Product and Process Models in PLM – What Should Come First?

Common definition of the process – “a set of activities leading to the desired outcome”. Despite on such simple and straightforward definition, implementation of processes in PLM delayed and very often lead to a significant complexity in implementation. I’d like to analyze and discover why it happens and what other factors can influence process implementation in the organization.

Process Model.
It depends on tools, technologies and environment customer has, processes in the organization can be modeled and implemented differently. Normally, there are more than one enterprise systems in the organization that is able to handle process modeling. Starting from middleware and specialized BPM software, following by enterprise systems such as ERP and PLM and ending with various Enterprise 2.0 collaboration tools. Process model, these days, can be developed by multiple tools. For the last few years, BPMN becomes somewhat similar to the standard process definition tools. What is the main problem? Data. Various products and corporate data needed to be injected into process implementation to make it work.

Product Model.
Originally started from CAD models, product model developed as an extended set of information describing various aspects and dimension of product – model, bill of material, requirements, items, information about customer requests etc. As we learned from process model definition, this specific product model information is needed to make process definition. Processes actually need to access data to trigger tasks and events to handle processes.

So, what should come first? Product or Process? My conclusion is that lack of the rational product model can drive to a very high level complexity of process definition and implementation. Product Model is the foundation of product lifecycle. Without a well defined product model that can cover enterprise product definition scope and related disciplines, development of a process oriented PLM environment becomes a complex and not achievable task. Organization implementing PLM as a process environment needs to invest first in implementation or adoption of the product model that will be used as a process foundation.

What is your opinion? What was your experience in similar tasks and efforts?
Best, Oleg


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