PLM, ERP and the death of over the wall engineering

July 31, 2014

plm-erp-death-of-thraw-over-the-wall-engineering

Do you remember "throw over the wall of manufacturing" statement? This is a traditional engineering world. Pretty much sequential. Engineers are doing their job and throw it over the wall to the next stage. Traditional manufacturing was driven by sales forecast. This is was the world that formed a traditional domains of PDM/PLM and ERP. The engineering job was a black box – product design delivered to manufacturing. Manufacturing people supposed to take design and make it work to production. The processes required lots of back and forth communication. The result you know – skyrocketing cost of change requests, suboptimal design and after all production delays.

There are lot of changes in manufacturing environment these days. One of the most interesting example is growing number of smaller manufacturing companies / startups. I wrote about that few months ago in my post – Why Kickstarter projects need PLM? Today, I want to speak more about that. LineShapeSpace article – Manufacturing Inventory Management: How Much Inventory Do You Need? caught my attention. The question sounds obvious. However, article speaks about looking on inventory from completely different perspective – engineering and growth.

Growth is an essential part of every startup. This is probably one and the most important goal to stay focused on. However, the specific part of manufacturing company is the cost of parts and size of the inventory. To hack the growth path is not simple. To go on the wrong path means to literally to die. Here is my favorite passage from the article

This mismatch is expensive. It usually means high inventory carrying costs while you chase down a lot of little customers and invest resources into getting—and keeping—their relatively small orders. The inverse relationship impacts cash flow and energy level significantly, as well as your ability to feed yourself. Long term, this kind of business will most likely be a hobby, not something that sustains you, absent significant investment or luck.

In order to develop a successful product and find a right inventor path, you need to re-think a traditional engineering-manufacturing process. No more over the wall process. You need to design for optimal manufacturing, sourcing, inventory and many other factors. Which means engineering and manufacturing team to work together. My hunch, there is no traditional PLM/ERP boundary any more. Here is another quote to emphasize that:

“We used every fancy prototyping technology, investigated multiple production scenarios, and ultimately landed our production with great manufacturing partners near Hong Kong…utilizing ‘traditional manufacturing’ for production [was] an ordeal to set up, but yields quality, repeatable parts thereafter. The decision to move at this scale of production required that we grow a global sales and fulfillment network.

That wasn’t exactly an ambition for a first our product…but it’s certainly an interesting, if occasionally harrowing, game.” The takeaway from all of this? Do your best to match the inventory risk to your channel risk. It’s a lot easier, faster, and cheaper to go back to the design drawing board than it is to return a container ship to China.

What is my conclusion? We are going to see the world of manufacturing changing in front of us these days. It may change (and probably already changing) the traditional engineering, production planning and manufacturing boundaries. What was true in an old PLM/ERP world will change. The new forms of manufacturing will require re-thinking of current software. Interesting time for PLM and ERP analysts, product managers and vendors. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM security: data and classification complexity

July 30, 2014

security-plm

Security. It is hard to underestimate the importance of the topic. Information is one of the biggest assets companies have. Data and information is a lifeblood of every engineering and manufacturing organization. This is a key element of company IP. Combined of 3D models, Bill of Materials, manufacturing instructions, suppliers quotes, regulatory data and zillions of other pieces of information.

My attention caught Forrester TechRadar™: Data Security, Q2 2014 publication. Navigate to the following link to download the publication. The number of data security points is huge and overwhelming. There are different aspects of security. One of the interesting facts I learned about security from the report is growing focus on data security. Data security budgets are 17% as for 2013 and Forester predicts the increase of 5% in 2014.

forrester-data-security-plm

The reports made me think about some specific characteristics of PLM solutions – data and information classification. The specific characteristic of every PLM system is high level of data complexity, data richness and dependencies. The information about product, materials, BOMs, suppliers, etc. is significantly intertwined. We can speak a lot of about PLM system security and data access layers. Simple put, it takes a lot of specifics of product, company, business process and vendor relationships. As company business is getting global, security mode and data access is getting very complicated. Here is an interesting passage from report related to data classification:

Data classification tools parse structured and unstructured data, looking for sensitive data that matches predened patterns or custom policies established by customers. Classiers generally look for data that can be matched deterministically, such as credit card numbers or social security numbers. Some data classiers also use fuzzy logic, syntactic analysis, and other techniques to classify less-structured information. Many data classification tools also support user-driven classification that users can add, change, or conrm classification based on their knowledge and the context of a given activity. Automated classication works well when you’re trying to classify specic content such as credit card numbers but becomes more challenging for other types of content.

In my view, PLM content is one of the best examples of data that can be hardly classified and secured. It takes long time to specify what pieces of information should be protected and how. Complex role-based security model, sensitive IP, regulation, business relations and many other factors are coming into play to provide classification model to secure PLM data.

What is my conclusion? I can see a growing concern to secure data access in complex IT solutions. PLM is one of them. To protect complex content is not simple – in many situations out of the box solutions won’t work. PLM architects and developers should consider how to provide easier ways to classify and secure product information and at the same time be compliant with multiple business and technical requirements. Important topic for coming years. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM, Excel Spreadsheets, Pain Killers and Vitamins

July 29, 2014

bom-plm-excel-painkiller-1

We like to compare stuff. Gadgets, cars, hotels, software. We can compare iPhone to Samsung, Canon to Nikon, Honda to Toyota. Software is a special category. When it comes to enterprise software it gets even more complicated. However, marketing comparison is a fascinating type of writing. Arena PLM blog posted a marketing writing – Using Excel for Bill of Materials (BOM) Management. The article compares BOM management using Excel spreadsheets and BOM management PLM tools (Arena tools implied, which is okay). Read the article and draw your own conclusion.

I have special passion for spreadsheets. In my view, (and I know many of PLM analysts and bloggers will agree here) Excel is stands out as one of the most popular PLM software tool in the industry. I have my reasons to like PLM spreadsheets as well as list of my "hate statements" about Excel.

Arena’s article reminded me famous marketing stories about vitamins and pain killers. The first is "nice to have" and the second is "must buy now". I think the value of PLM tools is obvious. But… here is my little "but". If I compare lists of values, cost and features in that article, I can not come to an absolute conclusion about advantages of PLM tools. It creates some mixed feeling. First, there is no line that says "no" to any of features you can do with Excel. So, basically, I can do everything with Excel, but not in an optimal way (means I won’t die :) tomorrow by keep using Excel). Second, cost is emotionally on the side of Excel. It is very hard to compete with "free" that everybody can use. And, to switch to PLM tools, you need to change the way you work. Even this is not in the list, it implied when you compared "time to implement" between "immediate" and "days-weeks". So, when you have organization using Excel and manages BOM, PLM is not in competition with Excel. This is another type of competition, which sales people often calls "competing with status quo".

What is my conclusion? Few weeks ago, I shared my recipe how PLM can take over Excel spreadsheets. Here is the list of three recommendations – flexible data models, easy customization and excellent user experience. I’d like to add pain killers to the list. This is something that PLM is still missing in competition with Excel. The comparison should have "no/yes" notation. Today’s "poor/excellent" is still has a flavor of vitamins. PLM implementations are still hurting people and lose in the comparison to initially glamorous Excel spreadsheets. Engineers are spending too much time managing Excels, but the cost is hidden and not obvious to managers to step into longer implementations, higher cost and slow learning curve. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Part Numbers are hard. How to think about data first?

July 28, 2014

part-numbers-madness

One of the topics that usually raises a lot of debates is Part Numbers. One of my first takes on the complexity of Part Numbers was here – PDM, Part Numbers and the Future of Identification. Ed Lopategui reminded me about that topic in his GrabCAD post – Intelligent Numbering: What’s the Great Part Number Debate? few days ago. He speaks about four aspects related to handling of Part Numbers – creation, readability, uniqueness and interpretation. The conclusion is complex as well as the topic itself. Here is the passage, which outlines the conclusion Ed made.

Balancing all these diverse factors is difficult, because no solution is optimal for every company. Here are some final tips to help you make prudent decisions: 1/ Understand your PDM/PLM system part number generation capabilities; 2/ Understand the limitations of any other systems that interact with your parts; 3/ Go through every activity that requires interpreting part numbers and understand what system access is available, and how the interfaces work. This will provide a good basis for your interpretation cost; 4/ Understand how easy/difficult it is for a new employee to interpret a part number.

These tips made me think again about Part Numbering, data and different data and process management tools involved into the process of Part Numbers handling. Most of approaches are focusing on systems and functionality to handle part identification and classification. What we do is trying to align our need to identify and classify parts with what multiple systems can do. The hardest part is to find Part Numbers that will make all systems involved into the process (CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP, SCM, etc.) to work smooth. Honestly it is too complex and too costly.

So, how to manage that complexity? Is there a reasonable way to resolve the complexity of Part Numbering and made everybody happy? Thinking about that I came to conclusion that companies should start thinking about data first. From the longevity standpoint, data must have much higher priority compared to any data management system. In some industries companies are obliged to keep data for decades. Thinking about that, I want to outline some principles that will help you to do so and will allow to create some standardization around parts and data identification.

1- Disconnect Part Numbers and classification from specific applications. PN should not be dependent on requirements and capabilities of data and process management systems. Data has much longer lifespan compared to applications and systems. By defining PN independently you will keep data and processes in your company clean and well organized.

2- Generate PN based on classification, business needs and processes. Develop independent service to make it happen. This service is most probably should be independent from existing data management systems and converted in some sort of URI based notation.

3- Use independent service to convert independent PN into system specific identification. You can convert for any system you have at your disposal – PDM, PLM, ERP, SCM… What is important is to be able to control the process of conversion and adapt it each time data and/or process management system changes.

What is my conclusion? Product data is one of the most expensive assets in manufacturing companies. It represents your company IP and it is a real foundation of every manufacturing business. Think about data first. It will help you to develop strategy that organize data for longer lifecycle and minimize the cost of bringing new systems and manage changes in existing systems. I think, some services should be developed to make the process of part numbering easier for manufacturing companies. As manufacturing is getting global to maintain part numbering systems becomes a huge problem. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM vertical PaaS strategies

July 25, 2014

PaaS-plm-large-manufacturing

SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, DMaaS, … I’m sure marketing folks are having lots fun of new xaaS acronyms. The amount of publication about various strategies of services is skyrocketing. EDACafe article – The Platform-as-a-Service Provides European Aerospace & Defence OEMs and Partners with Greater Collaboration Capabilities brings a story of “AirDesign” – the European aerospace and defense industry’s collaboration platform by BoostAeroSpace and Dassault System. The article taste a bit marketing. Nevertheless, I found the following passage capture the rationale behind what AirDesign supposed to provide:

AirDesign drastically reduces operational costs for all partners through a single infrastructure, common exchange methods, open standards and easy access, all without adversely impacting existing information systems. All the primary European OEMs jointly requested and defined this platform in order to facilitate exchanges, support their suppliers’ ecosystems and generate new opportunities with services.

MMT article provides more analyzes on what Dassault and BoostAerospace are doing:

To manage the exchange of PLM data between all partners whatever their systems may be, AirDesign delivers three key capabilities through its digital exchange hub: 1/ The first allows an OEM to organize exchanges in the context of programs and projects, including the delegation of administrative roles; 2/The second is an integrated, secured and automatic technical data package exchange. The traceability needed for complex programs is a native capability, ensuring proper management of large technical files between OEMs and suppliers; 3/The third capability consists of access to a wide variety of services, including converters based on standards or approval services that a partner can use during an exchange.

The set of functionality above aren’t new. Large PLM implementation did it in the past. The problem of standardization and platform cost in supply chain eco-systems is critical. So, it is not unusual for partners to share single enterprise software infrastructure for design supply chain and more.

However, the notion of PaaS (Platform as a Service) is interesting. I’ve been blogging about that earlier – Will Cloud PLM develop PaaS option? and Cloud PLM and PaaS dilemma. It looks like PLM vendors is moving towards more vertical platform architecture. Especially for large companies and business eco-systems, PaaS can provide an interesting solution – standardization and cost benefits. The information about private cloud deployment by AirDesign confirms earlier news about Dassault developing all cloud PLM options.

What is my conclusion? I think we are going to see lots of PLM PaaS variations in a near term future. Large manufacturing companies are looking how to optimize cost and standartize infrastructure. This is an opportunity for PLM vendors to re-establish and sometimes re-develop their legacy systems in a new way. I’m sure lots of ENOVIA applications will be used in announced AirDesign PaaS. Overall looks like PaaS is another way to sell PLM cloud system to large manufacturing eco-system. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit to MMT article

 

 


Who will make PLM sexier?

July 24, 2014

sexier-plm

Cool factor is trending in software these days. The time when software was ugly is probably in the past. Everyone wants to have a "cool app" – on the picture above you can clearly see the trend. Does it apply to enterprise software and PLM? It is a good question. Back in 2012, I asked it in my post – PLM: Ugly vs. Cool. While nobody specifically focused on how to develop cool PLM software, I can see an increased interest for improved user experience from PLM vendors.

cool-sexy-app-trend

UX magazine article Is there Room for Sexy in Enterprise Design? caught my attention few days ago. I found the discussion about emotional factor interesting and important. I especially liked the following passage:

The question enterprise technology companies need to ask themselves is “what does sexy mean to your enterprise customer?” Put another way, how do your customers want to feel when using your products?Every product, whether we realize it or not, produces an emotional reaction. As Donald Norman articulated in his seminal book Emotional Design, customers find aesthetically pleasing products more effective. Customers even “love” these products. Norman identified the commercial value in evoking some passion towards products, such as Gucci bags and Rolex watches. MailChimp’s Director of User Experince, Aarron Walter, took this one step further with his book, Designing for Emotion. He posits that the goal of emotional design is to connect with users and evoke positive emotions, which will make your users want to continue interacting with your product.

Article speaks about EchoUser research of emotions with enterprise customers. The following emotions are make sense to enterprise crowd – powerful, trust, flexible, calm, pride, accomplished. Cool and sexy are not in the list. So, is there a place for "cool and sexy" in PLM? For long time PLM was associated with "complex" and "expensive". At the same time, most of PLM commercial videos are cool and sexy. Sport cars, luxury airplanes, fashion shows, mobile devices. You rarely can see PLM video without such type of product examples.

I think, many PLM professionals these days are still trying to keep the association of PLM with complexity. My hunch, they are trying to justify expenses. Customers might think complex solution requires more budget, longer consultancy and service project. However, the other side of complexity is to feel absence of reliability and trust. This is not a simple decision for PLM consultants and software vendors.

What is my conclusion? People don’t like cumbersome software these days. There is no place for complex user experience even in enterprise software. What emotions should drive CAD and PLM software? How engineers should feel about software? I’d like to connect the results of engineering and manufacturing process with PLM tools. You cannot make good products with wrong tools. So, something should happen with PLM software. Complex PLM software is a wrong tool to build future cool products. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit MidoriShoes


How to re-think activity streams for enterprise?

July 23, 2014

controlled-collaboration

These days manufacturing businesses are more connected than ever before. Every manufacturing company (even smallest startup) has a tremendous need for collaboration – help multiple engineers to get involved into the design process, communication with suppliers, plan manufacturing processes, etc. Social networks and open web inspired many companies to develop collaboration software that mimic consumer social software. One of the main attribute of every social software (Facebook, G+, twitter and others) is so called "activity stream" or "news feed". The trend was strong and produced lots of copycats. The successful and lucky ones got acquired. Many of less successful died.

The idea of activity stream is very powerful. It allows you easy share and consume information. However, here is a thing – it is not protected from "noise vs. signal" problem. The more people you follow – more information will flow into your activity stream(s). You end up with messy stream of information you cannot keep up with. It is probably okay for public news or even for executives in a company interested to keep up with what is going on. However, it is probably not a good experience for engineers that need to work together on the same design or discuss next engineering or manufacturing change request. Also, it is probably not a very useful as a tool to communicate between departments and suppliers. And… this is absolutely wrong model to use for process management.

All problems I mentioned above is actually making the adoption os social system for collaboration questionable. I can see many confirmations to that. CMSWire article The Problem With Yammer? People Don’t Use It speaks exactly about the problem. Here is key passage:

But what if the problem is not about difficulty or learning curves but about culture? What if the problem with Yammer has nothing to do with the product itself and nothing to with usability, but rather with the fact that enterprise workers are holding onto email for dear life and are not prepared to give it up? Microsoft itself appears to be aware of this. The addition of complimentary Yammer for the new Office 365 plans appears to speak to that. However, if Microsoft’s updated offerings are a step in the right direction, they won’t solve the problem of social and collaboration in the enterprise.

Another interesting example – Facebook. Clearly the king of social networks recently introduced simple and very effective feature to get out of noise of your information stream – Save. It can quickly remind you old and well-known list of favorites. Navigate to TNW article – Facebook introduces Save, a new bookmarking feature to help tame your News Feed. Sounds like a simple feature, but it allows you to keep specific post out of noisy channel and focus on them later in a more controlled way.

These and many other examples made me think about what is needed to provide a better way to collaborate. My hunch is that "controlled list of topics" can better serve the need of engineers and other people to work together. How to make it? This is probably more tricky question. I can see it as the next logical step from email that still one of the most favorited tools to communicate. It also reminded me my post Why PLM shouldn’t miss next email move earlier this week.

What is my conclusion? Activity stream is a good way to present flow of information. However, the type of experience it creates is way too open and subject to be affected by information noise. I believe engineering tools should provide more tight way to communicate, exchange information and share data for collaboration purposes. This is main reason people are holding onto email as a best tool. New ways to collaborate is not here… yet. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 252 other followers