In this episode of ArcherGrey’s “The PLM Quick 30,” we have a conversation with Lewis Kennebrew — Senior Director of Business Process Consulting at ArcherGrey — who has over 20 years of experience under his belt. He has observed PLM from its humble beginnings to where it is now. Listen to find out where modern product lifecycle management (PLM) came from, where it is now, and what the future of PLM holds. If you’re ready to explore how to navigate your PLM strategy, contact us today.
Patrick: So Lewis and I are gonna talk to everybody today about the topic of PLM. So if you’re interested in PLM, it’s gonna be an exciting one. Lewis is the senior director of business process consulting at Archer Gray. And he’s got decades of experience. And hundreds of years of knowledge. And he’s gonna drop some for you today on this quick 30.
Lewis: Making me feel a little old there.
Patrick: (Laughs). So Lewis, you know I, I did a quick intro. But why don’t you give everybody a little introduction and exposure to who you are?
Lewis: Okay, I’ve had decades of experience as Patrick has mentioned. Really probably around just around 20 years in the consulting field specializing in kind of the domain of product lifecycle management, or PLM as you all are mostly aware. You know started out at one of the big six consulting firms. Pricewaterhouse, which became PricewaterhouseCoopers you know, while I was there.
Lewis: And we did strategic briefings on PLM. And that’s where I got an overview at the time, the major PLM systems. And moved from there to focus on consulting around the functional and the business process aspects of a particular PLM platform. Which was, happened to be PTC’s Windshield platform in its early days. And since then, probably the next 18 years ago. I mean 18 years since then, I’ve spent with various PLM platforms. Primarily PTC’s Windshield, but also Oracle Agile [De Sole Systems 00:05:17] in Novia Product, now Siemens Teamcenter product innovator.
Lewis: So I’ve got a nice well rounded functional understanding of most of the major PLM platforms. Because my job has been primarily the business strategist, the business process, and organization change management expert on the product teams. I can implement, I have installed and implemented the software. But I’m more comfortable working with the client around their needs and translating those needs into software requirements and functionality.
Patrick: Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for the background. And so you know when you think about all of the decades that you’ve been (Laughs).
Lewis: That’s for keep bringing that up.
Patrick: I’ll lighten it up a little bit. When you think about all the years that have gone by and the different clients that you’ve worked with. I mean the industry has evolved, but the acronym PLM has remained. And as we go into the future, the definition is changing, right? So I, I’m curious how you would define PLM. I mean if you, let’s look at it from the highest level of just simply looking at the past, present, and the future.
Patrick: So, if you take those three items, let’s define the past. Just take a minute to give us a definition of what you think PLM is defined of old. If somebody implemented it let’s say 10, 15 years ago.
Lewis: Sure. Looking back to the 15 years ago, PLM was essentially a set of loosely coupled software tools. And you know and implementation was a custom software project. It would take anywhere from 12 to 36 months sometimes. You know, typical PLM implementation, which was done like any other very large, software development effort. It was you know, the way of implementing at the time was the waterfall approach which is the way most large software projects were implemented.
Lewis: Since the PLM software itself was really a, a toolbox of software code pieces, the customer basically had to provide all of the requirements. And then the, the software vendor, their, their consulting organizations, or sometimes you know, third-party companies like management consulting firms. You know within has been, as I said months to years. You know taking those pieces and, and, and building you know, those pieces together. Adding custom design pieces to meet very specific customer requirements.
Lewis: And so, the customer would get what they wanted. I’m not gonna name the vendor, but one of the jokes within our, the consulting practice that I belong to was, you know the software could do anything the customer wanted, just nothing for, under a million dollars in services cost.
Patrick: Right (Laughs).
Lewis: So, you know they, they were very expensive undertakings. And, and in the past you know, the customer would tend to get exactly what they wanted, or close to it. It also usually, it also involved cost overruns, because the software may not have been capable of doing the job in exactly the way the customer required it to be done. And so the, you know the approach was to meet the customer requirements as they required them.
Patrick: So when you think about the acronym PLM, product lifecycle management. And the, you know, the utopian definition as it’s been defined throughout the years following the lifecycle of the entire product. Do you feel like your past definition of PLM was capable of fulfilling that functionality?
Lewis: So I think the, the definition of product lifecycle management was aspirational. I think that, was the software capable? Those that have spent enough time and money-
Lewis: And I mean a lot of time and a lot of money. You know, you know may have gotten what they asked for. Now, was what they asked for what they needed? Or after the years of defining it, and developing it was what you know, was it what they needed three years later based on what they’d envisioned three years prior? And often times, no.
Lewis: As I mentioned it, it being aspirational, I think companies still struggle with the aspirational goal of product life cycle management, being that it handles all of the product information across the entire enterprise. Across multiple business functions. You know, in the 20 years that I’ve been involved, and I think the industry itself is probably maybe 30 years old. Companies still struggle with the full package.
Lewis: Trying to achieve that vision of PLM. You know, most often they either stop due to fatigue (Laughs), right?
Lewis: Takes a long time to implement something. And once they finally have something working-
Lewis: … they don’t want to go through the pain and effort of implementing, implementing more. Often times it is they’re a victim of early successes. Where it’s, “Hey, we’ve got this part for the engineers working. And let’s not invest more, because it seems like it’s a good engineering system.” Even though the vision of PLM was to span multiple departments, multiple groups within a company. Very, very similar and analogous to what an ERP enterprise resource planning application does across the business. But often times where it is successful, it then struggles to, to get beyond that initial success.
Patrick: All right. I, I appreciate you diving into that one. And you know, depending on what customer I’ve spoken to historic, historically, I still run into a lot of clients that use PLM, use the term PLM, but they’re really only managing their engineering data related to the product. And so, fatigue is a pretty accurate word to describe it, because people will implement, finish, finish the migration and usually it’s the migrations that cause the fatigue (Laughs).
Patrick: Because the time span extends so much. How … All right so let, let’s just package that as the definition of the past, right? For now. And so, moving into the present, how would you define PLM today?
Lewis: Well, so PLM today again, same aspirational goal. Managing more product information. Companies are starting to I think move more toward their goal. In terms of they’ve, they’ve gotten all of the value I think that they can out of having PLM only manage their engineering data. The PLM vendors themselves are also adding capabilities to the software that speak to more of the needs of those other departments, like the manufacturing organization, or the services organization, now on the fringes, even now are, are things that support the marketing organization. And so, companies are … What I’ve seen in the present now, that companies are starting to think more seriously about a roadmap of taking the, the software that they have either already invested in. And taking that as the, the first you know, mile marker right? On the roadmap. And, and seeing the most logical path to this, to the additional capabilities. Because in most companies you know, PLM is like the old adage, you’re only using 10% of your brain. Most companies are only using 10% of their PLM capability that they’re paying licenses for, subscriptions for.
Lewis: And so I think, you know organizations are starting in this age of you know, better asset utilizations. You know, you’ve got this huge asset, and instead of continuing to buy, or, or enhance these point solutions that we’ve had, and people are comfortable with, we’re sitting on this big gold mine of a PLM system that we’re just really using 10% of it.
Patrick: Yeah. I wanna revisit that last point that you made about how people, what you define that 10% and how we can expand that 10%, where people can take more advantage of the functionality that exists. But let’s define the future now of PLM. So, we’ve got a good basis of past and, and some of the challenges and hurdles of successes of days of old. And you just defined the present. So when we’re looking at the future, how would you define that?
Lewis: I think the future of PLM is becoming a little circular. And that a reflection of one thing that spurred PLM initially. And that’s three-dimensional geometry. What I mean by that is, the really the match before PLM was computer-aided design. And the computer-aided design started off as, as an electronic replacement of manual drafting. In which you know, an engineer or a drafter, you know had a three-dimensional image in their head. And they documented it on paper by necessity right? They had to document it in two-dimensional views. And so the convention was you know, you do three faces of a, of a three-dimensional object that you have in your imagination to get it down on paper, so other people could benefit it, benefit from it with two-dimensional drawings.
Lewis: Then the early innovation in CAD was then you know, three-dimensional solid modeling so that an engineer could take that three-dimensional idea or concept in their head and model it. You know? You can use it as an analogy. It went from drawings to say sculpture.
Patrick: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lewis: And in a computer. Now, again that was in the computer. What was usually done is two dimensional. It was used to more efficiently make two-dimensional drawings. So the humans still went back to the process of communicating in two dimensions. PLM took that innovation of 3D CAD, which was used really just as an efficient way to produce two-dimensional drawings. PLM became a necessity because, three dimensional CAD was a, had more complex file relationships, and it was related to builds of material, which are the, the list of components that went into you know the product being designed.
Lewis: And so, PLM was, was, was an answer to manage the complexity of that data. But, PLM was also one dimensional or two dimensional. If you looked at most PLM screens, it’s a series of tables, tree structures, and a lot of text.
Lewis: You know, maybe a few would have you know, some sort of small bit of imagery. Visualization was, was, was incorporated. You know, maybe 15 years ago. More strongly, but it wasn’t the tail on the dog. The visualization piece. Where I see the future is, is getting now to where the three-dimensional aspect is becoming the centerpiece of the PLM systems. Where that, that three-dimensional object after designed, is, is being then reused throughout the rest of the organization. You know so that say, your manufacturing instead of the traditional way of creating text-based assembly documents with, with maybe drawings, maybe photographs, right? And if you’re using a photograph, that means you actually have to have created the part, product to try to assemble the product before you can document the process of assembling the product.
Lewis: You know, now companies are starting to draft to reusing that three-dimensional object throughout the business. So say manufacturing now is leveraging the three-dimensional object before any physical pieces are made to design the manufacturing process.
Patrick: So, I’ve got a game for you.
Lewis: All right. I like the games.
Patrick: I might make you sweat on this.
Lewis: I do sweat.
Patrick: (Laughs) are you ready?
Lewis: Go for it.
Patrick: All right. So I’m an executive all right? And I tell you, I’m, there’s three executives in the room okay?
Lewis: Oh wow.
Patrick: There’s the past-
Lewis: Make an attempt on me.
Patrick: The present, and the future.
Lewis: Ghost of PLM past, and present, and future.
Patrick: You got it. So there’s, you’ve got 30 seconds to tell them from an ROI perspective. And I’m not talking numbers, but speaking in executive’s terms or viewpoint of the entire enterprise. Why invest in PLM? Is it a fair question? Are you up for this challenge?
Lewis: Wish this wasn’t live-
Patrick: All right. So, let’s see, let’s see what we do with it. So past. 30 seconds.
Lewis: So 30 seconds to talk to the ghost of PLM past about the investment?
Patrick: (Laughs) that’s right.
Lewis: How are you doing Mr. Executive from the past. I know that you’ve invested in the PLM system, and it was heavily customized. And you’ve been using it for the last 15 years. And what you’ve probably gathered thus far is, you know your, your organization is hindered you know, in the fact that you’re using a tool that was designed for the way you design products you know 15, or 20 or so years ago. And your market has changed, you probably have to diversify your products. Your system is probably holding you back in that regard. And you, so you’re, you’re spending more time supporting the system as opposed to the system supporting you.
Patrick: That’s pretty good.
Lewis: All right.
Patrick: All right, all right. You’re on a roll. So, now is it a ghost if it’s present? The ghost of present.
Lewis: I guess it could die today.
Patrick: He could (Laughs). So you got 30 seconds to talk to an executive on the ROI of PLM using the definition of PLM today.
Lewis: Mr. Present day executive-
Lewis: Let me talk to you a little bit about the return you would get on a, on an investment today in PLM. PLM as a whole is becoming much more responsive to your market needs today. Needs of say mass customization where, where your, your, your customers are no longer satisfied with buying you know, one product of thousands of products where everyone has the same product that, that they want. And you know in order to respond and be flexible to not just your customers, but your competitors, you need a system that gives you that flexibility so that the, the designs that you’re, your brilliant designers and engineers come up with, are rapidly translated into manufacturable, high quality, physical products. That if you’re in a, in an industry where your products have to be services after the sale, you also wanna then extend that flexibility and that capability into your, your sales and aftermarket. Because again, you know the trend today, is you know, consumers are moving you know further into a, a shared economy, the gig economy leasing versus buying.
Lewis: So now in most industrial businesses, their, their aftermarket and their service as a revenue stream are becoming more and more important. So, the idea of increased complexity of your product, and increased need to generate revenue through after market and services, means you have to have a PLM platform that can handle that complexity. And that’s not just through design, but also through manufacture. So that you can manufacture in smaller units, units of one ultimately in such that you can service, and you can develop services documentation in scale to the size that where you’re shipping units of one. And I would say that is a, an imperative today, because if you’re not doing it you know, you can bet that your competitors are.
Lewis: Thank you.
Patrick: Last one.
Lewis: All right.
Patrick: Last one.
Lewis: All right, now I have to put my science fiction hat on.
Patrick: That’s right (Laughs). Beam me up to the future. What’s your 30 second pitch?
Lewis: All right, Madam CEO. I’d like to tell you a little bit about where, where PLM is heading. And, within the next few years you know, you’re looking at needing to be able to communicate to your customer base in terms of you know, visualization, immersion of your product in a, in a virtual fashion. Augmented reality, virtual reality are kind of nascent in- industries right now. The internet of things allows uh, sensors to be placed in your products, provide so much rich information. That you’re gonna need that ability to digest within your organization, user behavior, big data, aggregated data, as such that, that data can be turned around to be converted into the information that your product development teams need to generate not just physical products you know new, totally new business models that combine physical products uh, with services.
Lewis: You know some physical products in the future are, are moving to just a way to deliver a service. A totally new, new business model, one thing that you know a potential trend is your automakers starting to design cars not for individual consumers, but for the shared services, the Lyft, and the Uber drivers. So think about that. How would you change the design of a vehicle, to meet the needs of the, the Uber driver? So you’re looking at the costs the individual can pay, in terms of the changes in the usage pattern of the vehicle. And then you couple that with individuals no longer may even want to buy a car, right?
Lewis: I just saw a commercial just the other day and, I don’t know the name of the company. I can’t remember the name. I think it was fine.com. I don’t know how it works, I haven’t dug into it. But they’re, they’re advocating, you just go online, you give your needs, your, your, your budgetary range. I imagine they run a credit report. What, what you wanna pay a month and they give you a, a list of cars that you just pay on a monthly bases for, and you can turn it in, replace it with another car for the same monthly payment any time you want. I’m curious to know how that business model will work. But again, that’s a [Canarian 00:26:50] gold mine. In the mind of, where PLM is, is going. You’ll need to be able to design for business models like that, that did not exist, that don’t, are just starting to be created today, and certainly didn’t exist 15 years ago.
Patrick: We, so thanks for diving into all those great answers. I’m glad that you were up for the challenge. You know the, the one thing that I think about in each of those scenarios. Bring me back to the survey that we, we recently did.
Lewis: Oh yeah? Great.
Patrick: With PLM and the digital enterprise. And we ended up going out to about 150, clients out in the industry. All associated with PLM. But you, you hear all of this terminology around the digital thread, digital transformation. What does it all mean? And how is it being applied? And what we wanted to figure out was, where are our people prioritizing their budget in relation to all of these different topics?
Patrick: So that survey report’s actually on our website now. It’s being released. But the one thing that kinda bubbled up from everything that you described from the past, present and the future. And it’s a big topic within that report as well, is and this kinda goes back to that 10%. People are using 10% of their PLM system, right?
Patrick: It’s, it’s what is the strategy from where folks are today. And where are they going? And how do they get there? I, I recall you doing a workshop at the local PLM gathering event that we hold in the Midwest, which is comprised of I don’t know 15 clients, directors, and VPs of PLM, right?
Patrick: And the topic was around, how do you sell the value of PLM so you get the funding to pursue your roadmap. So, walk us through a little bit of how you approach those situations to coach a client through.
Lewis: Sure. So you know, most clients or most individuals are who PLM champions. You know that’s typically the person who has the support, the PLM application with the organization, typically you know they’re in engineering, IT, engineering services or an IT function. And which is support, a lot of times have the engineering group, right? And as we mentioned, where PLM has expanded and, and most companies are still at the 10% usage of that. You know is, is difficult for that person to get mindshare outside of their engineering, internal customers.
Lewis: And again, it’s because PLM is expanded, but most of the decision makers with, within a corporation have not been really privy to or aware of that expansion. So that person has to figure out how if they want to expand PLM into other departments such as manufacturing or aftermarket in sales or marketing. You know, how do they get buy-in from the decision makers? Those vice presidents of those departments.
Patrick: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lewis: And, and how do they get the decision you know, how do they get that information to the, the people with the purse strings like the chief financial officer. And, and the ultimate corner, you know the, they use the term decider or, right? The chief executive officer. How do they do that? Right? Cause they typically have spoken in engineering terms, or IT terms to other people in engineering or IT.
Lewis: And so, you know we will advise our clients to use some tools you know from the innovation field and, and build a, a profile of your target audience. If you know that you need to get, say to hit marketing manufacturing and, and aftermarket involved, then you need three different messages. And you need to first tie PLM to business value. And it’s not a generic business value, or it’s not even a business value that you want, it’s the business value that they would want.
Lewis: Aftermarket wants to sell more parts, and especially if their vehicles are customized vehicles. That becomes difficult for them to create custom manuals, to know exactly which part went on which particular VIN number or the Serial number of a vehicle. So, you want to develop a message that shows how PLM can help them achieve their business objectives, right?
Lewis: A separate message for the manufacturing say, vice president. Even a third message for the marketing vice president. Now, are you being you know, deceitful? No. PLM is, is many things to many people. And you’re just trying to help them understand that the value … People will purchase. They spend money on what they value. Not what you value or what others value. So, you have to make a compelling case for your PLM investment to others. You know in the language that they can understand.
Lewis: And if along the way you get what you need, right? That’s the ideal scenario.
Patrick: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I was sitting in that room when you gave that presentation. And we went through the workshop collectively. And I think we had 12 different clients there. And they got a lot of benefit from it. And I even got post feedback from them. And this was, this is ranging from Fortune 500 to if there is a Fortune 3000, right?
Lewis: (Laughs). The Fortunate.
Patrick: Yeah, Fortunate. Yeah, exactly. So, well listen I think our time’s up for the Quick 30, but Lewis I wanna thank you for sitting down and walking through, helping us define and shape the past, present and the future. And helping hopefully the audience understand some ways that they can sell internally to make advancements on their roadmap all related to PLM. Thanks a lot, Lewis.