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Int. J. Product Lifecycle Management, Vol. 6, No. 1, PLM implementation guidelines relevance and application in practice: a discussion of findings from a retrospective case study Mattias Bokinge*
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Int. J. Product Lifecycle Management, Vol. 6, No. 1, PLM implementation guidelines relevance and application in practice: a discussion of findings from a retrospective case study Mattias Bokinge* and Johan Malmqvist Department of Product and Production Development, Chalmers University of Technology, SE Gothenburg, Sweden *Corresponding author Abstract: In this paper, a recently conducted product lifecycle management (PLM) implementation project is analysed. The aims are to investigate whether published product lifecycle management (PLM) implementation guidelines are relevant to and used in practice, and, if so, to assess how useful they are for guiding project execution. This paper presents an examination of how a real PLM implementation project was conducted, mapping out the rationale for different courses of action and the effects they had. This paper evaluates the degree of relevance and application of existing PLM implementation guidelines. It is found that while most of the guidelines were highly relevant to the project, they were not applied in full. Potential reasons for why the guidelines are not followed are discussed. It is suggested that projects review their plans with the guidelines in mind, evaluating their degree of relevance and including a plan for how to apply the guidelines. Keywords: PLM implementation; product data management; PDM; empirical study; guidelines. Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Bokinge, M. and Malmqvist, J. (2012) PLM implementation guidelines relevance and application in practice: a discussion of findings from a retrospective case study, Int. J. Product Lifecycle Management, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp Biographical notes: Mattias Bokinge is a PhD student in the research group Systems Engineering and PLM at Chalmers University of Technology, where he obtained his MSc in Mechanical Engineering in His research interest is implementation of PLM solutions. Johan Malmqvist is a Chair Professor in Product Development at Chalmers University of Technology. His research focuses on development methodologies and IT support for product development (PLM). The research is conducted in close collaboration with Swedish industry. His current projects investigate methods and tools for the development of product-service systems and knowledge-based engineering tools. Copyright 2012 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd. 80 M. Bokinge and J. Malmqvist 1 Introduction 1.1 PLM implementation motives and challenges The strategic approach of product lifecycle management (PLM) has emerged to support the information flow in product realisation-related processes. According to Stark (2004, p.2), PLM is the activity of managing a company s products all the way across their lifecycles in the most efficient way. In doing so, it enables the company to take control of its products. The concept of PLM is enabled by a PLM solution, which is a combination of business processes, methods, engineering applications (such as CAD, CAM and CAE) and product data management (PDM) systems. PDM systems provide support for a combination of electronic data vaulting, document management, product structure management, process and project management, and component classification (CIMdata, 2002). Several vendors of engineering applications and PDM systems, such as Dassault Systemes and Siemens, continuously expand their offer to include functionality to support more phases of the product lifecycle. However, they often fail to make a distinction between the concept of PLM and the applications and systems to support the PLM concept (Schuh et al., 2008). In reality, only a part of the available functionality of each application and system may be utilised by the company, and several different applications and systems from multiple vendors together with business processes and methods combine a company s total PLM solution. In this paper, we define PLM implementation as the activity of moving from current state to future state regarding the PLM solution and the organisation using it. When using a commercial PLM system in a PLM implementation project, a gap always exists between the desired processes and the available support from the system. Therefore, two main strategies exist in PLM implementation projects: either adopt the commercial system to fit the desired processes or change the desired processes to fit the existing support in the commercial system (Saaksvouri and Immonen, 2005). The economic benefits of more efficient PLM solutions are well-known. However, other benefits may be highlighted as well. More efficient PLM solutions may reduce the environmental load occurring in the development process (for example, in less CO 2 emissions from travel to meetings and less material consumed to produce physical prototypes). Moreover, like other major organisational changes, PLM implementation projects add to the already existing pressure in organisations. Smoother transitions from current state to future state minimise the extra pressure, thereby contributing to a healthier work environment. PLM implementation projects are complex. Grönvall (2009) compares PLM implementation with heart transplantation. He also states that PLM implementations carry many dependencies and uncertainties, and are therefore high-risk projects. Several authors (for example, Saaksvouri and Immonen, ibid) stress the importance of a thorough analysis of business processes and requirements before implementing PLM. Some also stress that while the purely technical part in itself might be a challenge, the organisational part is even harder (for example, Garetti et al., 2005). Hewett (2009) identifies three such issues: cultural-related issues regarding the product engineers, issues regarding immature PDM systems, and non-standardised engineering processes. PLM implementation guidelines relevance and application in practice Existing PLM implementation support To direct PLM implementation projects, several sets of guidelines have been presented in literature. In this paper, we define a guideline as a directional recommendation for what to do (or what not to do) in a specific context. In the following section, we summarise available PLM implementation guidelines. Pikosz et al. (1997) discuss introduction strategies for PDM systems and present lessons learned based from four case studies in Swedish industry. They recommend conducting a pre-study before system selection, securing benefits for all stakeholders, establishing user involvement and top management support, improving processes before or simultaneously with the project, and performing a pilot study before doing a full implementation. Rangan et al. (2005) focus on organisational aspects in PLM implementations and refer to their own field experience, as well as to several published case studies (for example, Jennings and Rangan, 2004; Illback and Sholberg, 2000; Chadha and Welsh, 2000). They recommend aligning processes with system capabilities; dividing the project into sub-projects; and allowing different solutions for different parts of an organisation. Grieves (2006) also emphasises organisational change management in PLM implementations and refers to lessons learned from the ERP domain, based on a study of different ERP implementations performed by Brown and Vessey (2003). They emphasise the importance of management engagement, authorised project participants, the use of third party expertise, change management, and satisfying rather than optimising. Wognum and Kerssens-van Drongelen (2005) present lessons learned about the selection and implementation of PDM system functionality, also focusing on organisational aspects, based on a survey of eight Dutch companies. They recommend carefully planning the project, adjusting to business changes, securing that users have a collaborative attitude, and educating the users properly. Hartman and Miller (2006) advance lessons learned about the selection and implementation of PDM and PLM-related technologies, based on interviews with management staff from ten US companies. They recommend the alignment of the system with business processes, to have upper management support, to minimise the amount of customisations, and to educate the users properly. Meanwhile, Berle (2006) presents lessons learned from his own experience of a PLM effort and recommends not underestimating the magnitude of the change; ensuring management support; providing a business case that can be understood by end users; dividing the project into sub-projects; implementing only existing software; involving stakeholders from cross functional divisions; and developing processes in connection with the project. Zimmerman (2008) summarises findings from a study of a more than ten-year long PLM implementation project. In order to ease future projects, he recommends controlling project progression, dividing the project into sub-projects, and establishing a coherent multi-layered PLM architecture. A summary of the above guidelines is presented in Table 1. A more detailed description of the above PLM implementation guidelines has been compiled by Bokinge (2011). The guidelines above span the complete process, from the establishment of coherent PLM architecture (in order to ease future projects) to the proper education of users. However, a common theme is that they state what needs to be accomplished, but provide less guidance as to how to carry out the task (how to align processes with system capabilities, for example). In addition, where cases are referred to, the implementations as such are only briefly described [with the exception of Zimmerman (2008)]. As a result, readers of those articles may find it difficult to understand the rationale behind various 82 M. Bokinge and J. Malmqvist guidelines to be applied in practice and what the consequences can be if they are not applied. Table 1 Summary of published PLM implementation guidelines Guideline category Project process Goals System and process design Organisation Guideline Divide project into sub-projects Perform a pilot project Conduct pre-study prior to system selection Plan carefully Follow-up and control project process Be prepared to adjust the plan when business changes Define benefits for all stakeholders Aim to satisfy rather than optimise Do not force the same solution on the whole organisation Carefully estimate the magnitude of change Establish a coherent PLM architecture Improve processes prior to or simultaneously with PLM projects Align processes with system capabilities Only roll out tried software releases Minimise customisation Ensure management support Involve users from all departments and disciplines Authorise the project participants Use expertise from third parties Educate system users Several reference process models for PLM implementation have also been proposed in literature (for example, Schuh et al., 2008; Bitzer et al., 2008; Batenburg et al., 2006; Kumar and Midha, 2006). They mainly focus on support for early phases of a PLM implementation project, which may result in a system being selected. However, they provide fewer detailed instructions for subsequent tasks (how to customise the system, for example). Other authors compare or recommend the use of different implementation processes (for example, Morandotti, 2007; Wognum and Kerssens-van Drongelen, 2005). The recommendations thus differ; no dominant PLM implementation reference process has yet emerged. We conclude that there is a lack of research on PLM implementation guidelines that focuses on the operational level. More specifically, there is a lack of studies that examine what guidelines are relevant for and used in real industrial PLM implementations, why (or why not) they are used, and what their value is if applied. Rangan et al. (2005) argue that the main body of knowledge of how to implement PLM resides in the heads of individuals who lack the incentives to share their experiences. We argue that systematic studies of real implementation efforts are essential in order to bring out and codify this knowledge. PLM implementation guidelines relevance and application in practice Research aim In this paper, we aim to compare current practice in a conducted PLM implementation project with the PLM implementation guidelines summarised above. More specifically, we aim to thoroughly describe the project, assess the degree of relevance and application of each guideline, and discuss potential reasons for why relevant guidelines are not used in industry. 1.4 Paper outline The remainder of this paper is structured in the following way. Section 2 first outlines the research approach taken in the study. A thorough description of the project studied is then presented in Section 3, followed by a comparison between that project and the PLM implementation guidelines in Section 4. We then discuss the research approach and the usability of the results in Section 5. Finally, we present our conclusions in Section 6. 2 Research approach PLM implementation projects are complex and multi-dimensional. Project organisation, process, methods, and changes in the global economy are only some of the aspects that affect project conduct outcome. Therefore, a qualitative systems approach has been used in the research. The approach calls for an in-depth case study (Yin, 2003). Multiple data sources were utilised, such as interviews, documents, reference group meetings with company employees, and seminars, in order to understand the underlying factors for courses of actions and minimise bias. In the following sections, we describe the empirical setting, and the data collection and analysis approach, respectively. 2.1 Empirical setting The project studied was conducted during the period 2006 to 2009 at a multi-national company in the manufacturing industry (hereafter called GlobalGroup). GlobalGroup delivers commercial solutions in various areas, and is divided into multiple divisions, some of which were involved with the studied project (denoted as AlfaDivision, BetaDivision, and GammaDivision in Table 2). GlobalGroup used (and still uses) several engineering applications and PDM systems with different functionality in their PLM solution. Some applications are developed in-house while others are based on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications and systems from different vendors. Earlier, GlobalGroup had gone through a larger PLM initiative (cf. Zimmerman, 2008) that resulted in a decision to phase out a PDM system from one of their vendors (hereafter called VendorCorp). GlobalGroup decreased the maintenance budget for the system. Nonetheless, the system continued to work well for several years and was not shut down. However, in the summer of 2006, VendorCorp announced that their system support would end in two years time. Unwilling to take the risk of using a system not supported by the vendor, GlobalGroup decided to replace it, together with some engineering applications and other PDM systems connected to it. However, the PLM solution of their new preferred supplier was not assessed as mature 84 M. Bokinge and J. Malmqvist enough. As a result, the company decided to replace the old PDM systems and engineering applications with new ones from VendorCorp. The functional scope of the project covered data vaulting, document management, digital mock-up and process support for release management, meaning that the project mainly covered basic PDM system functionality with some engineering applications. A simplified picture of the PLM architecture prior to and after the project is presented in Figure 1. Figure 1 Simplified basic PLM architecture (a) prior to and (b) after the PLM implementation project (see online version for colours) (a) (b) PLM implementation guidelines relevance and application in practice 85 Table 2 Interview sample AlfaDivision BetaDivision GammaDivision ITDivision Steering committee members IR reference group members Business reference group members Project managers IT project members Middle management and end users Not project participants GlobalGroup VendorCorp Consultants Steering committee members IR reference group members Business reference group members Project managers IT project members Middle management and end users Not project participants Note: = accounted for in one additional role The project was performed in a multi-national environment in a company with multiple sites and company divisions around the world. It allows for insights into a wide range of PLM implementation issues, such as changes to the organisation, business processes and methods, and changes to the PLM solution itself. Although the two PLM solutions were developed by the same vendor, they are significantly different. The architecture and user interfaces of the solutions differ, and the new solution enables a much more comprehensive PLM support. The company studied had performed several PLM implementation projects prior to the actual case. Therefore, we argue that the project represents current practice within the field, without having to regard beginner issues. Also, the project recently ended, during the fall of Therefore, the findings reflect current PLM implementation practice. 2.2 Data collection Seventeen semi-structured interviews (with 21 interviewees) were performed during the case study, varying between one to three hours each. The interviewees were sampled 86 M. Bokinge and J. Malmqvist according to a purposive heterogeneous strategy in order to represent as many viewpoints as possible (see Table 2). One interview was done with two interviewees from the company s requirement engineering methods department, in order to analyse similarities and differences between the studied case and the company s abilities in general. All interviews were based on an interview guide, with roughly 40 questions covering the interviewee s background, the implementation process and requirement engineering methods, the project organisation, and project outcomes. The researchers knowledge of the implementation project grew with the carrying-out of each interview, which in turn allowed for deeper questions and answers. All interviews were done by at least two interviewees, and were recorded, transcribed, and sent to the interviewees for validation. In addition, more than 200 project and company documents were analysed. Examples of those documents include white books, meeting minutes, communication letters, and technical documentation. 2.3 Data analysis, validation, and synthesis Interview statements were categorised into 26 analysis areas and grouped into five main areas. Communication letters and meeting protocols were summarised in a few sentences and added to the analysis material, and the technical project documentation was analysed in depth. For validation, preliminary findings have on three occasions throughout the study been presented for a reference group. The group consisted of managers from the IT department and other departments. A presentation with final findings was held for the reference group and most of the participating interviewees. In addition, two presentations were held at another company, with characteristics similar to GlobalGroup. All of these groups corroborated the validity of the findings. Finally, a synthesis activity was undertaken, where the findings were compared with available empirical based support from literature, the earlier mentioned implementation guidelines. Recommendations were generated for future projects by extending the published implementation guidelines with new ones and proposing a review of PLM implementation project plans with the guidelines in mind. 3 Project description In this section, a description of the studied project is provided, including the implementation process and the project evaluation. 3.1 Implementation process The project followed GlobalGroup s global project model for the development of information systems. It is a waterfall stage-gate model with seven
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