PLM Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes

PLM Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes

Although I love my PLM Spreadsheets, it is a sort-of “Love and Hate” relationship. Since it’s so easy to start with Excel, we always do…, but what is the price of this easy move? So, I decided to follow-up my love letter to Excel with some “hate” statements.

1. It becomes complex within time. You always start with something simple to do. A few columns; simple formulas. But life adds additional parameters, and data to manage…. and then you can hardly manage it at all. You don’t remember all your excel dependencies. The Copy/Paste you loved in the beginning is no longer an easy task…

2. You cannot change it easily. At the beginning of your Excel story, it seems so easy to change. You can send it to any person, add information, delete, manage reports, etc. But as time goes by, nobody remembers the really good relationships you built in Excel. To touch data in Excel becomes so complex! I’ve seen many organizations who have an “Excel Manager” duty. These people are called “mission critical Excels”.

3. Data is not only in Excel. Your PLM life is not in Excel only. A lot of information exists in CAD, Designs, ERP, or in additional legacy applications. In my view, Excel is a very bad integration tool. You cannot easily point to information residing in other systems. But to manage these relationships, it’s really important to have the right data in your hands when you need it.

4. Where is my latest Excel? I’m sure you have asked this question many times. Is it the one connected to your mail? Is it the one on your laptop, or is it the one in SharePoint? When you have multiple Excels, and especially if you have multiple versions of these Excels, you will really be lost…

5. Hidden cost of dependencies. At the beginning of the Excel journey, it so easy to send an Excel file to your colleagues. You just attach it to your mail and it’s delivered. But as soon as your Excel becomes complex such as being connected to other data sources or linked to other Excels, you cannot encapsulate it so easily. So, sometimes sending it via email isn’t so trivial.

What is my conclusion?

I still really like my PLM Excel, but before building my PLM system on Excel grounds, I would like to try to find ways to avoid these hidden Excel problems. How should I do this? Keeping it simple is a good recommendation in theory, but not always easy an easy task to put into practice. I will think about a few recommendations and possible solutions and will come back to you in future posts. I’ll record the recommendations in an Excel sheet before posting them here. Or maybe not….

[UPDATE 2021] There is a better way. I built to help many engineers, manufacturing, and construction companies to solve this age pain of managing BOMs and product information in Excels. Please check this out – The registration is free. 

Best, Oleg 

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networksMy opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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