On 17 February 2011, WhichPLM’s Perry Bonney and Rob Smith gave keynote presentations at the PLM Connect 2011 conference at the Belfry in Birmingham UK. The event championed by The Manufacturer magazine and hosted by PLM Engineering evangelist John Stark addressed the best practice for PLM projects within the manufacturing industry.
There were around 60 delegates in attendance ranging from engineering, manufacturing, and consumer goods companies through to PLM and IT consultants. The underlying aim being to bring together end users who have not embraced PLM technologies and systems with consultants and end users who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in implementing PLM systems across a broad range of industries. Of course throughout the discussion of case studies during the day, all those in attendance started to truly understand the undertakings required to both start building the business case for a PLM project and put the project into production.
In his presentation Perry Bonney addressed some of the key requirements which an end user should at least be thinking about before a PLM project goes live building on his experience of 22 years within the manufacturing industry and 18 years working with product development systems. Rob Smith presented within his keynote on the impact that green-socio-economic governance is having to the manufacturing industries and how a PLM system can help businesses address this issue from cradle to grave and ensure their operation is in compliance with multi-jurisdictional regulation.
A number of the other speakers and open questions which ran through the day mainly focused on two separate areas. Firstly being ‘What do I need to think about for a PLM project?’ Perry’s presentation summarised this point very well with his 5 golden rules for PLM projects which are summarised below:
- Audit your internal processes first before even considering PLM.
- Clearly establish the return on investment and ensure you are comparing your progress against the ROI at all times.
- Engage all the eventual users and stakeholders within the business on the project and keep them informed as the project commences.
- Adopt an incremental project plan and establish a basic foundation for a PLM system hitting the key value returns first.
- Identify realistic milestones for a PLM integration and don’t give in to “scope creep”.
The second area of concern is best considered in the following question “ERP is around 30 years old now and still we are hearing that it is only just finding its true realised value and aim of what an ERP should do for a business. PLM is roughly 15 years old, why should we be adopting now when we could be seeing another 15 years before PLM truly evolves into a system that truly fulfils what its inception sets out to do?”
The crux of the question essentially comes down to whether or not an end user should be putting the time and finance into another big IT system implementation project when 5 years down the line, the PLM landscape could have changed dramatically. Rob Smith addresses the point as below:
“It is no secret that a number of ERP systems implementations over time have left a bitter taste in a few end users’ mouths and the failure case studies are many and varied. However a big difference between PLM and ERP is that ERP is a system pure and simple. PLM however (although deployable as a packaged system), is underpinned by a way of working. It is essentially re-aligning your cradle to gate supply chain focusing first and foremost on the product ahead of anything else. In much the same way as say object orientated programming doesn’t necessary matter the language used so long as the application is built around the data objects rather than data instances and functions. I don’t doubt for one minute that 5 years down the line we will see better PLM systems but another benefit of PLM is that the development has learnt a lot from the known failings of ERP.
ERP perhaps the true pioneer of large scale collaborative IT projects has helped the PLM market focus on the key values of a collaborative IT project. Our consultants and users have learnt better ways of working and implementing. Our architects have learnt faster ways of harvesting and normalising data. Our developers have a better sense of scale for where these systems should grow. Due to this, PLM solutions are already much simpler to adopt. UIs are already as good as the leading consumer applications; deployment is moving toward a more focused OOTB box mentality; and solutions are now built on frameworks allowing for simple module upgrades and functionality extensions.
PLM over a short space of time has evolved into delivering huge (and quantifiable) business benefits and we are only really scratching the surface as to what PLM as a system can achieve as critical mass is still a long way away.”
Perry Bonney equally believes that you can realise a lot of value very easily from PLM and that at the current rate of adoption, it is most likely that some of you competitors will already be realising these values. However Perry in support on Rob’s comment on ‘PLM as a methodology’ is quick to add a point which a lot of end consumers perhaps hadn’t considered: “When considering a PLM system it is worth investigating as part of the rationale for implementing a system as to whether the issues that you are trying to solve require a PLM software solution or if the issues could be addressed by better process management and resource allocation.
For smaller companies the financial burden of implementing a PLM system can be quite large, particularly for cash flow and whereas the costs of buying and implementing PLM have dropped over the last few years it is still a significant outlay. Looking at the current issues, where they fail, the reasons that they fail and the possible solutions may resolve some of the pressure in needing to implement a PLM system immediately and the work done in identifying the issues and the possible solutions is all something that would be done as part of a PLM implementation so the effort is not wasted if the final decision is to go with a PLM software solution.”
All in all, the feedback from the PLM Connect 2011 conference is that it has helped a lot of end users who haven’t adopted PLM or didn’t really know exactly what PLM is. It has given them substance for their internal business case and it has given them inspiration for how the system can leverage their current operations. Most importantly it has given them precious material on the’ do’s/dont’s’ of PLM projects which is really where the value of these types of conferences resides.