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The digital thread according to GE

In my earlier posts, I have explored the incompatibility between current PLM practices and future needs for digital PLM.  Digital PLM is one of the terms I am using for future concepts. Actually, in a digital enterprise, system borders become vague, it is more about connected platforms and digital services. Current PLM practices can be considered as Coordinated where the future for PLM is aiming at Connected information. See also Coordinated or Connected.

Moving from current PLM practices towards modern ways of working is a transformation for several reasons.

  • First, because the scope of current PLM implementation is most of the time focusing on engineering. Digital PLM aims to offer product information services along the product lifecycle.
  • Second, because the information in current PLM implementations is mainly stored in documents – drawings still being the leading In advanced PLM implementations BOM-structures, the EBOM and MBOM are information structures, again relying on related specification documents, either CAD- or Office files.

So let’s review the transformation challenges related to moving from current PLM to Digital PLM

Current PLM – document management

The first PLM implementations were most of the time advanced cPDM implementations, targeting sharing CAD models and drawings. Deployments started with the engineering department with the aim to centralize product design information. Integrations with mechanical CAD systems had the major priority including engineering change processes. Multidisciplinary collaboration enabled by introducing the concept of the Engineering Bill of Materials (EBOM).  Every discipline, mechanical, electrical and sometimes (embedded) software teams, linked their information to the EBOM. The product release process was driven by the EBOM. If the EBOM is released, the product is fully specified and can be manufactured.

Although people complain implementing PLM is complex, this type of implementation is relatively simple. The only added mental effort you are demanding from the PLM user is to work in a structured way and have a more controlled (rigid) way of working compared to a directory structure approach. For many people, this controlled way of working is already considered as a limitation of their freedom. However, companies are not profitable because their employees are all artists working in full freedom. They become successful if they can deliver in some efficient way products with consistent quality. In a competitive, global market there is no room anymore for inefficient ways of working as labor costs are adding to the price.

The way people work in this cPDM environment is coordinated, meaning based on business processes the various stakeholders agree to offer complete sets of information (read: documents) to contribute to the full product definition. If all contributions are consistent depends on the time and effort people spent to verify and validate its consistency. Often this is not done thoroughly and errors are only discovered during manufacturing or later in the field. Costly but accepted as it has always been the case.

Next Step PLM – coordinated document management / item-centric

When the awareness exists that data needs to flow through an organization is a consistent manner, the next step of PLM implementations come into the picture. Here I would state we are really talking about PLM as the target is to share product data outside the engineering department.

The first logical extension for PLM is moving information from an EBOM view (engineering) towards a Manufacturing Bill of Materials (MBOM) view. The MBOM is aiming to represent the manufacturing definition of the product and becomes a placeholder to link with the ERP system and suppliers directly. Having an integrated EBOM / MBOM process with your ERP system is already a big step forward as it creates an efficient way of working to connect engineering and manufacturing.

As all the information is now related to the EBOM and MBOM, this approach is often called the item-centric approach. The Item (or Part) is the information carrier linked to its specification documents.

 

Managing the right version of the information in relation to a specific version of the product is called configuration management. And the better you have your configuration management processes in place, the more efficient and with high confidence you can deliver and support your products.  Configuration Management is again a typical example where we are talking about a coordinated approach to managing products and documents.

Implementing this type of PLM requires already more complex as it needs different disciplines to agree on a collective process across various (enterprise) systems. ERP integrations are technically not complicated, it is the agreement on a leading process that makes it difficult as the holistic view is often failing.

Next, next step PLM – the Digital Thread

Continuing reading might give you the impression that the next step in PLM evolution is the digital thread. And this can be the case depending on your definition of the digital thread. Oleg Shilovitsky recently published an article: Digital Thread – A new catchy phrase to replace PLM? related to his observations from  ConX18 illustrate that there are many viewpoints to this concept. And of course, some vendors promote their perfect fit based on their unique definition. In general, I would classify the idea of Digital Thread in two approaches:

The Digital Thread – coordinated

In the Digital Thread – coordinated approach we are not revolutionizing the way of working in an enterprise. In the coordinated approach, the PLM environment is connected with another overlay, combining data from various disciplines into an environment where the dependencies are traceable. This can be the Aras overlay approach (here explained by Oleg Shilovitsky), the PTC Navigate approach or others, using a new extra layer to connect the various discipline data and create traceability in a more or less non-intrusive way. Similar concepts, but less intrusive can be done through Business Intelligence applications, although they are more read-only than a system approach.

The Digital Thread – connected

In the Digital Thread – connected approach the idea is that information is stored in an extreme granular way and shared among disciplines. Instead of the coordinated way, where every discipline can have their own data sources, here the target is to be data-driven (neutral/standard formats). I described this approach in the various aspects of the model-based enterprise. The challenge of a connected enterprise is the standardized data definition to make it available for all stakeholders.

Working in a connected enterprise is extremely difficult, in particular for people educated in the old-fashioned ways of working. If you have learned to work with shared documents, like Google Docs or Office documents in sharing mode, you will understand the mental change you have to go through. Continuous sharing the information instead of waiting until you feel your part is complete.

In the software domain, companies are used to work this way and to integrate data in a continuous stream. We have to learn to apply these practices also to a complete product lifecycle, where the product consists of hardware and software.

Still, the connect way if working is the vision where digital enterprises should aim for as it dramatically reduces the overhead of information conversion, overhead, and ambiguity. How we will implement in the context of PLM / Product Innovation is a learning process, where we should not be blocked by our echo chamber as Jan Bosch states it in his latest post: Don’t Get Stuck In Your Company’s Echo Chamber

Jan Bosch is coming from the software world, promoting the Software-Centric Systems conference SC2 as a conference to open up your mind. I recommend you to take part in upcoming PLM related events: CIMdata’s PLM roadmap Europe combined with PDT Europe on 24/25th October in Stuttgart, or if you are living in the US there is the upcoming PI PLMx CHICAGO 2018 on Nov 5/6th.

Conclusion

Learning and understanding are crucial and takes time. A digital transformation has many aspects to learn – keep in mind the difference between coordinated (relatively easy) and connected (extraordinarily challenging but promising). Unfortunate there is no populist way to become digital.

Note:
If you want to continue learning, please read this post – The True Impact of Industry 4.0 Revealed  -and its internal links to reference information from Martijn Dullaart – so relevant.

 

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In my series describing the best practices related to a (PLM) data model, I described the general principles, the need for products and parts, the relation between CAD documents and the EBOM, the topic of classification and now the sensitive relation between EBOM and MBOM.

First some statements to set the scene:

  • The EBOM represents the engineering (design) view of a product, structured in a way that it represents the multidisciplinary view of the functional definition of the product. The EBOM combined with its related specification documents, models, drawings, annotations should give a 100 % clear definition of the product.
  • The MBOM represents the manufacturing view of a product, structured in a way that represents the way the product is manufactured. This structure is most of the time not the same as the EBOM, due to the manufacturing process and purchasing of parts.

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A (very) simplified picture illustrating the difference between an EBOM and a MBOM. If the Car was a diesel there would be also embedded software in both BOMs (currently hidden)

For many years, the ERP systems have claimed ownership of the MBOM for two reasons

  1. Historically the MBOM was the starting point for production. Where the engineering department often worked with a set of tools, the ERP system was the system where data was connected and used to have a manufacturing plan and real-time execution
    clip_image004
  2. To accommodate a more advanced integration with PDM systems, ERP vendors began to offer an EBOM capability also in their system as PDM systems often worked around the EBOM.

These two approaches made it hard to implement “real” PLM where (BOM) data is flowing through an organization instead of stored in a single system.

By claiming ownership of the BOM by ERP, some problems came up:

  • A disconnect between the iterative engineering domain and the execution driven ERP domain. The EBOM is under continuous change (unless you have a simple or the ultimate product) and these changes are all related to upstream information, specifications, requirements, engineering changes and design changes. An ERP system is not intended for handling iterative processes, therefore forcing the user to work in a complex environment or trying to fix the issue through heavy customization on the ERP side.
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  • Global manufacturing and outsourced manufacturing introduced a new challenge for ERP-centric implementations. This would require all manufacturing sites also the outsourced manufacturers the same capabilities to transfer an EBOM into a local MBOM. And how do you capitalize the IP from your products when information is handled in a dispersed environment?
    clip_image008

The solution to this problem is to extend your PDM implementation towards a “real” PLM implementation providing the support for EBOM, MBOM, and potential plant specific MBOM. All in a single system / user-experience designed to manage change and to allow all users to work in a global collaborative way around the product. MBOM information then will then be pushed when needed to the (local) ERP system, managing the execution.
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Note 1: Pushing the MBOM to ERP does not mean a one-time big bang. When manufacturing parts are defined and sourced, there will already be a part definition in the ERP system too, as logistical information must come from ERP. The final push to ERP is, therefore, more a release to ERP combined with execution information (when / related to which order).

In this scenario, the MBOM will be already in ERP containing engineering data complemented with manufacturing data. Therefore from the PLM side we talk more about sharing BOM information instead of owning. Certain disciplines have the responsibility for particular properties of the BOM, but no single ownership.

Note 2: The whole concept of EBOM and MBOM makes only sense if you have to deliver repetitive products. For a one-off product, more a project, the engineering process will have the manufacturing already in mind. No need for a transition between EBOM and MBOM, it would only slow down the delivery.

Now let´s look at some EBOM-MBOM specifics

EBOM phantom assemblies

PhantomWhen extracting an EBOM directly from a 3D CAD structure, there might be subassemblies in the EBOM due to a logical grouping of certain items. You do not want to see these phantom assemblies in the MBOM as they only complicate the structuring of the MBOM or lead to phantom activities. In an EBOM-MBOM transition these phantom assemblies should disappear and the underlying end items should be linked to the higher level.

EBOM materials

In the EBOM, there might be materials like a rubber tube with a certain length, a strip with a certain length, etc. These materials cannot be purchased in these exact dimensions. Part of the EBOM to MBOM transition is to translate these EBOM items (specifying the exact material) into purchasable MBOM items combined with a fitting operation.

EBOM end-items (make)

For make end-items, there are usually approved manufacturers defined and it is desirable to have multiple manufacturers (certified through the AML) for make end-items, depending on cost, capacity and where the product needs to be manufactured. Therefore, a make end-item in the EBOM will not appear in a resolved MBOM.

EBOM end-items (buy)

For buy end-items, there is usually a combination of approved manufacturers (AML) combined with approved vendors (AVL). The approved manufacturers are defined by engineering, based on part specifications. Approved vendors are defined by manufacturing combined with purchasing based on the approved manufacturers and logistical or commercial conditions

Are EBOM items and MBOM items different?

MBOM-MOBMThere is a debate if EBOM items should/could appear in an MBOM or that EBOM items are only in the EBOM and connected to resolved items in the MBOM. Based on the previous descriptions of the various EBOM items, you can conclude that a resolved MBOM does not contain EBOM items anymore in case of multiple sourcing. Only when you have a single manufacturer for an EBOM item, the EBOM item could appear in the MBOM. Perhaps this is current in your company, but will this stay the same in the future?

It is up to your business process and type of product which direction you choose. Coming back to one-off products, here is does not make sense to have multiple manufacturers. In that case, you will see that the EBOM item behaves at the same time as an MBOM item.

What about part numbering?

clip_image011Luckily I reached the 1000 words so let´s be short on this debate. In case you want an automated flow of information between PLM and ERP, it is important that shared data is connected through a unique identifier.

Automation does no need intelligent numbering. Therefore giving parts in the PLM system and the ERP system a unique, meaningless number you ensure guaranteed digital connectivity.

If you want to have additional attributes on the PLM or ERP side that describe the part with a number relevant for human identification on the engineering side or later at the manufacturing side (labeling), this all can be solved.

An interesting result of this approach is that a revision of a part is no longer visible on the ERP side (unless you insist). Each version of the MBOM parts is pointing to a unique version of an MBOM part in ERP, providing an error free sharing of data.

Conclusion

Life can be simple if you generalize and if there was no past, no legacy and no ownership of data thinking. The transition of EBOM to MBOM is the crucial point where the real PLM vision is applied. If there is no data sharing on MBOM level, there are two silos, the characteristic of the old linear past.

(See also: From a linear world to a circular and fast)

What do you think? Is more complexity needed?

 

pdt2015

I will be soon discussing these topics at the PDT2015 in Stockholm on October 13-14. Will you be there ?

And for Dutch/Belgium readers – October 8th in Bunnik:

BIMopen2015

Op 8 oktober ben ik op het BIM Open 2015 Congres in Bunnik waar ik de overeenkomsten tussen PLM en BIM zal bespreken en wat de constructie industrie kan leren van PLM

observation In my previous post, BOM for Dummies related to Configure To Order, I promised to come back on the special relation between the items in the BOM and the CAD data. I noticed from several posts in PLM and PDM groups that also the importance of CAD data is perceived in a different manner, depending on the background of the people or the systems they are experienced with.

So I would like to start with some general statements based on these observations.

planning People who are talking about the importance of CAD data and product structures are usually coming from a background in PDM. In an environment where products are designed, the focus is around data creation, mostly CAD data. The language around parts in the BOM is mostly targeting design parts. So in a PDM environment CAD data is an important topic – therefore PDM people and companies will talk about CAD data and vaults as the center of information.

erp_bom

When you are working in a PLM environment, you need a way to communicate around a product, through its whole lifecycle, not only the design phase but also supporting manufacturing phases, the possible changes of an existing product through engineering changes, the traceability of as-built data and more. In a PLM environment, people have the physical part (often called the ERP part) in mind, when they talk about a part number.

As PLM covers product information across various departments and disciplines, the information carrier for product information cannot be the CAD data. The BOM, usually the mBOM, is the main structure used to represent and produce the product. Most parts in the mBOM have a relation to a CAD document (in many companies still the 2D drawing). Therefore PLM people and companies understanding PLM will talk about items and products and their lifecycle as their center of information.

CAD data in relation to Engineering to Order

The above generalizations have to be combined with the different main business processes. In a strict Engineering To Order environment, where you design and build a solution only once for a specific customer, there is no big benefit of going through an eBOM and mBOM transition.

During the design process the engineer already has manufacturing in mind, which will be reflected in the CAD structure they build – sometime hybrid representing both engineering and manufacturing items. In such an environment CAD data is leading to build a BOM structure.

And in cases where engineering is done in one single 3D CAD system, the company might use the PDM system from this vendor to manage their Bill of Materials. The advantage of this approach is that PDM is smoothly integrated with the design environment. However it restricts in a certain matter the future as we will see in further reading.

pointNot everyone needs the Engineering to Order process !

Moving to an integrated, multi-disciplinary engineering process or changing the main process from Engineering To Order to Built To Order / Configure To Order will cause major challenges in the company.

I have seen in the recent past, several companies that would like to change their way of working from a CAD centric Engineering To Order process towards a more Built to Order or Configure To Order process. The bottle neck of making this switch was every time that engineering people think in CAD structures and all knowledge is embedded in the CAD data. They now want to configure their products in the CAD system.

For Configure to Order you have to look at a different way to your CAD data:

Questions to ask yourself as a company are:

  • When I configure my products around a CAD structure, what should I do with data from other disciplines (Electrical/Tooling/Supplier data) ?
  • When I upgrade my 3D CAD system to a new version, do I need to convert all old CAD data to the newest versions in order to keep my configurations alive?
  • When configuring a new customer solution, do I need to build my whole product in CAD in order to assure it is complete?
  • In Configure to Order the engineering BOM and manufacturing BOM are different. Does this mean that when I go through a new customer order, all CAD data need to be handled, going through eBOM and mBOM transition again?

For me it is obvious that only in an Engineering to Order environment the CAD data are leading for order fulfillment. In all other typical processes, BTO (Built to Order), CTO (Configure to Order) and MTS (Make to Stock),  product configuration and definition is done around items and the CAD data is important associated data for the product definition and manufacturing

In the case of order fulfillment in a Configure to Order process, the CAD structure is not touched as configuration of the product is available based on items. Each item in the mBOM has it relations to CAD data or other specifying information.

In the case of Built To Order, a huge part of the product is already configured, like in Configure To Order. Only new interfaces or functionality will go through a CAD design process. This new design might be released through a process with an eBOM to mBOM transition. In cases where the impact or the amount of data created in engineering is not huge, it is even possible to configure the changes immediately in an mBOM environment.

old_process A second point, which is also under a lot of discussion in the field ( PLM interest groups), is that PDM is easily to introduce as a departmental solution. The engineering BOM is forwarded to manufacturing and there further (disconnected) processed.  The step from PDM to PLM is always a business change.

When PDM vendors talk about ERP integration, they often mean the technical solution of connecting the two systems, not integrating the processes around the BOM (eBOM/mBOM transition) 0r an integrated engineering change (ECR/ECO). See how easy it is according to some PDM vendors:

or
PLM requires an adaptation of all departments to work different and together around a single product definition. Especially in a mid-market company, this is a big issue, as all product knowledge is stored in the CAD data and the knowledge how to produce the product is stored in the mBOM on the ERP side. These environments are often disconnected.
Conclusion: In the context of PDM the importance of CAD data is clear and for companies following a strict Engineering To Order process the main source of product knowledge. Companies following the Built To Order / Configure To Order process should configure their products around items to keep flexibility towards the future.

Companies with the intention to move to Built To Order or Configure To Order should not invest too much in CAD data configuration as it creates a roadblock for the future.

In my next post I will address the question that comes up from many directions, addressed by Jim Brown and others, as discussed  in one of his recent posts around a PLM standard definition and more ….

sleep This is the third post on Bill of Material handling for different types of companies, this time the focus on Configure To Order (CTO). In the CTO process, products are assembled and configured based on customer requirements. This means there is no more engineering needed when customer requirements are known. CTO examples are, the ordering process of a car with all its options, or ordering a personal computer over the internet.

So what has Configure To Order to do with PLM as there is no engineering?

The main PLM activity takes places when designing the configurable product. Designing a product that is configurable, requires a complete different approach as compared to Engineering to Order or Build to Order. Although we see a similar Configure to Order activity in the R&D departments of companies that follow the Build to Order process. They are also designing products or modules that can be used as-is in customer specific orders as part of the solution.

dashboard The challenge of CTO is to design products that are modular, and where options and variants are designed on a common platform with common interfaces. If you look to the dashboard of a car you will see placeholders for additional options (in case you have the minimal car version) and also you might see that for example the radio display in a basic car version differs from the complete board computer in the luxury version. The common platform is one dashboard, fitting to numerous options.

An engineering department will not focus on designing and defining each of the possible combinations of options as this would be impossible to manage. What can be managed is the common platform (the baseline) and all different options on top of this baseline.

So what happens with the BOM?

The initial design of configurable products goes through similar steps as the BTO process, which means starting from a conceptual BOM, moving to an Engineering BOM (eBOM) and finally produce a BOM for manufacturing (mBOM). The difference is that in the CTO process the mBOM is not developed for just one product, but contains all definitions for all possible products. In this situation we talk about a generic mBOM.

Only when a customer order exists, the generic mBOM is resolved into a specific mBOM for this customer order, which then can be sent to the ERP system for execution.

filter In a generic BOM the relations are managed by filters. These filters define the effectivity of the link, in simple words if the relation between two parts in the BOM is valid (and shown) or not. There are various ways to define effectivity – with again a differentiation in usage

  • revision based effectivity – which means the relation between two items is valid in case the revisions match
  • date effectivity – which means the relation is valid during a certain time interval

Both methods are used most of the time for non-configurable products. The revision and date effectivity are used to be able to track the product history through time and therefore to have full traceability. But this does not work if you want to configure every time a customer specific order.

In that case we use unit or option based filtering.

  • unit effectivity – which means the relation between two items is valid for a unit (or a range of units) produced. For example a batch of products or a unique product with a serial number
  • option effectivity – which means the relation between two items is valid in case a certain condition is valid. Which condition depends on the configuration rules for this option. Example of options are: color, version, country

It is clear that unit and option based filtering of a BOM can lead to a conceptual complex product definition which goes beyond the BOM for Dummies target.  Below an illustration of the various filter concepts (oops the animated gif does not work – i will investigate):

CTO

The benefit of this filtering approach is that there is a minimum of redundancy of data to manage. This makes it a common practice in the aerospace and automotive industry. An example describing all the complexity can be found for example here, but I am sure on this level there are enough publications and studies available.

And what about the CAD ?

I will write a separate post on this topic, as all the possible interactions and use cases with CAD are a topic on its own. You can imagine, having the 3D virtual world combined with a configurable BOM brings a lot of benefits

What PLM functions are required to support Configure to Order ?

  • Project management – not so much focus here as the delivery project for a customer does not require much customer interaction. Of course, the product development processes requires advanced capabilities which I will address later in a future post.
  • Document management – same approach as for project management. The product related documentation needs to exist and secured. Customer specific documentation can be generated often automatically.
  • Product Management – managing all released and available components for a solution, related to their Bill of Materials. Often part of product management is the classification of product families and its related modules
  • Item management – The main activities here are in the mBOM area. Capabilities for BOM generation (eBOM/mBOM), baseline and compare using filtering (unit based / option based) in order to support the definition if the manufactured product
  • Workflow processes – As we are dealing with standardized components in the BOM, the Engineering Change Request (ECR) and Engineering Change Order (ECO) processes will be the core for changes. And as we want to manage controlled manufacturing definition, the Manufacturer Change Order process and Standard Item Approval process are often implemented

Optional:

  • Requirements Management – specially for complex products, tracking of individual requirements and their implementation, can save time and costs during delivery to understand and handle the complex platform
  • Service Management – as an extension of item management. When a customer specific order has been delivered it might be still interesting for the company that delivered the product to keep traceability of the customer configuration for service options – managing the Service and As-Built BOM
  • Product Configurator – the reason I write it as optional, is because the target is order execution, which is not a PLM role anymore. The ERP system should be able to resolve the full mBOM for an order. The PLM product configuration definition is done through Product and Item management. Depending on the customer environment the role of configurator might be found in PLM in case ERP does not have the adequate tools.

Conclusion:

It is hard to describe the Configure To Order process in the scope of BOM for Dummies. As various detailed concepts exist per industry there is no generic standard. This is often the area where the PLM system, the PLM users and implementers are challenged the most: to make it workable, understandable and maintainable

Next time some industry specific observations for a change

sleep Continuing the posts on Bill of Material handling for different types of companies, this time the focus on BOM handling in a Build to Order process. When we are talking about Build to Order process, we mean that the company is delivering solutions for its customers, based on existing components or modules. A typical example is the food processing industry. In order to deliver a solution, a range of machinery (ingredient manipulation) and transporting systems are required. The engineering tasks are focused on integrating these existing components. In many cases new or adjusted components are required to complete the solution.

Research and Development in a BTO company

In a typical BTO company you see actually two processes.

  • The main BTO process, fulfilling the needs for the customers based on existing components
  • An R&D department, which explores new technologies and develops new components or modules, which will become available for selling to new customers.

idea This is the innovation engine of the company and often can be found in a complete isolated environment – extra security – no visibility for other departments till release. The task for this R&D department is to develop machinery or modules based on new, competitive technologies, which are rapidly configurable and can be used in various customer solutions. The more these machines or modules are configurable, the better the company can respond to demands from customers, assuming a generic machine and interfaces does not degrade performance, compared to optimal tuned machinery.

I will describe the BOM handling for this department in a future post, as also here you will see particular differences with the ETO and BTO BOM handling.

Back to the core of BTO

I found a nice picture from 2003 published by Dassault Systems describing the BTO process:

BTOprocess

We see here the Bidding phase where a conceptual BOM is going to be defined for costing. Different from the ETO process, the bidding company will try to use as much as possible known components or technology. The reason is clear: it reduces the risk and uncertainties, which allow the bidding company to make a more accurate and competitive cost estimate for these parts. When a company becomes mature in this area, a product configurator can be used to quantify the estimated costs.

The result from the bidding phase is a conceptual BOM, where hopefully 60 % or more is already resolved. Now depending on the amount of reuse, the discussion comes up: Should modifications being initiated from the eBOM or from the mBOM?

In case of 60 % reuse, it is likely that engineering will start working around the eBOM and from there complete the mBOM. Depending on the type of solution, the company might decide to handle the remaining 40 % engineering work as project unique and treat it the same way as in an ETO process. This means no big focus on the mBOM as we are going to produce it only once.

I have worked with companies, which tried to analyze the 40 % customer specific engineering per order and from there worked towards more generic solutions for future orders. This would mean that a year later the same type of order would now be defined for perhaps 80 %. Many companies try to change themselves from a project centric company towards a product centric company, delivering configured products through projects.

Of course when solutions become 100 % configurable, we do not speak from BTO anymore, but from Configure to Order (CTO). No engineering is needed; all components and interfaces are designed to work together in certain conditions without further engineering. As an example, when you buy a car or you order a PC through the internet – it is done without sales engineering – it is clearly defined which options are available and in which relation.

See below:

customer_delivery

However the higher the amount of reuse, the more important it becomes to work towards an mBOM, which we will than push the order to ERP.

And this is the area where most of the discussions are in a PLM implementation.

  • Are we going to work based on the mBOM and handle all required engineering modifications from there?

Or

  • Do we first work on a complete eBOM and once completed, we will complete the mBOM?

The reuse from existing components and modules (hardware) is one of the main characteristics of BTO. Compare this to ETO where the reuse of knowledge is the target no reuse of components.

The animation shows the high level process that I discussed in this post.

What PLM functions are required to support Build to Order ?

  • Project management – the ability to handle data in the context of project. Depending on the type of industry extended with advanced security rules for project access
  • Document management – where possible integrated with the authoring applications to avoid data be managed outside the PLM system and double data entry
  • Product Management – managing all released and available components for a solution, related to their Bill of Materials. Often part of product management is the classification of product families and its related modules
  • Item management – The main activities here are in the mBOM area. As items in a BTO environment are reused, it is important to provide relevant ERP information in the PLM environment. Relevant ERP information is mostly actual costs, usage information (when was it used for the last time) and availability parameters (throughput time / warehouse info).

As historically most of the mBOM handling is done in ERP, companies might not be aware of this need. However they will battle with the connection between the eBOM in PLM and the mBOM (see many of my previous posts).
As part of the BTO process is around engineering, an EBOM environment with connections to specifying documents is needed. This requires that the PLM system has eBOM/mBOM compare capabilities and an easy way to integrate engineering changes in an existing mBOM.

  • Workflow processes – As we are dealing with standardized components in the BOM, the Engineering Change Request (ECR) and Engineering Change Order (ECO) processes will be the core for changes. In addition you will find a Bidding Process, a Release process for the customer order, Manufacturer Change Order process and a Standard Item Approval process.

Optional:

  • A Sales Configurator allowing the sales engineering people to quickly build the first BOM for costing. Working with a Sales Configurator requires a mature product rationalization.
  • Supplier Exchange data management – as many BTO companies work with partners and suppliers
  • Service Management – as an extension of item management. Often in this industry the company who Builds the solutions provides maintenance services and for that reason requires another Bill of Material, the service BOM, containing all components needed when revising a part of the machine
  • Issues Management – handling issues in the context of PLM gives a much better environment for a learning organization
  • Requirements Management – specially for complex products, tracking of individual requirements and their implementation, can save time and costs during delivery

Conclusion (so far):

When you compare these PLM requirements with the previous post around ETO, you will discover a lot of similarities. The big difference however is HOW you use them. Here consultancy might be required as I do not believe that by having just functionality a company in the mid-market will have time to learn and understand the special tweaks for their business processes.

Next post more on configurable products

sleep This time a few theoretical posts about BOM handling, how the BOM is used in different processes as Engineering To Order (ETO), Make To Order (MTO) and Build To Order (BTO) organizations and finally which PLM functions you would expect to support these best practices.

I noticed from various lectures I gave, from the search hits to my blog and from discussions in forums that there is a need for this theoretical base. I will try to stay away from too many academic terminologies, so let’s call it BOM for Dummies.

Note: All information is highly generalized to keep is simple. I am sure in most of the companies where the described processes take place more complexity exists.

What is a BOM?

A BOM, abbreviation for Bill of Materials, is a structured, often multi-level list of entities and sub-entities used to define a product

I keep the terminology vague as it all depends to who is your audience. In general when you speak with people in a company that does engineering and manufacturing, you have two major groups:

  • The majority will talk about the manufacturing BOM (mBOM), which is a structure that contains the materials needed to manufacture a product in a certain order.
    We will go more in depth into the mBOM later.
  • When you speak with the designers in a company they will talk about the eBOM, which is a structure that contains the components needed to define a product.

Both audiences will talk about ‘the BOM’ and ‘parts’ in the BOM, without specifying the context (engineering or manufacturing). So it is up to you to understand their context.

Beside these two major types of BOMs you will find some other types, like Conceptual BOM, Customer Specific BOM, Service BOM, Purchase BOM, Shipping BOM.

Each BOM is representing the same product only from a different usage point of view

The BOM in an Engineering To Order company

In an Engineering to Order company, a product is going to be developed based on requirements and specifications. These requirements lead to functions and systems to be implemented. For complex products companies are using systems engineering as a discipline, which is a very structured approach that guarantees the system you develop is matching all requirements and these requirements have been validated.

In less complex and less automated environments, you will see that the systems engineering is done in the head of the experienced engineers. Based on the requirements, they recognize solutions that have been done before and they build a first conceptual structure to describe the product. This is a conceptual BOM, often only a few levels deep, and this BOM is mainly used for costing and planning the work to be done.

A conceptual BOM could like this (open the picture in a separate window to see the animation)

CBOM

Depending of the type of engineering company, they are looking for the reuse of functions or systems. The reuse of functions means that you manage your company’s Intellectual Property (IP) where the reuse of systems can be considered as the reuse of standard building blocks (modules) to build a product. The advantage of system reuse of course is the lower risk, as the system has been designed and built and tested before.

From the conceptual BOM different disciplines start to work and design the systems and their interfaces. This structure could be named the eBOM as it represents the engineering point of view from the product. In Engineering to Order companies there is a big variation on how to follow up after engineering. Some companies only specify how the product should be made, which materials to use and how to assemble them. The real manufacturing of the product is in that case done somewhere else, for example at the customer site. Other companies still do the full process from engineering and manufacturing.

As there is usually no reuse of the designed products, there is also no investment in standardizing items and optimizing the manufacturing of the product. The eBOM is entered in the ERP system and there further processed to manufacture the product. A best practice in this type of environments is the approach that the eBOM is not a 100 % pure the eBOM, also items and steps needed for manufacturing might be added by the engineers as it is their responsibility to specify everything for manufacturing without actually making the product.

This animation shows on high level the process that I described (open the link in a separate window to see the animation)

ETO_EBOM

What PLM functions are required to support Engineering To Order

The following core functions apply to this process:

  • Project management – the ability to handle data in the context of project. Depending on the type of industry extended with advanced security rules for project access
  • Document management – where possible integrated with the authoring applications to avoid data be managed outside the PLM system and double data entry
  • Classification of functions and/or systems in order to have an overview of existing IP (what have we done) and to promote reuse of it
  • Item management – to support the eBOM and its related documentation. Also the items go through a lifecycle representing its maturity:
    – The eBOM might be derived from the mechanical 3D CAD structure and further extended from there.
    – For design reviews it would be useful to have the capability to create baselines of the eBOM including its specifying documents and have the option to compare baselines to analyze progress
    – The completed eBOM would be transferred to the ERP system(s). In case of a loose ERP connection a generic XML export would be useful (or export to Excel as most companies do)
  • Workflow processes – to guarantee a repeatable, measurable throughput of information – both approval and change processes

Optional:

  • Supplier Exchange data management – as many ETO companies work with partners and suppliers
  • Issues Management – handling issues in the context of PLM gives a much better environment for a learning organization
  • Requirements Management – specially for complex products, tracking of individual requirements and their implementation, can save time and costs during delivery
  • A configurator allowing the sales engineering people to quickly build the first conceptual BOM based on know modules combined with engineering estimates. This is the base for a better controlled bidding / costing

Let me know if this kind of posts make sense for you …..

Next time we will look at the BOM in a Build To Order process

observation The past few weeks I have been busy in an area which I believe is crucial for understanding PLM. I had meetings, web meetings with prospects, with implementers and existing customers – of course all in the mid-market. And the generalized key question on the table was: “

 

question

Yes, we understand document management, and yes, CAD management is understandable to us, but why do you need to work with the BOM further down the product lifecycle, as this is ERP, isn’t it ?

I realized several topics play a role here:

  • Mid-market companies usually do not think top-down in their approach. As an example: they will not look at their whole organization’s business processes and then try to map all the activities cross departments, cross suppliers, etc.  Usually they are looking per department to optimize the way they are working.
    Classical enterprise PLM implementations are designed to go top-down. Describe the as-is situation, describe the the to-be situation and then transform the company to meet the to-be situation. Decisions are pushed to the people in the company as the to-be situation seems to be clear. Many of the classical PLM implementers still believe in this approach – and the risk / challenge is always that the to-be situation was not well understood, or that at the time we reach the to-be situation the environment of the company has changed and another to-be is needed.
  • Mid-market companies understand a central storage for documents brings a lot of benefits. Most companies realize that all this departmental archives of documents and files create too much overhead and a higher quality risk. Finding the absolute right file for a certain product release might be a quest and of course each of the departments claims that their solution fits exactly their needs. This is what I believe the main driver behind the success of SharePoint. As Microsoft Office is used as a common document authoring tool among all departments, why not use the Office Document Management tool as our common backbone ? PLM and ERP vendors might say we also manage documents, but usually these documents are managed in a structured manner – related to revisions of a product or to a product order. Usually an infrastructure to manage unstructured documents does not exist in ERP systems.
  • Mid-market companies do not understand the value of managing the BOM outside ERP. As I mentioned, everyone understands documents, but items seem to be the domain of an ERP system. Understandable as ERP was often the first IT-system implemented.  As mid-market companies usually do not have a holistic view, items will remain to be managed there (“as we invested so much in the first implementation the management will say – no other source for items !!!”)
    And here i believe is the crucial go-no/go point for a PLM implementation. Once the company starts to understand that the definition of items is not done in the ERP system, but is a result of the work done in the engineering department, only then the value of managing the BOM outside ERP become apparent. And here is the catch 22, we already manage our documents in environments without items (BOM’s) (SharePoint / CAD Documents management) – so no place for PLM ?

  So what to do as a mid-market company ?

point It is hard to understand the full picture (because of the above points), can you trust the selling PLM partner ?(we have been promised easy implementations in the past with other IT-systems too) and at the end you do not believe the value PLM can bring (as you cannot imagine and digest the impact of PLM to your company)

And just when thinking about this – three articles came to my attention as they all address this topic, somehow from a different perspective:

The first two posts deal with a packaged approach for mid-market companies, allowing them to implement PLM faster and with a faster ROI. As Jim (and many others are stating – in an economical down turn you cannot focus on efficiency only (the ERP slogan). It is innovation – better and more customer oriented and attractive products – brings much higher revenue as compared to doing more of the same more efficient.

Oleg focuses on the steps to implement PLM and I agree with most of the statements there. It needs to be gradual and implementing the business processes comes as the last phase.

There is one difference I see in my approach compared to what Jim and Oleg are writing. Both believe that PLM brings value (and i support this statement 100 % based on experiences with customers I have worked).

However the missing point to be addressed is the lack of understanding (and often also trust) of companies talking with a PLM vendor and committing to PLM.  I tried to explain these points in the above 3 statements. As long as those points are not addressed, each stepped approach will lead to the question:  “When are we really going to do PLM instead of CAD Document management or enhanced ERP ? “

My experiences with guiding successful PLM implementations are the following:stepped

  1. Start with basic document management and CAD data management. It aligns with the understanding of companies that a centralized and secure repository for documents brings ROI. This step introduces to the company that a company wide approach of data management brings value (and ROI). Some basic processes might be introduced here already- basic document approval as required by all quality systems.
  2. Once basic CAD and Document Management are introduced, the company will realize that it is missing ‘place holders’ to hook the information. If you work in a document management system only, the system implementer will say: Use projects to collect your product data and use folders to collect your item related data. A PLM vendor would say; Now you are ready to introduce Items in your system, as they are the logical place holders for information. Here PLM starts to be introduced.
  3. Once understood that the item is a needed place holder to manage development data, the understanding for managing items in a structure becomes clear. Here we introduce the EBOM and as Items also contain logistical data, this is the first point to start connecting PLM and ERP to work with a shared ‘place holder’ but with different focus on characteristics.
  4. Once the Engineering BOM is understood, the discussion starts around the MBOM. Who is responsible for defining how a product is manufactured ? PLM believes this is part of their duty, ERP vendors will say, we own the item historically ,so we manage the MBOM. As a 100 % PLM believer, I think it should be in PLM as it is not part of the execution but part of the product definition (See the post I wrote on this topic: Where is the MBOM).
    At the end the defined MBOM can be pushed to ERP once required.
  5. Once you are able to manage and centralize all data related to product development and definition, a company becomes ready to guarantee the quality and flow of the data, by implementing company wide engineering change and development processes. Much in line with Oleg’s PLM action plan.

I have supported implementations of the above approach in several mid-market companies and key success factors were:coop

  • the company understanding PLM brings benefits but also understands it will take a time to realize this vision.
    Management vision and support were always there. 
  • a PLM system that allows you to start simple with centralizing documents and keeping things understandable but also allows you to scale up to a PDM system and finally supporting the whole PLM vision once accepted and understood .
    Think Top-Down – Implement Bottom-Up
  • an implementer who understands that in the mid-market a push of concepts will bring rejections from the end-users, and where listening to the end-users only, it will result in an unguided system. The implementation partner needs to say No at the right time and to push for Yes when needed.
    The implementer is 50 % of the success !

expressConclusion:  A management vision, a scalable PLM system and an experienced implementation partner are needed to bring the innovation to survive in the long term – document management and ERP alone will not bring this unique value. The phased approach allows a company with digestible steps to grow to their ‘to-be’ situation – as building trust and understanding is still required in the mid-market of PLM

See also: ENOVIA SmarTeam Express

This week was again a week with several customer visits and discussions around PLM implementations. As analysts like CIMdata, AMR Research, the Aberdeen group are all claiming that PLM will be the next thing for small and medium manufacturing companies, the discussion around PLM is on-going. Of course PLM vendors are adapting their messaging and sometimes their products towards the SMB.

Some vendors like PTC and UGS try to downscale their existing products mainly by changing the packaging of the product (but it remains a PLM system originally designed for enterprises) others like Dassault Systemes have a special SMB offering with full PLM capabilities, ENOVIA SmarTeam.

But let’s assume we have the ideal PLM solution for an SMB company. This was the startpoint, I had during my meetings this week.  How would you motivate a company to implement PLM, knowing all the constraints of SMB companies. Miki Lumnitz wrote about it in his blog –PLM for SMB who are those companies ?

I noticed one of the main issues for discussion is the handling of the MBOM (Manufacturing BOM). So let’s look at the different view points in a company.

EBOM (Engineering Bill Of Materials)

 “The EBOM reflects the way a product was functionally designed”

When engineers define a product, they design (or reuse) assemblies (modules) and add new parts and assemblies to the design. When working with a 3D CAD system, saving the product results in a document structure which resembles a lot the engineering BOM. Traditionally companies got the impression that by changing this EBOM structure a little, they would have a structure ready for manufacturing, called the MBOM.

MBOM (Manufacturing Bill of Materials)

image “The MBOM reflects the way a product will be manufactured”

The MBOM is a structure derived from the EBOM. Main changes from EBOM to MBOM are:

  • removal of subassemblies that do not exist in the physical world. For example a grouping of two parts which are logically grouped by the designer, but as a group do not make sense for manufacturing (Assembly B). And in addition of non-design items which are needed for manufacturing the product. For example paint or grease. (Item F)

Traditionally – and also in the companies I was visiting – the EBOM is domain for the engineering department and with additional modifications they provide a BOM (is it EBOM or MBOM ?) to the ERP system.  Some companies add non-engineering items to their design – they draw a can of paint in their design to make sure the paint is part of the BOM . Some work with phantom production order to address the usage of subassemblies by engineering.

image

Both EBOM and MBOM definition are preparations before production can start. The EBOM and MBOM contain the product knowledge how to build and how to manufacture a product. For that reason they should be handled in the PLM system. The main reasons for that are:

  • during process engineering there is a need to use, analyze and sometimes adapt engineering data. This can be done in the most efficient way within one system where all product data is available
  • PLM systems, like ENOVIA SmarTeam contain tools to create quickly based on certain rules a MBOM derived from the EBOM and when changes occur even compare both structures again, to adapt to these changes
  • Having a single environment for product definition and manufacturing improves the total product understanding

So where is the MBOM ?

Ask yourself as a company ” where do I handle the MBOM ?”  Some of you might say, we do not have an MBOM as our EBOM with some modifications is already good enough for manufacturing.  Many companies might say, we manage the MBOM in the ERP system as this is (was) the only system we had where we could define such structures. These companies are candidate for improving their Concept to Manufacturing process, as for sure either users or working methods are compromised to work with the MBOM in the ERP system.

image

Some might says: Do we still need ERP systems ?

Yes, as ERP systems are built to schedule and execute the production of well defined products in the most efficient way. ERP systems are needed for the execution, often the core activity for manufacturing systems.

PLM systems are reason that ERP systems can execute, they bring the product definition and information to produce a product. And in case the company designs and manufactures excellent and innovative products the future is bright.

But we should not consider engineering activities in the same way as production activities.

Einstein once said (and he is not an expert anyway):

Innovation is not the product of logical thought, even though the final product is tied to a logical structure

I am curious to learn where your manage your MBOM

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