Future PLM assistant bots will help to manage ECO

November 5, 2015


Artificial intelligence and machine learning are going through the renaissance period these days. Few days ago, I shared my some of my thoughts here – Your next PLM workflow manager will be … bot. Actually things are getting real these days. Imagine the following conversation between engineer or manager in manufacturing organization and smartphone in a not very distant future:

Bot: You have an email about issue with airbag model XYZ-100
Engineer: Please assign high priority and initiate change request.
Bot: I just discovered it can impact AB-1 and AB-2 car models.
Bot: Do you want to initiate engineering change request?
Engineer: Yes and please organize a meeting to review field samples
Engineer: Also, please invite extended team and search for similar reports for the last 2 years
Bot: You will have it done until tomorrow

Manager: Are there pending ECOs waiting more than 2 days?
Bot: You have 2 unapproved ECOs. Would you like to proceed with approval
Manager: Yes, please.
Bot: Here is the link to a playcast with information about ECO-101. Pending your approval.
Manager: Approved.
Bot: I discovered one more ECO-1022 is pending approval of electronic engineer
Manager: Please activate video call and connect me in the next 6 hours.
Bot: Will be done.

Do you think I’m crazy? Of course, there is a possibility I’m daydreaming. However, if you follow news, you can see that some companies are already working on bots that can automatically answer your emails and serve as you personal assistant in online chat applications.

Google blog article – Computer, respond to this email speaks about experimental development of a feature called “Smart Reply” in Gmail. The following passage from Google blog can give you a general idea how it works.

A naive attempt to build a response generation system might depend on hand-crafted rules for common reply scenarios. But in practice, any engineer’s ability to invent “rules” would be quickly outstripped by the tremendous diversity with which real people communicate. A machine-learned system, by contrast, implicitly captures diverse situations, writing styles, and tones. These systems generalize better, and handle completely new inputs more gracefully than brittle, rule-based systems ever could.


If you want more details, the following publication – Neural Conversation Model by Google engineers is explaining how they use neural networks to map sequences to sequences. The model is based on a recurrent neural network which reads the input sequence one token at a time, and predicts theoutput sequence, also one token at a time.

My second example is coming from Facebook M assistant for messenger. Read more in the following Re/Code article.

That’s the premise behind “M,” a new “personal digital assistant” that lives within Facebook’s standalone messaging app, Messenger. Unlike Apple’s Siri or Google Now, you’ll primarily interact with M through text (although you can send M a voice recording). The assistant is powered by artificial intelligence, the advanced technology Facebook is developing to help its products think and act more like humans.

Right now, Facebook is training M with supervised learning, a process where the computer learns by example from what human trainers teach it. If a user asks A, you respond B. Eventually, the idea is that M will know enough to operate without a human handler. Facebook has a team of people building neural networks — applications that help machines think and act like humans — and many of those applications are already live inside of M, Schroepfer says.


What is my conclusion? I think, I’m not completely lost my mind. Today, PLM vendors are trying to bring traditional PLM organizational paradigms of data management and workflows into a new world of product complexity, disparate data and mobility. Workflow is just one example, but I like it. Most of workflows are complex and expensive to maintain. On the other side, organizations are complex, global and influx. It is a time to think about new paradigm. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Google blog and Re/code article



Engineering change and EBOM to MBOM synchronization complexity

November 27, 2014


MBOM (Manufacturing BOM) is a tough problem. Initially, you might think about it as an easy problem. Especially, since companies are managing MBOMs in MRP/ERP systems for a while. However, I think, the time when MBOM was simply originated in MRP system to fulfill demand planning and production orders are gone. And it brings lot of questions and, raise attention from software vendors and implementers. PLM vendors are in the first line of companies demanding the change in the way MBOM is handled.

MBOM is really hard if you want to keep it in sync with rest of product data in engineering and manufacturing. It starts from the moment of time, you understand that your engineering BOM and manufacturing BOM are not the same thing. I touched it earlier in my post – 4 reasons why is hard to deliver MBOM in PLM. The initial creation of MBOM can be technically straightforward. It mostly end up by adding date effectivity element into BOM structure. Within time it gets complicated. And one of the main reasons is synchronization of data. It goes mostly around management of engineering change.

MBOM is a central place to capture the impact of engineering changes and to insure changes are managed correctly and reflected into manufacturing process with relevant dates and references to engineering data (EBOM). The priority of changes are not equal. Organization must handle these priorities and it can result in significant cost differences. Fundamentally you can think about mandatory changes and optional changes. The first one is the change organization will be implementing at any cost. It usually result of failures and regulatory changes. The second one is more interesting. This is where all new development, innovation, design improvements, cost reduction and other things are coming. This is a place where play with effectivity date can be tricky and complex. The sequence of steps are as following:

1- Engineering release or ECO transmit the data about changes in EBOM, which serve as a source of change and provides all required engineering information

2- Manufacturing should introduce these changes into planning process. Timing is important and this process is formal. Some of companies connect it to so called MCO process.

3- All dependencies must be discovered and reflected in changes of MBOM and manufacturing planning.

The last step brings a significant complexity. Engineering information (as it comes from EBOM) often comes incomplete and doesn’t contain all data that must be reflected in a change. There are multiple reasons to that, but in general, engineering view of a product is different from manufacturing one. One of the most typical examples is related to part interchangeability. But, I can see many others too. To synchronize changes between EBOM and MBOM is very complex. However, this complexity and challenges can turn MBOM into next cool thing in PLM.

What is my conclusion? EBOM to MBOM synchronization is a complex process that requires significant data manipulation, data discovery and careful operation. It cannot be automated and it requires a lot of consideration from engineering and manufacturing people. The complexity of modern product and manufacturing processes are introducing the new level of challenges in the way to manage EBOM and MBOM. This sync is critical and companies are demanding tools that can help them to handle it in the right way. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

BOM 101: The four pillars of every BOM management solution

January 17, 2013

I suggest you an experiment. Invite two engineers and ask them to provide a definition for some of PDM/PLM related terms. I’d not be surprised if you will get more than two definitions. It is not unusual to spend lots of time during PLM software implementation meetings to define terms, language and meaning of things. Regardless on terminology, I found BOM to be a central element in every product development organization and business. It contains a recipe of your product, process and, at the end of the day, becomes a lifeblood of your product development processes. Thinking about BOM management solution, I can see four major things that need to be defined, discussed and clarified.

BOM and Part Lists

Bill of Materials (BOM) is a list of all items required to make a parent item. It includes components, raw materials and sub-assemblies. You may also include intermediate items identifying in-process elements to facilitate planning and other manufacturing processes. Depends on industry, people can call BOM differently. For example, in process industry, it can be called recipe or formula. Opposite to BOM, Part List is usually a term used to call a single level list for a specific level of assembly or sub-assembly.

Part Number

This is one of the most tricky defined terms in a whole product development and BOM management story. Here is a short definition. Part Number (PN) is an unique identifier that identify a single object in bill of material. However, the trick is how to define object and how to keep it consistent with your processes. Assigning part numbers is often complicated and one of the most discussed topics. The traditional definition of FFF (Form, Fit and Function) helps to identify the right objects. Interchangeable parts, substitiute items, special parts – this is only a short list of issues that comes into the discussion around part numbering process.


Think about navigation system with the road between different places. Now imagine part numbers. Routing is a roadmap that defines the path of part numbers across manufacturing floor by specifying workstations and labor time associated with every station. Usually routing applied to manufactured parts or items.


Drawings represents a significant part of history and confusing engineering habits. Historically, drawing is the place where people put bill of materials for a product. It also solves the problem of Bill of Materials distribution in the company. At the same time, BOM on a drawing brings lots of disadvantages. In many situations, people don’t need drawing, but only need bill of materials and/or part list. Another point of confusion is numbering system. The discussion is about applying part numbers on drawings. In most of the situations, it represents the limitation of systems used for product development (PDM/PLM). To separate between Part Numbers and Document Numbers is the most reasonable ways to manage it, in my view.

What is my conclusion? Regardless of what systems you plan to use, I recommend you to have cross-department organizational discussion about these four pillars. Usually, it helps to understand product development processes. Engineering and manufacturing are two main organizations usually involved into BOM processes. To clarify terms will give you a tremendous value during PDM/PLM system implementation and integration with ERP. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM, ECO and Cost of Change

December 21, 2011

Cost is an important topic. Period. Everybody agrees with this statement. I can even say many companies investing a lot in their ability to calculate and predict the cost of product. Compared to that, cost of change is much less exposed. However, cost of change can be even more destructive for the overall cost of the product you manufacturing and the business. Recently, I’ve been spending some time analyzing how companies are managing changes and how PLM systems are supporting them. I decided to put some thoughts about change management and cost calculation.

Cost Standard and processes

There are several policies or standards you want to have in your company when it comes to cost management and change processes. Change cost policy – usually specify the changes that required cost calculation (or not) and company payback period. Cost calculation document. You want to have it in the way that allows you to follow up it from the historical perspective as well as an instruction how to do so. The important question of every PLM implementation is how you are able to automate cost of change calculation and embed it in the overall change process.

Is there something you can call "average cost of change"?

The perception of people in any company is that cost is expensive thing to have. At the same time, it is hard to come with a range of how much an average change cost. $1K-5K is a range you might be hearing. But it is too broad. Another point of confusion is to conclusion out is included in this cost – engineering services, labor, equipment, etc.

Cost Calculation Classification

I can classify all changes into four groups: cost reduction, product maturity, product development, others. Depends on what type of change you are estimating, actually change cost calculation can be different. If you estimating change that marked to save cost or time, you absolutely need to calculate the cost. However, if you making a change that related to product maturity, you probably can skip some cost of change calculation. Taking right assumption can significantly improve the speed of change processes, which is an essential part of every manufacturing organization.

What is my conclusion? Change management is one of the most complicated discipline in product development lifecycle. To measure it right and tack the history and metrics of changes together with cost calculation is tricky and very important. I haven’t seen ready out of the box implementations that can do so. Main reason – system customization is complicated to have all information in PLM system. Sometime, if cost calculation is complicated, you can calculate profit erosion. What is your practice and experience? Speak your mind, please. Do you have any examples you can share?

Best, Oleg

Image: jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

ECO Management: What Matters?

March 30, 2011

Engineering Change is probably one of the most important and complicated disciplines. I had a chance to meet people that told me – all what you are doing is about ECO management. You can see many examples of ECO management solutions. Almost every software vendor in the field of engineering and enterprise software will propose you kind of the solution. Here is the definition, I grab from Wikipedia aboutEngineering Change Order:

In a typical system development cycle, the specification or the implementation is likely to change during engineeringdevelopment or during integration of the system elements. These last-minute design changes are commonly referred to as engineering change orders (ECOs) and affect the functionality of a design after it has been wholly or partially completed. ECOs can compensate for design errors found during debug or changes that are made to the design specification to compensate for design problems in other areas of the system design.

However, product development process is very diversified when it comes to real manufacturing companies. To find a system that can answer on the user’s requirements for ECO is not a simple task. In addition to that, the diversity of available solutions raises multiple questions about what is the most appropriate system for every case.

Engineering Change: Do It Yourself (DIY)?

Last year I posted – How to Manage ECO without paying $1’500 per seat? The point I wanted to make was about how reuse some of the modern technologies to simplify the overall ECO management in the organization. My conclusion was that different organizations can manage ECO differently depends on specific characteristics of product, company environment and organization, which can make DIY approach quite complicated. It made me think and analyze different packages implementing ECO solutions.

Arena Change Management

Take a look on this following video from Arena Solution. I found it very educational. The power of Arena on demand was clear to me in this example. The ability to have seamless access via cloud-based services (or how Arena called it in the beginning “on demand”) can keep all participants in sync regardless on location and time.

Aras Workflow Management

What happens if your company has a high level of change processes complexity? The following video fragment is presenting Aras Innovator Workflow solution. It enables you to realize a comprehensive change process as a workflow. The workflow can be adapted to a specific customer needs. The openness and adaptability is an ultimate advantage of this system.

Kubotek ECO Manager

Few weeks ago, I learned about the new tool released by Kubotek. The interesting aspect I discovered in this tool is how it focuses on geometrical aspects of product and changes. It is clear not something you need in every industry. However, for the type of manufacturers in automotive, aerospace, industrial equipment and many other industries requiring 3D and geometry, Kubotec ECO manager can provide a significant value in the way to handle changes.

What is my conclusion? ECO is a an important, but very complicated process. It involves many people from organizational departments to work on this and following ECO related activities from inside and outside organization. To have an appropriate tool is important. When you choose a tool, take into the consideration what are specific characteristics of your organization from the standpoint of mobility, complexity, need for visual and 3D before you make a right choice. In parallel, the simplicity of a tool is another important thing. To have a simpler can be a much bigger problem for manufacturers in coming years.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


How to Manage ECO without paying $1’500 per seat?

June 17, 2010

I had chance to read Buzz message thread about ECO management, initiated by Josh Mings. I found it worth reading. One of the questions stick in my memory, and I decided to put it in the title of my blog post today. How to manage ECO without paying $1’500 per seat? I think the point was made in a very clear way. Changes is a real life of engineering and manufacturing company. However, cost/value seems to be problematic for solutions we have available today.

Please, take a look on Microshare definition in Wikipedia.

To microshare is to offer access to a select piece or set of digital content by a specific group of invited or otherwise privileged guests in a controlled and secure manner. In contrast to public sharing of content, microsharing enables a more private or intimate level of making content accessible by others. Microsharing access can be secured via uniquely encoded urls or by password protection.

Let me take an example from Josh’s stream and translate it in microshare-like ECO-message-burst.

–>ECR#123 is submitted from customer services @servicecounter;
–>@servicecounter Looking on this ECR#123… Seems like a problem. Hold shipments;
–>Moved ECR#123 to engineering @engineeringhero;
–>@engineeringhero ECR#123 requires analyzes by #allengineeringgeeks;
–>@topgeek solution for ECR#123 is to disable radio switch off function;
–>@servicecounter hold shipments until ECR#123 fixed by @engineeringhero;

I hope you should get my hint now. In the end, I see collaboration as a message sharing in the organization. In before-computers-era, papers functioned as a message transferring mechanism. Then we invented databases, PDM, PLM…

PLM View on ECO Management
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When all you have is a database and SQL, you just need to translate all your problems in database and SQL forms. This is the way we have been working for the last 15-20 years. If we got a problem, we need to create a model, keep data in a database, retrieve it, save it, manipulate and, in the end, yikes! – we have a solution. What is the problem here? This is a long way that creates lots of complexities – manage a database, agree about model, implement, agree about how maintain changes, create a user interface, teach everybody how to use it and, finally also to fix bugs. This is a way we are doing PDM/PLM today.

Should Be A Simpler Way?
What if? What if we invented enough technologies that can help us to the same job in a much simpler way? If all we are interesting is related to a particular ECO#123, I can keep reference to these messages without inventing SQL Table Grandiose? I can just record it and want to be alerted, when something happens to this particular ECO. If you are doing something related to this ECO, you can put a message into microshare storage about that. Somebody, who is responsible for shipment need to see if there are any of messages or info that prevents shipment. You can subscribe to messages via something like RSS and get a single channel of messages coming to your mobile device. I know it sounds crazy to any straightforward database and/or IT guy. But, in my view it may work and simplify the life of many engineers in the organization. The infrastructure for microshare and RSS is much cheaper, compared to the development of data models, tables, UIs etc.

What is my conclusion? I think, we came to the point where everybody in the organization is looking how to work differently. It is not only about how much to spend on the particular software package. It is about how to organize work better and simpler. I’m taking “microshare” as an option. Yesterday, on Enterprise 2.0 conference, one of the presenters asked a question – How many user guides did you read in the last year? The answer was ZERO. This is a time to think about a simpler way. I want to credit Evan Yares blog for the picture, I put in this blog post. I think it is very valid these days.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


Do We Need PLM To Manage Changes?

May 13, 2010

One of the areas that is always in the focus of people related to Product Lifecycle Management is how to manage changes in the organization. It sounds obvious – product lifecycle is all about changes. So, it seems to me, change management need to be a sweet spot of PLM. In my view, companies are very often struggling with the implementation of change management practices. I will try to figure what are the elements of the change management and what are potential bottlenecks.

Change Process

When you speak with people about change management, this change process normally comes first. The reason is simple. Changes cannot be done by a single person. It requires multiple person communication. In most of the situations, it requires to communicate across organizational divisions. The bottom line – it is not easy to communicate between people, and it requires good collaboration and communication skills. Software used by an engineering department is not always used by other departments. From the PLM product standpoint, process is a diagram. Simple? I’m not sure it is simple. The most complicated part of this diagram is to draw one in the real organization. I think this process is hard and requires lots of communications with people in the organization.

Referenced Data

The topic of data is underestimated, in my view. You need to have an efficient access to all data related to a change. Models, Drawings, Requirements, Manufacturing, Customers, etc. This is not always possible and this information is rarely located only inside of the PLM system. This is a time when the value of PLM solution becomes lower in customer’s eyes. From the PLM product standpoint, data managed by PLM system can be efficiently used for change process needs. I see it as a chicken-egg problem.


Change implementation is another important piece of change management. When a change is approved, the next step is to implement all required modifications in multiple systems – Bill of Materials, Models, Drawings, Manufacturing instructions, etc .. What is very valuable for this stage is to provide a tool to control the overall implementation process. Because of distributed character of operation and many people involved it is always complicated to provide a complete picture of implementation status and control of it. From the PLM product standpoint, everything can be controlled until it management by PLM system. However, this is not always a reality in the organization.

What is my conclusion today? Management of changes is a complex topic. There are multiple dimensions of complexity – process in the organization, people involved and referenced data. To get them together is not a simple task and hardly can be managed by a single system. To have multiple systems coordinated between them, involving people under the stress of the overall product development and manufacturing process makes is even more complicated. If I’m back to my first question about PLM system, I think, a PLM system can provide a significant help in managing changes. The most important characteristic of this system will be an ability to organized process and giving an access to relevant product and organizational data.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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