This article primarily concerns incorporating knowledge-based systems into a product lifecycle management system called Hybrid Process Management. F. Ferreira states, “Manufacturing management is being reshaped by a shift from the mass production paradigm to a new on-demand personalized, customer-driven and knowledge-based proactive production paradigm” . Ferreira hypothesizes that the best driver for business innovation in this regard is the incorporation of knowledge-based systems into PLM. Ferreira states that the increasing complexity of products and distributed nature of product design and manufacturing are the primary hurdles to achieving a genuinely collaborative environment.
One of the primary problems seen with modern-day product lifecycle management programs that Ferreira feels is correctable is the lack of an intuitive interface coupled with difficulty maintaining the product database. Ferreira states that the lack of incorporation of modern communication tools into PLM is an overlooked feature that should be corrected. Incorporating shared Enterprise Information Systems should result in shared Product Lifecycle Management systems.
The authors have conducted four primary stages of development of Hybrid Process Management. The first stage of development was an intensive background and literature review of existing systems. Next, they created a business case for the test environment’s current and future state of product lifecycle management. Workshops were held and analyzed for data. This allowed the authors to move to the next stage, where they designed and implemented a solution. This involved developing collaborative environments where custom software APIs were used to integrate information into a knowledge-based system. Finally, the end-state validation was performed to allow for data collection.
Ferreira found a substantial disparity between existing systems and the system developed by the authors: lack of semi-structured process incorporation. The authors found that modern product lifecycle management systems rarely accounted for non-structured processes. The lack of known constraints during some design phases combined with not completely defined inputs sometimes left current PLM software unable to be fully utilized by the end-user.
Some human factors engineering was involved in determining structured and non-structured processes. The authors decided that most human decisions are semi-structured, and thus, the PLM software used should be non-constrained sufficiently to allow for organic decision-making. This reinforces the authors’ position that their Hybrid Process Management software was a superior alternative to modern Product Lifecycle Management software.
The authors discuss other Product Lifecycle Management software such as Siemens Teamcenter and CATIA V5. According to Ferreira, these products are considered weak replacements for the system that the authors have developed. SAP PLM 7.0 is also considered a viable option. However, these options are all considered weak candidates as they tend to lack defined best practices, as discussed above, for non-structured process development.
In general, I tend to agree with the authors. A former employer used the CATIA V5/ENOVIA suite for product lifecycle management. It is non-intuitive and does not lend itself well to flexibility. On a team of over a dozen engineers, I was one of the few with sufficient experience with the software to accomplish general tasks such as revision control and asset lifecycle tracking due to the system’s complexity. Despite being an expert, fully releasing new documentation errata may take me a hundred or more discrete steps to link the documentation to the appropriate change orders, products, release actions, product instances, and revisions. Though I generally disagree that current systems lack sufficient collaboration, we could do better by incorporating better human factors design into a new system.
 Ferreira, F., Faria, J., Azevedo, A., Marques, A., 2016, “Product Lifecycle Management in Knowledge Intensive Collaborative Environments: An Application to Automotive Industry,” International Journal of Information Management, 2016.