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


PLM, ERP and the death of over the wall engineering

July 31, 2014

plm-erp-death-of-thraw-over-the-wall-engineering

Do you remember "throw over the wall of manufacturing" statement? This is a traditional engineering world. Pretty much sequential. Engineers are doing their job and throw it over the wall to the next stage. Traditional manufacturing was driven by sales forecast. This is was the world that formed a traditional domains of PDM/PLM and ERP. The engineering job was a black box – product design delivered to manufacturing. Manufacturing people supposed to take design and make it work to production. The processes required lots of back and forth communication. The result you know – skyrocketing cost of change requests, suboptimal design and after all production delays.

There are lot of changes in manufacturing environment these days. One of the most interesting example is growing number of smaller manufacturing companies / startups. I wrote about that few months ago in my post – Why Kickstarter projects need PLM? Today, I want to speak more about that. LineShapeSpace article – Manufacturing Inventory Management: How Much Inventory Do You Need? caught my attention. The question sounds obvious. However, article speaks about looking on inventory from completely different perspective – engineering and growth.

Growth is an essential part of every startup. This is probably one and the most important goal to stay focused on. However, the specific part of manufacturing company is the cost of parts and size of the inventory. To hack the growth path is not simple. To go on the wrong path means to literally to die. Here is my favorite passage from the article

This mismatch is expensive. It usually means high inventory carrying costs while you chase down a lot of little customers and invest resources into getting—and keeping—their relatively small orders. The inverse relationship impacts cash flow and energy level significantly, as well as your ability to feed yourself. Long term, this kind of business will most likely be a hobby, not something that sustains you, absent significant investment or luck.

In order to develop a successful product and find a right inventor path, you need to re-think a traditional engineering-manufacturing process. No more over the wall process. You need to design for optimal manufacturing, sourcing, inventory and many other factors. Which means engineering and manufacturing team to work together. My hunch, there is no traditional PLM/ERP boundary any more. Here is another quote to emphasize that:

“We used every fancy prototyping technology, investigated multiple production scenarios, and ultimately landed our production with great manufacturing partners near Hong Kong…utilizing ‘traditional manufacturing’ for production [was] an ordeal to set up, but yields quality, repeatable parts thereafter. The decision to move at this scale of production required that we grow a global sales and fulfillment network.

That wasn’t exactly an ambition for a first our product…but it’s certainly an interesting, if occasionally harrowing, game.” The takeaway from all of this? Do your best to match the inventory risk to your channel risk. It’s a lot easier, faster, and cheaper to go back to the design drawing board than it is to return a container ship to China.

What is my conclusion? We are going to see the world of manufacturing changing in front of us these days. It may change (and probably already changing) the traditional engineering, production planning and manufacturing boundaries. What was true in an old PLM/ERP world will change. The new forms of manufacturing will require re-thinking of current software. Interesting time for PLM and ERP analysts, product managers and vendors. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM users won’t move to the cloud because of cost

May 13, 2014

cloud-adoption-erp-plm

ERP is a long time PLM rival for dominance in manufacturing enterprise organizations. I’m sure you are familiar with the the following discussion topics – what are roles of ERP and PLM in product development process, BOM ownership, enterprise data management, visibility to CIO, etc.

However, here is a new one – cloud. It looks like PLM and ERP will be competing on the speed of cloud adoption. Surprised? Navigate to the following link to read Cloud ERP replacement doubled last year to 24% – Forrester article by Diginomica. Article references Forester research Application Adoption Trends: The Rise Of SaaS speaking about sudden raise of cloud (SaaS) adoption.

Here is my favorite passage from the Diginomica post:

In The Rise Of SaaS, author Paul Hamerman, vice president and principal analyst for application development and delivery, states that cost has become secondary to agility and speed as a motive for SaaS adoption. The top drivers cited by respondents included business agility, speed of implementation and faster delivery of new functionality. He recommends his readers prepare for a number of changes in the way they support business applications, including a shift in perceptions of what counts as legacy:

The new legacy systems are licensed, premises-based applications that are typically customized and difficult to upgrade. As better and better SaaS options become available, look to replace these systems with more flexible and sustainable SaaS solutions.

The key message – it is not about cost, but about agility and speed of cloud solution adoption by enterprise organizations. It reminded me my 2 years old article – Will ERP be on the cloud ahead of PLM? PLM vendors are coming to the cloud and it looks like almost every PLM vendor today has their "own version of cloud PLM". However, can PLM vendors expect a hockey stick in the level of cloud PLM adoption? This is a good question to ask these days.

It seems like PLM vendors got the first part of SaaS – how to cut IT, installation and update cost. This is where newcomers and existing PDM/PLM vendors are clearly shining these days. However, there is a second part – how to make organization to adopt PLM development processes supported by cloud PLM faster? This is a place where cloud PLM is not very much different from "before cloud" PLM, in my view. This process is still long, requires lots of communication with customer including services and deployment. It is business transformation that usually takes so long and requires too many resources and time.

What is my conclusion? Money is not an issue for business. Time is the issue. What I can hear all the time – manufacturing companies have no problem to pay for PLM solutions. The problem is in the way PLM solutions are implemented, speed of business transformation and solution adoption. This is a place where PLM vendors should look for future cloud PLM hockey-stick moment. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

pic credit to Diginomica


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