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During my holiday I have read some interesting books. Some for the beauty of imagination and some to enrich my understanding of the human brain.

Why the human brain? It is the foundation and motto of my company: The Know-How to Know Now.
In 2012 I wrote a post: Our brain blocks PLM acceptance followed by a post in 2014  PLM is doomed, unless …… both based on observations and inspired by the following books (must read if you are interested in more than just PLM practices and technology):

In 2014, Digital Transformation was not so clear. We talked about disruptors, but disruption happened outside our PLM comfort zone.

Now six years later disruption or significant change in the way we develop and deliver solutions to the market has become visible in the majority of companies. To stay competitive or meaningful in a global market with changing customer demands, old ways of working no longer bring enough revenue to sustain.  The impact of software as part of the solution has significantly changed the complexity and lifecycle(s) of solutions on the market.

Most of my earlier posts in the past two years are related to these challenges.

What is blocking Model-Based Definition?

This week I had a meeting in the Netherlands with three Dutch peers all interested and involved in Model-Based Definition – either from the coaching point of view or the “victim” point of view.  We compared MBD-challenges with Joe Brouwer’s AID (Associated Information Documents) approach and found a lot of commonalities.

No matter which method you use it is about specifying unambiguously how a product should be manufactured – this is a skill and craftsmanship and not a technology. We agreed that a model-based approach where information (PMI) is stored as intelligent data elements in a Technical Data Package (TPD) will be crucial for multidisciplinary usage of a 3D Model and its associated information.

If we would store the information again as dumb text in a view, it will need human rework leading to potential parallel information out of sync, therefore creating communication and quality issues. Unfortunate as it was a short meeting, the intention is to follow-up this discussion in the Netherlands to a broader audience. I believe this is what everyone interested in learning and understanding the needs and benefits of a model-based approach (unavoidable) should do. Get connected around the table and share/discuss.

We realized that human beings indeed are often the blocking reason why new ways of working cannot be introduced. Twenty-five years ago we had the discussion moving from 2D to 3D for design. Now due to the maturity of the solutions and the education of new engineers this is no longer an issue. Now we are in the next wave using the 3D Model as the base for manufacturing definition, and again a new mindset is needed.

There are a few challenges here:

  • MBD is still in progress – standards like AP242 still needs enhancements
  • There is a lack of visibility on real reference stories to motivate others.
    (Vendor-driven stories often are too good to be true or too narrow in scope)
  • There is no education for (modern) business processes related to product development and manufacturing. Engineers with new skills are dropped in organizations with traditional processes and silo thinking.

Educate, or our brain will block the future!

The above points need to be addressed, and here the human brain comes again into the picture.  Our unconscious, reptile brain is continuously busy to spend a least amount of energy as described in Thinking, Fast and Slow. Currently, I am reading the Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To by Dean Burnett, another book confirming that our brain is not a logical engine making wise decisions

And then there is the Dunning-Kruger effect, explaining that the people with the lowest skills often have the most outspoken opinion and not even aware of this flaw. We see this phenomenon in particular now in social media where people push their opinion as if they are facts.

So how can we learn new model-based approaches and here I mean all the model-based aspects I have discussed recently, i.e., Model-Based Systems Engineering, Model-Based Definition/ Model-Based Enterprise and the Digital Twin? We cannot learn it from a book, as we are entering a new era.

First, you might want to understand there is a need for new ways of working related to complex products. If you have time, listen to Xin Guo Zhang’s opening keynote with the title: Co-Evolution of Complex Aeronautical Systems & Complex SE. It takes 30 minutes so force yourself to think slow and comprehend the message related to the needed paradigm shift for systems engineering towards model-based systems engineering

Also, we have to believe that model-based is the future. If not, we will find for every issue on our path a reason not to work toward the ultimate goal.

You can see this in the comments of my earlier post on LinkedIn, where Sami Grönstrand writes:

I warmly welcome the initiative to “clean up” these concepts  (It is time to clean up our model-based problem and above all, await to see live examples of transformations — even partial — coupled with reasonable business value identification. 

There are two kinds of amazing places: those you have first to see before you can believe they exist.
And then those kinds that you have to believe in first before you can see them…

And here I think we need to simplify en enhance the Model-Based myth as according to Yuval Harari in his book Sapiens, the power of the human race came from creating myths to align people to have long-term, forward-looking changes accepted by our reptile brain. We are designed to believe in myths. Therefore, the need for a Model-based myth.In my post PLM as a myth? from 2017, I discussed this topic in more detail.

Conclusion

There are so many proof points that our human brain is not as reliable as we think it is.  Knowing less about these effects makes it even harder to make progress towards a digital future. This post with all its embedded links can keep your brain active for a few hours. Try it, avoid to think fast and avoid assuming you know it all. Your thoughts?

 

Learning & Discussing more?
Still time to register for CIMdata PLM Roadmap and PDT Europe

 

 

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IntNumberSome weeks ago I wrote a post about non-intelligent part numbers (here) and this was (as expected) one of the topics that fired up other people to react. Thanks to Oleg Shilovitsky (here), Ed Lopategui (here), David Taber (here)  for your contribution to this debate. For me, the interesting conclusion was that nobody denies the advantage of non-intelligent part number anymore. Five to ten years ago this discussion would be more a debate between defenders of the old “intelligent” methodology and non-intelligent numbers. Now it was more about how to deal/wait/anticipate for the future. Great progress !!

 

Non-intelligent part number benefits

Again a short summary for those who have not read the posts referenced in the introduction. Non-intelligent part numbers provide the following advantages:

  • Flexibility towards the future in case of mergers, new products, and technologies of number ranges not foreseen. Reduced risk of changes and maintenance for part numbers in the future.
  • Reduced support for “brain related connectivity” between systems (error prone) and better support for automated connectivity (interfaces / digital scanning devices). Minimizing mistakes and learning time.

 

What’s next?

So when a company decides to move forward towards non-intelligent part numbers, there are still some more actions to take. As the part number becomes irrelevant for human beings, there is the need for more human-readable properties provided as metadata on screens or attributes in a report.

CLASSIFICATION: The first obvious need is to apply a part classification to your parts. Intelligent part numbers somehow were often a kind of classification based on the codes and position of numbers and characters inside the intelligent ID. The intelligent part number containing information about the type of part, perhaps the drawing format, the project or the year it was issued the first time. You do not want to lose this information and therefore, make sure it is captured in attributes (e.g. part type / creation date) or in related information (e.g. drawing properties, model properties, customer, project). In a modern PLM system, all the intelligence of a part number needs to be at least stored as metadata and relations.

classificationWhich classification to use is hard to tell. It depends on your industry and the product you are making. Each industry has it standards which are probably the optimized target when you work in that industry. Classifications like UNSPC might be too generic. Although when you classify, do not invent a new classification yourself. People have spent thousands of hours (millions perhaps) on building the best classification for your industry – don’t be smarter unless you are a clever startup.

And next, do not rely on a single classification. Make sure your parts can adhere to multiple classifications as this is the best way to stay flexible for the future. Multiple classifications can offer support for a marketing view, a technology view (design and IP usage), a manufacturing view and so on.

Legacy parts should be classified by using analytic tools and custom data manipulations to complete the part metadata in the future environment. There are standard tools in the market to support data discovery and quality improvement. Part similarity discovery done by Exalead’s One Part and for more specific tools read Dick Bourke’s article on Engineering.com.

DOWNSTREAM USAGE: As Mathias Högberg commented on my post, the challenge of non-intelligent part numbers has its impact downstream on the shop floor. Production line scheduling for variants or production process steps for half-fabricates often depends on the intelligence of the part number. When moving to non-intelligent numbers, these capabilities have to be addressed too, either by additional attributes, immediately identifying product families or by adding a more standardized description based on the initial attributes of the classification. Also David Taber in his post talked about two identifiers, one meaningless and fixed and a second used for the outside world, which could be build by a concatenation of attributes and can change during the part lifecycle.

VIRTUALIn the latter case, you might say, we remove intelligence from the part number and we bring intelligence back in the description. This is correct. Still human beings are better in mapping a description in their mind than a number.

Do you know Jos Voskuil (a.k.a. virtualdutchman) or
Do you know NL 13.012.789 / 56 ?

 

Quality of data

Moving from “intelligent” part numbers towards meaningless part numbers enriched with classification and a standardized description, allow companies to gain significant benefits for just part reuse. This is what current enterprises are targeting. Discovering and eliminating similar parts already justifies this process. I consider this as a tactical advantage. The real strategic advantage will come in the next ten years when we will go more and more to a digital enterprise. In a digital enterprise, algorithms will play a significant role (see Gartner) amount of human interpretation and delays. However, algorithms only work on data with certain properties and a reliable quality.

Conclusion

Introducing non-intelligent part numbers has it benefits and ROI to stay flexible for the future. However consider it also as a strategic step for the long-term future when information needs to flow in an integrated way through the enterprise with a minimum of human handling.

 

thinkHappy New Year to all of you and I am wishing you all an understandable and digital future. This year I hope to entertain you again with a mix of future trends related to PLM combined with old PLM basics. This time, one of the topics that are popping up in almost every PLM implementation – numbering schemes – do we use numbers with a meaning, so-called intelligent numbers or can we work with insignificant numbers? And of course, the question what is the impact of changing from meaningful numbers towards unique meaningless numbers.

Why did we create “intelligent” numbers?

IntNumberIntelligent part numbers were used to help engineers and people on the shop floor for two different reasons. As in the early days, the majority of design work was based on mechanical design. Often companies had a one-to-one relation between the part and the drawing. This implied that the part number was identical to the drawing number. An intelligent part number could have the following format: A4-95-BE33K3-007.A

Of course, I invented this part number as the format of an intelligent part number is only known to local experts. In my case, I was thinking about a part that was created in 1995, drawn on A4. Probably a bearing of the 33K3 standard (another intelligent code) and its index is 007 (checked in a numbering book). The version of the drawing (part) is A

A person, who is working in production, assembling the product and reading the BOM, immediately knows which part to use by its number and drawing. Of course the word “immediately” is only valid for people who have experience with using this part. And this was in the previous century not so painful as it is now. Products were not so sophisticated as they are now and variation in products was limited.

Later, when information became digital, intelligent numbers were also used by engineering to classify their parts. The classification digits would assist the engineer to find similar parts in a drawing directory or drawing list.

And if the world had not changed, there would be still intelligent part numbers.

Why no more intelligent part numbers?

There are several reasons why you would not use intelligent part numbers anymore.

  1. PerfectWorldAn intelligent number scheme works in a perfect world where nothing is changing. In real life companies merge with other companies and then the question comes up: Do we introduce a new numbering scheme or is one of the schemes going to be the perfect scheme for the future?If this happened a few times, a company might think: Do we have to through this again and again? As probably topic #2 has also occurred.
  2. The numbering scheme does not support current products and complexity anymore. Products change from mechanical towards systems, containing electronic components and embedded software. The original numbering system has never catered for that. Is there an overreaching numbering standard? It is getting complicated, perhaps we can change ? And here #3 comes in.
  3. BarCodeAs we are now able to store information in a digital manner, we are able to link to this complex part number a few descriptive attributes that help us to identify the component. Here the number is becoming less important, still serving as access to the unique metadata. Consider it as a bar code on a product. Nobody reads the bar code without a device anymore and the device connected to an information system will provide the right information. This brings us to the last point #4.
  4. In a digital enterprise, where data is flowing between systems, we need unique identifiers to connect datasets between systems. The most obvious example is the part master data. Related to a unique ID you will find in the PDM or PLM system the attributes relevant for overall identification (Description, Revision, Status, Classification) and further attributes relevant for engineering (weight, material, volume, dimensions).
    In the ERP system, you will find a dataset with the same ID and master attributes. However here they are extended with attributes related to logistics and finance. The unique identifier provides the guarantee that data is connected in the correct manner and that information can flow or connected between systems without human interpretation or human-spent processing time.

GartnerWorkforceAnd this is one of the big benefits of a digital enterprise, reducing overhead in data handling, often reducing the cost of data handling with 50 % or more (people / customizations)

 

What to do now in your company?

There is no business justification just to start renumbering parts just for future purposes. You need a business reason. Otherwise, it will only increase costs and create a potential for migration errors. Moving to meaningless part numbers can be the best done at the moment a change is required. For example, when you implement a new PLM system or when your company merges with another company. At these moments, part numbering should be considered with the future in mind.

augmentedAnd the future is no longer about memorizing part classifications and numbers, even if you are from the generation that used to structure and manage everything inside your brain. Future businesses rely on digitally connected information, where a person based on machine interpretation of a unique ID will get the relevant and meaningful data. Augmented reality  (picture above) is becoming more and more available. It is now about human beings that need to get ready for a modern future.

 

Conclusion

Intelligent part numbers are a best practice from the previous century. Start to think digital and connected and try to reduce the dependency of understanding the part number in all your business activities. Move towards providing the relevant data for a user. This can be an evolution smoothening a future PLM implementation step.

 

clip_image002Looking forward to discussing this topic and many other PLM related practices with you face to face during the Product Innovation conference in Munich. I will talk about the PLM identity change and lead a focus group session about PLM and ERP integration. Looking from the high-level and working in the real world. The challenge of every PLM implementation.

NoChangeHuman beings are a strange kind of creatures. We think we make a decision based on logic, and we think we act based on logic. In reality, however, we do not like to change, if it does not feel good, and we are lazy in changing our habits.

Disclaimer: It is a generalization which is valid for 99 % of the population. So if you feel offended by the previous statement, be happy as you are one of the happy few.

Our inability to change can be seen in the economy (only the happy few share). We see it in relation to global climate change. We see it in territorial fights all around the world.

Owning instead of sharing.  ?

The cartoon below gives an interesting insight how personal interests are perceived more important than general interest.

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It is our brain !

More and more I realize that the success of PLM is also related to his human behavior; we like to own and find it difficult to share. PLM primarily is about sharing data through all stages of the lifecycle. A valid point why sharing is rare , is that current PLM systems and their infrastructures are still too complex to deliver shared information with ease. However, the potential benefits are clear when a company is able to transform its business into a sharing model and therefore react and anticipate much faster on the outside world.

But sharing is not in our genes, as:

  • In current business knowledge is power. Companies fight for their IP; individuals fight for their job security by keeping some specific IP to themselves.
  • As a biological organism, composed of a collection of cells, we are focused on survival of our genes. Own body/family first is our biological message.

Breaking these habits is difficult, and I will give some examples that I noticed the past few weeks. Of course, it is not completely a surprise for readers of my blog, as a large number of my recent posts are related to the complexity of change. Some are related to human behavior:

August 2012: Our brain blocks PLM acceptance
April 2014: PLM and Blockers

Ed Lopategui, an interesting PLM blogger, see http://eng-eng.com, wrote a long comment to my PLM and Blockers post. The (long) quote below is exactly describing what makes PLM difficult to implement within a company full of blockers :

“I also know that I was focused on doing the right thing – even if cost me my position; and there were many blockers who plotted exactly that. I wore that determination as a sort of self-imposed diplomatic immunity and would use it to protect my team and concentrate any wrath on just myself. My partner in that venture, the chief IT architect admitted on several occasions that we wouldn’t have been successful if I had actually cared what happened to my position – since I had to throw myself and the project in front of so many trains. I owe him for believing in me.

But there was a balance. I could not allow myself to reach a point of arrogance; I would reserve enough empathy for the blockers to listen at just the right moments, and win them over. I spent more time in the trenches than most would reasonably allow. It was a ridiculously hard thing and was not without an intellectual and emotional cost.

In that crucible, I realized that finding people with such perspective (putting the ideal above their own position) within each corporation is *exceptionally* rare. People naturally don’t like to jump in front of trains. It can be career-limiting. That’s kind of a problem, don’t you think? It’s a limiting factor without a doubt, and not one that can be fulfilled with consultants alone. You often need someone with internal street cred and long-earned reputation to push through the tough parts”

Ed concludes that it is exceptionally rare to find people putting the ideal above their own position. Again referring to the opening statement that only a (happy) few are advocates for change

Now let´s look at some facts why it is exceptionally rare, so we feel less guilty.

On Intelligence

clip_image003Last month I read the book On Intelligence from Jeff Hawkins well written by Sandra Blakeslee. (Thanks Joost Schut from KE-Works for pointing me to this book).

Although it was not the easiest book to read during a holiday, it was well written considering the complexity of the topic discussed. Jeff describes how the information architecture of the brain could work based on the neocortex layering.

In his model, he describes how the brain processes information from our senses, first in a specific manner but then more and more in an invariant approach. You have to read the book to get the full meaning of this model. The eye opener for me was that Jeff described the brain as a prediction engine. All the time the brain anticipates what is going to happen, based on years of learning. That’s why we need to learn and practice building and enrich this information model.

And the more and more specialized you are on a particular topic, it can be knowledge but it can also be motoric skill, the deeper in the neocortex this pattern is anchored. This makes is hard to change (bad) practices.

The book goes much further, and I was reading it more in the context of how artificial intelligence or brain-like intelligence could support the boring PLM activities. I got nice insights from it, However the main side observation was; it is hard to change our patterns. So if you are not aware of it, your subconscious will always find reasons to reject a change. Follow the predictions !

Thinking Fast and Slow

clip_image005And this is exactly the connection with another book I have read before: Thinking Fast and Slow from Daniel Kahneman. Daniel explains that our brain is running its activities on two systems:

System 1: makes fast and automatic decisions based on stereotypes and emotions. System 1 is what we are using most of the time, running often in subconscious mode. It does not cost us much energy to run in this mode.

System 2: takes more energy and time; therefore, it is slow and pushes us to be conscious and alert. Still system 2 can be influenced by various external, subconscious factors.

Thinking Fast and Slow nicely complements On Intelligence, where system 1 described by Daniel Kahneman is similar to the system Jeff Hawkins describes as the prediction engine. It runs in an subconscious mode, with optimal energy consumption allowing us to survive most of the time.

Fast thinking leads to boiling frogs

clip_image007And this links again to the boiling frog syndrome. If you are not familiar with the term follow the link. In general it means that people (and businesses) are not reacting on (life threating) outside change when it goes slowly, but would react immediately if they are confronted with the end result. (no more business / no more competitive situation)

Conclusion: our brain by default wants to keep business in predictive mode, so implementing a business change is challenging, as all changes are painful and against our subconscious system.

So PLM is doomed, unless we change our brain behavior ?

The fact that we are not living in caves anymore illustrates that there have been always those happy few that took a risk and a next step into the future by questioning and changing comfortable habits. Daniel Kahneman´s system 2 and also Jeff Hawkins talk about the energy it takes to change habits, to learn new predictive mechanisms. But it can be done.

I see two major trends that will force the classical PLM to change:

  • The amount of connected data becomes so huge, it does not make sense anymore to store it and structure the information in a single system. The time required to structure data does not deliver enough ROI in a fast moving society. The old “single system that stores all”-concept is dying.
  • The newer generations (generation Y and beyond) grew up with the notion that it is impossible to learn, capture and own specific information. They developed different skills to interpret data available from various sources, not necessary own and manage it all.

These two trends lead to the point where it becomes clear that the future in system thinking becomes obsolete. It will be about connectivity and interpretation of connected data, used by apps, running on a platform. The openness of the platform towards other platform is crucial and will be the weakest link.

Conclusion:

The PLM vision is not doomed and with a new generations of knowledge workers the “brain change” has started. The challenge is to implement the vision across systems and silos in an organization. For that we need to be aware that it can be done and allocate the “happy few” in your company to enable it.

 

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What do you think  ???????????????????????????

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