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IMG-20160412-WA0000Finally, I have time to share my PLM experiences with you in this blog. The past months have been very busy as I moved to a new house, and I wanted to do and control a lot of activities myself. Restructuring your house in an agile way is not easy. Luckily there was a vision how the house should look like. Otherwise, the “agile” approach would be an approach of too many fixes. Costly and probably typical for many old construction projects.

Finally, I realized the beauty of IKEA´s modular design and experienced the variety of high-quality products from BLUM (an impressive company in Austria I worked with)

In parallel, I have been involved in some PLM discussions where in all cases the connection with the real C-level was an issue. And believe it or not, my blog buddy Oleg Shilovitsky just published a post: Hard to sell PLM? Because nobody gives a SH*T about PLM software. Oleg is really starting from the basics explaining you do not sell PLM; you sell a business outcome. And in larger enterprises I believe you sell at this time the ability to do a business transformation as business is becoming digital, with the customer in the center. And this is the challenge I want to discuss in this post


The value of PLM at the C-level

imageBelieve it or not, it is easier to implement PLM (in general) instead of explaining a CEO why a company needs modern PLM. A nice one-liner to close this post, however, let me explain what I mean by this statement and perhaps show the reasons why PLM does not seem to be attractive so much at the C-level. I do not want to offend any particular PLM company, Consultancy firm or implementor, therefore, allow me to stay on a neutral level.

The C-level time challenge

elevatorFirst, let´s imagine the situation at C-level. Recently I heard an excellent anecdote about people at C-level. When they were kids, the were probably the brightest and able to process and digest a lot of information, making their (school) careers a success. When later arriving in a business environment, they were probably the ones that could make a difference in their job and for that reason climbed the career ladder fast to reach a C-level position. Then arriving at that level, they become too busy to dive really deep into the details.

Everyone around them communicates in “elevator speeches” and information to read must me extremely condensed and easy to understand. As if people at C-level have no brains and should be informed like small kids.

I have seen groups of people working weeks on preparing the messages for the CEO. Every word is twisted hundred times – would he or she understand it? I believe the best people at C-level have brains, and they would understand the importance of PLM when someone explains it. However, it requires time if it does not come from your comfort zone.

Who explains the strategic value of PLM

There are a lot of strategic advisory companies who have access to the board room, and we can divide them into two groups. The ones that focus on strategy independent of any particular solution and the ones that concentrate on a strategy, guaranteeing their implementation teams are ready to deploy the solution. Let´s analyze both options and their advice:

Independent of a particular solution

tunnel_visionWhen a company is looking for help from a strategic consultancy firm, you know upfront part of the answer. As every consultancy firm has a preferred sweet spot, based on their principal consultant(s). As a PLM consultant, I probably imagine the best PLM approach for your company, not being expert in financials or demagogic trends. If the advisory company has a background in accountancy, they will focus their advice on financials. If the company has a background in IT, they will focus their information on an infrastructure concept saving so much money.

A modern digital enterprise is now the trend, where digital allows the company to connect and interact with the customer and therefore react faster to market needs or opportunities. IoT is one of the big buzz words here. Some companies grasp the concept of being customer centric (the future) and adapt their delivery model to that, not realizing the entire organization including their product definition process should be changing too. You cannot push products to the market in the old linear way, while meanwhile expecting modern agile work processes.

discussMost of the independent strategic consultants will not push for a broader scope as it is out of their comfort zone. Think for a moment. Who are the best strategic advisors that can talk about the product definition process, the delivery process and products in operation and service? I would be happy if you give me their names in the comments with proof points.

Related to a particular solution

hammer and nailWhen you connect with a strategic advisory company, which an extensive practice in XXX or YYY, you can be sure the result will be strategic advice containing XXX or YYY. The best approach with ZZZ will not come on the table, as consultancy firms will not have the intention to investigate in that direction for your company. They will tell you: “With XXX we have successfully transformed (many) other companies like yours, so choose this path with the lowest risk.

And this is the part what concerns me the most at this time. Business is changing rapidly and therefore PLM should be changing too. If not that would be a strange situation? Read about the PLM Identity crisis here and here.

The solution is at C-level (conclusion)

I believe the at the end the future of your company will be dependent on your DNA, your CEO and the C-level supporting the CEO. Consultancy firms can only share their opinion from their point of view and with their understanding in mind.

If you have a risk-averse management, you might be at risk.
Doing nothing or following the majority will not bring more competitive advantage.

The awareness that business is global and changing rapidly should be on every company’s agenda.

Change is always an opportunity to get better; still no outsider can recommend you what is the best. Take control and leadership. For me, it is clear that the product development and delivery process should be a part of this strategy. Call it PLM or something different. I do not care. But do not focus on efficiency and ROI, focus on being able to be different from the majority. Apple makes mobile phones; Nespresso makes coffee, etc.

Think and use extreme high elevators to talk with your C-level!

Your thoughts?

statisticsDo you know the expression: “You have lies, damned lies and statistics”? Pointing to the fact that statistics are often abused to “prove” statements. A typical example from Hans Rosling, the Swedish statistics guru and entertainer: “In Sweden most of the people have an above average amount of legs!”

The proof: the Swedish average is 1.999 and as most of the people in Sweden have 2 legs, thus above average. Now it is time to share some statistics with you.

Last time, I asked readers of this blog to participate in a small survey about their PLM thoughts and experiences. Although many people have read the post, perhaps, not till the end, there are only 22 responses so far at this time. If you haven’t participated yet, please do so by answering: 6 questions – the result will be published in July. There are no rewards to win. The only thing we all will gain is the statistical insight of people who have read this blog and apparently are PLM minded.

What does it mean to be PLM-minded?

There are many discussions related to PLM. What is actually PLM? Is it A Journey ? Or is it a Vision? An IT-solution? An infrastructure? Or is it Boring or just the Opposite?

roiIt is hard to tell what the purpose is of PLM really without some numbers to guide you. And when it comes to PLM decisions, I noticed that most of the companies, I am working with, believe they make decisions based on numbers and statistics. Personally I believe in our current society it is more the emotional side that drives our decisions, not pure the rational and numbers. This is another discussion.

We always find a way to interpret the numbers. For the outside world, we pretend we make decisions based on pure, objective criteria. This would mean you can capture an organization in numbers and decide from there what’s best for the organization. An utopia we will see after some small statistics.

Some numbers

In the past year I spent most of my time in eight PLM-related discussions, most of them still on-going. Here, some of the statistics


imageFour of them are large enterprises, where the power is inside the business unit. They act as one company, (one logo) but actually every business unit is focused on their own business profit and loss. They are not genuinely motivated to think about synergy with other businesses in cases it affects their work. Sometime IT believes they can bring the synergy by defining the common tools.

The other four companies are more centralized enterprises; some of them are large, with a centralized management and a single target to deliver to the market. Therefore, for a PLM project, they are easier to work with as you have more a single voice, instead of an opinion with a lot of conditions.


All eight companies are not in traditional PLM industries. They are either project centric industries, where every delivery is supposed to be unique, or they are an owner/operator of a collection of assets to be managed during a long lifecycle. The reason: since 2008 I am personally interested and driven to demonstrate PLM practices and capabilities are valid for other industries too.

All eight companies involved expressed in the current engagement that PLM is essential for their future.


visionThe need for PLM comes from a vision. I believe you should start always with the vision. Before acting, you need to know what your goal is. And a goal does not mean you know what your pain is. Understanding the pains does not solve the future; it is a first step to help you shape a future with no more pains. A typical example that they are different can be found in the current economic crisis. Everyone experiences the pains and understands there is a need for change. But all we have a different opinion about that is the required change. There is no single vision?

From the eight companies, only two of them could express a clear vision where they want to be in the future. This means six of them either have not clarified their vision yet (still in work) or even do not believe there is a way to define the vision. They are more focused on solving a pain than creating a vision.

Game changer

imageIn three companies, the PLM project is considered to be a game changer. It was not about just fixing actual pains. The target is to be different from the competition and achieve a competitive advantage. Game changers are the most complex projects. The company needs to have a clear vision. It needs to have a trust in the fact that changing the game is indeed possible. And finally game changing contains the word CHANGE, which most companies try to avoid (evolution no revolution). But game changers, when successful, have the dominant companies for several years before others catch up.

NoChangeIn relation to change, two of the eight companies believe will be impossible to change the game. Although individual persons in the organization believe it is required, their ERP implementation and its related implementation scope have already taken part of the logical PLM space. This is blocking any serious PLM initiative making the implementation a PDM implementation, which has less value.


Four companies stated upfront IT-constraints that could not be discussed. This introduced a lot of complexity. Some of the IT-constraints were emotional (we just decided a year ago to standardize on software xyz – we cannot afford to change to something else now, perhaps in the future). Other constraints were quite irrational and were based on (IT) decisions to standardize on a technology or solution, irrelevant or counterproductive to the business needs.


Only three of the eight companies require an ROI estimate to convince the management. As mentioned before, everyone is looking for reliable numbers to support a decision. Still decisions are made emotionally, and ROI numbers might be based on statistics. These three companies believe that the ROI numbers will lead to the right decision.

No_roiAnother three out of this eight companies did not need an ROI estimate. They think that what they will select as future solution is always justified: they just need PLM. The difficulty will come when they have to compare RFPs (Request for Proposal) from different vendors. Each vendor is focusing on its unique features, and from there the RFP review becomes an apples and pears comparison. Probably again the emotional decision will be made at the end. Most likely the cheapest to be sure nobody can be blamed.


I believe the small amount of statistics provided in this post demonstrate that it is not easy to get a hundred percent common understanding of what PLM is about. Imagine what you would give as advice to one of these eight companies. This makes PLM difficult as a discipline as it is not just a collection of tools to implement. If you are selling hammers everything might look like a nail. Be aware of hammer PLM.

picongressIn addition to what is PLM, the majority of companies that claim to have implemented a PLM system do not necessary use PLM in all its capabilities. Often it is still more automation of the way the company worked before. Something you understand when attending PLM user conferences, like the product innovation conferences.

Innovation and disruption needed

I believe that in order to benefit in an optimal manner from PLM, a company needs to switch their mindset from being a departmental measured and triggered company into a customer centric company, where information flows and is shared with all relevant roles in the organization.

Sharing data, instead of owning data, is a big game changer. It requires companies to work different. In the past when you did not need to share data, you could store it anywhere and in any way you prefer to do this. It was your duty and job security to control the data. Now when an experienced person retires or leaves the company, we struggle to get this information back (or we lose it and recreate it later when needed again). Search engines become popular technology to find back data – if possible! I believe Search engines can help to connect the past to the future infrastructure, but there is more.

cloudSharing data does not mean storing data in the cloud. The cloud makes it easier to share data as the company can focus more on the business side of the solution instead of the IT-side where and how to store it at what cost. It is the awareness of the content (“Do I search for something that exists”) and the quality (“Can I trust what I have found”) that we share that needs to get the focus.

For data sharing a disruptive change is needed, which does not happen in the classical PLM environments. There we think too much in departments and a sequential (or concurrent) way of working.

Aiming for sharing is disruptive. The fact that engineers need to provide more accurate data is seen as a productivity loss instead of a gain through the whole organization – see an old post: “Where is my PLM ROI “?. Organizations normally do not like disruptions. Individuals do. If they find a cheaper and easier way to get their work done, they will grab this opportunity and not do anything more. However companies have the tendency and need to keep things more complex as it is not a single task the focus on. It is a complex network of interactions.

I had the chance to read two interesting topics in this context recently. First a relative new blog related to disruptive innovation: the Off-White papers. Although it is not about PLM, it describes the challenges related to disruptive innovation, and if you have a twisted PLM-brain you will get the message.

ProfitBeyondMeasureThe same for a book I have been reading from H. Thomas Johnson called Profit Beyond Measure . Johnson describes in his book, based on cases from Toyota and Scania, a different business model focused on customer delivery instead of internal departmental optimization. Again my twisted PLM-brain got triggered by the customer centric business model. A favorite quote:

A continuously linked and balanced organization that “works to customer order” reflects a very different management style (and organization JV) than does a decoupled and discontinuous organization that “works to schedule”

It is the difference between managing by results (MBR) and managing by means (MBM). And I believe this is the target of modern PLM too.


Even with some small statistics I hope it is clear that PLM is not a simple activity as there are many constraints that can influence a project. Having an understanding about these constraints and being able to remove the blocking constraints is what I believe is the job of a PLM consultant.

Do you agree? Is there an easier world? I am looking forward to your feedback through the comments or through a response in the small survey: PLM, your opinion

observation This strange title came to my mind when I made an overview of my PLM posts in this blog so far. As I am working in the PLM space already for many years, I noticed by reviewing the topics below, that progress in PLM is slow. Yes, technology changes every 5 years, business models can change due to that, but most of the underlying concepts haven’t changed much.

At the implementation level, especially in traditional manufacturing companies, you notice a slow progress, although closely related to PLM, I believe 3D CAD has become a common practice, which could be one of the drivers for further change towards more PLM.

And this brought me to the Echternach procession, which currently is a dancing procession, where the pilgrims dance slowly to the church ( 1 mile / 1.6 km – dancing from left to right). In the Netherlands, we learned in primary school, that in the past the pilgrims made three steps forward and then two steps backward, which became an expression for a slow forward moving process in our idiom.

And if you look back to the topics overview underneath the movie , you see PLM adaptation is a slow process in the mid-market, still a way to go – perhaps dancing like the pilgrims this year ?



PLM and ERP – the culture change , continued, conclusion

Connecting PLM and ERP , continued

Can ERP vendors do PLM ?


PLM and change

PLM for the SMB – a process of culture change

Culture Change in a mid-sized company a management responsibility

The gap between mid-market companies and PLM – 15 year ?

What not to do in a bottom-up PLM implementation approach

Implementing PLM requires a vision

What if SMB as vision for PLM and PLM vendors do not understand it

Can Chaos become order through PLM

What have PLM and Capitalism in common ?

Some users do not like the single version of the truth

PLM concepts

Where is the MBOM ?

Working file based in the supply chain – manager have two options (actually one)


Where does PLM start beyond document management ?


5 reasons not to implement PLM

1. PLM is too costly

2. PLM implementations take too long

3. We already have an ERP system

4. Isn’t PLM the same as CAD data management ?

5. We are too busy

To PLM or not to PLM – start measuring

Measuring the concept phase

Measuring the planning phase

Measuring the development phase

Free PLM software does not help companies

PLM On Demand

Where is my PLM Return On Investment

A PLM success story with ROI

Who decides for PLM in a mid-market company ? continued academic conclusion

Economical crisis and PLM – Yes we can

observation The title of this post came in my mind when looking back on some of the activities I was involved in, in the past two weeks. I was discussing with several customers their progress or status of the current PLM integration. One of the trends was, that despite the IT department did their best to provide a good infrastructure for project or product related information, the users always found a problem ,why they could not use the system.

alm_1 I believe the biggest challenge for every organization implementing PDM and later PLM is, to get all users aligned to store their information in a central location and to share it with others. Only in this manner a company can achieve the goal of having a single version of the truth.

With single version of the truth I mean – if I look in the PLM system I find there all the needed data to explain me the exact status of a product or a project.
If it is not in the PLM system, it does not exist !

How many companies can make that statement ?

If your company does not have the single version of the truth implemented yet , you might be throwing away money and even bring your company at risk in the long term. Why ? Let’s look at some undisclosed examples I learned in the past few weeks:No_roi

  • A company ordering 16 pumps which on arrival where not the correct ones –
    1 M Euro lost
  • During installation at a drilling site the equipment did not fit and had many clashes – 20 M Dollar lost, due to rework and penalties
  • 7000 K Euro lost due to a wrong calculation based on the wrong information
  • A major bid lost due to high price estimation due to lack of communication between the estimator and the engineering department
  • 500 K Euro penalty for delivering the wrong information (and too late)

All the above examples – and I am sure it is just a tip of what is happening around the world – were related to the power & process industry, where of course high-capital projects run and the losses might look small related to the size of the projects.

But what was the source of all this: Users

locked Although the companies were using a PLM system, in one company a user decided that some of the data should not be in the system, but should be in his drawer, to assure proper usage (according to his statement, as otherwise when the data is public available, people might misuse the data) – or was it false job security as at the end you loose your job by this behavior.
People should bring value in collaboration not in sitting on the knowledge.

save Another frequently heard complaint is that users decide the PLM system is too complex for them and it takes too much time for them to enter data. And as engineers have not been bothered by any kind of strict data management, as ERP users are used to work with, their complaints are echoed to the PLM implementer. The PLM implementer can spend a lot of time to customize or adapt the system to the user’s needs.
But will it be enough ? It is always subjective and from my experience, the more you customize the higher the future risks. What about upgrades or changes in the process ?
And can we say NO to the next wish of this almighty user ?

Is the PLM system to blame ?

PxMThe PLM system is often seen as the enemy of the data creator, as it forces a user in a certain pattern.  Excel is much easier to use, some home-made macros and the user feels everything is under control (as long as he is around).

Open Source PLM somehow seems to address this challenge, as it does not create the feeling, that PLM Vendors only make their money from complex, unneeded functionality. Everything is under own control for the customer, they decide if the system is good enough.

PLM On Demand has even a harder job to convince the unwilling user, therefore they also position themselves as easy to use, friend of the user and enemy of the software developer. But at the end it is all about users committing to share and therefore adapt themselves to changes.

So without making a qualification of the different types of PLM systems, for me it is clear that:

point The first step all users in a company should realize is that, by working together towards a single version of the truth for all product or project related data, it brings huge benefits.  Remember the money lost due to errors because another version of data existed somewhere. This is where the most ROI for PLM is reported

pointNext step is to realize, it is a change process and by being open minded towards change, either motivated or pushed by the management, the change will make everyone’s work more balanced – not in the first three months but in the longer term.

Conclusion: Creating the single version of the truth for project or product data is required in any modern organization, to remain competitive and profitable. Reaching this goal might not be as easy for every person or company but the awards are high when reaching this very basic goal.

At the end it is about human contribution – not what the computer says:

observation This week I was reading a management article completely unrelated to PLM, but very applicable for PLM. The article stated that one of the basics of capitalism is innovation through crisis. Never let a crisis pass by without using it for your benefits was the message.

As we are currently in the middle of the economical downturn (according to the optimists or pessimists – we still have to figure out who is right), this is the moment for the management to decide. Do we try to sit still till it does not hurt anymore , or are we making strategic changes that will for sure demolish some holy houses but from the other hand will create a more lean and stronger organization after the change ?

Examples of IBM and GM were given from the nineties.  IBM made the change from a hardware company towards a software company, where GM kept on doing the same with even bigger SUVs’.  We know the results…….

Does it prove anything ?

For sure there are many companies that haven’t survived the nineties as they were not successful in their transformation, although they really tried. So where is the relation to PLM ?

frog I believe that the problem of implementing PLM, and specially in mid-market companies is the fact that there is no ambition for change when things are going relatively well. In one of my old posts I referred to the story of the boiling frog.

This happens when an organization is slipping down slowly and it is hard for the management to change and define and sell internally another strategy. Jobs and people are kept in place as long as affordable and only natural evolvement (an aging workforce) or mergers are drivers for a change.

Now with this crisis it is different. Everyone realizes (or should realize) that going on the same manner with the same people is not good for survival (unless you are in one of the few industries that benefit from the crisis – apparently the fast food industry I read)

In times of a crisis, first of all the management is challenged to come with a survival plan and in most cases this time they can get support from their employees as there is always the threat of lay offs if people are not creative or flexible for change. Secondly, employees will be also more flexible to save their jobs and the company (usually in this order)

Therefore this is the ideal moment to implement PLM in phased approach. For a successful PLM implementation you need employees, who are open minded to change the way they work,  plus you need internal resources that have time to work with the implementer to fine tune the PLM system.

This moment exists now and by implementing PLM in a phased approach, each phase will bring ROI, perhaps even before the end of the crisis as you can start with the low hanging fruits and start to collect the benefits.

In parallel there is the discussion around free open source software or dumping software for free by some PLM providers in order to stay in the market. I think here as a customer you should always realize that every company, also software providers, need to survive the crisis and will look for income in another way – services / maintenance / additional software.

So my conclusion this time:

I never realized that both capitalism and PLM were striving for innovation. They have a crisis in common – For capitalism it is a must to push innovation for PLM it is an enabler for innovation

observation The last month I have been working with Aerosud Aviation in South Africa to finalize and conclude on ROI and the lessons learned around their PLM implementation, which started in May 2007.  I was lucky to be involved in the initial scoping of the project in 2007 and assisted the local Value Added Reseller together with the team from  Dassault Systèmes UK team in a step by step project towards PLM.

planningWhen I met the people in Aerosud the first time in 2007, I noticed it was a young company, with open-minded people, everyone trying to improve their daily activities per department. There was the need for PLM as some of their major customers required Aerosud to have a PLM system in place. Also Configuration Management was mentioned many times in the interviews and what I learned that time: Excel was the tool for configuration management.

Based on the initial interviews a plan needed to be developed in which steps to implement PLM.  The following three major points were the guidance for the implementation:

  1. The company was thinking documents and understanding documents especially Excel
  2. The company had no clear understanding of what PLM would mean for them as real awareness was not inside the company. Customers like Boeing and Airbus talked about the importance of PLM, but how this could impact Aerosud as a company was no commonly clear
  3. People in the company had a major focus on their department and there was no availability of a overarching group of people leading the implementation

You could say you will see the above points in many smaller and medium-sized companies. I wrote about it also in one of my previous posts: Where does PLM start beyond document management ?

The project phases

riaan The good news for Aerosud was that their PLM Champion was an expert in CATIA and was familiar with writing macros in Visual Basic plus the fact that everyone in the company was open for using the system as standard as possible – no demands for special behavior of the system:  “because we do this already for 100 years”

The last phrase you hear a lot in ancient Europe

The choice was to start with implementing ENOVIA SmarTeam Design Express and to focus in two phases around design data management (phase 1) and the usage of design data by other users (phase 2)

The plan was that each phase would take maximum 2-3 months and we would give the users the time to digest and change their habits towards the standards in the system. In reality it took almost a year, not due to technical or conceptual issues, but this was the maximum pace we could have with the amount of time and available resources. The good news after these two phases was that the first bullet was much clearer understood – the difference between having a system with a single version of the truth or Excel management.

businesssystem In the summer of 2008 (our summer – as it was winter in South Africa) there was a management workshop in Aerosud and here after three days of discussion the position of PLM became clear. One year ago this would not have been possible, now people had seen ENOVIA SmarTeam and they could imagine what benefits the system could further bring. This addressed the second bullet I mentioned before. Although this workshop was not scheduled upfront, looking back now I see this was a crucial point to get understanding for the next PLM steps.


The next PLM steps were extending to a real Item-centric data model, because if you want to do PLM you need to work around Bill of Materials and all related information to the items in the Bill of Material. At the end this gives you configuration management without chasing Excels.

Again the next steps were divided in two phases with again a scope of 2 – 3 months. The implementation would be based on the ENOVIA SmarTeam Engineering Express methodology which came as a logic extension of the current implementation, without having to change the database or existing data model.

In the first phase we had awareness sessions for BOM (discussing EBOM / MBOM / Effectivity, etc) plus in parallel we introduced the item as place holder for the information. Not longer folders or projects as the base.

Introduction of the item was conceptual not a big issue and the major activities in this phase were focused on connection legacy data or current data from projects to the items. Data coming from various sources (directories, legacy databases) plus NC data became connected and visible in the single version of truth.

In the second phase of moving to PLM the focus was on EBOM and MBOM. Initially assuring that from the designer point of view the CATIA design and EBOM were connected as smoothly as possible, trying to avoid a lot of administrative overhead on the designer (sometimes unavoidable – see my previous post: Where is my ROI, Mr. Voskuil)


After having implemented a streamlined CATIA – EBOM connection, the focus moved to the MBOM. For me this is the differentiator for companies if they implement PLM or just Product Data Management). Implementing the MBOM requires a culture change and this is the place where the ERP people need to see the benefits instead of the threats . Luckily in Aerosud the manufacturing engineers were working in their Excels initially and not in the ERP system – which happens a lot in older companies.

For that reason the concept of MBOM in PLM was much better understood. Now Aerosud is experiencing these capabilities and once they become obvious for everyone the third bullet will be addressed: people start to work in processes cross-departmental instead of optimizing their department with a specific tool.

phased implementation As this activity will continue, I also conducted with the Aerosud management and PLM implementation team an ROI assessment. Estimates about the experienced and projected benefits were kept low and on the realistic side. The result was that the outcome for the ROI period was approx 27 months, almost the same time as the whole project had as throughput time. This proved again the statement about a phased PLM approach. payback of project comes in parallel with the implementation and will ultimately fund the next steps.



shout_left End of July I will be holding a webinar with more details about this implementation for the Dassault VAR Community. I will be happy to expand this information for a wider audience afterwards, as I believe the project is representative for many mid-market companies that struggle to find the place where PLM fits ….. and brings ROI


Let me know if you are interested in this follow up and I will collect the inputs for a follow up.

observation Again three busy weeks and I envy my colleagues who had the time to write a blog post on a regular base.
Two major topics kept me busy:

  1. explaining the complete PLM scenario from concept (initial BOM), through CAD, through EBOM and MBOM to a final shipped product. I will come back on this topic in future posts as it even goes beyond my old post: Where is the MBOM. To be more detailed in the future
  2. analyzing ROI and predicting ROI for various PLM implementations. And this is the topic I want to share 2 experiences with you, and I am curious for feedback or other viewpoints

Where is my ROI, Mister Voskuil ?

No_roi Some years ago I supervised a PLM implementation and I only was involved after the company had already implemented their 3D CAD software (SolidWorks) after years of 2D AutoCAD. The reason for my visit was that the technical manager was a good guy in monitoring the productivity of his engineering department.

And then he showed me some statistics. Working with AutoCAD 2D was defined as the baseline. Implementing SolidWorks brought initially a drop in drawing output (pay attention to the wording) but after 6 – 9 month the started to be more efficient with SolidWorks and at that time the output was rated at 120 % (or sometimes even more due to more and enhanced product modeling)

Then came the SmarTeam implementation and again the output of the engineering department dropped and going down to 70 % and after one year effort of the SmarTeam implementing VAR, they were still not happy as output was below 100 % still.


Conclusion from their side:  There is no ROI on implementing PLM

In the following discussion we discovered that working methods of the engineers had changed. Less freedom in adding data, incomplete information as the integration with SolidWorks enforced a more strict methodology to the CAD users (who of course complained). The effect of the changed working procedures was however that downstream tasks should have been eliminated . In production preparation 4 people were in the past completing, checking the engineering BOM coming from the design department. They fixed the mistakes and then typed it all in another order into their ERP system for production.

quietIt appeared that those 4 people had a much easier job – first of all they did not complain. Data was immediately on release of the design sent to the ERP system – no manual interaction – and there they could pick-up the EBOM and adapt it for production.  There was less search work to do – as the designer already provided validated input plus there were no typos anymore. Amazingly these 4 people never complained to their management that they could do more, they kept on having their ‘busy’ days.

Morale 1: Measuring ROI in a single department (often an mid-market characteristic) does not give you a good understanding of PLM benefits. PLM, once implemented correct, affects the whole organization

We know there is ROI, but where is it ?

search As you noticed, a less confronting customer,  as we all feel being involved in a successful PLM implementation going in the right direction. Yes, perhaps a little to slow, but the advantage is that people start to see the benefits of a ‘single version of the truth’ – we haven’t reached the advanced scenarios yet as I mentioned in the top.

But now we tried to measure, as I also wrote in previous posts, if you had your organization under control before PLM, in that case you would be able to measure the impact – after 6 months / after 12 months / after 2 years ?

It is like climate change, statistics demonstrate there is a trend and I believe we have an impact on this planet. Still skeptics (luckily less and less) explain us that it is just a normal climate variation, and after 10 – 50 years we will have a new ice age. Not sure if these people are optimists or …….. it just does not fit in their lives

But PLM is somehow the same, we see it has impact, we measure and try to explain, specially in the mid-market companies, skeptics is a natural survival mechanism as you cannot risk to be too optimistic. (This is how startup’

quiet2 So in our situation we started to fill in spreadsheets which brought huge benefits. Imagine searching goes much faster – let’s say instead of 1 hour per day we need only 10 minutes per day per employee. We have 120 people per day searching for data, does it mean we can do it with 20 people instead ? Or what would these people do in the remaining 50 minutes per hour ?

Right, they will find other work to do – less stress, more time to chat with colleagues, have a coffee and above all they won’t complain. People are flexible in filling their day and if the company is lucky some of the ambitious people might fill their day with innovation or other relevant improvements.

Morale 2: Even if there is indisputable ROI on a PLM implementation, the management should analyze what should be the impact on the organization. Invest more in creativity / engineering instead of quality assurance ? In the mid-market this might be perceived as a bad sign – as quality is key. But how much money would we make on a high quality product that no-body buys anymore.

Conclusion: With these two anecdotes I tried to share my ROI struggle which is still following PLM.  I am looking forward for more anecdotes or inputs on the soft side of ROI. Be welcomed to join the discussion

And to stay in the mood – enjoy with Dilbert

observation It is time to continue with my posts about ROI and the need for measuring. I described in previous posts the concept phase and planning phase and will touch in this post the development phase.
But before doing so, there are two points I want to share before.

Queen’s Day in the Netherlands 2009

First as a Dutchman (although many times virtual) I enjoy April 30,  as a special day, as it is our Queen’s Day.
People around the world celebrate the 1st of May, we Dutch celebrate Queen’s Day the day before.

It is a celebration of the people, with free flee markets, concerts and activities all around the country and at some special locations our royal family contributes to the atmosphere by participating amongst us. We celebrate this day not because the Dutch are so royalty minded, it is also a good excuse to celebrate our existence together, and there is always the discussion if a president of the country would bring more to the country as compared to the royal family.

This year Queens Day however became the blackest Queens Day ever. A lunatic apparently decided to make a statement and tried to drive his car into the bus with the royal family. However to get there he drove through the cheering crowd – 7 people died, including the driver because of this attempt. It makes you realize that in the modern society innocence is gone and that life is not as obvious as it is.

Hopefully Queen’s Day will be again a day of the people celebrating , with respect to the victims, still  we should not change our lives because we fear.

Concurrent Engineering around the BOM

idea Next point, back to PLM again, I read an interesting discussing on two blogs regarding the need for the BOM – For me the shared and consolidated BOM, is the major object (placeholder / entry point) for a company to share developed data, so it is an interesting discussion.

Read these posts at: and – they give points to consider, and I support the observation that although we try to do concurrent engineering already for many years, I haven’t seen many successful implementations, mainly due to the human behavior. Classically PDM and PLM require the BOM for collaboration and we might stay with this concept for a long time. Knowing the mid-market, I believe alternative solutions have to come up as a boom embraced by everyone  (and conquer the market within a few years) or we will stick to what we know and what we are doing – changing habits and culture is hard. For the moment I stick to the current situation.

To PLM or Not to PLM – Measuring the development phase

So what happens in the development phase.> We have a concept and a plan and now we need to develop or change the product. In the past this was much easier. Companies worked mainly locally and around a single discipline. Now product development has the typical challenges of collaboration between different locations (many times around the globe), different disciplines (mechanical, electrical, software), integrate suppliers (as we focus on core competence) and meanwhile comply to (local) regulations. A lot of activities in parallel that should run coordinated to a single goal, the developed product. The phase where a lot of data is created and need to be shared among along the enterprise.

So the most important questions related to the development phase are:

  • How many review cycles does a product introduction require in general?
    Measure: time spent on getting a joined status on development and plan next detailed steps
    Analyze: Can we improve the quality of the status information to better plan next steps
  • How much time does it take to prepare a product status review
    Measure: the amount of time and people spent to collect information to make a status review
    Analyze: Can this process of collecting data be shortened and (semi-) automated
  • How do we make sure we select the right parts and solutions for a certain function / system ?
    Measure: The amount of changes during  the development phase or after this phase 
    Analyze: Why were these changes needed ? Missing information, obsolete/redundant parts, failed solutions ?
  • How do we make sure our products comply to local regulations
    Measure: At which state of the development process compliance is checked and how it affects development / go to market time.
    Analyze: Can we verify compliance earlier than current  – and how
  • How much effort does it take to communicate around an engineering change
    : What does it take to communicate and implement a change during the development phase. How much time, many resources are involved around this communication process (and how reliable is it)
    Analyze: Can we improve by doing things different ?  Implementing processes, push technology, ….?

Most of the above points focus on facilitating (global) processes  and making information available anywhere needed. This brings me to my previous post, where I talked about Can ERP vendors do PLM ?  The ERP vendors that do PLM, will claim they are addressing these points in their PLM offering too.  The major difference however is that (and I am generalizing) ERP based systems score low on usability as their systems are not planned to work from within an application (CAD or Office for example) . This is the major difference with PLM systems, closely related to CAD systems. Through their CAD integrations, the PLM environment will be embedded in the day-to-day user / design environment (immersive is the term).

An immersive integration has the benefit that collecting data is much more natural and the chance of having more accurate data available all the time is higher. So most of the point mentioned above will have a higher ROI when working from an integrated PLM environment.  And in addition to that, in the mid-market users have a voice – their acceptance is also part of the ROI.

The keywords for the development phase are global collaboration and visibility of actual data and affected changes. To make data available, integration with the data creator’s desktop is important as then it will be available straight from the source. I keep it here to ‘classical’ PDM / PLM as new concepts like PLM 2.0 will drastically change the way we work, however getting there will take years

point Note: It might be misleading to talk about ROI benefits per phase, as other and additional benefits may come from doing the whole process different.  I will stick to my initial approach as it will give you a baseline to start working from. Remember in order to understand– you need to start measuring even if it is not the ultimate approach

And closing with Queen’s day how it could be (2008 – learning Dutch is not required)

shout_leftI am writing this week’s post on my way to a customer to finalize an implementation and in parallel describing the Return On Investment of this project. But before that, I would like to have a short note about my previous post ‘Free PLM software does not help companies“.
The reason I wrote this post was because I wanted to assure that companies do not believe that ROI for implementing PLM is based on the software costs. PLM implementations are a combination of software, business skills and the company culture. Specially in the current economical situation, I wanted to make clear that these factors are not overlooked. Also I did not want to say Open Source PLM is bad, I made my points on the messaging, however in functionality and usage I do not see a big difference between other types of PLM systems. I got some interesting comments on this post and I advise all of you, who have read the post to go through the comments to get a broader perspective. Once I have had some more opportunity to investigate this area deeper, I will come with a more in-depth post on this topic.

To PLM or Not To PLM

But now back to: To PLM or Not To PLM, where I wrote in a first post on this topic that before judging the costs and ROI of PLM, we should start analyzing our current processes and situation and use this as a baseline to guesstimate the PLM benefits.

The first PLM phase to analyze is the concept phase, where new ideas are picked up (or not). Actually this is the phase where we define the future of the company. The economical recession in a way forces companies to rethink their strategy and fortunately all of the competition is in a similar position. downturn means  less activities, the company might be in the position to allocate time to address these analysis for PLM ROI. Instead of making people redundant, use these people to work on a new and optimized product strategy.

think Existential questions to ask yourself as a company

The basic questions to ask about the concept phase:

  • Do we know where our products are currently in their lifecycle ?
    Measure: quantity, sales trends, margin
    Analyze: is our portfolio healthy ?
  • How do customer rate our products ?
    Measure: market share, market awareness, customer satisfaction, quality, field issues
    Analyze: will customers keep on buying from us ?
  • Where are we different from the competition ?
    Measure: where do we win/ where do we loose and compare per quarter ?
    Analyze: how can we improve the success ratio ?
  • In case of bidding
    Measure: how many bids do we handle per quarter and with which effort
    Analyze: What is the win percentage and how to influence this ?
  • Who are our customers ?
    Measure: does the 80-20 rule apply – does 80 % of the revenue come from 20 % of the customers ?
    Analyze: What is the trend specially in relation to the current market situation
  • Where does innovation come from ?
    : the amount of new ideas, the source (people, customers) and the ones that reach it to the portfolio
    Analyze: Do we have a guarantee for innovation ?

Additional questions to be asked due to current financial and global situation: PARIS

  • How do we strive for climate neutral products – sustainable development ?
    Measure: the amount of energy used to build the products but also to recycle and what remains
    Analyze: How can we change our products and production process ?
  • How do we capture our company’s IP due to the aging workforce in most of the countries
    Measure: How many people with the specific knowledge will  retire in 5 – 10 years ?
    Analyze: Where and how can I assure this knowledge remains in the company ?

For many of the above questions you might say that you know how to conduct your business as you are doing most of these activities and even more.  However the question you should ask yourself also is: How long does it take to answer these questions and to react on these trends ?

Because all the above topics are positively influenced by PLM – here it the PLM ROI !

eb Project and Portfolio Management, company wide workflow process allow the company to measure, to run analysis and to have information within hours (or worse case in days), where in a company where every department and discipline has their own environment, the effort to collect this information becomes huge and not natural. And as it will take a lot of time to collect the information,  people tend to react on their guts or intuition, which might be wrong if you are among the wrong people or if the world changes in a way never seen before.

Additional capturing product and process knowledge allows companies to contain their IP. And just to make this point clear: Product knowledge is not only CAD and Bills of Materials. It is all collected information: issues during design, during production, coming from field services, best practices used and more. The challenge anyway for every PLM system is to provide an environment, user-friendly enough for all users, to start managing their total product IP in a single environment.

PLM as a total approach brings a lot of value and control in the concept phase, the phase where the company’s future is merely defined. And it is obvious that the future should be green and sustainable. Use the current downturn to shape the future – the questions in this post and your analysis should be the base.