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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Don't Be Afraid of PLM!

Since today is Halloween, I thought it would be a perfect time to review some of the aspects of PLM that make people afraid to take the leap. There really is no reason to be afraid of PLM, but many people listen to the market hype, and some vendor hype, and then some user experiences, and they get scared. There is no reason to fear PLM!

Fear #5: PLM value is impossible to measure

There are many ways to measure the value of PLM. Many companies do not take the time to do an assessment before they launch a PLM initiative. Time spent at the beginning to gauge where you company is today with a view of the improvements PLM will bring allows you to understand the value of PLM to your company. A simple spreadsheet will allow you to identify metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that will support PLM as the implementation progresses. These KPIs can be used to keep executives aware of all the great benefits that come when PLM is rolled out to the enterprise.

Fear #4: PLM technology is unproven

There are many companies that have used PLM technologies to improve their business. There are also new technologies that are poised to make an impact on PLM and how it is deployed: mobility, the cloud, virtualization, direct modeling, social PLM, agile methodologies, and more. There will always be new technology but that's no reason to delay your PLM implementation. Start working today so you are ready to deploy new technologies when the time comes. This will put you ahead of your competitors and give you an advantage.

Fear #3: PLM adoption is low

Implementing PLM is a complex project that requires the cooperation of multiple organizations. Companies that do good upfront planning always see a strong adoption of PLM solutions across the company. Plans for data migration, cultural change management, system integration, PLM benefits assessment, process changes, and testing must be created before rolling PLM out to the company. When management understands that PLM is a strategic company initiative they will not treat it like a simple piece of software. We see very high adoption when the planning of PLM is given a high priority.

Fear #2: PLM takes too long to implement

Like any strategic enterprise technology deployment, PLM will take time to implement. However, we recommend a phased approach that provides company benefits as early as possible. Try starting with PDM and visualization as your first phase, and you will see a great deal of success across the entire enterprise. It doesn't have to take a long time to see huge benefits from PLM. But remember, PLM never ends. There will always be a need to plan the next implementation, and coordinate the next roll-out.

Fear #1: PLM is too expensive

Does PLM cost money? Yes. Did ERP cost money? Yes. Usually many more times than what you will spend on PLM. Put PLM in the proper perspective. PLM is a strategic investment just like ERP. No one expects ERP to be inexpensive and quick, do they? Now, take a deep breath and plan the proper way to spend you budget for PLM, just like you did with ERP; doesn't that feel better?


The benefits of PLM have been realized by many companies in many industries for many years. Do the right upfront planning, educate your executives, and coordinate the implementation with your key users and you will have success with PLM.

What do you think?



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why is Social PLM DOA?

For the past two years I have heard many technology vendors touting the benefits of social tools. No one can miss the astounding uptake of such solutions as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin and others. There have been many articles on the value that social tools can bring to your business. However, the uptake of social tools within Engineering organizations in the guise of social PLM has been very low; possibly non-existent.

Why is this the case? Is there no value in Engineering for social tools, or is it just hard to exploit these tools in the product development environment? There is clearly a need for more social collaboration during product design, so it would stand to reason that these social tools would have some value. As I have introduced many engineers to Social PLM in my PLM Certificate Education classes, I have often wondered about the lack of enthusiasm for these kinds of tools.

I think there are three main reasons for this lack of excitement for the potential value of Social PLM:

1) Age - Most of the people in my classes are not young. No offense, but most of you are pretty old, uh, I mean experienced. Very few are linked up with the tools teenagers user every day. Many of these experienced engineers look at Facebook and Twitter as huge time wasters with no real value. Some of my students are just now learning to text...what? Come on!

2) Email dependence - I am old enough to remember when some people called email a fad. Now we have become dependent on 100s of emails invading our in-box each day. When you tell most Engineers that there is something that might one day replace email, it's like telling them you are taking away their favorite slide rule (I remember those too); the push-back is predictable.

3) Separate software applications - All of the Social PLM tools I have seen are delivered as separate software applications that must be learned. An Engineer is not going to leave the CAD/CAM/PDM/email environment to learn and use another application, unless required.

So, what is the answer? In my opinion, until we have social tools embedded into the native PDM applications that Engineers are using today to do their work, social PLM uptake will be slow. Look at some of what is available today: SocialLink from PTC, 3DSWYM from Dassault, Teamcenter Community from SiemensPLM, and a host of point solutions: Yammer, Jive, Vuuch, etc... Many of these social solutions are based on MS Sharepoint, and they bring the inherent limitations of that tool. All of these software solutions also require the engineer to learn some type of new tool. I just don't see that happening very quickly.

I hope to see social features moved from standalone software solutions into the PDM environment, where they are easy to use, and readily available. Then, I think you will see Engineers and others start to use them, and they will begin to see the value of social PLM tools for product design.

What do you think?



Friday, October 4, 2013

Let's Take a Ride on the Hyperloop!

Have you heard of the Hyperloop? No, it's not a new roller-coaster at Cedar Point (the best amusement park for roller coasters in the US, in case you're wondering). The Hyperloop is a proposed transportation method deisgned by Elon Musk, creator of PayPal, and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. Yes, he is a very creative guy. I was reading an article about the Hyperloop, and how a few people at Autodesk have imagined a few updates to the original design.

This innovative concept of how we might travel in the future is very intriguing. Imagine traveling in a tube at up to 700 MPH from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes. These tubes could be strung all over the place and allow us to speed around from place to place very quickly. The folks at Autodesk are proposing carbon fiber to make the tubes lighter and stronger. In fact, they have some good ideas that might even make this kind of project feasible.

How about your business? Do you look at new technologies and think about how they can be used to make you more successful in the future? Or, do you spend most of your time running around fighting fires, and working over-time to push products out the door. It goes without saying that PLM will be required to support new technologies that transform your business.

What new technology are you studying to make your business better? There are many new ways of working that could have a tremendous impact on your future customers: the cloud, mobility, big data analysis, social PLM, and more. If you ignore these new opportunities, your competitors might get there before you.

Does it make sense to hurtle around in a tube? Would you be willing to try it? Remember, people scoffed at many technologies that we now take for granted:

"Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax." -- William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British scientist, 1899.

What do you think?

- Jim

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Get off Your Butt and Get in the Scrum

Have you heard of scrum? Scrum is an agile development methodology often used to develop software. You can read the Wikipedia definition HERE, since they say it better than I could. I also read an interesting post about this called: Agile PM is not Just for Software Projects Anymore.

It has been shown that the scrum methodology promotes transparency and provides greater accountability so that projects get done faster with greater innovation. It sounds a little unnerving, but those who use it in their software development environments have a flexible process that readily supports change. The image below attempts to show this more clearly.

I don’t have time to explain the whole process, but let me try. Tasks are broken up into things called “sprints” that usually last a few weeks. The sprint has a very specific goal that is to be accomplished. During the sprint, there is a daily standup meeting called the “daily scrum”. The daily scrum usually lasts around 15 minutes. In this meeting everyone says what they are doing, and what they plan to do. During this meeting it is not ok to say that you plan to “sit around, take a few office supplies, take a long lunch, then clock out early.” Accountability and transperancy is a large part of the scrum approach.

Once the sprint is complete there are more meetings and more scrums until everyone is happy. When you add in multiple sprints, the process continues until a new innovative software deliverable is ejected out the other end. The whole process makes developing software a much more transparent and flexible activity. The approach assures that what needs to get done is getting done, that changes are accommodated, and that those in charge always know the status of work in process.

The reason I bring this up is that I have recently heard of several engineering product development companies using scrum principles for engineering. In one case they started it as a test, and as more groups saw how successful it was, other groups started using it. I think there is a lot of potential using this type of methodology for product development.

The standard engineering product development process is often filled with long meetings that don’t really accomplish anything. Engineers do not like to explain what they are doing to people, and often do not want to display their activities until late in the design process. Once they finally release something, it requires a prolonged change process. Wouldn’t it be nice to skip some of those late changes by talking them out early in the design process?

I think some of these agile development methodologies could have a very good impact on product development. I am in favor of improving transparency and collaboration in support of more innovative products. I think this would potentially lead to better products with higher quality that get to  market faster.

What do you think?


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Change Management: The Ghost in the Machine

I recently read a post by Peter Schroer, President of Aras PLM: Change Management: One Size Will Never Fit All. I agree with the challenges he brings up in his post. The practice of change management is very complex, and it varies greatly from one company to another. However, I don't think the biggest challenge is finding software that will accommodate the vagaries of each individual change management requirement. I think the biggest challenge for any company is to take a hard look at their processes, and then find ways to make them more innovative.

In my experience, most companies have inefficient processes, or processes that are not followed, or processes that are traditional and that do nothing to support innovation. The truth is, when it comes to engineering change and other processes, most companies have a real mess. So, before a company runs off and finds a great piece of software that can automate their mess, they should clean up the mess.

Step 1: A company must do an evaluation of their current processes. This means to map out the business as it really happens, not as management thinks it happens. Most companies have large books of rules and processes that people are suppose to follow, but often they are not followed. Find out how you really do business, and carefully determine the optimum way of processing changes and other activities. This will not be easy, or fun, or quick, but it will pay big dividends for your business.

Step 2: Look for software that can accommodate your business. This is where the flexibility of the PLM software is a real benefit. The PLM vendor should not tell you how to manage your engineering change processes. You should be able to tell the vendor exactly what you want. If you are unsure, there are best practices that can help fill in the gaps, like CMII, but it's YOUR business. No one knows better than you what your business needs.

Engineering change management is a complex process. The time you spend making your processes more innovative will have a positive impact on your business. A good PLM system should provide the tools to support complex and innovative processes, and assure compliance in each case. But, it cannot make up for inefficient processes, or for users that are not required to follow the rules.

What do you think?



Thursday, May 30, 2013

PLM Implementations: Start at the Beginning!

Starting a PLM implementation activity can be a daunting task for anyone. I have been reading a couple of articles that mention some of the challenges on this "PLM journey". Read this example of how one company did it. Why is it so hard? Why does it take so long? And, why is it often not as successful as planned? I think there are several reasons why people get less from their PLM implementations than what they hoped. Here is what I think:


The first thing that most companies under estimate is the cost of a good PLM implementation. After spending multiple millions of dollars on ERP, most companies think that they can spend a small percentage of that on PLM. Why? You should be planning to spend enough on PLM to make it work properly. PLM is at least as complex as ERP, and in some cases it is more complex. Make sure you have allocated enough money to do a good job planning your PLM activities, and you will be much happier with the results.

Remember the old programming adage: garbage in, garbage out? Well, the same applies to your product design activities. If you don't manage the information in a very strict way at the front end of your design process, you won't get good information into ERP; ERP cannot fix that. PLM is the head of the product design beast; don't let the tail wag the dog!


It can take a good amount of time to do all the tasks that are needed for a good PLM implementation: process re-engineering, business requirements gathering, solution selection, cultural change management planning, data migration planning, user acceptance testing, training, and others. These plans take time to create and implement, and if you don't plan well, you just might fail. Spend more time on planning and you will likely spend less time fixing mistakes, and living with disgruntled users.


Most people don't do large scale PLM implementations often. Finding people that know what to do is hard. There will be those that think they know what to do, but you may miss many aspects of a successful implementation. It never hurts to get help from those that do this kind of thing for a living. Often the PLM vendor can be helpful, but outside help from a third-party is often very useful. There are two keys to getting people with the right knowledge to manage your PLM implementation properly: education, and getting outside help from experts.


Get education for your key PLM people! Let me say that again: get education for your key PLM people! If the PLM team is not on the same page, it will be hard to direct a cohesive PLM implementation strategy. That includes educating your upper management and some executives. Many implementations fail because management has unrealistic expectations, or they do not see the expanded view of PLM. Not one PLM implementation I know of has ever failed because of too much education.

Keep these key items in mind when planning your next PLM-related implementation, and you will have more success and happy corporate PLM users.

What do you think? I would love to hear your experiences.



Thursday, May 9, 2013

PLM is a Team Sport

The other night, as I sat watching Lebron James and the Miami Heat play basketball, I was reminded of PLM. Not because of the excitement, fouls and bad language, but because basketball is a team game. The selection, implementation, and continuous improvement for PLM should also be a team game. Is this the case in your company?

First, we should recognize that the PLM team leader must occupy an important place in your company. The PLM team leader should be someone that is competent and recognized as capable and tenacious. He or she should be able to get the resources needed to make PLM happen in a significant way within the various organizations of your company.

Second, the members of the PLM team should also be subject matter experts and well-seasoned members of their own organizations. They may not spend full-time on the PLM team, but they must always be available to support PLM activities. They must always be looking at how PLM can be used and enhanced in their own organizations, and bring these ideas to the PLM team for future projects.

Third, the PLM team must continue to function even after significant roll-outs and implementation activities have finished. There is always a need for continuous improvement in the PLM space, and there must always be a leading team to make sure this happens. The roll of continuous improvement cannot be assigned to one person; all members of the team, and everyone in the company, is ultimately responsible for continuous improvement.

Best practices have shown that companies with a permanent PLM team have had far greater success with PLM than companies that do one PLM project, and then disband the team. PLM is a team game after all, and you must keep working to make is successful.

What do you think? How is your PLM team doing? Who are they? Where are they?



Monday, April 15, 2013

RIP: The Death of the PC?

Is the PC dead? How will the next generation of computing look? What impact will this have on PLM? I was thinking about all of these as I read a recent article: So If The PC Is Dying, What Happens With Microsoft Next? I want to change the title to: So If The PC Is Dying, What Happens With PLM Next? What do you think is the answer? I like this quote from the article:

"What PC decline really reflects are changes in the innovation cycle and changes in the workplace. It also illustrates how desktop behavior, just like our preferences on smartphones, has migrated to apps and away from enterprise software suites."

Another great article on this topic, "The PC is Not Dead. Yet." by John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine talks about how technology has made the PC almost too good. What I think he means is that the hardware has gotten so good with storage, display, and other options being good enough for many years to come; there is no good reason to buy a new one. I like this quote from the article:

"The last nail in the dead PC coffin comes from the PC itself. The personal computer, for all practical purposes committed suicide."

Paradigm Shift

No matter where you stand on this issue, there is no way to ignore the paradigm shift that is happening across the computing industry. New, more portable devices with lots of power are in user's hands. Every day we see new ways to use apps, the cloud, big data, and other technologies to make computing easier. The old style of computing is wearing thin: monolithic programs that are hard to learn, infrequent updates, and resource hogs.

COFES 2013

Even Microsoft (MS) is starting to get into the game, at least as far as devices are concerned. At the recent COFES 2013, MS was there presenting Windows 8 and CAD/PLM applications running on 12+ devices. With Windows 8 on many devices you can now start using full-powered PLM solutions on laptops, tablets, phablets, and probably many other devices in the near future.

Collaboration Unchained

What does this mean for PLM? I don't have all the answers yet, but I think it will have a big impact on collaboration, for one thing. In the past, unless you had a powerful workstation at your disposal, you could not really participate in the PLM activities at most companies. Now there will be more opportunities for many people to interact and share information as the design process progresses. Like crowd-sourcing, this will provide the ability to entertain more new ideas, from more people, and include more options in your design process.

Vendors Beware

Vendors had better get ready for the brave new world of PLM. In the future there will be far less toleration for monolithic programs that require tons of resources to support design activities. Users will expect more app-like behavior, and more simplified interactions with information on many devices. Those vendors that persist in offering the same old style of solutions for PLM may see their customers going somewhere else to find a much better PLM experience.


So, what direction is your company taking with PLM? Are you looking for a better way to do things? The technology is coming...are you ready?

What do you think?



Friday, April 12, 2013

Email: "I'm Not Dead Yet!" PLM: "But, you're not well!"

I recently read an article about the demise of email. The article was titled: "The death of email: time for leaders to get social". In this article, they referenced a report titled: Social media and employee voice: the current landscape from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). The report made the following point:

"Employers are urged to recognize that social media drives collaboration and transparency, and those who do not embrace it will find themselves at a disadvantage."

I am seeing this more and more in various places on the internet. It is also true for PLM. There is no better platform for sharing and collaborating than the ones that are used to support social media. A Facebook style of interface provides an easy way for engineers and others to collaborate and share information during the product life-cycle.

Another interesting snipet from the report:

"Findings revealed that senior leaders are often unable to grasp how social media works and the power of the data it can generate."

I have found this to be true myself. When I educate people about how PLM can improve their business, I often mention social media. Most company executives scoff at social media as just a toy, or a large time-waster. When I ask them if they use any of the social tools, they say things like: "Well, I tried Twitter once, but I just don't get it." or "My kids use Facebook, but I don't really have time for that." The implication is that it is a toy for small children, and it does not have value.

I also liked this quote from Jay Larson at Jive software:

"Today, if a CEO sends out an email message, how do you know who read it? How do you know who hit delete? How do you get feedback? You don't; you send it out to the ether and hope for the best."

Today, there are many PLM-based tools to support collaboration and sharing information throughout the enterprise. All of these tools are better than email for bringing people together. It has also been shown that when more people are involved with PLM, there is greater innovation. Dassault Systemes has their SWYM platform; PTC has Windchill SocialLink; Siemens PLM has Teamcenter Community, and the list goes on and on.

Check out some of these, and see how they might be used in your business today. Believe me, your competitors are working on this now, and you may be left in the dust. Email won't be dead anytime soon, but there are much better tools to support collaboration within the PLM environment.

What do you think?



Thursday, March 28, 2013

Time for Some PLM Spring Cleaning

I finally think spring is here! I could be hallucinating, but I don't think so. I am starting to see flowers, and blossoms, and people on the driving range, so spring must be here. Just thinking about spring makes me feel happy and all warm inside! If you're like me, it's time for some spring cleaning as well. If you need some tips to help with your spring cleaning, you can look here. If you need some tips to help with your PLM spring cleaning, keep reading:


First, take a look at how your Engineers communicate among themselves and with others: Do they use email only? Do they yell over the cubicle walls? Can they chat easily with others, especially with remote users? Is there a way for people to share information easily? Maybe it's time to look at better ways of communicating in your company. There are many tools today that allow information to be shared just as you would with social media. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Youtube are all ways that people share information when not at work. There should be some similar kinds of internal tools that allow people to communicate better. Putting in place a more robust framework for communication will have all kinds of positive benefits.

Finding Information

Next, think about how people search for information in your company: Can people go to one place and find everything they need to do their job? Is your company filled with multiple disconnected databases that require multiple searches from various systems to actually find information? Are there still people inputting manual data into your systems? Do you still rely on MS Excel spreadsheets for important product information? Do people still have important information stored on their personal laptops or other devices?

All of these challenges can be reduced with a strong integration plan. Manual data entry should be the first activity to vanish. Manually entering information will lead to mistakes and impact product development. There should also be some very serious rules about keeping important information on personal disk drives; this should never be allowed. Getting rid of Excel spreadsheets should also be a top goal of any business. Working on these areas will provide a much more efficient environment for information sharing and tracking.

Managing Change

Finally, you should look at how people manage change in your organization: Do your engineers kick off a custom ad-hoc workflow whenever there is a change? Do they keep all changes until the very end, and then release them in a lethal flow of paperwork? Do you have too many change processes? Can you track your change processes easily (and, by that I don't mean on a spreadsheet)? Can you see at any time how a change will effect your product requirements? All of these challenges may be sucking the efficiency out of your business.

Implementing good configuration management processes in your company can have a powerful affect on everything you do. Don't try to do everything at once, but take one step at a time and you will soon see some powerful benefits. Keeping an eye on change processes will allow more changes to be processed more quickly, and will ultimately lead to better, more innovative products, with higher quality, that get to market faster with greater customer satisfaction; and who doesn't want that?

So, keep working on that spring cleaning, and in no time at all you will have your house in order.

What do you think?



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Autodesk 2014: How Will the Cloud Affect PLM?

Today, Autodesk presented a look at their 2014 portfolio along with a preview of their offerings for building, plant, product, and factory design. If you missed any of the information, you can check out the CIMdata write-up: Autodesk 2014 Design and Creation Suites Give Flexibility to Innovate More. Or you can look at more information on the Autodesk website.

Autodesk has also introduced a re-branding for all of their suites. You can see the new logo above. Don't be confused, it's not the logo for Google Drive; that wouldn't be right. Along with this new logo comes new capabilities that seek to leverage the advantages of the cloud, and tie these suites together in a way that will benefit customers. How this works in the future and in practice is still an open question. Autodesk said there are already millions of people taking advantage of their 2014 solutions.

This started me thinking about PLM in the cloud and how Autodesk might leverage this technology to make PLM more robust and ubiquitous throughout major corporations. I think Autodesk is taking the lead in this area as they roll out solutions that feature a cloud model, without making the cloud a big deal. Subscriptions to these kinds of tools are not new; Aras PLM and Arena Solutions have been PLM pioneers in this area. But, with Autodesk there is a considerable user base and a large breadth of solutions that makes this an interesting experiment to watch.

I want to see how large corporations will adopt PLM cloud technology to support their global organizations. Larger companies will likely already have some type of private cloud that they use for many activities. However, having the ability to use PLM applications that are designed to take advantage of the cloud could be a real payoff for PLM. These new tools would be smart enough to know when to use the cloud and when to use local resources. The user should never have to tell the application that they want to use "the cloud"; the applications should be smart enough to know about the available resources, and use them efficiently.

I am looking forward to seeing smarter PLM solutions that will take advantage of the could and any other available resources automatically. But, I think we shouldn't be continually talking about the cloud. That's like talking about what types of disk drives are used by IT, and where they are located. The bottom line is: we don't care! IT cares, but the PLM user doesn't care. Just give us all the resources we need and get us what we want when we want it. To PLM solutions providers: give us intelligent tools that anticipate what we will do, and make sure we have as much resource as we need to get our jobs done. I don't want to worry about the cloud, or federations, or multi-tenants, or anybody else living in my cloud.

I think the less we talk about the cloud the better. The cloud is often nothing more than a Red Herring. We get hung up on what it's all about, when all we really want is efficient, easy to use PLM. I hope the cloud is part of that equation, but let's move on.

What do you think?


Friday, March 15, 2013

PLM vs. ERP: Can't We All Just Get Along?

Recently I've read several posts about PLM vs ERP. First, one from Oleg Shilovitsky about the differences, and one from Arena Solutions about how they might work together. We often hear this as a big challenge in our PLM certificate classes from many students. This is an important topic, and one that can cause a lot of contention in any business. I want to address some basic issues and see what you think.

PLM - ERP - What's the difference?

The most basic way that I can think to categorize the difference between PLM and ERP is this: PLM manages the virtual product and ERP manages the physical product. The virtual product must ALWAYS match the physical product, and thus the two must be seamlessly connected. This requires integrated systems that include sophisticated configuration management tools to accommodate changes and updates.

Choosing the right tools

Given the complex nature of keeping PLM and ERP synchronized at all times, we must decide which tools are best suited to do this. ERP tools tend to be very transaction oriented. Their goal is to move a product from one step to another until it is complete. ERP systems must keep track of parts inventories, resources needed to manufacture the product, available tools and processes, along with costs and scheduling of all activities. ERP tools are great at making sure all the steps for manufacturing happen on time and under budget.

PLM on the other hand is usually tied to 3D CAD models and accommodates changes, options, modifications, and frequent updates to models parts and products. PLM is also a very visual environment, with  many people looking at models, exchanging ideas, and viewing the product as it is designed. PLM is also very collaborative: a group of people must often review any updates or changes as they happen. Engineering review often happens across the globe and around the clock as many engineers and designers are involved. Understanding changes requires sophisticated visualization tools that allow models, parts, documents, and other information to be shared in real time.

PLM must also manage changes and links to CAD files, assemblies, docs, test data, software, EDA files, and more. PLM  must always provide an updated view of the As-Planned, As-Designed, As-Manufactured, As-Maintained, and other views of the product information. Product information must also be connected to the product requirements documents so there is always a link to the original specifications.

When we look at the tools needed to manage all the permutations of products throughout the product lifecycle, it is clear that PLM is much more suited to this task. PLM can always track the changes to the products out in the field, and then easily use that information to start creating the next version of the product; ERP has no such tools.

Who owns the data?

There is always a big argument about where the data should be mastered, and who should own it. The truth is, ultimately, the company owns the data; ownership changes as the product moves from one state to the next. While the product is in Design, the data is owned by the PLM system; while the data is being manufactured, the data is owned by ERP. Once the product is out the door and in the field, it is owned by the Service group, or Warranty, or whatever you want to call it. It does not really matter who owns the data as long as the most up to date version is always tracked very carefully, in PLM.

Start at the beginning

To me, it makes sense for most businesses to carefully master their data in PLM at the beginning of the product lifecycle. PLM is where the product starts, and any mistakes made here will eventually find their way into ERP. Over the years many companies have gotten use to fixing problems with unclear, incomplete, or incorrect information coming from ineffective PLM systems during the manufacturing process. Companies have also invested almost nothing in PLM when compared with the millions upon millions of dollars invested in ERP. Is it any wonder that most PLM implementations leave a lot to be desired?

PLM supports product innovation

ERP does not readily support product innovation. ERP supports innovation in manufacturing processes and technologies, but not product innovation. Innovative products are imagined and created during the PLM design activities, and not in ERP. By the time you get to ERP it is too late to add much product innovation. Commitments to product innovation are locked in during the PLM phases of product development. This supports the need to invest in more and better PLM technology to support the goal of creating more innovative products.


There are certainly exceptions to what I have said here. Many process industries, like CPG, food and beverage, chemicals, and others will be much more ERP-centric. Also, those companies without the goal of creating new and creative products, but only cheaper "knock-offs" will want to invest more in ERP. Products without much 3D CAD and those that have little engineering IP may not need a ton of PLM.

In my experience, most companies have under-invested in PLM. With PLM you can create innovative, higher quality products that get to market faster. If you are a manufacturing company that wants to create innovative products that delight your customers, and if your products require strong engineering design with 3D CAD models, you will want to invest more in PLM than you do in ERP.

What do you think? Have you invested enough in PLM?



Monday, March 11, 2013

Is PLM a Dirty Word?

The other day I met a lady who is in charge of a new PLM selection activity at her company. She told me they are not calling it PLM this time; they are calling it Product Innovation Initiative, or something like that. She said they had tried PLM at least 4 times before and it never worked. Now, if they use the name PLM no one will take it seriously; PLM is a dirty word.

Is PLM a dirty word in your company? Have you tried to implement some kind of PLM technology, only to fail time after time? With a sound approach to PLM you can avoid the problems that prevent your company from realizing the many benefits of PLM. The following ideas will assure PLM success:

PLM education for everyone 

Start with the executives. Educate them so they know the basic premise of PLM, and the value. Then, get the rest of the people on the bus with education that helps them understand how PLM will help them with their jobs. No one can ever do too much education!

Do a cost benefits analysis

This allows you to understand where your business is today so that you can compare the results after PLM. This also provides an excellent tool to convince management to invest in PLM. Without these numbers, no one will have any ideas of what benefits can be expected from PLM, and how they compare to your initial status. This will also result in metrics that can be used to measure future PLM activities.

Use a proven, repeatable methodology for PLM selection

When it comes to a PLM selection methodology, most people just wing-it; or they use a methodology provided by their favorite vendor; or, they use a methodology from a VAR with a bunch of people looking for implementation work. None of these is the optimal way to evaluate PLM. You need a methodology from a trusted neutral partner that can help you through all the challenges of PLM selection. If you cannot find such a partner, take a look here!

Adequate implementation planning 

Often, once the PLM solution is seceted, the roll-out happens with little planning. Many aspects of PLM are affected by the implementation steps. The best solution selection activity can be derailed by a poorly planned implementation. Without proper planning you might forget some important items: data migration, user acceptance testing, pilot testing, timely education, cultural change management and other items. These items can cause PLM to fail, and give users a negative perception of PLM.

By following these steps you will have a greater chance of success with PLM. Don't just take my word for it. There are many examples of companies today that are enjoying the benefits of a successful PLM implementation; why not join that club.

How has PLM been accepted in your company? Let me know, and perhaps share your success!


- Jim

Thursday, February 28, 2013

PLM Education Done Right in 3 Easy Steps

I have recently read several articles about the complex nature of PLM: PLM Should be Like Google, and PLM is Too Complicated. Some would like to make it simpler, and some would like to remove much of what we see today in modern PLM software tools. Managing a product's life-cycle is not simple. By definition, the tools that do this job well will not be like playing Solitaire. I think there can be some things done to simplify PLM for many users, but, in my opinion the answer lies in better education.

When software doesn't appear to work correctly, users blame the software, management blames the users, customers blame the company, and everyone thinks it is someone else's problem. When PLM software is complex and difficult to use, the blame is usually placed on the software, or the vendor, or someone else. Usually, no one says "Gee, I need more education so that I can use this software properly."

Here are 3 simple steps that you can follow to make sure you have trained your users to use your PLM solutions properly:

1) Education and Training Plan - Too often education and training gets relegated to a low priority. A plan for education must be created before any software is ever purchased. Allow plenty of time for education and provide chances for users to give feedback before the software is implemented so that you can accommodate various ways of working at your company.

2) Super User Training - Make sure you identify several smart, intelligent, experienced, and good looking people to fill the role of a super user; ok, they don't have to be good looking, but it doesn't hurt. These users should be experts in their organization, looked up to, and knowledgeable in your company processes. These experts may be part of the PLM team as you evaluate solutions and determine your direction with PLM. They can also lend helpful advice during PLM implementation planning. After roll-out they will be an indispensable tool in helping all users get up to speed quickly.

3) On-going user groups - Many companies do initial user education, roll out the PLM software, and then hope for the best. New PLM software capabilities are often added in point releases, but no one ever gets re-trained. With this approach, it's no wonder the users can't use the software. There must be follow-up and constant interactions with the users to understand their issues, introduce new features, and communicate future PLM activities. When users feel that they are on their own without adequate training, they will often point their fingers at the software. Monthly user meetings with leadership from your super users will help users feel empowered. Throw in some free pizza, and that's a winning formula in my book.

Follow these three simple rules, and I think you will see happier users who feel like PLM experts. It will make a big difference in your PLM activities.

Do you think your users are properly educated? Let me know what you do to keep them sharp!

- Jim

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cultural Change Management or How I Saved PLM!

It was dark; too dark. The rain pelted my hat and left crusty pools of congealed slush around my feet. The wind blew hard against my back and produced a rhythmic swaying like that of a tall tree that is being cut down, just before it falls: gracefully tracing an invisible arc in the sky. The only light was a sharp point at the other end of the room, barely visible in the harsh conditions. After considerable effort, I reached out my hand to push the puny button and the neon lights above my head sprang to life.

I stood under the harsh lights of the server room. With the door closed, I was able to breathe freely  for the first time in several hours. It had taken me some time to traverse the many hallways and cubicles, undetected, to finally come to this place. Several rows of servers stood motionless, gleaming in the glow of halogen warmth, their lights blinking and flashing in a symphony of digital magic. Somewhere in the distance, a low beeping sound brought me out of my stupor; I had to act fast.

Quickly, I ran between the rows of digital sentinels looking for the one that held the key to my visit. They all looked the same, standing there with those unfeeling eyes; judging me; taunting me; profiling me. But, I would have the last laugh, not them. I pulled a crumpled piece of paper from my pocket to see the barely legible scrawls that would identified my target.

At last, I saw the one I was looking for. I stood before my prey and wondered what the thousands of users would think when many of their favorite applications would no longer be available. I imagined they would stare at the screen, bite their lips, and profane silently. Maybe now they would be forced to log into the new PLM system we had just rolled out. Maybe now they would make an effort to learn how easy it was to search for information, collaborate with their colleagues, and find the latest version of any file.

With one decisive stroke I pushed the glowing green button, and with a low whine, the fans stopped running, and legacy applications were no more. The digital crutches that so many had used for so long were gone. No longer would they be able to submit an Excel spreadsheet, and call it "current"; no more guessing about where the latest version resided. It was deceptively easy. It took only a small amount of effort, and PLM was saved. I had saved PLM!

It was than that I heard a low rumble. The moaning and whining of thousands of users, and the groaning of managers all over the company; it would be a long night...

But, I had saved PLM. Instead of being able to ignore the new PLM tools, the users would be forced to use these new tools and learn better ways to do their jobs. There would be no way to get around our corporate workflows to support engineering change activities. Now our many pages of configuration management rules would need to be followed, or no work would be accepted. I knew this was not the recommended way to manage cultural change during a PLM implementation, but I had no choice.

If I had done this properly, I would have created a Cultural Change Management Plan, long before we ever rolled out one piece of new software. The plan would have included advanced education for our super users in every organization. They would have been a key part of our roll-out plan, and they would have helped us educate their users. We would have had some excellent user group meetings with free pizza, to let everyone know what was happening. We would have communicated frequently to make sure everyone felt good about the new system before we ever rolled it out. We didn't do any of that, and that's what brings me to this server room to do this dirty deed.

Please, learn from my mistakes. Make cultural change management an important part of any PLM planning activity. If you don't know what to do, there are people who can help. Do it right the first time, and you won't be the bad me.

What do you think?


Monday, February 11, 2013

Are you Prepared for the Next Generation of PLM?

I just read a very interesting article, Are you Prepared for the Next Generation of Manufacturing? Click on the link and read this very interesting article. I started to think about new technology in the context of PLM. Many of these new technologies have not been embraced by PLM vendors, nor is their impact well understood by businesses. Most PLM vendors have done things the same way for decades, and businesses are loathe to change anything ever, if they can avoid it. We are already starting to see new and exciting ways to encourage efficiency and innovation for PLM. I am afraid those who do not adapt may soon find themselves on a sinking ship.

My favorite quote from the article was:

"If a manufacturer (or any business) makes an informed decision to embrace technology with a progressive, flexible architecture, that manufacturer is prepared to attain success."

So, here is my list of technologies that are starting to have an impact on PLM now, and will continue in the future: Embrace, or get erased!

1) The Internet of Things - sensors, software and all types of intelligence is being added to every device under the sun. Do you have a good process to link your engineering activities with software and electronic activities? The technology exists today, but many have not implemented these new tools. Often different business organizations prevent this from happening efficiently. Check your processes and make whatever changes are necessary to facilitate information sharing between software development, electronic design, and engineering.

2) BYOD - I grew up in the 70's and attended a lot of events with the postscript: BYOB (bring your own beer). Today we are focusing on BYOD (bring your own device). As more and more employees request to use their own devices with company data, the need to adapt will increase. Do you think employees would be more creative if they could log into the system and noodle with their data on a tablet, phone, or other device whenever inspiration strikes, and wherever they are located at that moment? There are issues, but the opportunities are increasing in this area.

3) Social Media - I have blogged about Social PLM in the past (read it here and here and here and here). Becoming a more social business is hard for most engineering companies. The standard engineering environment is one that is not use to sharing any information unless violently threatened. If you tell an engineer that his email will be used less internally in favor of a Facebook-like sharing platform, he or she might hit you with a slide-rule, or at least slit your tires. But, that is the direction forward-thinking companies are taking. It makes a lot of sense and it enhances support for innovation and collaboration; are you ready for this?

4) Big Data - Today, information is growing at an unprecedented rate. We have moved from talking about Petabytes to Zetabytes, and now to Exabytes: 2.8 Zetabyes of data were created in 2012 alone. For more astounding facts about the growing data tsunami (read my blog here), or look at the following article: Staggering Revelations About Big Data. The real point for PLM is not how much data is out there, but how prepared are you to track, analyze, and act on this data. As you read this, many Gigabytes of information is being generated that relates to your company, your products, and you. What will you do with it?

There is probably more, but that will do for now. How are you preparing to make these new technologies complement your PLM environment? Are you choosing to put your head in the sand, and hope they go away. SPOILER ALERT: they aren't going away!

- Jim

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How Can You Measure the Value of PLM?

What is the value of your PLM installation? How much value is it providing to the rest of the business? How do your PLM costs stack up against your PLM savings? How will future PLM activities impact your bottom line? Do you know the answers to these questions? The answer for most people is a strident "NO, now go away and stop bothering me"!

Knowing the value of PLM to your business can help in many areas: selling the value to upper management, selling the value to various business organizations, planning your next implementation activity, and maintaining a view on how well you are proceeding relative to your planned PLM value. For all of these reasons, and more, it is important for you to measure PLM value at multiple stages during PLM planning, implementation, and deployment.

The first step is to create a baseline PLM measurement of how you do business today. Use a repeatable methodology that you can rely on to give you information at many stages of your PLM activity (if you don't have one, contact CIMdata; we have one!). How are you doing things today? How much time does it take to search for information, for example? How many steps are involved in implementing changes to a design? There are a whole host of questions you need to answer to create a baseline. This is true whether you are new to PLM, or you have been doing it for several years.

Once the baseline is in place, you can look for areas where you would like PLM to positively impact your business. Start with the "low-hanging fruit" to get the quickest results. Every business is unique, and that is why you must measure YOUR business to get an idea of where to start, or where to continue your PLM implementation efforts. Don't let a PLM vendor tell you what you need and where to start; they do not know YOUR business!

Once you have a methodology in place and a good plan of attack, you can choose metrics that will guide your PLM efforts. Use these metrics to show the value that PLM is bringing to the business. Communicate this information to upper management frequently, and you will soon get a huge raise; and who doesn't want that?

What experiences have you had trying to measure the value of PLM?

- Jim

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Basics of Configuration Management - Part III

Welcome to the third, and final post on the basics of configuration management (CM). If you missed part I, or part II, go ahead and read them now. In this post I want to talk about the bad things that can happen when you ignore basic CM practices. The results may not be as dire as this story, but hopefully you can see that CM practices should be followed by all companies to avoid serious problems.

On the morning of April 20, 2010, several explosions rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, and fires broke out. The platform was evacuated; coastguard and other ships were dispatched to fight the subsequent fire, and rescue the survivors. 11 men were killed in the initial devastation, and oil began to rush from the unsecured well head deep under the Gulf of Mexico.

Of course, every oil rig is equipped with many safety devices. When BP engineers attempted to activate a huge piece of underwater safety equipment, it failed. The failure was a result of modified drawings of a variable bore ram, designed to seal the pipe, that did not match the current equipment drawings used by BP. The fail-safe in use did not match any of the drawings that had been given to BP from the equipment owner.

Transocean, the owner of the variable bore ram and of the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig said any alterations would have come at BP's instigation. BP said they never asked for any alteration. These alterations meant that BP spent several days unsuccessfully trying to cap the well. Only after several unsuccessful attempts did they figure out that the drawings they had did not match the actual equipment at the bottom of the gulf. The existing equipment would not cap the well properly, and more work had to be done to finally get the well capped.

It wasn't until July 15, 2010 that the well was able to be capped; almost 3 months later. By this time, nearly 53,000 barrels per day of oil had spewed into the gulf with a total discharge of 4.9 million barrels. The impact on many aspects of the Gulf of Mexico are still being felt to this day, and the full impact may not be fully understood for many years.

Had BP and Transocean followed basic CM principles they would have been able to cap the well within a short time using the proper equipment. No changes could have been made that no one knew about, and all parties would have been able to sign off on any changes. 

Think about this disaster, and make sure you don't get stuck with the same mess. Without CM practices that are followed by everyone, you risk your customers, your products, and your business.

What do you think?

- Jim

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Basics of Configuration Management - Part II

In part 1 we talked about some of the basic steps you should take to make sure Configuration Management (CM) is working well in your company. Following strict rules around CM provides the foundation for product innovation. In this post I want to cover a few of the rules you should follow to make sure CM is helping support your business properly.

Change Processes

The first set of rules you should evaluate covers how changes are initiated, tracked, and completed. There should be as few options here as possible. Do not provide the ability for anyone to use any type of ad hoc process they choose. Two or three options is all you really need: Simple and Low Risk (75%-80%), Complex and Medium Risk (15%-20%), Complex and High Risk (0%-5%); that's about it. Audit change processes, and make sure no one is going around them for a "unique" change. There should be accountability and penalties for those who do not follow the prescribed change processes. Your system should be set up so that NO WORK CAN BE DONE unless they have come through an approved change process.

Working on change practices can have a very significant impact on your projects. Those who have excellent change management practices are much more likely to achieve or exceed project objectives. This usually leads to happier customers, and more revenue for you.

(Procsi, 2009 Best Practices in Change Management Benchmark Report)


The most basic approach to CM is to make sure the final product matches the original requirements. There must be a way to capture these requirements, and checks to measure conformance at each stage of product development. Many companies have some requirements that initiate a product, but as the process progresses there is no linkage back to these requirements. At the end of product development a working product may be produced, but if it matches the original requirements is anyone's guess. Implement a strong PDM system that can track requirements and provide a global view of as-planned vs. as-released states. Hold people accountable for decisions they make that are not in line with these original requirements.


Create baselines to "freeze" the product at certain points in the development process. Baselines are very important since they allow us to go back to a valid design at any time. We can analyze these baselines, share them with partners and suppliers, evaluate with marketing and sales, and use these for product reuse to start a new valid project. Most companies do not have a good way to create a valid baseline. Have you ever sent something to a supplier, and then wondered what version you actually sent them? Baselines eliminate all these problems, and allow a smooth error-free design process.

Making CM an important part of your business will provide many benefits. It doesn't happen overnight, so keep working on it. Once you make this part of how everyone works, it will become second nature. I will provide a few more insights in part III.

What do you think?


Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Basics of Configuration Management - Part I

Configuration Management (CM) is like a seat belt: it might be uncomfortable, unfashionable, and painful, but without it, you just might be dead. When I say CM what am I talking about? Well, here's the short definition that I like to use:

Configuration Management is a set of inter-related processes meant to enable people to work together better. 

The Basics

There are many aspects to this discipline and very few companies will likely apply all of them. However, I want to mention 4 areas where you can start to use CM to support innovation and collaboration today.

1) Initiate basic rules in your company that support CM - Many companies think too many rules will stifle creativity; nothing could be further from the truth. As I mentioned in my previous article, The Tortoise and the Hare: a PLM Story, there is no way to support collaboration and innovation if you do not have very strict, formal rules that are followed by everyone; that leads me to point #2:

2) Make sure people actually follow your rules - It doesn't make much sense to spend time formalizing rules and procedures, only to allow people to do whatever the heck they want. Make sure you audit your processes and make sure people are following CM rules, whatever they are. If people know your rules are only weak suggestions, they will not follow them.

3) Automate as much of the CM process as possible. If you expect people to enter information or update details manually, it won't happen. With good tools in place you can automate much of your work without depending on the potentially limited brains of your workers. But, remember, process leads, tools follow; when tools lead, fools follow. Create your business processes first, then use tools for support.

4) And, finally, don't try to do everything at once. Remember, incremental improvement is better than delayed perfection. Start in one area, like Engineering Change Management, and walk the walk. Once you have processes and tools to support you in one area, you can grow into other areas. Your users will get use to following CM processes, and additional changes will seem less gruesome.

Good luck with all your efforts at Configuration Management; more on this later.

What do you think?

- Jim

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why Has Social PLM Failed?

"I hate Facebook", he said, with fire in his eyes. "Twitter is a total waste of time, if you ask me. I can see no reason for it to exist!" I was instantly sorry I had asked his opinion. I was also surprised that someone in their mid 40's would have such strong negative opinions about social media. It was especially surprising, since this was a person that had embraced smart phones, tablets, PCs, email, and other technology for many years.

The man in question was an engineer who was looked to as a forward-thinking leader in his company. He was a key player in an engineering organization and in charge of introducing PLM to his company. He was also in charge of the entire PLM implementation project. The executives in this company would listen to him on PLM related technology issues. Any chance of  getting social PLM tools into this company was quickly erased from my mind. This conversation got me to thinking about social PLM and why it seemed to limp along in 2012.

Why has social PLM failed to make a big impact in most companies this year? I, along with others, thought this would be the year when social PLM would make a big push into most businesses. I also read a recent article by Oleg Shilovitsky about his take on this topic. Read the full article here.

I have come to the conclusion that Social PLM has failed because most people in the engineering and manufacturing parts of businesses (mostly the people that champion PLM) do not use social media. They have not seen benefits in their own personal lives, and that is why they struggle to see how it can help in their businesses. It reminds me of the early days of the PC: people started to buy personal computers for their own use, and then wondered why they couldn't have the same exceptional connectivity and personalization in their jobs?

I think social PLM will have to follow the same path. However, for that to happen, we need company PLM champions using social media in their personal lives. This has not happened yet. In fact, most of the PLM classes I teach tell me that very few engineers use or care much about social media tools. When I introduce the topic I get a lot of wide-eyed stares and snoring. Those who attend my classes think social media tools are fun toys for their teenagers, but have no use in a "real" business.

I am sure that this will change over time. Sadly, I am old enough to remember when people called Computer Aided Design (CAD) a toy, and when people called 3D modeling impractical, and when people called email a fad; of course, none of these turned out to be true. I just hope I can live long enough to see social PLM have its' due.

What does your company think about social media? What do the leaders of your business organizations think about social tools? Do they have Facebook accounts? Do they have twitter accounts? Do they see any benefits from social media? If not, it will be hard for any of them to see the benefits of Social PLM.

What do you think?


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Back to the Future: The 5 Best PLM Posts of 2012

Before we rush off down the road that is 2013, let's take a moment, and look back at some of my best and most commented posts from 2012. Sit back, put your feet up, and enjoy. Perhaps as we look at these posts, we can learn something about the future of PLM:

1) Most Commented Post: PLM Education, Gangnam Style

I don't like to think that I got any bump in comments based on the popularity of the YouTube video, but it didn't hurt. PLM education is important. I hope you have some PLM education planned during 2013. If you don't know where to start, CIMdata has a PLM certificate class that really rocks! I ought to know, since I teach it.

2) Most Liked Post: What the Mars Rover Landing Can Teach us About PLM

The landing of the Mars Rover in September 2012 had a lot to teach us about PLM. The landing was complex and tedious, but after many trial runs, simulations, and testing, it worked perfectly. We can learn a lot about how we approach PLM from this exciting event.

3) Most Insightful Post: Top 10 Ways to Tell if Your Business Needs PLM

There are some key signs that point to the need for PLM in your business. I got many comments from people who thought they already had PLM, but realized there might be more to it. This kind of company effort can have many benefits.

4) Most Sagacious Post: How Will Social Media Technology Impact PLM?

When I posted this back in May, it was clear that PLM would be impacted by social media tools. This trend has not diminished, and I think we will see some very exciting advances in 2013. New devices and software will slowly make PLM a much more social activity.

5) Most Viewed Post: 2013 - The Year of PLM!

This is a great blog post to end with, since my hope for everyone is that 2013 can be a great year. I hope you get everyone at your company educated about PLM, and watch your efficiency, innovation and ROI increase.

So, what do you have planned for 2013? What do you think we will see this year? I hope it's a great one!