From the category archives:

Technologies

bom-plm-excel-painkiller-1

We like to compare stuff. Gadgets, cars, hotels, software. We can compare iPhone to Samsung, Canon to Nikon, Honda to Toyota. Software is a special category. When it comes to enterprise software it gets even more complicated. However, marketing comparison is a fascinating type of writing. Arena PLM blog posted a marketing writing – Using Excel for Bill of Materials (BOM) Management. The article compares BOM management using Excel spreadsheets and BOM management PLM tools (Arena tools implied, which is okay). Read the article and draw your own conclusion.

I have special passion for spreadsheets. In my view, (and I know many of PLM analysts and bloggers will agree here) Excel is stands out as one of the most popular PLM software tool in the industry. I have my reasons to like PLM spreadsheets as well as list of my “hate statements” about Excel.

Arena’s article reminded me famous marketing stories about vitamins and pain killers. The first is “nice to have” and the second is “must buy now”.  I think the value of PLM tools is obvious. But… here is my little “but”. If I compare lists of values, cost and features in that article, I can not come to an absolute conclusion about advantages of PLM tools. It creates some mixed feeling. First, there is no line that says “no” to any of features you can do with Excel. So, basically, I can do everything with Excel, but not in an optimal way (means I won’t die :) tomorrow by keep using Excel).  Second, cost is emotionally on the side of Excel. It is very hard to compete with “free” that everybody can use. And, to switch to PLM tools, you need to change the way you work. Even this is not in the list, it implied when you compared “time to implement” between “immediate” and “days-weeks”. So, when you have organization using Excel and manages BOM, PLM is not in competition with Excel. This is another type of competition, which sales people often calls “competing with status quo”.

What is my conclusion? Few weeks ago, I shared my recipe how PLM can take over Excel spreadsheets. Here is the list of three recommendations – flexible data models, easy customization and excellent user experience. I’d like to add pain killers to the list. This is something that PLM is still missing in competition with Excel. The comparison should have “no/yes” notation. Today’s “poor/excellent” is still has a flavor of vitamins. PLM implementations are still hurting people and lose in the comparison to initially glamorous Excel spreadsheets. Engineers are spending too much time managing Excels, but the cost is hidden and not obvious to managers to step into longer implementations, higher cost and slow learning curve. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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part-numbers-madness

One of the topics that usually raises a lot of debates is Part Numbers. One of my first takes on the complexity of Part Numbers was here – PDM, Part Numbers and the Future of Identification. Ed Lopategui reminded me about that topic in his GrabCAD post – Intelligent Numbering: What’s the Great Part Number Debate? few days ago. He speaks about four aspects related to handling of Part Numbers – creation, readability, uniqueness and interpretation. The conclusion is complex as well as the topic itself. Here is the passage, which outlines the conclusion Ed made.

Balancing all these diverse factors is difficult, because no solution is optimal for every company. Here are some final tips to help you make prudent decisions: 1/ Understand your PDM/PLM system part number generation capabilities; 2/ Understand the limitations of any other systems that interact with your parts; 3/ Go through every activity that requires interpreting part numbers and understand what system access is available, and how the interfaces work. This will provide a good basis for your interpretation cost; 4/ Understand how easy/difficult it is for a new employee to interpret a part number.

These tips made me think again about Part Numbering, data and different data and process management tools involved into the process of Part Numbers handling. Most of approaches are focusing on systems and functionality to handle part identification and classification. What we do is trying to align our need to identify and classify parts with what multiple systems can do. The hardest part is to find Part Numbers that will make all systems involved into the process (CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP, SCM, etc.) to work smooth. Honestly it is too complex and too costly.

So, how to manage that complexity? Is there a reasonable way to resolve the complexity of Part Numbering and made everybody happy? Thinking about that I came to conclusion that companies should start thinking about data first. From the longevity standpoint, data must have much higher priority compared to any data management system. In some industries companies are obliged to keep data for decades. Thinking about that, I want to outline some principles that will help you to do so and will allow to create some standardization around parts and data identification.

1- Disconnect Part Numbers and classification from specific applications. PN should not be dependent on requirements and capabilities of data and process management systems. Data has much longer lifespan compared to applications and systems. By defining PN independently you will keep data and processes in your company clean and well organized.

2- Generate PN based on classification, business needs and processes.  Develop independent service to make it happen. This service is most probably should be independent from existing data management systems and converted in some sort of URI based notation.

3- Use  independent service to convert independent PN into system specific identification. You can convert for any system you have at your disposal – PDM, PLM, ERP, SCM… What is important is to be able to control the process of conversion and adapt it each time data and/or process management system changes.

What is my conclusion? Product data is one of the most expensive assets in manufacturing companies. It represents your company IP and it is a real foundation of every manufacturing business. Think about data first. It will help you to develop strategy that organize data for longer lifecycle and minimize the cost of bringing new systems and manage changes in existing systems. I think, some services should be developed to make the process of part numbering easier for manufacturing companies. As manufacturing is getting global to maintain part numbering systems becomes a huge problem. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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controlled-collaboration

These days manufacturing businesses are more connected than ever before. Every manufacturing company (even smallest startup) has a tremendous need for collaboration – help multiple engineers to get involved into the design process, communication with suppliers, plan manufacturing processes, etc.  Social networks and open web inspired many companies to develop collaboration software that mimic consumer social software. One of the main attribute of every social software (Facebook, G+, twitter and others) is so called “activity stream” or “news feed”. The trend was strong and produced lots of copycats. The successful and lucky ones got acquired. Many of less successful died.

The idea of activity stream is very powerful. It allows you easy share and consume information. However, here is a thing – it is not protected from “noise vs. signal” problem. The more people you follow – more information will flow into your activity stream(s). You end up with messy stream of information you cannot keep up with. It is probably okay for public news or even for executives in a company interested to keep up with what is going on. However, it is probably not a good experience for engineers that need to work together on the same design or discuss next engineering or manufacturing change request. Also, it is probably not a very useful as a tool  to communicate between departments and suppliers. And… this is absolutely wrong model to use for process management.

All problems I mentioned above is actually making the adoption os social system for collaboration questionable. I can see many confirmations to that. CMSWire article  The Problem With Yammer? People Don’t Use It speaks exactly about the problem. Here is key passage:

But what if the problem is not about difficulty or learning curves but about culture? What if the problem with Yammer has nothing to do with the product itself and nothing to with usability, but rather with the fact that enterprise workers are holding onto email for dear life and are not prepared to give it up? Microsoft itself appears to be aware of this. The addition of complimentary Yammer for the new Office 365 plans appears to speak to that. However, if Microsoft’s updated offerings are a step in the right direction, they won’t solve the problem of social and collaboration in the enterprise.

Another interesting example – Facebook. Clearly the king of social networks recently introduced simple and very effective feature to get out of noise of your information stream – Save. It can quickly remind you old and well-known list of favorites. Navigate to TNW article – Facebook introduces Save, a new bookmarking feature to help tame your News Feed. Sounds like a simple feature, but it allows you to keep specific post out of noisy channel and focus on them later in a more controlled way.

These and many other examples made me think about what is needed to provide a better way to collaborate. My hunch is that “controlled list of topics” can better serve the need of engineers and other people to work together. How to make it? This is probably more tricky question. I can see it as the next logical step from email that still one of the most favorited tools to communicate. It also reminded me my post Why PLM shouldn’t miss next email move earlier this week.

What is my conclusion? Activity stream is a good way to present flow of information. However, the type of experience it creates is way too open and subject to be affected by information noise. I believe engineering tools should provide more tight way to communicate, exchange information and share data for collaboration purposes. This is main reason people are holding onto email as a best tool. New ways to collaborate is not here… yet. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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PLM implementations: nuts and bolts of data silos

July 22, 2014

Data is an essential part of every PLM implementation. It all starts from data – design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, support, etc. Enterprise systems are fragmented and representing individual silos of enterprise organization. To manage product data located in multiple enterprise data silos is a challenge for every PLM implementation. To “demolish enterprise data silos” […]

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Cloud PDM can make file check-in and check-out obsolete

July 21, 2014

Management of CAD files (PDM) is heavily associated with desktop workflows. Lots of CAD files live on engineering desktops and shared company network drives. Originally, one of the main PDM functionality was to vault CAD data and manage CAD files revisions. One of the most widely used scenario to support this functionality is so-called Check-in […]

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Why PLM shouldn’t miss next email move?

July 18, 2014

Email is a king of communication in every company. Many companies are literally run by email. People are using it for different purposes -notification, collaboration and very often even record management. You can hear many discussions about how companies can replace or integrate email with enterprise and social collaboration tools. I captured some of them […]

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Why cloud engineering collaboration tools are slow to ramp up

July 15, 2014

Few weeks ago I attended Boston Tech Jam and learn new buzzword – YAPSA. Which stands for Yet Another Photo Sharing Application. The amount of cloud files and data sharing applications is skyrocketing these days. It inspired many developers to re-think how to share and collaborate with engineering data.  Cloud technologies made people to bring back […]

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The complexity of Part Management in PDM

July 11, 2014

How to manage Parts? It sounds like a trivial and simple question. Every manufacturing companies and engineering organization is facing this problem. However, it is not as simple as you might think so. The information about Parts (aka Items) is often scattered between CAD drawings, multiple Excel files, PDM and ERP systems. One of the […]

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Dassault is going to support all PLM cloud options by 2015+

July 10, 2014

For the last few years, I’m following cloud strategies of main PLM vendors – Aras, Arena, Autodesk, Dassault, Siemens PLM, PTC and few others. You can find some of my early notes here – PLM vendors, IT and cloud strategies. The variety of cloud options made statement “Cloud PLM” practically useless. I had a chance […]

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PDM weakest link

July 8, 2014

You’re only as strong as your weakest link. The article Are You Still Using FTP for CAD File Transfer? on Engineering.com by Scott Wertel caught my attention few days ago. The article compares FTP, cloud file sharing and cloud based PDM. Read the article and draw your opinion. I found something  common between all these approaches […]

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