Because smart products are becoming the norm, change management tools, such as PLM (product lifecycle management) programs, may need to keep up. Many vendors are incorporating augmented reality (AR), compliance check mechanisms and mobile applications to make change management easier.

Complexity was once a standard feature of enterprise software UX. But the mobile app culture changed that. And going mobile means adopting the golden rule of apps commerce: simplicity. The same applies to change management tools in PLM.

Most PLM vendors today offer mobile apps that perform a subset of the operations possible with desktop clients. Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter Mobility and PTC’s Windchill Mobile fall into this category. The vendors who don’t yet offer mobile apps generally facilitate mobile devices by supporting mobile-friend browsers. Dassault Systèmes currently doesn’t offer a mobile apps for its 3DEXPERIENCE platform and ENOVIA products, but they can be accessed and run from mobile web browsers. Beginning in the mid-2000s, Arena Solutions has supported mobile access to Arena BOMControl through mobile browsers.

Digital car model by PTC
Using a color-coded display, PTC Creo View makes it clear which items are on schedule, beyond schedule and released. (Image Source: PTC)

With the advent of affordable augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) hardware, engineering teams now have another way to preview and study proposed design changes. PTC offers VuMark, part of Vuforia 6. VuMark is a customizable visual code that can be affixed to any product or machine–either manually using a decal, or automatically printed during the manufacturing process.

Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform offers technologies to display 3D data in immersive CAVE environments, or in specialized hardware like zSpace. eDrawings Mobile from the company’s SOLIDWORKS division includes AR viewing tools.

Siemens PLM Software offers JT2Go, an in-house developed app to view 3D models in the widely accepted JT format on multiple hardware platforms, including the Microsoft HoloLens. The company allows third parties to harness its APIs (application programming interfaces).

One primary reason to closely monitor changes is to prevent potential cost overruns. Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter offers a Product Cost Management module.  The module can “calculate complex assemblies and versions accurately and quickly; reproduce the entire price structure of your products and variants based on the bills of materials (BOMs) and bills of process (BOPs); determine and itemize direct costs and overheads, manufacturing steps and processes and materials and process parameters.

The increase in environmental regulation adds a new dimension to change management. Every company is dealing with global product development. So project managers need to have good visibility into the compliance and sustainability content of their products.

PTC addresses this with its Materials Compliance Solution, part of the company’s Windchill software. The product tackles, among other things, the regulations governing conflict minerals. ENOVIA users can conduct a cross-functional change assessment process directly from the change order.

Evolving PLM pricing practices may also widen the circle of change management. The shift from perpetual licensing and on-premise systems to subscription-based, cloud-hosted SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) style PLM allows a greater pool of users to participate in the discussions about change impact. Autodesk and PTC offer modular PLM products on subscription. Aras offers its Innovator PLM solution for free, and then charges for pay-as-you-go training and consulting or an annual subscription that includes upgrades. Arena Solutions entered the market with a cloud-based multi-tenant BOM management product, BOM.com

Change management tools in PLM have significantly improved, but many critical processes, such as impact analysis and cost control, largely remain manual; they rely on the expertise, diligence and timely input of the human reviewers to kickoff and complete the workflow.

>>Read more by Kenneth Wong, Digital Engineering, November 1, 2016

Changing Times for Change Management