PLM Best Practices and Henry Ford Mass Production System

April 6, 2014

henry-ford-assembly-line

If you are in PLM business, I’m sure you are familiar with term called "best practices". The term is widely used to explain how PLM system can be deployed, how to manage data and how to organize and optimize product development processes. So, where are roots of PLM best practices and why PLM vendors like them so much? Remember, the original PLM (and even PDM) systems started as a glorified data management toolkit with elements of CAD and ERP integrations. To get such system in product was very expensive and it required lot of time and implementation services. The reason is simple – every manufacturing company is different. It takes time for service provider to understand company landscape, processes, data requirements, legacy systems and suggest a solution. Put heavy price tag next to this activity. You can think about this process as something similar to organizing mass production assembly line. It is costly and complicated. Once you’ve get it done, your objective will be simple – run it to the largest possible quantity without re-configuration (which will cost you money, again). The same happened with first large PLM implementations.

The invention of "best practices" helped to figure out how to move from heavy and complicated PLM assembly line to more configurable and flexible mechanisms of PLM deployment. Technologically, toolkit approach was a underline product foundation. PLM companies and especially service providers and PLM consultants liked the approach. To create OOTB (out-of-the-box) pre-configured environments was relatively easy based on the practices gathered from existing large customers. However, to get it to the field and implement wasn’t so simple. Marketing and sales used OOTB environments to demonstrate and make sales. However, implementations and fine tuning was failing to apply it after that. The implementation devil was in details and service teams were required to bring to production. Similar to manufacturing mass production environment, customizing and services was a straightforward answer to solve the problem of product and requirement diversity.

As we know from the history of manufacturing, mass customization won and left mass production system in a dust. What was clear innovation 100 years ago was replaced by new forms of manufacturing, customization and flexible manufacturing units. I believe this is still very hot topic in the industry and every manufacturing company. The diversity of product requirements is skyrocketing, product lifecycle is getting even shorter. To produce PLM system that will fit this type of environment is probably one of the most important innovation that might happen in engineering and manufacturing software technologies these days.

What is my conclusion? I think software companies can learn something from the history of manufacturing companies. The move from from mass product to mass customization is one of them. PLM software made a turn from from complicated preconfigured assembly lines to expensive data management toolkits that require services. Manufacturing is getting different these days. Next step can be hardly achieved by pure technology or process organization. My hunch it is going to be a hybrid of new data management technologies empowered by crowdsourcing and customer innovation. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Photo source.


Why PLM stuck in PDM?

April 5, 2014

plm-stuck-pdm-round-square

I’ve been following CIMdata PLM market industry forum earlier this week on twitter. If you’re are on twitter, navigate here or search for #PLM4UM hash tag on twitter. The agenda of PLM forum is here. The following session discussed one of my favorite topics- PDM v PLM. PLM: Well Beyond Just PDM by Peter Bilello. This passage is explaining what the session is about

CIMdata’s research reveals that leading industrial companies are looking to expand beyond PDM functionality to truly enable a more complete PLM strategy. This becomes even more important in a circular economy. In this presentation, CIMdata will discuss which areas are most important, and what opportunities they create for PLM solution and service providers.

My attention was caught by the following tweets coming from this session:

According to CIMdata, leading Mfrs are now looking to move beyond PDM. #PLM4um
— ScottClemmons (@ScottClemmons) link to tweet.

Peter B / CIMdata explains that it’s hard to find a ‘real’ end-to-end #PLM implementation hat works #plm4um
— Marc Lind (@MarcL_) link to tweet.

It made me think why after so many years of PLM implementations, most of vendors are still solving mostly PDM problems for customers and it is hard to move on into broad downstream and upstream adoption of PLM beyond CAD data management functions. Here are my four points explaining in a nutshell why I think "PLM stuck in PDM".

1- Focus on design and CAD.

Most of PLM vendors historically came from CAD-related domain. Therefore, PLM business for them was the expansion of CAD, design and engineering business. As a result of that, use cases, business needs and customer focus were heavy influenced by design domain. The result – PDM focus was clear priority.

2- PLM is a glorified data management toolkit

The initial focus of many PLM systems was to provide a flexible data management system with advanced set of integration and workflow capabilities. There are many reasons for that – functionality, competition, enterprise organization politics. Flexibility was considered as one of the competitive advantages PLM can provide to satisfy the diversity of customer requirements. It resulted in complicated deployments, expensive services and high rate of implementation failures.

3- Poor integration with ERP and other enterprise systems

PLM is sitting on the bridge between engineering and manufacturing. Therefore, in order to be successful, integration with ERP systems is mandatory. However, PLM-ERP integration is never easy (even these days), which put a barrier to deploy PLM system beyond engineering department.

4- CAD oriented business model

Because of CAD and design roots, PLM sales always were heavily influenced by CAD sales. Most of PLM systems initially came to market as a extensions of CAD/PDM packages. With unclear business model, complicated VARs and service companies support, mainstream PLM deployment always focused on how not to slow CAD sales.

What is my conclusion? Heavy CAD roots and traditional orientation on engineering requirements hold existing PLM systems from expanding beyond PDM for midsize manufacturing companies. The success rate of large enterprise PLM is higher. But, it comes at high price including heavy customization and service offerings. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How to make PLM UI less terrible?

April 3, 2014

handwritten-BOM

I’m coming again to this topic – User Interface. These days you can hear about it as user experience (UX). UX is more complicated thing and includes lots of factors and aspects. So, I’d like to speak first about how UI looks. Back in time when I was developing and demonstrating PDM user interfaces, the worst thing was to get in line after somebody presenting CAD and visualization software. Their UI are always looks good. It was obvious, since they can show all these cars, phones and airplanes… Opposite to that, PDM user interface is all about tables, list and values. The nature of PDM system makes this type of UI boring and not interesting. For example, take a look on the photo above. This is handwritten BOM of locomotive made almost 100 years ago (image credit) . It doesn’t look nice, but it is absolutely "must have" document in manufacturing.

To change UX concept is a complex things. It requires to make a lot of changes in the way people performing their tasks. For engineering, manufacturing and enterprise organization is a big thing. However, what about to make a change just in a way PDM / PLM UI looks like?

The following image by darkhorseanalytics caught my attention with the presentation how to make table looks less terrible. Take a look on the power of "less is more". It comes as a sequence of remove colors, remove gridlines, remove fills, remove the border, remove bolding, left align text, right align number, align titles with data, resize columns with data, put whitespace to work, use consistent precision, round the numbers, remove repetition, no more Calibri font, add back emphasize.

So, here is the table before:

table-nice-ui-before

… and here is the table with UI improvements.

table-nice-ui-after

Not sure about you, but I like the comparison and the result.

It made me think about how many places in PDM UI is actually requires clean table presentation. Think about drawing reports, bill of materials and many other things. To make them look clean and fresh will improve to visual impression about PDM product.

What is my conclusion? It is very hard to design nice and clean UI. Every company developing software applications these days must focus on how to make the UI less terrible. The ugly and annoying enterprise software UI is a thing in the past. The new UI will be designed with the a different state of mind and thinking about modern web and mobile user interface and experience. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Bill of Materials (BOM) Management: Data, Lifecycle, Process

April 2, 2014

BOM-data-lifecycle-process

In my recent post about bill of materials – Bill of Materials (BOM): process or technology challenge? I touched the variety of topics related to BOM organization – multiple BOMs and need to manage BOM located in different systems. My main question at the post was around how to make the work with multiple BOMs easier? The problem is tough and the answer is not easy and straightforward. While I was googling the internet to find what others think about this problem, my attention caught TeamCenter PLM blog post – Bill of Material Lifecycle. This posts presents multiple BOMs as a result of changes in the product lifecycle – design, manufacturing, service. Here is a passage I captured:

It is interesting to discuss on BOM lifecycle and its evolution from conceptual stage to full fledge manufactured product to maintenance. In this blog I will explain through life cycle of BOM across the product life cycle done as in house development. The BOM lifecycle can varies based on overall process of company for example some company might only manufacture as order hence they As Build design BOM and they directly CREATE Manufacturing BOM from it.

All together, it made me think that concepts of data, lifecycle and process is often can create a confusion and overlap. I want to clarify these concepts and present how they can be combined together to manage single BOM in the organization.

1- Data

Data is the most fundamental part of Bill of Materials. It combined from data about product, assemblies, parts and relationships between them. Fundamentally, assemblies and components are connected together to form the result data set representing a product. This data set can be presented in many ways – tabular, hierarchical and many other forms (eg. graph). Data about parts leads us to the place where information about product, assemblies, components, supplies and manufacturers is managed. This information can reside into one of the following systems – CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP, SCM and others.

2- Lifecycle

Lifecycle defines the difference between bill of materials of the same product, but associated with different product development periods (stages). Here is the example of some typical stages – concept, design, manufacturing, service. However, these stages are not the same for many companies and can reflect industry, specific business practices, regulation and many other aspects. It is very important to capture relationships between Bill of Materials of the same product (assembly) in different lifecycle stages. Missing lifecycle stage connection can cause a lost of very important product lifecycle information and product development traceability. In some regulated industries such

3- Process

Process is a set of activities that defines Bill of Materials data as well as changes in a lifecycle. Sometimes process can be very informal- save of assembly and parts using design system. It will product design BOM data. However, with the complexity of product development and specific organization, some processes are including changes of data, lifecycle stages as well as people involvement. If you think about ECO process, it might change few bill of materials, lifecycle stages as well as product/part information.

What is my conclusion? The problem of bill of materials management must be separated into three distinct problems: 1/ how to create data with BOM? 2/ how to control product dev stages and differentiate the same BOM across the lifecyle; 3/ how to provide tools to manage process and people to work with data and stages. All together, the problem is complicated. However, separated into these pieces it can help you to build a strategy for your BOM management regardless on tools you are going to use. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Breaking news: ENOVIA announced Beyond PLM partnership

April 1, 2014

04/01/2014. Newton, MA via @afjplmnews.

ENOVIA – the collaborative innovation application brand of Dassault Systemès enables your innovators to benefit from the true rewards of collaboration. Powered by 3DEXPERIENCE, ENOVIA goes Beyond PLM by providing leading enterprise collaborative applications for all industries, to promote innovation and operational excellence. The set of collaborative solutions includes Aerospace and Defense, Consumer Goods & Retail, Energy Process & Utilities, High-Tech, Industrial Equipment, Life Science, Transportation & Mobility. Navigate your browser here to learn more.

beyondplm-enovia

What is my conclusion? In order not to confuse existing partners and provide smooth future platform migration and compatibility, Dassault Systemès digitally encrypted announcement by color coding on the ENOVIA Solutions website. It was identified by Beyond PLM (TM) big data social innovation crawler.

Best, Oleg


CAD is half pregnant by cloud

April 1, 2014

cad-cloud-pregnant

The usage of cloud is growing every day. Started as an option to simplify collaboration and data exchange, it is proliferating into spaces such as backup, computation and many others. CAD and design are remaining one of the most conservative zone of the cloud and engineering software. Commonly agreed opinion – desktop is the best place to run CAD system in terms of resources, performance and tasks designers want to accomplish.

With such CAD desktop paradigm, you might think CAD users are completely independent from cloud. Actually, it is not so true. My attention caught by Cadalyst article – Advocate for Internet Access for CAD Tools by Robert Green. According to him CAD is no longer an island and significantly depends on cloud services and public internet infrastructure. Here is the passage, which explains that

Like it or not, our CAD users are becoming more and more dependent on tools that reside outside our company’s internal network. The types of systems we use may vary, but they typically include the following: FTP access sites for file uploading and downloading, Remote access of workstations for technical support; Remote log-on sessions to run compute-intensive tasks, such as rendering or analysis, on powerful remote workstations; Enterprise data management (EDM) and product data management (PDM) systems for CAD/BIM models and files; Cloud-based services on vendor-supplied servers. Whether you use one, several, or all of these Internet-based resources in your day-to-day CAD system, the fact remains that using CAD is no longer something that you alone can control. And when you must reach out over the Internet to complete your CAD tasks, IT becomes a crucial part of your workflow.

It made me think again about future of cloud and CAD relationships. In my view, cloud won’t be introduced to CAD users as a single lifetime event. Instead of switching designers and engineers to cloud CAD overnight, companies will introduce some cloud based services to maximize cloud value proposition to existing CAD-based workflows. You can navigate to some of my earlier posts – The future of CAD without files?; A moment before CAD files cloud mess…; What “end of local storage” means for CAD?; CAD, PLM and Future Cloud File Systems.

I can identify 3 main zones of existing CAD system enhancements that will leverage cloud eco-system to provide additional benefits to engineers:

1. Cloud based backup and file exchange. This is mainstream scenario that requires very little from CAD and other engineering software vendors. Cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and some others can provide it today without even disrupting current workflows.

2. Viewing and collaboration. This is more complicated, but still very feasible scenario. Think about services such as GrabCAD Workbench, TeamPlatform and some others. These services can solve basic revision management needs and collaborative viewing of files.

3. Computation and special engineering design services. This is the most interesting case, in my view. In this scenario, desktop CAD systems will use services running from public cloud to solve simulation, analysis, and more complicated design tasks. Some of them can leverage elastic nature of cloud and some of them can be collaborative by allowing several engineers working together.

What is my conclusion? Can you be ‘half pregnant"? Actually, you can, if you think about CAD and cloud services. In my view, existing and new design tools will be leveraging hybrid resources (from desktop and cloud) to support optimal workflow and implement best user experience in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How to eliminate PLM customization problems?

March 28, 2014

plm-customization

I’m following strategic visions of the major PLM vendors 2014+ publication by Jim Brown – well known analyst and my blogging buddy for last few years. It started as a publication covering Autodesk, Dassault, PTC, Siemens (vendors listed alphabetically). Last week, Jim expanded his PLM vision publications by adding Aras Innovator to the list. Navigate here to read about Aras 2014+ vision. Aras is well known by their Enterprise Open Source strategy. One of the interesting differentiation I captured in Jim’s article is related to Aras’ strategy to break rules of PLM customization. Here is the passage:

Aras has decided to break the rules [of PLM customization]. They aim to become the PLM company that defies the conundrum, allowing manufacturers to customize their software and still upgrade to future releases without major disruption. They can do this because customers can update the data schema, business rules, workflows, and forms without jeopardizing the integrity of the system. How does this work? Aras’ XML-based, model-oriented approach coupled with their willingness to provide customers with the business flexibility and tools to make it feasible. Aras has effectively morphed themselves into a PLM Platform with solid core functionality with a built in ability to be extended by customers and partners. To put this strategy into action, they have told me they are “putting their money where their mouth is.” They now include upgrade services as a part of their subscription service. I haven’t seen that from anyone else anywhere, particularly while encouraging people to enhance and modify the package. This is a clear differentiator and makes Aras unique in the PLM market.

PLM customization is a tricky deal. Honestly, nobody is dreaming to make PLM implementation with zero customization effort. It all starts from flexible data modeling, which imply certain level of data customization. Time ago, I posted – Is PLM customization a data management Titanic? Earlier this year, I’ve been discussing options and reasons on How to de-customize PLM? The story of PLM customization is tightly related to PLM system flexibility data modeling. Typically, every PLM implementation contains some portion of customization that usually done by service organization and/or internal IT department. Lifecycle rules, data import, workflows, integration with other enterprise systems – this is only a very short list of customizations done during PLM deployment. Another huge aspect of customization is related to system upgrades. That one is actually mentioned by Jim Brown in his Aras’ review.

So, is there a way to solve customization problem? In my view, the answer is – it depends. In my view, you cannot eliminate specific implementation activities. Adding of new features and infrastructure technologies (eg. RDBMS) will require certain upgrade activity to happen. However, if you are selling services, the interest will be to optimize this work. Cloud vendors have similar incentive to optimize infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, otherwise operational cost will go up. So, smart technology can optimize cost and customization efforts.

What is my conclusion? Business and technology are going together. To have good business incentive to optimize technologies is always helpful and can put pressure on development organization to optimize cost of infrastructure upgrades. Service based offering (open source and cloud) are two great examples where business interests of vendors and customers are going at the same direction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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