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?