Complexity Kills or Three Ways to Improve PLM Adoption

June 25, 2009

In my view, one of the things that is killing PLM the most is the level of technical details. I think PLM is overselling complexity and, as a result, moves people out of this space. PLM is perceived as complex and, as a result, a dangerous place. So, I think, in order to improve the PLM adoption rate, we need to rethink why PLM looks like a dangerous technological toy rather than a practical tool for an organization?

So, here are my top three things we need to work on to get out of the PLM complexity game.

1. User Experience. One of the things that is absolutely not accepted in most of the PLM implementations I have seen is the way users interact with systems. Most of the systems expose too many details, overload users with additional information and functions. I’d recommend that all developers implement a way to track usage of your user interface features and analyze the features that are not in use. As soon as you have this indication – remove the features. Nobody will care about menus/buttons/dialogs. As a result, you will have more display real-estate for your core functionality.

2. Mobile Applications. I love my iPhone J… Maybe not iPhone, but my mobile BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, etc. I think we need to come with mobile applications for daily PLM life. It should come in a way that will embed Product Lifecycle Management into my mobile life. People will appreciate it, I’m sure. And this needs to be completely role-based. To allow designers to see a list of documents they need to complete, to allow managers to see and approve lists of ECOs for today. At the end of the day, I want to be able to show the latest cool 3D model on my mobile device to my colleague during lunch time. All these small things will help us influence people’s minds.

3. Plug and Play. Last, but absolutely not least. Today PLM implementation is a 3-step activity: Install, Implement, Use. I want to exclude the “Implement” phase.  I think we need to provide a system that needs to be installed. After installation, we will be able to start using our system. But do we need to develop our processes? Do we need to organize our data? The answer is that we do need to connect to legacy systems and other systems. Think about the old way of connecting devices to Windows. IRQs, reboots, configurations. These days are in the past. The same should happen to PLM. Otherwise PLM will die.

I’m sure that each of you has specific pains related to PLM complexity. I’d be interesting in hearing your voices, and am looking forward to our dialog.

PLM Prompt: Faceted Search for PLM

June 24, 2009

Short request for discussion. Faceted search is something widely accepted as user experience in many web based environements.

I think ability to discover information in this way will be very beneficial for PLM system. What is your opinion?

Some examples:

1. Good set of web examples of faceted search

faceted search wine example -

faceted search wine example -

2. Systems like SharePoint have MOSS Faceted Search web part.

Example of Faceted Search in MOSS

Example of Faceted Search in MOSS

Bing, Bong, BI… where is my PLM decision?

June 24, 2009

I watched many videos and demos related to Microsoft Bing during the last few weeks. Actually, I liked the idea of a “decision engine” behind a search. So, after experimenting with different types of searches, I finally came to the conclusion that the concept of Decision Management is very close to the discussions on Business Intelligence that we had before. If you haven’t had the chance to read them, here are a few of  the previous PLMtwine previous posts.

So, here is my idea – Business Intelligence for PLM. Enterprise PLM databases are absorbing a large amount of information about how products are designed, manufactured, built, used and disposed. PLM databases can be integrated with many other sources of information systems such as ERP, Supply Chain,  and Manufacturing Execution. Having all this information already in a Product Lifecycle Management system can be a good foundation for Business Intelligence systems. Today, BI can be implemented using various database technologies. If you are running on a SQL Server, you have a full stack of MS BI services. If you are on Oracle, you can use Oracle BI.  If you are on IBM, you can use IBM BI. There are also other, more specialized vendors.

So the question is – where is Bing? Here is my point. Bing is a decision user-oriented experience that lets you get this data. In the same way Bing presents you with travel price trends, Bing can let you get your PLM Business Intelligence data and provide it to your end users…

So, to review the main points:

  1. Enterprise PLM Database is integrating Product IP information
  2. You can get Business Intelligence by indexing PLM data and extracting specific KPI and data characteristics
  3. Access PLM BI data with Bing-like user experience

Wait a minute… Where is Bong? You need to get all product information under PLM roof. A lot of data is available, but PLM systems still provide very fragmented outlook on product information.

So, what is your opinion?

PLM Prompt: Explore Search Results with Google Wonder Wheel

June 23, 2009

To discover infornmation and search results is always Interesting problem. Especially when you deal with big amount of data. Short note on additional way to do it in Google you may find interesting – Google experiement with Wonder Wheel. You can access this option from search results -> Show Options -> Wonder Wheel. Take a look on pictures and video below.

What do you think? Do you like this option for our field?

Google Wonder Wheel - Regular Search

Google Wonder Wheel - Regular Search

Google Wonder Wheel - Video Search

Google Wonder Wheel - Video Search

Who wants to manage Product Data?

June 23, 2009

One of the ambitious goals PLM puts in front of strategists, implementors and developers is to manage a product lifecycle from early on (requirements, initial product designs) and until the end of product lifecycle towards manufacturing, supply chain and disposal processes. At first glance, it sounds like a great idea, as it looks like PLM is on a fundamentally unique track of providing this solution to a customer…. but, here is the problem. I think that PLM is not really unique when it comes to the company’s landscape, and there are many different systems in organization claim to manage product data.

So, I decided to cluster a few tools from different areas to outline who are these “PLM” competitors to data in an organization. So far, I found five fundamental product domains.

  1. Content Management. This is company document storage. Most of the companies in this area are working primarily on documents, the ability to put them on the shelf, manage their access and lifecycles.  Since most of product lifecycle information in the end becomes a “document”  I’d put this companies on ‘Red Alert J…
  2. ERP /MRP. This is a traditional neighbor and competitor. PLM and ERP/MRP have been “competing” against each other for many years. I discussed this issue many times on blog. I don’t predict a “system expansion”. Many ERP vendors have a solution with a specific PLM flavor. We can see them and what they offer on the market.  These systems can evolve and claim to manage even more product data in the future.
  3. Business Process Management. This is a newly emerged trend. In my view, the BPM market is relatively small in manufacturing, and therefore BPM tools will feel they need to work out their potential in  PLM cases as well.
  4. MDM – Master Data Management has a relatively good adoption rate by big enterprise customers. In my view, as MDM cannot scale down, I’d provide limited importance to being able to compete with PLM. Indeed, we need to pay specific attention when we plan for enterprise PLM.
  5. Collaboration Tools and Applications. Hot topic. People are looking how to collaborate better. Various collaboration tools are looking at how to improve data management solutions too. With the introduction of Google Wave and the expanded future offering of MS SharePoint 2010, collaboration tools definitely can expand their offering to a more specific PLM space. There is a potential danger from the low end.

So, how will PLM be able to compete with these systems successfully?  This is a big question – which is why I’m asking for your advice and feedback here, as well as find out what else you have in mind.

How to Extend PLM Reach – Process vs. Content?

June 22, 2009

I was reading a review <PLM Extends Reach in Product Development> over the weekend. My short conclusion – PLM is growing, expanding its horizons and reach in different areas of product development. Jill Jusko quoted many analysts from Forrester and CIMData, as well as vendors such as PTC. They explained how PLM is growing in different areas of corporate activities (such as social collaboration and the product value chain). So, I tried to figure out where we need to go and how to prioritize PLM development to reach a wider audience with a Product Lifecycle Management solution.

My conclusion actually was very short, so I’d like share it with you: PLM has two major opportunities to reach within and beyond the organization:

(1)    To extend Content

(2)    To extend Processes

I will try to explain what I mean. With my very pragmatic state of mind, I tried to analyze the current PLM organizational positions. PLM providers with roots in design and 3D (and this is the majority of PLM mind-shares) are deeply engaged in the business of CAD modeling and 3D. So, PLM of these companies do well in initial product creation. But what happens afterwards? In most of the cases, 3D is going to die. Most of the information is translated into PDF, paper and/or other alternatives to original 3D. Therefore, the 3D PLM content will disappear. This is definitely a bad situation for PLM providers. So, regarding my first clause – to extend PLM reach – companies need to invest more in content-availability. As soon as this is done, more people will be able to leverage original valuable PLM 3D information. In parallel, we have an alternative – processes. Many companies, including PLM vendors, and especially their ERP patrons, involved in different areas, are encouraging customers to share their process difficulties. So, this alternative is to transform business processes and implement various initiatives (from complex business orchestrations, and down to workflow automation). In my opinion, this is definitely a second option for extending PLM reach.

What is my short conclusion? I’m  a believer in data. In my view, data is much important compared to process. So, I’d expect that extending PLM successfully would start  when the PLM system gains more share from the PLM data (content) management extension. Extending capabilities to manage, share and collaborate on more data will  ultimately pave a successful path for manufacturing companies.

PLM Prompt: SolidWorks Sustainability Xpress will embed more lifecycle data in CAD

June 22, 2009

Another interesting blog post this morning about SolidWorks Sustainability Xpress coming soon on SolidWorks Labs. You can see video. What impressed me 1/ immersive data integration into SolidWorks CAD environment; 2/ ability to analyze full lifecycle of product from designer standpoint. There are some Product Lifecycle Management roots in this story well translated for SolidWorks user. What is confusing a little is that part of video demo run on Mac OS…

Will be interested to hear your voices? Do you see more designer support data came integrated into CAD environment?


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