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Data ownership is an interesting topic. Our life is getting more digital every day and we are asking many interesting questions about who owns data about us. Who owns the data about our Facebook profiles, who owns social media data we created and many others. While still there are some gaps in understanding who owns the data about our digital life, when it comes to business use cases, the things are also very complex. Ownership of information is one of the most fundamental things in enterprise business. Engineering and Manufacturing companies are living it every day. If you deal with enterprise data, you are probably familiar with the term – master data. Usually it leads to many discussions in organization. Who owns the master data about design, bill of material, item, etc.

These are questions that need to be answer to allow to enterprise system to functioning properly. In one of my old posts I shared my view on Ugly truth about PLM-ERP monkey volleyball. Until now, the demarcation line of engineering vs. manufacturing was somewhat acceptable in most of the situations. I tried to capture this status in my Thoughts about BOM ownership article. However, things are going to change.

PLM and ERP are getting into new round of debates about ownership of data. It comes as a question raised in engineering.com blog – “PLM should take over ownership of the manufacturing BOM too”, says Siemens PLM’s CEO, Chuck Grindstaff. Navigate to this link to read the article. Management of EBOM and MBOM as well as many other BOMs is a very complex problem that cannot be solved in an easy way. One of the key problems is the need to synchronize information between BOMs. However, synchronize is probably a wrong word. These BOMs are not identical and requires application of very tricky logic to keep them in sync. To solve it is a big deal for many companies and they will demand it from vendors. Therefore, I’m very confident that, after all, PLM vendors fight over BOM will require to solve data synchronization problems.

At the same time, manufacturing is changing. One of the most visible trends in manufacturing is mass customization. We are moving from mass production methods toward total customization. The demand for configuration is growing and customers are requiring sophistication of engineering to order manufacturing processes applied to a broader range of products and services. Bill of materials is a center piece of these processes. What was done before by configuring a small set of preconfigured modules won’t work in a new reality of manufacturing and mass customization.

My attention was caught by a set of articles about Mass customization by Kalipso. One of them was published on Innovation Excellence blog – Modern Mass Customization – Rule 3: Honor the Order, Abandon the BOM. These articles are worth reading. Here is my favorite passage that outlines a special role of BOM in mass customization manufacturing process:

The relevance of the BOM greatly diminishes as a company transitions to a ‘to-order’ product offering. For mass customizers, a Bill of Materials, or more appropriately, a Bill of Modules, is a transient artifact. It is entirely possible that a given BOM may only be built a single time, and for a single order. Mass customizers should shift their perspective of the BOM from the identity of the product, to the technical details of the order. The identity of the product then becomes the governing logic that permits a range of configuration possibilities.

As the purpose of the BOM changes, so changes the purpose of PLM and the systems that support it. Rather than originating in PLM, BOM details originate with the order itself, ideally using a customer-facing product configuration system. As long as the order and corresponding BOM are compatible with the business rules that govern configurations, these details can be passed on directly to production systems for manufacturing (ERP, MRP, MES) without making a pit stop at PLM. PLM thus transitions from a tool for managing the lifecycle of a BOM, to a tool for managing the lifecycle of modular components that are used by the configurator.

I’m not sure about “abandoning the BOM”. However, article made me think about some elements of BOM management that are going to change. One of them is granularity of BOM. What I can see is the overall transition of BOM management into more granular process of configured components. In order to do so, PLM and ERP will have to re-think the way ownership and synchronization is happening. The question of “ownership” of granular product definition is getting less relevant. To manage smooth synchronization process is much more important.

What is my conclusion? Modern manufacturing trends are going to transform enterprise systems as we know them. Mass customization is one of them. PLM and ERP are two main systems that involved into process of engineering and manufacturing. To support mass customization product engineering and manufacturing these systems will have to interplay in a completely different way. In my view, the demand to support mass customization and other complex manufacturing processes is leading PLM vendors to want MBOM badly. However, here is change that can come as a result of rethinking of BOM management. In the future, Bill of Materials should not be owned, but intertwined and shared between PLM and ERP. Ownership of data will become less relevant. The new reality of data sharing and collaboration is coming. Daydreaming? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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The days of ugly UI are in the past. The trend that started from website design, mobile UI and intuitive consumer application is coming to enterprise software. Users of enterprise software are also consumers and it is hard for them to tolerate bad user experience of software they work every day. Remember my old post – PLM: Ugly vs. Cool? I can see cool UI is coming to engineering space too. My prediction – user friendly interfaces and better user experience will become one of the top 3 factors that will influence PLM in 2015. I can see this trend is coming from leading software providers. I put few examples in my blog few days ago – PDM/PLM UI Makeup: new trend in user experience.

So, cool is going to win. However, here is the thing. Cool is very expensive. To design new experience and to re-work existing applications will take time and money. It won’t happen overnight. So before you make your existing PDM/PLM nicer by developing new web tools or switching to new web technologies, I’d recommend to make some ROI calculation. It will help you to prioritize your work and make your customers happy. Actually the last one is even more important than the money you spend on rework. From my experience customers are getting REALLY angry when vendors are selling an old application with new UI (lipstick on a pig).

How can you decide about what part of your enterprise application to change. To set up priority and calculate ROI is very important. Software developers are very often missing this part of running full speed to change user interface and develop new apps with nice colors, but … performing exactly in the same way as the old one.

There are two things to remember when you think about new UI and new user experience – scale and impact. You need to maximize both and avoid making changes in the part of application that will be exposed to smaller number users or rarely in use. My attention caught by a very interesting article – UX for enterprise by Jordan Koschei. Have a read – here is my favorite passage:

The sheer scale of enterprise clients magnifies the effects of good and bad design alike. Small inefficiencies in large organizations result in extra costs that are passed on to the end user in time spent, money lost, and frustration increased. Likewise, when an enterprise prioritizes user experience for its internal tools, it becomes a more effective organization; a recently released business index shows that design-driven companies outperformed the S&P average by 228% over the last ten years.

It led me to another article that gives a perfect sense of how to approach ROI calculation for UX improvements – Calculating ROI on UX & Usability Projects. It brings list of approaches that can be used for calculation – increased sale, increased productivity, increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, decrease training and support cost and few others. From my perspective, very often, development are focusing on customer satisfaction and loyalty. But, this is something that enormously hard to measure. Opposite to that, think about productivity: Here is my favorite passage from the article about that:

For example, if you optimize the UX on a series of screens so that what was once a 5 minute task is now a 2.5 minute task, then you’ve increased a person’s productivity by 100%. That’s huge. HUGE. If the company has 100 phone agents who have an average salary of $40,000 + benefits (~$8,000) (+ an unknown amount for overhead), you could either release or retask those agents on other activities with a savings of $2,4000,000/year. (half of 100 agents x $48,000)

It made me think more specifically about PDM and PLM use cases. What are the most critical, time consuming and repeatable scenarios? If I think about PDM, everything I do with documents –  check-in, check-out, release, view, search is extremely time sensitive. If check-in operation takes 50 minutes and fails at the end, users will be very angry. To improve check-in operation is a very complex task. But if you can save 30% of time, it can result in huge saving. Let me think about PLM use case – ECO management process.It can be really complicated, requires to open multiple screens, browsing for information, making requests. Improvements of this experience, can have a huge impact on productivity. I’m sure, you can come with more scenarios, but I guess you got my idea.

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What is my conclusion? Customers are looking for nice UI. This is not “nice to have” feature for them anymore. However, it comes down to much more than nice layout and pretty colors. It comes down to “user experience” in the way that can make life of users easier, save time and get job done with less clicks. PDM/PLM vendors must think about it before embarking into next development project of changing colors and font size in their existing apps. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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What will influence PLM in 2015?

by Oleg on November 21, 2014 · 0 comments

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2015 is just around the corner. Typically, it is a good time to come with some ideas about what are those trends that will become visible and important for the industry. Today, I want to look in my crystal ball and think what are trends that will influence product lifecycle management strategies, products, vendors and customers in 2015. I want to come with my top 3 – user experience, mobile and big data/analytics.

1. User friendly interfaces, better user experience and ease of implementation

User experience and new UI design becomes a norm. Ugly enterprise software is a thing in the past. Vendors are face-lifting existing products and setting really high bar for new software. Personalization, screen simplification, on-boarding scenarios and overall user friendliness are coming into play. Nevertheless, I don’t expect PLM products to change fundamentally in 2015. Behind the scene, PLM products still remain ugly and complex. However, outside facade is clearly improving, which is really good sign for customers. Another aspect of user-friendliness is related to industry vertical and tailoring. To come with predefined user scenarios, data models and implementation practices will become a norm. Nobody wants to start to implement from scratch.

2. Mobile access to information

Total acceptance of mobile devices is not leaving any space to vendors to ignore and avoid it. There is no time to think how to deliver mobile experience. Customers are expecting mobile access for anything. It is a challenge for many vendors. At the same time, mobile development today is not magic rocket science. So, I’m expecting to see growing number of mobile solutions coming from PLM vendors. Another part of mobile solution is related to ability of vendors to come with a specific mobile experience. It will become less about “just mobile app doing the same our product does”, but about apps that supports new way of work – mobile.

3. Big data & analytics

Big data is a huge trend- lot of buzz and hype is going around that. Until now, most of PLM customers were not much involved into big data activities. However, turns out, big data trend is reshaping into very useful data analysis projects. And from that standpoint, many PLM customers are getting very much interested in results. To get insight on quality of processes, product usage, customer services – this is only a very short list of topics where analytics and big data can help. I’m expecting appearance of many “smart data analytic” products that can bring value on top of what PLM products are doing today.

What is my conclusion? I guess we are going to see many other smaller trends in 2015. Some technologies are getting matured, company will come with new set of products and technologies. Also, I can see some bigger scale development and trend that will become a cross multi-year initiatives. However, these 3 things- user experience, mobile and big data are things that will influence on how PLM products will be shaped in 2015. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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Thoughts about BOM ownership

November 20, 2014

The Engineering.com publication about PLM taking ownership of MBOM ignited few discussions online about Bill of Materials, BOM Management and co-existence of multiple enterprise systems. My first thought was that all of them will have to rethink the way BOM is synchronized between systems. This is not a new problem. Any implementation of enterprise PLM is […]

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Social PLM: How to pull a trigger?

November 19, 2014

In my yesterday blog, I shared some of my thoughts about “Facebook at Work” and potential impact on engineering and manufacturing software. It made me think again about all discussions and stories related to social software trend and social PLM. Social was trending topic 3-4 years ago. Many new companies were founded back those days to […]

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How CAD and PLM vendors will compete with “Facebook at Work”

November 18, 2014

Social software was hot topic in engineering software ecosystem for the last few years. The results are somewhat mixed. Start-up companies and well established CAD/PLM vendors learned by mistakes, some of them failed and some of them is still in process of developing new type of collaborative engineering software. I captured some of my thoughts […]

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Future PLM selection: It is like to get married or buy a smartphone

November 17, 2014

Ask people about PLM selection process. You can get an impression it is not a simple process. The same can be said about any decision related to enterprise software – it is complex. Today, I want to take a look on that from a bit different perspective. I know few manufacturing companies that literally spending […]

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DIY Cloud PLM using Aras Innovator

November 14, 2014

I’m continue to explore the topic of cloud PLM options. My last blog post about it covered delivery options for cloud PLM. It raised few interesting discussions showing that vendors are closely following up any opportunity to leverage a combination of existing PLM platforms and cloud infrastructure. IaaS is a technical buzzword behind this option. […]

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How PLM can leverage Azure analytics?

November 13, 2014

Analytics is a hot word these days. You can hear it everywhere. It sounds and feels sweet and smart. You can think about crunching data and getting results. It sounds very Googley? Indeed, Google is spending lot of money making Google cloud platform more affordable. Google provides some interesting online services that can be used […]

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PDM & PLM UI Makeup: new trend in user experience

November 12, 2014

User experience is in focus these days. Slowly, but surely enterprise software companies are coming to the point of understanding how important is that. It is not about changing of colors and making buttons nicer. It is about how to get a major revamp in behavior of software or how often we call these days […]

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