Posted by: Christian Verstraete | June 4, 2010

Integrating the ecosystem in PLM, the Process Side

In my previous post I started discussing how to integrate suppliers and design partners in a common PLM environment to speed-up developments. I pointed out the technological aspects of how such integration could be achieved. But I finished by pointing out that the data integration aspects were not enough. They needed to be combined with process integration.

Indeed, ultimately what is needed is that the partners understand the steps that need to be followed and know which responsibility each of them has. Understanding precisely the roles and responsibilities of each party is also important.

One way of achieving this is by having the OEM defining the business processes to be followed and forcing their partners to use them. This works well with small partners, as the business from the OEM is an important part of their work, so they will accept to work in a particular way. Unfortunately, larger partners will most probably resist. They work with many companies and cannot operate different business processes for each of their clients. They also implemented their own business processes, making it more cumbersome to accept third party ones.

So, the question is really whether we need the partner to work in a particular way, or whether we actually need to make sure his interaction with our processes happens in specific ways and that appropriate information is transferred. I would argue it is the latter. So, rather than forcing him to follow our processes, it is probably better to ensure the interfacing processes are correct.

One way to do that is to use DCOR, the Design Chain Operations Reference Model, originally developed by HP and now managed by the Supply Chain Council. DCOR describes business  three levels down, and allows enterprises to develop the level 4 processes, which are ultimately the ones they will use. Like in SCOR, DCOR recognizes the integration between partners and identifies the processes that integrate the partners. This is precisely what we should use to ensure proper partner integration. Using such models we allow the partner to define his/her own level 4 processes, within the DCOR framework, but we establish common key performance indicators and integration process steps, addressing the needs we described earlier.

We may still want to suggest specific processes to smaller partners which may not have the capability to define their own, but we leave it up to larger partners to identify how they want to do things, providing them with the freedom to do it in their own way.

Building easy relationships with partners is critical to get the most out of those relationships, so I really believe that, by using standards, we facilitate such approaches and improve teamwork. Tell me if you agree or disagree. 

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