PLM – How long will the treasure hunt continue? (Part 1)

More than eight decades have passed since the first part numbering system was used, and there are discussions and debates  still ongoing about the choice between the intelligent and semi-intelligent part numbering methods. By definition, a part number unambiguously identifies a part design within a single corporation, and sometimes across several corporations.

Considering the long-time usage of part numbering, the age of insufficient communication between corporations, the freedom given for part numbering, and the number of generations of experts within each corporations over such a long period, one can imagine the variety and complexity of part numbering in organizations and the industry today.Taking the technology advancements into account, like internet connecting the world, PLM connecting user within organizations, SCM connecting suppliers and vendors, and  mergers and acquisitions of several corporations, it’s obvious that large organizations pose big challenge handling the repository of designs with multiple part numbering. This article describes a challenge in retrieval of design data in such a scenario.

Every design in a manufacturing organization is an asset that has been created, reviewed, updated, verified, approved, manufactured and tested by the best brains of the organization. If we are unable to retrieve those assets, they turn into irrecoverable treasures that gets buried in the PLM system, only to be hunted for, with clues from multiple sources. Studies have established that any name or number more than 7 characters in length is likely to be forgotten by human memory (the reason why telephone numbers are 7 digits) and any data with more than 15 character in length has 100 % probability of error in data entry. So inability of human memory adds to the challenge of retrieval in PLM.

The best solution for this problem would be to use a unique attribute of the part that everyone can remember very well all the time. If you are wondering what that attribute is, it is the ‘shape’ of the part itself. Let us go through this further in detail.

image001For example, the shape of a flange, bearing, bracket, or pipe branch fitting will remain the same irrespective of whom it was created by, the country where it was created, or part number convention that was followed.

In this example shown on the left, there are 3 flange parts. They are named differently either because they were created by different users or each of them could have been from different divisions and later stored together when all the PDM systems were migrated into a single PLM.  Now, unless all these part names are remembered by all the users, the retrieval becomes harder. Let us assume that there are 100 flanges each, following each of these naming patterns, totalling to 300 flanges. If we forget one naming pattern, we won’t be able to retrieve those 100 parts that are following that specific pattern. Then, those irretrievable parts become ‘treasure’ for ever, i.e. even if we have the valuable design asset in the PLM, no one would be able to utilise it. In short, each naming pattern is a key that one cannot afford to lose.

As you can see, the shape of all these 3 components and the group of similar components behind each one of them would be the same. So if there is a way to search by ‘shape’, the problem will be solved.

Enfinio has taken up as its mission to research and has come up with a solution. Bingo! - an innovative shape search environment – is the solution. Bingo! comes with multiple options to search for parts in PLM, all based on shapes, which will never change.

In this example, as long as one flange is retrieved, all the other flanges that follow the 3 different naming patterns will be automatically retrieved and listed as similar parts by Bingo!.  Also, in the case of name based search, one has to search 3 times, once for each naming pattern, to get these 3 groups of flanges. But with shape based search, one search will bring all the 300 flanges. Needless to say, 3 is an arbitrary and small number and we just focused one typical category. There may be multiple part categories, and each of them following n number of patterns in a large enterprise PLM system.

With shape based search, there would be no lost design treasure anymore and every business user, including the new comers, would be able to learn the PLM content independently and contribute to the re-use. You may watch this video and read the e-Book for more information.

Bingo! is the outcome of fundamental re-thinking, that satisfies the expectations in PLM industry as expressed by Oleg Shilovitsky in his article on Part Numbers and External Classification System. We will cover this subject of classification in detail later.

Part 2 of this article is coming soon.  Thanks for your time and your comments are welcome.

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