I recently visited a company after I received an email from their director with the title “PLM project or not?”. This was an interesting email because this person told me that he had read my blog articles for more than two years and at one point he was wondering how he could make his company become more efficient in managing the product lifecycle information. The context was interesting because they are a company who was distributing their mother company’s product until they became capable of developing niche products which is now a large part of their activity and becomes even more important. So in my long answer (it was almost like a blog article) I explained the actual ways of solving PLM problems and how a solution like Aras could either fit or not with their case. But I didn’t have enough data so I came on site to have a better understanding of their processes.
“We already have all the interfaces we need”
Quickly after we had discussed our activities and after visiting the whole enterprise we’ve tried to understand the actual processes and the actual pain or lack of efficiency they could think about. And quickly we realized that the users had some great interfaces already, the correct software for each person. They were not making a too important use of Excel. Most of the information is managed in the ERP or in Lotus databases, Project management software and they were having files managed directly in folders but their organisation could still make it working without too much risk so far. The main pains they could talk about were the many times they had to rewrite data because one software couldn’t transfer it to another. So I did not open my computer to show Aras Innovator. They already downloaded it and installed it a while ago. And here it was clear that I couldn’t tell them to replace all these interfaces that are working so well. So what’s next? What is the role of a PLM-technology consultant in such conditions?
“data integration, data management, enterprise application integration“
This is the business description in wikipedia for the company Talend. And this is exactly what we needed in this situation. I needed a solution to make their software talk to each other. So I think the first activity or the first type of software they could go to would be ETL. And then in a larger centralized view they could extend with other solutions like MDM, and EBS with some data-quality in it. But what is interesting and relating it to my previous article about different marketing strategies and namming in plm is the fact that we don’t see these terms too much in PLM marketing. But when you talk with people criticizing other solutions it usually comes down to these topics. Migration, Integration, sharing standards, etc. These are common terms that should be more frequently addressed when talking about PLM. I think (and this will be written in a coming blog article) PLM consulting will be split in more roles and the ones who want to have the wider impact/view on enterprise PLM should make sure to follow whats going on in the pure data management business. And I’m not talking “Big Data” I ‘m talking about data systems, data quality, data integration for any-size business. I’m already on it !
Seen from the Aras community, I’m must say I’m guilty! I’ve been following a little bit the twitter’s feed of the 3dexperience presentation from Dassault yesterday. Not sure what was the initial reason of this conference so I came back on the website talking about the event and doing a summary of the day. And based and this page and the tweets, I’m like “Wow” !! is anyone talking about PLM here? Or are we just spreading the French arrogance to the world. So, the aim of this article is not to focus on ths conference but to look at the different messages that I can hear from different PLM editors. But before that let’s take a look at some tweets! This is just either funny if you’re not in the PLM business, or disappointing if you are suffering from outdated softwares in PLM.
Joe Pine – Customize a product it is a service, customize a service and it is an experience #3DXForum Great insight
— Jim Brown (@jim_techclarity) november 6, 2012
Pine’s 3D isn’t our typical 3D – he means time, space plus xyz. Thinking beyond our typical world is good! #3DXForum
— Monica Schnitger (@monica_schnitge) november 6, 2012
— Jill Hart (@JillBrainLogic) november 6, 2012
Seriously, this is embarrassing. I don’t think I’ve twitted stuff like that during an ACE event. This has just nothing to do with everyday life in companies. Enough with this, they won, I talked about them!
3D or Enterprise
Visiting PLM companies websites and following tweets and stuff, there are two major trends in term of messaging. Some are more using one than the others and some are doing a mix of both. The two items are 3D and Enterprise. You’ll see a lot about enterprise PLM and it makes sense because as I constantly repeat PLM is about everyone creating and consuming information related to the product in the company and also outside the company with partners. What is interesting is that some companies are still pushing forward on 3D to talk about PLM. It’s true, having a CAD model on the first page of your website is sexy! But as I mentionned in my last article this can’t be a wrapper of PLM!
A portfolio is not a suite
I replied to one tweet yesterday during the Dassault event. Here is the quick exchange :
— Jonathan P Scott (@jonathanpscott) november 6, 2012
— yoann maingon (@yoannmaingon) november 6, 2012
— Jonathan P Scott (@jonathanpscott) november 6, 2012
So as I was curious to see what was one the latest acquisition from our french friends, I visited the website. And surprise this product already covers the whole mining lifecycle http://www.gemcomsoftware.com/products . How come this be added to a suite. It’s growing the portfolio not the suite. It’s all about integration. There is no way this will be integrated with other products. And to extend this comment this is the criticism not only competitors but also system integrators make to these portfolio and I’m not targetting a specific editor. But sometimes you’ve got solutions which really looks like they would fit together but the technology is different and the editors are not investing enough to integrate tools. Then it stays as a portfolio status to me.
I think today the place we need more investment and more editors to dive in is the IT framework. Guaranteeing seamless integration between tools, and coherent suite growth. But this is not sexy and I wonder if most of these tools that many companies are missing may be found in other areas like EBS, MDM, ETL,etc. That’s more where Aras stands for me (personnal opinion). They approached PLM from the IT framework investing in a long term strategy which is paying now. I admit it, this ends as a pro-Aras article, but I really wanted to emphasis on marketing and development strategies gaps.
You’re free to comment on it !
I continue to write about the place of engineering in the scope of PLM. Once again I have never said it had to be out of the PLM scope. I just explained that as a project strategy, If the interfaces between departments were well defined, it could be good to start out of engineering for quick improvements in other departements getting more easily other employees involved in this management enhancement process which is PLM. In this article I’m more talking about a split that needs to be done. We need to consider CAD lifecycle management as a specific inner topic of PLM. I just went through some videos from the competition about PLM. What do we usually see? CAD models. It is really sexy but I do PLM everyday and the core issues that I see are much more about simple-data management than about CAD. It doesn’t mean CAD management is out of the PLM scope. It means that the CAD lifecycle management is a unique competency, like 3D modeler and it doesn’t have to impact the whole PLM software.
Split PLM software and jobs’ specific applications
This is a normal statement but still a lot consultants or vendor are not accepting it for CAD. Or maybe I just feel like it because I’m not a mechanical engineer. I’m an electronic engineer so when I come to PLM conferences sometimes I can just listen about CAD related issues and I’m not getting inside the discussion because I’m far from being an expert on this topic. And to me these discussions are specific to the process of managing the CAD data over time. And it’s not general PLM. There should be clear role descriptions like “CAD lifecycle management consultant” which would clearly define that this person knows about how a cad model will be able to handle changes, variants, … Why should you know how to manage a change in a CAD model. you can’t be the orchestra director and play all the instruments. You need to have enough knowledge to make these instruments fit together. Today there are too many issues about permissions, data-sharing, supply chain PLM distribution, contextual information access,etc. Someone needs to be focus on that while others are on CAD. One technology might not fit all.
PLM completing PDM
Historically, PLM comes from PDM and PDM comes from CAD. Most of our projects at Minerva are completing existing PDM systems. They are called PLM but most of the time we are requested to complete these installations because the effort to extend these PLM to the whole company is too important. As I just said, a reason for that is that you don’t always need the same technology to manage CAD file lifecycle and general product lifecycle related information.
I just did a search about CAD lifecycle management and I didn’t get much corresponding results. There is then a good opportunity for some companies who want to specialize in that field, providing APIs to non-CAD PLM providers. But as a conclusion I would like to see clear statement in PLM conferences about the topic covered whether it’s about CAD lifecycle management or PLM.
Do you think we’re still mixing CAD data lifecycle management and Enterprise PLM?
This is a topic I already covered in this blog I think but a video from Aras just came online. This is about a process we’ve implemented in Aras for one of our customers. He needed to help the purchase department to make purchase orders from the BOM as maintained. This company delivers military systems which they maintain. So In Aras, whenever they assemble a system, they instantiate it and then maintain it every time there is a change applied. On our first implementation of this process we just created the Purchase order Itemtype with the related purchase order items. But then after they quickly tried, they realized it was not the process they wanted to use. They wanted in fact to start from the instantiated BOM, select the part to be replaced, select the Manufacturer’s part that was validated for replacement and run a automated action to add the item to a purchase order. Such purchase order should be either created if there was no purchase order opened for this specific supplier or added to an existing one that wasn’t already processed.
Aras helped us implement it very quickly. So here are the two videos, the first one is the one which was filmed in the Andover’s offices of Aras Corp and the second one is a video I made to present the implemented process.
Let us know if you need any information on this implementation. Have you been through the same process to implement?