New PLM definition from Jim Brown and old PLM complexity issues


People are collecting things. Beer bottles, matchboxes, car models, etc. As you probably know, I’m collecting PLM definitions. One of the first articles in my collection was this – How to define PLM? with amazing performance of Al Dean. Since that time, I had a chance to pick up more articles for my collection. Earlier this week, the following Tech-Clarity writeup caught my attention – Should we define PLM as an Engineering Decision-making Framework? The next PLM definition is coming from Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity. Jim is not afraid of tough problems. You can see him in the picture (on the left) exploring to complexity of integrated PLM systems using wassabi toothbrushing method. Jim Brown is taking “decision process” aspect to define what PLM means. It relies on the following research Jim did – Improving Engineering Decision management with PLM. Navigate to the following link and have a read. Here is the passage I liked:

Given the important role of engineering decision-making in product development, manufacturers should treat it as a core competency. Manufacturers must enable decision-makers to make better, more confident decisions. They should also enable engineers to make decisions efficiently and get them right the first time to optimize product development time, reduce time-consuming design rework, and improve time to market. Optimizing engineering decisions is ultimately about driving greater success and profitability of products.

Improving decision-making is even more important today as engineers face unprecedented complexity in product development. At the same time, competition is much more global and competitive advantages are easier to copy. What was a “good enough” decision ten or fifteen years ago will not suffice today. The bar has been raised. Companies are targeting “right the first time” decision-making to make more optimal, confident decisions based on better information. The engineering decision-making processes and tools of over a decade ago will not suffice either – they must evolve to enable data-driven decisions to optimize product designs.

Decision framework: Input information and decision records

Net-net, the PLM definition Jim proposed will sounds like as following- PLM is a decision framework for engineers. It made me think about two important elements of such type of framework – information collection and decision tracking. The first element of the framework is a capability to collect the information needed to make a decision. It is a complicated process; information is siloed in different systems and organizations among people. Sometimes information is in the database, sometimes information is in the email and sometimes information is in people’s mind. This is a challenge PLM framework need to solve. Second part of the framework is the ability of the system keep records of decisions. Sometimes it comes as ECO management system, and sometimes it can come as more generic process management systems.

What is my conclusion? Engineers are making decisions everyday. To support them in this process is important. However, to make it efficient is even more important. The problem PLM can face is to create too complicated “decision supporting framework”. So complicated, engineers won’t use it. It doesn’t mean they won’t make any decisions. So, decision will happen. It just won’t happen here… in PLM system. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[categoty Daily PLM Think Tank]

4 Responses to New PLM definition from Jim Brown and old PLM complexity issues

  1. Jos Voskuil says:

    Oleg looking forward to upcoming week’s discussions.

    I still believe PLM is not complex (it is the people making it complex), it is not an Engineering Decision Framework (it narrows it down to the thought of being departmental) and it is not a System (it can be a mix of systems)

    To me PLM is the mix of vision, sharing and using best practices to make people work more efficient in an organisation assuring the company remains competitive and innovates

    I will restate my PLM thoughts again during my PLM Innovation session: Where is the MBOM ?

    See you there

  2. Ketan says:

    The only way I use to define PLM 5 years back was to let people think of a name for a system which is not represented by any ERP (Finance, HR, CRM, Sourcing, Planning, etc etc etc…) currently. The rest was PLM if it had anything to do with the “Product”.

    From your conclusion: Current PLM tools have solutions supporting collection of Engineering “thoughts” and keeping them in one place. It might be a very simple “Comments” solution. If you can relate it to other “Objects” and also search “Where used” it might be a clear winner.

    Just my thoughts !!!

  3. @Jos, well.. PLM is not complex, but people made it complex. So, it is complex :). Looking forward to meeting you in Munich (hopefully I will be able to make it). Best, Oleg

  4. Ketan, yes. It is funny. PLM was fighting against ERP’s modules and definitions. This is one of the reasons, PLM definition is very vague and explained differently by people. Best, Oleg

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