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Practical PDM Destroys Hidden Monsters


Every night as a small child I made the long trek down stairs and through a section of unfinished basement to my bedroom. I never saw monsters lurking in the dark corners behind the furnace or in the storage room, but I knew they were there. Were they vampires or werewolves? Giant space aliens? The Blob? I didn’t know but I was convinced my life was in danger every night. (For some reason the morning walk upstairs was calm; I guess I believed monsters slept in the daytime.) I never told anyone I was afraid of monsters in the basement; the fear-filled tip-toe run to my room was a private matter. If only I had thought of carrying a flashlight, I could have avoided years of self-inflicted anxiety.

It is the sneaky monsters, the ones you never see, which can wreak the most havoc in your daily processes, whether the task is going to bed in the basement or improving manufacturing processes. When companies look into adopting a Product Data Management (PDM) solution, they often start at the same point I did at the top of the stairs: knowing something ahead could be big trouble, but not being sure what it is.

Recent research by industry analysts brings us good news: the hidden monsters of PDM have names. (Actually, I named them; the other analysts made first sighting.) And there is more good news: the childhood strategy of “When you know what monster is lurking, you have power over it” works for PDM, too.

Here are the four monsters:

Files Fiend

An estimated 40% of an engineer’s time is spent searching for key files. Manual processes that seemed tame when there were only two engineers are now eating productivity. Deploying a central repository, a personal dashboard, and a fine-tuned search engine will send the File Fiends running.

Revision Wraith

Tech-Clarity research claims 30% of engineering organizations are hindered by inadequate revision control practices. Audits are a time-consuming manual process, workflow is difficult to analyze, and productivity bottlenecks remain hidden. PDM offers a practical solution, by automating revision control and creating an automated audit trail. The PDM can maintain parent/child links and track major and minor revisions, making sure Revision Wraiths stay far away from all team members.

Change Order Ogre

Ogres are huge; Change Order Ogres are possibly the biggest of the monsters lurking in your product management. One study found between 33% and 50% of engineering capacity is consumed by handling Engineering Change Orders (ECO). Ogres are best defeated by an automated strategy that eliminates manual transfer of data to/from CAD, spreadsheets, and other documents. Using PDM electronic workflow, including the ability to view in-progress ECO’s, banishes Change Order Ogres to another dimension.

Collaboration Chimera

The days of all design and engineering happening under one roof in one location are gone forever. With dispersed design comes the need to share data at all times, not just when reporting out a final spec. Aberdeen Group says 39% of manufacturing organizations cite frequent design changes as the biggest obstacle in the way of efficient design. IDC claims 36% of organizations are “suffering severe consequences” related to regulatory compliance because of document-related business practices. What these companies need is transparent collaboration, guided by a centrally managed document repository that automatically presents a single version of the truth on demand. Nothing sends a Collaboration Chimera back to its cave faster than a single source of truth.

The team at Desktop Engineering recently published a white paper that explores in more detail these four monsters, albeit in a more grownup fashion. “Making the Case for Practical PLM” explains how product data management—alone or when paired with other enterprise systems—provides a practical way to break the collaboration bottleneck and streamline the design cycle. And if you read between the lines, it will tell you how to banish those PDM monsters for good.

Download “Making the Case for Practical PLM” article.

Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. 

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