PLM Best Practices Torpedo

One of the very important aspects of PLM as enterprise software is the ability to be implemented in the fast and easy way. I think you will agree, that long implementation cycle can put your PLM project into the wastebasket as well as your carrier on hold. I’m observing strong move of PLM companies towards proposing of “best practices” or so called “industry best practices”. Such best practices are normally set of data models, process definitions and other recommendations about how to implement a system in the organization.

The whole approach made me think this can represent the mainstream trend in PLM implementations. On the surface, it sounds as a silver bullet. You are getting “ready-to-use” system with all bells and whistles. What do you need is only run it in your organization.

However, when thought about that more, I got a different way to see it. The significant piece of these best practices is a data modeling schema. Basically, it represents the way system works. On top of these data models, applied different business rules and process definitions. It reminds taxonomies (Wikipedia: Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification) applied to the data you manage. Why do I have a concern in such models? In my view taxonomy-based approach is good when your data is stable, and you have an agreed way to organize it. When applied to manufacturing organization, it means you have an agreed way to handle product data and processes around. However, this is not true in the modern manufacturing organizations. Today’s organizations are dynamic and experience on going change due to economical, business and regulatory activities. How do you think it will work when pre-build best practices will be applied?

Here, I’m coming to the second question. The most important activity when implementing PLM is the ability to make changes and react in a fast manner when you experience changes in your organizational processes. Customers these days are interested in how to make small and lean implementations as well as a move with the short steps. And it sounds like a contradiction with pre-defined templates and best practices. Whatever you are going to apply in the beginning will be changed later.

And my third and final question is about initial implementation. Each organization is sort of unique skills, rules and business processes. How these  practices can be mapped to the predefined best practices. Hm… It sounds as another point when changes will be applied.

This is my take. Best practices are like a torpedo. When it comes as a bunch of models, processes and rules, you need to spend organizational time to apply them to the way your company is doing business. This is a first time explosion. Within the time, you’ll need spend more time to change various aspects of predefined pieces. So, this is your next explosion. After few of such explosions, I think, your model will be completely different from the original best practices.

So, what is my conclusion? What should be implementation starting point? I believe best practices are the excellent way to show what your PLM product is capable of doing. However, as implementation practices, it doesn’t work. You need to have a system that can capture your business practices. Once you did it, you can change and optimize. The system need to be flexible enough. The cost of the initial best practices’ application is too high. Instead of that you better invest into a system that can capture your business processes.

Just my thoughts… It will be great if you can share your experience. I hope we’ll have a good conversation.

Best, Oleg



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  • Best practice is a good pre-sales material, because the customers think they can take this to understand what others are doing, but its help to implementation is really limited. The implementation process, we must understand the customer’s current management model first, then combined it with the PLM system, design a suitable application model that the customer willing to accept and the PLM system can bear.
    ” Whatever you are going to apply in the beginning will be changed later” is the True practice, so let each short step to see the good results, then begin the next short but valuable step.

    I think Genexus is such a system that can capture your business process and data.

    Hi Oleg, thank you for the good idea every day.

  • Allen, Thanks for your comments and link to Genexus. I will take a look on that. I agree- best practices are mostly pre-sales materials. Best, Oleg

  • Loic Mouchard

    Hi Oleg,

    I agree that the actual implementations of PLM solutions do not really combine best practices (simplicity, rapidity) and flexibility (suitable to the need).

    This surely comes from the fact that usually the data model and the associated processes are too more coupled.

    That imposes the long deployment times. It is surely very complex to find an architecture that allow this flexibility, and there will be huged issues with right management, using the wanted process to the addapted data, and so on.

    On other way to develop the Best practices would be, I think to provide some small tools or templates to be customised, instead of out of the shelve solutions that do not fit requirements. The rapidity and ease of customizing would then be significantly improuved.

    Best Regards,

  • I beg to differ from you guys (well I guess this is because my role in Siemens PLM is Practice Manager – I support our consultant communities to share and document practices).

    When you deploy a PLM solution to a customer, they don’t want you to spend years of their money to replicate their own R&D business processes (like we did years back). This is because they realize that the value of PLM lies in modifying those processes to be more efficient.

    Without a process “revolution”, the value of PLM is greatly reduced to a task automation tool. In order to maximize the value of PLM, customers ask us to change their processes towards good (or “best” if possible) practices which they are NOT adopting.

    The focus of the impementation shifts from capturing the whole process as executed by a customer, to capturing the things they do very well, or very specific to their business, and complement the industyry practices we have with that information.

    After that, much more effort is to be done on the organizational side – as Oleg says, this IS expensive – but this is the only way for the customer to achieve the benefits they were looking for.

    For example, we can sell a PLM vision based on the master model and 3D development concepts, but there is no value in implementing a drawing management system because that’s how they work today. You need to deploy a master model centric system and teach the guys to work like that.

  • Loic, Thanks for your comment! The biggest problem is to find this balance between what you called “small templates” and “flexible architecture”. In practice, I think all end up in the development from scratch. In some cases VAR or service provider may have some templates he uses as a lego approach. Best, Oleg

  • Paolo, Thanks for your comment! I understand your position. Let me give you an example. You are saying – “To capture the things they [customer] does very well or very specific”. So, you assume that initial focus needs to be done in the estimation of the current customer situation – data, processes, tools. I believe, each customer has his own “secret sauce”. So, in this case, you pre-configured templates need to be changed (and this is the first torpedo explosive function) as I mentioned in my post! Best, oleg

  • Loic Mouchard

    I beg you are speaking about small, medium or relatively new companies, or companies with “normal” development process. Your approach would then fit the needs of this compagnies, as you said they expect to benefit froom best practises.

    By experience I can garantee you there is other kind of customers of PLM solutions that do not want to change the processes they have design for years. They invest a lot into developing it, I think they are not going to give up their past.

    Furthemore, if best practises were adopted by whole compagnies, how do you reallize the next steps : optimization, innovation. Are the companies addopting best practices doomed to follow the leaders?


  • Thanks for your thoughts.I think best practice recommendation/implementation always depends on the consultants who are going to implement the PLM solution – their respective experience in the domain & PLM solution selected.
    I think best practices should be finalized majorly before selecting a PLM solution in PLM implementation process. I think Process Optimization may be done while doing actual implementation, as new ideas will come while working on actual (may be pre-production environment) system. I think so ….
    Just my thoughts…!

  • Loic, Good points related to optimization and innovation. As I can see today, there are almost no tools that can capture and analyze product development and organizational processes and this is a very big disadvantage for PLM implementations. In any case, analyzes of the existing processes need to be done before implementation. Best, Oleg

  • Chandrajit, Thanks for your thoughts… Agree, consultants and implementation people are used to set up best practices or in simple language just develop or apply specific data models, configure user interface and rules and, in the end of the day, also to develop code to customize the system. This is how it often works. During this process, nothing should be done with all “predefined templates”. The templates are always part of pre-sale and evaluation to show system capabilities. Thanks! Oleg

  • Hi Oleg,

    I just like how you’ve provoked the discussion. Roger Tempest started a discussion about: What PLM Standards do we need?. This discussion surprisingly links with this one. Roger’s discussion slid into a process discussions as well. What my old friend Paolo intended with ‘best practices’ is another wording for ‘vendor design intent’ of a capability (solution blueprint).

    Oleg, referring to Roger’s discussion; unless there is a standard ‘model’ for specific processes, we won’t be able to develop an ‘out of the box’ solution that you install on Monday and operate on Tuesday.

    My 2 cents

  • Carmen Gillenwaters

    I have currently implemented a PLM tool at my medical device company. Today I manage this PLM tool we use it to manage most of our product development processes. I have asked my tool company as well as my integrator to find someone who has implemented a requirements management process really well in the RM tool. Turns out, no one is really doing it well. So there is nothing to buy. It would be great if someone could define how to structure requirements for a mechatronics device and then how to manage the configuration and evolution of those requirements over time, allowing maximum reuse of requirements. My company would be willing to purchase thier tool configuraiton as well as the procedures they have to go with it. My point is that someone should develop best practices, someone should teach them, and someone should configure the tool to go with it so that the only thing is needed is to load the product data. And that ‘someone’ doesn’t have to be the tool company. My company would be totally willing to follow a best practice..if there was one. Because we don’t want to spend the money to come up with something and keep spending money to change it till we get it to work well. …..If you build it…they will come.

  • Peter, Thanks for your comments! You are actually provoking me for the next “standard related” post. I like standards and, as I’m always saying, standards like toothbrushes – everybody wants them, but nobody wants to use somebody else standard. Standards are an expensive stuff. There is no commercial reason for the enterprise vendors to support standards, unless it will pay off. And this is not happening these days. Competing vendors won’t be interested to have “a standard-out-of-the-box” PLM. How they will sell their values in this case…??? I believe in flexibility and technology more than in “standards”. 10-15 years ago, technologies downgraded PDM from $1M projects with special customer-related builds to the Windows-based easy (relatively) implement PDM solutions. So, we need to think about the next revolution to get cost of PDM/PLM solution down. And “flexibility” is the ultimate answer to all customers that are looking how to improve their organizational and product development processes. Best, Oleg

  • Paul

    My problem with implementing the best practice model provided with software is that it reduces competitive advantage. On average, every car/plane/FMCG company will have comparable staff. If they all by the same PLM solution with the same embedded ‘best practice’ they will perform the same – it is the company’s unique process which gives it competitive advantage (or not!). Plus, most of these templates are so generic and simplified as to be irrelevant once you try and actually use them.


  • Carmen, Thank you for your comment! I understand your point. However, my question is as following- how do you apply “best practices” coming from other companies? Do you see any competitive advantages for your company based on how you manage the product development process? Unless from your business standpoint, the development is not something that unique, and you need some commodity-level PLM tools, you are better to check how to build the best match for development processes. Does it make sense or I’m missing something? Best, Oleg

  • Paul, Thanks! That was my fundamental assumption. PLM is in the core of the product development process. If you have the same one for everybody, you have no competitive advantage. Only if your competitive advantage and value proposition built on top of something else you go that way. However, this is so rare these days, in my view. Best, Oleg

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  • Douglas

    I have been involved in CIM/CAD/CAM/EDM/PDM/PLM 0ver the past 30 years, both as an end user and a consultant/ PLM implementer within industry. I can say from experience that, at the lower level of the Plm process building blocks very little is unique for a given process. So, at that level very little is directly related to a competitive advantage. It is at the process level itself that this competitive advantage, if at all, becomes apparent. That means that configurable PLM systems based on Best Practices models, contrary to what is generally stated, will work. That, or the process itself should be changed to match up to the best practices, because they have not been designated that for nothing. Why invent Configuration management again? Why invent Bill Of material generation again? Why invent product structuring again? Why invent part numbering conventions again? I could go on like that for a while

    Come on, this is not where your competitive advantage lies! It lies within the people and their abilities to come up with the right ideas, it lies with the decision making process that product development is, deciding which ideas to adopt, which concepts to pursue, which changes to accept or not, how to incorporate manufacturing knowledge in product development.

    PLM is just a tool to support this and I personally think that it is relatively mature in doing so

    So “Each organization is sort of unique in skills, rules and business processes” may be true, but the doubt that “these practices can be mapped to the predefined best practices” is largely unjustified

  • Douglas, Thank you for your insight! What I like is how you defined competitive advantage as what organization and people can provide. So, my assumption is that typical Configuration Management, BOM generation, Product Structure etc. needs to be justified to be mapped to the particular needs of the organization and people. And this process needs to be done every time you will come with PLM to the specific organization. This is probably a process you are doing now when making preparation in implementing ENOVIA V6 (based on your linked in status). So, it will be interesting if you can share the result of your mapping related to this particular case. Best, Oleg

  • Douglas

    Oleg, as I said, I believe in obtaining a competitive advantage through robust and well implemented processes. I think that most, if not all, of the “building blocks” or best practices are there. Embedded in PLM in a configurable way or at least well documented so they can be implemented in PLM. What we are now doing in implementing EV6 is creating a PLM environment that can accept a lot of legacy data (over 200 K drawings) while the BOM generation process will use the existing data extraction tools from CAD. In a later stage the BOM generation will be linked to EV6. Nothing really existing up to now. But then, after that we will start redefining the drawing package itself, turning it into a modularised and mono- based structure.
    This will enable the order process to become Configure to Order, whereas today it is Engineer to order. Next step will be the implementation of a ECR / ECO process (enter Configuration management) which will be extended from Development/Engineering into manufacturing and Manufacturing Change Orders
    We think that our competitive advantage lies in the Product Innovation by using a well orchestrated R&D /Development process, leading to Configurable Products. This one sentence contains all the relevant elements:
    • Innovation which, although it can be supported by PLM still mainly relies on people
    • A well thought out and well run R&D /Development process which relies on the right best practices such as Stage Gating, Design Reviews, Product release Engineering Change management, Modular design and many more.
    • Configure to order products, based on PLM defined modularity and combination rules.

    That’s the way we see it and that’s the way we will be moving ahead.
    Best Regards and keep up the good works with your blog

  • Douglas, Thank you for sharing your experience! I think, this is very interesting to the standpoint where you explain how you “redefine the drawing package”. Despite the fact EV6 can provide a straightforward way to handle CAD data, you will need to change these practices or fit it to your drawings…. Is it right understanding of what is going on? With regards to the rest of the processes, I agree- the ability to orchestrated cross-organizational processes can bring significant advantages. The effective management of ECR/ECOs can improve agility and overall company performance.
    Best, Oleg

  • Douglas

    Oleg, by “redefining the drawing package” I mean:
    – redefining the the structure of the drawing package in such a way that instead of the drawing structure being leading, the structure of the products or items will be.
    – i.e. the drawing or whatever other defining document is attached to the item in PDM, but the structure itself is leading
    – the (engineering defined) product structure should reflect the items to be produced”and in that sense, it gives substance to the principle of “design for logistics.
    – the product structure should be layered, consisting from bottom up of
    1- Monoparts
    2-Lower level assemblies (both 1 and 2 are items that lie before the CODP or customer order decoupling point).
    3- Configurable Assemblies, to be configured from 1 and 2.
    This will make it possible to “Configure to Order” and it also enables maximum re-use for “Engineer to Order”.
    You will appreciate that this way, you do not change the practices to fit the drawings but just the other way around.


  • Douglas, Thanks for sharing this information! I understand that these modeling changes will allow you to establish Configure To Order processes. This is probably to reflect so-called “item driven” development. Does it mean that you will manage Parts/Items in addition to drawings/assemblies to make it happen? Best, Oleg

  • Douglas


    Yes o0f course, the whole of PLM should be item (monopart, assembly) driven instead of drawing driven. In the end, the sole objective of creating drawings or their more modern variant, the 3D model, is to be able to produce an object (item).

    By the way, an interesting subject for a BLOGpost would be “what can we learn from WW2 war production in relationship to PLM”

    Did you ever wonder how it was possible that in the USA, the total assembly time of a Liberty (ship) in the shipyard in the end was counted in days rather than months and how it was possible that Automotive plants could be turned into assembly lines for B17 and B24 bombers, the parts and assemblies of which were manufactured all over the USA?


  • Douglas, I agree, ww2 is a good place to find innovative solutions for manufacturing. Huge place to make a research… I will need to think about that… Best, Oleg

  • Ratneshwar Jha

    Oleg and all, thanks for sharing your experiences about PLM standard specification. Particularly, I liked the discussion related to PLM Standard Specification and competitive advantage of particular company.
    Its well said “everybody wants them, but nobody wants to use somebody else standard”.
    But i would like to quote there must be some generic processes/techniques which are common for all.
    I believe that standard can be developed defining 3 standardization process into 3 tiers:
    1. Generic Standardization (1st Level): This will contain processes defined which are common to all implementors
    like Manufacturing Industry(Airbus),Process Industries
    and others. That is,some PLM definitions basically shares same sphere for all of them.
    2. Second level Standardization (2nd Level): It will contain some PLM definitions are common and specific to different sets of Industries like Airplane manufacturing, Car manufacturing,Cosmetics and many more.
    3. Customizations (3rd Level): This is the lowest level where we cant have any defined standards. And this is the layer where customizations are needed to align the company specific processes into PLM definition.Here the so called “Secret Ingredient” will come into picture.

    With 1st Level and 2nd Level any implementor will come to know how much % of their process will be implemented by PLM definition.

    With 3rd level it will be known how much is needed for PLM to be align with company’s secret ingredient.

    Just my view. 🙂

  • Ratneshwar, Thanks for your comment and insight about standards. I’d give it a chance. However, my take is that it should be coming bottom-up. In your language, it means starting from level-1. It can come in very small steps. In my view, everybody tried to work-out more global standards, and it failed. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

  • Ratneshwar Jha

    I did not get your point on this:”In my view, everybody tried to work-out more global standards, and it failed.”
    Yes, Level 1 should be starting step. The main aim of my point was we can not standardize whole PLM, which is evident by level 3. For other levels,a standard can be defined.Since I am very new to PLM,so I am unable to find what all can be grouped in first two levels.

    If you can give some pointers then sure we can give a try.

  • Ratneshwar, My point is that most of standards activities I’ve heard about was focused on how to establish large scale standards for overall domain (i.e. Discrete Manufacturing) or industry vertical (i.e. Oil and Gas). However, in m view, most of these activities had a problem, since they took a very high level of abstraction. Companies are different on this level. Therefore, I thought to find more granular use cases can help to initiate a standard activity bottom up. I hope you explained myself now… Best, Oleg

  • Ratneshwar Jha

    Oleg Thansks for the explanation

  • Rathneshwar, you are welcome!

  • I believe that one must look beyond the tool and query the customers on what is important to them. Once the voice of the customer is known you will be able to analyze and improve your processes and then select/tailor the appropriate tools as needed. Personally, I would take a lean/six sigma approach to improving processes before developing any best practices which are not necessarily geared towards business and customer goals. For example, you can define and implement software best practices which will help you develop bug free software which will also be delivered late and over budget. The lean/six sigma approach will help you find opportunities for improvement which can then be implemented with the use of a tool.

  • Dtalker, I understand your take on lean/six sigma. However, my point was different. Software companies are using “best practices” concept to sell OOTB (out-of-the-box) implementation approach and decrease the overall implementation cost. This is a wrong approach, because every company is running their shop differently and there is a high level of solution diversification. What is your experience? Best, Oleg

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