How to improve PLM processes before PLM system using BPMN.
In many situations when I talked with customers they raised issue of process improvement. In context of PLM it sounds very reasonable and significant portion of PLM is about how to improve process related to product development in organization. There are several startegies that can be used to do so – use current PLM or PDM software you have in organization, steping into IT project and intoroduce Business Process Management Suite, check available IT assets to see if existing system ERP (in the case of big ERPs) or IT platform can do process job, look after Workflow Management System and finally check some open source or even modern SaaS offerings.
But looking after many customers and use cases idea I want to discuss is about to introduce BPMN in organization before actually decision to use any of systems I mentioned above. BPMN (Business Process Management Notation) is initiative that emerged as very popular graphical notation to process modeling. Ability of BPMN to express organization aspect is very powerful and not required intoduction of complex IT systems. There are many tools supports BPMN notation – BPMN Stencil for MS Visio (you can download free BPMN stencil from Orbussoftware) or use Altova products that supports BPMN. You can take a look on brief introduction of BPMN usage with Altova.
Now when you have free tool, create team of people that will analyse most significant and important processes in your organizations. If we talk about PLM related processes it can be custom product order to shipment or engineering change process. You can set organizational priorities and clearly present objective to management with diagrams explaining processes, problems and bottlenecks.
Bellow you can see sample BPMN based diagram created in Altova –
Now, after you have successfully intorudced BPMN and have your organizational process mapped and you even discovered some organizational obstacles, you can come with realistic questions to your vedors (PLM, ERP, BPM or any other) with question how their system can support processes in your organization.
Finally you can check www.bpmn.org to see what vendors supports BPMN notation today. I see BPMN support trend is growing and you can find multiple vendors supporting BPMN in their product offerings.