PLM selection process: a blanket of fog and how to change it

PLM selection process: a blanket of fog and how to change it


To choose PLM is a difficult task. Usually it takes months and sometimes years. You wonder why it takes so long? Here is the a thing… A typical manufacturing company is usually in the situation when some PLM or ERP related decisions have been made before. It means there are some systems in place. Sometimes these are legacy systems and sometimes company is thinking about how expand PLM practice.  And this legacy is pretty much active and used for existing product development and manufacturing processes. As much as these processes might be inefficient, this is how company works now. And some manufacturing companies can be even very profitable and successful by running not very much optimized process.

So, the decision process is usually starts from the analysis of status quo, situation with vendors and formulating of strategical goals. For most of these manufacturing companies, PLM decision has a significant impact for a long period of time moving forward. So, the real danger for company and people responsible for the decision making is to make a mistake. The rules that usually applies to large company operation are very much active at that moment. It usually reminded me old comments from Ross Perrot about GM – ‘THE GM SYSTEM IS LIKE A BLANKET OF FOG’. Navigate here to read more.

The answer is: the General Motors system. It’s like a blanket of fog that keeps these people from doing what they know needs to be done. I come from an environment where, if you see a snake, you kill it. At GM, if you see a snake, the first thing you do is go hire a consultant on snakes. Then you get a committee on snakes, and then you discuss it for a couple of years. The most likely course of action is — nothing. You figure, the snake hasn’t bitten anybody yet, so you just let him crawl around on the factory floor. We need to build an environment where the first guy who sees the snake kills it. At Electronic Data Systems employees were trained from the day they joined the company to spend all day serving the customer, getting results, being the best in the world — not being good bureaucrats. At GM the stress is not on getting results — on winning — but on bureaucracy, on conforming to the GM system. You get to the top of General Motors not by doing something, but by not making a mistake

So, nobody wants to make a mistake in a fundamental decision related to PLM vendor selection that will impact company for the next 10 years. This is why all PLM decisions are painful, can take time and driven significantly by “not making a mistake” criteria. This is a fundamental human behavior. If you’re making the decision for 10+ years, you don’t want to be wrong. So, how agile paradigms and cloud services will simplify PLM decision process?

As much as these decisions are strategic and very important, I believe there is a place for improvement. And agile PLM development is a possible starting point in this process. Check my earlier article last week – Agile product development: next PLM frontier? The main point is to switch from PLM as a decision for 10 years to PLM as s service today. Existing PLM architectures are implying lot of preparation work to be done – data modeling, process discovery and agreement, data mapping, legacy data cleaning and importing, etc. The new paradigm of agile continues implementation can become a better way to deal with PLM planning as well as PLM decisions.

New PLM architectures coming in way of cloud services can provide an iterative implementation environment that can be improved, changed and replaced. So, system will roll between implementation sprints adapting to organizational processes and business requirements. The last will eliminate the need to have a long decision making process about PLM implementation for the next decade.

What is my conclusion? Organizations are becoming more agile, nimble and mobile. What was a process configuration and PLM implementation for the next 10 years, now can take weeks and become obsolete in a 1-2 years. Business is changing faster and organizations want to react faster on business requirements. Old style PLM top down approach was good for old style GM organization might not work for a new agile product development methods. This is time to think about new approach and paradigms in PLM development. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.

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