PLM – new goals for automation and simplification

PLM – new goals for automation and simplification

We are facing new technologies intervention almost every day. While technological transformation is a very good thing, to find and a balance of technology adoption, customer needs and cost of transformation is a very tough goal.

My attention was caught by Panasonic article speaking about adoption of disruptive technologies in integrated supply chain. Read the article and draw your opinion.

The key theme of simplification was very much resonating with what I can hear from industrial companies every day – simplification. Here is an interesting passage:

In adopting disruptive technologies, companies are bringing a lot of diverse data into their operations and engaging with customers in both online and physical experiences, creating complexity. To achieve the level of personalized engagement they want, Integrated Supply Chain decision makers understand that they need to simplify operations and better integrate data across channels and touch points. Not surprisingly, companies say automation software that simplifies processes is the area where they’d benefit most from innovation.

These companies see automation as key to tackling many day-to-day frustrations including: 1/ Manual data entry that is prone to human error and backlog; 2/ Lack of streamlined communication between owners of various parts of the order life cycle; 3/ Goods delivered late or to the wrong place; 4/Management information systems not in sync.

So, what technologies are supposed to help companies in achieving these goals of automation and simplification. It is not surprising to see IoT, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Predication patterns and behaviors is extremely important.

Now, you can rightfully ask me where is product lifecycle management in this integrated supply chain? The answer is product information. The availability of product information in integrated supply chain is they key component of making future goals of integration manufacturing reality tomorrow.

I can see two main aspects of product information availability: manual entry and real time updates. Data entry is a huge problem. While data is siloed in multiple engineering, contractor and manufacturing units to re-enter it to make it available for machine learning, analytics and automation is extremely hard and sometimes even impossible. Time needed to bring information about product is just to long and too expensive. Companies are synchronizing data, but it takes time and until data is coming to the right place, it is usually too late. To have companies working on a real time data sets is a second elements of successful digital transformation in processes.

PLM technologies used by most of companies today are coming from the time when the main goal for PDM and later PLM was data control. Availability of data, real time integration and synchronization and simplifications were not part of PLM objectives. The things are changing now.

The picture in the article was taken from 1982 presentation from NASA and called – Proposed demonstration of simple robot self-replication. While it was very visionary back in 1982, many manufacturing processes today are demanding the same vision of automation and simplification with data available to support these processes.

What is my conclusion? Simplification will play a key role in future manufacturing transformation. We want systems to get access to data and automate manual data entry, processes and decision process. Introduction of data driven decision processes relying on massive data analytics will make enterprise systems ERP, Supply Chain and other smarter. The key role of PLM in this process of transformation is to provide so much needed information and make it available for data processing and analytics. Most of PLM systems today are ill suited to server as data providers and real time collaboration engines. Opposite to that existing PLM paradigm as data and process gatekeepers created a perception of cost and complexity PLM systems can bring to organization. Hence many organizations are using Excel to consolidate and integrate data. Future PLM systems will make digital transformation by introducing technologies capable to adapt, learn and communicate in real time. 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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