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Manufacturing

hardware-mfg-startup

Selling PLM for SME was always a very controversial topic among PLM vendors. No consensus here. I wrote about it few months ago in my Why PLM stuck to provide solution for SME post and got  interesting follow up conversations with few industry pundits.

Every PLM vendor has some special product offering ready for SME market segment. But did it work well to anybody? My hunch, most of “successful PLM SME” implementations are focusing on basic CAD/PDM features. Very few SME organizations successfully implemented a complete PLM system including BOM, change management, configurations, manufacturing integration, requirement management and more. If you got a chance to see one, it is typically result of huge effort of people in the organization itself committed to make it work.

One of the most typical reasons for PLM vendors to sale to SME was high cost of implementation and sales multiplied by absence of IT people ready to handle PLM implementation. In my view, PLM vendors have a great hope to make it easier with modern cloud based PLM offering, but jury is still out to watch results.

Meantime, manufacturing landscape is getting even more interesting. Hardware is the new software. Nest, GoPro, Beats, Jawbone, Oculus… You’re welcome in the world of manufacturing startups. I touched it in my earlier post – Why Kickstarter projects need PLM? Yesterday, my attention was caught by TechCrunch article – Hardware Case Study: Why Lockitron Has Taken So Long To Ship. Read the article – I found it very interesting. The following passage explains basically that from “limited assembly”, manufacturing startups are moving towards full manufacturing cycle:

In our initial RFQs (“request for quote”) we leaned heavily towards manufacturing entirely in the United States. Our impetus for this was largely around logistics; if we could make everything domestically, we wouldn’t have to travel far and wide to ensure the quality we expected. It quickly became apparent that manufacturing domestically would cost far beyond what we had budgeted for. Given the number of parts, required touch time (the amount of time it takes someone to assemble a product), various materials and processes used, building entirely in the U.S. wasn’t viable. Potential domestic suppliers still looked East for most of the components we needed, albeit with longer lead times.

However, even more interesting quote is the following one explaining the level of challenges during the development processes.

We spent the next few months redesigning our gearbox to reduce noise while increasing power to deal with sticky or hard-to-close locks. While the choice was the right one to make, it cost us valuable time; a few parts had to be retooled and there were cascading effects on our electronics and supplier choices. We selected an ultra-efficient, powerful motor to place at the lock’s heart, but this also impacted our timeline. Most challenging, however, was the meshing of electronic and mechanical worlds. An initial circuit board design proved overly complex and underpowered.

As you noted the complexity of product including mechanical and electronic parts is very high. In addition to that, even it wasn’t stated explicitly by the article, I can see a growing complexity of integration between electromechanical and software components.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of manufacturing startups is growing. To scale product development and manufacturing is a very challenging job. And all must be done in a craziest timeline – the reality of every startup. Manufacturing startups is an interesting niche that clearly different from typical SME organizations we’ve seen before.  The challenge of PLM with a typical manufacturing SME is to compete with a status quo of existing processes and tools. Manufacturing startups are different – absence of processes, startup culture and an absolutely need to get job done in a very short timeframe. It would be interesting to see a growing demand for PLM tools as well as growing complexity of product development and supply chain in these organizations. What PLM tools will provide an answer? Good question for PLM strategists these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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plm-for-xtreme-manufacturing

I’m sure most of you are familiar with XP (Extreme Programming) – software development methodology, which intent to improve software quality and responsiveness to changing customer requirements. The history of XP goes back in the end of 90s. Despite very short history XP is very popular and it is hard to find a respectful software development team not adopting at least part of principles of XP.

Earlier this week, I learned about XM (eXtreme manufacturing) inspired by Scrum and Kanban. XM named after XP and it takes some principles of eXtreme Programming such as agile, communication, user stories and more. According to Wikipedia article, XM is interactive and incremental development framework. It combines best practices of project management and focused on holistic approach in goal achievement. The same wikipedia article quotes and example of experimental car that was developed just in 3 months. Few other examples are available. Here is the passage from wikipedia speaking about that:

In 2008, Joe Justice entered the Automotive X Prize, and achieved with XM what Fortune Magazine called the “seemingly impossible;” he and his team developed a functional prototype of an ultra-efficient automobile in three months time.[4] Even more remarkably the 100 mpg car has an impressive 0-60: < 5 seconds [1].[5] A number of prototype cars have been developed by separate companies using the XM process. Companies use XM as a way to challenge their employees to develop new skills and learn the power of teamwork to solve complex problems. For example, Lockheed Martin(Sunnyvale, CA) challenged 200 of its engineers to build a 100 mpg car in a single day; the challenge was met and the team’s car was sold for $25,000.[6] Another such example isopensourceecology.org,[7] whose Global Village Construction kit is bringing affordable industrial farming techniques to the small scale farm.

If you are familiar with XP, you may find some of XM methods very similar. Here is a very short explanation:

XM uses a prioritized product backlog as the primary work input queue. Work is visualized in an open area generally on a single team Kanban Board. Every XM team has a Scrum Master and also a Product Owner, who together with the team help to ensure that Agile/Lean principles are followed.

I found some additional materials about XML here and here. The last one is Kickstarter project by Joe Justice who coined XM term – Develop eXtreme Manufacturing class and curriculum.

Learning about XM made me think about possible intersection of PLM and XM. It seems to me PLM vendors are not very focused on this space today. There are lots of tools for XP and Agile development. These tools are helping to support development teams to achieve goals, work on user stories, log issues and control projects. Some of these tools are very successful. These tools such as Jira by Atlassian successfully developed large software communities. I’m sure rethinking some of existing XP tools can be a good starting points to develop PLM for XM.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing space is changing. New type of manufacturing companies are coming. My hunch, these companies will adopt agile and XM type of work and will change traditional working methods. These companies will develop new world of manufacturing (similar to the revolution that was made by Henry Ford back 100 years ago). It looks like an interesting opportunity to look what type of software tools these companies will require. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit scruminc

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search-top-secret

Search and information discovery is a big deal these days. Inspired by Google and other web search giants, we want information at our fingertips at the right time. I’ve been following topic of search long time. You can jump on few of my previous articles about search – Oslo & Grap – new trajectories in discovery and search; Why engineers need exploratory search? and Pintrest will teach CAD companies to search.

You may think cost and complexity are top problems of search technologies. Crunching lots of data and connecting relevant information requires application of right resources and skills. You will be surprised, but there is one more element that drives low adoption of search in manufacturing companies – security.

Information age articles Enterprise search adoption remains low – survey speaks about survey done among 300 Enterprise IT professionals conducted by Varonis Systems. According to this survey – enterprises are afraid good search solution will allow to people o find information with no permission. Here is the passage which explains that:

The respondents were surveyed at two major security-themed industry events, the RSA Conference in February and Infosecurity Europe in April. When asked to choose the biggest obstacle to enterprise search adoption, 68% cited the risk of employees locating and accessing files they should not have permission to view. Further, even if an enterprise search solution perfectly filters out results based on established permissions, the majority of respondents indicated they are not confident that their organisation’s existing permissions are accurate. Additional obstacles to enterprise search adoption most commonly cited were accuracy of the results (36%), end user adoption (29%) and the ability of solutions to scale enough to index all the data (24%).

It made me think about complexity of manufacturing companies and enterprise organization in general. Established permissions are part of the story. The search results permissions are as good as data that enterprise systems are supplying to search software. GIGO (Grabage in, Garbage out). For many IT organization, management of security and permissions is a big deal. Think about typical manufacturing company. Tomorrow, search system can find all CAD files that were occasionally copy/pasted in different locations and shared between organizations outside of existing PDM/PLM tools. What else, multiple “publishing solutions” created variety of published copies in different formats. Add SharePoint and similar technologies sometimes adopted by divisions against approvals of central IT. Good search solution can be a litmus test to many IT organizations.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing enterprises are complex. As I described, it driven by strategic, political and cultural lines. Search is disruptive technology that has a possibility to cross these lines and expose many elements of corporate IT problems. So, once more, we learn that only mix of technological and people skills can solve the problem. Strategists and technologist of search vendors should take a note.  Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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What PLM vendors can learn from manufacturing startups?

June 13, 2014

About half year ago, I was looking for bluetooth location trackers. The solution that caught my attention was Tile. I liked the slick video and interesting design. At that time I learned that Tile grabbed $2.6M via crowdfunding – very remarkable result. However, I noticed that solution is not available. I followed Tile since than […]

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PLM, Physical Experience and Homegrown IoT

June 3, 2014

To connect virtual and physical worlds was always one of the most important imperatives. What if I can experience my product before manufacturing – flying virtual planes, driving virtual cars, etc. Navigating back in my blog, I found few good examples of physical & virtual connectivity – Physical and Virtual Convergence; PLM and physical experience; […]

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Why Kickstarter projects need PLM?

May 21, 2014

Online business models are disrupting industries. E-commerce was probably one of the first disrupted segments. Just think about it… 10-15 years ago we debated if people will be ready to use their credit cards online. Changes will be coming to other industries and verticals. Manufacturing is one of them. Back in 2012, I had a […]

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Why BOM Management Is Complex?

May 12, 2014

My last post about Manufacturing BOM raised few interesting comments online and offline. One of them by Jos Voskuil  was pretty straightforward – “What is a big deal about MBM”? Jos pointed me on his earlier post – Where is MBOM? This post as well as few other articles I posted earlier - Why companies are not ready […]

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PLM Best Practices and Henry Ford Mass Production System

April 6, 2014

If you are in PLM business, I’m sure you are familiar with term called “best practices”. The term is widely used to explain how PLM system can be deployed, how to manage data and how to organize and optimize product development processes. So, where are roots of PLM best practices and why PLM vendors like […]

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How not to miss PLM future?

March 23, 2014

The world around us is very disruptive these days. Nothing stands still. You cannot stop innovation and progress. Engineering and manufacturing software is not fastest changing domains. It explained by slow changing process, high level of complexity in product development and significant capital investment manufacturing companies made in existing PLM and other enterprise software. Nevertheless, […]

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Why PLM vendors might decide to beat Amazon?

March 21, 2014

Amazon is an absolutely marketshare leader in cloud computing. Because “cloud” is such a big and vague word these days, we must clarify and say “public cloud”. So, you may think for most of us, cloud is equal to Amazon. AWS EC2 allows us to spin new servers quickly and provide great services to everybody […]

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