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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?

 

 

 

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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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