Process management is an important aspect and activity in Product Lifecycle Management. Multiple activities in product design, engineering and manufacturing can be defined and maintained as a process. Definition of a process is an interesting problem, in my view. Different systems are using multiple techniques to define processes. Most of them are traditionally workflow-oriented. If you talk to engineers in an organization, you will discover that flowchart is widely used way to define a process. You can see below few examples of such a workflows.
We can find such definitions in all PDM/PLM systems. Definition of processes done in this way is very straightforward. However, when processes become complicated, the overall definition of a process can become a bit complicated too. You can see one of the examples below.
At the same time, definition of processes can be done verbally as a set of written rules. Such a workflow definition can be done much easier and can be easy read and interpreted by people involved into people definition. You can see a simple example of such definition created on the whiteboard.
I found both practices implemented in SharePoint Designer 2010. You can find similar implementation in other business process management systems. However, I found MS SharePoint case as a very representative one. You can create flow-based process definition using MS Visio based flowcharts.
At the same time, you can use a very interesting implementation of rule-based processes. I found such rule-based definition of processes as something that can be easier understood by users.
What is my conclusion? The ability easy to define a process is very critical. Process definition is one of the most complicated parts of PLM system implementation. To have a tool that allows you easy to understand and define processes can become an important competitive advantage for any PLM system. I think, systems are evolving and create new ways to implement processes. It will be interesting to hear what are your practices and experience in this space. I’m looking forward to you feedback and discussion.