How long will take GrabCAD to develop full-blown PLM solution?

August 18, 2014

grabcad-plm-beyondplm

Time is running fast. It has been two years since I posted GrabCAD: from Facebook for engineers to PLM. If you are in the engineering community, the chances you will come to PLM are very high. Like in the past all roads lead to Rome, I guess all future development roads for PDM solution lead to PLM. Even if you don’t like to brand your solution as PLM… Nevertheless, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.

Just few months ago, GrabCAD moved into "PDM" segment by introducing GrabCAD Workbench. Earlier today, GrabCAD made another "quack" towards PLM by adding BOM support. Navigate your browser to the following link to read – BOMs Away! Workbench Adds BOM Management. The following passage outlines what GrabCAD BOM can do today:

We’ve added an easy-to-use BOM export capability to Workbench, enabling any Workbench user to generate a Bill of Materials with just a few clicks. This means that your engineering team and manufacturing team will always be on the same page. Now your purchasing manager or supplier liaison doesn’t need to bother a CAD engineer to generate a BOM, and doesn’t need to enter items individually into Excel each time you change a revision. It’s as simple as two clicks to get the list of components into Excel!

grabCAD-bom-plm

Introducing BOM functionality is a very logical step many PDM systems did. However, it doesn’t come easy. The complexity of system is growing. From what I can see now GrabCAD is an early beginning and just touching BOM functionality to balance customers demand and complexity of full-blown BOM management solution.

What is my conclusion? To extract BOM from CAD drawing is a very neat functionality. My hunch it was requested by many GrabCAD users. However, BOM functionality introduction was a challenge for many PDM systems in the past. The complexity of Part management, multiple BOMs – this is only two visible parts of the iceberg. GrabCAD strategy reminded me what SolidWorks did in the past with PDM – added functionality when it was absolutely requested by majority of customers. I think it worked for SolidWorks… It would be interesting to see how it will work for GrabCAD. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Existing data prevents companies to improve Part Numbers?

August 15, 2014

historical-part-numbers

Part Numbers is a fascinating topic. I’m coming back to blog about what is the best approach to manage Part Numbers. My last post about it was – Part Numbers are hard. How to think about data first? was just few weeks ago. In that article, I outlined few principles how to keep PN separate from surrounding data focusing on different aspects of parts – description, classification, configurations, suppliers, etc.

Yesterday, my attention was caught by ThomasNet article – Are Part Numbers Too Smart for Their Own Good? The article nailed down a key issue why companies are still having difficulties with management of Part Numbers. Nothing works from scratch in engineering companies. Complexity of characteristics and history of existing Part Numbers and products are making real difficulties to adopt new PN management concepts. The following passage explains the problem:

Another problem with descriptive numbering is that the description can become out of date and irrelevant over time. Individual parts can have their own life cycles; if a part has been identified according to the product, what happens if that product is discontinued but the part continues to be used in a newer product? Or what if a manufacturer changes vendors and the part number contains the name of the vendor that originally provided the piece?

Gilhooley admits that some Ultra Consultants clients have decided that switching from descriptive to auto-generated numbering would require too much organizational change. Some companies stick with old systems, and some opt for hybrid systems that perhaps retain descriptive numbers for existing parts but use auto-generated numbers for new parts.

It looks like there is no single solution or best practice to solve the problem. The "traditional" engineering approach to keep options to manage a diverse set company configuration looks like the only possible way to solve this problem in existing PLM/ERP systems.

What is my conclusion? History keeps customers from moving forward. There are two aspects of complexity in Part Numbers: 1/ complexity of definition and data classification; 2/ historical records of PN in every company including catalogs and existing products. Together, they create a block to make any changes in existing PN schema and prevent companies from migration towards new approaches. New data modeling technologies must be invented to handle existing data as well as supporting customers to migrate into modern PLM and ERP solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM, Excel Spreadsheets, Pain Killers and Vitamins

July 29, 2014

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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


PLM, demolishing silos and closed BOM loop

June 24, 2014

bom-closed-loop

Product development and manufacturing is getting more complex every day. The complexity comes from both direction – product definition complexity and globalization in manufacturing, supply and customer experience. As we move towards future cloud software, the importance of data platforms is growing even more. For the last 15-20 years, we are living in a realm of siloed and fragmented parts of business applications. Integration and connectivity heavily relies on integration services and expensive integration toolkits.

PLM vendors understand the importance of broader integration beyond engineering department. We can see it in the strategies and acquisition patterns. The following two examples can show you what I mean. Navigate to the following article by Engineering.com – "Demolish the silos in PLM": Why Dassault’s Bernard Charles believes in the 3D Experience is explaining the vision and strategy of Dassault. The following passage is my favorite:

The zero error BOM (Bill of Materials) demands a zero file solution. 3DEXPERIENCE brings the zero file world into the engineering environment; what we do is to connect directly to product data, not to files”. Every company has a promise to their customers and that promise is eventually realized through a value creation process that touches many different points within an organization. Now, to ensure that a brand promise is consistently and sustainably delivered it has to be managed across the entire enterprise, and we have assembled the necessary IT tools.” He adds that so far PLM has just been about helping companies to develop their products, ”But the world has moved beyond the product; the end-customers are demanding experiences around the product” and the secret of market success is to be able to innovate not only on the product, but also on the experience.

Another example came recently from PTC Live 2014 forum in Boston. The following blog post by Monica Schnitger gives you a very good outline and links to keynotes video recording. However, my attention was caught by another blog by Joe Barkai – Closed Loop PLM. Joe outlines PTC vision to connect important lifecycle tools in a single product lifecycle workflow. Here is the passage explaining that:

While the vision – and company executives acknowledged it’s still a vision rather than a product roadmap – is correct, the tools and “solutions” in PTC’s portfolio are separated by a noncontiguous business strategy (SLM and ThingWorx operate as separate business units), and by the lack of a digital backbone, shared data models, common taxonomies and unified workflows. It will be interesting to see how PTC is going to move from a strategically rich but fragmented portfolio to realizing a connected PLM architecture.

Sooner than later, PLM vendors will come with platform strategies and implementation that connecting complicated product lifecycle. Meantime, engineering, manufacturing, supply and consumer spaces are disconnected and can create some real problems. Few days ago, I stumbled on a very interesting article – Keep a sharp eye on SSD bill of materials by DIGISTOR. The article takes you to the reality of disconnected Bill of Materials between OEM manufacturers, suppliers and consumers. Read the article and draw your opinion. Here is my favorite passage

It appears that manufacturer PNY Technologies has committed the same sin, releasing SSDs with varying BoMs. A TweakTown reader contacted Ramseyer and described how the SSD that the individual purchased did not feature a BoM that matched up with one previously reviewed on the website. According to Ramseyer, that reader bought the PNY product because of his glowing assessment of its performance. Because of the shifting BoM, however, that individual’s SSD did not hit the same benchmarks. A representative from PNY admitted that the company had shipped out SSDs with disparate BoMs, qualifying the move by noting that all of its products fall within "minimum advertised performance levels." When manufacturers neglect to lock down the components within their BoMs, consumers and business users may wind up with a product that doesn’t meet their expectations.

What is my conclusion? To close product lifecycle loop from product requirements to actually physical devices with specific supplied components is a big challenge. It requires significant coordination and integration between applications and data sources. I can see the intent of PLM vendors to come with platforms and solutions. Cloud technologies will play a significant role in the way companies will try to demolish silos and synchronize data across multiple application boundaries. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why 150% BOM will be obsolete in the future?

May 16, 2014

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Have you heard about "150% BOM"? BOM management terminology is confusing sometimes. Ed Lopategui gave a shot to explain it in his last GrabCAD blog – 150% BOM: Buy Two, Get One Free. The following passage was my favorite:

A 150% BOM isn’t sorely in need of some fitness training or sadly overdrawn at the bank. In fact, a 150% BOM is just another name for a variant structure, or more specifically, a configurable BOM. Configurable BOMs have one or more optional components and/or modular subassemblies, which, when properly set, define a specific variation of a product. In effect, a configurable BOM is many possible BOMs loaded into just one product structure. When left unconfigured, the BOM contains more parts and subassemblies than needed, i.e. more than 100%. Hence, the term 150% BOM. So why 150% and not 110% or 117.32%? That’s just the we way we roll in BOM town.

Variant structure, configurable bill of material, modular BOM… the industry invented multiple names to cope with the complexity of communication and product development processes in manufacturing organizations. The core idea of modularization or configuration is not directly related to assembly to order process (ATO), but used widely for configurable and complex products. You can see 150% BOM, 200% BOM and similar BOM organization maintained by engineering department to facilitate creation of final products from predefined parts and sub-assemblies. The product development is actually divided into two essential steps – create your modular (150% BOM) and create a planning bill of a specific product. The last one will allow you to roll out cost and delivery time.

So, why engineers created 150% BOM concept? Do we really need that? In my view, the approach was a way for engineers to manage the complexity of product structure and product variation. You can see it for product configurations and also in bill to order (BTO) situations where complex product development is managed in a way of product technological foundation combined with features developed for specific customer. With absence of better tools, Excel spreadsheet becomes the best product configuration environment and matrix with 150% BOM is the simplest model to present that.

Ed’s blog made me think about future of "150% BOM" and matrix BOM organization. In my view, the concept will disappear in the future. In my view, the complexity of product environment is growing. In many situation, to produce 150% BOM is not feasible anymore. With the level of product complexity, mix of mechanical, electronic and software components, ability of engineers to bring them all together into one 150% BOM can be not practical and even less efficient. We will need to invent new tools to manage the complexity of configurations and product data. With growing demand for personalization, we are not far from the situation, PLM and ERP systems will have to roll out bill of materials individually configured for a specific customer (and this is not only in aerospace and defense industry).

What is my conclusion? Growing complexity of products, move to mass customization, regulatory and cost pressure, global manufacturing – this is a reality of modern manufacturing environments. We need to develop a new approach how to manage product development and manufacturing of these products. Product configurations and BOM is a centerpiece of this approach. A simple 150% BOM spreadsheet will be replaced with new BOM tools. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why BOM Management Is Complex?

May 12, 2014

bom-complexity-manufacturing

My last post about Manufacturing BOM raised few interesting comments online and offline. One of them by Jos Voskuil was pretty straightforward – "What is a big deal about MBM"? Jos pointed me on his earlier post – Where is MBOM? This post as well as few other articles I posted earlier – Why companies are not ready for single BOM? and BOM 101: 5 Don’ts for BOM management made me think why BOM is so complex. I wanted to share these reasons and ask your opinion. Here are my top 3 list of issues that are leading to significant BOM management complexity: 1- Items/Parts identification; 2- Views; 3- Synchronizations. Let me go and explain more specifically what I mean.

1 – Item / Part Identification

Item Master. Item. Part. Assembly. Product. You name it… But whatever you call it, you come down to the way (and format) to identify Parts. Part number is probably the simplest wayto identify things in product design, manufacturing and support. The next question – what Part Number? Things are simple only on the surface. As soon as you dig inside, you find yourself surrounded by manufacturing part numbers, design parts, suppliers part numbers, support parts and many others. The information about them resides in multiple data databases, spreadsheets and systems.

2- Views (or Product Views or BOM Views)

You may think about bill of material as a list of parts and everything else you need to make a product. However, very fast it gets complicated with product configurations, manufacturing information, suppliers, As-built BOM and maintenance parts. To differentiate and manage all this information is not a simple task.

3- Synchronizations.

As I mentioned before, bill of material information (multiple BOMs) are usually managed by different systems. Often (in case of PLM) multiple BOMs are managed by PLM system itself. Now think about change processes and updates. Each one generates a sequence of updates and dependent operations that needs to be done to synchronize BOMs and keep them in a consistent status. Indeed, one of the most complex tasks in BOM management.

What is my conclusion? BOM is not simple thing as you might think from the beginning. To keep system in sync with diversity of data and processes takes time and effort. Variety of product development and manufacturing approaches, global deployment, etc. How to overcome the complexity of BOM management? Look forward to learn about BOM management complexities you are facing developing and implementing BOM management solutions.

Best, Oleg


Manufacturing BOM is the next cool thing in PLM

May 9, 2014

plm-manufacturing-bom-boom

I’ve been doing data management system for the last 20 years. The one thing you learn very fast – 3D and visualization are cool. Data is boring. So, if you want to impress somebody (journalist, analyst, your boss… whoever else) you need to create realistic representation of your future product. And show how to can turn it on the screen of your computer or better on mobile device (the reality of last 3 years). I agree, to see what you mean is cool, especially if you can make it before it will be manufactured. Awesome stuff. It can sell your product before it even exists. CAD/ PLM companies made lots of money selling visualization and rendering products. These days you almost cannot differentiate the video or photo of real car from realistic visualization.

Forget about it, for the moment… Design can be cool. However, important question these days is that – can you really make this product? If yes, than how? How fast? Or even more – can you make a profit after you design, visualize, manufacture and sell your product?

Engineering.com articleThe Next Big Boom in PLM and ERP and the Battle Over mBOM Ownership announced “war alarm” between PLM and ERP companies around manufacturing BOM (MBOM). Article speaks about how important MBOM and Master data management in solving problems such as cost, quality, tooling and many others.

I made me think again about how future of manufacturing will be dependent on solving of old PLM/ERP integration problem. In my view, complicated data synchronization is really bad thing. It leads to complex behavior, user experience and, after all, to product data errors. The question of product data errors is one the disturbs manufacturing companies. Emailing spreadsheet with bill of material won’t make your product development and manufacturing process more efficient. The following passage from engineering.com article is my favorite:

Ashley Morris, a researcher at Cardiff University in the UK, has identified seven root causes of product data errors. The three most important ones are 1/ Inaccurate data entry; 2/ Incorrect data flow between applications; 3/ Duplicate data between systems. Product development teams are all-too-familiar with how these errors occur given the various systems that manage the data. Generally cBOMs (configuration BOMs) and eBOMs (engineering BOMs) are created in the PLM systems, whereas mBOMs (manufacturing BOMs) and sBOMs (service BOMs) emanate from ERP or/and MES systems. But there’s no rule here. Several variants and combinations are “on the map”.

MBOM is tough problem. I identified 4 main reasons why MBOM is hard for PLM. Read my previous article here. In a nutshell, here are four main reasons why MBOM solution is not simple for PLM vendors and service providers:

1- Most PLM systems starts from CAD and Engineering BOM.

2- Engineering and manufacturing people live in different worlds.

3- Synchronization of BOMs is messy by default.

4- For PLM to get data about manufacturing parts is painful.

Despite all these complexities and difficulties, PLM vendors is pushing towards better integration with manufacturing. I really liked the following quote explaining the objective of Bill of Material module by Siemens PLM:

“The objective of this BOM module (TC PMM) is to provide an integrated BOM foundation spanning Engineering, Manufacturing, Prototype and Service domains.” The tight integration to design and manufacturing processes can drive virtual validation of both these process types from a BOM point of view. “With our approach the BOM is documented once and various other BOM’s like mBOM, sBOM, pBOM etc are derived from this core eBOM, without re-documentation.”

So, what it all means for PLM? Bill of Materials (BOM) was always the apple of discord between PLM and ERP. Large companies these days cannot live with PLM and ERP systems. While engineering part of product information resides in PLM system, manufacturing part is managed by ERP. Product cost and quality can often fail between chairs and this situation disturbs manufacturing companies. This is the simplest possible configuration. Sometimes, design and engineering product even more distributed (look on Airbus’ case) – design (CATIA), product configuration (Windchill), manufacturing BOM (SAP). Which brings me back to my thoughts about why companies are not ready for single BOM? Main reasons – specialized tools used by different departments, no agreement between organizations how to manage data in a consistent way, absence of ‘universal’ tools.

What is my conclusion? MBOM is going to be in focus for many manufacturing these days. Efficiency and ability of manufacturing company to execute flawlessly becomes more and more important. Manufacturing environment is highly distributed these days with lots of constraints and dependencies. To design and bring product to market in a short time is a complex task you cannot solve without tools that will help you to synchronize and connect bill of materials. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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