It’s Time to Demand Immediate Results from PLM!

Is your company pursuing PLM in order to reduce time-to-market or increase profitability? Does it look like PLM is going to be a long and expensive initiative? Or worse yet, are you seeing signs that it’s already doomed to fail?

Analysts are saying that companies that do not “implement PLM” within the next few years will fall behind the competition and eventually go out of business. With this kind of pressure, executives are not likely give up on PLM anytime soon. Does this mean that PLM is going to be a long, expensive and painful process? Not necessarily.

There are two schools of thought on implementing PLM. Either it’s done top-down and involves a lot of executives, vendors, new tools and sweeping process changes. Or it’s done bottom-up. Most of the success stories you hear about are from the first method. That makes sense—the results can be pretty dramatic. But so can the risk, investment and timeframe. For that reason, many companies will never get the opportunity to do it this way.

The other option for PLM is to approach it from the bottom up. The good news is that the results can be just as impressive. Another benefit to this approach the risk can be mitigated and the major part of the investment can be delayed until after the initial paybacks. How is this possible? Because most companies already own enough tools to create a solid foundation for their PLM environment - they just haven’t utilized them to their fullest potential. For example, studies have shown that the majority of companies use less than 50% of the functionality of their CAD tools. Some of this unused functionality can reduce the cycle time of various tasks by 75% or more.

So where do you start? We have found the biggest bang for the buck is in Engineering. The first thing you should look at is how well Engineering has developed and enforced optimized standards. This includes standard materials, standard hardware, common parts, a standard tools library, CAD file templates, and drawing templates (including intelligent notes and formats).
Most companies have already developed some of these standards, but rarely have they developed all of them. We also find they are often difficult to access and use, and rarely are they optimized for maximum cost and development time savings.

Let’s look at just the standard materials. An effective way to leverage them is to make the material selection for the CAD model easy, required and consistent. So with little effort, all models will contain the correct information across structural analysis, weight analysis, drawing development, BOM development, purchasing and other PLM activities. Material selection can be strategically based off a Material Database, then selected and applied to the CAD file through simple scripts and web-forms to make selections easy and consistent. The contents of the database can be controlled with input from Purchasing, Engineering, IT and others involved with minimizing material costs and maximizing development productivity.

The advantages of just this simple tool are many. First of all, it saves time. The engineer does not have to look up the details in the material reference book each time, nor type everything in manually. It will ensure the CAD file gets the information that it needs and is not left empty. Now that the material information is contained in the CAD file, it will not have to be entered manually anywhere else. The material call-outs on the drawing can all refer to this information and automatically populate. It can also be used to populate the BOM in your ERP/MRP system.

Besides saving time, it will also reduce ECO’s, scrap, downstream personnel time and product cost. How? There will be no spelling errors or varying abbreviations that make it look like new material to the ERP systems. The engineer will use a preferred standard material unless there has to be a variation—this will save time in ordering and inspecting. It also reduces material cost as it increases the purchase volume of standard material. And, because the material selection is controlled, there will be no errors in the detailed material specifications.

Payback from this simple foundational step is dramatic. In a recent case we documented an 89% reduction in drawing errors from a company that had calculated that 23% of their ECO’s were from typos and material callout errors. In this case we calculated annual savings of $234,000 in labor costs (design and ECO processing) and a projected savings of $16,900 in scrap. Those results are quite significant when you consider that they were from automating something very simple that had always been done manually. This does not take into account the faster time-to-market as a result of savings in development time. Also, remember that standard materials was just one of six types of standards that should be developed and enabled. Each of the others can have a similar impact as well. With automation and increased consistency, faster development time is a natural result.

So are these types of improvements readily available with PLM? Absolutely.

Developing and enabling standards is an important foundation for any PLM initiative. It is clearly an approach that leverages existing tools, can expand to meet future applications, and returns immediate and significant payback with very little investment or risk.

That is why we say it’s time to demand immediate results from your PLM initiatives!

David W. Paulson
Accuer, Inc.
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Review Article
  • What's PLM Anyway? November 11, 2005
    Reviewed by 'Jack'
    PLM? What does the abreviation stand for and why on earth would you want to complicate your cad system any more than it is alread?

    It appears to me that everyone wants to pack all the work and blame on the engineering groups. The real blame is the upper management being greedy and having little or no knowledge of how to run a business to start with. so it is a try this or try that to see if it will work.

    Everyone needs to get bet back to the basic of using simple processes and good common sense with a little solid knowledge on how to run a company. Whether the company is large or small the rule still applies!

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  • Re: It’s Time to Demand Immediate Results from PLM! November 15, 2006
    Reviewed by 'BrianS'
    DOes PLM help business? It can, just look at those who've successfully implemented such. However, it's not a panicia. Just like its cousin ERP you can really mess up what was working for your company.

    There are a lot of companies the worse for it that jumped onto the SAP bandwagon. Had they either taken the money invested in ERP and put it in a CD or the stock market the company would have been ahead or had they invested more time looking at what implementing ERP really means. Unfortunately in most corporations today implementation really means installation and customization of the S/W not looking at the whole picture of determining if, how, when, what and where these technologies should be implemented.

    PLM is no different. If you have a simpler lifecycle than the model that you're S/W supports you're going to waste a lot of Engineering time just operating the S/W for next to no real benefit to the corporation.

    The next issue is does your Engineering Department really employ PLM methodologies and practices. Several years ago I did a process audit on a engineering department that was touting to their management that they used "System Engineering" methodologies to ensure delivery of high quality products. Their customer had asked for the audit. What was found was a serious disconnect between what management, engineering and customer thought were best of breed "System Engineering" practices. If I was to give them a CMMI level rating it would have been a Negative 1.

    While they had all the nice S/W, policies and practices documented no one was trained on using them, people where using all sorts of work arounds to avoid using or by-pass the controls in the S/W that structured the process.

    When I have looked into various shops putting in PLM I'm seeing the same issues arise. S/W installed, customizations put in place to by-pass the process. In other words you might as well put in a file server and get better results.

    If you're going to demand results from PLM --ha-- you mean results from the organinzation implementing PLM, you'd better look to see if the PLM process is going to help or complicate issues and then really work on creating a real implementation plan beyond calling in the I.T. department to install the S/W and a one day briefing to end users that amounts to how to log on and file stuff away.

      One person found this review helpful.

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  • Whoa!! Careful there!! November 02, 2005
    Reviewed by 'Sherpa'
    implementing standards and using CAD functionality to enforce them is nice sound advice, but it's a far cry from PLM. In addition, there are two MAJOR warnings that need to go here.
    1) Bottom-up change is a nice idea, a grass roots campaign to change the world, but in the vast majority of cases it can't work. There are two main reasons why large initiatives like PLM fail., leadership and leadership. Leadership because any severe change, like implementing PLM, has to be seen as the most important thing that the company is doing, or it's just going to be the fad of the week and nobody will bother. It has to be backed up by incentives (if PLM is to reduce errors and people get payed by the number of parts they produce, why would they work more carefully?), and the company vision and all decisions need to back that up. And Leadership because people inherently resist change. If the leader is not there showing how important this is, and backing it up with actions to show the consequences of standing in the way, again, people will see it as a fad and not bother.

    2) The improvements that you've made here are significant, certainly, but they are NOT systemic process changes, they are localized task improvements in the engineering square of the flowchart. PLM is a radical departure from the way that you are working now. You're focused on what Engineering can do to make Engineering's life easier and make Engineering's output more accurate. If your part of the process takes four days, and you cut that in HALF, that's a 50% improvement, right? Wrong, if the process takes four months and you shaved two days off of that, from a process view, that's a 2% improvement. Looking at it in dollar amounts helps, but again, some perspective is needed. Don't get me wrong, every dollar counts and these are pretty significant numbers. There are many examples where localized optimizations have actually DECREASED overall system performance. Imagine if you will an engineering group that switches to 3D models, creating new, more beautiful and efficient drawings or does away with 2D drawings already.They saved plenty of time in drafting/detailing, maybe even reassigned some engineers, but now Manufacturing has to redraw the part from scratch, or has to spend hours fixing each converted drawing so that it works in their CAM system where it worked flawlessly before. Unless a good, high-level view of the process is fully understood, you can't know what effects your localized changes are going to have.

    Again, corporate standards are great, and using your existing tools are a great idea to enforce them, but as they used to say on Hill Street Blues, "Hey!...Let's be careful out there."

      7 of 8 found this review helpful.
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