It is time for a change in leadership at the modern firm – the Chief Excel Officer needs to go.  We no longer have the need for a gifted wizard of Excel – the go-to guy when we need a spreadsheet to manage some business logic.  We do not need to manage our businesses with whiz-bang Visual Basic and Vlookups.  Let us thank the “CEO” for his/her help, throw a party and give them a golden parachute as a going away present.

We spent a good sum of money on PLM and ERP systems.  How did we come to have so many spreadsheets (or Access DBs)?  Simple really, your team is developing a product and needs to track and evaluate some information.  Their current tools are not able to meet the need and their IT team says that there is no budget, no requirements, and their team is booked.   What to do?  Like any good Engineer you solve the problem.  You call in your Spec Ops guy – the smart young Engineer that knows programming and excel.  A few days later – you’re in business and under the radar.

Here is the problem with that solution…it is hidden in the shadows of the PLM Underground.  The tool is shrouded from the remainder of the enterprise.  Could this data be used by other departments?  Is the logic stored with the same configuration management as your Parts, CAD and Drawings?  Do the results define or control critical systems that come under FDA, FAA, EPA, NHTSA, or REACH?

Here is an example:

A firm builds aerospace products that are tested and certified for airworthiness prior to full scale manufacturing.  The firm’s PLM system does not handle the mBOM.  The “CEO” steps in and creates a tool to obtain the eBOM, substitutes part numbers for standard parts/hardware and allows the operations team to create the needed phantom assemblies, etc. to support their manufacturing process.

Here is the rub with that example.  The spreadsheet was created prior to new REACH regulations banning cadmium and many of the substituted parts were cadmium coated hardware.  Now there is a fleet of products that do not meet REACH regulations.  In addition, they are non-compliant to the FAA certification process – the final product is not the same as what was tested and certified.

Surely you see the value in ensuring that the right data is gathered and the proper analysis is done.  What about proper control for the logic and processes that make up the tool itself?  In our example we have a nice tool that makes the Operations team efficient but it also led them astray with outdated information and bad logic.

Lionel Grealou at Tata wrote a nice summary comparing PLM vs. Excel.  I very much agree with his analysis.  Everyone has Excel on their PC and a little work can get you to a working spreadsheet to manage some aspect of PLM.  However, As Lionel notes, there is a cost “in time spent making sense of errors and manual / semi-automated cumbersome updates.”  Clearly, important updates were not made in our example and the cost is now going to be much higher.

dollar-bombUnderground spreadsheet existence is a consequence of a bigger dilemma – Legacy PLM Software.  The existing implementations do not meet customer needs and are hard to customize to help customers to be successful.  On this topic, Oleg Shilovitsky of BeyondPLM, wrote “Flexible data model, easy customization and excellent user experience. This is a wining recipe for PLM system to replace spreadsheet nightmare.”  Clearly he gets it!

At Aras we believe in powering the Business of Engineering.  A big part of that belief is integrating and managing the information needed for businesses to be successful.  Allowing critical information and decisions to be managing in the shadows with no controls is a ticking time bomb.  The question is – when will it explode?

Thanks for reading.



A is for Attitude

David Ewing Jr. Product Marketing Manager [email protected]Twitter LinkedIn

Posted Wed, Feb 3 2016 10:17 AM by David Ewing Jr.