PLM Software and Business Process Scalability

Scaling up is a tough problem. I want to talk today and PLM Software scalability in unusual aspects – business processes. In the past, CAD and PLM vendors spent lots of effort to help software scale up in their ability to manage huge CAD assemblies and very sophisticated product configuration. When PLM system first loaded airplane 3D model, made a DMU and resolved different airplane or car configurations, we said wow… However, it was many years ago. Since then, PLM wizards are stacking with a problem they didn’t expect to see – how to scale up PLM in the organization?

Emails, Collaboration and Business Processes

In order to scale up in the organization, you need to have people using the system. After many years of different types of collaborative software experience, my fundamental conclusion is simple. Most of the engineering and manufacturing organizations are run by emails. This is where PLM failed massively – it doesn’t scale up to get people using PLM systems. PLM collaboration is very successful when you think about two designers are working on the same feature. However, it is different when you think about a design engineer and a manufacturing engineer are collaborating. Yesterday, I had a chance to read Develop3D article – Design and Manufacturing in Perfect Harmony. You may think, this is an excellent example where PLM system can help design and manufacturing people to work together. So, why it doesn’t happen?

Design to Manufacturing

PLM vendors spent lots of effort and resources working on collaborative processes. Design to Manufacturing is one of them, and this is probably is one of the most important if you think about how PLM implementation can scale up in the organization. However, I can identify top 3 reasons why collaboration is so not efficient between engineering and manufacturing:

1. Environment separation
Designer and Manufacturing Engineer sees a world differently. In most of the situations designers are living in their CAD/PDM world. At the same time, manufacturing engineers are on top of MRP/ERP environment and working on their MBOM-driven processes. PLM failed to scale up and establish a scalable process between these two environments.

2. Common Goals and Synchronization
How to achieve a harmony in a common work? You need to set up a common goal. When designer and manufacturing are working in different environments, they have a hard time to define a common goal and follow this goal in their daily operation. Most of their time they spent to synchronize their environments. The final stop in the synchronization is a weekly meeting. You can see how people spending their time literally synchronizing information between them.

3. Push Processes
How to get work done in the modern manufacturing organization? Unfortunately, email is probably the most widely used mechanism. And this is really bad, because it creates a ping-pong of information going back and forth between people in the organization. This is an environment where Excel is a king of the email road.

PLM and Process Scalability

In my view, this is the place where most of the current PLM implementations failed. Scaling up beyond the engineering department is a tough problem. The best organizations I had chance to see solved this problem by a massive customization work and enormous effort in making people work together in the same environment.

What is my conclusion? When I talk to people, I’m constantly asking the following question – what is the biggest problem you faced in all PLM implementations? Here is my today’s conclusion – PLM is a great concept and a very important organization strategy. However, it doesn’t scale up in the organization. In order to make it work out, you need to spend too many resources. When it comes to results you can see a very low value for money and resources you spent. Think about space shuttles. We need to spend a lot of rocket fuel to get a space shuttle in the space. The same with PLM… Something is wrong behind the scene. Is it technology? Implementation? People?

What is your take?
Best, Oleg


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