How many parts will be in a 3D printed vehicle?

September 17, 2014

Strati1

3D printing is buzzing trend these days. If you are not up to speed with the trend, you probably should. Because it changes everything around. Start today from Wikipedia article about 3D printing (aka as additive manufacturing). Today’s announcement about GrabCAD acquisition by Stratasys- leading 3D printing company is another confirmation about important role additive manufacturing will play in the future. The following video is a recording of Autodesk CEO Carl Bass about 3D printing topic – The future of how things are made.

3D printing is changing the way we are going to manufacturing products in the future. This is, of course, very high level statement. It is interesting to go down and see the impact in bits and bytes. For example, how it will impact product structure, or how it will impact product data management or manufacturing planning. You probably don’t associate these two things, but additive manufacturing is changing the product structure and everything that related to that. It certainly impact BOM management too.

My attention caught by the following Engineering.com article – Autodesk and Local Motors Collaborate on First Spark 3D Platform Implementation. The article speaks about collaboration between Local Motors and Autodesk about first large scale industrial implementation of Spark. I found the following passage quite provoking:

According to Local Motors, the Strati simplifies the automotive assembly process and is a result of leveraging the contributions of community, advanced manufacturing tools, and software, like the Spark platform. This could bring many advantages, including reduction in the number of parts in a vehicle’s Bill of Materials (BOM) from 25,000 components to less than 50. The on-demand nature of 3D printing means that automotive manufacturers can change aspects of their design—or even come up with an entirely new one—with little or no additional cost in tooling or time.

The complexity of modern car is skyrocketing. Hardware is part of a complex one element of that. Others – electronic, software are playing significant role. In the past car was a pure mechanical beast. Today, it is a combination of hardware and software on wheels. Who knows, maybe in few years, we will see car bill of material very similar to computer today – few mechanical pieces and lot of software. With changing balance between hardware and rest of car elements, the focus can shift towards multi-discipline product structure.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of products is changing. It is important to see trends. While overall complexity of manufacturing products (cars included) will grow, we might see a decrease in manufacturing complexity of hardware as a result of new manufacturing methods – additive manufacturing (3D printing) will pay a key role here. At the same time, the complexity of multidisciplinary product structure (BOM) will grow. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit to ENGINEERING.COM article.


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


3 security related questions to ask your PLM cloud provider

September 12, 2014

plm-cloud-security

Cloud is getting wider adoption these days. An interesting trend I observe for the last year – customer are asking less questions about security. It was different 3-5 years ago. Everyone got concerned about cloud solutions security. Specifically for PLM domain, customers got concerned about company IP (drawings and other engineering-related materials that can be easy stolen without real ability to be returned).

It seems to me, the situation with security is getting different these days. Most of cloud companies are well prepared to answers on a typical set of questions related to data center protection, data redundancy, protection of customer data, monitoring and audit. Most of cloud companies are providing information about their security policies in a transparent way. Here are few examples – Amazon Security center; Autodesk Trust center; etc. There are lot of information cloud companies are placing outside to educate customers about security.

It is getting really hard for average business decision maker to make a conclusion about cloud security. The devil in details and to ask right questions is getting even more important than before. My attention was caught by InfoWorld article – Cloud security: We’re asking the wrong questions (thanks to one of my readers for sharing). My favorite passage is related to the ability to compare specific on-premise and cloud security aspects for a company:

To get an accurate answer to that question, you’d have to compare your on-premise solution (the entirety of it, including all your relationships) to the security offered by a particular cloud vendor. That’s hard to do in real life for a few reasons, led by the fact that most companies don’t know the security reality of their on-premise solutions — and followed by the fact that most cloud vendors won’t let you do onsite, direct security auditing of their systems. It’s a guessing game.

Companies have serious dilemma with regards to cloud adoption and security. On one side – anti-cloud specialists are keeping to buzz about cloud vulnerability and every security breach. On the other side, let’s face it, employees are using public and free cloud solutions anyway without IT approvals. It is important to come with a practical approach that helps company to make risk assessment with regards to cloud applications. InfoWorld article made me think about some set of initial questions that will help you to build an understanding of what "cloud solution" vendor is providing and how it does fit your company IT infrastructure. Here is the list I had in my mind this morning:

1- Account management. How cloud vendor manage user information and how company user database is mapped, used and / or imported into cloud infrastructure? The information about users and user-related characteristics is one of the most critical places for security breach. It is important to align it with your corporate directory management strategy. Specifically, check how to prevent potential APT (Advanced persistent threat).

2- Understand storage strategy. The risk of cloud implementation is a potential exposure of storage with sensitive data (eg. IP, documents, drawings, etc.). For short term storage oriented products it can be less sensitive. You maybe less concerned about storage for simulation results or visualization. However, storage of native CAD files with actual data can impose a different security risk.

3- Computing infrastructure. Cloud is a buzzword everyone use these days. However, behind fuzzy cloud words, actually you can find more info about specific computing infrastructure – IaaS, hosting, servers, operation systems, geographical locations and many others. Computing infrastructure strategy can be different and in many cases you can either ask vendor to disclose this information or find it by yourself. Usage of Google or Amazon won’t guarantee a specific security level. However, understanding of that, will help you to compare with your on-premise security level and assess your risks.

What is my conclusion? It is not simple to make a decision about your company readiness for cloud applications However, we need to face a reality, regardless on IT and management decision, the high probability is that your employees are already using cloud services. Engineers are placing documents on dropbox and using web email to send messages when your corporate email server stuck. Some of free collaboration software services are more efficient and/or more capable than your corporate PDM/PLM tools. So, better than ban cloud in your company, you should come with the list of questions that can help you to evaluate and build your path to the cloud. 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 and Zero BOM errors: the devil is in details

September 10, 2014

zero-bom-errors

To manage Bill of Materials (BOM) is not a simple job. Often you can hear a simple definition of bill of material as a "list of component needed to build a product". However, in reality, BOM is much more complex and contains information about product structure, the ways product is manufactured, maintained and even disposed. The variety of requirements coming from multiple departments make BOM a complex information entity. Because of diversity of disciplines, organizations and tools BOM traditionally managed as a separate structures related to design, engineering, manufacturing, support, supply chain, etc. Mistakes in Bill of Material management are costly and painful to companies. It can lead to wrong material orders, shipment delays, regulation issues and many other problems.

My attention was caught by few examples of PLM vendors emphasizing their ability to support "zero BOM errors" in their BOM management solutions.

First example came from Dassault Systems ENOVIA. Navigate to my post – PLM, demolished silos and closed BOM loop. You can get more information also in recent Razorleaf blog covering ENOVIA conference here. According to ENOVIA, errors are coming from synchronization or design and engineering BOM. Therefore "zero file solution" strategy developed by Dasasult System ENOVIA will lead to zero BOM problems. Here is a passage from both articles:

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”.

Dassault spent significant time at the event returning to the theme of the business benefits of ENOVIA, describing a “Power of Zero” mantra across ENOVIA’s capabilities (for example, “Target Zero BOM Errors”). ENOVIA CEO Andy Kalambi offered a nice overview of how these “Power of Zero” themes connect the direction of the ENOVIA product line with the business needs of ENOVIA’s customers.

Second example came from Arena Solutions case study – How Nutanix Reduced BOM Errors to Absolute Zero. You can download case study for free by registering on the website. Interesting enough, the problem of "Zero BOM errors" is completely different here. It speaks to collaboration and access of BOM by multiple people in a team or even different organizations suppliers. Here is an interesting quote from case study that outlines that:

“Our suppliers now access the same BOM and revision, and we have had zero wrong BOMs built since the system was implemented. Configuration integrity is assured… Change management was a nightmare,” said Sangster. “With several people making changes and suggestions to uncontrolled documents there were multiple revisions of the same BOM flying around the ether. No one had any trust in the data, so many local copies abounded based on the ‘mine is right’ premise.”

The devil is in details. When you plan how to implement BOM management, you need to work on multiple use cases. Bill of Material has multiple point of failures. I mentioned two in my post today – 1/ synchronization between design and engineering/PLM tools; 2/ collaboration and change management scenarios. I can see many other use cases. When you plan a solution, it is important to focus on a specific problem you want to handle. At the same time, when vendor speaks to you about "Zero BOM error", don’t hesitate to ask questions. Same buzzwords mean different things sometimes.

What is my conclusion? BOM management is a complex domain. It is hard to underestimate the value of having correct BOM without error. BOM errors are costly and to manage consistency of BOM is one of the most important objectives of PLM solutions. At the same time, BOM has multiple points of failure. This is a note to PLM implementers and IT people to focus on important scenarios and not to take "Zero BOM mantra" as silver bullet that solves all problems. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will future PLM order parts for makers?

September 10, 2014

makers-plm-order-parts

Have you heard about "makers"? If you are in manufacturing business, you probably should pay attention to that. You may hear about "makers movement" these days as a new industrial revolution changing the way people are making stuff. I can recommend you Chris Anderson’s book to read more about that.

New digital technologies are going to change the way we design and manufacturing products. It appears today largely as a new group of manufacturing entrepreneurs, startup companies and small manufacturing firms. PLM vendors are not very successful in providing solutions for SME companies. Historically it was a tough call for PLM vendors. It was too competitive and confusing with major PLM business – large OEMs and suppliers. With new manufacturing eco-system, the situation is getting very interesting. One of the objectives of PLM is to help company to innovate and delivery new products fast. It sounds like a very compelling reason for new manufacturing startups. Read my earlier blog – Why Kickstarter projects need PLM? This is an opportunity for new PLM solutions. However, it looks like something that PLM vendors are missing for the moment – PLM and Manufacturing Startups: Potential Mismatch? We have a complexity of new manufacturing products, multiplied by a complexity of new type of manufacturing processes. It looks like an existing enterprise software doesn’t fit very well a new and growing eco-system of manufacturing companies.

Let me take an example of PLM and ERP system breakdown. The traditional split between PLM and ERP is usually presented as "innovation vs. transactions". PLM system is responsible for engineering part of the business and takes hands off from ordering by moving business process to ERP. This is works well for traditional manufacturing companies. However, PLM v ERP interplay is a very challenging and complicated process in every company. Would it be the same for new type of manufacturing entrepreneurs? This is a good question to ask… I’m pretty sure that new manufacturing companies can question a need to have multiple systems- they will be looking for some sort of intelligent online solutions that can easy interplay together and cover both engineering and manufacturing piece.

My attention was caught by Fortune article – In B2B e-commerce, Alibaba has solved the one problem Amazon can’t. Read the article. I found it very interesting. It is not about PLM. However, I captured a passage that speaks about B2B and supply chain communication.

But there is one true giant in the category: Alibaba, the Chinese retail darling that last week revealed plans for a $21.12 billion initial public offering, which has dominated in B2B e-commerce. I was reminded of this over the weekend while listening to Planet Money’s entertaining explainer of the Alibaba wholesale market. Through Alibaba.com and 1688.com, the company provides to people everywhere access to the Chinese supply chain. This means tinkerers, builders, entrepreneurs, and small businesses can order custom motors and parts from Chinese factories without having to travel there, find a scout, and forge a relationship with a manufacturer before doing business. It opens up the world of international suppliers to people who wouldn’t normally have access to it. They can buy in bulk through Alibaba, which acts as a trusted third party, vouching for the transaction.

It made me think about a potential of PLM software to get connected to online e-commerce systems to process orders and even more- optimizing product design and engineering solution based on that. It probably sounds crazy. However, who knows… Many things that we knew as a separate parts in the past, now unified as a single products. Think about iPhone, which replaced many existing devices. Today’s Apple Watch and Apple Pay announcements are hinting about future transformation of well-known habits. There are some other examples as well.

What is my conclusion? I like to quote Mark Andreessen for the conclusion – "Software is eating the world". There are lot of traditional system breakdown that are going to be transformed and disappear in the future. What looks like a right split between product innovation (PLM) and order-transaction (ERP) today, can be challenged in the future. So, who knows? Maybe tomorrow PLM systems will order parts from Amazon B2B e-commerce web services? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


The end of debates about out-of-the-box PLM?

September 8, 2014

plm-out-of-the-box

PLM implementation discussions are usually brings lots of controversy. Vendors, analysts, advisers, service companies, customers are all involved into implementations. It brings different and, sometimes, conflicting interests. In my view, one of the most debated topic in PLM implementations is related to so called ability to implement “PLM Out-of-the-box”. I’m not sure who first used that term. I think, it came out of PLM vendor marketing trying to demonstrate how easy and quick PLM implementation can be done. However, since then, the debates about “PLM Out of the box” had never ended.

Two other related topics are customization and configuration. For long period of time, I didn’t differentiate much between these two terms. However, modern enterprise software lexicon (and PLM vendors are in a full compliance with that) will define “configuration” (opposite to customization) a process that doesn’t require to write a software code for PLM implementation, but only use some elements of PLM user interface to configure a system. It probably turns all PLM implementation into “customization”, since writing programming scripts (using VB scripts or JS) is a widely used practice during all PLM configurations.

But let me get back to OOTB topic. I covered PLM OOTB few times in my blog. You can navigate your browser and read PLM Out-of-the-Box: Misleading or Focusing? published almost four years ago. From my latest posts, I can recommend you to take a read of the following article – Why My PLM won’t work for you? My attention was caught by an article that looks like trying to end all debates about PLM OOTB.

Aras Corp. published an interview with Dr. Martin Eigner who recently joined Aras’ board of advisors. In a very short published interview Dr. Eigner dots the i’s and crosses the t’s in the debates about out-of-the-box PLM and customization. Here is a main passage I captured. It has a strong Aras marketing flavor, but to quote it is important to bring a full message:

Dr. Martin Eigner: The kernel PLM functions are very similar from all competing PDM / PLM solution providers and from functionality it’s not a big criteria to differentiate each other. The user interface, performance and customization is important. Customization is very important because I do not believe even for small customers that you can buy PLM solution out of the box. That is a dream. You have to customize it. The real differentiator of existing PDM systems is the amount of money and capacity to customize a PLM solution. So I think usability, performance, upgrade capability and how easy it is to customize and maintain the customized solution are the most important points. They have the strongest impact on the total cost of ownership. I think in all these topics [performance, usability, upgrades, and customizations] Aras is leading. There are independent tests which show the system’s performance. We did internal tests at my university and found Aras to be the easiest to customize and upgrade. That is a big difference to the competitors. Customization is the most important aspect of PLM. Out-of-the-box works for no one.

I’m not in full agreement with Dr. Eigner about the fact you have to customize every PLM implementation. However, there is one point, which I think it is very important and I liked how Dr. Eigner emphasized that. It is related to the ability to maintain a customized PLM solution. This is one of the key differentiators of something I call a sustainable PLM platform. Customized legacy PLM is data management titanic in many implementations. Companies have to spend resources to maintain the solution, which is in most situation cannot support latest version of PLM platform provided by vendor.

What is my conclusion? Sustainable PLM platform. This is should be an important element of every PLM strategy these days. Modern business environment is very dynamic. Customer are looking for an agile way to implement business solution, adopt it to a new requirements as well as to maintain existing configuration. In my view, the concept of OOTB PLM should be revised with modern open architecture approach, which can simplify configuration, customization and sustainability of existing solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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