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The summer holidays are over, and with the PLM Global Green Alliance, we are glad to continue with our series: PLM and Sustainability, where we interview PLM-related software vendors, talking about their sustainability mission and offering.

We talked with SAP, Autodesk, and Dassault Systèmes. This week we spoke with Sustaira, and soon we will talk with Aras.  Sustaira, an independent Siemens partner, is the provider of a sustainability platform based on Mendix.

SUSTAIRA

The interview with Vincent de la Mar, founder and CEO of Sustaira, was quite different from the previous interviews. In the earlier interviews, we talked with people driving sustainability in their company and software portfolio. Now with Sustaira, we were talking with a relatively new company with a single focus on sustainability.

Sustaira provides an open platform targeting purely sustainability by offering relevant apps and infrastructure based on Mendix.

Listen to the interview and discover the differences and the potential for you.

Slides shown during the interview and additional company information: Sustaira Overview 2022.

What we have learned

Using the proven technology of the Mendix platform allows you to build a data-driven platform focused on sustainability for your company.

As I wrote in my post: PLM and Sustainability, there is the need to be data-driven and connected with federated data sources for accurate data.

This is a technology challenge. Sustaira, as a young company, has taken up this challenge and provides various apps related to sustainability topics on its platform. Still, they remain adaptable to your organization.

Secondly, I like the concept that although Mendix is part of the Siemens portfolio, you do not need to have Siemens PLM installed. The openness of the Sustaira platform allows you to implement it in your organization independent of your PLM infrastructure.

The final observation – the rule of people, process, and technology – is still valid. To implement Sustaira in an efficient and valuable manner, you need to be clear in your objectives and sustainability targets within the organization. And these targets should be more detailed than the corporate statement in the annual report.

 

Want to Learn more

To learn more about Sustaira and the wide variety of offerings, you can explore any of these helpful links:

 

Conclusion

It was interesting to learn about Sustaira and how they started with a proven technology platform (Mendix) to build their sustainability platform. Being sustainable involves using trusted data and calculations to understand the environmental impact at every lifecycle stage.

Again we can state that the technology is there. Now it is up to companies to act and connect the relevant data sources to underpin and improve their sustainability efforts.

 

July and August are the quiet summer months here in Europe when companies slow down to allow people to recharge themselves.

However, the speed and hectic are not the same overall, nor is the recharging time. I will be entering a six-week thinking break, assembling thoughts to explore after the summer break. Here are some topics – and you may note – they are all connected.

The MBOM discussion

Although my German is not as good as my English, I got intrigued by a post from Prof. Dr. Jörg W. Fischer.

He claims there is no meaning to the MBOM  and, therefore, the “expensive” PLM concept of the MBOM has to disappear – read the original post here.

Jörg claims there are three reasons why the MBOM why we should not speak about the MBOM – here are the google translated quotes – and I left out some details to keep a place for the thoughts – not the answer yet:

  1. The MBOM as the structure for deriving the assembly drawings. No BOM! (here, I fully agree)
  2. The structure that comes out as a result when planning the assembly. Again, no BOM. (here, I tend to agree – however, we could extend this structure to an MBOM)
  3. The MBOM as the classic parts list in the ERP, the one with which the MRP run is performed. Is that an MBOM? Until recently, I thought so. But it isn’t. So again, no MBOM. (here, I tend to agree – however, we could extend this structure to an MBOM)

The topic on LinkedIn here initiated an interesting sharing of viewpoints. I am quite aligned with Martin Eigner’s comment. It is a pity that this type of discussion is hidden in a LinkedIn environment and in the German language. It would be great to discuss such a topic at a PLM conference. For example, the CIMdata PLM roadmap conference had several Multiview BOM discussions coming from Aerospace and Defense action groups.

Perhaps comparing these two viewpoints – preferably in English – could lead to a better understanding for all of us. Now communication language and system dependencies might blur the methodology discussion.

Cheryl Peck (CIMdata PLM Roadmap organizer)/ Jörg W. Fischer, are you open to this suggestion? BOM discussions have always been popular.

PLM Roadmap & PDT 2022

The good news is the upcoming PLM Roadmap & PDT 2022 event is scheduled as an in-person event on the 18th and 19th of October in Gothenburg, Sweden. Let’s hope no new corona-variant will destroy this plan. I am confident to be there as the Swedish COVID-19 approach has kept society open as much as possible.

Therefore, I am collecting my topics to discuss and preparing my luggage and presentation to be there.

The theme of the conference: Digital Transformation and PLM – a call for PLM Professionals to redefine and re-position the benefits and value of PLM, is close to my experience.

New PLM paradigms are coming up, while at the same time, we are working on solidifying existing concepts, like the Multiview BOM. The PDT part of the conference always brought interesting sessions related to sustainability and, often, the circular economy.

I am curious to see the final agenda. Hakan Karden already gave us some insights into why it is good to be curious – read it here.

Sustainability

Talking and learning about sustainability at PDT Europe is not a luxury. In particular, we experienced an unforeseen heatwave in western Europe, reminding us that the climate is not slowing down. More the contrary, rapid climate change caused by human influence becomes more and more visible.

Unfortunately, the people that suffer from droughts, bushfires, and famine are not the ones that can be held responsible for these effects. It is a global crisis, and the strongest shoulders must carry the weight to address these issues.

In that context, we had an internal meeting with the PLM Global Green Alliance core team members to plan our activities for the rest of the year.

Besides interviews with PLM vendors and technology solution providers, we want to create opportunities for PGGA members to discuss PLM technology, methodology or change topics of interest, moderated by one of our core team members.

One of our observations is that awareness of the need for a more sustainable society exists. In polls all around the world, the majority of people mention their concerns.

However, where to start? What does matter, and how to influence companies as individuals? We also need to learn what is real and what is greenwashing. Therefore we want to schedule open discussions with PGGA members (are you already a member?) to share knowledge and thoughts about a topic. More about the agenda after the summer break.

Discussions & Podcasts

While I remain open for discussions and those who contacted me with a direct message on LinkedIn will acknowledge there is always a follow-up.

Whenever I have time – most of the time, I target Fridays for ad-hoc discussions – I am happy to schedule a zoom session to learn and discuss a particular topic without obligations. It will be a discussion, not a consult.

During Covid-lockdowns, I learned to appreciate podcasts. While making the daily walk through the same environment, the entertainment came from listening to an interesting podcast.

I learned a lot about history, mysteries, and human behavior. Of course, I was also looking for PLM-related podcasts. Of course, the major vendors found their way to podcasts too. However, I think they are often too slick, only highlighting a vision and not enough discussing what really happens in the field.

Starting a PLM-related podcast, and I want to highlight three of them

The Share PLM podcast, with 11 episodes, started promising in 2020. After a first start, it becomes difficult to deliver continuous new content.

Currently, I am talking with the Share PLM team to see how we can build this continuity and extend the content. There are so many interesting persons in our network that have valuable opinions about PLM to share. More after the summer

The Peer Check podcast from CoLab is not a typical PLM podcast. More a focus on what engineering leaders should know. They started in 2022 and have already published ten episodes. I am in the process of listening to all of them, and I found them very refreshing.

This week I was happy to join Adam Keating, founder of CoLab, in a discussion related to Systems of Record and Systems of Engagement. More new after the summer.

The Change Troubleshooter podcast from Nina Dar, with already 34 episodes, is a podcast not focusing on PLM purely. Although Nina has a background in coaching PLM implementations, her episodes are around A Human Approach to Innovation and Change. You can imagine it is quite aligned with my area of interest.

In particular, Nina and I are having some side discussions about sustainability and (the lack of) human behavior to address climate change. You might hear more from Nina through our PGGA community.

More podcasts?

I am curious to learn if similar podcasts exist to the topics I mentioned in this post. If so, provide a link in the comments. With enough feedback, I will publish a top-ten list this year’s end.

 

Conclusion

In a society that seems to behave as if everything is black and white, to be solved by a tweet, we need people that can build a colorful opinion.  Conferences, discussions and podcasts can help you remain curious and learn. As it must be extremely boring if you know already everything.

Have a great summertime.

 

Once and a while, the discussion pops up if, given the changes in technology and business scope, we still should talk about PLM. John Stark and others have been making a point that PLM should become a profession.

In a way, I like the vagueness of the definition and the fact that the PLM profession is not written in stone. There is an ongoing change, and who wants to be certified for the past or framed to the past?

However, most people, particularly at the C-level, consider PLM as something complex, costly, and related to engineering. Partly this had to do with the early introduction of PLM, which was a little more advanced than PDM.

The focus and capabilities made engineering teams happy by giving them more access to their data. But unfortunately, that did not work, as engineers are not looking for more control.

Old (current) PLM

Therefore, I would like to suggest that when we talk about PLM, we frame it as Product Lifecycle Data Management (the definition). A PLM infrastructure or system should be considered the System of Record, ensuring product data is archived to be used for manufacturing, service, and proving compliance with regulations.

In a modern way, the digital thread results from building such an infrastructure with related artifacts. The digital thread is somehow a slow-moving environment, connecting the various as-xxx structures (As-Designed, As-Planned, As-Manufactured, etc.). Looking at the different PLM vendor images, Aras example above, I consider the digital thread a fancy name for traceability.

I discussed the topic of Digital Thread in 2018:  Document Management or Digital Thread. One of the observations was that few people talk about the quality of the relations when providing traceability between artifacts.

The quality of traceability is relevant for traditional Configuration Management (CM). Traditional CM has been framed, like PLM, to be engineering-centric.

Both PLM and CM need to become enterprise activities – perhaps unified.

Read my blog post and see the discussion with Martijn Dullaart, Lisa Fenwick and Maxim Gravel when discussing the future of Configuration Management.

New digital PLM

In my posts, I talked about modern PLM. I described it as data-driven, often in relation to a model-based approach. And as a result of the data-driven approach, a digital PLM environment could be connected to processes outside the engineering domain. I wrote a series of posts related to the potential of such a new PLM infrastructure (The road to model-based and connected PLM)

Digital PLM, if implemented correctly, could serve people along the full product lifecycle, from marketing/portfolio management until service and, if relevant, decommissioning). The bigger challenge is even connecting eco-systems to the same infrastructure, in particular suppliers & partners but also customers. This is the new platform paradigm.

Some years ago, people stated IoT is the new PLM  (IoT is the new PLM – PTC 2017). Or MBSE is the foundation for a new PLM (Will MBSE be the new PLM instead of IoT? A discussion @ PLM Roadmap conference 2018).

Even Digital Transformation was mentioned at that time. I don’t believe Digital Transformation is pointing to a domain, more to an ongoing process that most companies have t go through. And because it is so commonly used, it becomes too vague for the specifics of our domain. I liked Monica Schnitger‘s LinkedIn post: Digital Transformation? Let’s talk. There is enough to talk about; we have to learn and be more specific.

 

What is the difference?

The challenge is that we need more in-depth thinking about what a “digital transformed” company would look like. What would impact their business, their IT infrastructure, and their organization and people? As I discussed with Oleg Shilovitsky, a data-driven approach does not necessarily mean simplification.

I just finished recording a podcast with Nina Dar while writing this post. She is even more than me, active in the domain of PLM and strategic leadership toward a digital and sustainable future. You can find the pre-announcement of our podcast here (it was great fun to talk), and I will share the result later here too.

What is clear to me is that a new future data-driven environment becomes like a System of Engagement. You can simulate assumptions and verify and qualify trade-offs in real-time in this environment. And not only product behavior, but you can also simulate and analyze behaviors all along the lifecycle, supporting business decisions.

This is where I position the digital twin. Modern PLM infrastructures are in real-time connected to the business. Still, PLM will have its system of record needs; however, the real value will come from the real-time collaboration.

The traditional PLM consultant should transform into a business consultant, understanding technology. Historically this was the opposite, creating friction in companies.

Starting from the business needs

In my interactions with customers, the focus is no longer on traditional PLM; we discuss business scenarios where the company will benefit from a data-driven approach. You will not obtain significant benefits if you just implement your serial processes again in a digital PLM infrastructure.

Efficiency gains are often single digit, where new ways of working can result in double-digit benefits or new opportunities.

Besides traditional pressure on companies to remain competitive, there is now a new additional driver that I have been discussing in my previous post, the Innovation Dilemma. To survive on our planet, we and therefore also companies, need to switch to sustainable products and business models.

This is a push for innovation; however, it requires a coordinated, end-to-end change within companies.

Be the change

When do you decide to change your business model from pushing products to the marker into a business model of Product as a Service? When do you choose to create repairable and upgradeable products? It is a business need. Sustainability does not start with the engineer. It must be part of the (new) DNA of a company.

Interesting to read is this article from Jan Bosch that I read this morning: Resistance to Change. Read the article as it makes so much sense, but we need more than sense – we need people to get involved. My favorite quote from the article:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.

Conclusion

PLM consultants should retrain themselves in System Thinking and start from the business. PLM technology alone is no longer enough to support companies in their (digital/sustainable) transformation. Therefore, I would like to introduce BLM (Business Lifecycle Management) as the new TLA.

However, BLM has been already framed as Black Lives Matter. I agree with that, extending it to ALM (All Lives Matter).

What do you think should we leave the comfortable term PLM behind us for a new frame?

In February, the PLM Global Green Alliance published our first interview discussing the relationship between PLM and Sustainability with the main vendors. We talked with Darren West from SAP.

You can find the interview here: PLM and Sustainability: talking with SAP. We spoke with Darren about SAP’s Responsible Design and Production module, allowing companies to understand their environmental and economic impact by calculating fees and taxes and implement measures to reduce regulatory costs. The high reliance on accurate data was one of the topics in our discussion.

In March,  we interviewed Zoé Bezpalko and Jon den Hartog from Autodesk. Besides Autodesk’s impressive sustainability program, we discussed Autodesk’s BIM technology helping the construction industry to become greener and their Generative Design solution to support the designer in making better material usage or reuse decisions.

The discussion ended with discussing Life Cycle Assessment tools to support the engineer in making sustainable decisions.

In my last blog post, the Innovation Dilemma, I explored the challenges of a Life Cycle Assessment. As it appears, it is not about just installing a tool. The concepts of a data-driven PLM infrastructure and digital twins are strong transformation prerequisites combined with the Inner Development Goals (IDG).

The IDGs are a human attitude needed besides the Sustainability Development Goals.

Therefore we were happy to discuss last week with Florence Verzelen, Executive Vice President Industry, Marketing & Sustainability and Xavier Adam, Worldwide Sustainability Senior Manager from Dassault Systemes. We discussed Dassault Systemes’ business sustainability goals and product offerings based on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Have a look at the discussion below:


The slides shown in the recording can be found HERE.

 

What I learned

Dassault Systemes’ purpose has been to help their customers imagine sustainable innovations capable of harmonizing product, nature, and life for many years. A statement that now is slowly bubbling up in other companies too. Dassault Systemes has set a clear and interesting target for themselves in 2025. In that year two/thirds of their sales should come from solutions that make their customers more sustainable.

Their Eco-design solution is one of the first offerings to reach this objective. Their Life Cycle Assessment solution can govern your (virtual) product design on multiple criteria, not only greenhouse gas emissions.  It will be interesting to follow up on this topic to see how companies make the change internally by relying on data and virtual twins of a product or a manufacturing process.

Want to learn more?

Conclusion

80 % of the environmental impact of products is decided during the design phase. A Lifecycle Assessment Solutions combined with a virtual product model, the virtual design twin, allows you to decide on trade-offs in the virtual space before committing to the physical solution. Creating a data-driven, closed-loop between design, engineering, manufacturing and operations based on accurate data is the envisioned infrastructure for a sustainable future.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a generic post related to System Thinking, in my opinion, a must-have skill for the 21st century (and beyond). Have a look at the post on LinkedIn; in particular interesting to see the discussion related to Systems Thinking: a must-have skill for the 21st century.

I liked Remy Fannader’s remark that thinking about complexity was not something new.

This remark is understandable from his personal context. Many people enjoy thinking – it was a respected 20th-century skill.

However, I believe, as Daniel Kahneman describes in his famous book: Thinking Fast and Slow, our brain is trying to avoid thinking.

This is because thinking consumes energy, the energy the body wants to save in the case of an emergency.

So let’s do a simple test (coming from Daniel):

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A bat and a ball cost together $ 1.10 –  the bat costs one dollar more than the ball. So how much does the ball cost?

Look at the answer at the bottom of this post. If you have it wrong, you are a fast thinker. And this brings me to my next point. Our brain does not want to think deeply; we want fast and simple solutions. This is a challenge in a complex society as now we hear real-time information coming from all around the world. What is true and what is fake is hard to judge.

However, according to Kahneman, we do not want to waste energy on thinking. We create or adhere to simple solutions allowing our brains to feel relaxed.

This human behavior has always been exploited by populists and dictators: avoid complexity because, in this way, you lose people. Yuval Harari builds upon this with his claim that to align many people, you need a myth. I wrote about the need for myths in the PLM space a few times, e.g., PLM as a myth? and The myth perception

And this is where my second thoughts related to Systems Thinking started. Is the majority of people able and willing to digest complex problems?

My doubts grew bigger when I had several discussions about fighting climate change and sustainability.

 

 

Both Brains required

By coincidence, I bumped on this interesting article Market-led Sustainability is a ‘Fix that Fails’…

I provided a link to the post indirectly through LinkedIn. If you are a LinkedIn PLM Global Green Alliance member, you can see below the article an interesting analysis related to market-led sustainability, system thinking and economics.

Join the PLM Global Green Alliance group to be part of the full discussion; otherwise, I recommend you visit Both Brains Required, where you can find the source article and other related content.

It is a great article with great images illustrating the need for systems thinking and sustainability. All information is there to help you realize that sustainability is not just a left-brain exercise.

The left brain is supposed to be logical and analytical. That’s systems thinking, you might say quickly. However, the other part of our brain is about our human behavior, and this side is mostly overlooked. My favorite quote from the article:

Voluntary Market-Led activities are not so much a solution to the sustainability crisis as a symptom of more profoundly unsustainable foundations of human behavior.

The article triggered my second thoughts related to systems thinking. Behavioral change is not part of systems thinking. It is another dimension harder to address and even harder to focus on sustainability.

The LinkedIn discussion below the article Market-led Sustainability is a ‘Fix that Fails’… is a great example of the talks we would like to have in our PLM Global Green Alliance group. Nina Dar, Patrick Hillberg and Richard McFall brought in several points worth discussing. Too many to discuss them all here – let’s take two fundamental issues:

1. More than economics

An interesting viewpoint in this discussion was the relation to economics. We don’t believe that economic growth is the main point to measure. Even a statement like:  “Sustainable businesses will be more profitable than traditional ones” is misleading when companies are measured by shareholder value or EBIT (Earnings Before Interest or Taxes). We briefly touched on Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics.

This HBR article mentioned in the discussion: Business Schools Must Do More to Address the Climate Crisis also shows it is not just about systems thinking.
We discussed the challenges of supply chains, not about resilience but about sustainability. Where an OEM can claim to be sustainable, there are often not aware of what happens at the level of their suppliers. As the OEM measure their suppliers mostly on Quality/Reliability and Cost, they usually do not care about local human issues or sustainability issues.

We have seen this in the Apparel industry with the horrible collapse of a factory in Bangladesh  (2013). Still, the inhumane accidents happen in southeast Asia. I like to quote Chris Calverley in his LinkedIn article: Making ethical apparel supply chains achievable on a global scale.

 

No one gets into business because they want to behave unethically. On the contrary, a lack of ethics is usually driven by a common desire to operate more efficiently and increase profit margins. 

In my last post, I shared a similar example from an automotive tier 2  supplier. Unfortunately, suppliers are not measured or rewarded for sustainability efforts; only efficiency and costs are relevant.

The seventeen Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), as defined by the United Nations, are the best guidance for sustainable drivers beyond money. Supporting the SDGs enforce systems thinking when developing a part, a product, or a solution. Many other stakeholders need to be taken care of, at least if you truly support sustainability as a company.

2. The downside of social media

The LinkedIn discussion related to Market-led Sustainability is a ‘Fix that Fails’… The thread shows that LinkedIn, like other social media, is not really interested in supporting in-depth discussions – try to navigate what has been said in chronological order. With Patrick, Nina and Richard, we agreed to organize a follow-up discussion in our PLM Global Green Alliance Group.

And although we are happy with social media as it allows each of us to reach a global audience, there seems to be a worrying contra-productive impact. If you read the book Stolen Focus. A quote:

All over the world, our ability to pay attention is collapsing. In the US, college students now focus on one task for only 65 seconds, and office workers, on average, manage only three minutes

This is worrying, returning to Remy Fannader’s remark: thinking about complexity was not something new. The main difference is that it is not new. However, our society is changing towards thinking too fast, not rewarding systems thinking.

Even scarier, if you have time, read this article from The Atlantic: about the impact of social media on the US Society. It is about trust in science and data. Are we facing the new (Trump) Tower of Babel in our modern society? As the writers state: Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to the country’s future—and to us as a people.

 

I have talked in previous posts about the Dunner-Kruger effect, something that is blocking systems thinking. The image to the left says it all. Due to social media and the safe place behind a keyboard, many of us consider ourselves confident experts explaining to the real expert why they are wrong. For addressing the topics of sustainability and climate change, this attitude is killing. It is the opposite of systems thinking, which costs energy.

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Congratulations

support

The fact that you reached this part of the post means your attention span has been larger than 3 minutes, showing there is hope for people like you and me. As an experiment to discover how many people read the post till here, please answer with the “support” icon if you have reached this part of the post.

I am curious to learn how many of us who saw the post came here.

 

Conclusion

Systems Thinking is a must-have skill for the 21st century. Many of us working in the PLM domain focus on providing support for systems thinking, particularly Life Cycle Assessment capabilities. However, the discussion with Patrick Hillberg, Nina Darr and Richard McFall made me realize there is more: economics and human behavior. For example, can we change our economic models, measuring companies not only for the money profit they deliver? What do?

Answering this type of question will be the extended mission for PLM consultants of the future – are you ready?

 

The answer to the question with the ball and the bat:

A fast answer would say the price of the ball is 10 cents. However, this would make the price of the bat $1.10, giving a total cost of $1.20. So the right answer should be 5 cents. To be honest, I got tricked the first time too. Never too late to confirm you make mistakes, as only people who do not do anything make no mistakes.

In several discussions and posts I wrote, I talked about systems thinking, assuming everyone has the same understanding.

For example last year with the PLM Global Green Alliance (PGGA) we had a discussion with Frank Popielas Managing Partner and Co-founder of SMS_ThinkTank™ related to sustainability. We used the term “Systems Thinking” several times assuming everyone knows the concept.

I should have known better. When using terms in your profession, you always have to verify if the others have the same meaning. Crucial when you start a PLM implementation project.

For example, several years ago, I was asked to audit a PLM implementation that got stalled because the PDM and ERP-system capabilities created a conflict. In my first interview with the PLM team, they mentioned they were quite advanced in Systems Engineering. Everyone in the core team confirmed this. However, when diving into the details of the “Systems Engineering” activities, it appeared that they were talking about (product) Configuration Management.

When working with different people, always make sure you have a common dictionary.

What is a part? What is a material? What is a Workflow, and is it different from a Business Process? And also, for Configuration Management, you often see two definitions.

One focuses on the consistency of the product’s definition, the other more on the allowed configurations of a product. So now let’s dive into Systems Thinking which is not the same as Systems Engineering.

Systems thinking – a definition

When I checked on Wiki, I found this complex definition:

Systems thinking
is a way of making sense of the complexity of the world by looking at it in terms of wholes and relationships rather than by splitting it down into its part. It has been used as a way of exploring and developing effective action in complex contexts. Systems thinking draws on and contributes to systems theory and the system sciences.

A careful reader would extract from this definition that the focus for systems thinking is looking at the bigger picture, the whole, a holistic approach. Of course, when using a holistic approach, you take more relationships or possibilities into account,  which broadens your thinking (or value of your solution). The opposite of Systems Thinking is to focus on a single issue or part and describe it best. Let me explain this by an example:

The BIC ballpoint

You might remember the first BIC ballpoints with the sharp cap when you are as old as me.

This image is from the time I was born. The BIC ballpoint, with the pointed cap, was one of the most popular ballpoints during my teenage years.

In primary school not allowed, as we first had to learn to write with an ink pen or fountain pen. The BIC pen at that time was designed as a product with a single purpose: enabling people to write affordable, comfortable, and fast.

With a more holistic view of the BIC pen, you might say: “What happens when children play with it?” And apparently, there were accidents with children stabbing themselves in the eye with the sharp cap.

And this was indeed the case when considering the BIC ballpoint as a system; other stakeholders and scenarios were considered.

Now the cap is flattened (safe for children). The cap’s open end is apparently there to support performing a tracheotomy when no medical equipment is available (just a sharp knife and the BIC ballpoint are needed).

Don’t try this at home for fun: Performing the Tracheotomy

I hope the example illustrates that you can look at a product differently.

First as a product with a single purpose (single stakeholder) or as a system interacting with other stakeholders (writing, safe for children, first aid support).

System Thinking, therefore, is an attitude which not natural for humans. In his famous book Thinking Fast & Slow, Daniel Kahneman explains that our evolutionary brain always wants to save energy.

Therefore our brain is pushing us to make fast intuitive decisions, not always the ones that you would make after serious thinking.

Systems Thinking costs energy for the brain.

Often we hear that companies want to reduce their costs and time spent on engineering – more efficiency.

Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering are aiming for the opposite – spend more time thinking and analyzing in the virtual world, before committing to the physical world. Fixing issues once you are in the physical world is much more costly than in the virtual world.

Click on the image to see the details.

This brings us to the relationship with Systems Engineering

Systems thinking and Systems Engineering

You could say Systems Engineering is the best example of Systems Thinking. There are various viewpoints on Systems Engineering, best characterized in these two directions (Wiki here):

  • Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary field of engineering and engineering management that focuses on how to design, integrate, and manage complex systems over their life cycles. At its core, systems engineering utilizes systems thinking principles to organize this body of knowledge. The individual outcome of such efforts, an engineered system, can be defined as a combination of components that work in synergy to collectively perform a useful function. Here the focus is on managing in a proven manner complexity
  • Systems engineering focuses on analyzing and eliciting customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem, the system lifecycle. This includes fully understanding all of the stakeholders involved. Here the focus is on delivering the best product for the relevant stakeholders involved, not necessarily managing the complexity of the product.

To manage complexity, we have always used models. The weather forecast is based on models, the profitability of a business is based on models, and the behavior of a product can be predicted and analyzed using models. This is Model-Based Systems Engineering MBSE), and I wrote a lot about the Model-Based approach last year. Read The road to model-based and connected PLM

When it comes to extending the support for different stakeholders, we have seen the example of the BIC ballpoint.

However, when we start to talk about sustainability, we will see that by enlarging the number of stakeholders and their importance, we observe another way of Systems Thinking.

Systems thinking and sustainability

The title of this post is related to the challenges we have with sustainability, our society and even our planet. Currently, reducing carbon emissions gets the highest priority as we see the impact on our planet. Perhaps the awareness is not the same for everyone; the richer you are, the less you might feel impacted by climate change. Still, indisputably it is happening as the IPCC is reporting.

Now let’s look at the relation between systems thinking and sustainability.

Let’s imagine I work for a tier 2 or tier 3 supplier of an OEM. This means the OEM wants a component for their solution with the highest quality and the lowest price.

In the traditional approach, the supplier will try to find the cheapest materials that match the required quality. They will look for the most inexpensive manufacturing process to build their component. Everything extra will reduce their chances of remaining the OEM contractor and profitable. The only stakeholder in this process is the OEM and potentially some existing regulations. For example, ROHS controls the usage of hazardous materials.

Next, imagine a supplier that wants to be more sustainable. They will add sustainability requirements to their component design. They start to treat their product as a system. What would be the difference between choosing material A over material B or choosing production process ABC over production Process XYZ?

If it is up to the OEM, it is only costs, quality and compliance. Suppose the supplier will select an alternative material that has less impact on the environment. For example, recycling or needing less energy (carbon emissions) is easier to produce. In that case, this option might be more expensive. It is up to the OEM to decide if they accept this higher cost price to be more sustainable with their products.

To understand the sustainability of a product, we need to dive into a full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is at the heart of PLM.

When a product or component is designed, the LCA will give you the information related to the impact of your product, assuming you have the accurate data to make the assessment. This is currently one of the major areas to focus on when it comes to sustainability – how can we measure the environmental impact of each part through its whole lifecycle.

With sustainability, the needs are no longer defined by the OEM. Other stakeholders, like authorities and consumers, will also have an impact. Realistically, we will see that mainly regulations will be the biggest driver towards sustainability as consumers still want the lowest price.

Currently, we see this behavior with the rising energy prices. Unfortunately, people complain about the price instead of realizing the price has always been too low. Changing behavior (energy consumption) might be the best path for the future, but that is more difficult than complaining.

Systems Thinking and the Circular Economy

Finally, I want to mention one topic closely related to Systems Thinking and Sustainability: the Circular Economy. The Circular Economy is well explained by the Ellen McArthur Foundation. Follow the link and get educated as the Circular Economy is about a system. A system that tries to minimize the leakage of resources and the need for new raw materials. Each loop is a process to consider.

With the PLM Global Green Alliance, we discussed the circular economy together with Darren West from SAP in our session: PLM and Sustainability: talking with SAP. I hope and trust we will learn more about companies to follow the principle of a circular economy.

Want to learn more?

There is so much more to say about Systems Thinking in general, and I will come back to this topic in a future post. Meanwhile, I recommend this post for all of you who want to learn more about systems thinking and sustainability: Systems Thinking can help build a sustainable world:  A Beginning Conversation from the MAHB (Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere). There is so much to learn and discuss if you are actively looking for it.

Conclusions

Systems Thinking is needed to solve the issues in a complex society. It is an attitude, not a new approach. Systems Thinking helps to manage a complex system, it helps to address sustainability, and it helps fight against populism. Simple answers do not exist – looking to the bigger picture, using systems thinking will make you better informed wherever you are on this limited planet

War is a place where young people who don’t know each other, and don’t hate each other, kill each other, by the decision of old people who know each other, and hate each other, but don’t kill each other…”

 

Three weeks ago, we published our first PLM Global Green Alliance interview discussing the relationship between PLM and Sustainability with the main vendors. We talked with Darren West from SAP.

You can find the interview here: PLM and Sustainability: talking with SAP.

When we published the interview, it was also the moment a Russian dictator started the invasion of Ukraine, making it difficult for me to focus on our sustainability mission, having friends in both countries.

Now, three weeks later, with even more horrifying news coming from Ukraine, my thoughts are with the heroic people there, who resist and fight for their lives to exist. And it is not only in Ukraine. Also, people suffering under other totalitarian regimes are fighting this unfair battle.

Meanwhile, another battle that concerns us all might get stalled if the conflict in Ukraine continues. This decade requires us to focus on the transition towards a sustainable planet, where the focus is on reducing carbon emissions. It is clear from the latest IPPC report: Impacts Adaptation and Vulnerability that we need to act.

Autodesk

Therefore, I am happy we can continue our discussion on PLM and Sustainability, this time with Autodesk. In the conversation with SAP, we discovered SAP’s strength lies in measuring the environmental impact of materials and production processes. However, most (environmental) impact-related decisions are made before the engineering & design phase.

Autodesk is a well-known software company in the Design & Manufacturing industry and the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) industry.

Autodesk was open to sharing its sustainability activities with us. So we spoke with Zoé Bezpalko, Autodesk’s Sustainability Strategy Manager for the Design & Manufacturing Industries,  and Jon den Hartog, Product Manager for Autodesk’s PDM and PLM solutions. So we were talking with the right persons for our PLM Global Green Alliance.

Watch the 30 minutes recording below, learn more about Autodesk’s sustainability goals and offerings and get motivated to (re)act.

The slides shown in this presentation can be downloaded HERE

What we have learned

The interview showed that Autodesk is actively working on a sustainable future. Both by acting internally, but, and even more important, by helping their customers to have a positive impact, using technologies like generative design and more environmentally friendly building projects. We talked about the renovation project of our famous Dutch Afsluitdijk.

The second observation is that Autodesk is working on empowering the designer to make better decisions regarding material usage or reuse. Life Cycle Assessment done by engineers will be a future required skill. As we discussed, this bottom-up user empowerment should be combined with a company strategy.

Want to learn more?

As you can see from the image shown in the recording, there is a lot to learn about Autodesk Forge. Click on the image for your favorite link, or open the PDF connected to the recording for your sustainability plans.

And there is the link to the Autodesk sustainability hub: Autodesk.com/sustainability

Conclusion

This was a motivating session to see Autodesk acting on Sustainability, and they are encouraging their customers to act.

It is necessary that companies and consumers get motivated and supported for more sustainable products and activities. We look forward to coming back with Autodesk in a second round with the PLM vendors to discover and discuss progress.

After all my writing about The road to model-based and connected PLM, a topic that interests me significantly is the positive contribution real PLM can have to sustainability.

To clarify this statement, I have to explain two things:

  • First, for me, real PLM is a strategy that concerns the whole product lifecycle from conception, creation, usage, and decommissioning.

Real PLM to articulate the misconception that PLM is considered as an engineering infrastructure of even system. We discussed this topic related to this post (7 easy tips nobody told you about PLM adoption) from my SharePLM peers.

  • Second, sustainability should not be equated with climate change, which gets most of the extreme attention.

However, the discussion related to climate change and carbon gas emissions drew most of the attention. Also, recently it seemed that the COP26 conference was only about reducing carbon emissions.

Unfortunately, reducing carbon gas emissions has become a political and economic discussion in many countries. As I am not a climate expert, I will follow the conclusions of the latest IIPC report.

However, I am happy to participate in science-based discussions, not in conversations about failing statistics (lies, damned lies and statistics) or the mixture of facts & opinions.

The topic of sustainability is more extensive than climate change. It is about understanding that we live on a limited planet that cannot support the unlimited usage and destruction of its natural resources.

Enough about human beings and emotions, back to the methodology

Why PLM and Sustainability

In the section PLM and Sustainability of the PLM Global Green Alliance website,  we explain the potential of this relation:

The goals and challenges of Product Lifecycle Management and Sustainability share much in common and should be considered synergistic. Where in theory, PLM is the strategy to manage a product along its whole lifecycle, sustainability is concerned not only with the product’s lifecycle but should also address sustainability of the users, industries, economies, environment and the entire planet in which the products operate.

If you read further, you will bump on the term System Thinking. Again there might be confusion here between Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering. Let’s look at the differences

Systems Engineering

For Systems Engineering, I use the traditional V-shape to describe the process. Starting from the Needs on the left side, we have a systematic approach to come to a solution definition at the bottom. Then going upwards on the right side, we validate step by step that the solution will answer the needs.

The famous Boeing “diamond” diagram shows the same approach, complementing the V-shape with a virtual mirrored V-shape. In this way providing insights in all directions between a virtual world and a physical world. This understanding is essential when you want to implement a virtual twin of one of the processes/solutions.

Still, systems engineering starts from the needs of a group of stakeholders. So it works to the best technical and beneficial solution, most of the time only measured by money.

System Thinking

The image below from the Ellen McArthur Foundation is an example of system thinking. But, as you can see, it is not only about delivering a product.

Systems Thinking is a more holistic approach to bringing products to the market. It is about how we deliver a product to the market and what happens during its whole life cycle. The drivers for system thinking, therefore, are not only focusing on product performance at the most economical price, but we also take into account the impact on resource extraction in the world, the environmental impact during its active life (more and more regulated) and ultimately also how to minimize the waste to the eco-system. This means more recycling or reuse.

If you want to read more about systems thinking more professionally, read this blog post from the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) related to Systems Thinking: A beginning conversation.

Product as a Service (PaaS)

To ensure more responsibility for the product lifecycle, one of the European Green Deal aspects is promoting Product as a Service. There is already a trend towards products as a service, and I mentioned Ken Webster’s presentation at the PLM Roadmap & PDT Fall 2021 conference: In the future, you will own nothing, and you will be happy.

Because if we can switch to such an economy, the manufacturer will have complete control over the product’s lifecycle and its environmental impact. The manufacturer will be motivated to deliver product upgrades, create repairable products instead of dumping old or broken stuff because this is cheap for selling. PaaS brings opportunities for manufacturers, like greater customer loyalty, but also pushes manufacturers to stay away from so-called “greenwashing”. They become fully responsible for the entire lifecycle.

A different type of growth

The concept of Product as a Service is not something that typical manufacturing companies endorse. Instead, it requires them to restructure their business and restructure their product.

Delivering a Product as a Service requires a fast feedback loop between the products in the field and R&D deciding on improving or adding new features.

In traditional manufacturing companies, the service department is far from engineering due to historical reasons. However, with the digitization of our product information and connected products, we should be able to connect all stakeholders related to our products, even our customers.

A few years ago, I was working with a company that wanted to increase their service revenue by providing maintenance as a service on their products on-site. The challenge they had was that the total installation delivered at the customer site was done through projects. There was some standard equipment in their solution; however, ultimately, the project organization delivered the final result, and product information was scattered all around the company.

There was some resistance when I proposed creating an enterprise product information backbone (a PLM infrastructure) with aligned processes.  It would force people to work upfront in a coordinated manner. Now with the digitization of operations, this is no longer a point of discussion.

In this context, I will participate on December 7th in an open panel discussion Creating a Digital Enterprise: What are the Challenges and Where to Start? As part of the PI DX spotlight series. I invite you to join this event if you are interested in hearing various digital enterprise viewpoints.

Doing both?

As companies cannot change overnight, the challenge is to define a transformation path. The push for transformation for sure will come from governments and investors in the following decades. Therefore doing nothing is not a wise strategy.

Early this year, the Boston Consultancy Group published this interesting article: The Next Generation of Climate Innovation, showing different pathways for companies.

A trend that they highlighted was the fact that Shareholder Returns over the past ten years are negative for the traditional Oil & Gas and Construction industries (-18 till -6 %). However, the big tech and first generation of green industries provide high shareholders returns (+30 %), and the latest green champions are moving in that direction. In this way, promoting investors will push companies to become greener.

The article talks about the known threat of disrupters coming from outside. Still, it also talks about the decisions companies can make to remain relevant. Either you try to reduce the damage, or you have to innovate. (Click on the image below on the left).

As described before, innovating your business is probably the most challenging part. In particular, if you have many years of history in your industry. Processes and people are engraved in an almost optimal manner (for now).

An example of reducing the damage could be, for example, what is happening in the steel industry. As making steel requires a lot of (cheap) energy, this industry is powered by burning coal. Therefore, an innovation to reduce the environmental impact would be to redesign the process with green energy as described in this Swedish example: The first fossil-free production of steel.

On December 9th, I will discuss both strategies with Henrik Hulgaard from Configit. We will discuss how Product Lifecycle Management and Configuration Lifecycle Management can play a role in the future. Feel free to subscribe to this session and share your questions. Click on the image to see the details.

Note:  you might remember Henrik from my earlier post this year in January: PLM and Product Configuration Management (CLM)

Conclusion

Sustainability is a topic that will be more and more relevant for all of us, locally and globally. Real PLM, covering the whole product lifecycle, preferably data-driven, allows companies to transform their current business to future sustainable business. Systems Thinking is the overarching methodology we have to learn – let’s discuss

So far, I have been discussing PLM experiences and best practices that have changed due to introducing electronic drawings and affordable 3D CAD systems for the mainstream. From vellum to PDM to item-centric PLM to manage product designs and manufacturing specifications.

Although the technology has improved, the overall processes haven’t changed so much. As a result, disciplines could continue to work in their own comfort zone, most of the time hidden and disconnected from the outside world.

Now, thanks to digitalization, we can connect and format information in real-time. Now we can provide every stakeholder in the company’s business to have almost real-time visibility on what is happening (if allowed). We have seen the benefits of platformization, where the benefits come from real-time connectivity within an ecosystem.

Apple, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb are the non-manufacturing related examples. Companies are trying to replicate these models for other businesses, connecting the concept owner (OEM ?), with design and manufacturing (services), with suppliers and customers. All connected through information, managed in data elements instead of documents – I call it connected PLM

Vendors have already shared their PowerPoints, movies, and demos from how the future would be in the ideal world using their software. The reality, however, is that implementing such solutions requires new business models, a new type of organization and probably new skills.

The last point is vital, as in schools and organizations, we tend to teach what we know from the past as this gives some (fake) feeling of security.

The reality is that most of us will have to go through a learning path, where skills from the past might become obsolete; however, knowledge of the past might be fundamental.

In the upcoming posts, I will share with you what I see, what I deduct from that and what I think would be the next step to learn.

I firmly believe connected PLM requires the usage of various models. Not only the 3D CAD model, as there are so many other models needed to describe and analyze the behavior of a product.

I hope that some of my readers can help us all further on the path of connected PLM (with a model-based approach). This series of posts will be based on the max size per post (avg 1500 words) and the ideas and contributes coming from you and me.

What is platformization?

In our day-to-day life, we are more and more used to direct interaction between resellers and services providers on one side and consumers on the other side. We have a question, and within 24 hours, there is an answer. We want to purchase something, and potentially the next day the goods are delivered. These are examples of a society where all stakeholders are connected in a data-driven manner.

We don’t have to create documents or specialized forms. An app or a digital interface allows us to connect. To enable this type of connectivity, there is a need for an underlying platform that connects all stakeholders. Amazon and Salesforce are examples for commercial activities, Facebook for social activities and, in theory, LinkedIn for professional job activities.

The platform is responsible for direct communication between all stakeholders.

The same applies to businesses. Depending on the products or services they deliver, they could benefit from one or more platforms. The image below shows five potential platforms that I identified in my customer engagements. Of course, they have a PLM focus (in the middle), and the grouping can be made differently.

Five potential business platforms

The 5 potential platforms

The ERP platform
is mainly dedicated to the company’s execution processes – Human Resources, Purchasing, Finance, Production scheduling, and potentially many more services. As platforms try to connect as much as possible all stakeholders. The ERP platform might contain CRM capabilities, which might be sufficient for several companies. However, when the CRM activities become more advanced, it would be better to connect the ERP platform to a CRM platform. The same logic is valid for a Product Innovation Platform and an ERP platform.  Examples of ERP platforms are SAP and Oracle (and they will claim they are more than ERP)

Note: Historically, most companies started with an ERP system, which is not the same as an ERP platform.  A platform is scalable; you can add more apps without having to install a new system. In a platform, all stored data is connected and has a shared data model.

The CRM platform

a platform that is mainly focusing on customer-related activities, and as you can see from the diagram, there is an overlap with capabilities from the other platforms. So again, depending on your core business and products, you might use these capabilities or connect to other platforms. Examples of CRM platforms are Salesforce and Pega, providing a platform to further extend capabilities related to core CRM.

The MES platform
In the past, we had PDM and ERP and what happened in detail on the shop floor was a black box for these systems. MES platforms have become more and more important as companies need to trace and guide individual production orders in a data-driven manner. Manufacturing Execution Systems (and platforms) have their own data model. However, they require input from other platforms and will provide specific information to other platforms.

For example, if we want to know the serial number of a product and the exact production details of this product (used parts, quality status), we would use an MES platform. Examples of MES platforms (none PLM/ERP related vendors) are Parsec and Critical Manufacturing

The IoT platform

these platforms are new and are used to monitor and manage connected products. For example, if you want to trace the individual behavior of a product of a process, you need an IoT platform. The IoT platform provides the product user with performance insights and alerts.

However, it also provides the product manufacturer with the same insights for all their products. This allows the manufacturer to offer predictive maintenance or optimization services based on the experience of a large number of similar products.  Examples of IoT platforms (none PLM/ERP-related vendors) are Hitachi and Microsoft.

The Product Innovation Platform (PIP)

All the above platforms would not have a reason to exist if there was not an environment where products were invented, developed, and managed. The Product Innovation Platform PIP – as described by CIMdata  -is the place where Intellectual Property (IP) is created, where companies decide on their portfolio and more.

The PIP contains the traditional PLM domain. It is also a logical place to manage product quality and technical portfolio decisions, like what kind of product platforms and modules a company will develop. Like all previous platforms, the PIP cannot exist without other platforms and requires connectivity with the other platforms is applicable.

Look below at the CIMdata definition of a Product Innovation Platform.

You will see that most of the historical PLM vendors aiming to be a PIP (with their different flavors): Aras, Dassault Systèmes, PTC and Siemens.

Of course, several vendors sell more than one platform or even create the impression that everything is connected as a single platform. Usually, this is not the case, as each platform has its specific data model and combining them in a single platform would hurt the overall performance.

Therefore, the interaction between these platforms will be based on standardized interfaces or ad-hoc connections.

Standard interfaces or ad-hoc connections?

Suppose your role and information needs can be satisfied within a single platform. In that case, most likely, the platform will provide you with the right environment to see and manipulate the information.

However, it might be different if your role requires access to information from other platforms. For example, it could be as simple as an engineer analyzing a product change who needs to know the actual stock of materials to decide how and when to implement a change.

This would be a PIP/ERP platform collaboration scenario.

Or even more complex, it might be a product manager wanting to know how individual products behave in the field to decide on enhancements and new features. This could be a PIP, CRM, IoT and MES collaboration scenario if traceability of serial numbers is needed.

The company might decide to build a custom app or dashboard for this role to support such a role. Combining in real-time data from the relevant platforms, using standard interfaces (preferred) or using API’s, web services, REST services, microservices (for specialists) and currently in fashion Low-Code development platforms, which allow users to combine data services from different platforms without being an expert in coding.

Without going too much in technology, the topics in this paragraph require an enterprise architecture and vision. It is opportunistic to think that your existing environment will evolve smoothly into a digital highway for the future by “fixing” demands per user. Your infrastructure is much more likely to end up congested as spaghetti.

In that context, I read last week an interesting post Low code: A promising trend or Pandora’s box. Have a look and decide for yourself

I am less focused on technology, more on methodology. Therefore, I want to come back to the theme of my series: The road to model-based and connected PLM. For sure, in the ideal world, the platforms I mentioned, or other platforms that run across these five platforms, are cloud-based and open to connect to other data sources. So, this is the infrastructure discussion.

In my upcoming blog post, I will explain why platforms require a model-based approach and, therefore, cause a challenge, particularly in the PLM domain.

It took us more than fifty years to get rid of vellum drawings. It took us more than twenty years to introduce 3D CAD for design and engineering. Still primarily relying on drawings. It will take us for sure one generation to switch from document-based engineering to model-based engineering.

Conclusion

In this post, I tried to paint a picture of the ideal future based on connected platforms. Such an environment is needed if we want to be highly efficient in designing, delivering, and maintaining future complex products based on hardware and software. Concepts like Digital Twin and Industry 4.0 require a model-based foundation.

In addition, we will need Digital Twins to reach our future sustainability goals efficiently. So, there is work to do.

Your opinion, Your contribution?

 

 

 

 

 

 

In April this year, I published the post PLM and Modularity in which I had a dialogue with Daniel Strandhammar from Brick Strategy. Daniel and his colleague Bjorn Eriksson published the book “the Modular Way” written during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

We promised a recorded follow-up discussion with readers from the book. The follow-up initially planned for somewhere in May happened last week in June, with a significant contribution from the participants.

Theodor Ernstson, Henk Jan Pels, Jan Johansson and François Sychowicz shared their impression of the book with Daniel and Bjorn. Next, the following questions were posed and discussed:

  • Modular design as a concept is already more than 50 years old, using different definitions, approaches and methodologies. In the book, an interesting list of steps is proposed. Is this list shared across modularity experts, or are they specific to this book?
  • Do you see different ways of approaching modularity depending on the industry, or is it the same?
  • When implementing modularization, which departments need to change their way of working most?
  • How big a factor is the use of common technology in modularization?
  • How do you position modularization vs. system engineering?
  • As a measure of module quality, the concept of “independent” modules is often used to avoid that adding or changing a module might cause another module to fail. Have you seen this happening in your projects, and do you consider the concept of an “independent” module realizable?
  • How do we make modularization stand out on the C-level agenda?

Watch the discussion here:

 

We felt that with this discussion, we only touched the tip of the iceberg. Each of the questions could be a theme for a deep conversation for some of us. Perhaps also for you – feel free to comment on this post or express your opinion. Based on the feedback, I am happy to moderate more detailed discussions related to modularity.

Conclusion

Reading books makes sense. Having a discussion afterward with some readers and the authors makes even more sense. Normally we would do this during a physical conference, meanwhile enjoying a drink or a snack. However, having a global and sustainable model of discussing and learning these virtual events might be the future. An entry point for enriching your network and knowledge.

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