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TCB - Taking Care of Business

October 2011 Previous month Next month

cloudplm.pngIf you've successfully made a prototype and are gearing up for production, it's time to think about the systems you can adopt to help you manage production, supply chain partners, ECR/ECOs and all of that other good stuff. (And it's better to think about all this in advance, rather than be forced to deal with it when you're in the middle of trying to scale.)


You probably start by managing your docs in an Excel spreadsheet, but as things get more complicated, you will quickly need to move into a more formal process of product management - - usually in the form of PLM.


But don't be scared! PLM has a bad reputation for being scary-to-implement, but it is much easier than it used to be. And usually, it comes down to making sure you take care of a few things pre-implementation that will make the rest of the process better for everyone involved.


Here are some of the best tips I got from the folks at Arena. Essentially, a check list of things to do pre-implementation.


Communicate the vision, early and often!

If you are part of a new company and resources are scarce, or if you're adopting PLM because of an edict from on-high, PLM may not be a unanimous decision at the point of implementation. If you are spearheading the PLM implementation process, it can be hard to make your team understand why you are creating (or changing) established processes, and championing a PLM software program.


If there is widespread disagreement that PLM is a good purchase to make, it can cause a lot of problems down the road when you're trying to get people to adopt the system. But, you can avoid this issue by clearly communicating why PLM will help the team in the first place from the beginning. And it's not enough that your management team understands the  ‘why’ - make sure everyone has a chance to hear the rationale and buy into the vision.


When the organization as a whole knows  the vision behind PLM implementation (whether it’s cost-savings or  improved efficiency) people will be much more willing to make the  change.


When moving your business online, start with the easy win

Another thing that scares companies as they implement a new system is having to define business processes - especially if you are a newer company, or process is "not your thing."


I worked for another company who adopted SalesForce, and tried to rush the implementation through without taking any time to discuss our lead flow or lead scoring . . . it was a total nightmare. No one adopted the system. So you have to define what you want the system to do. However - you don't have to have EVERYTHING figured out perfectly for the software to work. Start small, and continually refine as you go along.


For instance, when people implement Arena, they typically start with the item master. Once the product  record is documented, measuring change, adding request processes, and moving forward from there gets much easier. And once you have your item master set, there is a "win" to share with the team, which often gets any remaining doubters to buy in.


Essentially, the lesson here, is take a measured approach in phases, where you bring  aspects of your business online as you are ready. Look for an easy first win—again, that is ususually the item master.


Define your process, but don’t reinvent the wheel.

This tip actually makes your life much much easier. Essentially, don't get so caught up in the newness of the system that you throw everything you were previously doing out - - if you have a process and it’s been working for you, don’t  throw it out just because you’re switching from paper to software.


Moving your current processes into your PLM system is as simple as  taking your paper system and replicating it—there is no need to start  over from scratch. This especially applies to your change board. On the Arena blog I share an example:

"When moving to PLM, many organizations decide to re-engineer their  change board routings because they think the software will make it  easier for twice as many people to be involved. This is a reasonable  idea (PLM does make it easier to quickly make changes) but adding people  who don’t really need to be involved leads to hold-ups and bottlenecks."


Rule of thumb is to ask yourself—who did it when it was paper-based?

Hopefully you found these tips helpful, feel free to share some of your own!


Thanks! little while ago I met with Arena CTO Eric Larkin to discuss the minimum viable product design model and tips for implementing it into your product design process. (Full recap of the subject matter here.)


I've been thinking about it since then, and wondered if this is a model that could work for hardware designers, as it has been really effective for us (a software company.)


If you have never heard of MVP design, it’s basically when you publish bare-bones concepts and let users tell you what they think (which helps you design the bells-and-whistles as you go.) It's a great way to stop your team from over-engineering products in a bubble, and we think it has helped us focus more on what the customer wants.


Effective MVP products demonstrate purpose and provide value—even in  their most limited form. Your MVP should be simple, but effective in the few things that it does. (Don't confuse few features with low-quality.)


Also, because you need to get early adopters who love the product and want to stick around, your early audience is extremely important and you need to be able to cater to them. If you can't upgrade your early adopters, and reward them for trying out the early versions, then you're hosed. (So, perhaps MVP  isn’t a good fit for companies whose products can’t support in-place  upgrades.)


Finally, in addition to being able to upgrade early adopters as the product improves, an MVP strategy requires you to iterate quickly  based on user feedback, and with a certain level of quality. Since you are making multiple iterations of a product, the cost customers incur for updates  and improvements must be low, and you need to make sure there aren't regular dips in quality as you grow.


Essentially, I think the big take-aways from MVP strategy are - - getting customers involved with the design process, making your customers partners, and giving them ownership of the products they  buy, and being more nimble in a consumer-driven world through the ability to rapidly iterate.


I am eager to share our experience as something other companies may want to consider. Looking at some of the things that have worked for us, do you think this  is something hardware designers could adopt, or because of its nature,  is it primarily suited for software design?


I thought I would introduce myself to the Kinaxis community by sharing some thoughts on something my CTO wrote on the future of QR codes in manufacturing.


As we move toward a paperless manufacturing floor to improve efficiency, cut costs and become more sustainable, we will need to find new ways to communicate what has previously been done using pencils and paper. We are already seeing some changes, like scanners for inventory control,  and electronic documentation on the shop floor, but with the popularization of tablet computers, we might be on the forefront of seeing some serious changes.


For example, if there was a way to use a tablet computer for shop floor  documentation, and a way to use "smart" links that point to specific revs or inventory lists for a given product, you could create a point-and-browse experience on the shop floor. I think QR codes could be added to the mix to really improve efficiency. My CTO gave this example:


"if work orders listing collections of parts included a QR code, a  technician with a tablet could scan the work order, and immediately pull  up the latest approved assembly procedure. Manufacturers could also use this functionality to improve inventory  management—with QR code-enhanced bins that provide a real-world bookmark  for the latest specifications for each part."


I am curious what this audience thinks - - is there viability in using QR codes and tablets for this purpose in manufacturing? And what are the challenges of making a switch like this? Management adoption, implementation?


Thanks for reading! Looking forward to being an active member of the Kinaxis community!