PLM Action Plan for Dummies

Yesterday, I had the chance to see two deliveries from Jim Brown related to PLM for mid-size companies. ENOVIA SmarTeam Express PLM Solutions Help Mid-Market featuring Jim’s white paper – Tech-Clarity Insight: Innovating Through an Economic Downturn and Jim’s blog interview One-to-One: TeamCenter Express – Expressly for Small to Midsize Manufacturers. Inspired by Jim, I’d like to propose a short action plan below, which I will call, for the purpose of this blog, “PLM Action Plan for Dummies”

Step 1: Item and Multiple Bill of Materials

This is, in my view, a main differentiator for effective Product Lifecycle Management. For small companies, this is a step to take for looking at all the relevant product information they want to manage – requirements, design, engineering, manufacturing, support, and supply chain. I do believe that a flexible solution here is key, since each company will have their own flavor of Bill of Materials (let me guess… managed by MS Excel and Access, in most of the cases). Item maturity management (Item Lifecycle) is the right way to manage relevant versions of Bill of Materials. So, by accomplishing this step you will have control over product data / BOMs.

Step 2: Connect Design and Engineering data (CAD, CAE…)

Nobody wants to enter the same data multiple times. You need to connect your design and engineering data and feed your Bill of Materials implementation. There are many choices for this. The best choice would be for this and Item and BOM to be well integrated and even provided in one package. So, by doing this, you will ensure your Bill of Materials is created from the updated design. Now, if you change your BOM, your relevant design, including models and drawings, will be updated as well.

Step 3: Link to ERP

At the end of the day, you need to manufacture what you design. Therefore, linking to ERP is very important. There is no silver bullet on how to do this, and I wouldn’t buy just any out of the box option that synchronizes with ERP. But, I’d invest in having monitoring tools that allow you to control the process of synchronizing Bill of Materials to ERP. Also, your Bill of Material and Design Management tools need to have the ability to get Part Numbers if this is controlled by ERP.

Step 4: Organize your Business Processes

You think you’re almost done :)… you have all the data about your product from its early design to ERP. So, what is the missing link? To make all steps work. Before you thought about PLM, you probably did everything by email. But since you now you have all the data managed and controlled, you can use workflow and business process mechanisms to automate your work. You don’t need to implement it in a single shot. You can start from a single ECO/ECR process and move forward.

Well, I hope this list is short enough, :)… and I’m looking forward to your feedback, which I am sure is not “dumb” at all.


Share This Post

  • Oleg,
    I like the short, simple approach to this (although sometimes even a “simple” step like standardizing part number definitions can be a challenge).

    I would propose swapping steps 3 & 4, at least as far as change orders are concerned. Without a well-defined engineering change process, the integration to ERP can be troublesome. Manual processes can work, but I would get the figured out before integrating to ERP.

    Just my small suggestion. For the most part, what I hope is just to see manufacturers get started down the path. Once the foundation is in place, there are lots of ways to leverage it to drive product profitability.

  • Jim, I agree step 3 and 4 can be swapped and this is very depended on company priorities and way they can implement. Step 1 and 2 are fundamentally and, in my view, need to go in this sequence. So, these two steps are foundation you mentioned. Thanks for coming to discuss. -Oleg

  • Jovan

    I agree with Jim. In most mid market companies, the ERP is the referential. In order not to mess with that kind of data, we’d better implement and secure design changes before integrating with any other system.
    But for that, I agree that is a simple and consistent plan.

    For the 1st, I would nuance a bit about the multiple bill of material. Without well defined business processes, that could be a real mess.
    For the 2nd part, we first need to understand the difference between a CAD BOM and a EBOM. So they need to be related but need to be managed separately a swell (i.e: the release of a CAD BOM is not the release of an EBOM).
    I agree that the first step is to learn to manage parts as items and as Jim said, it could be very challenging.

  • Design changes doesn’t mean ‘processes’. This is can be implemented using vault change/alert mechanism. In my view some of the customers will be challenged by process implementation. On the other side, connection with ERP brings real ROI. If documents/items connected to ERP, processes span can be wider. But variation possible, of course. -Oleg.

  • Jovan

    I agree on everything, but to bring ROI, the right data must be at the right place otherwise it might just be impossible to manage any information. This is why a proper change management process will allow you to ensure that it is the case.
    About the process implementation, this is exactly why, when PLM vendors talk to customer, they should offer predefined processes to them. Another role that we should offer is to accompany the change in the enterprise. I know this view is influenced by my background, where processed were the only things that counted ;).

  • I understand you “process orientation”, however, sometime, if you present something that doesn’t look like process, but actually process (i.e. check-in/check-out + RSS events /alerts), it can be even easier to customer. Would you agree with this “Change Management” approach?

  • So perhaps what we could all agree on is:

    – Manufacturers need a process for change management
    – The implementation of the process may (or may not) be an automated process / workflow in the traditional PLM sense

    What I am saying is that I am less concerned if a manufacturer automates the change management process (although I believe there is tremendous benefit to this), than I am concerned that they have a well constructed process to manage change of the structured data they develop in PLM. I think this is particularly true if they are planning to integrate the data to ERP, where poor change / configuration management is very likely to result in the wrong product revision a production order sent to the shop floor (with obvious bad results).

    So perhaps we insert step 1B to ensure that our centralized, controlled data is actually good data before we extend the use of it elsewhere? Then, automating the process could easily be step 4 as Oleg originally suggests?

    And just so you don’t think I value the integration of ERP and PLM (in step 3), I have reposted a link on ClarityonPLM that references my research on the “Complementary Roles of ERP and PLM.”

  • Jim, Agree on need of change management. I’m sure initial functional set need to be far from traditional understanding what Workflow is doing.

    With regards to ERP, I think there are two possible steps – 1/to agree on how to manage data and change between PLM and ERP. 2/to organize process to drive this change. In my view #2 is option as soon as we know how to keep data consistency. In my view “process” is option and need to be complimentary and come in addition to fundamental data management.


  • Pingback: Where does PLM start beyond document management ? « Jos Voskuil’s Weblog()

  • Jos Voskuil

    Jim – Oleg hi, your discussion goes faster then my writing. I was working on a post with somehow the same content as the past few weeks I was heavily involved with some companies trying to understand why PLM and how to digest. Your posts are mentioned it it.

    Take a look at my post

    enjoy the overlap and let’s discuss the differences

  • Alec Gil

    Oleg, I agree with almost everything you are suggesting in this thread except for the title 🙂

    Seriously though, I’m not sure there is an inherent sequence to the good PLM implementation. A robust management of structured data is, of course, a must. If a company does not have a good handle on its product structures, including revisions, configurations, effectivity, etc., everything else falls apart.

    The product structures, of course, must come from somewhere, preferably CAD data. However, finding the balance between the lifecycles of CAD structures (design) and BOMs (operations) is often very tricky. The well rationalized PLM environments must allow independent management of these structures and what I would call their on-demand reconciliation at any point of the product’s lifecycle. In other words, CAD assemblies and MBOMs (EBOMs ?) – not my favorite terminology – can be modified independently by people in different organizational roles. Then they should be easily consolidated and transferred to another enterprise system such as ERP based on some process triggers. In this context I very much agree with Oleg – if a system is robust enough to issue user alerts, as one example, of when to transfer data to ERP – this may actually be preferable to what is traditionally thought of as a “process”.

    Having said that, from my experience, achieving the “interplay” between CAD structures and Items/BOMs is one of the most difficult things to do in a PLM implementation. So, I would argue that Oleg’s Step 2 presents the most challenge to be carried out gracefully.

  • Pingback: One-to-One: SmarTeam Customers Talk About PLM for SMB | Clarity on PLM()

  • Jos, I like very much your observations related to mid-market customers. At the same time I think long-term trend for PLM implementations to be more focused on Item/BOM/Processes and not on document management. In the end of the days design data will be managed by module embedded into CAD system and this is what cover design data management on the level of vaulting and changes. However PLM will be more involved in the process of connection design downstream. – Oleg

  • Alec, I like very much how you articulate solutions (like interplay between CAD and BOMs/Items; handle of product structures etc.). My attempt was to create baseline, but I understand, people can make variations. In my view steps 1 and 2 as bundle provide managed product structures and Doc/Item/Bom interplay. This is foundation. Steps 3 and 4 will take it to the next levels. Thanks again, for your comments! Oleg.

  • Alec, Re- Dummies name. I think simplicity wins… so dummies are not bad at all! ;)… Oleg.

  • Pingback: PLM and Profitability » Blog Archive » One-to-One: SmarTeam Customers Talk About PLM for SMB()

  • Maybe we should insert a STEP 0 which aims to define the main concepts or terms used in CAD, PDM or PLM :

    What is a part ? What is an item ?

    What is a BOM ? What is product structure ?

    What is a status or a state ?

    I assume that in any company, there are as much definitions as people (and as much excel or access files as definitions). Does installing a software allow to unify these definitions ?

    Definitely, you have to insert a STEP 0 in your plan : let’ forget the software and let’s go back to basics.

    Regards, Pascal.

  • Hello Pascal, I you are asking very important questions. Items, Parts, Bill of Materials, Product Structure etc. All these definitions are part of implementation steps. However, in organization, education is very important steps. BTW some of terms you mentioned are overlapping in my view. Can, you explain how do you see the following difference: Part vs. Item; BOM vs. Product Structure…. Thanks for coming to discuss on plmtwine! Oleg/

  • Hi Oleg,

    I do agree with you : education and learning are key points to success an implementation, even for the managers. But how many companies (and especially the SMB) give a significant part of their PLM budget to the education ?

    Few months ago, a small french working group tried to define basic definitions of some main concepts of PDM. We publish a – french speaking – document :

    I’ll try to translate some definitions in english (forgive me !) :

    Item : it is a generic element of a decomposition. It could be a part, a function etc.

    Part : it is an element of a organic decomposition related to a product

    Product structure : hierarchical decomposition of a product to adress specific business needs

    BOM : we didn’t agree on that term ! For me, it is a “flat” view of all the components of a product. It’s a kind of shopping list to make a product.

    After these definitions, it remains majors difficulties : defining more complicated concepts as “Configuration management” or explaining what is a data model and why we should look at it first !

    It’s not easy, especially when the chosen editor do not give its data model !

    Glad to discuss with you, Oleg.

    Regards, Pascal.

  • Hi Pascal, Thank you for pointing on this document. I’d agree on your view on Part and Item. I think Product structure is definitely broader that Bill of Material. However, I’ve seen in many organization this terms are opposite. It was pleasure to discuss. Come again to plmtwine! Best. Oleg.

  • Pingback: How to Take PLM Beyond the “Department Of Lost and Found Revisions”? « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog()

  • Pingback: PLM Think Tank: Top Discussion for last 6 month… « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog()

  • Pingback: change management model()

  • Eric, I had change to see change management for product development implementation in various ways. People are looking for flexibility combined with formal process. And this is always a big challenge. Thanks for your comments! Oleg.

  • Pingback: Top 10 PLM Posts in 2009, Beyond PLM and more… « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog()

  • Pingback: intelligent triggers()

  • This is a really good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere.

    Brief but very precise information… Appreciate your sharing
    this one. A must read post!

  • @man van website. thanks!

  • Oleg, this just flashed by my inbox. I got a good chuckle because now you have become a process guy. 😉

  • Really? I’m a process guy? C’mon.. I will check myself tomorrow :).

  • I’ve been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles
    or weblog posts on this kind of house . Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this
    web site. Studying this info So i am satisfied to express that I have a very good uncanny
    feeling I came upon just what I needed. I most without a doubt will make sure to don?t forget this
    site and provides it a look regularly.

  • If in any case, you want to start your own business.
    You could say goodbye to that costly and stressful commute.

    Keep The Theme Relevant – If you are running a website selling kitchen ovens, then your best
    bet is to keep your blogs and articles related to this subject
    or niche, writing about things like kitchens, ovens and related furniture or areas.

  • Pingback: 1.2 : How I ended up writing a book about PLM | PLM Book()