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Parts

plm-erp-part-management

Few days ago, the discussion about PLM revenue model took me into part management route. This is not entirely related to revenue and business models, but my readers mentioned part cost reduction as one of the most visible ways to present PLM ROI. I have to agree, to manage parts is a critical element of overall product development and manufacturing process. Part management is an essential function of every manufacturing company.  And… probably one of the most confusing ones. Design parts, manufacturing parts, suppliers, spare parts, manufacturing, supply chain, SKUs… The list of topics that come to mind when you think about Part Management is enormous.

Today, I want to speak about one aspect of part management – interplay between PLM and ERP systems. Usually, PLM and ERP systems are presented by vendors and advisers as a complementary systems. PLM focus is product defintion. ERP focus is manufacturing. Despite that role-play, for the last decade, PLM and ERP systems developed significant amount of out-of-the-box functional overlap.

Part management is one of the areas where interplay between PLM and ERP is very demanded. The traditional focus of ERP on part ordering brings ERP part management in a focus of manufacturing planning process. From the other side, product definition is largely done by PLM system and therefore, on a conceptual level, PLM is responsible for initial BOM setup, drawings and other part related documentation.

There are lot of grey zones between PLM and ERP functionality. These areas are very visible in the manufacturing process setup and initial production stage. Also, it depends on manufacturing type (CTO, ETO, MTO), complexity of supply chain and other factors usually related to a specific company – geographical location, speed of lifecycle, etc.

Another grey zone between PLM and ERP is related to early lifecycle stages (definition) and late lifecycle stages (maintenance, support and post-production). These functionality is suffering from lack of information availability between systems. The philosophy of ERP is to focus on ordering transactions. Serial numbers and post production evolution cannot be managed in ERP. On the opposite side, date effiectivity and other manufacturing aspects of BOM can be hardly managed in a typical PLM implementation.

As I mention in the beginning, effective part management across the product lifecycle can result in significant cost reduction. I can see two main sources of cost optimization – 1/ redundant part cost and 2/ part rationalization. Here are some examples of product functionality that can help

- Part classification available across product lifecycle, including early design stages.

- Mechanisms to support part re-use such as search, where-use and other advanced BOM tools

- Approved manufacturers and suppliers list availability in PLM system

- Advanced BOM tools enabling part rationalization

- Other part, suppliers and manufacturers optimization methods

However, here a problem. The functionality I described above requires very tight interoperability level between enterprise systems responsible for product definition, engineering, manufacturing and supply chain.  More specifically, it requires tight integration of part and BOM management functions in both PLM and ERP. The commitment for such integration is a hard decision for many companies. Complexity, cost, legacy tools, product updates, corporate politics – this is only a very short list of factors preventing companies from implementing efficient part management.

What is my conclusion? Part management functionality is crossing enterprise systems and departments in every manufacturing company. As a result of that, part management literally stuck between product design, engineering and manufacturing. The potential to streamline part management process is huge and can be a source of significant cost reduction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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part-management-pdm-complexity

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 biggest problem is to how to manage revisions and changes for Parts. I captured this problem in some of my previous writings. Future CAD-PLM and Assembly Version Management; Why versioning is complicated in PDM?; PLM, ERP and Managing of Effectivity; Revisions in CAD/PLM/ERP: Old Problems or New Challenges?

Recent GrabCAD blog – Part Revisions: Deal or No Deal made me think again about why is so complex to manage parts in every PDM environment. The following passage explains what means Part has no revision:

Documentation can be revised, but the part itself should not. If a part changes, the revised part is issued a new part number. In the case of PMI, where the “documentation” portion is integral to the part, revisions are more esoteric. Allowable PMI revisions in that case depend on whether the documentation portion is being updated or the part model is being physically changed.

The following passage explains one of my 5 Don’ts in BOM management - Don’t use the same ID for Part Numbers and Drawing Numbers:

In many cases, the documentation is a fully dimensioned engineering drawing, though these days it might also be Product Manufacturing Information (PMI), if you’re riding the technology wave. In the case of a drawing, the documentation also carries an identifying number. While it may be tempting to make the part and drawing numbers the same, such an approach aims to misbehave. For example, a drawing is often changed for very different reasons than the part it describes, often in a fashion that has no impact on design. In addition, drawings may describe multiple parts. In other words, drawing and part life cycles are unique, so the identification number for each must also be unique.

Now, let me go back to the original question. Why is so complex to manage parts in PDM? Here are two main reasons:

1- Complexity of two lifecycles – CAD and Items

CAD documents and Part lifecycle is fundamentally different. PDM system manage CAD files revisions and dependencies between files. Parts (Items) requires Part Numbers and Effectivity to control FFF (Form, Fit and Function) also known as interchangeability rules. Revision can be applied, but it won’t be used to identify a part.

2- Disagreement about where is “master” of part information and cross system integration

Part information is scattered between PDM, ERP and supply chain management systems. Organizations are having hard time to agree WHO is controlling Part creation process. When changes happens or new parts is created, information must be synchronized between multiple systems. It raises the complexity of overall integration and data management.

What is my conclusion? Complexity of two lifecycle management is a key problem in part management in PDM. It is hard to combine part lifecycle including interchangeability rules and effectivity with proper management of CAD documents. The user workflows are getting complex and engineers are having hard time to use the system. While the reality of manufacturing is that both documents and parts need to managed in an appropriate way, PDM vendors facing real challenges to get efficient Part Management processes in place. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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Let me talk again about Part Numbers. The last time I wrote about Part Numbers, it created a healthy discussion. I’d encourage you to refresh your memory and read one of my blog post back one year ago – PLM Data, Identification and Part Numbers. I found some interesting facts specially reading all 51 comments to this post. Finally, the following picture on Josh Mings’ yfrog, made me think about Parts, Items and Numbering system again.

The picture is, obviously, funny… However, it made me think about some problems related to identification of “things” in CAD, PDM, PLM products and, actually, about global data identification in a manufacturing company.

Part Numbers and Global Identification Problem

One of the problems I can see in manufacturing organizations is related to identification of assemblies, parts, documents and other related information. The problem is not new. It was exists many years. The elements of identification have multiple dimensions. You can think about different phases of lifecyle on one side. On the other side, you can think about manufacturing sites. There are many other elements in this identification schema. You can ask me – companies are implementing solutions to identify parts – what’s the big deals? It is just names or numbers…

I think, these problems become more complicated because of several trends that happen in manufacturing these days. I just bring few – globalization and global manufacturing, the complexity of products, supply chain optimization and many others. In my view, the complexity of identification causes raising complexity of software to support it and, at the end, the complexity of business processes. Take a look on the following picture from Wikipedia (obviously, I don’t want to expose any customer data I have):

I can also mention few other problems that exist in every manufacturing company and not only for large OEMs – handling of loosely coupled information, manage multiple and sometimes un-planned information sources, harmonization of many “small packets” of corporate data, etc. To have an efficient identification can be helpful. I can see companies are spending lots of time discussing an “identification” problem and trying to come to a reasonable solution that fits their need.

Identification Silver Bullet and Semantic Web Promise

Is there a “silver bullet” that can help to companies to solve identification problems? Unfortunately, in my view, the technologies that were developed 20-30 years ago cannot scale up to handle existing complexity of the information stored in CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP and other business systems. I see an interesting promise coming from semantic technologies that were developed for the last decade. One of the possible solutions is to apply the techniques developed on the web such as URI as well as elements of RDF and OWL to identify elements of data. In a nutshell, the idea of unique global data identification that can be developed on the level that provides Part Numbering schema in multiple divisions in your company.

What is my conclusion? There is no silver bullet that can solve the problem of Part Numbers and data identification in manufacturing companies tomorrow. Data related problems cannot be solved overnight. At the same time, application of new technologies that were developed on the web for the last 10-15 years can provide a step by step plan to solve the current “data disaster”. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

*picture is courtesy of solidsmack yfrog account.

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