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A month ago, I wrote: It is time for BLM – PLM is not dead, which created an anticipated discussion. It is practically impossible to change a framed acronym. Like CRM and ERP, the term PLM is there to stay.

However, it was also interesting to see that people acknowledge that PLM should have a business scope and deserves a place at the board level.

The importance of PLM at business level is well illustrated by the discussion related to this LinkedIn post from Matthias Ahrens referring to the CIMdata roadmap conference CEO discussion.

My favorite quote:

Now it’s ‘lifecycle management,’ not just EDM or PDM or whatever they call it. Lifecycle management is no longer just about coming up with new stuff. We’re seeing more excitement and passion in our customers, and I think this is why.”

But it is not that simple

This is a perfect message for PLM vendors to justify their broad portfolio. However, as they do not focus so much on new methodologies and organizational change, their messages remain at the marketing level.

In the field, there is more and more awareness that PLM has a dual role. Just when I planned to write a post on this topic, Adam Keating, CEO en founder of CoLab, wrote the post System of Record meet System of Engagement.

Read the post and the comments on LinkedIn. Adam points to PLM as a System of Engagement, meaning an environment where the actual work is done all the time. The challenge I see for CoLab, like other modern platforms, e.g., OpenBOM, is how it can become an established solution within an organization. Their challenge is they are positioned in the engineering scope.

I believe for these solutions to become established in a broader customer base, we must realize that there is a need for a System of Record AND System(s) of Engagement.

In my discussions related to digital transformation in the PLM domain, I addressed them as separate, incompatible environments.

See the image below:

Now let’s have a closer look at both of them

What is a System of Record?

For me, PLM has always been the System of Record for product information. In the coordinated manner, engineers were working in their own systems. At a certain moment in the process, they needed to publish shareable information, a document(e.g., PDF) or BOM-table (e.g., Excel). The PLM system would support New Product Introduction processes, Release and Change Processes and the PLM system would be the single point of reference for product data.

The reason I use the bin-image is that companies, most of the time, do not have an advanced information-sharing policy. If the information is in the bin, the experts will find it. Others might recreate the same information elsewhere,  due to a lack of awareness.

Most of the time, engineers did not like PLM systems caused by integrations with their tools. Suddenly they were losing a lot of freedom due to check-in / check-out / naming conventions/attributes and more. Current PLM systems are good for a relatively stable product, but what happens when the product has a lot of parallel iterations (hardware & software, for example). How to deal with Work In Progress?

Last week I visited the startup company PAL-V in the context of the Dutch PDM Platform. As you can see from the image, PAL-V is working on the world’s first Flying Car Production Model. Their challenge is to be certified for flying (here, the focus is on the design) and to be certified for driving (here, the focus is on manufacturing reliability/quality).

During the PDM platform session, they showed their current Windchill implementation, which focused on managing and providing evidence for certification. For this type of company, the System of Record is crucial.

Their (mainly) SolidWorks users are trained to work in a controlled environment. The Aerospace and Automotive industries have started this way, which we can see reflected in current PLM systems.

Image: Aras impression of the digital thread

And to finish with a PLM buzzword: modern systems of record provide a digital thread.

 

What is a System of Engagement?

The characteristic of a system of engagement is that it supports the user in real-time. This could be an environment for work in progress. Still, more importantly, all future concepts from MBSE, Industry 4.0 and Digital Twins rely on connected and real-time data.

As I previously mentioned, Digital Twins do not run on documents; they run on reliable data.

A system of engagement is an environment where different disciplines work together, using models and datasets. I described such an environment in my series The road to model-based and connected PLM. The System of Engagement environment must be user-friendly enough for these experts to work.

Due to the different targets of a system engagement, I believe we have to talk about Systems of Engagement as there will be several engagement models on a connected (federated) set of data.

Yousef Hooshmand shared the Daimler paper: “From a Monolithic PLM Landscape to a Federated Domain and Data Mesh” in that context. Highly recommended to read if you are interested in a potential PLM future infrastructure.

Let’s look at two typical Systems of Engagement without going into depth.

The MBSE System of Engagement

In this environment, systems engineering is performed in a connected manner, building connected artifacts that should be available in real-time, allowing engineers to perform analysis and simulations to construct the optimal virtual solution before committing to physical solutions.

It is an iterative environment. Click on the image for an impression.

The MBSE space will also be the place where sustainability needs to start. Environmental impact, the planet as a stakeholder,  should be added to the engineering process. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) defining the process and material choices will be fed by external data sources, for example, managed by ecoinvent, Higg and others to come. It is a new emergent market.

The Digital Twin

In any phase of the product lifecycle, we can consider a digital twin, a virtual data-driven environment to analyze, define and optimize a product or a process. For example, we can have a digital twin for manufacturing, fulfilling the Industry 4.0 dreams.

We can have a digital twin for operation, analyzing, monitoring and optimizing a physical product in the field. These digital twins will only work if they use connected and federated data from multiple sources. Otherwise, the operating costs for such a digital twin will be too high (due to the inefficiency of accurate data)

In the end, you would like to have these digital twins running in a connected manner. To visualize the high-level concept, I like Boeing’s diamond presented by Don Farr at the PDT conference in 2018 – Image below:

Combined with the Daimler paper “From a Monolithic PLM Landscape to a Federated Domain and Data Mesh.” or the latest post from Oleg Shilovistky How PLM Can Build Ontologies? we can start to imagine a Systems of Engagement infrastructure.

 

You need both

And now the unwanted message for companies – you need both: a system of record and potential one or more systems of engagement. A System of Record will remain as long as we are not all connected in a blockchain manner. So we will keep producing reports, certificates and baselines to share information with others.

It looks like the Gartner bimodal approach.

An example: If you manage your product requirements in your PLM system as connected objects to your product portfolio, you will and still can generate a product specification document to share with a supplier, a development partner or a certification company.

So do not throw away your current System of Record. Instead, imagine which types of Systems of Engagement your company needs. Most Systems of Engagement might look like a siloed solution; however, remember they are designed for the real-time collaboration of a certain community – designers, engineers, operators, etc.

The real challenge will be connecting them efficiently with your System of Record backbone, which is preferable to using standard interface protocols and standards.

 

The Hybrid Approach

For those of you following my digital transformation story related to PLM, this is the point where the McKinsey report from 2017 becomes actual again.

 

Conclusion

The concepts are evolving and maturing for a digital enterprise using a System of Record and one or more Systems of Engagement. Early adopters are now needed to demonstrate these concepts to agree on standards and solution-specific needs. It is time to experiment (fast). Where are you in this process of learning?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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