PLM Action Plan for Dummies

May 21, 2009

Yesterday, I had the chance to see two deliveries from Jim Brown related to PLM for mid-size companies. ENOVIA SmarTeam Express PLM Solutions Help Mid-Market featuring Jim’s white paper – Tech-Clarity Insight: Innovating Through an Economic Downturn and Jim’s blog interview One-to-One: TeamCenter Express – Expressly for Small to Midsize Manufacturers. Inspired by Jim, I’d like to propose a short action plan below, which I will call, for the purpose of this blog, “PLM Action Plan for Dummies”

Step 1: Item and Multiple Bill of Materials

This is, in my view, a main differentiator for effective Product Lifecycle Management. For small companies, this is a step to take for looking at all the relevant product information they want to manage – requirements, design, engineering, manufacturing, support, and supply chain. I do believe that a flexible solution here is key, since each company will have their own flavor of Bill of Materials (let me guess… managed by MS Excel and Access, in most of the cases). Item maturity management (Item Lifecycle) is the right way to manage relevant versions of Bill of Materials. So, by accomplishing this step you will have control over product data / BOMs.

Step 2: Connect Design and Engineering data (CAD, CAE…)

Nobody wants to enter the same data multiple times. You need to connect your design and engineering data and feed your Bill of Materials implementation. There are many choices for this. The best choice would be for this and Item and BOM to be well integrated and even provided in one package. So, by doing this, you will ensure your Bill of Materials is created from the updated design. Now, if you change your BOM, your relevant design, including models and drawings, will be updated as well.

Step 3: Link to ERP

At the end of the day, you need to manufacture what you design. Therefore, linking to ERP is very important. There is no silver bullet on how to do this, and I wouldn’t buy just any out of the box option that synchronizes with ERP. But, I’d invest in having monitoring tools that allow you to control the process of synchronizing Bill of Materials to ERP. Also, your Bill of Material and Design Management tools need to have the ability to get Part Numbers if this is controlled by ERP.

Step 4: Organize your Business Processes

You think you’re almost done :)… you have all the data about your product from its early design to ERP. So, what is the missing link? To make all steps work. Before you thought about PLM, you probably did everything by email. But since you now you have all the data managed and controlled, you can use workflow and business process mechanisms to automate your work. You don’t need to implement it in a single shot. You can start from a single ECO/ECR process and move forward.

Well, I hope this list is short enough, :)… and I’m looking forward to your feedback, which I am sure is not “dumb” at all.

New Social Bill Of Material Tool is the Way to Simplify PLM Deployment in Organizations

February 2, 2009

During the weekend, I was reading Mid-Market PLM Deployment Challenges by Tom Gill from CPDA. He wrote about multiple issues customers face during the implementation of PLM systems. Tom mentioned multiple issues such as economical barriers of implementing something beyond of AutoCAD managed by Excel; the need to implement more simple industry-oriented, process-based applications, the lower price point for customers of smaller sized-companies. One of his recommendations was to decrease the complexity of deployment and the need to make simpler systems. All these recommendations were based on analyses of challenges make a lot of sense. 

I’d like to come with an idea of a fundamental, initial step that would simplify the way of smaller customers to PLM. I think that the key for a company is “PLM content”. Today, “PLM content” is not under control in most of mid-size companies. PLM content is spread over multiple sources of activity: (1) PDM systems manage CAD drawings; (2) Multiple Excel files (imported/exports into Bill of Materials; (3) Word documents outlines customer requirements; (3) Homegrown ERP systems manages Items Master information and others.

 What can we propose for a company that literally cannot invest significant resources in the establishment of a PLM system? The company needs to start gradually, building its PLM content from the Bill of Materials and Item (or Part Numbers) information. This needs to be the key information so that the company can start to manage their information centrally. Later, this content will become the core of the PLM system. This system needs to include two basic components for such a management system – (1) Part Numbers /Items/ and (2) Multiple Bill of Materials. As soon as this information is established, the rest of the information such as drawing, supplied part, and manufacturing information will be linked and connected to this content.

 Even if there are multiple systems in the market, I think that these systems survive from the complexity and the intensive support required in order to implement a PLM system. Newcomers need to propose a way of managing Bill of Materials and Items differently. They need to eliminate the educational barrier and propose a simple user experience practice. (For example, native typing in a grid combined with search functionality). I’d like to refer to these as Excel-like social services. They also need to provide a user-friendly way of creating and managing Item/BOM content. This content need to be searchable for all users in the organization, utilizing multiple devices – personal computers, PDAs etc.

 More practically, I am looking for a Wiki-style application that can provide  an Excel-like user experience for content authoring. From a technological standpoint, MS Excel Server provides an easy way of rendering Excel data in IE. I think that developers of such a system can leverage this Excel services. Additional collaborative capabilities can be provided by Instant Messaging, Video Conferencing and workflow services.


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