pictures of the self-assured accountant and the Configuration Management or PLM professional. (Thanks Dick for the pictures). Which job would you prefer?

image

The PLM ROI discussion

No_roiA first attempt to understand the difference could be related to the ROI discussion, which seems to be only applicable for PLM. Apparently ERP and financial management systems are a must for companies. No ROI discussion here. Persons who can control/report the numbers seem to have the company under control. For the CEO and CFO the value of PLM is often unclear. And to make it worse, PLM vendors and implementers are fighting for their unique definition of PLM so we cannot blame companies to be confused. This makes it clear that if you haven´t invested significant time to understand PLM, it will be hard to see the big picture. And at C-level people do not invest significant time to understand the topic. It is the C-level´s education, background or work experience that make him/her decide.

So if the C-level is not educated on PLM, somebody has to sell the value to them. Oleg Shilovitsky wrote about it recently in his post Why is it hard to sell PLM ROI and another respected blogger, Joe Barkai, sees the sun come up behind the cloud, in his latest post PLM Service Providers Ready To Deliver Greater Value. If you follow the posts of independent PLM bloggers (although who is 100 % independent), you will see a common understanding that implementing PLM currently requires a business transformation as old processes were not designed for a modern infrastructure and digital capabilities.

PLM is about (changing) business processes

imageBack to the Nobletek PLM forum. Douglas Noordhoorn, the moderator of the forum challenged the audience stating that PLM has always been there (or not there – if you haven´t discovered it). It is all about managing the product development processes in a secure way. Not talking about “Best Practices” but “Good practices." Those who had a proper education in the aerospace industry learned that good processes are crucial to deliver planes that can fly and are reliable.

Of course, the aerospace industry is not the same as other industries. However, more and more other industries in my network, like Nuclear new build, the construction industry or other Engineering, Procurement and Construction companies want to learn from aerospace and automotive good practices. They realize they are losing market share due to the fact that the cost of failure combined with relative high labor costs makes them too expensive. But from where to they get their proper good practices education?

The PLM professional?

myplmAnd this was an interesting point coming up from the Nobletek forum. There is no proper, product agnostic education for PLM (anymore). If you study logistics, you will learn a lot about various processes and how they can be optimized for a certain scenario. When you study engineering, there is a lot of focus on engineering disciplines and methods. But there is no time to educate engineers in-depth to understand the whole product development process and how to control it. Sometimes I give a guest lecture to engineering classes. It is never an important part of the education.

To become a PLM professional

imageFor those who never had any education in standard engineering processes, there is Frank Watts Engineering control book, which probably would be a good base. But it is not the PLM professional only that should be aware, of the good practices. Moreover, all companies manufacturing products, plants or buildings should learn these basics. As a side step, it would make a discussion around BIM more clear. At this time, manufacturing companies are every time discovering their good practices in the hard way.

And when this education exists, companies will be aware that it is not only about the tools, but it is the way the information is flowing through the organization. Even there is a chance that somewhere at C-level someone has been educated and understands the value. For ERP everyone agrees. For PLM, it remains a labyrinth of processes designed by companies learning on the job currently. Vendors and implementers pushing what they have learned. Engineering is often considered as a hard-to-manage discipline. As a SAP country manager once said to me: “Engineers are actually resources that do not want be managed, but we will get them …..”

And then the future ……

PLM bookI support the demand for a better education in engineering processes especially for industries outside aerospace or automotive. I doubt if it will have a significant impact although it might create the visibility and understanding for PLM at C-level. No need anymore for the lone ranger who fights for PLM. Companies will have better educated people that understand the need for good practices that exist. These good practices will be the base for companies when discussing with PLM vendors and implementers. Instead of vendors and implementers pushing their vision, you can articulate, and follow your vision.

However, we need a new standard book too. We are currently in the middle of a big change. Thanks to modern technology and connectivity the world is changing. I wrote and spoke about it in: Did you notice PLM is changing?

doc2dataThis is a change of generations and concepts which have not been foreseen by Frank Watts and others. What will be the new standard for data-centric companies instead of document based control?

The digital revolution is here (Industry 4.0), and here (digital revolution), and here (the third industrial revolution).

 

This awareness needs to become visible at C-level.
Who will educate them ??

 

spain_nl

Now back to soccer – 4 years ago Spain-The Netherlands was the last match – the final. Now it is the first match for them – will the Dutch change the game ?

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