I don't mean to get into debates. Really, I don't. Well. Maybe a little. But I only do it when I believe there is a misconception in the marketplace. One that can affect a number of engineering organizations or manufacturers at large. And, low and behold, I stumbled across one just yesterday.

PLM Adoption Is A Journey?

Do you read Jos Voskuil's blog? If you don't, and you're involved in PLM at your company, you should follow his posts. He has great ideas and insights into how this technology can be applied to engineering and product development at large. On April 2nd, he published a post titled PLM is a Journey. A few notable points caught my attention.

Often people believe PLM is an IT-solution. And the common sense is that you buy an IT-solution, you implement it and continue working in a better mode. That’s where the implementation fails as PLM is different. So let’s start our journey.

Jos then goes on to make this point.

But when it comes to implementation, there is usually only one cross-disciplines unit that can accomplish this assignment: the IT-department. And here is the crucial mistake discovered time after time where PLM implementations fail. PLM is a business transformation, not an IT-system implementation.

As you can tell by the way I started this post, I respectfully disagree with Jos' points here. But I explain why in a few moments. Oleg Shilovitsky, who is the Director for PLM and Data Management at Autodesk that blogs on the side, published his own perspective on the topic.

PLM Deployment is Innately Complex?

Now Oleg has published numerous posts on PLM and the challenges organizations have when they try to deploy it. In one of his latest posts, he references Jos' post and offers an explanation.

The core problem that exists in PDM/PLM is complexity. Navigate to my old blog – Complexity Kills or Three Ways to Improve PLM Adoption to read more. In addition to that, I outlined 3 main factors impacting fast PLM adoption – massive customization, legacy data and integration with ERP. Read more here -  3 main factors of mainstream PLM adoption

The three major complexities that are detriments to the deployment of PLM caught my eye. And in my response, I'd like to focus there.

I Call Bollocks

But why? Well, I have three main points.

The Misguided Focus for PLM

Oleg says that three complexities trip up PLM deployments: massive customization, legacy data and integration with ERP. Now, you'll get no argument from me that those are nasty problems. My point is a little different: those issues should be avoided as much as possible.

Do most organizations want to focus on those three things? Yes.

Are those the wrong things for PLM? In my opinion, unmistakably YES.

The past decade of PLM implementations have proven that those pursuits are fraught with risk and danger. You spend millions of dollars pursuing them and ultimately, you're lucky if you achieve your goal years later.

My advice is to minimally pursue those items. Don't customize. Don't include legacy data. Minimally integrate with ERP around Bill of Materials (BOMs) for design release and change processes. Nothing else.

So what does that leave us? Well, nothing on Oleg's list. But I have a few suggestions.

The Right Focus for PLM

Over the past decade of PLM deployments, I have seen two areas that provide solid ROI. Here they are.

The first is global centralized data management. Start with CAD. Then go to multi-CAD. Then, if you're ambitious, go after the full product definition of specifications and the like. I know. It's not the fireworks lots of people like. Folks I've talked to at PLM software providers are sick to death of this. PLM champions at manufacturers cry for the boredom this effort involves. People like something new. I get it. But this is the most solid value of PLM, or debatably PDM, that you can achieve. Everyone gets the right version of the right file, which reduces change orders, scrap and rework and incorrectly ordered parts.

The second is digitization and automation of processes. No, I'm not talking about transforming or re-engineering your processes. Just move from email routing to workflow. I'm not talking about moving your specialized or custom forms into PLM. Take the Out-of-the-Box forms and tweak them as minimally as possible to support your current existing process. There are all sorts of advantages you reap here, including the elimination of delays and incorrect decisions in processes. It's a very solid, if unspectacular ROI.

Now, one more issue to touch upon before we wrap up.

The Wandering PLM Path with No End

To Jos' point about not knowing where a PLM deployment will end, I… I… I just can't take it anymore. I've heard that point for years upon years now. I understand the logic of discovery in business transformation. It's like the design process. You have to explore, experiment and look at alternatives. But unless your organization has limitless budget, that argument won't, and frankly shouldn't, fly.

Furthermore, you have to think about he effect such progressive and almost constant change has on an organization. In my opinion, most knowledge works like their routines. They want and need to know what to do everyday when they come to work. They need to know how to get that work done. And technology is a key enabler today. Such constant technology change sows chaos in its wake.  And I'm not for disruption. Engineer's lives are hectic enough.

Summary and Conclusion

Let's recap.

  • Jos Voskuil, a great PLM blogger, published a post describing PLM as a business transformation journey. 
  • Oleg cited massive customization, legacy data and ERP integration as the main reasons PLM deployments fail.
  • I frequently agree with Jos and Oleg, but in these cases, I utterly disagree in their focus. PLM deployment should focus on global centralized data management and the digitization and automation of processes. Both yield solid ROIs with far less risk.
  • I do not think that any organization that subscribes to the idea that the deployment of PLM as a wandering path with no end in sight will be successful. As Jos blogged once before, PLM needs a clear job.
  • Just to make things clear, system integrators and management consultants hate me right now. They love business transformation projects.

Well, what do you think? Lot of opportunities here to make your opinion know. Lay it out in the comments for us.

Oh, and the first one to put "BLOGFIGHT" in comments get my professional admiration forever… or for the next hour. Whichever comes first.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

 

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