PDM vs. PLM – Is this about Process?

September 21, 2009

I was reading interesting article during the weekend- PLM & The Importance Of Process by Gary S. Vasilash. Gary is the founding editor of Automotive Design & Production (AD&P) Magazine.plm-vs-pdmThere are few very interesting points were made by Gary and I liked it very much. Gary is discussing PLM topic with Twila Osborn, Lean Manufacturing and PLM, Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC; csc.com). Started with a solid statement came out of CIMData about strategic importance of the process for PLM, later Mr. Vasilash made some very important notes about handling of design data and BOM. “Who owns BOM?” Excellent questions.”The BOM is a corporate asset, not an engineering asset.” Sounds like PLM is the best candidate to own Bill of Material. However, a conclusion made immediately after mentioned that PLM companies (like DS and Siemens) invested a lot in Design Process, and it really works today. What sounds to me, BOM story is not as completed as a design story for PLM systems. You can hear a lot of “buts” when you start to discuss BOM story of PLM. “The mindset needs to change; it is not just CAD data.” About most of PLM implementations in organizations “It might be very old, out of date. It might not have an integrated BOM. Some have BOMs based on proprietary technology, built from scratch. They might have a PLM system, but they’re using it as a PDM system.” A lot of “buts.”. What is very remarkable is a short review of top three PLM vendors (DS, PTC and Siemens). Unfortunately, this summary is corp-marketing-publishing-fully-buzzword-compliant. What will be very interesting is to find analyzes related to who owns Bill of Material and how to manage a BOM and related process beyond engineering on the corporate level using standard PLM systems.

But, I’d like to get back to the original topic PDM vs. PLM. I asked many times about what is the difference between these two from customers, on conferences and during professional meetings. I think, professional community made a tremendous job in trying to explain it, but these two domains are continuing to confuse users.

I thought about few definitions to make before:

Product Data product design, bill of materials
Product Data Changes ECO-related information including design and Bill of Materials.
Product Lifecycle information and process-definitions related to global product development stages.

I think PDM is definitely about first two. However, getting back to Mr. Vasilash’s “The mindset needs to change; it is not just CAD data”. As soon as we can come to matured Bill of Material implementations (not home grown as it today), PDM will become mature to manage a complete scope of Product Data Changes and not only Design portion.

PLM definition is very fuzzy, in my view. However, this is definitely about how to move from Product Data Changes to Product lifecycle and corresponded to organizational processes. There are many business process management software suites (BPMS). However, all of them won’t be able to provide a relevant answers on product lifecycle. Because “product data” is a key asset that needs to be taken into consideration to manage organizational processes around product.

This is not the first time I’m touching this topic. I’d be interested to hear your voices and comments.


Do we need multi-faceted BOM compare?

July 10, 2009

bom-compareThe following blog article by Anurag Batra drove my attention today – “Comparing BOM Structures: a multi-faceted need”. Author is asking if “BOM comparison” is needed function in PLM system and especially interested about “multi-faceted” Bill of Material comparison. He is asking these questions in context of enhancements made in new Agile 9.3. He wrote – “Most PDM, PLM and ERP systems offer the ability to compare Bills of Material structures side by side. Agile have had a BOM Comparison report for many years – it allowed for comparison of multiple BOM structures side by side. With 9.3, we’ve enhanced the report greatly – focusing on the use case of deep multi-level comparison between two BOM structures”. Later in this article Anurag explains new features, how possible to compare multiple levels of multiple release changes etc. According to him Agile 9.3 version provides excellent features that improve capability to compare Bill of Materials in multiple ways. I’ve been a bit confused in the end of Anurag’s post by his question to readers, how they actually compare BOMs and what can be possible use cases for new introduced reports…

Here is my Think Tank question… Do we really want to compare Bill of Materials? Except the fact that we always excited by features and capabilities of our software, I guess comparison is a very complex task. Each time I’m trying to compare structures, I feel unsecured. To compare multi-level structures that include multiple changes is very complicated, in my view. I’d be very interested in see examples of multi-faceted BOM comparison Anurag is talking about…

Here is my view:
1.  Bill of Material comparison is very complicated task.

2. Designers and Engineers are less interesting “to compare”, but more interesting to find difference between two versions of designs of product structures.

3. May be we need to think about functions in our software that provide “results” and not put users in complicated scenarios of comparing multiple structures?

I’m looking forward your responses and open discussion…

Best, Oleg

How we can socialize PLM Bill of Materials?

May 6, 2009

Last month, I wrote a few posts about Bill of Materials. My interest was to investigate how to improve Bill of Material and BOM management in the organization. In the post <Search for the right BOM – I’m feeling lucky? >, I discussed how many different BOMs we can discover in the organization and later <When BOM seeks the right enterprise nanny… >, I discussed the various trends in BOM management. I came to the conclusion that the organization is interested in managing a single Bill of Materials, but every person in the organization may have a different point of view on the same BOM, representing different aspects of product development.

Chris from Vuuch and Josh made some interesting comments <When BOM seeks the right enterprise nanny>. Their point was about the connection between people and parts in the Bill of Materials. Linking to people in the Bill of Materials can create a social dimension in the BOM. This gave me the idea of how to model Bill of Materials connect it to the organizational social environment.

How can we do that? Let’s think about a model where we can link between <person> and multiple <parts> in the Bill of Materials. These links can be created by users and kept in the database. As soon as the user creates these links, he or she will be able to render or display the Bill of Materials anyway the particular user wants to see it. Since these links will not destroy links between parts, they will be able to use it simultaneously. Imagine a single Bill of Material structure associated with multiple users. Users would be able to open the Bill of Materials and get a customized view, reflecting his or her particular Bill of Materials configuration.


I can think about this feature as a more advanced way of BOM Part <Tags>. Compared to literal Tags, the connection to users/roles allows us to customize way people work on the Bill of Materials and significantly improve the performance of people while they work on BOM.

When BOM seeks the right enterprise nanny…

April 29, 2009

Yes, I have come to the conclusion that the Bill of Materials (BOM) child is quite alone… probably because the BOM children were very popular and everybody wanted to take care of them . Just take a look at our closest environment . We do have a Bill of Materials in CAD/design, Engineering, Manufacturing, Support and Maintenance…. As I mentioned in my previous post, Search for the right BOM – I’m feeling lucky?, finding the right Bill of Materials in an enterprise environment is not simple.

So, the question I wanted to ask is how can we improve Bill of Materials, which fundamentally represents everything in Product Lifecycle Management – from the early requirements and design until production and disposal. My initial idea was about a synchronized BOM (Is it time for a synchronized Bill of Materials?). The biggest challenge I found is actually Bill of Materials separated by multiple systems in the organization. I’m sure you are very familiar with this problem. Bill of Materials have many flavors where each system tries to manage its own flavor of Bill of Materials. As a result, we have NO Bill of Materials.

I have seen a few trends in Bill of Materials management as of today:

1. Master trend. This is probably the oldest one. The idea is quite straightforward and based on trying to build master-relationships for the Bill of Materials. So far, when you have a master, you supposed don’t have a problem with multiple BOMs. But, to define such “master behavior” is difficult, and the process of master definition spans across time, products and technologies within the organization. It may work, in my view, in quite a synchronized and centralized environment. But if you take a more detailed look, you will find “another small BOM” somewhere around :)….

2. Multi-BOM trend. This one is quite established. As we said, there are many Bill of Materials – here we have an answer. We can manage many BOMs! With all the technologies we have today, we can manage as many as we want. Where is Catch 22? The governance model for Bill of Materials in this case becomes very problematic. Now we have too many BOMs and they are trying to state their single point of truth about what is going on with a product. Multiple tools around this problem can help you to compare, change, and even find inconsistencies, but the overall system becomes quite unstable, in my opinion…

3. Process trend. This is a new one, I discovered. We don’t manage Bill of Materials anymore. We do manage processes for organizations. Design, Engineering, Manufacturing. This sounds very reasonable. Process can formalize our activity around data and provide a reliable way to manage our ancient data life on a different level. So, in other words, – BOM is stupid and the process is smart. So far so good… Process management is a big scope. To implement it for an organization is not a simple task at all…. I’m just afraid, this is too much for “my small BOM child” :)…

So, what is my conclusion? I think we are still an the age where we need to find better technologies for managing Bill of Material(s). Do you know of any alternatives? I’m looking how to resolve the BOM problem within an organization and beyond…

Is it time for a synchronized Bill of Materials?

April 2, 2009

In my previous post “Search for the right BOM – I’m feeling lucky? , I started to discover possible ways to handle Bill of Materials in the organization and extended enterprise. Thank you all for your comments. I think we had a good conversation, so  I’d like to continue now in slightly different direction. Before I speak  about the diversity of Bill of Materials I’d like to say that the core of this approach is to have multiple Bill of Materials for various aspects of product development (such as Design, Engineering. Manufacturing, Maintenance etc.). So, we have multiple Bill of Materials. These multiple Bill of Materials are managed normally by different systems. By using of this approach we have several possible combinations of BOM within an organization. 

But there is opposite approach: There are NO multiple Bill of Materials. Instead we have systems that define a single BOM for the organization where all relevant pieces of information are connected and synchronized. According to the type of information you are looking for, you can extract a subset of this information from the overall Bill of Materials system. This overall BOM structures managed and synchronized among all groups within an organization. Therefore, this approach can simplify the way different pieces of product-related information are managed in an organization.


 How can you organize this synchronized Bill of Material overall? There are many technological approaches that can be mentioned here – PLM with federated Bill of Material capabilities, data warehousing, business intelligence, PIM, and enterprise search. Even if these approaches are sensitive from the standpoint of synchronizing information between different enterprise systems, all of these technologies have the potential to be used for this purpose.

 I would be interested to know if you see the practice of a synchronized Bill of Materials applicable in your organization. 


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