A few weeks ago, I attended the PLM Center Meeting at Purdue University’s Product Lifecycle Management Center of Excellence with my colleagues Kurt Ringley and John Heller. Hosted by Nathan Hartman, the PLM Center Meeting is a biannual event that focuses on a specific theme relating to PLM. This fall, the focus was on Organizational Change through PLM in a Digital Enterprise, and proved very valuable for all three of us.
Kurt, John, and I all come from different backgrounds and levels of comfort with PLM. Despite our differences, we all had the same primary takeaway from the event: the need to bridge gaps between departments in a manufacturing enterprise. Each section below describes in detail our individual thoughts and ideas from the event.
Bridging the Gaps Between Different Silos
I’m a newcomer to product lifecycle management, but I have a long background in working with disruptive, game-changing technologies within industries that are slow to change. No matter what industry I’m in, one thing I’ve noticed is that departments and teams tend to work in silos, and this realization at the PLM Center Meeting was no exception.
In every conversation and presentation I saw, presenters, industry leaders, and consultants alike discussed the need to fill gaps and bridge silos between departments. Some companies showcased interesting technology that harnesses the digitalization trend to bridge gaps, such as bringing documentation from different departments and combining it into one platform. These innovative technologies and the trend of digitalization will certainly serve as a catalyst for change. Even more important was the discussion about changing company culture around digitalization.
Creating a Strategy and a Culture for Improvement
I’ve spent most of my professional career working with multiple different departments in manufacturing enterprises – including Dassault and Danfoss. I’ve seen firsthand how the silo effect can diminish how effective a business can be. Coming out of the PLM Center Event, one of the discussions that stuck with me the most centers around a well-known business management quote: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It doesn’t do any good to have a strategy towards breaking down silos and and implementing new technology solutions if there’s no mindshare or behaviors to change it.
Adding to this was the difference between continuous improvement and continual improvement. Many companies can get stuck in the idea of “continuous improvement,” where they are constantly moving and reacting to problems without stopping to assess their workflows. Instead, companies should aim for “continual improvement,” where they stop periodically to assess and improve. This allows individuals to be intentional and proactive, instead of reacting on the fly. I think one big way that organizations can implement a more “continual improvement” mindset is to stop and understand how they can improve the relationships between their departments to bridge silos; not just the strategy behind it, but how to ensure their company culture backs it.
Contextualize Digital Data
My history with PLM has allowed me to experience it from multiple different perspectives. I’ve seen and managed the back-end development side of the PLM software suites, coached companies how to best integrate other tools with the software, and served as a liaison between OEMs and manufacturers to best implement their approach to PLM, regardless of software.
Over the last several years, the industry has dropped new digitalization terms and approaches – cloud, IoT, digital twin, digital thread – many of which I’ve discussed in other blogs. All these are great opportunities, but companies need to do more than implement new innovations. Companies need to figure out a way to consume all that information. At the PLM Center Meeting, we talked a lot about how communicating and consuming information across different silos will not only bridge gaps between departments, but will contextualize the use of digital data. I’ve had this belief for many years, and this event not only confirmed my belief but showed that other entities are also on this path.
Bridging Gaps Between Departments
Ultimately, as this event demonstrated to the three of us, different approaches, trends, and technologies are emerging to help us bridge gaps between different departments. As an industry, manufacturers are moving towards digitalization to help us accomplish our goals.
Companies who are hesitant about transitioning in this direction may end up getting left behind.
If you’re interested in learning more about PLM in our industry, I recommend that you attend the spring event or reach out to any of us on LinkedIn to talk.