Thursday, December 20, 2012

5 Signs Your PLM Implementation is Headed for the Pooper

"Do you have any PLM experience?" the HR person asked. "A little", I replied. Thus began a 5-year odyssey to implement PLM at a large company that shall remain nameless.* During that time, I learned many things. Mostly, I learned what not to do when implementing PLM. I would like to share 5 things I learned the hard way, while watching my PLM implementation go right down the pooper.

Does this sound familiar: You get to work, there are numerous emails that require your attention, but the most pressing is the note that tells you the PDM system is not working. No one can check anything in or out. Then you realize that without this key ingredient, none of the other areas of your PLM implementation will work, since you are dependent on "a single version of the truth"; then, things go from bad, to worse.

That was my experience one fine day, but I digress. Below are the five things that I think will help you avoid the problems I had with my PLM implementation:

1) Ineffective Training - In our case, we trained the users, but because the initial deployment was delayed, the users mostly forgot what they had learned. The business did not see any need to re-train, or spend any money on cross-training with other users in manufacturing planning, supplier management, or service. That meant those who were trained did not know the system very well and their collegues in other organizations did not know it at all. If I had it to do all over again, I would train all business organizations about PLM, and then make sure the specific tool training was done on a more timely basis.

2) Neglecting a Cultural Change Plan - We spent very little time worrying about cultural change. This meant that when the initial system was rolled out, we had a lot of push-back. Many users did not like the new way of working, and we did not engage most of the people before-hand. The lesson I learned here is to make a cultural change management plan early in the planning process, and get many people involved early so there is not a wholesale revolt when the new system is deployed.

3) Data Migration Kicked our Butt - We listened to the vendor, and did not plan much effort for data migration. We were under the impression it would be "automatic". Sadly, this was not the case. Part of our initial delay was the lack of data we needed to run our new PDM system. If we had understood all the time it can take to do the data migrating and cleansing and testing, we would have started it long before we did. Data migration always takes longer than you think.

4) PLM Value was Not Well Understood by Management - We did not do a lot of work up-front to try and quantify the benefits we would get from PLM. We had some money, and we wanted to spend it on PLM, that was about it. We should have done a cost-benefit analysis up-front so we had a good baseline. Then we could have always shown management the benefits we were getting from PLM. As it was, we went back after the fact to try and quantify this, but it was really hard. To this day we still do not have a good handle on the benefits we are getting from PLM.

5) The PLM Team was...Me - We tried to put a PLM team together but because upper management types did not really understand the potential of PLM, we could never get any people to help. So, it fell to me to make PLM happen. I did have help from the vendor, and a few others, but I did not get much help from our various business organizations. That is one of the biggest lessons I learned: you must have a cross-functional team to implement PLM. All the people must feel like they have some "skin in the game". Otherwise, when you implement the final solution, there will be major groaning and complaining.

So, there you have it. I learned many more things during this odyssey, but these 5 are some of the highlights; or should I say low-lights. I hope it is helpful. PLM can be a great boon for your business, but you have to do it right. Take my experience, and use it to avoid your own problems.

What do you think? Have I missed anything you believe is important?



* - These experiences represent several people from various companies around the globe. Can you relate?

Monday, December 3, 2012

2013: The Year of PLM!

As we slide towards the end of the year (and the end of the world, if you believe the Mayan Calendar), it makes sense to evaluate our PLM activities in 2012. Did you move forward with your PLM initiatives? Did you improve some aspect of your design and manufacturing lifecycles? Or, did you just run around fighting fires, trying to keep your head above water? Now is the time to analyze your efforts, and plan for a highly successful 2013.

I recently read a very interesting blog post: Our Brain Blocks PLM Acceptance, by Josh Voskuil. He raises some interesting points. As I think about PLM, I wonder how many executives really understand the strategic nature of a PLM investment. Most people understand that ERP and IT investments are strategic, but what about PLM?

Do the people in your company look at PLM as a strategic investment? If not, what will you do in 2013 to get them educated. Without the proper view of PLM, you will not get much traction with your initiatives. Often the people that adopt PLM do so grudgingly, and they never realize all of the benefits. I liked this quote from the article:

"Social scientists have shown that when people undergo major changes in circumstances, their lives typically are neither as bad nor as good as they expected - another case of how bad we are at estimating. People adjust surprisingly quickly, and their level of pleasure (hedonic state) ends up, broadly, where it was before."

This speaks to the need for aggressive cultural change management from the very beginning so that people start to think about PLM in the proper context. PLM users who understand the importance of their job to the overall life of the product will tend to do better when changes occur. A very objective method is required for selecting and implementing PLM solutions. Without an objective approach, there will be chaos, and success with PLM will be limited:

"So often a PLM decision has not been made in an objective manner and PLM selection paths are driven to come to a conclusion we already knew."

I could not agree more. My experience has been that when a proven methodology is used to select and implement PLM, success is almost always achieved. Without an objective, proven approach, it is likely that PLM will not lead to the kinds of changes you envision.

So, how are you planning to get PLM rolling in 2013?



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

PLM Education: Gangnam Style!

Quiz question for you: What is the most viewed video on YouTube? The answer would be: the Gangnam Style Video from South Korean artist Psy, now viewed by over 833 million people. If you haven't seen it yet, get out of your cave and follow my link. Wouldn't it be nice if PLM in your company was as popular as this video? With the right PLM education, you can have a whole bunch of people in your company doing things "PLM-style".

There are probably only a couple of people in your whole company that accurately understand the potential of PLM, if you're lucky. These few people are often trying to push PLM onto those who have a very limited understanding of the great potential that exists for companies that intelligently implement PLM. Many people look at PLM as an expense with questionable returns. There are ample case studies showing the many benefits of PLM, but not everyone is aware of these. By educating more and more people in your business, the number of people that want PLM will increase like a snowball rolling down a pile of old punch cards.

PLM education must be pervasive throughout your company because the effects of PLM are only completely realized when a majority of your company uses these tools. The content creators must use CAD, CAE, document management, PDM, and other tools. Reviewers must be able to use visualization, DMU, and workflow tools. The rest of the consumers in your company must be able to use viewers, web portals, dashboards, mobile apps, and other tools that make their access to information seamless and fun.

All of this effort requires a large group of people that understand the value of PLM and how it can help their business. True understanding of PLM can only come as people are educated, solutions are deployed properly, and benefits start to accrue. It is only over time that the benefits will be realized because PLM is not about technology, it is a strategic business initiative that must be understood at the highest levels of your company.

So, start educating people about PLM in your company, and you will see many people begging for the technology that makes it possible. Then you will really see the benefits of doing things "PLM-style".

What do you think? Is your company properly educated about PLM?

Go to the CIMdata website to learn more about PLM education.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

5 Reasons Your PLM Team Sucks!

Have you tried PLM before? Have you tried it and failed more than once? Is your current PLM implementation just limping along with one broken leg, an arm in a sling, and your tongue hanging out? If this is the case, it might be because your PLM team sucks!

Here are 5 reasons why this might be the case:

1) You don't have a PLM team: If you read this blog and said to yourself, "...what PLM team?", then you have a big problem. If you want to implement PLM successfully, you MUST have a PLM team. The PLM team is in charge of making sure your preparation for PLM, your PLM solutions selection, your PLM implementation planning, and implementation roll-out occur as required for your business. If you don't have a PLM team, this will never happen; and, since PLM never ends, the team should always be busy on the next project to support PLM.

2) Your PLM team has no leader: Every good team needs a good leader. The army has a general, a football team has a quarterback, and every country has a President, an emperor, a Queen, or someone to lead. If you have a poor PLM team leader, a part-time guy where PLM is not his main job, or no leader at all, you will struggle with PLM.

3) Your PLM team has no direction: If your PLM team does not know what to do, or if they are going in 5 directions at once, they will be ineffective. If the PLM team is not educated about PLM, and they each have their own view of what PLM can do for your business, it will be hard to make progress. The team must have a clear plan and a desire to eliminate scope creep, and other drifts, that can take your PLM initiative off course.

4) Your PLM team does not communicate well: One of the keys to making PLM successful is communication. If you don't have emails, web presence, tweets, blogs, user groups, newsletters, and other vehicles for communicating your PLM activities, no one will care about PLM. The cultural change that is required for PLM cannot happen without a lot of positive communication. Cultural change is often the main reason that PLM initiatives fail.

5) Your PLM team lacks executive support: Getting support from top executives for PLM is essential if you want to make PLM more than just a localized initiative. PLM, by its very nature, is an enterprise effort that requires the input and work of many people in your organization. If your team does not have a good executive sponsor on the team, it will be hard to get the kind of focus you need from the rest of your organization.

So, how well is your PLM team performing? Do they need some education? Almost all PLM teams, and extended teams could benefit from some PLM education.

What do you think?



Friday, October 26, 2012

Will MS Surface Become a Zune?

This week, Microsoft (MS) announced their latest foray into the hardware space. The MS Surface is their latest attempt to win over the scores of users already loyal to their OS, and potentially many new adherents. The Surface is a cross between an iPad and a laptop. It might be just the thing for users on the go, as a second device, or for those who only need a browser and a few apps.

Initially, when I heard about the Surface, several months ago, I was very excited. I thought that this device might even be the best of both worlds: an iPad with a great keyboard that can be used in many business situations, and a laptop replacement while on the road. It appears to be built well, and there is a commitment from MS to really make it work. The early reviews have been mostly great, and I was feeling good.

But, then I looked at my bookshelf. There I spied my Zune; the music device from MS that I bought many years ago. This device was their answer to the iPod. Initially it looked like it would work well, and have a chance to take over some of the market that Apple had created with their wildly successful iPod and iTunes. However, the success that MS envisioned with this hardware never developed, and today it can be used as a coaster, a door stop, and a paper weight.

In the past MS has not shown the ability to make hardware successful. It makes me wonder if the Surface will join my Zune on the bookshelf as a lovely door stop. The Zune was announced with much fanfare, and many people thought it would be successful; it was not. I am not sure all the reasons why, but it just never lived up to expectations.

So, will the Surface join the Zune on my shelf? Not if I don't buy one...

What do you think?



Is Your Business Ready for PLM?

Ready, set go! The race to implement PLM has started. Many people will approach PLM implementations like a sprint, when in reality it's a marathon. Successfully implementing any technology in your business is challenging, but PLM is especially tricky. That's because PLM is a strategic decision, not just software; and PLM never ends! There are also many people that must be involved to achieve PLM success.

What can you do to make sure your business is ready to get the most out of PLM? Here are some key areas that you can evaluate to see if you are ready for PLM success:

1) Executive Support - If you do not get support from a high level executive sponsor for PLM, you won't make if very far. PLM is a strategic activity with an enterprise vision, and it means that it must be supported from the very top of your organization.

2) Organizational Support - There will be many organizations that need to be part of the overall PLM implementation. If you do not have support from key people in all of your organizations, you will struggle to successfully implement PLM.

3) User Support - Do you have a good plan to involve your users in the PLM selection process, and a good Cultural Change Management Plan to continue interactions with users after the initial implementation?

4) IT Support - Like it or not, PLM technology will involve a large amount of commitment from your IT organization. If they are not on board, or if they just look at PLM as another piece of software to install, you really won't get very far with your PLM implementation.

5) Education - Are all of the people involved with PLM properly educated? If you educate right from the beginning, you will get much better success with your PLM implementation. All of the above people need PLM education so that there is no confusion about what PLM is, and how it can benefit your business.

There are obviously more aspects of PLM to consider, but these are some of the key items you must evaluate BEFORE you dash off on your PLM race.

What areas of PLM are you working on today?



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Is PLM Just a Bunch of Old Guys?

The recent CIMdata PLM Roadmap saw great attendance, and great speakers. One of the topics brought up by several speakers was the lack of young people at this conference. I don't think this is any different from most PLM conferences around the world. If you look at who attends these conferences, it is mostly 40+ years old guys. I can speak from experience, since I am one of those old guys.

Many of the new technologies that will impact PLM in the future, like mobility, cloud, social, and others have NOT been embraced by the "old" guys at these conferences. When asked for a show of hands of how many people would be tweeting at the conference, about 6 people raised their hands. Overall, there were only 18 people that tweeted at the conference; there were 300+ attendees!

The question I have to ask is: "how can we get more young people involved in PLM?" If you looked at most PLM conferences, you would get the idea that only old guys are interested in this technology. This is far from the truth, especially when you consider how much technology is used by younger people today. But, how can we get their inputs into what we are doing with PLM?

I don't know that answer, but I think it is VERY important that we figure out how to engage with our younger engineers and PLM technology users to help us understand how new technologies can provide the PLM environment of the future.

What do you think?


Friday, October 5, 2012

CIMdata PLM Roadmap Hits the Mark Again!

The CIMdata PLM Roadmap 2012 concluded this week in Plymouth, Michigan. If you missed it, you missed a sold out PLM event that provided detailed discussions about Systems Engineering, Model Based Design, Simulation, and more!

The conference started with an excellent talk from Jon Hirschtick, the father of Solidworks, about the future of the CAD market. He told the engaged audience that CAD was only about half done, and that there was still many opportunities in this space. The afternoon had sessions about PLM implementation, using analysis in your PLM activities, how to interact with vendors and systems integrators.

The best part of the conference was the hallway conversations, the lunch time discussions, and the new information shared among industry peers. There was a vendor area called Eye On Technology where many PLM vendors provided information about their excellent solutions.

There was great food, great people, and a good time had by all. The CIMdata website has more information on future conferences, and information about how you can get education and information about PLM.

See you later,


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why You Should Attend CIMdata PLM Roadmap 2012

In the late 1940's, the St. John's Provincial Seminary was opened on a choice piece of land just outside of Plymouth Michigan. In 1955 the remarkable chapel was dedicated with little fanfare; this was a religious place, and not given to extravagant celebrations. The seminary continued to serve the Catholic Church of Detroit for some 40 years; but sadly, in 1988 the doors closed.

Today, after an $11 million restoration, this iconic seminary has been reborn as the St. John's Golf and Conference Center. They not only have 118 luxury guest rooms, and a new ballroom, but they boast many more amenities:
  • Stately Romanesque architecture, beautifully renovated to reflect its heritage
  • Twenty two distinct meeting rooms, ideal for corporate breakout session or smaller meetings
  • A breathtaking two-story glass Atrium which provides a truly unique setting for cocktails, hors d oeuvres and music for up to 600 guests
  • Twenty-two distinct meeting rooms, ideal for corporate breakout session or smaller meetings
  • A challenging 27-hole championship golf course (great course - I played it last year)!
  • The Grande Gallroom with seating for up to 450 guests
  • And More!

Not only is this a fantastic venue, but the line-up of speakers at PLM Roadmap 2012 is one of the best I have ever seen at any conference in many years. Go here to register and see the amazing line-up! Or, you can watch and share this excellent video about the conference.

As for me, I plan to be on the golf course at around 8:00 AM on Monday, October 1. Please come and join me to make things interesting.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Social Media: "The Reports of my Death are Greatly Exaggerated!"

Lately I have been reading a lot of blogs/articles/stories about the demise of social media, and how it's unnecessary in many places, especially PLM. Of course, I do not agree. Articles such as, "Facebook, Twitter? Can The Decline of Social Media Come Fast Enough?" or this one: "Does Social Media Belong in CAD Applications?" continue to appear. I am sure we will see these types of stories every week; they shock people and get them to take notice. Here's the same type of story from 2009: The Death of Social Media. 

One thing that bothers me about these stories is that many of the people who write them are not really users of social media. Some of them dabble, or have stepped away, or they don't even use it at all. Then, from afar, they believe they can predict how it can and should be used, if at all. I doubt any of them ever had Klout scores over 30, or that they even know what a Klout score is.

Before predicting that social media is bad, or useless, or dead, you should use it. I have noticed that many of the problems that were mentioned in 2009 are much less troublesome today, and more and more people are seeing the benefits of social media when combined with PLM.

PLM vendors are starting to provide integrated social tools that allow users to integrate their tasks with the larger enterprise. There is great benefit when Engineering projects can be shared with other parts of the business, such as service, manufacturing, procurement, shop floor, etc; this is what Collaborative Engineering was all about, many years ago. Today we can actually collaborate in a controlled way that provides great value to the business by using Social Media principles and tools.

I am looking forward to all of the great technology that will be developed around PLM, and especially those that make use of social media.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What the Mars Rover Landing Can Teach us About PLM

Like many others, I watched with awe and amazement as the Mars rover, named Curiosity, landed safely on the planet Mars. When I watched the computer generated animation of how they would be lowering this large vehicle onto the surface of the Red Planet, I thought to myself "that will never work". But, it seems to have worked just fine. I am proud of what has been accomplished by the team that made this happen.

What is so startling to me about the whole thing is that they ran into very few problems on this very intricate landing. To quote the New York Times:

"The landing ran into fewer problems than any of the hundreds of simulations they had run over the last two years.
"It was cleaner than any of our tests," said Al Chen, a JPL engineer and member of the mission's landing team, shaking his head with amazement. "It was a blast."
The landing was suppose to be very tricky, and filled with challenges. This is how it was described in one blog just hours before the actual landing:
"Following “seven minutes of terror” beginning at 1:31 a.m. EST early Monday morning -- a reference to the nerve-racking landing NASA has planned, which involves Curiosity’s screaming race to the surface and a dangle off a rocket-powered sky crane..."
You can see a video of the landing here. I am amazed every time I watch this video. But, the landing went off without a hitch. I didn't understand all the jumping around by those brainiacs at JPL, but now I do: they were so happy to have pulled off a very challenging feat of space-landing magic; so many things could have gone wrong, but they didn't.
Do you ever look at your PLM implementation activities, and classify them as "seven minutes of terror"? For some, the selection and roll-out of PLM solutions can cause even the strongest person to shrink from the task. One of the important things the we can learn from the Mars rover is the importance of testing BEFORE we roll out our PLM solutions.
That is why CIMdata always recommends a pilot project environment to test your PLM solutions BEFORE they are ever rolled out to the masses. This allows you to install software, test integrations, perform and test data migration, do user acceptance testing, and a host of other activities. Installing software for the first time on Friday, and rolling it out to the users on Monday NEVER works.
The Mars rover didn't land on Mars by accident. It took years of trial, testing, and "hundreds of simulations" to make sure it would be successful on this very important and complex endeavor. Should you take any less care with your roll-out of PLM solutions?
What do you think? Do your PLM implementations get the up-front attention they deserve?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Will Collaboration Look in the Future?

If you're like me, you expected flying cars, personal jet-packs, and robot butlers by the year 2012; where are they? Like many predictions of the future, these did not come to pass. I will just keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

I read an interesting article recently titled: "Were they right? 25 years ago, science thinkers predicted the world in 2012". The answer to the question, "were they right", is no. They were not right. Most of their predictions were wrong, and were based on the world having about 1 Billion more people than it does today. However, it was interesting to see what people thought would happen in the future.

Another article that I read recently talked about collaboration, and looked at the many technologies that will impact our interactions in the future. This article was called: "The Changing Face of Collaboration - A CIMdata Commentary". Those guys at CIMdata really know their stuff! I should know, I'm one of them.

No matter how cynical you are about what the future holds, you cannot ignore some of the powerful changes that are impacting the way we collaborate. Social and mobile tools are generating tons of valuable information; this value can only be realized with strong data collaboration tools. Companies are being forced to address these issues by social-savvy consumers wielding smart phones, tablets, and other collaboration devices. In the future, companies that rely on PLM to develop products for these consumers will be required to interact in different ways than the standard email tools employed today.

How this will be done in the future is still an open question, but there are many companies working on this today. Nuage is one of those companies, and their approach to collaboration will have an impact on how we interact in the future. I liked the following passage:

"Some companies, such as Nuage (, are offering social computing solutions as their product. This trend is a clear indication of what is to come. As the demand for more natural ways of finding, communicating, and collaborating on product data continues to increase, today’s PLM solution providers need to continue to adjust or they will not be part of the solution, but rather an example of other legacy systems–systems that today’s social media-savvy workers will bypass."

The trend is clear. If you want your business to be around in the future to enjoy flying cars, personal jet-packs, and robot butlers, you must learn how to adopt these new collaboration tools. No one knows exactly what it will be like in the next 25 years, but those who fail to adopt these new technologies will likely be no more than a smudged footnote.

What do you think. Do you have any good predictions for the next 25 years?

Let me know what you think.


Friday, June 29, 2012

The Tortoise and the Hare: A PLM Story

Everyone is familiar with the story of the tortoise and the hare. This fable recounts a race between two unlikely combatants: the very slow tortoise, and the fast and agile hare. On the surface, it seems that there is no reason to even have this race, since the hare will surely win. However, the story goes on to show that despite the speed and freedom of the hare, he is unable to beat the tortoise's focused, plodding approach to the race. I think we can learn something about PLM from this informative fable.

The first thing we learn is that there are two seemly conflicting elements in any PLM implementation: innovation, and control. We all want to be innovative and invent the next really cool product. To support innovation, we must provide a very flexible environment that allows our people to experiment, try things, fail, and try again. However, we also must make sure we carefully control our information so that we can find what we are looking for, support fully traceable processes, and provide the right information at the right time to the right people.

A recent book, "Great by Choice", highlighted the importance of very strict product data management to support the quest for innovation. They looked at many companies in many industries, and found that those who focused merely on innovation were market leaders only 9% of the time. Those who focused on managing their information in a strong, structured way, and who were not necessarily innovative were more likely to be the market leaders. Clearly, innovation just for the sake of innovation is not the right answer.

Today we see many companies that have no formal rules for how they handle information (or, if they do have the rules, there is no oversight to make sure people are following these rules). The very first, and in my mind, most important step of any PLM implementation is to provide a very strong and rigorous structure for your information and processes. The information must be managed in a PDM-type of system, and the processes followed by your users without fail. Product data management isn't sexy, but it is essential. Once the information is managed, and everyone follows the rules, you can deploy very innovative, searchable, collaborative environments, and you will see fantastic results.

What do you think? Are you putting the cart before the horse, or the hare before the tortoise in your business? Let me know!

See ya soon,


Saturday, June 9, 2012

In Case You Missed it - Week 23 in PLM

It's that time again to look at the happenings this past week in PLM. The event season is in full swing, and there was much information shared at these PLM conferences. There were also some interesting new product announcements. So, grab a cup of joe, put your feet up, and feast your eyes on this weeks' PLM news:

Items from PLM Events and Conferences:

Weekly PLM Reading List:

New Product Announcements:



Monday, June 4, 2012

Work Life Balance: Fact or Myth?

I was recently reading a blog titled: Why Work-Life Balance is Dangerous. The premise of this article was that people have crappy jobs, and that's why they need work-life balance; that if only their jobs were better, then there wouldn't be any reason to have this artificial balance requirement. While I do agree that putting some kind of program in place to help people balance their lives is not the answer, I also feel that people need to spend more time on the one area of their life that matters most: the family.

I have had all kinds of jobs during my 28-odd years of working. Some of them I have really loved, and some of them I have tolerated. Through it all, I have tried to spend quality time with my family, and have tried to always put them first. I have not always done this very well, but I have always tried, and failed, and tried again. No matter how my job was going, I always knew there were people waiting for me at home that would support me, love me, and even commiserate with me.

I know many people who spend a lot of time at their jobs, and truly love what they do. Many of these people spend so much time working because they have a poor, or non-existent family life. They are the ones busting your chops about not spending enough time working, while they are just filling an emotional hole in their lives with work. Anyone who has invested enough time in their family to make it pay off would always rather be home than at work.

With a strong family behind you, I think you can put up with almost anything! That is true for kids as well. When children know their family loves them, supports them, and is there for them, they will do far better at school, and social challenges and problems will be far less critical.

As I have watched the family deteriorate during my lifetime, I see more and more problems at school that directly relate to what is going on at home. I think you can view most problems in our society and see that they have their genesis in the home; many homes today do not provide a supportive environment for children.

Well, I will get down off of my soap-box now. All I can say in conclusion is: keep your family strong! You will never get as much joy out of a job as you can get from your own family; even if you have the best job in the world...unless it's mine!

What do you think?



Saturday, June 2, 2012

In Case You Missed it - Week 22

It's that time again to look at the happenings this past week in PLM. Planet PTC is being held during the week of June 4-7 in Orlando Florida, and there were many PTC related tweets during the week. There was also a lot of buzz about SAP and their renewed push into mobile and cloud computing support. This will have an impact on the way they support SAP PLM in the future, I think. So, sit back, relax, and bask in the goodness of this week in PLM:

Items in Preparation for Planet PTC:

SAP, Mobility and Cloud:

Weekly PLM Reading List:

Other Important PLM Stuff:



Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Changing Face of US Manufacturing

Do you worry that manufacturing in the US is dead? Do you worry that jobs for skilled machinists, and other manufacturers is going to other countries? Do you often spend too much time reading blogs when you should be working (especially this one)? This may not be something we need to worry about in the future.

A recent article describes what is being called the "third industrial revolution". Look around and you will see fewer and fewer people on factory floors. Armies of intelligent machines and robots now dominate the manufacturing landscape. Many jobs that were once available in the US have moved over-seas, or have disappeared forever. But, the US has always been about technology and innovation. What we are witnessing may indeed be another industrial revolution, where jobs, industries, and products are changed forever.

This doesn't necessarily mean the end of manufacturing dominance in the US. Many people who have lost jobs on traditional manufacturing lines could be easily retrained to support innovation and creativity early in the design process. This would provide a greater emphasis on tasks that require users to interact with the virtual product and with early virtual prototypes. More iterations early in the design process usually results in more innovative products, with higher quality, that get to market faster.

Doesn't it make sense to put more emphasis on innovation and creativity? Hasn't that always been the strength of the US economy? Machines and robots can manufacture products, but they cannot innovate, nor can they imagine new and creative products. Putting more people at the front end of the design process makes sense because that is where innovation happens. PLM manages the virtual product and supports innovation.

Three cheers for PLM! The US workforce needs to change and match the new opportunities we find for innovative products and greater creativity. I, for one, will welcome this new change.

What do you think?


- Jim

In Case You Missed It - PLM Blog - Week 21

Welcome to the very first edition of "In Case You Missed It". The blog that reviews all the PLM happenings from the past week. It's hard to stay up to date on everything that happens during the week when you are suppose to be doing your regular job. But, on the weekends, you can kick back, grab a cup of joe, and feast your eyeballs on all the exciting PLM happenings from the week gone by.


3D Systems Acquires Bespoke Innovations

AVEVA Acquires Bocad

SAP to Expand Cloud Presence with Acquisition of Ariba

Weekly PLM Reading List:

Other Important PLM Stuff:

Until next time, have a great holiday weekend!



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How Will Social Media Technology Impact PLM?

I just read an article (Read it here, if you like) that highlights the amazingly fast rise of Pinterest as a social media site. I also found some interesting statistics about people's experiences with social media:

  • 91% of today’s online adults use social media regularly
  • 300,000+ businesses have a presence on Facebook
  • 28% of smartphone owners watch video on their phone in a typical month
  • It has been found:
    • $15,000 in direct mail = 200 new customers
    • $7500 in billboard ads = 300 new customers
    • $0 spent on Twitter = 1,800 new customers
  • Only 18% of traditional TV ads generate a positive ROI
Facebook, Youtube, and eBay were the three top brand searches in 2011. The most popular social networks are Facebook, Twitter, and moving into third place, Pinterest; pushing Linkedin to number four.

Facebook is #1 today: 1 in 4 page views are on Facebook. Second is Youtube for video content, and finally Google is third. What this means is that if you don't have a presence on Facebook, or Youtube, then you are missing many of the eyeballs that you need to make money.

If you have a blog, or a traditional web presence, then you need to make sure people can link between your various social personas easily and quickly; many companies do not understand this yet. Mobility is also a strong trend, as more and more people log into the internet from smart-phones, iPads, Kindles, and other mobile devices. If your web site looks like a steaming pile of moose poo-poo on a mobile device, then you will not get the kind of traction you are hoping for from your web site.

Companies are not only working on their traditional web presence, but some of the heavy-weights are getting into the social media space big-time. SAP just bought Ariba for $4.3 billion to support the cloud and mobility, bought Buddy Media for $690 million, and Oracle just bought Vitrue for $300 million and then they bought Collective Intellect, all to support social clouds, mobility, and social analytics.

All of these new technologies will have a big impact on PLM. The way your users collaborate will change dramatically in the next 5 years: We will go from a predominantly email collaboration model to a cloud-based social platform model; We will see a much stronger push for mobile access to all information; We will see the emergence of Social PLM. These changes will help you, or your competitors, to be more efficient and productive; which, is up to you.

What changes do you see coming in your business?



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top 10 Ways to Tell if Your Business Needs PLM

How can you tell if your organization needs PLM? It won't help to use a crystal ball, or consult your daily horoscope. It will require you to look at your business and figure out how it can be more innovative and efficient. In my opinion, everyone needs PLM. Take a look at this list, and see where PLM can help you.

How to tell if you need PLM:

10) It takes a long time to find the correct information, and after you find it, you are still not 100% sure it is the latest information.
9) In order to find product design information, you need to look in 3 or more different systems.
8) Large parts of your business are still managed with Microsoft XL Spreadsheets.
7) Email is your companies #1 collaboration method.
6) There is no link between your Engineering BOM and your Manufacturing BOM
5) You believe PLM is just another basic module of ERP that can be easily implemented.
4) Your existing PDM/PLM software is heavily customized.
3) You are still using intelligent part numbers.
2) Workflow and change processes are handled manually by passing around file folders.
1) PDM and PLM are used interchangeably and mean the same thing in your organization.

One of the best ways to get on the path to PLM is with education throughout your organization. PLM education will dispel misconceptions, solve the above challenges and more. If you think your organization needs a better understanding of PLM, there is no better way than to get educated.

A typical plan for this kind of activity might have you or one of your colleagues attend a PLM Certificate Course, then make a plan to bring a customized course into your company where many people can be trained.

Keep working, and soon your organization can realize the benefits of PLM efficiency and innovation.


- Jim

Monday, May 21, 2012

Making Connections at PLM Connection 2012

I recently spent several days at the Siemens PLM Connnection 2012 event in Las Vegas. Luckily, I did not lose all my money and end up in a ditch. I also did not sell my hair to a wig shop; but I digress. Despite all the distractions there, I was able to learn a lot of new things. There were tons and tons of sessions to choose from and a lot of good information was shared; three of the sessions were actually mine (below), so I am a bit biased.

CIMdata PLM University Session 1
CIMdata PLM University Session 2
CIMdata PLM University Session 3

Most importantly I met some great people! We often follow people on Twitter, or read blogs, or watch videos, but often we don't actually meet many of the people we follow. Two of the people I met there were Susan Cinadr (@susancinadr) and Dora Smith (@dorsmith). I have followed both of these interesting people for several months on Twitter, and now I have actually met them; they are much nicer in person, by the way.

There are many lessons one could take a way from PLM Connection 2012. What stands out for me is the amazing breadth and depth of PLM technologies available today. A popular Chinese saying, "May you live in interesting times", was actually an ancient curse. All the options for PLM today might seem daunting, but there is no reason to worry when you have an event like PLM Connection where you can learn as much as you want.

These are certainly interesting times for PLM. There are new technologies like cloud computing, big data analysis, mobility, gamification, social PLM, and others that will make big impacts. I look forward to seeing what Siemens PLM will do in the future to support these and other exciting technologies.

For me, PLM Connection 2012 provided a peek into the expanding world of PLM, and provided a lot of food for thought. I look forward to future events where I can continue to connect with my social peeps!



Friday, May 11, 2012

Nobody Cares About Your Stupid Website!

I was touring some local model homes with my wife recently. We are not in the market for a new home, but this is one of my wife's "hobbies". She just loves to go look at new model homes. I guess I can see why: they are clean and welcoming, they smell nice, and the people there always make you feel wanted.

The other day I was searching around the internet (like I do almost every day), and I realized that I don't look for websites as much as I use to. In the old days, I was always looking for the best website to tell me about a product, or gain information, or find a cool link. Today, I have noticed that I tend to follow links from my social media "friends" that send me to blogs, to Facebook, to Tweets, to Linkedin, and eventually, maybe, to a traditional website.

Most of the time, when I visit a corporate web site, I can't find a link to their Faceboook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, or other social accounts, this leaves me frustrated (I get frustrated a lot). At the very least, a corporate web page should provide a solid jumping off point for the rest of their social presence. This led me to wonder just how important web sites, search engine optimization (SEO), and site optimization in general is to the overall brand messages and information that we seek on the internet.

I recently read an article titled: "Why 'The Atlantic' No Longer Cares About SEO". One of the things they are doing is not worrying about writing articles for Google search algorithms, but writing articles that real people want to read, share, rewteet, repost, etc. They are, "capitalizing on the growing importance of social networks, rather than search engines, as sources of traffic." I think this is a growing trend, and one that I see more and more every day.

What does this mean? Well, for one thing, the first place people look for information about you or your brand is not necessarily on your web page. They likely look at blogs, tweets, videos, and other sources as well. By the time they get to your website, most people have already formed an opinion about you; sometimes they NEVER get to your web site at all! Your competition is becoming more social as we speak, can you afford to do nothing?

Just like walking into someone's home, people must find a very social and friendly atmosphere on your web site. If you have an old-school site with static pages and very little social content, you will likely miss out on many potential customers. These potential "friends" will get up, spill their drink, and take their social presence elsewhere; and no one wants that.

What do you think? Is your website inviting people inside, or pushing them away?


Monday, May 7, 2012

The Center of PLM Universe Has Been Discovered!

Have you ever asked yourself, "where is the center of the PLM universe"? Do you  often find yourself looking up at the sky and dreaming of a day when the knowledge of PLM will distill upon your soul like the dew from heaven? Do you ever find your mind wandering aimlessly when you are suppose to be focusing on important projects? Yea, me too. I have good news for all you star-gazing dreamers: the center of the PLM universe has been discovered, and it's in Norway!

The location of this cosmic discovery might surprise you. However, if you are familiar with the origins of man on this planet, you will not be surprised at all. Norway has long been regarded as one of the prime inception points of man. What is surprising, is that this location can be further narrowed down to a picturesque house just outside of Oslo (see picture).

During the month of June, this will be the center of the PLM universe. For 5 days there will be a strong selection of PLM education provided here for anyone that wants to  increase their knowledge. Take a look at the agenda and you will see that this education will be comprehensive and very focused. Don't waste your time implementing PLM without the knowledge to do it right.

Sign up today, and get the PLM education you need to take your business to the next level.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Off to Las Vegas for Siemens PLM Connection 2012

I am currently packing my bags for Siemens PLM Connection 2012 happening next week, May 7-10 in Las Vegas. My daughter and 2 grand kids live in Las Vegas, so I am planning to have a fun, fun time. All I can says is, there better be some golf along the way.

I will be joined by my CIMdata colleague Ken Amann. We will be providing PLM education on Monday and Tuesday. I look forward to "hitting the strip" and meeting some of the excellent people I have been interacting with on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube, and Pinterest (ok, I'm just kidding about Pinterest).

The agenda for this conference is jam packed with presentations and information about all kinds of interesting topics: the US manufacturing aging workforce crisis, transforming your business, and Boeing's PLM vision, just to name a few. There are also many product related sessions on NX, Teamcenter, HD3D, Active Workspace, Tecnomatix, Velocity products, and more. It appears to me there is no one place where you could possibly learn so much about Siemens PLM technology in a short time, and have fun doing it.

I will be tweeting from the conference (follow @plmjim with #plmconx), and plan to share a blog with pictures when I return. I know there will be a lot to share, and I look forward to the opportunity to learn just a little more about the direction of PLM as charted by Siemens PLM.

I am also excited to provide some PLM education to the participants. I hope they are ready for a lot of information in a short time; I have so much to share.

We are living in an exciting time! There are so many new technologies on the horizon that portend powerful changes in the PLM landscape. But, change is scary. Those who are not well equipped to handle change will fade away. Those who are ready to embrace change will prosper.

I will share more with you when I return!

Full Disclosure: Siemens PLM is paying my expenses to attend this conference (but not the golf).

Friday, April 27, 2012

The BOM, the BOI, and PLM

There has been a lot of talk lately about Bills of Material (BOMs), and just how this important construct should be handled within a large organization. My fellow blogger Oleg has been obsessed with this topic lately, and he has several recent blog posts: PLM, Multiple BOMs and Cross Functional Teams, BOM: Overstructured, Understructured or lean, Seven Rules Towards Single Bill of Material. I have been asked by several people what I think, and I thought it would be easiest to post this blog to explain some of my feelings on this engaging topic.

First of all, the challenge to accurately communicate technical product information to all levels of an organization usually falls on a Bill of Material (BOM). The product BOM is often started in engineering (at least in discrete industries) and propagated to various groups within the company who modify the information for their own specific needs. Sometimes, a group will start their own BOM strictly for their own use with little regard for anyone else. Some groups have an actual BOM tool, while others use an Excel spreadsheet (after all, Microsoft Excel is the #1 PLM solution in the world). Thus, we end up with many BOMs and virtually no connection from one to the other.

Of course, the BOM above does not tell you everything. Far from it! This type of BOM is actually a construct from an earlier day when we did not have a strong PDM solution to assist us. When we start to dig a little, the BOM gets very complicated; people cannot manage this kind of complexity properly without help. Each of the parts (items) above has a host of important information that needs to be tracked, updated, and analyzed to create the final product.

With a strong PDM solution, we can track all the information that is needed to support various organization.  A PDM solution allows us to manage a much more comprehensive Bill of Information (BOI). The BOI not only includes the product structures from engineering, it also includes all the information needed to get the product from design to manufacturing and out to the customer. This BOI provides a strong foundation for all groups to work together and collaborate during the product design process, and beyond. The additional tools found within various PLM solutions allow us to collaborate and share this information as needed.

When a company relies on a BOI, information can be added, and various views of the BOI can be generated depending on who needs to use it. Another nice attribute is that a BOI can be used in any industry to communicate product information: recipes, formulas, patterns, simulations, etc. can all be represented and shared using a comprehensive BOI supported by PLM.

I know what you are saying, "In a perfect world we would have one BOI, but this is not Narnia!"

Yes, you are right. This is not Narnia, and I am not Prince Caspian, as far as you know.

But, the effort to connect your many BOMs using a BOI will be effort well spent. The BOI will still need to integrate to other systems, and pass data between various groups, but the concept is still sound: how can we put information into one comprehensive BOI in order to support our work. Starting down this path will pay handsome dividends in the long run.

What do you think?


Monday, April 23, 2012

Guest Post: What to Consider when Looking for Cloud-Based PLM Software

As of 2012, the term ‘cloud computing’ has gone mainstream. People are no longer limited to their computers to store personal and business information; it makes sense that product lifecycle management (PLM) systems would be the next area to get the cloud facelift. If you’re considering PLM software in the cloud, you need to know the good, the bad, and the ultimate truth.

The Good
One of the big pluses of a cloud PLM solution is the savings you experience in the short term. Often cloud-based PLM is offered as a subscription service with monthly fees instead of the large lump sum payment needed to purchase on-premise alternatives. Also with the cloud you’ll reap the benefits involved: reduced hardware reliance, fewer expensive upgrades, and scalability. However, one of the greatest benefits your company will reap is accessibility.

‘Anywhere, anytime’ was once a catch phrase for only a handful of companies, but now this notion has spread to every cloud-based software solution available. Your team can access a cloud PLM system wherever there is an internet connection, which is great for your business, partners and suppliers. The ability to collaborate more effectively through cloud access leads to continuous improvement and greater efficiencies. The innovation in both product and processes reflects positively on your bottom line and gives your company a competitive advantage.

By allowing all facets of the manufacturing process to be easily accessed by everyone involved, companies can consolidate data, remove redundancies, and better manage new initiatives. Universal access for all parties involved also leads to a reduced time to market for you products. Real-time data input, knowledge syncing and forecasting capabilities allow you to remove complications before they arise. 

The Bad (but not really)
Critics of cloud PLM systems will cite issues with security and availability as reasons to avoid software in the cloud. With large virtual servers that store your confidential information there’s no doubt that this is a serious threat to consider. That being said, with proper research into the reputation of service providers this risk can be mitigated. Check company policies that address security so you know how your confidential data is stored and what would happen if it was compromised.

Another challenge that you will have to consider is downtime. The information stored in your PLM cloud solution is crucial to your day-to-day operations, so limited access will affect your productivity. Check with the provider to see what kinds of compensation they offer for any downtime experienced. Often times cloud service vendors will list an uptime of 99% or higher and have it in their contract agreements that clients will be reimbursed for any time the service goes down.

The Truth
The choice of a PLM solution, whether it’s in the cloud or on in-house servers, truly isn’t going to make or break your business. At its core your business needs a strategy for success that moves beyond technicalities and encompasses company culture, industry trends and customer needs. A cloud PLM solution could be a great tool to help you advance your business to the next level. Just remember, it is still in its infancy and feature offerings will likely be expanded as cloud-based PLM systems grow in popularity. Keep your eyes open to see what’s available and what’s in development so that you can find the best solution for your organization.

What do you think?

See my previous post for more on cloud PLM!