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PLMish ideas on whiling away social isolation

PLMish ideas on whiling away social isolation

Mar 17, 2020 | Hot Topics

Right up front: I’m not qualified to give medical advice so you won’t see any of that here. Go to,, or another reputable source for the protocols that will ensure your safety and that of elders and those with compromised immune systems.

That said, why am I in your inbox? Because I have a list of things to do and think about while you’re at home, flattening the curve:

  • Get some training. No matter what you do, you can always learn more. Use this time to upskill. Work towards that next level SolidWorks certification, learn something about simulation, dive into an adjacent trade skill, explore 3D printing, get a demo license to something you’ve been wanting to try … PLM is a huge, complicated set of technologies and more is always coming at us. Use this time to take legit distance learning classes, watch some of the thousands of webinars available for replay or get current on that giant to-read pile.
  • Teach others. Marvelous tech can connect us, virtually, to help spread what we know. Hook up with a local school that’s doing distance learning to show off your CAD wizardry. Use Skype to teach neighbor kids how to make the coolest Lego thingamabob ever (or an exploding volcano in the kitchen, but don’t mention my name). Run a coffee or lunch seminar for your colleagues, to stay connected and to share what you know.
  • If you’re part of a supply chain, you’re likely struggling. Parts you need may be on their way from China, but coming to an idled plant in Europe or the US. Or they’re not being made, at all, and you’ll face huge disruption when you can get back to work. Use this time to ponder your supplier choices. Too many manufacturers single-source today, because the volume deals are attractive and because it’s hard to collaboratively design with too many partners. That’s great when things work to plan. When they don’t, it’s a disaster. Think about how to create a more resilient supply chain — and PLMish tools can help explore options. Plow through your bills of material — what alternate components have you used? Who supplied them? Can they be spun up again? Combine this with reshoring — who, more locally, can you work with, for the benefit of your community?
  • If you’re part of a larger organization, even at the lowest rung on that ladder, think about how it all fits together. Most of us do, what we do, the way we do it, because of choices made decades ago. Marketing does concept design, engineering adds the details, manufacturing makes things. What if we changed those roles, maybe for upfront CAE? Would marketing now do CAE? (Mind blown. Yes.) What would need to change to make that happen? Think beyond that example; what benefits might you see?
  • Also, think beyond your role. How can you use the data in your ERP system to make better choices about suppliers, customer requirements, which facility makes what … What info would make your job more satisfying and lead to a better result? Where does that live? How can you gain access to it, what would you do with it, how can you convince your boss to make it available to you? PLM is one bucket of data; there are other buckets in your company. How can you dip into multiple buckets?
  • Imagine your next product. Look at this as the gift of time. At the very least, you’re gaining the time you would have been commuting. Don’t read more news; that’ll just add stress. Use the time to sketch out ideas, dream up new offerings, check out the competition’s website, muse on what could be when the world is back to some sort of new normal.
  • Be personally strategic, too. What do you need to know to get that next job? It might be related to the training I suggested above, but now might also be a great time to think about what you need to learn/become to climb that corporate ladder, open your own business or follow other dreams.
  • Contingency plan. I was at an investor event last week (foolish in hindsight, but we know so much more now than we did even a week ago) at which one CFO spoke about her company’s trial runs of business systems, in case of a prolonged shutdown. This particular crisis is here, but what can you do differently next time? Because there will be another blizzard, fire, hurricane or other crisis. My Congressman has this great plan on his website, with three threat levels and a simple set of actions for each, take a look. He’s not PLMish in the slightest, but what can you adapt to your situation? What can you ask people to do remotely? What tech do you need to make that happen?

Above all, breathe. Everything I’ve seen, from economists, consultants, and bankers, points to a rapid economic recovery once we’re all able to get out again. At first, it’ll be a bit panicky as we spin things back up*. Then it’ll be incredibly competitive, as everyone scrambles for consumer and business dollars. Spend this sort-of downtime getting ready.

*It occurs to me that not everyone can relate to that. Sigh. Back in the day, computers had disk drives –huge things that had flat platters on which data was stored– that had to spin at a specific number of revolutions per minute to read and write data. So turning on a computer meant, literally, waiting for those to “spin up”.

The title image is of a cherry blossom tree by Majaranda from Pixabay.

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