Mass customization is the real reason for PLM to want MBOM

November 26, 2014

nike-custom-shoe

Data ownership is an interesting topic. Our life is getting more digital every day and we are asking many interesting questions about who owns data about us. Who owns the data about our Facebook profiles, who owns social media data we created and many others. While still there are some gaps in understanding who owns the data about our digital life, when it comes to business use cases, the things are also very complex. Ownership of information is one of the most fundamental things in enterprise business. Engineering and Manufacturing companies are living it every day. If you deal with enterprise data, you are probably familiar with the term – master data. Usually it leads to many discussions in organization. Who owns the master data about design, bill of material, item, etc.

These are questions that need to be answer to allow to enterprise system to functioning properly. In one of my old posts I shared my view on Ugly truth about PLM-ERP monkey volleyball. Until now, the demarcation line of engineering vs. manufacturing was somewhat acceptable in most of the situations. I tried to capture this status in my Thoughts about BOM ownership article. However, things are going to change.

PLM and ERP are getting into new round of debates about ownership of data. It comes as a question raised in engineering.com blog – “PLM should take over ownership of the manufacturing BOM too”, says Siemens PLM’s CEO, Chuck Grindstaff. Navigate to this link to read the article. Management of EBOM and MBOM as well as many other BOMs is a very complex problem that cannot be solved in an easy way. One of the key problems is the need to synchronize information between BOMs. However, synchronize is probably a wrong word. These BOMs are not identical and requires application of very tricky logic to keep them in sync. To solve it is a big deal for many companies and they will demand it from vendors. Therefore, I’m very confident that, after all, PLM vendors fight over BOM will require to solve data synchronization problems.

At the same time, manufacturing is changing. One of the most visible trends in manufacturing is mass customization. We are moving from mass production methods toward total customization. The demand for configuration is growing and customers are requiring sophistication of engineering to order manufacturing processes applied to a broader range of products and services. Bill of materials is a center piece of these processes. What was done before by configuring a small set of preconfigured modules won’t work in a new reality of manufacturing and mass customization.

My attention was caught by a set of articles about Mass customization by Kalipso. One of them was published on Innovation Excellence blog – Modern Mass Customization – Rule 3: Honor the Order, Abandon the BOM. These articles are worth reading. Here is my favorite passage that outlines a special role of BOM in mass customization manufacturing process:

The relevance of the BOM greatly diminishes as a company transitions to a ‘to-order’ product offering. For mass customizers, a Bill of Materials, or more appropriately, a Bill of Modules, is a transient artifact. It is entirely possible that a given BOM may only be built a single time, and for a single order. Mass customizers should shift their perspective of the BOM from the identity of the product, to the technical details of the order. The identity of the product then becomes the governing logic that permits a range of configuration possibilities.

As the purpose of the BOM changes, so changes the purpose of PLM and the systems that support it. Rather than originating in PLM, BOM details originate with the order itself, ideally using a customer-facing product configuration system. As long as the order and corresponding BOM are compatible with the business rules that govern configurations, these details can be passed on directly to production systems for manufacturing (ERP, MRP, MES) without making a pit stop at PLM. PLM thus transitions from a tool for managing the lifecycle of a BOM, to a tool for managing the lifecycle of modular components that are used by the configurator.

I’m not sure about “abandoning the BOM”. However, article made me think about some elements of BOM management that are going to change. One of them is granularity of BOM. What I can see is the overall transition of BOM management into more granular process of configured components. In order to do so, PLM and ERP will have to re-think the way ownership and synchronization is happening. The question of “ownership” of granular product definition is getting less relevant. To manage smooth synchronization process is much more important.

What is my conclusion? Modern manufacturing trends are going to transform enterprise systems as we know them. Mass customization is one of them. PLM and ERP are two main systems that involved into process of engineering and manufacturing. To support mass customization product engineering and manufacturing these systems will have to interplay in a completely different way. In my view, the demand to support mass customization and other complex manufacturing processes is leading PLM vendors to want MBOM badly. However, here is change that can come as a result of rethinking of BOM management. In the future, Bill of Materials should not be owned, but intertwined and shared between PLM and ERP. Ownership of data will become less relevant. The new reality of data sharing and collaboration is coming. Daydreaming? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Thoughts about BOM ownership

November 20, 2014

data-shared-instead-of-plm-erp

The Engineering.com publication about PLM taking ownership of MBOM ignited few discussions online about Bill of Materials, BOM Management and co-existence of multiple enterprise systems. My first thought was that all of them will have to rethink the way BOM is synchronized between systems. This is not a new problem. Any implementation of enterprise PLM is facing this challenge. Pumping BOM between PLM, ERP and other systems is costly and complex process. But the reality – this is the only practical way to do so.

I went back in my old writing to find some recommendation how to make it easier. My old blog post five years ago, speaks about Seven Rules Towards Single Bill of Materials. To me, all recommendations are still very relevant. Following them can make your “BOM synchronization” problem less painful. Almost at the same time, Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity also shared his thoughts about single BOM: Single Bill of Material – Holy Grail or Pipe Dream? I liked Jim’s thought about Single BOM vs. Associated BOM. Here is a passage I liked:

Companies have spent a lot of time and effort making logical connections between different BOMs, and developing tools to help develop and synchronize different BOMs. For example, PLM, MPM, and Digital Manufacturing software helps companies translate an engineering BOM into a manufacturing BOM and then further into a BOP. In fact, they have gone further upstream to match conceptual BOMs and requirement structures downstream to BOMs. Maybe you would call these “workarounds” to the real answer of a single BOM. But I would propose a different view based on history and my observations. Perhaps engineers have done what we do best – addressed the problem in the most practical way as opposed to the most elegant way to solve a problem.

At the same time, single BOM or Associated BOM is hard. It requires many points of synchronization between departments and processes. Therefore, I still keep my opinion that most of companies today are still Not Ready for Single Bill of Materials.

So, what to do? How to make an improvement? Do you think fight for MBOM as it mentioned in Engineering.com article is the only way? I tried to visualize the picture of different BOMs and present it together with how PLM and ERP ownership is distributed. Take a look on the picture below.

PLM-ERP-BOM-Ownership

There are paces where each systems claims their benefits. At the same time, there are places where ownership of bill of materials and related product information can be different. The touch point is manufacturing BOM. I still believe, this is the next cool thing in PLM – how to manage MBOM.

What is my conclusion? I think both ERP and PLM vendors need to take a step back. Data ownership was a fundamental part of any enterprise business strategy for the last 20 years. Maybe, this is a time to change data ownership approach? Maybe it is a time to think about better data synchronization and transparency. How we can help people to collaborate alongside the product development process from design to management and to support and services? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: mrxstitch via photopin cc


Multiple dimensions of BOM complexity

October 15, 2014

complex-bom-old-fashion

Bill of Material topic is getting more attention these days. No surprise. BOM is a center of universe in manufacturing (and not only) world. People can disagree about terminology applied to BOM management. Depends on a specific domain people can call it part list, specification, formula. But at the same time, everybody speak about the same BOM. Actually, not always the same BOM. I guess you’ve heard about variation of Bill of Materials – eBOM, mBOM, xBOM, etc. The amount of abbreviations in BOM is growing and often can cause confusion. So, I decided to put some lights on that in my post today.

The importance of BOM management is growing as well as tension around who owns bill of material. Historically, people in different departments disagree about the way they manage bill of materials. As a result of that, departments are splitting and cloning bill of materials to get control and managing it in different systems. It leads to the need to synchronize and copy BOMs together with changes. The tension around BOM management is growing. Last year, I posted some of my thoughts in the post – Will PLM manage enterprise BOM? The main point in this article was around complexity of BOM management and integration between different systems and disciplines.

It looks like BOM will become the next place some of PLM vendors are going to innovate… and battle. My attention was caught by provocative ENGINEERING.COM article – The Power of Zero – Dassault’s ENOVIA chief talks about the ”Zero Error BOM”. Read the article and draw your opinion. I captured the following passage:

The “war” has generally been about linking product development with shop floor IT and the BOM certainly plays a key role in this. Right now there are four primary participants on the battlefield: Siemens, SAP, GE/PTC and IBM.

Article is emphasizing the complexity of "universal BOM" solution and potential advantages of winning BOM battle:

It’s not a simple job to manage a BOM. What might appear as ”a list of parts needed to build a product” is today a complex reality of multiple levels, diversified disciplines and BOMs contains information about structures, electronics, integrated software, manufacturing methodology and the way products are maintained and even disposed of. There are many sources of error and mistakes can be very costly.

If Dassault’s “zero error BOM” can become a reality, it’s a huge step forward and would, according to analyst Marc Halpern of Gartner, ”have the potential to realize the ’dream’ of the universal BOM”. But as Kalambi says: ”This is about to embark on a journey; once on ’the road’ the benefits of 3DEXPERIENCE and V6 will increase productivity dramatically”.

I found myself thinking quite a bit about complexity of BOM today and, as a result, came to the following diagram showing 3 main dimensions of BOM complexity: Disciplines, Lifecycle, Changes.

multiple-dimensions-of-bom-complexity

1- Multiple disciplines. The complexity of product is growing these days. Even for very simple products it goes beyond just mechanical and electromechanical design. It includes electronic, software and goes to services and deliveries. Engineers are using multiple tools to create design of products in each discipline. To combine everything together is a very challenging task.

2- Lifecycle. Design represents only one phase of product development. It must be manufactured, shipped, supported and (after all) re-furbished or destroyed. All these processes are going in parallel and requires sophisticated interplay in data and activities. How to connect requirements with design, plan and optimize manufacturing and run support services? This is only a short list of tasks that requires BOM orchestration.

3- Changes (ECO/ECN…). Nothing is static in this world. People are making mistakes. Communication failures happen. Suppliers are going out of business. All these events generate changes that must be applied into different stages of product development – design, manufacturing, services.

What is my conclusion? Bill of Material management reflects one of the most complex disciplines in product development and manufacturing these days. The time when companies managed BOM on the shop floor corkboards are gone. Future BOM management systems will have to be much more sophisticated, integrated and to support multiple dimensions of BOM complexity. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Manufacturing BOM dilemma

October 9, 2014

mbom-dilemma

Manufacturing process optimization is one of the biggest challenges in product development these days. Companies are looking how to low the cost, optimize manufacturing process for speed and to deliver large variety of product configurations. The demand for these improvements is very high. The time when engineering were throwing design"over the wall of engineering" is over. Engineering and manufacturing people should work together to optimize the way product is designed and manufactured at the same time. Which, in my view, leads to one of the most critical element of this process – Manufacturing BOM (MBOM).

In one of my earlier posts, I addressed the challenges PLM systems has to manage BOM. PLM vendors are recognizing the importance of manufacturing solutions. However, it is hard to deliver MBOM in PLM. It related to CAD roots of PLM products, historical disconnect of engineers from manufacturing processes, complexity of synchronization between multiple BOMs and problems of integrating with ERP systems. Vendors are encouraging companies to use PLM technologies to manage MBOM and to push right product MBOM information to ERP for execution. The advantage of that is the ability of PLM to deliver accurate product information derived from design and engineering BOM.

However, there is another side in this story- manufacturing planning. Fundamentally, MBOM is created by manufacturing engineers and it reflects the way product is built. It usually structured to reflect manufacturing assembly operations, workstations, ordering process, etc. In other words, MBOM is a reflection of manufacturing process based on information from product design. Company can decide to improve manufacturing process for existing product. It means most probably no changes for CAD design and EBOM, but will require to create a new version of MBOM.

As a result of that, MBOM has dual dependence of both correct engineering information from PLM system and manufacturing constraints and part information management by ERP. Both are absolutely important. By placing MBOM in PLM system company can create a complexity of manufacturing process planning in ERP. At the same time, ERP system (more specifically manufacturing modules) are not providing dedicated BOM planning tools capable to handle information from EBOM and MBOM simultaneously.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing BOM is stuck between a rock and a hard places. It must reflect manufacturing process and stay connected to both PLM and ERP environment. It creates a high level of complexity for existing technologies and tools. To create a cohesive environment to manage MBOM is tricky and usually requires significant services and customization. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


ERP vendors are ready to clash using PLM weapons

September 18, 2014

plm-erp-competition

The information about Aras PLM OEM deal with Infor caught my attention yesterday evening. It looks like a big deal for Aras Corp. Aras PLM is well known by their innovative Enterprise Open Source model. If you are not familiar with Aras, check their website and blog. For the last few years Aras demonstrated solid capabilities to deliver full scale PLM solution. You probably remember my old blog – Aras lines up against Windchill, ENOVIA and TeamCenter 3 years ago. I think Infor-Aras partnership is a step in the same direction. More information about Infor-Aras partnership is here. Product offering will be re-branded as Infor PLM Innovator. The following passage explains how does it fit Infor PLM strategy:

Infor PLM Innovator – powered by aras – provides a full-featured, highly scalable, flexible and secure PLM solution built on industry best practices that easily adapts to your company’s changing business practices. Seamlessly integrated with Infor ERP, Infor PLM Innovator goes beyond the capabilities of standalone PLM products, to unite your entire product lifecycle for a single view of the truth, which provides actionable information from design and manufacturing to purchasing, quality, the supply chain and beyond.

What is specially interesting, Infor is going to offer Aras PLM as a cloud-service. Consilia Vector research put an interesting perspective on an opportunity related to Aras-Infor deal.

Word of mouth and an open source sales program has taken Aras quite far; this deal with Infor will be like moving from cars to airplanes. It also gives Infor what it craves, a customer checklist that more completely matches item for item with Oracle and SAP. Oracle bought Agile PLM several years ago, and SAP has assembled a PLM system from a variety of small purchases and in-house projects.

I found comments about SAP and Oracle quite remarkable. It looks like all three top ERP vendors recognized the value and importance of Product Lifecycle Management. I guess, manufacturing and enterprise companies are challenged how to support innovation with constraints of global product development and manufacturing. Therefore, adding PLM functionality to their product suites is an important imperative for all of them.

The notion of cloud in Aras-Infor deal is interesting. It is going to challenge cloud ERP providers too. If you noticed, leading cloud ERP provider Netsuite made a strategic partnership alliance with Autodesk about integration between Netsuite ERP and Autodesk PLM 360.

So, what about top three CAD-PLM providers – Dassault, Siemens and PTC? I think, strategic focus on these vendors is outside of ERP-PLM bundles. Dassault is focusing on 3DExperience. PTC is developing strategy for IoT. Siemens is broadening their TeamCenter PLM platform and applications. All these vendors have some sort of partnership agreements with ERP vendors as well as love-hate relationships of selling PLM solutions to same manufacturing companies.

What is my conclusion? All ERP vendors are well armed with PLM weapon to provide a comprehensive product development and manufacturing solutions. It confirms growing adoption and interest of manufacturing companies of all sizes in PLM. It is time to grab some popcorn and get ready for PLM-ERP competitive performance. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


What is the potential of product lifecycle analytics?

September 15, 2014

plm-epr-integration-analytics

The aim of PLM is to improve product development processes and lifecycle. One of the biggest challenges to make it happen is to deal with disparate enterprise applications and tools. The cost of system integration is high and many companies are not ready to make an investment in integration projects that will have a questionable ROI.

PLM-ERP integration is probably one of the best examples of integration projects with complex software, technologies, business dependencies and corporate politics. PLM and ERP vendors are often locking customer data and control access. It prevents customers to make a right decision to integration PLM and ERP. Few years ago, I covered it in my blog – The ugly truth about PLM-ERP monkey volleyball. I don’t think the situation is better since I posted it back in 2010. PLM-ERP integration projects are messy combination of requirements, technologies, tools and specific customer-oriented services. It usually ends up with a number of Excel and XML files flying around between PLM, ERP and other systems (including email). No surprise, companies are not read to move fast and engage into PLM-ERP integration projects.

I’ve been thinking how to change a trend of complex PLM-ERP implementation with slow ROI. Maybe to focus on transferring data between systems is not a first priority (even if it looks like the obvious one)? What can be done these days differently, so it will allow to come with a new definition of PLM-ERP integration value and maybe faster ROI from these projects? Here is the idea I wanted to share – analytics.

I have to admit, talks about data analytics are everywhere these days. It is hard to undervalue the importance and opportunity of big data. However, I want to take it beyond traditional technological level. Think about PLM and ERP applications. With significant functional overlap, companies are often see a high level of competitiveness between them. What if we can bring new capability of capturing data and making analytics into two sources of information – product lifecycle data and ERP. Can we change a trend of data competitiveness into trend of value of analytics?

Here are couple of scenarios that in my view can produce some useful analytic use cases by mixing data coming from PLM and ERP. Let me call it – lifecycle analytics. Think about NPD (new product development), but it can apply to existing products as well. Forecasting is an important step in every project, especially when it comes to a new product design and development. I can see multiple aspects of forecasting. What if I can create a forecast for entire lifecycle cost of the product. Another emerging need today is compliance forecasting. With growing number of regulation requirements to forecast compliance cost for a new product can be a challenging task. Related to that comes the need for recycle cost.

My hunch data for analytics and forecasting is available in both PLM and ERP system. It is on the crossroad between, sales, manufacturing and product engineering. To get data out of these systems and create an appropriate analytics can be an interesting, but challenging process. I think, the number of companies doing it as mainstream activity is very low, but demand should be huge.

What is my conclusion? To switch from data ownership debates into data analytics can be a way for both PLM and ERP vendors to come out of clash and competition. Enterprise databases (PLM and ERP are good examples to that) are holding a very valuable data that can be used to support decision making and provide a way to optimize product development processes. The potential for lifecycle analytics using data from both PLM and ERP systems can be significant. The development of specific analytical application can be an interesting task for existing vendors and new companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Part management is stuck between PLM and ERP

September 11, 2014

plm-erp-part-management

Few days ago, the discussion about PLM revenue model took me into part management route. This is not entirely related to revenue and business models, but my readers mentioned part cost reduction as one of the most visible ways to present PLM ROI. I have to agree, to manage parts is a critical element of overall product development and manufacturing process. Part management is an essential function of every manufacturing company. And… probably one of the most confusing ones. Design parts, manufacturing parts, suppliers, spare parts, manufacturing, supply chain, SKUs… The list of topics that come to mind when you think about Part Management is enormous.

Today, I want to speak about one aspect of part management – interplay between PLM and ERP systems. Usually, PLM and ERP systems are presented by vendors and advisers as a complementary systems. PLM focus is product definition. ERP focus is manufacturing. Despite that role-play, for the last decade, PLM and ERP systems developed significant amount of out-of-the-box functional overlap.

Part management is one of the areas where interplay between PLM and ERP is very demanded. The traditional focus of ERP on part ordering brings ERP part management in a focus of manufacturing planning process. From the other side, product definition is largely done by PLM system and therefore, on a conceptual level, PLM is responsible for initial BOM setup, drawings and other part related documentation.

There are lot of grey zones between PLM and ERP functionality. These areas are very visible in the manufacturing process setup and initial production stage. Also, it depends on manufacturing type (CTO, ETO, MTO), complexity of supply chain and other factors usually related to a specific company – geographical location, speed of lifecycle, etc.

Another grey zone between PLM and ERP is related to early lifecycle stages (definition) and late lifecycle stages (maintenance, support and post-production). These functionality is suffering from lack of information availability between systems. The philosophy of ERP is to focus on ordering transactions. Serial numbers and post production evolution cannot be managed in ERP. On the opposite side, date effiectivity and other manufacturing aspects of BOM can be hardly managed in a typical PLM implementation.

As I mention in the beginning, effective part management across the product lifecycle can result in significant cost reduction. I can see two main sources of cost optimization – 1/ redundant part cost and 2/ part rationalization. Here are some examples of product functionality that can help

- Part classification available across product lifecycle, including early design stages.

- Mechanisms to support part re-use such as search, where-use and other advanced BOM tools

- Approved manufacturers and suppliers list availability in PLM system

- Advanced BOM tools enabling part rationalization

- Other part, suppliers and manufacturers optimization methods

However, here a problem. The functionality I described above requires very tight interoperability level between enterprise systems responsible for product definition, engineering, manufacturing and supply chain. More specifically, it requires tight integration of part and BOM management functions in both PLM and ERP. The commitment for such integration is a hard decision for many companies. Complexity, cost, legacy tools, product updates, corporate politics – this is only a very short list of factors preventing companies from implementing efficient part management.

What is my conclusion? Part management functionality is crossing enterprise systems and departments in every manufacturing company. As a result of that, part management literally stuck between product design, engineering and manufacturing. The potential to streamline part management process is huge and can be a source of significant cost reduction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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