The HOLE in the PLM System

After spending several years in China since 2008, undergoing various discussions especially with Automotive world in China, and hearing from lot of experts,  I realize that most of the OEMs in China (MNC JV’s , SOE’s and Private OEM in China) are aspiring to build more comprehensive end to end capabilities in new product development.  They are making significant investments in enhancing core capabilities and infrastructure which aid this mission. As a part of this journey most of these companies have invested or planning to invest in to a PLM system which can address most of the needs of modern day product development that can bring then at par with their western counterparts.

Invariably all of them think that by adopting a good PLM system one can bring in world class processes which can uplift their capabilities and solve all their challenges.  But in real life, things don’t work out this way and end up with companies staring at harsh realities of a big HOLE in their overall PLM system which results in blame game between ISV, OEM IT, and Business teams and eventually causing failure to adopt the PLM system and the resulting low ROI from the investment made in PLM.

Why this HOLE does get created?
Lot of times these broad level aspirations of self-sustained product development are discussed at higher levels in the organization and they make decision of investing in to PLM system without asking fundamental questions like

  • What capabilities our organization needs from PLM? Where do I stand today as against them?
  • What are the core processes I need in the background and what are the gaps in my current process capabilities?
  • Which processes need to be built, or improved? and
  • How can I develop a new process?

Without addressing above points, usually PLM implementations/customizations get kick started and end up with a system which has some capabilities that may or may not be needed or also at times you get few capabilities which can’t be used due to lack of  inherent process capabilities and ends up with a big HOLE in the system; the HOLE of lack of clear business processes and low level methodologies that the users can follow to execute these processes.

How do I plug or avoid this HOLE?

PLM-systemThe best way is to start addressing the questions listed above right before deciding to invest in a PLM system. If someone has already invested in their PLM system, then it is not too late to bring it back on track by addressing these questions.

Once the questions are addressed and documented, it is important to create a “connection” between the Process needs and the Customization to be done in PLM system by writing “Requirements”, translating the processes and methodologies into language which is well understood by PLM developers.  There is a usual belief that this is done by ISV/SI’s who are implementing /customizing the PLM and in reality they don’t own this part of the work; thus causing the HOLE.

World class organizations create a small layer organization which bridges the needs from Business (R&D, Manufacturing, Supply chain etc) and the ISV/SI’s who are developing PLM. If organizations aren’t mature enough to do this on their own, then this layer can be done by a specialist Solution provider who can bring in a wealth of knowhow from global best practices. They can work with business to create the requirements which are well understood by ISV/SI who develop PLM and later do a detailed validation of the solution post development to ensure that it works as per the needs and also setup a Governance around this entire cycle to ensure that the HOLE in the system gets totally plugged.

So, in conclusion, companies implementing PLM systems tend to jump from PLM Initiatives to an ISV Product and its customization. They, in this process, create a huge hole which is the lack of system level processes and methodologies that the users can execute on to get the full value of the PLM system. By asking the right questions on the PLM priorities, processes, and then bridging between the business users and the ISV Developers through process developers (Business Application engineers), companies can plug this hole and get the best value of PLM.

Kiran Jambhekar
China Geography Head, Geometric Ltd.