Dan Gilroy, Director of Consulting Services at RDA had this to say after reading an article from CIOReview - “It’s clear that data integration and communication among stakeholders is key to effectively managing the accelerating pace of innovation in manufacturing. PDLC integrates stakeholders from all disciplines to provide the input new products need to succeed."
Today’s world is moving faster driven by IT technology waves and the digital transformation of business to be more focused on the customer. Dubbed the age of the customer, this new era will have a profound impact on companies, particularly the ones that are established product development power houses companies whose culture is entrenched in functionally optimized organizations, process and tools. Digital transformation will force these companies to evolve new structures that manage opportunities at the systems level. Companies will have to optimize the delivery of product and service offerings across a wide variety of channels to continuously enhance the customer side value. Think about how Amazon combines mobile devices (phones), local devices (Echo and Dot) to enhance not only your shopping experiences but your living experiences through music, TV, and even home automation. Companies will have to invent and re-invent themselves to evolve as market forces change and new digital opportunities emerge. Companies will shift from pure play product development and component service providers to system providers and consultants where services will make the B2B or B2C customer’s life easier. The ability to rapidly build and deploy services around data and evolve product functionality through software will become the competitive advantage as digital reshapes markets and expectations.
Integrated Lifecycle Management (ILM) is a philosophy focused on integrating the ecosystem of processes and tools used to manage the flow information from conception through birth and death of a set of products and services. ILM focuses on the full integration of master data sources across mechanical, electrical, software, manufacturing, service, and quality systems as well as IT systems used to engage the customer. Companies need to enable multifaceted project teams to innovate effectively together and share critical project information. An ILM ecosystem has to allow the evolution of internal processes and IT systems alongside product features and associated services. ILM architecture needs to address configuration control over key baselines that comprise the customer experience. ILM will require critical thinking about how IT systems, people, processes and product technology interact to create a flow of innovation from conception to the customer. Companies that get this right will become "hyper innovators" and be positioned to seize digital opportunities.
An ILM Ecosystem Consists of 4 Basic Elements:
1. An overarching quality framework that describes how the series of cross functional processes will fit together and operate
2. A series of inspirational tools that allow engineers and IT professionals to efficiently create and innovate features, services and processes together
3. An operational set of tools that allow information to flow from the early work stages through production release
4. A series of transactional systems that will drive day to day transactional accountability for purchasing, manufacturing and service
No one IT system will be the monolithic solution, so there is no single solution provider. ILM is a business desire to integrate across best of breed solutions to create flow of critical information. This integrated system of tools needs to be assembled to a similar product where each component fits an established architectural design, follows specific design guidelines, and pre-defined interfaces. ILM is a classic Systems Engineering problem.
Product Lifecycle Management platforms play a very key role in an ILM ecosystem because PLM platforms have the ability to capture critical baseline information from conception to inception and operationalize the flow across many functions. PLM systems can become the integration hub, managing complex bill of materials, functional configurations as well as simple documents becoming the conduit for the flow of information from Project to Part through a series of automated workflows. As a PLM platform evolves over time, it can be configured to manage IT Project documentation along side Engineering Design History information as a simple example, creating the opportunity for these functions to share information, co-manage gates, and ultimately collaborate much easier over time. A PLM platform needs a strong workflow engine and must integrate information from multiple solutions including Project Management, CAx, Product Data Management (PDM), Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), Requirements Management, and Quality System tools. How a PLM systems database is structured for integration and the maturity of integration becomes an important decision factor in the selection process? This is one of the key challenges to the PLM industry, they must focus on adherence to integration standards like the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration initiative (OSLC) to enable access to data and create flow across the ILM ecosystem.
I would be remiss to not mention the cultural challenges that exist when taking on the task of evaluating all the various point solutions in your company, developing a vision to achieve this level of integration, and then funding and executing the various pieces. Streamlining data across this macro view and creating an ILM vision is a very dubious career challenge that requires serious thought leadership and commitment to accomplish. Since many of us in IT and Engineering are technology thinkers we will tend to underestimate the cultural challenges that exist and focus on what IT platform or technology is the best choice. Camps then set up and the discussion shifts away from critical conversations on how the business needs to run to petty bitter arguments about which hammer is the best one to drive the nail, when in reality a screw is a better choice anyway. CIOs, CTOs, and senior management must have the wherewithal and desire to address this challenge and lead together if companies have any hope of creating the flow of information across these diverse functions and associated organizations. C-Level executives have to team up and design carefully thought out governance structures and lead them to be successful at creating an ILM vision that is plausible. They need to work together to find and deploy the brightest Black Belts to re-engineer processes alongside their collective System Engineering talent to create a vision and decompose it into the steps required to enable flow and allow teams to hyper innovate.
The real value of creating an ILM philosophy is getting the players united around a conceptual vision and driving the enterprise forward leveraging a coordinated, structured ILM plan. As pressure builds to perform faster and faster in the digital world many companies will falter. Well intended silo organizations will panic, proliferating sub optimized point solutions in the absence of a well articulated strategy that defines an ILM direction for the company.