Tuesday, December 23, 2014

PLM and ERP: Can't We Be Friends?

Recently, Joe Cocker passed away. If you don’t know, he was an iconic front-man for several rock groups in the 70’s, and he sang with a unique style. He was best known for singing covers of other people’s songs including the Beatles. One of his best known covers was of the Beatle’s song “With a Little Help from My Friends”. I am thinking about PLM and ERP today, and wondering why they can’t be better friends.

PLM and ERP are both part of most major manufacturing companies. But, their relationship can often be rocky. Both are needed to create innovative, high quality products that delight customers. But, how they are deployed across the company is often a hotly contested topic.

I wrote a blog in 2013 titled: PLM and ERP: Can’t We All Just Get Along? In this blog I talked about the often rancorous relationship that PLM and ERP have at many companies. A harmonious relationship between PLM and ERP can help provide a more efficient product development process and get more innovative products out the door faster to paying customers. 

Below are a few things that I think are important when wondering how to balance the needs of PLM and ERP:

First, it is important to understand the definition of PLM and ERP. The simplest definitions I can think of are the following:

PLM – Creating, capturing, sharing, and managing product information that relates to the VIRTUAL PRODUCT.

ERP – Gathering, coordinating, organizing, and managing the information that relates to the REAL PRODUCT.

With these two definitions in mind, what can we do to make them work together more harmoniously?

First: Make sure you are creating, capturing, sharing, and managing your information in PLM consistently, proactively, and effectively so that design personnel can always find needed information. After all, PLM is where the product design begins. If you do a bad job gathering, tracking, and sharing information at the beginning of the design process, who thinks that you will suddenly do a good job once the product is being manufactured?

Anyone who needs information must be able to find it easily and directly without knowing multiple secret information locations that no one can find. Once information is found, it must be clear, concise, and valid in order to have a positive impact on product design. If you do a good job with information, passing it on to ERP will be much more successful, and any changes that require information to come back from ERP to PLM will be accurate.

Second: There must be a way for information to flow back from ERP to PLM when changes are made. Integration can allow this to happen easily, automatically, and consistently so there is no doubt about information accuracy. Often, information is thrown over the wall to ERP, and then nothing is returned to PLM when changes are made. This leads to re-work, and does not support design re-use, which can save time and money.

Third: Work hard on the cultural change aspects of PLM and ERP relationships. Our experience has shown that there is often a cultural disconnect between PLM organizations and ERP organizations. There is often a poor relationship between these two groups. The failure of PLM and ERP integration starts with integration of the two organizations.

There is much more to this topic. I am planning to have a free webinar to discuss these items along with several others coming up on January 28, 2015.  Please join me and learn more about how you can improve the relationship between PLM and ERP. A link to learn more about his free webinar is below:



Jim McKinney - CIMdata

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Expanding PLM Footprint and Impact on Innovation

The second law of thermodynamics states that everything is getting less organized, or something like that. If one gazes upon my desk they will see this law in action. It may not be obvious, but there is order in the seeming disorder of my desk. PLM has also been growing, expanding, and developing new solutions to provide opportunities for improved innovation. In the apparent disorder of all the new solutions and technologies there is an opportunity to enhance innovation, and take advantage of new and better methods for product development.

The first reason for this expansion of PLM is that the PLM vendors would like to provide a complete solution that can take your product from conception through to manufacturing. This is a huge challenge  for most companies, and very few have realized the holy grail of complete PLM deployment across the enterprise. Of course, today there are many PLM vendors that can provide a large part of the product development requirements. There are still gaps, but if you want to rely on one vendor's solution set for product development, you will have several very good options.

The second reason PLM is expanding is that today we have many new technologies that can support innovation. These new technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way we do product design, and allow a more seamless and streamlined process. Implementing these solutions will not be easy nor quick, but starting today will allow you to be ahead of your competition. A few of these new technologies are:

  • The Cloud (Not really new, but the application of this technology is having a big impact)
  • Social Tools (How will they impact PLM? The jury is still out)
  • The Internet of Things (Lots of options here, but it will require an effort by many groups)
  • Big Data/Analytics (There is so much information to analyze. How do we do it?)
  • 3D Printing (Also not new, but the new materials and uses are making this a reality)
  • Mobile Devices (Potentially allows global teams to collaborate more easily)

The list could go on. New technologies provide a way to increase the amount of innovation you put into your products while at the same time preparing you to take advantage of any other new technologies that may appear. If you still do much of your data management with MS Excel spreadsheets, and rely on disconnected silos for data management you will not be able to take advantage of these new technologies. PLM expansion is an opportunity for greater innovation and inefficiencies in product development, just don't look at my desk.

Would you like to learn more about the expanding footprint of PLM and how new technologies can support your product innovation? Then join me for a FREE webinar on September 10 at 11:00 AM to hear more details about these important topics. I'm sure you have nothing better to do.



Monday, February 24, 2014

PLM Implementations Done Right

Once you decide which PLM software you want to use, the hardest part of your job is over; right? Nothing could be farther from the truth. One of the biggest challenges for any PLM activity is to implement the software properly. Without a focus on this part of your PLM software activities, you will often experience many sad days filled with crying and lamentations.

Some of the most important areas to consider are:

1)      Follow project management best practices – Some people think that with a PLM implementation, you can just wing-it. No, no, no! There must be strong oversight and coordination during the entire implementation program. It is certainly true that, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Find someone to manage this program that really knows what they are doing.

2)      Put together the right team – Many people will be required to make this PLM implementation a reality. Get commitments early to make sure you have the right skills at the right time so you can ensure the PLM software is implemented properly.

3)      Make the correct plans – There is a host of plans you will need to create in order to assure PLM implementation success. For example: Process plans with use cases, cultural change management plan, integrations planning, testing and validation plan, data migration plan, pilot testing plan, training plan, rollout plan, and others. If you think you can do a PLM implementation without extensive planning, you will be very sad and disappointed; and you might cry.

4)       A strong plan for transition to on-going  PLM support – You will need to plan how you will go from supporting the roll-out of PLM to supporting the day to day activities across the enterprise. There needs to be plans for daily user issues, as well as enhancement requests and user meetings to make sure people are using the tools properly.

There certainly is a lot to do when you plan on implementing PLM software. Wow!

Would you like to learn more about properly implementing PLM? Join me for a FREE webinar on this topic:

Go here to register for this informative FREE webinar.

Please let me know what you think.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PLM in the Fashion Industry: Strike a Pose!

In a recent blog post I talked about the NRF Show in New York City. I mentioned a couple of the big PLM vendors that attended. However, what I did not mention were the many other PLM vendors that are squarely positioned in the fashion industry. This industry has some similarities to other traditional PLM industries, but there are many things to be learned from pure fashion PLM vendors.

Of course, there are many things that traditional PLM vendors have in common with those in the fashion industry. Managing data, searching, viewing, sharing, collaborating, and other areas are generally supported in some way by most PLM solutions. However, there are many areas where the fashion industry has unique requirements for PLM. That is why there are a host of niche vendors that provide PLM solutions to the fashion and retail industries.

Some of the PLM vendors that specifically serve the fashion industry are: Yunique PLM, Lectra Fashion, Visual 2000, WFX Cloud PLM, BlueCherry by CGS, and more. One might wonder what larger PLM vendors are doing to support this dynamic industry. Larger vendors such as PTC and Dassault have also built solutions to support the unique needs of users in the fashion industry. However, there are certain aspects of the fashion industry that are very different from the traditional automotive and aerospace industries that make it challenging to use traditional methods.


The fashion industry, and many other retail industries require a level of speed that traditional PLM solutions do not necessarily support. Think of the minimum level of speed you need to deliver fashion, and you will have some idea of what this requires: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. All of these seasons require new and unique fashions that the public can buy during a very short time-frame. No one buys new cars or lawnmowers for every season (unless you are Jay Leno); we expect these products to last many years.

3D Legacy

Most large PLM vendors come from a legacy of supporting large 3D CAD models. PTC, Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM, and Autodesk, all provide comprehensive 3D CAD solutions. Pro/Engineer, or Wildfire, or Creo from PTC; CATIA, or Solidworks from Dassault Systemes; NX, or SolidEdge from SiemensPLM; and AutoCAD, or Fusion, or Inventor from Autodesk. Supporting complex 3D CAD model assemblies with a PDM system during extended product design is not exactly the same as supporting a group of people using Adobe Illustrator that must coordinate very quickly with sales, retail, materials, stores and others around 2D information.

PDM BOM Legacy

Another key feature of fashion PLM is the technical specification package (Tech Pack). This can be considered a BOM for the creation of fashion items (sort of), but it is much more. The Tech Pack must include illustrations, measurements, target specs, sample materials/fabrics, shrinkage and other tests, plus many more details. This file is used as the garment proceeds through the design process, and people will potentially add/change information all along the way: the pattern maker, the designer, during fitting, potential manufacturer, and so forth. This file must be put through a change control process like any complex BOM, and a very flexible workflow must be supported. Traditional PDM systems do not always support this kind of file or processes out of the box.


Traditionally, the larger PLM providers have provided expensive solutions with many features that are often overkill for the small fashion shop. Today there are many lower priced solutions that support fashion without providing too many features at too high cost. There continues to be a high level of interest in replacing inefficient Excel files with a good solid PLM system in the fashion industry. The future for PLM is strong in the fashion industry, with 63% of apparel companies saying they plan to further invest in PLM technology this year.

Today we see many of the traditional CAD/PLM vendors providing strong solutions to fill gaps in their solution mix to support the fashion industry. PTC, for example, has a solution called Windchill FlexPLM that does an excellent job of supporting this industry. We will likely see many traditional vendors follow this example in the future as they seek to provide solutions that can support the fashion industry.

Those are just a few of the differences as I see it with PLM for the fashion industry. What have you seen in your experience. Let me know and we can have a fun discussion.



Friday, January 17, 2014

PLM Struts It's Stuff at the NRF 2014 Show

When people think of PLM, they often think of automobiles, airplanes, and large machines. But, the world of retail and fashion provides fertile ground for managing and sharing information. PLM, bold and beautiful, strutted down the catwalk at the recent NRF (National Retail Federation) show in New York, City. Some in the audience were heard to say, "I'm too sexy for my PDM!"

You can read more about this excellent show here, and here. Also, read what PTC and Dassault Systemes are doing in this space.

One aspect of this show that caught my attention was the idea of providing a rich customer experience. PTC and Dassault Systemes, along with others, were both there showing what they have to offer in this exciting space. Both of these companies have a strong set of offerings that provided support for the retail and fashion industries.

When you think about it, fashion and retail are very likely candidates for PLM. There is a ton of information generated during the product development process. Design data for new products must take into account customer input and feedback from previous products. The design data must be shared and collaborated upon by multiple people in real time. The supply chain must be involved in product discussions. Sales teams must be prepared for new products. There are merchandising and store operations teams that need to be involved in collaboration, and all of this must be done quickly.

The new product introduction process is complex because it involves many different people in various groups, potentially located all over the world. A PLM system must serve as a common repository for all product information including raw materials, product specifications, style information, product costing, packaging, and so forth. The PLM system must also allow sharing with those who need to make critical decisions quickly. PLM must also provide visibility for the entire retail value chain, allowing collaboration, design, development, and product sourcing. These are not easy tasks to accomplish when there is plenty of time, but time pressures are constantly part of any retail business.

Today we are seeing more and more retail and fashion companies look to PLM as a way to do business. They are replacing spreadsheets and paper documents with a common repository of product information that can be shared. This trend will continue. Those who plan to stay in business will embrace PLM and all the needed technology to support innovation and make their business run more efficiently.

Strut down the catwalk with confidence, because you've got PLM!

What do you think?



Friday, December 27, 2013

The Top 7 Posts of 2013

As the year comes to an end, we inevitably think of where we've been, where we are, and where we're going. To help you along, I offer this look back at the top post of 2013. Looking back is only good if it helps us move forward, so take a look at these posts, and then go and get it done with PLM in 2014.

Configuration Management

Let's start with the 7th most popular post from 2013. Actually it was very close to a tie, so I will introduce these two together. The Basics of Configuration Management - Part I and The Basics of Configuration Management - Part II were very close. As a bonus, let me throw in The Basics of Configuration Management - Part III. This proves my point that configuration management is poorly understood by most companies. Even if a company has taken the time to understand and implement a good configuration management practice the rules are often not enforced, and usually not followed. Take these three posts as a guide to doing a better job with configuration management in 2014. You might also enjoy a related post: Change Management: The Ghost in the Machine.

Cultural Change Management

My impression over the past year is that one of the most challenging activities related to PLM implementation is cultural change management. Often, it is not even considered until the solution is rolled out and in the hands of the users; this is too late! Take my post Cultural Change Management, or How I Saved PLM as a good example. I wrote this in a short story format, and I think you will like it. If not, at least it's short.

PLM Education

I am a big proponent of PLM education. Virtually every company I have visited this year needed more PLM education. Keep this in mind for 2014 and put PLM education in your budget early in the year. The 4th most popular post from 2013 was this one: PLM Education Done Right in 3 Easy Steps. Follow these steps to get the most from PLM.

How to Measure the Value of PLM

We often do surveys, and when we ask for the top impediments to PLM, one of the top answers is always measuring PLM value. Without a way to measure the value, it is often hard to get upper management to invest in PLM. The 3rd most popular post of 2013 was How Can You Measure The Value of PLM, which, it turns out, is a very good question. Without some way to measure the value of PLM there is no way to evaluate your success, and plan for future updates. Keep this in mind as you plan your changes in 2013, and find a good way to measure this important aspect of your business.

Social PLM

There have been many posts about social PLM, or how social tools will impact the activities that are traditionally part of PLM. But in my experience, the impact of social PLM has been very low, or nil. Why is this the case? I dove into this question in my post Why Has Social PLM Failed? I think we will see a better meshing of PLM and social tools in 2014. There certainly is an opportunity to enhance PLM with social tools, but PLM vendors will need to do a better job of integrating these tools into their solutions. This may take some time, but we will see it some day; I just hope I live long enough. You might also want to read a related post: Why is Social PLM DOA? I like the graphic I used here; very creepy.


I am amazed how often I am asked about the difference between PLM and ERP. There exists a very different set of views on this topic depending on who you ask. I addressed this in my most popular post of 2013: PLM vs ERP: Can't We All Just Get Along? This was an attempt to give some clarity to this polarizing topic. I think companies need to come together and decide where they will put the dividing line. Obviously it is not a clear demarcation, and there will always be some overlap. Just agree and then implement consistently to get the best results.


So, there you have it, the top posts from 2013. I hope that 2014 will be a very successful year for your PLM implementation. No matter where you start you can always improve, and PLM can have a dramatic effect on your bottom line. I wish you all the best in the coming year!

Don't forget to read one of my favorite posts from 2013: Email: "I'm not dead yet!" PLM: "But you're not well." I really like that one!



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How to Claim the Benefits of PLM

If you asked 10 people in your company to give you a definition of PLM, you would likely get 10 different answers. That's because people have very different experiences with PLM, or maybe a lack of experience with PLM. To claim the benefits of PLM there are some steps you must follow. This post will not try to mention every single step that you must follow, that would take way too long and I want to eat lunch. But, this list represents some of the key activities that you must follow in order to claim the full benefits of PLM for your business:


The first step in any PLM activity is to education everyone. By that I mean the executives, the PLM team participants, and others that will be supporting your PLM initiative. Once people are education, and they understand the comprehensive nature of PLM, they will be more likely to support your efforts. A good PLM definition to start with is:
  • PLM is the collaborative creation, use, management & dissemination of product related intellectual assets.
Some key aspects of PLM include the following:
  • PLM is a strategic business approach, not just a collection of technologies.
  • PLM supports the extended enterprise.
  • PLM spans the full product life-cycle, from concept to end of life.
Once you have educated people about PLM, you will be able to have important discussions about your business on a level playing field. When everyone is on the same page regarding PLM, you will find that making progress is much easier. To claim the benefits of PLM for your business, you must educate your people.

Information Management

Managing the information within your business is one of the core features of PLM. Without managing your information (intellectual assets), you won't be able to have the confidence to make decisions. This leads to delays, mistakes, redundant reviews, unnecessary signatures, and an overall inefficient business process. Until you can manage your information effectively, and guarantee that all information is valid, complete, and available, you will struggle to claim the benefits of PLM for your business.

PLM is Strategic

Understanding the strategic nature of PLM will lead you to seek out more understanding about your strategic business objectives. Once you understand the strategic direction of your business, you can craft a PLM vision that supports your business. This leads to a long list of business requirements. This, along with other requirements will drive the selection and implementation of PLM in your business.

In order to claim the benefits of PLM you must consider three important factors:
  • People - How will people be encouraged and supported through the changes that PLM will bring.
  • Processes - What new processes are needed to support the implementation of PLM.
  • Technology - What is the proper technology to support strategic business objectives and the PLM vision.
You cannot consider just one of these three in isolation if you want to get the most out of PLM. All three will have a major impact on the success of PLM at your company. Our experience shows us that most of the failed PLM implementation we have seen are not a result of bad technology, but more often a result of process or people issues.

Measure PLM Benefits

It is important to convince your executives, and your users that PLM has benefits. That also means that you need a way to measure and illustrate the degree and timing of PLM benefits. We recommend using a spreadsheet model that allows you to calculate cost vs. benefits and then show a valid ROI for PLM. Once you have charts and graphs of how PLM will impact you business, it becomes much easier to convince others about the value of PLM.

We recommend an early benefits appraisal analysis for feasibility to show the potential benefits of PLM. Do this early and use this to sell PLM to the organization. Then, you can gauge additional benefits as your PLM program progresses to determine the real ROI. This repeatable methodology also allows you to do this benefits analysis as often as needed. To claim the benefits of PLM for your business you will need to sell these benefits to many organizations using a repeatable appraisal methodology.


Making PLM successful requires education, managing your information, strategic planning, and measuring benefits. There are many other activities and plans you will need to be successful with PLM, but if you start with these key items, you will be well on your way to claiming the benefits of PLM for your business.