Can we use analytics to gain insight and achieve more value from PLM?

The original article was published here

PLM Pulse is the first industry-led survey hoping to shed some light into where we are in our PLM journeys and where the real value lays. It is not meant to be an academic or consulting research paper, but rather a temperature check of how industry sees PLM today – the pulse. To find more about the other questions and surveys in PLM Pulse, please visit our website by clicking here.

In this next short article we will explore the question why “Insight and analytics from PLM are far from being common which may limit its role to create insight and benefits”. This article is not intended to be conclusions to the question or a detailed research findings, but more observations from industry professionals in the PLM space – our food for thought.

Have your say now… Go straight to the survey by clicking on this link

Data driven insight, analytics and “big data” have been hot topics for the past few years. In each and every conference we hear about how important big data is and have it has the ability to transform the role of PLM in organisations. I am reminded though of a recent quote by Alberto Brea [1] in which he states “Big Data is not a strategy – it is just a lot of data”, which incredibly accurate description of the current situation with such simplicity. Too often the vendors and consultancies get caught in the wave of a trend and apply it without fully understand what this might mean for a business.

Are we able to get into our PLM systems easily to get to the important data we need to analyse? Has our thinking about the about analytics from PLM evolved from the Excel based Engineering reports? And have companies connected PLM into their big data strategies?

Lets look at PLM today…

It was in 2010 that I successfully recruited my first Business Analyst to support reporting from our PLM systems and now in 2017, there is a team of 6 persons supporting Engineering, Operations and the Executive with key business intelligence driven from PLM. This was a clear decision and choice to invest in extracting information out of the “pandora’s box” of our PLM system. I was lucky. Firstly, we hired a brilliant analyst and secondly I worked at the time for a data hungry business and management. But many organisations may not be at the same stage of maturity.

The key challenge we set ourselves for reporting from PLM was not to replicate the Excel file reports we had at the time. This is a trap I see many organisations fall into when the first start their PLM reporting journeys. Instead we asked lots of questions. Questions about the questions the Engineering Managers asked on a daily basis to perform their jobs, questions the Executives needed to answer to make decisions. This was where we started to unlock the valuable information inside of PLM and with our own alchemy, started to turn it into business gold(*).

My reflection of the key business challenge is that the data inside of PLM is locked away like a secure vault. This was how the vendors have designed the systems and accessing and extracting the information is complex at best. Last year when I visited one of the PLM Vendors I asked an Executives why no reporting tools were available or easy ways opened up to extract information (without costly licenses). Their response stuck me: “customers are not asking for this”. Was that really the case in then 2016?

If you are lucky enough that your PLM vendor has the reporting capabilities, then you are hit with the PLM reporting paradox: We pay the software vendors to create and store our valuable knowledge and information inside their applications. Then we have to pay again to extract this to gain business value from it!

… And the relationship between PLM and (big) data in the future

Fast forward and we look at the relationship between PLM and the world of Big Data… In a recent Forbes report, it drew a conclusion that the world’s most value brands are now information centric tech companies and no longer the oil companies. Data has finally become the new oil. But what does this mean for PLM and big data?

Firstly, the value of the information(**). A companies ability to mine its information and to drive insight from it fundamentally effects a companies value. Information is now an asset. It therefore stands to reason that PLM being one of the biggest sources of product and process information in a company should be fundamental to any big data strategy.

A challenge is the legacy of data inside of PLM and how potentially it has grown organically. In June Oleg Shilovitsky wrote an article entitled “PLM and Manual tearing down data silos” for Beyond PLM. In concluding he states:“Manual tearing down data silos should be a thing in the past. Classification of data, mapping of data elements, creating of models… These are elements of analog data management promoted and supported by PLM specialists for many years. Unfortunately, this is how today’s PLM systems are operating… Future PLM paradigms should bring new ways to capture data and turn it into information”.

If the power of big data and analytical tools are to be believed, through their capabilities we should be able to traverse the silos of PLM data and get to any key information. This should help us avoid costly projects to harmonise the data across the enterprise. This was explained to me as the “data lake” where all the companies information can be pooled and where talented Data Scientists can extract valuable insight and analytics from.

From what I have seen is that we are some way from this reality today. I have yet to see these big data capabilities running with PLM. With the constraints the vendors appear to place in the accessibility to the PLM information, the complexities may be far greater than what is shown in PowerPoint.

Has your company been able to extract the golden nuggets of insight from your PLM system? Have you made PLM part of your big data strategy and has the business understood the value of the PLM information asset? 

This is our food for thought, now it is time for you to have your say. We have posted the anonymous PLMPulse survey on to get your feedback on the topic. 

Click on this link or copy and paste https://i42r.nl/2yc3k1v link into your browser. 

Each question will take no longer that 1 minute to complete. It should be that quick.

Read more about the PLMPulse conversation on LinkedIn and Twitter using the hashtag #PLMPulse or visit our homepage via http:/www.plmpulse.com

At PLMx Texas in October, we will present the result of the surveys along with a live poll in the audience. We will then collate the results in a short report which can then be accessed.

To make this work, we will need your support and honest feedback via the surveys. So have your say on where industry is in its PLM journey and have your finger on the #PLMPulse.

We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

(*) Here is a spot of honesty… We did replicate the Excel reports – we could not avoid that. But this was not the full scope of what we did and we soon found the Excel reports became out dated and not used. Just saying!

(**) I am not a great fan of the word “data”. It is too technology centric. It lacks both context and value. I much prefer the word “information”. A business can get value from Information

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