Nice article, Beth. I would think advances in PLM are custom-made for making products environmentally friendly -- especially now that companies are looking as materials and manufacturing processes to determine the full environmental impact of their products. Do you know if PLM is being used to create a wide picture of environmental impact?
Yes, Rob. PLM systems are definitely expanding their footprint to include modules and dashboards to evaluate the environmental impact of designs--everything from the carbon impact to materials choices. One of the big benefits that a closed-loop PLM system can bring is helping companies manage and meet the requirements around compliance directives, another part of the whole sustainability challenge.
Dr. Grieves has a compelling perspective of the PLM space. I have heard him speak on the subject several times. As a side note, I would like to propose to Dr. Grieves that he offer his book in electronic formats.
I realize it's tangential to the intrinsic value of the content at hand, but I think one of the great things Michael Grieves has done here is with the title of his book. "Virtually Perfect" alludes to that phrase about Steve Jobs and Apple, "Insanely Great." (That was also the title of a book abt Apple.) Thus Grieves is making PLM grabby and interesting and is drawing in readers who might otherwise pass by this important topic.
Beth, the examples that are cited in your article are large, expensive and long lived products, in general.I think that PLM is a great idea, and pulls together a number of trends in engineering and manufacturing that have been pushed for a long time.One thing I would note, though, is that the example of NASA is not one we want to put a lot of effort into.I worked as a contractor on many NASA projects, and I don't see the organization as particularly efficient.That is not to say that NASA has not done a lot of interesting things, but they are not the leader in lean.That is not their mission.NASA typically does things that are new and difficult.This does not typically mean that they are efficient.
The trends that really drive PLM are, on the one hand computational, and on the other sensors and communications.This should lead, over time, to the application of PLM to less expensive products.Of course, less expensive products do not typically not very long lived.At that point, the information collected in the field can be useful to new product development, but not necessarily to product operation.
In the software arena, Business Process Management (BPM) performs a similar function.A fully implemented BPM approach will include instrumentation on software processes, as well as manual processes, which allows management to determine where effort is needed and can be most beneficial.PLM 2.0 can do the same.Of course, software and PLM are very tightly connected.Without the software, PLM would not be possible.It is information that drives PLM.
Naperlou: You make a great point about PLM really being well entrenched in companies and organizations that make long-lived and complex products. Those companies really had a need for a methodology to help manage and drive the product development process, thus were willing to lay out the big bucks and suffer through some pretty complex implementations to get where they needed to go. I think new technologies around visualization, business process management, the cloud etc. are changing the face of PLM (and will continue to) so that it will become much more digestable by smaller organizations making far less complex products. They too, need the same type of management and efficiencies around product development and innovation. They just need help in a different and more accessible format.
'Complex and Long Lived' products are often referred to as the optimal subject matter to point Product Lifecycle Management solutions at. What better example than a Boeing 747 jet. Its certainly complex with over 4 million parts and 75 thousand drawings, and also long lived still being in main line service after 40 years. But what about a humble bottle of shampoo? I dont think anyone could argue that it is a complex product when placed alongside the Boeing example. And with changes to such products often being made on the quarterly timescale I dont think you could argue it was long lived either. So is the product innovation process which produces shampoo products not suitable subject matter for Product Lifecycle management? I think it is. You really have to think a bit more carefully about what the real product is here and what the challenge is that you are pointing PLM at. In this case its not the individual bottle of shampoo but rather the brand portfolio of shampoo products which are being managed and innovated simultaneously. The portfolio is 'the product' here! The challenge of the R&D and Supply Chain teams are to manage and innovate in the most efficent way whilst inputting as much creativity as they can to meet ever demanding consumer needs and an increasingly competitive landscape. This former pushes towards standard sets of raw materials and core product structures, the latter to new raw materials, product constructs and formats. Success is getting the right balance which demands a constant and up to date flow of product data. In an enviroment where is of the essence, product specifications typically have a 25% churn rate, regulations are doubling every 5-6 years and the market is global the need for accurate up to date information that can be available globally is critical. Thats why increasingly we are seeing new market sectors opening up to and embracing PLM such as FMCG, Apparel and Retail. I think the future is bright for PLM as we see parralel challenges to the traditional ones of engineering becoming more visible and relevant. To meet these challenges we will also see new solutions beyond the original ones of CAD rising and coming to the forefront.
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