How Tagging can prevent PLM from a Compulsive Obsessive Disorder Problem?

How Tagging can prevent PLM from a Compulsive Obsessive Disorder Problem?

I’m sure you will agree that one of the definite goals of PLM is to organize product related information. Finally, I can find all my product models, relevant drawings, BOMs, customer requirements, manufacturing plans and suppliers bids. Unfortunately, when I look at the existing PLM systems, I see that this is not always simple. Companies utilize multiple software tools to design and manufacture products. Sometimes companies need to develop special software tools to follow specific information related to their catalogs of standard, existing and future developed products etc.

I started to think about the approach we can take for a PLM system to make it significantly simpler compared to what we have today. Actually a few analogies helped me come up with this idea. My MS Outlook contains lots of mails. A while ago, I tried to categorized mails and put them in relevant folders. But this proved to be very painful, as it had been in the past. I started to develop taxonomy for my mails at first, but after a few month or trials, I decided that I will keep all mails in a single folder. But then I had trouble finding what I needed, so I decided to mark my mail with categories. So, today these tags (categories) lets me find relevant mails in seconds.

outlook tagging with categories

Another example is my home computer system with photographs. I can sort them according to multiple criteria. In the end, I finally understood that this is mission is an impossible task, so I put the photos in a calendar-based order and started to mark the photos with tags. Actually, I found that there are many available tagging systems you can use today.

Now, how can I use this experience to help me to build a more efficient user experience for PLM/PDM systems? My proposal is as following – TAG EVERYTHING– products, models, projects, users, documents, ECOs (Engineering Change Orders), BOM etc. With this total tagging approach, we will be able to build an environment that is tuned for a specific company. What is more important is that it will also be customized for a specific user’s need. Users will be able to build tagging systems within time and justify needs and tags usages. Lately, we can eliminate unused or obsolete tags (even if they were created by a specific user).

There are a few systems I evaluated that allow you to tag everything on your computer and are simple to integrate with your PLM system. I’m sure to build these tagging capabilities is relatively simple for existing PLM systems.

Here are some examples:

tagging with gravity 

tagging with taglocity

tagging with taglauncher

And, in the end, I found this approach in the core of Apple Mac. So, this is an open call. What do you think about this approach for PLM? May be you know systems that have already implemented this? Please share your experience.

tag on mac ex2

tag on mac ex1

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  • Steve Stojanovski

    Oleg,

    Very interesting idea. I struggle with organizing email in Outlook as well. I am too lazy to organize stuff into separate folders, therefore rely on the search feature and sometimes categories to help organize emails. One other example of “tagging” is with Google’s Gmail. They call it “labeling” and it has been around for quite sometime. I think it is a great approach to have a powerful search engine to search all your mail and then the ability to tag an email with a user defined label.

    I think there is a place for tagging in PLM. I’m not a big fan of manually requiring users to organize objects in the PLM system via a “folder” or “container”. I think that time would be well spent by the user for applying attributes and/or tags to data in the PLM system. Then the PLM system would automatically create the the “groupings” of the data based on the tags and attributes.

    I would love to see functionality in a PLM system that automatically “crawled” the content of data in the PLM system and created tags. I would also like to see functionality where an administrator could create pre-defined tags that users could apply to the data. And lastly, the user could tag data all he/she wants with their own tags. If they wanted to, they could have the ability to share their tags with other users.

    By the way, I enjoy reading your blog on a daily basis.

    Steve

  • in our homegrown system, I recommended adding the concept of tagging to the system. they call them keywords but works the same. Our system is a database-driven, folder-based system. The tags apply directly to what’s in the folder. Although the search could do a better job, it nice to have tags incorporated into it.

    Biggest problem, getting people to use it. 🙂

    OH, check out the Firefox Delicious plugin. The UI for how you create tags in that is excellent.

  • Steve, Great observation about possibility to combine tags and some automatic processing combined with tags. Thanks… and thanks for your words about blog!. Oleg

  • Josh, interesting who is applying tags in your system. This is especially important in context of previous comments Steve made. Oleg

    PS. thanks, will take a look on Firefox delicious plug-in. Not sure how firefox will co-exist with my chrome and ie ;)…

  • Steve Stojanovski

    Josh,

    Agreed. User adoption is key. Needs to be simple and easy to use. I find myself not labeling/tagging emails all the time. Probably because I’m used to the idea of organizing things myself in folders.

  • Josh, on the people of “etting people to use it”. Where you see biggest problem? Why people resisting?

  • It’s mostly because they don’t want to take the time, or don’t see the value in it. It’s also the UI. Tags are added on the 4th of 5 tabs of the interface. The tags are not out in front so it becomes less important.

    I think firefox would look great next to Chrome and IE, especially when they are closed 😉 – really though, I can’t get away from Firefox because of all the great add-ins. soooooo nice.

  • Josh, do you see customer see possibility to start from tags and not see them as “yet another tab in UI”?
    -Oleg

  • Brian F.

    Great idea. Our PLM has the concept of ‘Collections’, where any object can belong to any user collection.

    The biggest limitations are 1) driving adoption (as was mentioned, 2) making those collections available to other users/groups (by default, they are personal), and 3) collected/tagged objects become stale and need to be somehow refreshed.

    At any rate, we are trying to do more and more with this concept for the reasons you mention.

  • Brian, thanks for sharing this experience. (2) and (3) in your comments, in my view, definitely represents need to improve search-ability. All examples I mentioned in post, of course, personal, however in PLM system multiple users and material lifecycle/retention becomes important. Agree.
    Thanks. Oleg.

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