PLM: A Painful Question?

PLM: A Painful Question?

In the end of 1990s, CAD/PLM community was excited about development of Boeing 777 jet. The Boeing 777 is the first aircraft to be fully digitally designed using 3D computer graphics eliminating the need for costly full-scale mock-ups. Here is the quote from Aviation Explorer:

The 777 was also the first commercial aircraft to be designed 100% by computer. No paper drawings were ever produced; everything was created on a 3D CAD software system known as CATIA. This allowed a virtual 777 to be assembled in cyberspace, allowing engineers to examine for interferences, and to test if the many thousands of parts would fit together properly before costly physical prototypes were manufactured.

Now, let make a fast forward in 2010. Did we make a compatible achievement in 3D / CAD / PLM technologies over the last 10 years? 3D CAD technologies went to mainstream. Price of 3D CAD system dropped significantly. However, PLM didn’t proliferate downstream. People in the engineering, manufacturing  and supply chains are still struggling to get latest information about product and exchange data using USB memory sticks. Sounds like a painful question… What do you think?

Best, Oleg

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  • [rant] It’s a painful question, because it still abhorrently painful to use, at least if you’re talking about Teamcenter. PLM companies have spent too much time and money over-promising and under-delivering. When people don’t see results (as promised), people/management grow increasingly frustrated and impatient, and start to think it it’s all a sham. An why wouldn’t they, when the very companies who sell you this stuff are not willing to provide the support you NEED unless you keep shelling out more money. [/rant]

    That, and it’s the same thing as with the 2D to 3D paradigm: some people have a really hard time grasping the concepts of a PLM workflow, and therefore make it more difficult to get widespread adoption.

  • beyondplm

    Bruce, thank you for your comment! I have less TeamCenter experience than you. My primary focus was with a different set of products (mostly competing with TC). I think, PLM is trying to match ERP complexity in a processes management, and this is a result. Maybe you have had a chance to read my blog about that – http://beyondplm.com/2010/08/17/pdm-vs-plm-a-process-perspective/. Best, Oleg

  • Laura

    For the last few years, I have had the pleasure of working in a number of large UK engineering compies as a mechanical engineer but with a serious bent towards the implementation and development of PLM to support the efficient running of the engineering side of the business. I am sorry to say that in my last two jobs, whilst 3D CAD was seen as an absolute necessity to engineering, PLM is badly neglected, in some cases, not even given the time of day. I watch with disbelief the measures these businesses go to to manage their data, to find their documents, to number their drawings using Excel spreadsheets, to manually create BOMs after all of the modelling is complete.. I could go on.
    I struggle to understand why this is, having overseen the successful implementation of two different PLM systems and seen first hand the benefits reaped very quickly by those companies. I can empathise with Oleg’s comments above. Why are we still so reticent to embrace this technology when it can have such a major positive impact on a business? I don’t know if this is just a British occurence or is generally the case in engineering companies around the world.
    My question is, how to tackle the reticence.
    Yours, very frustrated. Laura

  • beyondplm

    Laura, thank you for your comment! Can you share more information about successful PLM implementation you’ve overseen and what was a key to success? As an opposite side, I’d propose a link to one of my previous posts related to PLM mainstream adoption. http://plmtwine.com/2009/07/27/3-main-factors-of-mainstream-plm-adoption/. The three factors I mentioned there – customization, legacy data and integration with ERP can ruin any PLM implementation plans. Just my opinion… Best, Oleg

  • Laura

    Yes, Windchill with ProEngineer Wildfire 3 and a Metaphase upgrade aligned with Virtual Product Manager for Catia data. I’m just embarking on implementing Epicor Pro.File PLM at a company that is using ERP badly and are wondering where they’ve gone wrong.
    In my opinion, you need a lot of communication throughout the company from the start of the implementation phase, a good working relationship with the PLM company and, most critically, competent people to do the development and install. I have found many people who claim to be PLM ‘experts’ and many people who have the best intents when it comes to PLM, but fall at the first hurdle when they’re not really sure how PLM fits into their company, making it work for them not against them. Having a clear set of requirements for the PLM system upfront always helps!
    Training is also critical along with a managed roll-out. I’ve seen PDM or ERP systems ‘dumped’ on people’s desktops with minimal training and the users are then expected just to ‘get on with it’. This does not work! Then people blame the tool and it’s not the case. Bad feeling is spread and then people just don’t want to use it any more.

  • beyondplm

    Laura, thanks for sharing your experience! You are absolutely right, PLM implementation requires a lot of “effort beyond software” – strategic alignment, planning, etc. In my view, the main reason for that is because PLM is mapping “product development processes” that are very fundamental pieces of any manufacturing company. The knowledge about these processes is distributed among many people in the organization. These people have siloed and diverse view on how business needs to be managed and how product development processes need to be improved. When PLM comes to the company with top down implementation approach, we have the result – high complexity of PLM implementation.

  • Gregory

    Well, I think a lot have changed. Read my post: http://cadcammodelling.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/nano-cad-cam-industry-and-its-future/ and watch video and flickr’s IBM pictures. That’s unbelievable. And referring to normal desktop computing. In my opinion there are CAD/CAM big enterprises which keep prohibitive prices for licenses and held the market and almost no other good CAD/CAM software so that could be used in professional manufacturing. We have some open source projects, but these are oriented on some training or scientific research rather than professional applications (check sourceforge.net). In my opinion CAD/CAM is waiting for big bang that will derive rather from CAM than form CAD. Don’t forget the story of Pro Engineer. The developments technology is changing nowadays and personally I believe that it would be possible either to rule out CATIA or NX or become next big player in industry

  • beyondplm

    Gregory, thanks for your comment and link sharing. Pro-E story was about how to deliver geometrical Lotus1-2-3 to engineers. It took 3D modeling and make it easy. The main point of Pro-E was about how to make things simpler. The painful question is how to make today’s solutions easier in order to proliferate downstream in the organization. Until 3D CAD and PLM stuff won’t go to mainstream, CAD/PLM mindshare companies will keep prices high. Just my view. YMMV. Best, Oleg