Giving PLM Definition: Why You Need a PLM Bible

plm definition

Last week, we lost one client. The company’s management got tired of user complaints and slow progress and decided to halt their PLM Program. They had no PLM definition laid out in their plan.

The company had invested a lot of money in a customized PDM system and integrated all its CAD applications in an attempt to boost, reuse and accelerate their product deliveries.

However, users found themselves unable to work with the new system. They found the PDM system slow and very complex. They didn’t understand why they had to rebuild their CAD models to fit in a design library. They were annoyed that it now took 10 minutes longer to save a model in CAD than it used to. They didn’t understand the big picture.

Eventually, the PLM program was in dire straits, and management made the decision to “press pause.” The company lost tons of euros along the way, not to mention the goodwill of both employees and management.

Why do PLM implementations often fail?

PLM implementations often fail.

Where is the problem? Why do so many companies struggle to extract value from their PLM programs?

Is it because not all PDM systems are implemented flawlessly? Or is because PLM is too complex?

Last week, after digesting the bad news, I asked my customer: “If you were given another chance, what would you do differently?”

After a moment’s silence, he said: “I would start with a PLM Bible.”

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What’s a PLM Bible?

A PLM Bible—that made a lot of sense to me.

In my experience, savvy PLM implementations have one thing in common: they ALL have consistent ways of doing things. They have a blueprint that shows users how they work with their products and data.

It’s their PLM Bible.

Here’s an example of one of our client’s PLM Bibles: the company Outotec. In their PLM Bible, they define what PLM means to them and explain how to get support and who is involved in the PLM process. They publish release information in their bible, have a glossary of terms, and an information flow that represents how systems are connected to each other.

Then, diving deep into each of their product categories, they define a detailed process that ties together theory and practice and makes PLM a bit easier to navigate. Outotec’s PLM Learning cloud is flexible and immediately accessible, and it enables their employees to pick up skills in the context in which they must work. Plus they can learn at their own pace, and in ways that match the problems they face on the job.

This framework helps users achieve flow and make sense of the multiple clicks in different, apparently unconnected systems.

Once you have a PLM Bible, everything becomes clear.

Every support request becomes easier to handle. Every decision is easier to make. Every user has a clear overview of how to work with their product data. All training is easier to plan and execute.

I agree with the client we just lost. You can’t be successful at product lifecycle management without PLM definition, without a bible.

8 Key Benefits of Defining a PLM Bible

1. Understand what PLM means to you

A good PLM Bible starts with PLM definition and what it means for your organization. When you start talking about PLM in detail, you need to be specific in your terminology.

For example, several years ago I attended a management meeting where one executive announced that his company would be focusing on streamlining PLM in the coming year. During the meeting, everyone there nodded in agreement. Afterwards, though, my colleagues discussed what PLM actually meant. Some thought we should focus on streamlining the product process, some thought we should improve the PDM system, and some were convinced we should productize our products more.

PLM. Though we often use these three letters, its meaning is usually unclear.

Don’t let PLM become a placeholder word that people use to gloss over concepts your people don’t fully understand. PLM is too good to become a dummy buzzword.

2. Connect the “why,” “how” and “what”

Most people believe that PLM problems are all about technology.

But PLM systems are only the tip of the iceberg.

The truth is, most PLM implementations fail because employees don’t have a true understanding of the “why” and the “how” of the transformation.

PLM is NOT something you just buy and plug into your organization.

Most companies tweak their PDM systems to mirror their business processes, so they don’t simply resemble the application they purchased. The problem is, after many years of unchecked customization, PLM systems become too nebulous.

A PLM learning structure can help you explain how your company does PLM and can become your PLM Bible. With your bible, you can tie together theory and practice and make PLM a bit easier to navigate.

3. Know what you don’t know

When you work on your PLM definition for your bible, you’re likely to discover unexpected gaps in your PLM concept.

Maybe you still don’t have a good solution to keep Service Bills of Materials up to date, or perhaps your concept to keep track of different MBOMs for the same EBOM is not yet crystal clear.

Recognizing your PLM gaps is essential to coming up with a successful PLM environment.

Working towards a PLM Bible can help you discover the things that don’t work well today and craft a roadmap to make them work tomorrow.

4. Know what your users don’t know, and explain it!

Identifying your users’ knowledge gaps is key to winning at PLM. Ask them to explain difficult concepts, even if you think everyone understands them. This will not only help you build your PLM Bible from a real-life perspective—it will also reveal explanations of concepts that your colleagues don’t fully understand.

Your PLM Bible’s critical task is to create a clear path to value, no matter how complex your PLM environment is. Make sure your users receive clear, timely guidance every time they encounter a difficult concept or need to follow a complex process. Define a seamless system “flow” and explain the benefits of each part of the system’s integration in clear, concise terms.

5. Understand the big picture

It’s easy as a PLM user to get overwhelmed by complexity. One of the biggest hurdles to winning at PLM is that product data is spread across multiple systems (PDM, ERP, CRM, MRO…).

Documentation is spread across several teams and sources. Each guide focuses on one specific system or process, this makes it hard for users to understand the “big picture.” As a result, they can’t easily achieve flow, and they get side-tracked by multiple clicks in different, apparently unconnected systems.

Your users have better things to do than spend all day browsing through unconnected documents and manuals. That’s why a PLM Bible is one of the most important and useful resources in a successful PLM implementation.

6. Prepare your PLM team for outsourcing

Troubleshooting, system configuration, end-user support or training are tasks you might consider outsourcing as your PLM implementation becomes more mature. Maybe you’ll decide to externalize certain tasks and will need to make sure the methodology you’ve designed can scale. A PLM Bible helps ensure that everyone on your team follows the right processes, even when you’re not watching. It will make your process repeatable for new hires, trainers and consultants.

7. Build a scalable training framework

It’s time to stop viewing product lifecycle management training as nice to have, and start treating it as the foundation of a healthy, successful PLM environment.

Instead of cobbling together a rough-and-ready user manual, you need to fixate on creating standout digital training.

Instead of viewing training as a one-time problem, you need to provide a learning experience throughout the entire user lifecycle—one that helps new users and seasoned users alike get more out of PLM.

With a digital PLM Bible, you can present technical content in a practical and user-friendly way with the help of eLearning. eLearning can help you cut costs and scale: you can train employees efficiently and fast, all at a much lower cost than traditional classroom training.

And it’s not just about cost. It’s about quality, too. Content in eLearning is well organized and standardized, which increases training quality and democratizes knowledge.

8. Streamline the Product Lifecycle Management processes

When you work on a new implementation, you tend to see many broken processes and many workarounds. That’s because the old ways of working suddenly don’t make sense anymore. Re-evaluating your business processes and confirming that they’re still valid is part of the implementation.

You have to challenge yourself and ask: “Do we need to be taking this extra step? Do we need this in the PDM system?

As your PLM implementation becomes mature, a PLM Bible can help you continually collect feedback and create a systematic framework for improving PLM adoption.

Challenge the status quo and simplify complexity

Stop complaining about PLM technology. Stop finger-pointing and look in the mirror.

It’s the way your system’s been set up. It’s the way it’s been implemented. It’s the way it’s managed.

Wake up! If you want your PLM program to succeed, start with a PLM Bible!

Plugging Into The Power of Connected Plant Engineering

plant engineering

Digitalization and end-to-end plant lifecycle management are spoken of as top priorities by companies across the chemical, oil and gas, process and power industries.
The goal? A complete digital footprint of the plant engineering helps optimize operations, plant maintenance, build better products and provide better services.
But how can traditional Engineer to Order (ETO) businesses, who often lag behind other sectors in terms of information technology, product and data management, even dream of a plant digital twin?

Complex one-off products and low volumes

Products are complex and produced in low volumes and in high variety.

Plants and Facilities are almost always the result of a project. Engineering, Procurement and Construction companies (EPCs) design and build these plants to meet single Owner-Operator (OO) requirements, which often lead to Engineer-To-Order solutions. The order specification process is often lengthy and complex, a labour-intensive process that requires deep technical knowledge.

It typically takes several years from initial customer inquiry to the closing of the deal—and yet the deal is still not done. The detailed design of the plant or facility is not carried out until an order has been signed. Each new order often involves new product development to match customer specifications. Products usually end up being highly customized.

This is entirely different than traditional “PLM-ish” industries, where the product is designed before it’s sold.

The main challenges: departmental silos and interoperability

The final plant is the result of an intense collaboration between and among functions and disciplines. The civil department, mechanical equipment, structural building, piping… everyone has their own set of discipline-specific tools. Applications and core systems are usually not well integrated with each other. And information ends up imprisoned in documents and discipline- specific authoring applications.

The result? A “messy” application landscape, departmental silos, lack of transparency and a lot of duplicated data. Each discipline gets locked into their own engineering tools and standards. Information handovers are sluggish and hinder the sorely needed cross-discipline collaboration.

Plugging into the power of the connected plant engineering

Connectivity within plant businesses is not new. Yet today’s advanced technologies and cheap computing, storage, and bandwidth costs make it possible to move beyond single plant and equipment automation toward more complex, connected product and process networks. The integration of data from several installed products—the so-called product instances—enables a holistic view of product performance and generates actionable insights to improve next-generation designs.

All this improves equipment performance throughout, leverages data-driven insights, increases the quality of the end product and prevents breakdowns before they occur. Identifying and responding to small problems before they become big, improves plant engineering and performance, and lowers maintenance costs.

For example, using cloud-based technologies and connected data, a plant digital twin enables an expert sitting in a central control room to monitor a product installed in several plants located around the world, troubleshoot problems and extract performance insights to help product development teams design the product’s next generation. It enables a field service engineer to scan an equipment, load its digital twin, follow maintenance instructions, check out historical reports and use advisory tools to improve equipment performance. And it equips analysts with a wealth of connected data to answer the questions: “How often?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Who?” and “Why is this a problem?”

The possibilities are many, and realizing them begins with setting the foundation for a connected model that allows for digitalization at the plant level. Product Lifecycle Management, enabled by the latest technological capabilities, provides this foundation and allows plant businesses to capitalize on the convergence of the digital and physical worlds and plug into the power of the connected plant.

Setting meaningful goals for your plant digital twin strategy

The decision to embark on a plant digital twin initiative should align with the organization’s specific needs. Understanding how the company intends to compete and aligning this strategic “true north” with the digital investments is crucial to success.

For example, some EPCs could decide to focus on their service portfolio and to invest in fast, reliable information to offer better services. Others may choose to invest in product configuration to speed up quotations and close more deals. Operators might want to monitor plant performance and invest in maintenance to extend asset lifecycles.

It’s important to prioritize strategic initiatives for investment based on the company’s specific objectives. What follows is a summary of the six overarching trends that seem to be accelerating the drive toward plant digital twins.

Leveraging the service side of business

Plants are products with long lifecycles. And EPCs are undergoing a fundamental business transformation to monetize these long lifecycles. It’s a shift from project to lifecycle business.

Rather than the “one and done” project approach of the past, the business model for most Plant and Facility solution providers is evolving from delivering projects to providing services for the entire plant’s lifecycle.

A portfolio of services ranging from spare parts delivery to plant maintenance or process monitoring can greatly boost the revenue from after-sales while building longer, closer relationships with customers. Better service means higher revenues, greater profitability and, over time, a powerful competitive advantage.

Leveraging the service side of business requires easy access to equipment-relevant information and smooth data transfer between project and service organizations. Service-relevant master data such as spare parts, spare-part kits or maintenance-relevant information must be defined and available to streamline service quotations and delivery.

Retaining knowledge

Deep technical knowledge is needed to sell and deliver the final plant. And this knowledge often resides in the heads of a handful of experienced employees. Typically, procedures and rules aren’t written down and shared with others. A technically educated sales team is needed to fit the product to the customers’ needs.

Standardizing their methods and creating reusable knowledge allows plant businesses to take on more projects, scale and grow. Documenting processes and “decoding” product configuration and sizing rules from the experts’ heads is crucial to retaining knowledge and democratizing the selling process.

Looking for an in-depth Plant Information Management overview?

Access our FREE Plant PLM eCourse from PLM Partner.

Gaining efficiency through reuse

Reuse (and the re-users) is the crux of the matter when it comes to efficiency. Reuse is a major cost-saver. Not only does it reduce time spent in delivering the final product, but it also allows development costs to be amortized over many projects.

Modularity is a design strategy for building and organizing complex products effectively. A product is modular if it has standardized interfaces and the components perform one or very few functions.

Providing less variety along products and adding commonality among components simplifies complexity and paves the way towards more advanced product configuration tools. You can still allow a certain degree of product customization by combining standard and custom components wisely and involving the customer in the product specification process.

Exploiting reuse requires a good dose of change management. By making designs reusable and storing them wisely so they can be found, your company prepares the ground to get reusers on board and fight the “not invented here” attitude.

Speeding up quotations to boost sales

Quotation speed and delivery time are order-winners. A clear and concise product description, using modular designs that limit the options available to customers, is key to speeding up sales quotations and closing more deals.

Salespeople can build a reliable, high-quality proposal faster and at a better price than others by using product configurators, templates and standard documents that have been fine-tuned and proven to be successful.

That’s not to say that the sales process operates on autopilot. Think of product configuration as a toolkit that salespeople have at hand to put together a compelling proposal while applying their skills to close the deal.

Traceability and compliance

Manufacturing and the supply of a large proportion of the plant’s equipment is outsourced to third parties. Orchestrating these equipment deliveries with suppliers around the world is a complex process that requires close attention to quality, scheduling and cost.

Adding to the complexity, orders and specifications might change during the project. This often leads to product design and documentation adjustments that need to be tracked and controlled. End-to-end traceability along the project and supply chain are critical to ensure compliance and quality.

A well-defined Plant Digital Thread is a keystone to demonstrating to regulatory authorities the integrity of plant-maintained information.

New digital revenue streams

The plant digital twin generates reams of data that can be monetized through the development of new products and services. Advisory tools to provide corrective advice to optimize process performance augmented reality to help field services maintain and repair equipment, remote process monitoring services analytics to reveal asset performance issues … the options are many, and by listening to customer challenges it’s easy to be inspired, develop new solutions and dive into new revenue streams that capitalize on access to fast, connected information.

Getting started: taking small steps towards the plant digital twin

The journey towards the plant digital twin requires navigating complexity and a keen focus on acquiring needed capabilities. While an overly simplistic plant model may not yield the value a digital twin promises, taking an overly fast and broad approach can almost guarantee that you’ll get lost in the complexity. The good news is that by thinking big and defining an ambitious true north, starting small with agile bimodal projects,and scaling fast based on the learnings, it’s possible to see the shoreline beyond the rough waters of the plant digital twin.

1. Start with a plant structure

Start by describing the plant’s structure. As my peer Bjorn Fidjeland explains in his Plant PLM eCourse , several plant information structures are required to describe plant engineering.

To get going, start with a functional structure. A plant’s engineering and functional structure is discipline-independent, hierarchical and breaks down the plant from the functional perspective. A plant structure includes plant processes, systems and equipment.

plant engineering

Once you’ve agreed on the plant functional structure “on paper”, it’s time to move it to a system. And where does the functional structure belong? If you’re already using a PLM system, that’s probably the place. If you still don’t have a system, you could experiment with Aras PLM, or look into SiemensDassault or Aveva comprehensive plant solutions.

2. Identify and share relevant information

Plants require intense collaboration between and among different disciplines, using a variety of different tools. The information-sharing across disciplines and functions is a major challenge and affects the traceability of information throughout the plant’s lifecycle. All stakeholders struggle to access information effectively due to its lack of visibility, a problem that is compounded when information is split among several discipline-specific applications.

Now that we have a common plant structure, the key is to get disciplines to start sharing their data. They need to understand why others need the information they produce and how easier work will be downstream if they spend a little more time on sharing it.

plant engineering

It’s OK to start sharing only documents. The goal at this point is for people in the organization to become familiar with the structure. Afterwards, we’ll start sharing models and metadata.

3. Define a product family modular library

A product family library comprises a predefined set of modules that can be combined in different ways to form a product. Modular designs offer not only an opportunity to speed up product deliveries. They also have an enormous potential to unlock service opportunities and increase customer loyalty.

It’s time to audit your product portfolio, seek commonalities and analyze how to reduce complexity and foster reuse. Defining a product family library to illustrate what modules are available and how they can be combined is a major breakthrough but also a huge task for ETO companies.

The variety and complexity of the product portfolio is high, and while companies usually don’t start from zero, it’s a big effort to come up with a comprehensive modular product library.

My advice? To win early support, begin with products that have the potential to maximize the return on investment. Find the most profitable product families and focus first on the common and profitable products and modules. If a product is seldom sold, the cost of defining a library may exceed the benefit.

4. Connect plant specification to product realization

The next step is to connect the plant’s functional structure, where we specify equipment, to product realization, the asset itself. At this step, it’s very useful to integrate the plant structure to the most common authoring applications. Plant disciplines operate in different CAD environments, and information often gets locked up in department-specific applications. Purchasers can’t access MCAD – they don’t even know how to use it or have a license. And the service colleagues spend more than half of their working time hunting for technical information locked in hidden drawings to order spare parts.

Integrating discipline specific authoring tools to the plant structure enhances visibility and provides easy access to plant’s technical data and product bills of materials. A reliable information flow between CAD and PLM speeds the development process, enables efficient information handovers between disciplines and upholds consistency in product quality.

In the example, we are connecting a centrifugal pump specification to the asset that’s fulfilling the specification. The difference between specification and realization is very important within the plant model. Imagine that this pump gets broken, and we need to change it. We’ll then bring in a new asset, but the specification stays the same.

5. Modeling the plant lifecycle

Most plants and facilities move through a lifecycle with approximately eight distinct phases, starting with the specification of the plant objectives and ending with decommissioning. The plant structure and the connected products will evolve through the lifecycle. At this point, we can start defining a model to maintain the plant’s “digital thread” all the way through the process.

6. Define a plant catalogue

Equipment in the plant is specified using attributes. Some of these attributes are measured by field instruments, creating a digital feedback loop or, in some cases, a remotely accessible live view of the plant. Classifying processes and equipment in the plant and defining reference data are needed to automatically create a plant tag and effectively connect all data—including the data from sensors in the field.

A major challenge when dealing with field data consists of the systematic and efficient information tagging of sensor data so that we don’t end up comparing apples with oranges. If you want to know more about reference data and catalogues, head to my peer Bjorn Fidjeland’s blog. He has several excellent articles where he discusses these topics.

7. Integrate suppliers

Different interactions with suppliers are required during each stage of the plant lifecycle to share and store information. Efficiently collaborating with suppliers is key for plant businesses, where a big portion of the equipment deliveries come from third parties. Integrating suppliers into Plant PLM facilitates document exchange, product model collaboration and change-tracking, among other things.

8. Harness information for action using end-user apps!

Now that we have the data, we can harness it for action using end-user apps! End-user applications are easy to configure and drive meaningful value, whether it be through powering better decision-making or enhancing consumer-facing applications.

Imagine an application for salespeople who need to constantly monitor after-sales opportunities for their products. Through an easy-to-use application, they could track installed equipment, gain performance insights and tap into new service and modernization opportunities.

I’m a big fan of end-user applications because they facilitate daily work and generate additional insights for specific use cases.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Jos Voskuil concludes in his “PLM for Owner / Operators” blog that digital continuity requires a “new way of thinking” for plant owners/operators, who are “struggling to grasp a modern digital enterprise concept as their current environment is not model-based but document-driven.”

All in all, true success in achieving early milestones on a digital twin journey will likely rely on an ability to grow and sustain the digital twin initiative in a fashion that can demonstrate increasing value over time.

It can be an overwhelming task to get there, but as a wise person once said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

ABC—Always Be Compliant: PLM Compliance

PLM Compliance

In May 2018, I got a chance to write as a guest for SharePLM.com. I chose to develop my own ABC’s of product management, and started with the “Always Be Competitive” theme. Here is my next article about PLM Compliance!

“Your industrial machine is not in compliance with the Hygiene Standards of the Sanitary Norm in our country. We request you arrive to our processing facility, and conduct modifications to make it compliant.”

This was the odd customer complaint I found some time ago. Our industrial product had absolutely nothing to do with a sanitary process, nor was there any case requiring hygiene.

So how can this be even remotely relevant?

Product Requirements PLM

This sanitary norm was not even mentioned in the original customer contract and requirements.

Well, it turned out that the machine was vibrating in that particular customer application. In this country, the impact and quantity of vibration that the operating personnel are exposed to, is regulated in the Occupational Health and Hygiene Standard, included in the Sanitary Norm.

PLM Product Compliance

We managed to translate the said norm, and verify the machine behavior against the allowed levels of vibrations. Some modifications were done, and the design guideline was updated. For subsequent product deliveries to that country, the local sanitary norm was added to the list of “in compliance with …”.

In a way, product compliance does not even need to be mentioned as part of a product managers’ duties, because it is not optional—your product either is compliant with laws, regulations and authority requirements, or it is not sold in that marketplace. What is optional is the selection of which markets participate, and hence limit the requirements to an extent. I say “to an extent”  because in today’s world and online trade, people and products travel—who knows where your product will end during its lifecycle! So bear in mind that the selection of target markets and customers will have an influence on your product costs, and the way you should modularize it.

In this article, we’ll look at four different areas of PLM compliance, and offer some hints on how those influence product managers’ work.

PLM Product Compliance

International standards – or lack of them

Let’s start with the easy ones. You will most likely base your product design—or at least some features of it—on one set of international standards, be it the ISO, IEC, etc., whatever is most relevant for your product. Another option is to use local standards that your design team knows best, and then seek international equivalents of them. For some features of your product, there may not be relevant global standards, only some local ones. But they are better than nothing and provide a good backbone for your product design criteria.

International standards do not only state WHAT the end product should be like to ensure it is safe, does not pollute, saves energy, etc. They also require you to document the process of HOW you got to your end product. For example the European Machinery Directive mandates that you produce a so-called “Technical File,” which must provide full traceability from initial requirements to the final product.

All general and customer specific requirements, used design codes and methods, risk and impact analyses, calculations and simulations, design documents, manufacturing methods, material certificates, workers’ qualifications, inspection and test results, installation and commissioning logs, and acceptance certificates must be provided.

My advice is: don’t be afraid of the standards! Try to design your product according to or applying some relevant standards as close as possible to your product.

If you say to your customer that “our product is so unique in design that none of the standards can be applied to it,” you will have a hard life.

It is much easier to say: “Our product is designed in compliance with ISO, relevant sections of the API standard, the Eurocode parts, etc… Additionally, we apply our decades of experience in verifying the optimal design.”

Take the documentation requirements seriously and try to adapt your design process so that the documentation is captured transparently and effortlessly. Providing full traceability from scattered documents and memos is laborious, especially when the design process is long, concurrent and multi-disciplinary, and there are customer specific requirements. Instead, see if modern methods like Configuration Management or Model-Based Systems Engineering could be applied.

The sanitary norm and other local requirements

Despite globalization, there are still plenty of local requirements, such as the 14 different types of electric plugs in the world, or the sanitary norm that regulates vibration exposure of workers.

When assessing your target markets, you will need to pay attention to local regulations and legal requirements. Governments and regulatory bodies are relatively good at publishing these, but you may speed up the work by getting some consultation.

Electrical Standards PLM

Regulatory requirements are most pronounced and documented for products which are intended for consumer use. This is understandable, considering the large exposure and the nature of the use of products—not many of us read the instructions carefully to avoid risks.

The product should be compliant with regulatory requirements AND provide a user experience that assures safe use.

In Europe, there is a list that no company wants to end up on: the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for dangerous non-food products—aptly abbreviated as RAPEX! This list is updated weekly and is followed by every newspaper and magazine. Being on that list is a guaranteed way of getting publicity, but it can also be used to quickly inform potential product risks. You can try it yourself by searching some known brand names, for example, your own car’s manufacturer.

Customer requirements (and all other relevant requirements)

For Engineer-to-Order products in industrial markets, customer specific requirements are the bread-and-butter of business. In a way, these are relatively easy to handle, as the majority of the clarifications and discussions are focused on these special requirements. They are also more explicitly documented and attached to the contract. Make sure they are also documented in your PRODUCT. You need to be able to trace all requirements, all of the design intent, and the end result as I mentioned above in the case of the European Machinery Directive. Documenting the customer requirements of your varying product structures will also help you next time you need to do a custom design—it may already exist in an earlier variant!

The tricky parts are actually the things NOT discussed in detail, but only listed or mentioned briefly in the contract documents. Local regulations and standards often only refer to codes like ASTM, or even more generally, “all relevant international and local standards, codes, regulations and statutory requirements.” And because of this, I gave my advice before to not be afraid of listing the standards and codes of your product design. It is a more firm ground to stand on.

The Moose Test compliance

In today’s world, news and reviews travel even quicker than products. If your product fails compliance standards in one marketplace, you can expect a quick backlash globally.

Not all compliance requirements are documented and known in advance. I call these the “Moose Test compliance.” Last year we “celebrated” the twenty-year anniversary of an event with epic consequences—the 1997 Mercedes A-Class failing the so-called Moose Test. It was a high-speed evasive maneuver, designed to test the stability of a car, conducted by the Swedish car and technology magazine “Teknikens Värld.” This test was not at all included in the requirement sheet of the car design, as it was at that time only carried out by some Nordic magazines for the benefit of local readers.

PLM Moose Test

The car turned over violently in the test, and the same almost happened to the company and its top leaders! Production of the car was halted and a crisis team was set up to work out a solution. One of the corrective actions of the manufacturer was to fit the car with an Electronic Stability Program (ESP). By doing so, the unfortunate event actually sped up the utilization of this safety feature in lower price car classes. The quickly renewed A-class subsequently passed the test, and ever since the “Moose Test” has been included in Daimler’s and every other manufacturer’s requirement list. It’s a great case in getting product feedback, addressing it rapidly as product improvements, and using it to feed future R&D. That sounds like another ABC: Always Be Closing the (feedback) Loop! 

With respect to the Moose Test compliance, I have two bits of advice. Firstly: ABC – Always Be Connected. Use web analytics to find out where and how your products are being reviewed and discussed. Secondly: be prepared to handle a crisis. Plan and rehearse a difficult public situation and how to discuss it. Who communicates in which channels? What are the internal measures and task forces? Silence is rarely a good option, and as we learned in the Moose Test incident, addressing and recovering from a crisis may become a positive incident that actually strengthens your image. Manufacturer recalls are fairly common nowadays.

PLM Compliance

In this article, I touched the areas of PLM compliance and how they should be taken into account by the product management.

There is also the option to try to influence standards, regulations, and requirements. It is known practice that major industry players are using substantial resources to steer and guide standard and regulatory bodies, either by directly participating in the development work, or via interest groups. One example could be the International Telecommunication Union where surely all telecom industry big names are present, but it also offers an avenue for smaller companies to participate in influential activities.

This is also part of product managers’ work. Have you found the relevant channels to influence your industry going forward?

I hope you enjoyed the article and perhaps got some hints! Now we have covered two ABC’s – Always Be Competitive and Compliant.

Until the next ABC – Always Be … Curious 😉

 

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What is the Deal With PLM?

PLM Definition

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH PRODUCTS?

Products are part of our everyday life. Whether it’s a refreshing soft drink or the t-shirt you’re wearing, we share our lives with products. Companies revolve around products: they define the company’s identity and are the source of its wealth and revenue. PLM stands for Product Lifecycle Management, and it focuses on the product. In this article we’ll give you a clear idea of what PLM is and how it works.

Once products only contained mechanical parts, but now products are becoming more and more complex. Sensors, software, and connected data have become an integral part of modern products. As a result, managing product information effectively is a must for companies that want to remain competitive in today’s business environment.

FIRST THING’S FIRST: WHAT IS PLM?

PLM is a framework that helps companies manage their product information and follow business processes through a product’s full lifecycle. Over the next five to ten years, the biggest business gains will stem from getting the right information to the right people at the right time. That’s what PLM is all about.

PLM DEFINITION

HOW DO WE DEFINE PRODUCTS?

Products are defined by data. Data has become a new currency and a true core asset for firms. Product data is valuable by itself: yet its value increases exponentially when integrated with other data, such as maintenance history or related products or services. The capacity to unlock the full value of product data is a key competitive advantage.

It is often said that PLM is about managing a product throughout its whole lifecycle, “from cradle to grave” or “from sunrise to sunset.” That’s why true enterprise PLM requires building an end-to-end framework to support corporate processes, starting with product development and extending to after-sales.

WHERE IS ALL THAT PRODUCT DATA?

Think about your product. After clarifying what the product is supposed to do and how it should work, designers will start to sketch its geometry using CAD tools. While designing your product, you need to keep in mind cost-competitiveness, production feasibility and compliance with standards.

Understanding how parts should be positioned so that the product can be manufactured, knowing when it makes sense to combine or separate parts, and thinking about the right tooling is essential to ensure that what you’ve designed will actually work in the real world.

You’ll also need to check that your product complies with regulations and industry standards. Regulations apply to several product components, and they might differ depending on where the product will be shipped and how it will be used.

Negotiating supplier contracts and purchasing parts and services on time eases the shipping process and ensures on-time product delivery.

Your sales team will sell the product to your customers, and service it when necessary. To do that, they need to put together all the data that describes the product from a commercial perspective.

You get the point. Sharing product information across the various teams within your organization is essential to an efficient workflow. But ensuring that everyone has access to the data they need is not an easy task. Each department has a different focus, and therefore relies on specific applications to work effectively. Being able to capture and pull together all the key data from those tools to describe the product through its lifecycle is in the very DNA of PLM. PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems, and provides a critical product-information backbone.

HOW DO WE GET THERE?

Effective PLM isn’t just about choosing the right technology. The challenge is to connect all the information pieces in a meaningful way, through the lifecycle process, so that the data flows smoothly. Getting a complete representation of the product, sharing information effectively across disciplines and platforms, and defining who needs what data, when, and who owns it, can be a huge advantage.

Yes, you’ve guessed right: PLM is complex. But if you get it right, it can be extremely powerful, and can actually make your company stand out. Connecting the dots across different applications through the lifecycle process is a true competitive advantage.

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