Product Data: Finding It - Using It by Deploying a Search Engine Solution (3), How to Fix PLM-ERP, Getting Leaner with a PLM Project (2), PLM Solution Process Steps


2PLM Newsletter

John Stark Associates                                                                                                                                               July 30, 2012 - Vol15 #8

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Product Data: Finding It - Using It by Deploying a Search Engine Solution (3)
by Dick Bourke
Part 3: Answers and Comments - Before Moving Ahead

Search Engine Solutions (SESs) have been leveraged to help engineering and manufacturing companies in their constant struggle to find relevant product data - for timely decision-making. Finding it - Using it supports strategic initiatives, such as Design Re-use, for minimizing the risk, time and cost of product development.

As stated before, the content of this series is geared to readers interested in an overview of the basic concepts and issues of deploying semantic-based SESs. This includes all forms of deployment: on-premise, cloud, mobile and all combinations of these alternatives.

Readers have posed a variety of questions that have been categorically grouped and addressed below. A few selected references are offered throughout this article, also. Among them, at the end, are those pertaining to semantic technology concepts and terminology.

More on the Definition of Search Engine Solutions
Currently, there is no widely-accepted definition appropriate for SESs in engineering and manufacturing enterprises. Undoubtedly, we'll see variations in terms, definitions and descriptions as the market for search applications becomes more active.

IDC's description of Search-Based Applications (SBAs), cited in Part 1, is "Search-based applications combine search and/or text analytics with collaborative technologies, workflow, domain knowledge, business intelligence, or relevant Web services. They deliver a purpose-designed user interface tailored to support a particular task or workflow." (Underlines are mine.)

The original definition of SBAs comes from Wikipedia. It is "Software applications in which a search engine platform is used as the core infrastructure for information access and reporting. SBAs use semantic technologies to aggregate, normalize and classify unstructured, semi-structured and/or structured content across multiple repositories, and employ natural language technologies for accessing the aggregated information."

These definitions and descriptions are a worthy start. But, as a more widely-acceptable definition evolves, it must identify the informational needs of collaborative product development (CPD) activities of the enterprise, within not only engineering, but also manufacturing process planning, quality and other functions involved in CPD.

In addition, to emphasize an earlier comment about definition: An SES is not a data management solution - and it should not be perceived that it creates and manages product data. The real value of an SES is that it finds data based on what already exists, rather than creating and managing metadata that is found in structured data repositories.

Awareness is Growing
As engineering and manufacturing enterprises become overwhelmed with unstructured product data, there is growing awareness of the persistent pressure for search solutions.

Consulting firms are chiming in. In a recent newsletter titled Analytics, PLM Converge Amid Data Tsunami; A Ceaseless Search for Sustainable Advantage, CIMdata stressed the importance of finding and using the many forms of unstructured data required for effective product development. Marc Halpern of Gartner issued On the Frontiers of Product Design and Life Cycle Management, citing search software as critical. And, in Jos Voskuil's Blog, the author comments frequently on its value.

One of the most definitive reports yet, however, is Best Practices for Managing Design Data, published recently by Tech-Clarity. Of the best practices identified in this comprehensive survey, sponsored by Siemens, fast product data searching and retrieval is paramount.

Moreover, software providers fuel awareness as they spot market opportunities, develop solutions and publicize them.

Search Software Providers
A selected list was given in Part 1. Since then, PTC's Index Search, based on Solr, has been added to it, and IHS has acquired Invention Machine. Other providers - not listed - may address engineering/manufacturing search requirements, though, in a limited manner. Furthermore, as the need is further recognized, more providers likely will enter the market space.

Semantic Technology: Selected References
Both of the following two publications provide extensive background, including glossaries.

The LinkedIn group, Enterprise Search Engine Professionals, is a source, nevertheless, with a caution: Most of the discussions are oriented to those deeply involved in this technology. It's helpful for those readers eager for more technological depth of understanding.


What's in Future Columns?
The next column will discuss the value of SESs. After that, two columns will continue the description of the searching process that began in Part 2. Content may be modified based on reader comments and questions. Please submit them to: Dick Bourke at

How to Fix PLM-ERP
by Roger Tempest
The relationship between PLM and ERP has been one of the most complex problems in PLM for the past ten years. We are now going to generate the definitive, neutral solution.

Every company that manufactures products has to manage PLM-ERP, and an immense amount of experience has been gained. There are many successful implementations, but the solutions are always bespoke, expensive, labour-intensive, and subject to continual change. For less successful companies, the battle to maintain PLM-ERP is a constant drain on management and technical resources.

The PLM Interest Group will run a series of workshops from September to November that will enable PLM and ERP practitioners to combine their expertise and formalise a best-practice framework. These workshops are not mere "discussion shops". The Agenda will be based around the Product Structure Standard, developed from PLMIG initiatives in 2009-10, which clearly identifies the accurate and inaccurate areas of current theory.

The workshop series will produce a new PLM-ERP Handbook that shows how PLM-ERP should be structured and managed. At the moment there seem likely to be 3 workshops, located in the UK, Germany, and North America.


We may run a fourth in another country if there is support for it. (India has been suggested, if there is sufficient manufacturing industry demand.) The sequence and timing will be decided based on feedback over the next couple of weeks.

Each workshop will produce a new version of the Handbook, building on the results of the one that came before. Everyone who takes part in a workshop will receive the results of the whole series. User companies may find it valuable to send colleagues from both backgrounds.

The Workshops can be used as a means of resolving participants' most intractable PLM-ERP issues, while generating a common understanding in the process. Vendors, integrators and consultants are also welcome, as we are looking for involvement from all parts of the industry.

More information and an email link can be found on the PLMIG web site.


Roger Tempest is co-founder of the PLMIG. Membership of the PLMIG is available via


Getting Leaner with a PLM Project (2)
by John Stark
One of the objectives of a PLM Project may be to get leaner across the product lifecycle. There are usually opportunities for improvement in many areas. A recent issue of 2PLM showed examples of waste related to product data that shouldn't exist in the to-be environment. Below are typical examples of process-related waste that shouldn't exist in the to-be environment. More examples can be found in Product Lifecycle Management: Paradigm for 21st Century Product Realisation.


  • Repetition of the same activity in different processes
  • Defining processes without target values or measurement points
  • Doing more work on a project than is required, slowing other projects

Excess transportation

  • Pushing data to a distribution list, even when some people don't need it
  • Excessive delegation
  • Automated workflows with unnecessary steps


  • Too many sign-offs in process activities
  • Making glamorous presentations for a Steering Committee
  • Approving documents that have already been approved


  • Defining processes before they are needed
  • Defining processes that create information before it's needed
  • Defining processes with unnecessary storage activities

  • Process steps requiring search for drawings and other information
  • Clicking though multi-level menus and lists
  • Switching between multiple projects


  • Not documenting application workflow in a process description
  • Not documenting a process
  • Not updating a process description when the process changes


  • Preparing training material long before people will be trained
  • Waiting due to bottlenecks
  • Waiting due to serial flow, instead of parallel flow


Some readers' comments about Product Lifecycle Management: Paradigm for 21st Century Product Realisation:

  • "A really useful, thoughtful book parts of which I've already read 3 or 4 times." (Pierre D.)
  • "This is a profound book building the foundations of a new paradigm for product development, realization, use, management. Reading it is an enrichening experience." (D. Smith)
  • "Recommended for PLM Project team" (J. Huppe)


PLM Solution Process Steps
by Scott Cleveland
When speaking with people interested in PLM solutions, these are the major steps that I go through with them. These steps are meant to represent the 10,000 foot view:
  • Why are you looking at PLM? There must be a reason [problem] or we wouldn't be talking.
  • What's the problem costing you? Can you quantify the problem in dollars?
  • What's your solution vision? If the world were perfect, what would your solution look like? Can you quantify the solution in dollars? The solution needs to either make money or save money.
  • What are your solution alternatives? Sort through your alternatives to determine what's reasonable and what's not. Many other alternatives may be possible, but at what price - just a SMOP (small matter of programming)?
  • Write up a project plan for implementing a solution. It's important to understand the project steps - what the vendor will do and what you will do. How long will the project take? How will you measure success?

  • What's the cost of the solution? [hardware, software & services]
  • Can you justify the purchase? If so, how?
  • How do project budgets get approved in your company? Each company has its own process for getting budget approval. What do you need to prepare to get a budget approved?
  • Prepare the documentation justifying the purchase
  • Get executive approval to start the project

My Thoughts....
There's a lot of work to do before a PLM project even gets started. I always suggest to people that they begin doing the research now so that, when the need arises, they can begin the process of getting a budget approved.

As Nike would say, 'Just do it'. And, they have a PLM solution in place.

Your Thoughts....
What would you add to this discussion?

Scott Cleveland can be contacted on +1 408-464-6387  

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 Product                         Lifecycle                         Management: Paradigm for 21st Century Product                         Realisation

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