"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?