Social, mobile tools enhance the PLM model
System design: Product lifecycle management (PLM) software models enabled by social business tools can leverage the mobile connected workforce and use new collaborative skills to augment product engineering.
Product lifecycle management (PLM), the series of strategies, business practices, and technology design for acquiring and maintaining product information across the entire lifecycle of the product, can provide the ability to boost development speed, enhance customer satisfaction, optimize operations, and create new revenue generation opportunities—and new social and mobile tools are helping.
Product designers and engineers managing their company’s PLM are becoming more mobile or distributed. When you couple that with an aging engineering workforce, there has become an even more critical need to capture the implicit knowledge that these team members possess and pass it on to younger generations of engineers.
In addition, the role of the IT team is expanding due to social IT networking and collaboration tools being deployed in other departments. Industry analysts report seeing an incremental rise in IT department members being asked to contribute their technical expertise and Microsoft skill sets to support the infrastructure once solely involving engineering and design teams. PLM software companies have come to understand that within the product design environment, there are many new challenges to collaborate across far-extending teams and geographies. When you add to the mix the sophistication of product development processes, it is easy to see how both managers and their teams can feel overwhelmed by the many options to address these challenges, especially in light of the importance of dealing with security and being in compliance.
In what has become a global economy in the last decade, manufacturers today have to make the most productive use of the skills and knowledge of their own people regardless of where they—as well as their business partners—reside and adopt a more collaborative approach to do so. The innovation of collaboration tools, which historically began with e-mail, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, instant messaging, LinkedIn, wikis, and other social forums, is further progressing into next generation collaboration dashboards (like Microsoft Sharepoint, Sabisu, and Internet-based communications platforms). The idea is to provide companies with real-time visibility to product data and share information across planning, design, costing, sourcing, manufacturing, and logistics.
There is no doubt that collaboration tools are quickly evolving and helping growing companies to create even better and more effective "virtual teams." The extended reach of these virtual teams have advanced as well to include internal employees and a company’s supply chain partners, such as vendors, outsourced services, distribution houses, consultants, integrators, distributors, as well as customers, private labeled partners, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This results in bringing together the right people at the right time, even when they are in different locations to deliver higher productivity, operation optimization, and often more creativity in product designs and innovation. According to ARC Advisory Group, collaboration is a key factor that is driving better business performance because it enables teams to tackle business challenges more effectively, speeding up decision-making and transforming key activities like new product development.
Social computing era
Emergence of Web 2.0 capabilities has taken center stage in positioning wider adoption of social computing, where individuals, at home or at work, can easily and simply engage with peers and colleagues. Sharing information and opinions has become easier and more collaborative than ever before. According to ARC Advisory Group, what we are witnessing is the convergence of social real-time collaboration and PLM across product development organizations in connecting the people and the products they develop to create communities that solve real problems and develop breakthrough product ideas.
There are PLM vendors on opposite ends of the spectrum with Dassault Systèmes promoting its “Social 3DExperience platform” and PTC and Autodesk with “Social PLM” to Omnify Software’s approach in providing a “Social Collaboration Portal.”
In reality, social media adoption use for product design still has a long way to go. Companies are using social media as a low-cost way to broadcast a message but not necessarily as a means of collecting customer input that can be turned into valuable information.
Josh Bernoff, senior vice president of Idea Development at Forrester Research, put it bluntly: “We're several years into the social marketing boom, but still many executives are going about social strategy backward: picking technologies like Facebook or Twitter first instead of focusing on what they want to accomplish.”
Social collaboration transforms global outsourcing
ISG, the sourcing advisory firm, reports that social media collaboration, mobility, cloud computing, and big data are the key factors that have impacted global outsourcing during 2012 and will reshape outsourcing in the long term. Companies will use collaboration tools to accelerate growth by using the skills and knowledge of suppliers, partners, and customers in an "extended enterprise." Author Patricia Seybold coined the process term for this: "outside innovation." PLM customers often will outsource functions, whether engineering, manufacturing, or logistics, to quickly gain greater scale or reduce costs.
Enterprise software deployments are complex, customized to each customer and incredibly time-consuming. Seybold continued: “The future of global outsourcing is going to have to move to more social, collaborative environments where customers, partners, and employees are able to communicate more readily amongst themselves.”
For engineering and design departments, it seems that it is the IT group that is brought in to set up ad hoc internal social networking tools and facilitate the free flow of information between teams. Once this is done, it becomes apparent that product management is impacted with engineering interfaces extended to product service and support functions. Real-time feedback on product performance improves the accuracy of demand and manufacturing planning. Workflow-based systems minimize design iterations, while enabling streamlined engineering and ensuring regulatory compliance.
Mevion Medical Systems Inc., a radiation therapy company, has a globally distributed workforce and a business solutions requirement to be available 24/7 on all company-supported platforms (PC, Mac, Linux, Android, and IOS). Making PLM software an integral part of the company’s R&D process via the cloud has enabled Mevion Medical Systems to create a more collaborative environment for innovation and made content sharing available from any device. Mevion sees its collaborative environment extending past the integration of social networking capabilities and encompassing data sharing from all devices the company uses.
All company employees use the PLM software “on a daily basis from their computers, smartphones, and tablets; both within the company network and through remote secured VPN connections,” said Edward Quinn, Mevion Medical Systems IT Manager.
Next page shows a detailed diagram and information on social networking tools
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.