PLM Backbones and Engineering Process Complexity

PLM Backbones and Engineering Process Complexity

My blogging friend Deelip Menezes ( wrote few days ago in his twitter – “Mapping engineering processes to PLM backbones is this most difficult part in implementing PLM in a company”. This statement made me think about PLM implementations, flexibility and PLM adoption in organizations. Why PLM faces many problems during the implementation? What are so specific about engineering and product development processes?

PLM and Process Management

PDM is one of the predecessors of modern PLM. In the beginning of PDM, people didn’t speak about processes. The initial PDM idea was mostly focusing on data. However, the overall development of enterprise software and specifically, consolidation of enterprise applications into ERP suites, got CAD/PDM/PLM companies to think about future development strategies related to processes. The development of ERP and independent Business Process Management suites shifted PLM towards thinking about process management inclusion into PLM story. Modern PLM backbones provide a wide spectrum of capabilities to model and execute engineering and product development processes.

Engineering Processes Mapping

The idea of mapping between business applications and organizational processes was born first in ERP software. The components of ERP suites, actually, provided one-to-one mapping of finance, procurement, manufacturing and other organizational processes to ERP. Combined with business data stored in ERP backend, these applications widely used to run a company. Now, what happens in product development and engineering? Every PLM implementation requires mapping of product development processes So, what makes engineering processes different and complicated? I’d like to mention three aspects that characterize engineering and product development differently from other company processes.

Diversity of requirements. Every manufacturing company runs their development shop differently. This is the reality that cannot be eliminated. There are some patterns and rules that make companies in the same industry segment do it similar, but the diversity will exist even in this case. When it comes to the implementation, it creates a need for an additional investment to make a system adjusted to the requirements of a specific customer.

Execution flexibility. In my view engineering processes has a higher level of expected flexibility. Most of the product development and engineering processes are not linear. It is very hard to create this non-linear mapping with all possible exceptions and potential situations. People’s demand is to have an additional level of flexibility during the process run time. It creates more  complexity.

Continues change. Last, but definitely not least. Manufacturing companies these days are under high pressure of improvement. Much of them is related to the product development, engineering and manufacturing. Taking into account that, engineering and product development process implementation will require changes more often. This is creating a significant impact on process mapping that are under on-going change.

Sustainable PLM Implementation

One of the things that important to mention in the context of specific characteristics of manufacturing and engineering processes is how to establish a sustainable PLM implementation. My hunch is that “flexibility” is a key factor. However, I think, it will be way too simple to say only that. The increased flexibility in process management creates a situation when a definition of a process changed. I’d like to specify three elements related to the definition of what I called – sustainable PLM: mainstream organizational processes, data transparency, informal communication. The first one is actually formal organizational processes that run an organization. Informal communication is a level that compensates the need in execution flexibility. Data transparency mechanism creates way people can leverage organizational data assets in order to run processes in a more efficient way.

What is my conclusion? Three main characteristics make Engineering Processes problematic when thinking about PLM – diversity of requirements, execution flexibility and continues change. Traditional process management methods are useless in such a type of situation. This is a place where a new way to organize processes needs to come. It includes new methods to work with data and social technologies to make a communication more efficient.

Just my thoughts…


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