Do We Need a Delete Button in PLM?

Delete is a special function. In the system dealing with the live data, the meaning of delete is interesting. My first lesson about <delete> function in PDM was 25 years ago. In one of very first data management systems I implemented we used a special flag to mark deleted parts. Later on, I was discussing delete functionality with engineering managers of one of the firms. Think about parts used in production. How you can delete them? They can be not effective for usage, out of stock, discontinued, etc. However, you cannot literally delete them. Back 20 years ago the technology was different. We marked parts and revisions as "obsolete", but we didn’t keep them forever.

Yesterday, in the airport, the following CNET article caught my attention – Google’s Schmidt: The Internet needs a delete button. Schmidt is discussing the nature of internet to absorb data and information that cannot be deleted. Here is an interesting passage:

Actions someone takes when young can haunt the person forever, Schmidt said, because the information will always be on the Internet. He used the example of a young person who committed a crime that could be expunged from his record when he’s an adult. But information about that crime could remain online, preventing the person from finding a job. "In America, there’s a sense of fairness that’s culturally true for all of us," Schmidt said. "The lack of a delete button on the Internet is a significant issue. There is a time when erasure is a right thing."

Well, privacy has a different angle, of course. People are not Part Numbers. However, think about technology behind the internet these days. Think about Gmail. You can be doing email forever without deleting them. I’ve heard some rumors first version of Gmail had no delete functionality. Storage is cheap these days. You literally can keep all information created by design, engineering, manufacturing all the time without deleting this information. Isn’t it fascinating. It can change the way people design and manufacturing things.

What is my conclusion? Delete is a very specially functionality when it comes to systems dealing with a lifecycle. Internet is very much change our horizons in understanding what potentially can include a "total lifeycle" management. It also change a perspective of how to manage lifecycle for a particular eco-system such as PLM. The increasing lifespan covered by PLM systems can improve decision making and provide additional insight in the areas of product development, quality management and others. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

5 Responses to Do We Need a Delete Button in PLM?

  1. David Bell says:

    Hi Oleg, interesting post; as it happens, we were talking about this very point recently inside our team. It is a sensitive area, and we are building our new cloud application with our view on what might happen in the next wave of data protection regulations……possibly even 10 years out!

    This is how we have designed it so far.

    For every object we design (e.g. product or Item) there is a State Chart; on each chart, there is a standard data management pattern – CLOSED – ARCHIVE – DELETE (with the option to restore from ARCHIVE back to CLOSED if needed by the business). All transitions are governed by business rules/events, for example:

    1. When a product gets to SUSPEND or OBSOLETE states, a timer starts. If within a set period of time there has been no activity (e.g searches or views), the state moves to CLOSED.

    2. Once CLOSED another timer begins and when this expires, the object is set to ARCHIVE; this effectively makes the object hidden and not searchable, equivalent to a a soft delete; Why? This gives the user base time to realise the object is gone and to complain. If there is legitimate business reason, the CLOSED object can go back to OBSOLETE or SUSPENDED (e.g. if a part is required to go back into production).

    3. On ARCHIVE, another timer starts to govern the next state, DELETE. The DELETE state will hard delete data as set by your records retention period is over (sometimes 5-10 years depending on the market & data type);

    We are using this pattern to solve the data overload problem and to keep all operational data current. I ran a Records Management project for 6 months in a big oil company, so I know how sensitive they are about NOT retaining data after their records retention period says it should be hard deleted. All data is discoverable by subpoena (unless deleted of course)!

    You are probably thinking you loose all of that feedstock for “big data” – not so…on ARCHIVE we aggregate data in useful ways for future analytics – but on DELETE, fine grained data is deleted.

    This way, you respect the records retention regulations, be compliant but at the same time allow analytics to do their magic!



  2. David, thanks for your comments and insight. Yes, you are spot on – I’m thinking about “big data”, aggregate all information, activity and drive build a value for engineers on top of that. It might be a dream for today, but not for long time. Just my thoughts… Oleg

  3. Bhushan Teli says:

    Hi Oleg;
    Nice Post as usual.
    There are two thoughts on this one.

    1. One Group[generally Product Manger / designer] will say why to delete the data? we may* need in future?

    2. Other group [Typically IT teams] why to process Junk/Obsolete Data, as it will add performance on search & DB Size & Cost for infrastructure?

    Both the groups are right at there place.

    What I feel is – % of user which really need the Obsolete / Inactive Data are not more than 8-10% of the PLM User base of any company & the data size of is really huge.

    we can use Document retention method typically used in Records Department & many PLM Vendors have typical application for Library Management has this functionality – which David has mentioned in his feed back.

    Once retention period is over rather than Delete we should have a additional vault/DB where we can put the Obsolete / Inactive Data. which will reduce the load on the Running/Active Objects data base, intern which will give the improved performance. Whenever Obsolete data is needed we can go to the data set & bring it to active data set.

    Bhushan Teli

  4. Bhushan, thanks for your comment and sorry about the delay in answer. Yes, yo are right- there are reasons to “delete” and opposite. My point is that “lifecycle” and “delete” are usually on the opposite sides. Therefore, system should keep the information and “clean garbage” without people efforts. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

  5. rameshpattnaik says:

    This is an OOTB topic to discuss with Oleg. Thanks for sharing…no once ever hardly thinks of the functionality DELETE could be a discussion topic. In my view it gives the strength to undo the things…delete any wrongly or unwanted created part in PLM and get a fresh copy one. @David has a well defined lifecycle for an unwanted part/design. @Bhusan also fetch a point of retention of records…which is interesting too…temporary Delete and permanent delete also comes to picture when we think of this functionality…in my view delete gives you the freedom of get rid of unnecessary stuff…nice topic to discuss…your thought.

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