The need of PLM Portfolio Management

February 28, 2013

In the modern world, M&A is something that happens all the time. Manufacturing companies are not an exclusion from that. Manufacturing companies are acquiring other companies to increase their market presence, bring new technology, people and products. This is a place where the need for software managing portfolio of products, programs, projects comes out. Few days ago, the following picture caught my attention (thanks FB miss-understanding of things page)


I found this picture very self explaining and shows the reality of portfolios in some well-know brands. I’m sure most of the large brand-companies in manufacturing domain can come with a similar presentations shows brands, portfolio, products. It made me think that the importance of portfolio management part of PLM is probably undervalued. Portfolio management represents “top-down” view on product families, structures and ends up with Bill of Materials.

What is my conclusion? These days top-down view of products becomes more and more important. The ability of PLM software to manage this top-down view becomes an essential part of PLM technologies alongside with BOM and configuration management. Many companies just cannot manage their information without breaking up into portfolios. What is your experience in this field? Speak up and share your examples (if you can). Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Simplification: What to give up?

February 26, 2013

Simplification is a trending topic these days. Finally, everybody wants to simplify everything. Vendors are crying to simplify portfolios, developers are crying to simplify user experience, etc. I’ve been reading an interesting writeup about simplification – Simplicity: Fewer steps and Fewer options? by John Evans. I found the following passage the most important to me:

I asked engineers what they thought about simplification of their favorite software. The response was unanimous. “I like the idea, but what would I have to give up? I mean if I had to give up some of the tools that I use everyday, that would probably be a deal killer.”

In the past, I posted about PLM simplification – PLM Simplification: first drop PLM word. My idea back one year was that PLM needs to drop PLM word since it brings a lot of complexity to people. The question of what to give up is the most important when it comes to product development and PLM. Since, we are not talking about mobile phone, digital camera and even not automobile, the question of giving up features is probably less relevant. In my view, it is all about perception and how things can be visible to end users and developers. It made me think about two aspects – visibility of features and perception of complexity.

We like features. Remember old Windows toolbar era with zillion buttons and options. Still, many UIs of older enterprise systems have the same disease. How many of them are you using on daily basis? Not much. Think about MS World? How many of features in this application are you using? The second issue is connected. PLM software is heavily rooted to engineering world. Therefore to show complexity was important. Engineers like engineering toys and these toys need to be complex and powerful. However, when it comes to users in a whole company, the same "visible features and options" become a showstoppers to mass adoptions.

What is my conclusion? Answering on the question "what to give up?", I think PLM needs to give up on visible complexity. Don’t take me wrong and don’t get back to "OOTB PLM" circa 2000s. We need flexible and powerful software. However, we need to figure out how to make it simple and usable for 80% of users that needs it on everyday basis. This is where the science of nice user experience will come into the play. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Will PLM take an advantage of DBaaS?

February 25, 2013

Bam! New acronym to learn today. Enterprise software already created tons of them for last 2 decades. However, I will ask to excuse me today and speak about DBaaS. I’m sure you’ve heard about IaaS, SaaS, PaaS… So, what is DBaaS and why I think it we need to discuss it in the context of PLM? Generally speaking DBaaS is a kind of "cloud database". Wikipedia classified cloud databases in the following article into Virtual machine images and Database as a services (DBaaS).

The major interesting in DBaaS can be called by a single name – scale. The requirements to infrastructure is growing. The ability to keep up with this growth often can go beyond IT capacity you company may have. So, DBaaS can give you an easy way to scale up with more/less predictable cost. Specifically, when speaking about global geographical scale. Most of manufacturing companies are working today globally with suppliers, manufacturing and design facilities across the globe. To support such type of globally scaled infrastructure, can be an additional reason to move towards DBaaS option.

Second reason – cost. Similar to all other XaaS services, DBaaS can provide cost benefits by virtualization of data layer. The exact numbers, of course, will depends per case and will not work for everybody. However, I believe, there are enough companies in the niche that will find DBaaS as a cost saving factors in their database architecture.

I want to mention few specific aspects of PDM and PLM development. To provide muti-site PDM deployment is one of the most crtitical requirements these days. Many relatively inexpensive PDM solutions are struggling with such type of multi-site deployment. By moving to DBaaS, they can solve the problem of distributed deployment. Another interesting aspect of PDM/PLM deployment is flexibility. The ability to instantiate a specific schema and configuration of database is much high with DBaaS compared to traditional database deployment.

Life is not without problems. DBaaS can be bring some challenges too. One of the most significant one is flexibility and configuration of DBaaS solutions compared to traditional databases. Therefore, DBaaS can be a challenge for existing PLM applications designed for traditional SQL database. Most of problems potentially can come from customization and ability to run specific database/server side scripts and procedures.

What is my conclusion? Cloud databases or DBaaS is an interesting infrastructure option for PDM/PLM developers and IT managers. It provide ease of administration and ability to scale. It can become an important element of your future PLM infrastructure for small and large companies. If you are developing new product today, pay attention how you can save by using DBaaS. If you are IT manager, check your existing or future PLM solution about their ability to run in DBaaS configuration. Important trend. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PI Congress: Product development as we have known it, is dying…

February 25, 2013

I spent the beginning of this week in Berlin attending PI (Product Innovation) congress. Navigate to the following link to learn more. The event is a successor of PLM Innovation conference happened in the past in London, Munich and Atlanta. The even was organized by Market Key in partnership with CIMdata. This year event was expanded to cover product design in addition to PLM related topics. The event is vendor neutral. With about 300 guests and representation of many CAD and PLM vendors, it provided a good place to discuss and get updated about what happens in product development world (PLM included). The primary focus of the event was clearly about customer presentations. Even so, PI congress was blessed by several well-known keynote speakers – Steve Wozniak, Prof. Martin Eigner and few others. In addition to that, exhibition provided a good opportunity to see demos and speak to vendors. Below some of my thoughts as an outcome of two event days.

PLM – changes are coming

I must credit Peter Bilello of CIMdata for a truly provoking title of this blog post. I took it from his presentation: The future of PLM – enabling radical collaboration. We are facing changes driven by two major factors – new social-savy workforce and “maker” movements. I specially liked the following slide from Peter’s presentation – Radically connected… Kids.

We have new reality and new people. These people will influence future priorities of manufacturing companies and will drive industry changes as individuals. We can debate timing of when it will happen, but this is more tactical. Strategically, new social workforce will drive future changes in the industry.

Another interesting aspect of product development changes is related to new technologies. They are going to impact product design as it is today. Key factors here are connectivity, social networking and big data. All together they are changing the way product designed and manufactured. The transformation comes from the connection these technologies are establishing between development processes and business goals.

Large successful mono-PLM projects

A significant part of PI Congress was dedicated to customer presentations. This is one of the sweet spots of this conference. To listen to customers and how they implement existing product and technologies is the main reason to come. This year, PI Congress introduced few remarkable presentations from The Boeing Company, GETRAG, Dana Holding, Andritz, Kennametal, Autoliv and few others. I found these presentations very interesting and educational. It shows that value of PLM is recognizable by companies and organizations are strategically focused on driving more PLM implementations to improve their development processes.

The downside experience of these implementations (I call them “mono-PLM”) is related to effort and cost. Most of them are multi-year and focusing on how to replace a zillion of legacy application with a single PLM platform like it was presented on a picture above. All these implementations are good and provide value to companies. However, some of these companies are not comfortable even to speak about the cost of these implementations. In my view, this is an indication of potential cost/value ratio problem.

Interdisciplinary integrated PLM

The complexity of PLM implementation is growing. Integration theme was dominant in most of the presentations done by customers, analysts and industry experts. Here are few examples showing the importance of information assets integration during PLM implementation.

Speaking more, Peter Bilello of CIMdata discussed the convergence of Configuration Management, PLM and System Engineering as the only way to solve the problem of complexity.

What is my conclusion? I want to get back to my conclusion about PLM perfect storm 2012 one year ago. In my view, we will see more changes and disruption in coming years. Three main driving factors – cost of implementations, complexity of product development and consumerization of IT. All together, they will provide a perfect eco-system to innovate. My recommendation to customers these days is not to make 5 years commitments. To vendors – don’t trust status quo. Your potential competitors are not reading emails and still working from a garage space. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

What PLM can learn from “mobile discover apps”?

February 19, 2013

Mobile apps is one of the most growing segments of software business these days. Clearly, the years after iPhone and Android introduction, we had an explosive growth of mobile software and variety of applications. Enterprise software and PLM vendors are trying to learn "mobile language" as well. However, in my view, vendors are still missing the point of mobile. I posted about that last year. The initial approach taken by many PLM vendors was to bring "the same software mobile version" was wrong, in my view. Current PLM software took a holistic approach on use cases and scenarios. "Mobile" experience requires different, task oriented approach.

Couple of days ago I was reading Mashable article – 9 Excellent Apps for Discovering New Things. I was using some of these apps like Flipboard and Waze. I found the concept of "new things discovery" interesting. Alongside with apps, I found the following quote interesting

Breaking from the norm and discovering new things can often be a difficult undertaking. Your smartphone can help along with that process, and is a great starting point for finding something new.Whether you’re looking for new places to check out news, a new less congested way route to work, or even something fantastic to eat for dinner, apps can help you get there a little quicker, often suggesting things you might have no realized even existed.

I made me think about mobile and PLM mobile apps. Engineering practice requires "discovery" very often. Here are some use cases – discovery of previous decision made by your company, discovery specific domain experts, partners discovery and many others. To use the concept of "discovery apps" can be an interesting way to think about mobile experience in enterprise.

What is my conclusion? New class of mobile app/services is emerging these days.PLM vendors thinking about mobile need to make a note. The three important keywords are – user, data and context. Combination of them together creates a completely new class of experience. Context removes of significantly decreases the need for user input as well as eliminate additional filtering. Discovery mobile app for manufacturing and engineering can be actually very cool ideas.

Best, Oleg

Will enterprise PLM embrace hybrid cloud?

February 15, 2013

Cloud is trending and we can see more examples of how cloud technologies applies in business. PLM vendors are not standing aside from the cloud. You may see different ways PLM companies are developing their cloud PLM strategies. It starts from public cloud offering coming from Autodesk PLM 360 and Arena and ends up with Siemens PLM Teamcenter leveraging IaaS, Windchill hosted by IBM and Dassault Enovia presenting their solutions as "online system".

What is important is to look on customer realities these days. Let’s face the facts. Almost every manufacturing company these days have a significant amount of enterprise software deployed in house. The larger company you go, you discover more enterprise system managed by company IT. While cloud can be promising opportunity, co-existence of public cloud systems and existing IT can become a problem and impact the speed of cloud deployments and developments. In such context, development of "hybrid clouds" can become an interesting option, in my view.

Earlier today, my attention was caught by Rackspace article – Rackspace Study: The Case for Hybrid cloud. Rackspace is a growing outfit specialized in hosting and cloud infrastructure. Read the article and make your opinion. The following passage explains in a nutshell the idea:

One big trend that has gained considerable momentum with these large organizations is the use of hybrid clouds, which is basically the usage of cloud from an IaaS provider alongside other platforms in order to deliver an application or workload to several users. Hybrid clouds bring a number of different advantages to enterprises, such as the ease of spinning resources up and down , and the cost efficiency of being able to pay for the capacity on an hourly or monthly basis instead of being tied down to a specific billing plan. What’s even better is that it allows for the greatest flexibility when the virtualization technology vendors started offering built in support for moving live virtual machines across a network, as it allows a straightforward means of transitioning applications and workloads between sites.

Take a look on a picture below. Rackspace is building a case for the multi-site hybrid cloud. Here is the explanation provided by Rackspace:


Rackspace defines a multi-site hybrid cloud is one that involves attaching existing IT infrastructure to a public cloud provider via a private leased line or a public internet connection. The main advantage to a hybrid cloud is that it allows existing infrastructure, including legacy hardware and code that are otherwise expensive and disruptive to replace. However, this doesn’t come without a catch, as it greatly limits control over geography and may result in increased latency as distance between sites increase, not to mention includes additional time and expense meant for provisioning network connections and reliability of inter-site communication, when compared to pure cloud implementations.

I found this idea interesting. Every IT in a large organization is looking how to optimize cloud deployment without disrupting the existing IT servers rooms. Hybrid cloud can be a good solution for that. Another aspect is security. In my view, hybrid cloud can provide some advantages to IT and large companies to keep some their servers more protected.

What is my conclusion? IT is a blocker to cloud technologies in many companies these days. Even if IT understands the value of the cloud technologies, it provides too much disruption to existing IT infrastructure and future strategies. So, Rackspace is spot on. Hybrid cloud can be a potential way to mitigate a potential concerns of IT about public cloud. Note to companies looking for PLM solutions. While public cloud can provide a clear strategic advantage in terms of resource optimiaztion, Hybrid cloud can be an interesting option and intermediate steps towards exploration of cloud technologies for larger manufacaturing firms. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

BOM 101: How to modularize the Bill of Materials

February 14, 2013

I want to get back to my BOM 101. In my view, Bill of Material management is one of the fundamental processes in PDM/PLM and requires lots of attention. I want to take the feedback made by Jos Voskuil and turn the conversation to be more business oriented. One of the trends in manufacturing today is customization. And this is a big challenge for manufacturing companies. Life was good in mass-production world, when the goal was to provide large series of items with predefined configurations. Not anymore… Today, clients are interested to how customize everything. Companies dealing with ETO type of business are facing similar challenges.

Efficient Bill of Materials management system can solve this problem. If you have flexible BOM management system allowing you to manipulate BOM structures and integrated with you ERP environment, you are half way done. However, technology out of the box won’t help you. It requires to apply some best practices too. One of the practices I want to discuss is "modular Bill of Materials". Wikipedia provide a very short article about that, but I liked the definition.

Modular BOMs define the component materials, documents, parts and engineering drawings needed to complete a sub-assembly. While the terms BOM and modular BOM are most commonly used in association with physical products, the concept can be used in a variety of industries (e.g. software, medical records). Modular BOMs are used by modern information systems to serve a variety of purposes, such as defining the components needed to produce a sub-assembly, and providing cost information for each component and "rolled-up" cost information for the overall sub-assembly.

The core idea of modularization is to create a set of "modules" (aka sub-assemblies) that you can manipulate in order to create a final product. The product development process will be divided into two essential steps: create your modular bills and create a planning bill for a specific product. The last one will allow you to roll out cost and delivery time for a specific product order. Below I put five steps to follow in order to modularize the process of Bill of Material management in your company.

1. Identify family groups. This work can take time, but will allow you to make some steps to improve you product portfolio. Most probably you already have some portfolio management tools in house. Engineering has a tendency to complicate everything. So, you may find an overwhelming number of product families in your company. So, you must take some time and optimize that.

2. Identify options. These are elements of products and bill of materials that can be added to multiple product families. Usually represents additional features that can be added and can be replaced. The typical example of options is different configuration of car in-dash navigation and entertainment system. What is also important at this stage is to identify constraints between options (conflicts, incompatibilities, etc.)

3. Create Master Bill of Materials. This is a very important step. Master Bill of Materials represents all families and all options. This is "THE" bill of materials of all your products, which allows you to plan and to manufacture any product and configurations. In most of BOM management system you operate with ‘phantom’ feature to create an efficient master bill of materials. The reliability of BOM management system is very important at this stage.

4. Create planning BOM. Planning bill of materials represents a specific product, configuration, order, etc. You generate "planning BOM" out of your master BOM in order to create a specific delivery task for your manufacturing system. You practically derive your planning BOM out of Master BOM. Tools that allows you to copy/compare structures and BOM levels are absolute must to make it work.

5. End item bill. This is a final stage. End item bill represent the customer world and the way to translate planning bill of materials into the delivery. There are multiple ways to create end item bills – create bill for every SKU#, manually configure options or implement automatic rule based configurations. In my view, the last one is the most promising alternative. However, it requires additional efforts to implement. So, don’t be surprise many of customers are manually configuring end item bills.

What is my conclusion? Modern manufacturing practices require good technologies and best practices applied together. To me, BOM modularization is one of best examples. You need to have an efficient BOM management system with technologies and user experience allowing you to work collaboratively on BOM in a very granular way. At the same time, you need to apply some planning steps to rationalize and optimize the way you work with configurations, custom orders and product customizations. The cost is a fundamental driver in a modern manufacturing world. An efficient BOM modularization will allow you to follow demands of customers for customization and keep product cost down. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /


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