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observation

First of all happy new year to all of you. As there is no “End of the World”  risk anymore in the near future , we can start looking forward and set our goals for the next 5 years or is it a 7-years plan Oleg ?.

Christmas, the moment the light returns on the Northern hemisphere, plus the food , cycling and the preparations for the next Product Innovation conference in Berlin were the drivers for this blog post.

The title might give you the impression that it is an IQ-quiz: “Which word does not fit in this sequence”?  Well, It’s not, they are all related.  Let’s put them in a chronological order.

Frogs

frogFrogs existed first, and were exploring the world before us humans.  Paleontologists assume they had no notion of what was global.  In their world it was probably a few ponds in size.  For certain, they did not have anything to do with innovation.  At that time, survival depended on the slow process of evolution.

Millions of years later, the first Homos appeared on the earth surface;  Homo Sapiens, Homo Erectus, Homo Ludens and perhaps more.  They all had something in common: Instead of waiting for the evolution which was ongoing, they started in parallel to innovate.  First by walking upright, using a more advanced language to communicate and learning to have tools to achieve more.  Their world was still within a reasonable walking distance and probably they started to eat frogs.

Human evolution

This evolution continued for thousands of years.  Human beings started to spread around the world and in waves they brought innovation. They built stone temples, learned to sail, discovered gunpowder, electricity, the universe, the internet and more.  It is interesting to see that every time a major innovation was born, these innovators enriched their region in wealth and culture, using their innovation as a competitive advantage to dominate their neighbors.

In many cases 1000 years later, this innovation became a commodity and other civilizations stood up with their innovation and dominated their regional environment which became bigger and bigger in size.  Where possible they made use of the cheap resources (modern word for what was initially called slaves) to enrich their civilization.  For certain, the most civilized were eating frogs!

Market expansion – innovation pace

During the last century, the pace of innovation went faster and faster.  New ways of communication and transportation became available and affordable, which made it impossible for innovations to stay within a specific civilization. Innovation became available for everyone around the world and the domination shifted towards companies and markets.

SNAGHTML4a560dcCompanies with a strategy to innovate, discovered that there were new ways needed to respond faster than before to market opportunities.  This was the driving force behind PDM, as an first attempt to get a better grip and understanding of their fast evolving, more complex products, that require more and more global collaboration between design teams.

PDM is now accepted as critical by all manufacturing companies around the world, to guarantee quality and efficiency.  Customer focus became the next demand from the market and interestingly enough, the demand for frogs decreased.

However this wave of innovation was followed by a wave with even greater impact on the global society.  New technologies, the availability of internet and social media, suddenly changed society. Combined with the financial crisis in the US and Europe, it became clear that the way we worked in the past is no longer the way to survive in the future.

Faster and global

plm_txtPLM was introduced early this century as a new strategy to become more customer-centric, being able to respond faster and better to market demands by bringing innovation to the market before the competition. PLM requires a different approach by companies to work internally and interact with the (global) outside world.  The need to implement the PLM vision requires change and as it cannot be considered as an evolutionary process over several generations, it will be a business change. However, in general, human beings do not like rapid change.  Here the frogs come back into the picture, now as the boiling frog metaphor.

It is based on 19th century anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive.  The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.  The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually.  This metaphor is very applicable for the classical approach companies bring their products to the market, where innovation is more a lucky coincidence than a result of a strategy.

Here it all comes together again.

marketleaderInnovation is the only way for companies to avoid becoming a commodity – not able to differentiate for your potential customers.  Now the title of this post should be clear: “Do not be a boiling frog, use PLM to support your innovation and become available for the global market”

As the new year has started and it is still time to extend your good intentions, add Innovation, PLM and Change to your survival list.

I look forward to your comments and hope to discuss with you the relation between PLM and Innovation during the upcoming Product Innovation event in Berlin, where I present a session with the title: “PLM loves Innovation ?”

(when you know me, you know the answer, but there are always surprises)

image

CoveyIt is interesting to read management books and articles and reflect the content in the context of PLM. In my previous post How the brain blocks PLM acceptance and in Stephen Porter´s (not yet finished) serial The PLM state: the 7 habits of highly effective PLM adoption, you can discover obvious points that we tend to forget in the scope of PLM as we are so focused on our discipline.

christensenThis summer holiday I was reading the Innovator´s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton Christensen. Christensen is an associated professor at the Harvard Business School and he published this book already in 1997. Apparently not everyone has read the book and I recommend that if you are involved in the management of a PLM company to read it.

Sustaining technology

Christensen states there are two types of technologies. Leading companies are supporting their customers and try to serve them better and better by investing a lot in improving their current products. Christensen calls this sustaining technology as the aim is to improve existing products. Sustaining technologies lead to every time more and more effort to improve the current product performance and capabilities due to the chosen technology and solution concepts. These leading companies are all geared up around this delivery process and resources are optimized to sustain leadership, till ….

Disruptive technology

The other technology Christensen describes is disruptive technology, which initially is not considered as competition for existing technologies as it under performs in the same scope, so no way to serve the customer in the same way. The technology underperforms if you would apply to the same market, but it has unique capabilities that make it fit for another market. Next if the improvement path of disruptive technology can be faster than the improvement path for the sustaining technology, it is possible that their paths meet at a certain point. And although coming from a different set of capabilities, due to the faster improvement process the disruptive technology becomes the leading one and companies that introduced the disruptive technology became the new market leaders.

Why leading companies failed..

failChristensen used the disk drive industry as an example as there the change in technology was so fast that it was a perfect industry to follow it´s dynamics. Later he illustrates the concepts with examples from other industries where the leading firms failed and stopped to exist because disruptive technologies overtook them and they were not able to follow that path too.

Although the leading companies have enough resources and skills, he illustrates that it is a kind of logical path – big companies will always fail as it is in their nature to focus on sustaining technology. Disruptive technologies do not get any attention as they are targeting a different unclear market in the beginning and in addition it is not clear where the value from this disruptive technology comes from, so which manager wants to risk his or her career to focus on something uncertain in an existing company.

Christensen therefore advises these leading companies, if they expect certain technologies to become disruptive for their business, to start a separate company and take a major share position there. Leave this company focus on its disruptive technology and in case they are successful and cross the path of the sustaining technology embed them again in your organization. Any other approach is almost sure to fail, quote:

flyExpecting achievement-driven employees in a large organization to devote critical mass of resources, attention and energy to disruptive projects targeted at a small market is equivalent to flapping one´s arms in an effort to fly

As the book was written in 1997, it was not in the context of PLM. Now let´s start with some questions.

Is ERP in the stage of sustaining technology?

erp_txtHere I would say Yes. ERP vendors are extending their functional reach to cover more than the core functionality for two reasons: they need continuous growth in revenue and their customers ask for more functionality around the core. For sustaining technologies Christensen identifies four stages. Customers select a product for functionality, when other vendors have the same functionality reliability becomes the main differentiation. And after reliability the next phase is convenience and finally price.
From my personal observations, not through research, I would assume ERP for the major vendors is in the phase between convenience and price. If we follow Christensen´s analysis for SAP and Oracle it means they should not try to develop disruptive technologies inside their organization, neither should they try to downscale their product for the mid-market or add a different business model. Quote:

What goes up – does not go down. Moving to a high-end market is possible (and usually the target) – they will not go to small, poor defined low-end markets

How long SAP and Oracle will remain market leaders will depend on disruptive technologies that will meet the path of ERP vendors and generate a new wave. I am not aware of any trends in that area as I am not following the world of ERP closely

Is PLM in the stage of sustaining technology?

plm_txtHere I would say No because I am not sure what to consider as a clear definition of PLM. Different vendors have a different opinion of what a PLM system should provide as core technologies. This makes it hard to measure it along the lifecycle of sustaining technology with the phases: functionality, reliability, convenience and price.

Where the three dominant PLM providers (DS/PTC/Siemens) battle in the areas of functionality, reliability and convenience others are focusing on convenience and price.

Some generalized thoughts passed my mind:

  • DS and PTC somehow provoke their customers by launching new directions where they believe the customer will benefit from. This somehow makes it hard to call it sustaining technology.
  • · Siemens claiming they develop their products based on what customers are asking for. According to Christensen they are at risk in the long term as customers keep you captive and do not lead you to disruptive technologies.
  • · All three focus on the high-end and should not aim for smaller markets with the same technology. This justifies within DS the existence of CATIA and SolidWorks and in Siemens the existence of NX and SolidEdge. Unifying them would mean the end of their mid-market revenue and open it for others.

 

Disruptive technologies for PLM

Although PLM is not a sustained technology to my opinion, there are some disruptive technologies that might come into the picture of mainstream PLM.

open_sourceFirst of all there is the Open Source software model, introduced by Aras, which initially is not considered as a serious threat for the classical PLM players – “big customers will never rely on open source”. However the Open Source model allows product improvements to move faster than main stream, reaching at a certain point the same level of functionality, reliability and convenience. The risk for Open Source PLM is that it is customer driven, which according Christensen is the major inhibitor for disruptive steps in the future

cloudNext there is the cloud. Autodesk PLM and Kenesto are the two most visible companies in this domain related to PLM. Autodesk is operating from a comfort zone – it labels its product PLM, it does not try to match what the major PLM vendors try to do and they come from the small and medium mid-size market. Not too many barriers to come into the PLM mid-market in a disruptive manner. But does the mid-market need PLM? Is PLM a bad annotation for its cloud based product? Time will tell.

The management from Kenesto obviously has read the book. Although the initially concept came from PLM++ (bad marketing name), they do not to compete with mainstream PLM and aim their product at a different audience – business process automation. Then if their product picks up in the engineering / product domain, it might enter the PLM domain in a disruptive manner (all according to the book – they will become market leaders)

searchFinally Search Based Applications which are also a disruptive technology for the PLM domain. Many companies struggle with the structured data approach a classical PLM system requires and especially for mid-market companies this overhead is a burden. They are used to work in a cognitive manner, the validation and formalization is often done in the brain of experienced employees. Why cannot search based technology not be used to create structured data and replace or support the experienced brain?

If I open my Facebook page, I see new content related to where I am, what I have been saying or surfing for. Imagine an employee´s desktop that works similar, where your data is immediately visible and related information is shown. Some of the data might come from the structured system in the background, other might be displayed based on logical search criteria; the way our brain works. Some startups are working in this direction and Inforbix (congratulations Oleg & team) has already been acquired by Autodesk or Exalead by DS.

For both companies if they believe in the above concept, they should remain as long as possible independent from the big parent company as according to Christensen they will not get the right focus and priorities if they are part of the sustainable mainstream technology

Conclusion
This blog post was written during a relaxing holiday in Greece. The country here is in a crisis, they need disruptive politicians. They did it 3500 years ago and I noticed the environment is perfect for thinking as you can see below.

Meanwhile I am looking forward to your thoughts on PLM, in which state we are what the disruptive technologies are.

IMAG0235IMAG0233IMAG0231

The problem with a TLA is that there is a limited number of combinations that make sense. And even once you have found the right meaning for a TLA, like PLM you discover so many different interpretations.

myplmFor PLM I wrote about this in my post PLM misconceptions –: PLM = PLM ?
I can imagine an (un)certain person, who wants to learn about PLM, might get confused (and should be – if you take it too serious).

At the end your company’s goal should be how to drive innovation, increase profitability and competiveness and not about how it is labeled.

As a frequent reader of my blog, you might have noticed I wrote sometimes about ALM and here a similar confusion might exist as there are three ALMs that might be considered in the context I am blogging.

Therefore this post to clarify which ALM I am dedicated to.
So first I start with the other ALMs:

ALM = Application Lifecycle Management

SWThis is an upcoming discipline in the scope of PLM due to the fact that more and more in the product development world embedded software becomes a part of the product. And like in PLM where we want to manage the product data through its lifecycle, ALM should become a logical part of a modern PLM implementation. Currently most of the ALM applications in this context are isolated systems dealing only with the software lifecycle, see this Wiki Page

ALM = Asset Lifecycle Management (operational)

In 2009 I started to focus on (my type of) ALM, called Asset Lifecycle Management, and I discovered the same confusion as when you talk about a BOM. What BOM really means is only clear when you understand the context. Engineers will usually think of an Engineering BOM, representing product as specified by engineering (managed by PDM). Usually the rest of the organization will imagine the Manufacturing BOM, representing the product the way it will be produced (managed mostly in ERP).

ALM_operational diagramThe same is valid for ALM. The majority of people in a production facility, plant or managed infrastructure will consider ALM as the way to optimize the lifecycle of assets. This means optimizing the execution of the plant, when to service or replace an asset ? What types of MRO activities to perform. Sounds a lot like ERP and as it has direct measurable impact on finance, it is the area that gets most of the attention by the management.

ALM = Asset Lifecycle Management (information management)

alm_1Here we talk about the information management of assets. When you maintain your assets only in a MRO system, it is similar like in a manufacturing company when only using an ERP system. You have the data for operations, but you do not have the process in place to manage the change and quality of data. In the manufacturing world this is done in PDM and PLM system and I believe owners/operators of plant can learn from that.

I wrote a few posts about this topic, see Asset Lifecycle Management using a PLM system, PLM CM and ALM – not sexy or using a PLM system for Asset Lifecycle Management requires a vision  and I am not going to rewrite them in this post. So get familiar with my thoughts if you read the first time about ALM  in my blog.

What I wanted to share is that thanks to modern PLM systems,  IT infrastructure/technologies and SBA it becomes achievable for owner/operators to implement an Asset Lifecycle Management vision for their asset information and I am happy to confirm that in my prospect and customer base, I see companies investing and building this ALM vision.

And why do they do this:

  • imageReduce maintenance time (incidental and planned) by days or weeks due to the fact that people have been working with the right and complete data. Depending on the type of operations, one week less maintenance can bring millions (power generation, high demand/high cost chemicals and more)

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  • imageReduce the failure costs dramatically. As maintenance is often a multi-disciplinary activity errors due to miscommunication are considered as normal in this industry (10 % up and even more).  It is exactly this multi-disciplinary coordination that PLM systems can bring to this world. And the more you can do in a virtual world the more you can assure you do the right thing during real maintenance activities. Here industries similar as for the previous bullet, but also industries where high-costly materials and resources are used, the impact on reducing failure costs is high.

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  • imageImprove the quality of data. Often the MRO system contains a lot of operational parameters that were entered there at a certain time by a certain person with certain skills – the fact that although I used the word certain three times, the result is uncertainty as there is no separate tracing and validation of the parameters per discipline and an uncertain person looking at the data might not discover there is an error, till it goes wrong. Here industries where a human error can be dramatic benefit the most from it (nuclear, complex chemical processes)

Conclusion: The PLM system based ALM implementations are more and more becoming reality next to the ALM operational world.  After spending more then three years focused on this area, I believe we can see and learn from the first results.

Are you interested in more details or do you want to share your experience ? Please let me know and I will be happy to extend the discussion

Note: On purpose I used as much TLA’s to assure it looks like an specialist blog, but you can always follow the hyperlink to the wiki explanation, when the TLA occurs the first time.

JOS

observationSorry for the provoking title in a PLM blog, but otherwise you would not read my post till the end.

In the past months I have been working closely with several large companies (not having a mid-market profile). And although they were all in different industries and have different business strategies, they still had these common questions and remarks:

  • How to handle more and more digital data and use it as valuable information inside the company or for their customers / consumers ?
  • What to do with legacy data (approved in the previous century) and legacy people (matured and graduated in the previous century) preventing them to change ?
  • We are dreaming of a new future, where information is always up-to-date and easy to access – will this ever happen ?
  • They are in the automotive industry, manufacturing industry, infrastructure development and maintenance, plant engineering, construction and plant maintenance
  • They all want data to be managed with (almost) zero effort
  • And please, no revolution or change for the company

Although I have been focusing on the mid-market, it is these bigger enterprises that introduce new trends and as you can see from the observations above, there is a need for a change. But also it looks like the demands are in a contradiction to each other.

jugle

I believe it is just about changing the game.

If you look at the picture to the left, you see one of the contradictions that lead to PLM.

Increasing product quality, reducing time to market and meanwhile reducing costs seemed to be a contradiction at that time too.

Change ?

Although PLM has not been implemented (yet) in every company that could benefit from it, it looks like the bigger enterprises are looking for more.

plm_txtthe P from PLM becomes vague – it is no longer only the product that has the focus, it is also the whole context around the product that might influence it, that they want to take in consideration

the L from PLM remains – they still want to connect all information that is related to the lifecycle of their products or plants.

the M from Management has a bad association – companies believe that moving from their current state towards a managed environment of data is a burden. Too much overhead is the excuse to not manage dat. And their existing environments to manage data do not excel in user-friendliness. And therefore people jump towards using Excel.

Next

So if the P is not longer relevant, the M is a burden, what remains of PLM ?

Early June I presented at the Dassault Systems 3DExperience forum the topic of digital Asset Lifecycle Management for owners / operators. One of the areas where I believe PLM systems can contribute a lot to increase business value and profitability (quality and revenue – see using a PLM system for Asset Lifecycle Management )

Attending the key note speech it was clear that Dassault Systems does not talk about PLM anymore as a vision. Their future dream is a (3D) lifelike experience of the virtual world.  And based on that virtual model, implement the best solution based on various parameters: revenue, sustainability,  safety and more. By trying to manage the virtual world you have the option to avoid real costly prototypes or damaging mistakes.

I believe it is an ambitious dream but it fits in the above observations. There is more beyond PLM.

In addition I learned from talking with my peers (the corridor meetings) that also Siemens and PTC are moving towards a more industry or process oriented approach, trying to avoid the association with the generic PLM label.

Just at the time that Autodesk and the mid-market started to endorse PLM, the big three are moving away from this acronym.

This reminds me of what happened in the eighties when 3D CAD was introduced. At the time the mid-market was able to move to mainstream 3D (price / performance ratio changed dramatically) the major enterprises started to focus on PDM and PLM. So it is logical that the mid-market is 10 – 15 years behind new developments – they cannot afford experiments with new trends.

So let’s see what are the new trends:search

  • the management of structured and unstructured data as a single platform. We see the rise of Search Bases Application and business intelligence based on search and semantic algorithms. Using these capabilities integrated with a structured (PLM ? ) environment is the next big thing.
  • Apps instead of generic applications that support many roles. The generic applications introduce such a complexity to the interface that they become hard to use by a casual user. Most enterprise systems, but also advanced CAD or simulation tools with thousands of options suffer from this complexity. Would not it be nice if you only had to work with a few dedicated apps as we do in our private life ?
  • Dashboards (BI) that can be created on the
    flydashboardrepresenting actual data and trends based
    on structured and unstructured data.
    It reminded me of a PLM / ERP discussion I had with a company, where the general manager all the time stated the types of dashboards he wanted to see. He did not talk about PLM, ERP or other systems – he wanted the on-line visibility
  • Cloud services are coming. Not necessary centralizing all data on the cloud to reduce it cost. But look at SIRE and other cloud services that support a user with data and remote processing power at the moment required.
  • Visual navigation through a light 3D Model providing information when required. This trend is not so recent but so far not integrated with other disciplines, the Google maps approach for 3D.

So how likely are these trends to change enterprise systems like PLM, ERP or CRM. In the table below I indicated where it could apply:

enterprise trends

As you can see the PLM row has all the reasons to introduce new technologies and change the paradigm. For that reason combined with the observations I mentioned in the beginning, I am sure there is a new TLA (Three Letter Acronym) upcoming.

The good news is that PLM is dynamic and on the move. The bad news for potential PLM users is that the confusion remains – too many different PLM definitions and approaches currently – so what will be the next thing after PLM ?

Conclusion: The acronym PLM is not dead and becomes mainstream. On the high-end there is for sure a trend to a wider and different perspective of what was initially called PLM. After EDM, TDM, PDM and PLM we are waiting for the next TLA

blog_start

May 24th, 2008 was the date I posted my first blog post as a Virtual Dutchman aiming to share PLM related topics for the mid-market.

I tried to stay away from technology and function/feature debates and based on my day to day observations, describe the human side of the PLM  – what people do and why . All  from a personal perspective and always open to discuss and learn more.

Looking back and reviewing my 86 posts and 233 comments so far, I would like to share a summary around some of the main topics in my blog.

PLM

PLM_profIn 2008, PLM awareness was much lower – at that time one of the reasons for me to start blogging. There was still a need to explain that PLM was a business strategy needed beside ERP and PDM.

PLM will bring more efficiency, and in better quality, new innovative products to the market due to better collaboration between teams and departments.

At that time the big three, Dassault Systemes, Siemens and PTC  were all offering a very CAD-centric, complex approach for PLM. There was no real mid-market offering, although their marketing organizations tried to sell as-if a mid-marketing offering existed.  Express, Velocity, ProductPoint where are these offerings now ?

Now, In 2012 there is an established PLM awareness as everyone is talking about (their interpretation of) PLM and with Autodesk, a company that knows how to serve the mid-market, also acknowledged there is a need for PLM in their customer base, the term PLM is widespread

The new PLM providers focus on a disconnect between PDM and PLM, as in particular the handling of enterprise data outside the PDM scope is a white space for many mid-market companies that need to operate on a global platform.

PLM & ERP

NoChangeIn the relation between PLM and ERP, I haven’t seen a big change the past four years. The two dominating ERP originated vendors, SAP and Oracle were paying attention to PLM in 2008 in their marketing and portfolio approach.

However their PLM offerings in my perception, haven’t moved much forward. SAP is selling ERP and yes there is a PLM module and Oracle is having PLM systems, but I haven’t seen a real targeted PLM campaign explaining the needs and value of PLM integrated with ERP.

Historically ERP is the main IT-system and gets all the management attention. PLM is more considered something for engineering (and gets less focus and budget). Understanding PLM and how it connects to ERP remains a point of attention and the crucial point of interaction is the manufacturing BOM and the place where it is defined. The two most read posts from my blog are: Where is the MBOM and next Bill of Materials for Dummies – ETO, indicating there is a lot of discussion around this topic.

I am happy to announce here that in October this year during PLM Innovation US, I will present and share my thoughts in more detail with the audience, hoping for good discussions

New trends

There are three new trends that became more clear the past four years.

dummies_logoThe first one to mention is the upcoming of Search Based Applications (SBA). Where PLM systems require structured and controlled data, search based applications assist the user by “discovering” data anywhere in the organization, often in legacy systems or possible in modern communication tools.

I believe companies that develop an integrated concept of PLM and SBA can benefit the most. PLM and ERP vendors should think about combining these two approaches in an integrated offering. I wrote about this combined topic in my post: Social Media and PLM explained for Dummies

cloudThe second trend is the cloud. Where two-three years ago social media combined with PLM was the hype as a must for product innovation and collaboration, currently cloud is in focus.

Mainly driven and coming for the US, where the big marketing engine from Autodesk is making sure it is on the agenda of mid-market companies.

In Europe there is less a hype at this moment, different countries and many languages to support plus discussions around security take the overhand here.

For me a cloud solution for sure is lowering the threshold for mid-market companies to start implementing PLM. However how to make the change in your company ? It is not only an IT-offering. Like a similar discussion around Open Source PLM, there is still a need to provide the knowledge and change push  inside a company to implement PLM correct. Who will provide these skills ?

alm_1The third trend is the applicability of PLM systems outside the classical manufacturing industries.

I have been writing about the usage of PLM systems for Owner/Operators and the civil / construction industry, where the PLM system becomes the place to store all plant related information, connected to assets and with status handling. Currently I am participating in several projects in these new areas and the results are promising

People and Change

frogI believe PLM requires a change in an organization not only from the IT perspective but more important from the way people will work in an organization and the new processes they require.

The change is in sharing information, making it visible and useful for others in order to be more efficient and better informed to make the right decisions much faster.

This is a global trend and you cannot stay away from it. Keeping data locked in your reach might provide job security but in the long term it kills all jobs in the company as competiveness is gone.

The major task here lies with the management that should be able to understand and execute a vision that is beyond their comfort zone. I wrote about this topic in my series around PLM 2.0

Modern companies with a new generation of workers will have less challenges with this change and I will try to support the change with arguments and experiences from the field.

Audience

Since February this year, WordPress provides much more statistics and interesting is the map below indicating in which countries my blog is read. As you can see there are only a few places left on earth where PLM is not studied.  Good news !!

audience

Although most of my observations come from working in Europe, it is the US that provides the most readers (30 %) , followed by India (9 %) and on the third place the UK (6 %).

This might be related to the fact that I write my blog in English  (not in 100 % native English as someone commented once).

It makes me look forward to be in October in Atlanta during the PLM Innovation US conference to meet face to face with many of my blog readers and share experiences.

Conclusion

Reading back my posts since 2008, it demonstrated for me that the world of PLM is not a static environment. It is even that dynamic that some of the posts I wrote in the early days have become obsolete. 

At the end of 2008 I predicted the future of PLM in 2050 – here we are on the right track.

There is still enough blogging to do without falling into repetitions and  I am looking forward to your opinion, feedback and topics to discuss.

 

cloudThe trigger for this post is based was a discussion I had around the Autodesk 360 cloud based PLM solution. To position this solution and to simplify the message for my conversation partner Joe the plumber, I told him”: “You can compare the solution with Excel on-line. As many small mid-market companies are running around with metadata (no CAD files) in Excel, the simplified game changer with this cloud based PLM offering is that the metadata is now in the cloud, much easier to access and only a single version exists.

(sorry for Autodesk, if I simplified it too much, but sometimes your conversation partner does not have an IT background as they are plumbers)

google_docs

Interesting enough Joe said: “But what is the difference with Google docs or SharePoint where I can centralize my Excel files too  – and Google Docs is like a cloud solution, right ?”

He was right and I had to go more in-depth to explain difference. This part of the conversation was similar to discussions I had in some meetings with owner / operators in the civil and energy sector, discussing the benefits of PLM practices for their industry.

I wrote about this in previous posts:

Using a PLM system for asset lifecycle management requires a vision

PLM practices for the engineering / construction industry

The trouble with dumb documents

tiff_pdfHere it was even more a key point of the discussion that most of the legacy data is stored in dumb documents. And the main reason dumb documents are used is because the data needs to be available during the long lifecycle of the the plant, application independent if possible. So in the previous century this was paper, later scanned documents (TIFF – PDF) and currently mainly PDF. Most of the data now is digital but where is the intelligence ?

The challenges these companies have is that despite the fact information is now stored in a digital file, the next step is how to deal with the information in an intelligent manner. A document or an Excel file is a collection of information, you might call it knowledge, but to get access to the knowledge you need to find it.

Did you try to find a specific document in Google docs or SharePoint ? The conclusion will be the file name becomes very important, and perhaps some keywords ?

Is search the solution ?

searchTo overcome this problem, full text search and search based applications were developed, that allow us to index and search inside the documents. A piece of cake for Google and a niche for others to index not only standard documents but also more technical data (drawings, scans from P&ID, etc, etc).

Does this solve the problem ?

Partly, as suddenly the user finds a lot more data. Search on Google for the words “Right data” and you have 3.760.000.000 hits (or more). But what is the right data ? The user can only decide what is the right data by understanding the context.

  • Is it the latest version ?
  • Is it reflecting the change we made at that functional position ?
  • What has changed ?

rel_model

And here comes the need for more intelligent data. And this is typically where a PLM system provides the answer.

A PLM systems is able to manage different types of information, not only documents. In the context of a plant or a building, the PLM system would also contain:

  • a functional definition / structure (linked to its requirements)
  • a logical definition / structure  (how is it supposed to be ?)
  • a physical definition / structure (what is physically there ?)
  • a location definition / structure  (where in the plant / building ?)

and this is all version managed and related to the supported documents and other types of information. This brings context to the documents and therefore it exposes knowledge.

As there is no automatic switch from dumb documents towards intelligent data, it will be a gradual process to move towards this vision. I see a major role for search based applications to support data discovery. Find a lot of information, but than have the capability to capture the result (or generate a digest of the result) and store it connected to your PLM system, where is it managed in the future and provides the context.

Conclusion:  We understand that paper documents are out of time. Moving these documents to digital files stored in a central location, either in SharePoint or a cloud-based storage location is a step we will regret in ten years from now, as intelligent data is not only inside the digital files but also depending on its context.

observation

Since the past six months I am involved in several discussions related to the (building) construction industry. If you look to this industry, it seems like this is one of the few industries without innovation in its processes.

Someone in the discussion even claimed that if a worker from the middle ages would come back to this century, he would be quickly adapt and understand the way people work. OK, there are some new tools and materials, but the way the building construction industry works has not changed.

And let’s look to productivity. Where in the past 60 years in all industries productivity has increased, I have seen a survey where productivity in this industry has not increased and even decreased a little.

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Although the survey ends in 2003, another article caught my attention. Robert Prieto, Senior Vice President from Fluor Corporation wrote end of last year in Engineering News Record his viewpoint: Engineering-Construction Needs a New Model. Reading this article and the comments demonstrates there is a need for innovation in the building construction industry.

Failure costs up to 15 % and delayed deliveries are considered normal business in this industry, where if this would be applied to mid-market companies in the manufacturing industry, they would have gone bankrupt due to claims and lost profit.

If we look at this industry, the first excuse you hear is that every project is unique and that project execution is done by a group of loose connected suppliers, not really pushed to stay within the targeted budget. But you might ask yourself: what is the correct budget?

whyworryI noticed that in this industry when a project is estimated, suppliers are asked to deliver their bid and proposed solution based on their understanding. Usually the lowest bid wins the bid.

All participants are aware that not all requirements are clear, but no one wants to ask and invest further as to invest more in accurate cost estimation. This is not anticipated. It is about winning the bid with the lowest trouble and investment.

So who is to blame? First of all, the client who has a short term vision. By selecting the lowest bids and not pushing for in-depth analysis of the project delivery and operational costs in the long term, the situation will not change.

What if the client was using the basics of PLM – Product Lifecycle Management? For me PLM means a connection and sharing of the concept phase, the delivery phase, production phase and maintenance phase.

What I consider as strange is the fact that in the engineering and construction industry these four phases are not connected and often that the maintenance phase (operations) is not taken into account during the concept phase.

plm_constrAnd then there is the data handover. After engineering and construction specific data is handed over to the maintenance organization. What is the quality of the data, how applicable is it to the maintenance organization and how does it support maintenance is not clear. There is a disconnect and loss of knowledge as the handover is just based on the minimum data required.

What if the engineering construction industry would use PLM best practices, like:

  • Requirements Management – connecting, implementing and validating all the requirements from each stakeholder. Making sure all requirements are considered and negotiated in a structured manner – no excuse for surprises.
  • Data sharing with versions and status. Instead of a handover, data becomes mature during the lifecycle of the project. It requires the maintenance organization to be involved from the start
  • Standardized validation and approval processes related to requirements and data. These processes might be considered as an overhead but they are the ones that lead to quality, risk and cost management

Conclusion: I believe connecting the engineering and maintenance phase for engineering construction companies will lead to higher productivity and quality. For sure the initial engineering cost will be higher, but during the construction and maintenance phase these costs will be recovered and probable much more – here is the ROI

As my intention was to write shorter blog posts this year, I stop at this point and look forward to your comments for a further discussion.

YOUR THOUGHTS ??

Last week I started a small series of posts related to the topic PLM 2.0. I was hoping for more comments and discussion about the term PLM 2.0, although I must say I was glad Oleg picked it up in his posts: PLM 2.0 born to die? and Will JT-open enable future of PLM 2.0?

Oleg, as a full-time blogger, of course had the time to draw the conclusions, which will take me another two weeks, hoping meanwhile the discussion evolves. Where Oleg’s focus is on technology and openness (which are important points), I will also explain that PLM 2.0 is a change in doing business, but this will be in next week’s post.

This week I will focus on the current challenges and pitfalls in PLM. And we all know that when somebody talks about challenges, there might be problems.

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Last week : What is PLM 2.0?
This week: : Challenges in current PLM
Next : Change in business
Final post : Why PLM 2.0 – conclusions

The Challenges in current PLM

First I want to state that there are several types of definition in the world for PLM, coming from different type of organizations – I listed here two vendor independent definitions:

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The Wiki definition:

In industry, product lifecycle management (PLM) is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal. PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.


clip_image005The 2PLM definition:

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the business activity of managing a company’s products all the way across the lifecycle in the most effective way. The objective of PLM is to improve company revenues and income by maximizing the value of the product portfolio

And there are more definitions. Just recently, I noticed on the PlanetPTC blog from Aibhe Coughlan a post where she promoted a definition of PLM published in the Concurrent Engineering blog. Here I got immediate a little irritated reading the first words: “PLM is software designed to enhance process efficiencies ……… and more …”

clip_image007I do not believe PLM is software. Yes there is software used to automate or implement PLM practices, but this definition starts to neglect the culture and process sides of PLM. And as Oleg was faster – read his more extended comment here

(I am not paid by Oleg to promote his blog, but we seem to have similar interests)

Back to the classical definitions

The Wiki definition gives the impression that you need to have an infrastructure to manage (store) all product data in order to serve as an information backbone for the extended enterprise. It becomes more an IT-project, often sponsored by the IT-department, with the main goal to provide information services to the company in a standardized manner.

This type of PLM implementations tends to be the same type of implementation as an ERP system or other major IT-system. In this type of top-down implementations, the classical best practices for project management should be followed. This means:

  • A clear vision
  • Management sponsorship
  • A steering committee
  • A skilled project leader and team
  • Committed resources
  • Power user involvement
  • Communication
  • …… and more …

project_structure

These PLM projects are promoted by PLM vendors and consultants as the best way to implement PLM. And there are a lot of positive things to say about this approach. For many big companies implementing cPDM or PLM was a major step forward. Most of the ROI stories are based on this type of implementations and have been the showcases on PLM events. It is true that data quality increases, therefore efficiency and product quality. Without PLM they would not reach the same competiveness as they have now.

But sometimes these projects go into extreme when satisfying users or IT-guidelines

To avoid the implementation of a ‘new IT-system’, companies often have the strategy that if we already have an ERP-system , let’s customize or extend it, so we can store the additional data and perform workflow processes based on this system.

In a recent webinar, I heard a speaker saying that in their company they had the following automation strategy defined together with IT is:

  • First they will see if the needed PLM functionality exists in their ERP system or is part of the portfolio of their ERP provider. If the functionality is there (this means the ERP vendor has the capability to store metadata and a factsheet mentioning the right name), there is no looking outside.
  • If the functionality is not there, there will be a discussion with the ERP vendor or implementer to build it on top of their ERP system.

clip_image011I have seen implementations where the company has developed complete custom user interfaces in order to get user acceptance (the users would not accept the standard graphical interface). At that time, no one raised the flag about future maintenance and evolution of these custom environments. The mood was: we kept it simple – one single system.

I believe this closes the door for real PLM, as storing data in a system does not mean you will use it in an efficient and optimized manner. How will you anticipate on changes in business if it is just doing more with the same system?

And mid-market companies ?

The top-down approach described before is the fear of many mid-market companies, as they remember how painful their first ERP implementation was. And now with PLM it is even more unclear. PLM aims to involve the engineering department, which so far has not worked in a very procedural manner. Informal and ad-hoc communication combined with personal skills within this department was often the key for success.

clip_image013And now an unfriendly system is brought in, with low or little usability, pushing these creative people to enter data without seeing any benefits. The organization downstream benefits but this will be only noticed later in time. And for the engineering department it will take more effort to change their work methodology focused on innovation. However, in general in the mid-market, the target of a PLM project is to have a Return on Investment (ROI) in a very short timeframe ( 1-2 years). Investing in usability should be even more important for this type of companies as there is less top-down pressure to accept this new PLM system.

And flexibility ?

clip_image015In the past years we have seen that business is changing – there is a shift in global collaboration and manufacturing and from the recent history we can learn that those big enterprise projects from the past became a threat. Instead of being able to implement new concepts or new technology, the implementation became more and more vendor monolithic as other capabilities and applications do not fit anymore. This is against the concept of openness and being flexible for the future. I believe if PLM becomes as rigid as ERP, it blocks companies to innovate – the challenge for big companies is to find the balance between stability and flexibility (This was the title from Sony Ericsson’s presentation at the PLM forum in Sweden this year)

And again for mid-market companies who do not have the budget or resources to invest in similar projects. They have less a drive to optimize themselves in the same manner as big companies do as flexibility is often their trade mark (and capability to innovate) . So PLM for the mid-market will not work in the classical way.

This is one of the reasons why a mid-market PLM standard has not yet been found (yet ?). From the other hand many mid-market companies are dealing with PLM practices although often it is more close to PDM and CAD data management. And mid-market companies do not change their organization easily – there is more a departmental approach avoiding therefore a change in business.

To summarize the biggest challenges in current PLM described in this post:

  • PLM is considered complex to implement
  • PLM is a huge IT-project
  • PLM requires change and structuring – but what about flexibility
  • Where is the PLM value and ROI – user acceptance
  • PLM for the mid-market – does it exist ?

Conclusion: I have been writing about the PLM challenges in the past, see the links below if you are interested in more details on a specific topic.

In 2008,I thought that Out-of-the-Box PLM systems and standard functionalities could bring a solution for the mid-market, perhaps future solutions based on the cloud. However I learned that if you want to do real PLM in a modern manner, you need to change the way you do your business – and this I will explain in my upcoming post.

Related links:

observation During this summer holiday, I was looking back on recent implementations and sales efforts related to PLM. Some had particular challenges regarding the PLM implementation and the relation to the IT department. The role of the IT-department was crucial, but always in a positive manner ? Judge yourself.

First this statement:

In many mid-market companies the choice for PLM is not that clear.

Let me explain what I mean by a typical mid-market company – it is not based on size or turn-over. For me a mid-market company is a company, not allocating the resources to have an overall strategic department and in addition the IT-department is limited to a team of people with a main focus to keep the company operational – ERP first.

The impact of this situation is twofold:

  • From one way new business initiatives will mostly come from departments, either sales, marketing, engineering, production, service or IT. Companywide business initiatives are not likely to come from a separate department as each department is working on their own issues.
  • Secondly IT often has a tendency to ‘standardize’ on certain environments. Some quotes: it_approval
    “We love/hate Microsoft”
    “SharePoint is our standard”
    “If it is not Linux it is not reliable”
    “Our ERP provider has also a PLM module, so this is going to be the standard”

And this standardization is often at the end the business killer

So where does PLM come from in a mid-market company ?

blind Example 1: The IT-department in company XYZ had the opinion there was a need to provide a company infrastructure for document management – people complained about not being able to find the right information. Related to the CAD system in use, it often became a kind of PDM implementation with extended document management. The IT-department provided the infrastructure (we need Oracle / SQL /DB2 – based on their standards) and engineering was allowed on top of that infrastructure to define their PDM environment.

As most of the people involved in this project were very familiar with computers, the implemented system was highly customized, due to specific actions the engineers wanted and what IT envisioned users would require. The overall thought was that other users would automatically get enthusiastic when seeing this implementation

users In contrary: the regular users refused to work with the new PDM system – too complex, it takes too much time to fill in information and in situations of heavy customization some users became afraid of the system. Making one mistake was hard to undo and could have a chain reaction of events further down in the organization. They preferred the traditional method of sending documents or Excels to the other departments and getting face-to-face feedback. Of course in case of missing information or a mistake this could be clarified easily too.

Conclusion from all the PLM pessimists: PLM is too complex, PLM is hard to implement.

My intermediate conclusion: Good will to improve the company’s business is important, however you need business people to define and lead the implementation.

dead_end Example2: IT in a company ABC developed a custom PLM infrastructure for their users and everyone was happy, till …… business changed. Where several years ago, the users decided that the standard PLM software was not good enough as some details were not supported and the standard system PLM system was able to do too much, IT generously decided to build a complete, nice user environment for their company.

Everybody happy for three years, till recently, due to acquisitions, outsourced contracting (engineering and manufacturing), the IT-department has to hire more people to support more and more custom connections and data exchange. Now in an overheated state they are looking for ways to use PLM standard software instead, however IT does not want to write off the previous investments that easy, the users are not aware of the problems in changing business and the future PLM decision is again driven by IT and not by business,

Internal conclusion: The IT-department was very helpful for the end users, who appreciated the simple to-the-point interface – whispering:  Therefore never a change process took place anticipating strategic changes upcoming. The result a kind of dead end.

My intermediate conclusion: If you are a mid-market company and you are not in software development, stay out of it. It is always a temporary and  people dependent (who can/will leave at some time).

Just two examples out of many, typically for mid-market companies. I think also larger enterprises sometimes demonstrate the same problematic. Good IT-people and IT-department are crucial for every company. The challenge is to keep the balance between business and IT. The risk is that due to the fact that there is a lack of business strategy resources, the IT-department becomes the business standard.

standardization

Conclusion: PLM is about business change and PLM is not an IT-tool. However a PLM implementation requires good and intensive support from IT. The challenge for every company is that the IT-department often has the most skilled people for a company-wide implementation, however the business drivers and strategy should come from outside.

Your thoughts ???

cmpic Recently i noticed two different discussions. One on LinkedIn in the CMPIC®  Configuration Management Trends group, where Chris Jennings started with the following statement:

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) vs CM

An interesting debate has started up here about PLM vs CM. Not surprisingly it is revealing a variety of opinions on what each mean. So I’m wondering what sort of reaction I might get from this erudite community if I made a potentially provocative statement like …
“Actually, PLM and CM are one and the same thing” ?

24 days ago

It became a very active discussion and it was interesting to see that some of the respondents saw PLM as the tool to implement CM. Later the discussion moved more towards system engineering, with a focus on requirements management. Of course requirements management is key for CM, you could say CM starts with the capturing of requirements.

myplm

There was some discussion about what is the real definition of PLM and this triggered my post. Is the definition of PLM secured in a book – and if so – in which book as historically we have learned that when the truth comes from one book there is discussion

But initially in the early days of the PLM, requirements management was not part of the focus for PLM vendors. Yes, requirements and specifications existed in their terminology but were not fully integrated. They focused more on the ‘middle part’ of the product lifecycle – digital mockup and virtual manufacturing planning. Only a few years later PLM vendors started to address requirements management (and systems engineering) as part of their portfolio – either by acquisitions of products or by adding it natively.

For me it demonstrates that PLM and CM are not the same. CM initially had a wider scope than early PLM systems supported, although in various definitions of PLM you will see that CM is a key component of the PLM practices.

plmbookStill PLM and CM have a lot in common, I wrote about is a year ago in my post: PLM, CM and ALM; not sexy ! and both fighting to get enough management support and investments.  There is in the CMIP group another discussion open with the title: What crazy CM quotes have you heard ? You can easily use these quotes also for the current PLM opinion. Read them (if you have access and have fun)

But the same week another post caught my interest. Oleg’s post about Inforbix and Product Data Management. I am aware that also other vendors are working on concepts to provide end users with data without the effort of data management required.  Alcove9 and Exalead are products with a similar scope and my excuses to all companies not mentioned here.

cm_futureWhat you see it the trend to make PLM more simple by trying to avoid the CM practices that often are considered as “non-value add”, “bureaucracy” and more negative terms. I will be curious to learn how CM practices will be adhered by these “New Generation of PDM” vendors, as I believe you need CM to manage proactively your  products.

What is your opinion about CM and PLM  – can modern PLM change the way CM is done ?

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