How PLM Can Think Small?

How PLM Can Think Small?

I’m going to attend PLM Innovation Americas event later this week in Atlanta, GA. This is going to be my 3rd PLM Innovation event. Thinking about innovation, this event is one of very few events in PLM space that is actually a vendor-neutral and not represents a single PLM vendor. This is a great opportunity to “mix PLM blood” and to reduce the competition pressure. Thinking about innovation in PLM, I wanted to come with the idea of “small PLM”.

Ask people in the companies dealing with product lifecycle management about what are their goals when the implement PLM. My hunch most of them will come back to you with something “big” or, at least, “strategic”. This is how most of us perceive PLM these days. This is what called “business transformation”. PLM is related to a very fundamental process of product development and decision making. Therefore, to “think big” is very natural.  However, what if… PLM should think different. Think small? I’m sure you know famous VW Beattle (aka as ‘Bug’). For the whole production life, VW manufactured 21 million of VW Beattle.

The Volkswagen Beetle, officially called the Volkswagen Type 1 (or informally the Volkswagen Bug), is an economy car produced by the German auto maker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003. With over 21 million manufactured[6] in an air-cooled, rear-engined, rear-wheel drive configuration, the Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single design platform, worldwide.

For VW Beattle, Volkswagen created an advertizing company called “Think small“. It was ranked as the best advertising program in 20th century. Read more about it on Wikipedia, the original idea about VW Think Small is fascinating.

However, let me switch to PLM. “Think Small” campaign made me think about the idea of how the strategy of small changes can make a big difference at the end. PLM perceived as a muscle car, large, gas grizzling and probably not efficient. Here are the 5 steps, I’ve been thinking about that can make a change along the way you think and implement PLM.

Step 1: Review your product development experience. Find few elements you feel the most negative about. It could be quality system, BOM management, costing, supply chain RFQ process.

Step 2: Focus on one of them that looks to you brings the biggest pain. This is an important strategic exercise helps you to find the most important element to be focused on. At the same time, it will be the one you benefit the most when you fix it.

Step 3: Make some notes about to improve the process. 2-3 slides, process definition, people involved and the most important – measurement system to be able to monitor the improvement.

Step 4: Make an assessment of tools you have. It can be your PDM/PLM system, Excel, Google Apps, Microsoft SharePoint or anything else. Try to apply the process improvement using the existing tool.

Step 5: Make the implementation and analyze your tool performance for a particular test you’ve made.

What is my conclusion? The steps I outlined, might sound like something obvious. However, they will help you to focus on your product development improvement into the right direction and make practical tools assessment of how to deal with your PLM initiatives. The biggest change is in our mind. You can ask me – how a cloud is related? Actually, the cloud is not “must have” option in this process. However, cloud system(s) will allow you to maximize your focus in the business and not to be distracted with IT challenges. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg


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