Smooth handlers for Bill of Materials or BoM users

November 17, 2010 3 comments

Bill Of Material or BoM is often assumed to be a very complicated and integral aspect of a PLM system. Its a challenge to solution providers to keep BoM Management solution simple and at the same time provide a very comprehensive representation of the product structure.Its very important to simplify a BoM user’s life by providing easy to use BoM Managment solution.

In my quest to find out what are the features that a BoM customer would love to have in a BOM Management solution, I have listed down a few key capabilities that will add value to the BoM users.

Car Assembly Structure - A Complex BoM

Car Assembly Structure - A Complex BoM

BoM Markup
It is one unique feature that allows BoM users to save the changes or modifications to the structure.The modification refers to the adding or removing or replacing of the parts. This feature lets the user save the modifications and resume back.The changes are marked using some color codes which enables the BoM users easily identify the previous changes applied to the structure.This way the BoM users reduce rework and also save a great amount of time.

Compare Tools
This feature for surely makes the BoM users life a cake walk.On a higher level any user would like to make two kinds of comparisons 1-Object Comparison and 2-comparing the BoM structures itself. Object compare lets the user compare the basic attributes of the objects and allow the users to make dependent decisions and the structure compare would help the user compare two different assemblies and to some extent allow the users to even synchronize the structures after comparing the structures.This really makes life very easy by letting you avoid the complexity of traversing the structures repeatedly to do the necessary structural modifications.

Where Used/ Where Referenced
Imagine you have traversed to a very complex structure and now you really need to know the roots, where used /where referenced is one such utility that makes you breathe some fresh air. With the increasing amount of product complexity in today’s world Where Used/Where referenced plays an angels role in letting you find the roots regardless of the complexities involved.

Specifications/Reference Documents
Of course BoM would just be a skeleton without the appropriate specifications or reference documents.The specifications are basically the CAD files or the 2D or most recently the 3D files. This lets the engineering team to check in the appropriate(manual justification) CAD files into the part object representation in the BoM.

Enterprise Search
The current generation can’t imagine a life without google. Applying the same principles, a BoM user would require to quickly search the parts in the system and kind of assign the parts and come up with a perfect assembly. Enterprise search is another very dependable capability in the eyes of a BoM user.

Variant Configuration & Effectivity Filters
Mass Customization is the order of the day. The user must be able to generate a BoM based on Product Configuration and same time should be able to filter the BoM based on different Product Configurations.

Subscriptions could be email based or even RSS feeds based. Its one of the quickest way to inform end users about the modifications and enable a faster approval process. Subscriptions are preference based and its mandatory for the user to subscribe to the events to avail the subscription features.

These are some of them I could quickly think of….

What are your thoughts and what other functionalities could add value to a BoM user?

Best Regards, Ajit

Categories: BoM Management

Beware : The Rules are NOT meant to be broken ! ! !

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Rules are meant to be broken? Definitely not when it comes to Product Configuration. Configuring a product can be very complicated if a mediocre rule management system is adopted. Below is a list of basic advantages of using different kinds of rules which help in mass customization or Product configuration.

Basically, rules help in

  1. Increasing Reusability
  2. Reducing time
  3. Validating and Generating Preview BOM

Never Break The Rules

Listed below are some of the rules that are put to use by various Product Configurator vendors. Again we have a high level classification as

  1. Programmable rules
  2. Constraint Based rules

Programmable Rules are those that are procedure based where every product configuration is achieved by writing complicated codes. For instance if you want to configure a mobile phone with camera you would be writing a method/function as

mobilePhoneWithCamera(){ if(mob==camera){genrateBOM();}}

Progam based approach would be very cumbersome and reusability is almost impossible to achieve. On the other hand, Constraint based rules help us overcome a lot of above mentioned issues. Constraint based engines are used where configuration decisions are made dynamically based on inputs provided by the customer. Constraint based rules help domain experts to easily and flexibly represent a constraint model. Constraints can be expressed in several forms as mentioned below:

  1. Compatibility Rules
  2. Inclusion/Exclusion Rules
  3. Resource Rules
  4. Feature Selection – May or Must selections of features
  5. Quantity Rules

In this case if we take up the same mobile phone with camera as an example, constraint based rules would provide the user a combo box with 2 options say “Camera” or “Non-Camera” to make the right selection. Upon selecting an option, rules (constraint based) are validated dynamically and Product Configuration can be created instantly.

Now my query to you is do you know any other advanced way of configuring a product with or without rules approach?

An interesting LinkedIn thread related to a query on rules can be accessed by clicking here.

With Dassault Systemes ENOVIA Variant Configuration Central, companies can define conceptual product definitions that can be reused across a multiple series of products, satisfy market specifications, and provide many possible optional capabilities. These conceptual product definitions serve as a framework for defining variant products that are configurable and drive the generation of design bills-of-material (BOM). This product provides both programmable and constraint based representation of rules. Check Out !

Best Regards, Ajit

Open PLM Standards: An Industrial Emergency

August 30, 2010 1 comment

Despite non-stop rains over the weekend in Pune, it was a happy weekend for me because we unexpectedly purchased a new Philips home theatre system for a very meager amount.We have a 21 inch Videocon LCD TV which had an average sound quality.To enhance the sound experience we decided for a home theater system.To our surprise we got a really cheap and affordable home theater system at a nearby super market. During the installation one thing stroked my mind was about the flexibility with which these 2 different products from 2 different vendors worked with absolutely no glitches. I was just wondering a day when Siemen’s NX solutions worked with Dassault Systems ENOVIA solution with no glitches or the CATIA unified with Teamcenter. If we closely observe the reason why Videocon and Philips work together may give the PLM vendors an answer to most of the manufacturing worlds interoperability issues.

According to my perspective,One of the foremost reasons why Philips home theater works with Videocon TV is because both these vendors follow common electronic standards.

“A electronic standard is generally a documented agreement, established by a consensus of industry experts and approved by a recognized body,that provides rules, guidelines or characteristics to ensure that certain materials, products, and processes are fit for their purpose. In many cases, standards in electronic industry are voluntary. However,voluntary consensus standards developed by industry are often subsequently adopted by the governments as part of the regulatory framework. The state laws also establish some mandatory electrical characteristics such as those related to energy efficiency and power consumption.”

Open PLM Standards

Open PLM Standards

Its high time the PLM world adopts certain standards to solve many such industry issues by cultivating a Live and Let Live attitude and having some PLM standards,rules, guidelines to ensure that the different Business Process Applications talk well with each other regardless of its origin.

So do you agree the PLM world requires  a governing body to solve the related issues of industrial worlds? Do post your views.

Best Regards, Ajit

Categories: Perspectives

All’s Well That Ends Well – Mr.William managed it well ! ! !

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

“All’s Well That Ends Well” by William Shakespeare meant that – a risky enterprise is justified so long as it turns out well in the end. How true…. isn’t it?

Looking at our current industries how many industries would ever wait till the end of the program to find out if the program was executed well? It’s all about money these days.

All's Well That Ends Well

All's Well That Ends Well

According to Dassault Systemes classification of industry segments, ENOVIA  Program Management solutions also has something to offer for Automotive, Aersopace, Hightech, CPG, Consumer Goods, Energy, Industrial Equipment, Shipbuilding et all.

It’s the versatility of the ENOVIA Program Management solutions that it can be used by various industry verticals for various program management reasons. Let’s have a look as to how some of the program management solutions are tailor made for certain industries.

The automotive industry can use Program Management for the following

  • APQP
  • WBS (Work breakdown structure) management
  • Project hierarchy decomposition
  • Make/buy board
  • Risk management
  • Program planning
  • Program sourcing
  • Resource management
  • Program financials
  • Project template management
  • Project content management

The aerospace industry can use Program management for the following

  • Partner management
  • Contracts management
  • Program requirement management
  • Configuration management
  • Program execution
  • Program resource management

The consumer goods industry can use program management for the following

  • Project planning and scheduling
  • Resources allocation and management
  • Financial analysis
  • Risk management
  • Issue management
  • Project knowledge capitalization
  • Project tracking and monitoring
  • Project deliverable tracking

The consumer packaged goods industry can use program management for the following

  • Project template management
  • Project content management
  • Project work breakdown structure
  • Project resource management
  • Project planning and scheduling
  • Project deliverable tracking
  • Project dashboard
  • NPI Stage-Gate
  • Business/ROI analysis

The high-tech industry can use program management for the following

  • Project planning and scheduling
  • Resources allocation and management
  • Financial analysis
  • Risk management
  • Project knowledge capitalization
  • Project deliverable tracking
  • Critical to Quality (CTQ)

The energy industry can use program management for the following

  • E-RFx and bidding management
  • Project template management
  • Project content management
  • Project work breakdown structure
  • Project resource management
  • Project planning and scheduling
  • Project dashboard
  • Business/ROI analysis

The industrial equipment industry can use program management for the following

  • Project planning and scheduling
  • Project issues/risk management
  • Project work breakdown structure
  • Project resource management
  • Project dashboard
  • Contract deliverables management
  • Suppliers/partners management

The shipbuilding industry can use program management for the following

  • Project template management
  • Project content management
  • Project work breakdown structure
  • Project resource management
  • Project planning and scheduling
  • Business/ROI analysis

The life sciences industry can use program management for the following

  • Project portfolio management
  • Project planning & scheduling
  • Project task execution
  • Project assessment

Is there any other industry which would require program management?

Best Regards, Ajit

Categories: Program Management

Customer Centric Online Order Fulfillment In The Virtual World Is A Reality

July 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Customer centric Online Order fulfillment in the virtual world is a reality. The number of customizable products sold on e-commerce websites and through automated systems has grown in recent years. There has been a growing need for modern industries to involve directly the customers in order fulfillment processes. Most industries till date use sales channels to listen and understand the customer concerns and then fulfill the orders within the committed period of time.

Off late, the ability to let the customers directly configure their needs has proved to reduce the lead time taken to fulfill the order and the cost involved. Having the customers choose their product variations comes with some uncertainties if the system is governed by a mediocre rule management module or a very generic configuration system with an average user interface. Let’s take a simple example where the customer customizes to order a mobile phone with camera and the online order management module bills him for a mobile phone without the camera. The constant evolution of the product or the introduction of new variants periodically offers a challenge for the automated system to live up to the customers’ expectations. A rich user interface together with a lifelike experience is the need of the hour for any online configurator to thrive in the competition.

Online Sales Configurators

Online Sales Configurators

According to MIT’s Smart Customization group Mass Customization aims to provide goods and services that best serve individual customers’ personal needs with near mass production efficiency. Mass customization refers to a customer co-design process of products and services which meet the needs of each individual customer with regard to certain product features. The
term was coined in 1987 by Stan Davis. Joe Pine made the concept popular and published the first dedicated book on it, Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition (1993). relieves people of having to channel-surf through radio stations to find the music they like. Customers submit an initial set of their preferred songs, and from that information the company identifies a broader set of music that fits their preference profile and then broadcasts those songs as a custom radio channel. As of December 2008, had more than 21 million listeners who had created 361 million custom radio stations that play 61 million songs from 60,000 artists every day.

Customers of Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) AG can use an online tool kit to design the roof of a Mini Cooper with their very own graphics or picture, which is then reproduced with an advanced digital printing system on a special foil. The tool kit has enabled BMW to tap into the custom after-sales market, which was previously owned by niche companies. In addition, Mini Cooper customers can also choose from among hundreds of options for many of the car’s components, as BMW is able to manufacture all cars on demand according to each buyer’s individual order.

My Virtual Model Inc., based in Montreal, is changing the very nature of the buying experience. The software enables consumers to build virtual models, or “avatars,” of themselves that allow them to evaluate (by virtually trying on or using) products from retailers like adidas, Best Buy,Levi’s and Sears. More than 10 million users have already signed up for the service, and the early results are impressive: Land’s End Inc. reports an increase in average order value of 15% and a jump in conversion rate of 45%.

Dassault Systemes ENOVIA V6 Variant Configuration Central provides a competitive configuration advantage to the Engineer-To-Order, Build-To-Order and Configure-To-Order world by optimizing the design of products and their variations. It is a best-in-class system configure-n-engineer solution available in the market that provides a reliable platform for constantly evolving product. It helps in optimizing the design process of highly variant product by allowing design engineers to quickly create an Engineering Bill-Of-Material from a custom order or custom configuration. Basically builds up a connection between product marketing, system engineering and design engineering and thereby improves part reuse by minimizing feature proliferation and thereby reducing product diversity.

Death Of A Salesman – abstracting the role called “salesman”

May 23, 2010 Leave a comment

In the virtual world, literally abstraction is a very common terminology. We as humans have a tendency to simplify things around us by making few things look abstract. In our day to day life we abstract a lot of things. For instance we use washing machines to wash our clothes,euro cleaner to keep the floors clean so on and so forth. Now in these contexts, what is abstraction? In my opinion the abstraction is the “role” itself . The role/person who washes the clothes or the role/person who cleans the floor. Since we see a lot of advantages in abstracting the role we continue with such a practice. One such abstraction can be found in an online sales configurator. Lets see how abstraction helps companies do sales or rather lets see what a best in class sales configurator can offer to ease the role of a salesman or literally abstract the salesman’s role.

"Salesman" abstraction

"Salesman" abstraction

To find out what a best in class sales configurator has to provide I went through a number of available sales configurators flyers from various vendors. Each vendor has provided unique  features to make the sales configurator a one stop shop for all the sales configuration needs.

The following are my findings about all that a best in class sales configurator can provide to sell itself:

  • Product catalog support
  • Proposal Generation
  • Quotation/Pricing/Costing
  • Order Management
  • Product Configuration
  • Rule Management
  • Product Data Management – System Configuration
  • Reporting & Analytics
  • Guided Selling
  • SAAS – Technology Option
  • Visualization/ Lifelike experience
  • CRM & ERP integration
  • Forecasting

The following are some of the well known vendors who have wide sales configurator offerings:

Do help me further in exploring the best in class sales configurator offerings by posting your comments.

Best Regards, Ajit

Industry order fulfillment styles visited

April 26, 2010 1 comment

In my quest to find out more about order fulfillment styles I have arrived at few findings/analysis:

1. Order fulfillment is basically a supply-demand driven process.

2. Various types of order fulfillment styles include some of the following:

  • Configure-To-Order or Assemble-To-Order
  • Build-To-Order or Make-To-Order
  • Engineer-To-Order or Design-To-Order
  • Quote-To-Order or Inquiry-To-Order

Order Fullfillment Cycle

Order Fulfillment Cycle

Lets take up Configure-To-Order style:I go to a fast food nearby and glance at the food menu and place an order for a takeaway(time constraint). When I am very hungry and when its lunch time I decide to have a 3 course meal.I choose minestrone soup and green salads as an appetizer, some white rice and Dal(Indian gravy) as a main course and finally among the desserts I would chose my favorite chocolate mousse. The hotelier would have raw food stocked up in his kitchen beforehand.Immediately after I placed an order, the chef at the kitchen cooked the raw food got packaged them in some containers and I bought it home and fulfilled my hunger. This whole process followed by the hotelier to provide me with 3 course meal can be viewed as Configure-To-Order process. In the manufacturing world Configure-To-Order is a method of manufacturing which allows you, or your customer, to select a base product and configure all the variable parameters associated with that product. Based on the configurable items on each quote or order, Configure-To-Order (CTO) systems typically generate the manufacturing routing and/or bill of materials based on features and options such as color, size, etc.This process is also known as Assemble-To-Order.

Lets take up Build-To-Order style: Build-to-Order has been the capability to quickly build standard or mass-customized products upon receipt of spontaneous orders without forecasts, inventory, or purchasing delays. Laptop purchasing is one of the best Build-to-Order examples. Build-to-order laptops, or Custom Laptops, are systems that are designed and built specifically to suit customer needs and wants. As such, every system would be unique to the person who orders through build-to-order process and would usually take just a few business days to assemble, test and deliver it at the customer’s door-step.

Engineer-To-Order or Design-To-Order: Engineer-To-Order is a order fulfillment style whereby finished goods are built to unique customer specifications. Assemblies and raw materials may be stocked but are not assembled into the finished good until a customer order is received and the part is designed.Products are complex with long lead times, typically months or even years.Unlike standard products, the customer is heavily involved throughout the entire design and manufacturing process.Engineer-To-Order companies build unique products designed to customer specifications. Each product requires a unique set of item numbers, bills of material and routing.

Quote-To-Order style:In a typical Quote to order style OEMs contact Suppliers for components through Request for Quotations. Suppliers in turn would check Inventory and contact their Suppliers if required for stock replenishment / supply price negotiation. Suppliers would then get back to the OEM with a Quote (known as Bid in certain cases). After resale price negotiation with the OEM the Supplier ships the required quantity to the customer. Post which the Order is placed and the invoice is generated. Such a style is also known as Inquiry-To-Order process.

It would be a great help if you can provide me links/references to the above discussed order fulfillment styles.

Best Regards, Ajit