PLM: Productivity vs. Process?

Let’s start with a strange question – how many “Ps” are there in PLM? Frankly, speaking, I don’t know. I keep finding new ones J.  But today, I’ve chosen two Ps for today’s brainstorm – Productivity and Process. Do you see the contradiction in these two terms? When I think about how to approach a customer with any software – mail, office tools, CADs – the question of productivity is always top-ranked, especially when we touch on the topic of collaboration

 I think that any successful PLM implementation needs to address this topic. There are a few ways that PLM can improve productivity. First of all, by organizing your product content: You have multiple silos of information – customer requirements, design, engineering and manufacturing documentation. Everything needs to be connected and available using multiple Bill of Material tools that a PLM system needs to provide. As soon as you have such tools, you can be the king (or queen) of PLM content. And you will be very productive, since you will always know what is happening with your product, its  relevant customer needs (including defects), design documents, and manufacturing instructions. Secondly, by providing role-based access to this information: As you can only see what is relevant to your work, you will have the right content and visibility of that content.

 Now, let’s talk about processes or business process. I think that some people get caught up in process implementation by thinking that processes formalize the way you work, make it more organized, but also less productive.  I disagree. Efficient implementation of process and usage of the right tools can give you a much clearer view on what is going on in your organization, and will help you with the task distribution process and communication between people. The importance of business process is huge. Don’t be mislead with workflow. In most workflows, documents are moved among people for approval. This is a correct replacement of email. But an important differentiator of process tools in PLM from workflow is to provide a model for your organization to work, allowing people to execute tasks as part of these processes. In one of my earlier posts I asked whether PLM should fit into the established business processes or change them? You need to go with the right steps in my opinion. Good process tools allow you to start with the modeling of your organization (for example using BPMN tools) and then later, run these processes and tools to improve the existing organizational processes.

 Now that you’ve gotten this far, how do you get processes in place without losing productivity? I think that if we can find the right answer to this question, we can improve the adoption of PLM within an organization. I believe that technological achievements can help. By developing user interfaces using rich internet application (RIA) technologies that use SOA to communicate between user interfaces and process tools, we can provide an integrated, process-oriented, PLM environment. I’d be interested to know what your experience in implementing of business processes in your organization and how it impact people and organizational productivity.


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