PLM for the People: an interview on how to create a PLM vision for your company

July 21, 2015

Companies need to have a starting vision for corralling their data, and that’s especially true for the high-tech electronics industry (HTE). With aggressive product cycles and complicated supply chains, the industry stands to profit from using Product Lifecycle Management.

But the problems they face aren’t isolated to just HTE. Intense cost and delivery requirements, complex regulation and compliance issues – these hit all types of businesses.

On June 16th, Applied CAx’s PLM experts were invited to attend an HTE-focused event put on by CIMData. The “PLM Road Map 2015 for High Tech Electronics” event was “software agnostic” – it wasn’t focused on a particular product or platform, but had something to offer all industries.

Explain a little of the background on this event and what its focus was?

The focus of the event was to share thoughts and experiences on how companies initially approach and identify their requirements for their PLM systems. The event was “software agnostic” – it was non-platform or non-software specific, so you got a lot of insight into the business problems that PLM solves.

What types of companies or industries did the event focus on?

The event was targeted at high-tech electronics manufacturers, but really the problems they face are common to every business, whether it’s aerospace or automotive. When you’re at the foundation level, you find 90% of business problems are the same across industries. How they fit in to green energy, or computer hardware, or life sciences products, that’s where they were able to address specific needs like government oversight requirements or construction requirements for instance.

Was it focused on companies that already have Teamcenter?

Yes, all the companies there had selected a PLM platform, or were in the process of deploying it. Despite having the systems for a number of years, most of the attendees there were categorized as “teenagers” at best if you look at the maturity of the PLM implementation they presented. In terms of PLM-levels, most were “toddlers,” a few were “teenagers” and that’s mostly because high tech companies as a group are still new to PLM.

Are there any surprising industries that might benefit from PLM?

Every industry can benefit from PLM, it’s more surprising the industries that aren’t heavily using PLM more than the ones that are using it. Because quality and price are constraints across-the-board that are forcing people to increase productivity without charging more.

There were a lot of examples of how customers were leveraging the cloud as data repositories, as well as high-performance computers to reduce simulation time for FEA, CFD, and molecular level analysis. Something that would take physical hardware in a building a whole man-year would take a little over a week with the right cloud clusters.

Why is pre-planning so important for deploying PLM?

The plan itself isn’t where the value is, the time you take to look at your business and how & why it does things is where the value is. The plan itself is going to change dramatically once you start down the path, but you have to have some direction to go in before you can measure anything and compare it to what your business needs. So the value of the plan isn’t in what you plan, it’s the time you take to reflect on your business needs.

What paths did they present for companies to develop a vision?

Surprisingly there wasn’t much structured discussion on how to develop a plan, or a roadmap rather. By hearing 8 or 10 different discussions to hear why companies chose PLM, the common factor is they had a problem and had to solve it. Market pressures, acquisition by a larger company that mandated you have PLM in order to continue… You kinda have to build your own roadmap on what fits your business from these types of campfire stories from what these other companies did right and what they did wrong. Because for PLM, there’s different reasons, the tipping point is different, but all companies need to development a ROI to develop it.

Given that each scenario is different, how can Applied CAX help?

We can easily help with the foundational block of establishing and setting up fundamental PLM workflows like BOM [bill of materials] management, document management, change management, and revision control. Once the company starts utilizing that fundamental workflow, then they’re going to figure out what’s the next step and what else their company needs. It could be schedule management, requirements management, to align your activities with what the market needs, or vendor supply management, and once you have a chance to see what PLM can do, move on to change management, then your business can prioritize what additional initiatives it needs next, and those vary by industry. For instance aerospace needs a lot of help in satisfying quality requirements for OEM and to maintain quality certifications, such as AS9100.

What are some typical pitfalls or roadblocks companies experience?

The largest one we heard was scope creep, where they wanted to do A, and after a Planning Committee got started they wanted to do A, B, C, and D in the initial phase and when they find how much that costs, both in time and money, they traditionally scale it back to be a simple initial roll out. Start small, fully execute, complete the full delivery, and then watch what happens, what works, what doesn’t and then other groups will see the advantage and will want it for their team, such as engineering or manufacturing quality.

Last thoughts?

The do-nothing attitude is what most companies battle. PLM seems daunting but starting off with the foundation with the BOM document and change management, those are fundamental requirements, starting with just that, getting the change to happen culturally, and technologically rather than trying to do a huge “big bang” deployment makes it easier for them to use the tool they invest in.

Thanks to CIMData for the event invitation, and Applied CAx looks forward to attending their upcoming event in October for Aerospace Manufacturers.

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