Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Examples of Frugal Engineering

This blog post is in continuation to my earlier post on "Frugal Engineering and PLM". In that post I had tried to but a brief idea on what Frugal Engineering was (which is also being now termed as "Gandhian Engineering". In this post I posting a few examples of this brave new field of work.
  1. Tata Nano: Obviously Tata Nano comes in at a first when we talk to Frugal Engineering. For a video on the car please see my earlier blog post "Frugal Engineering and PLM"
  2. Nokia 1100: A very basic model 
  3. Godrej ChotuKool:  See above pictures
  4. Tata Swach: Water filter at Rs. 999.  Approx $20. Swach does not require running water, power, or boiling once installed. Each of its filters can produce 3,000 liters of purified water, enough to provide a family of five drinking water for a year.
  5. Samsung's washing machine with sari cycle
  6. Mini Truck Ace
  7. Aravind Eye Care System (AECS): AECS now treats around 300,000 cataract patients in a year.The cost of a typical cataract surgery in the U.S. is around $3,000. AECS has managed to bring down the cost between $30 and $300. Detailed comparison here.
  8. Jaipur Foot: " The Jaipur Limb is so efficient that after this limb is fitted, a person can walk like a normal person without a stick or support, and even run, ride a bicycle and climb a tree, Many of the patients can, after the fitment, go back to work in the field, factories, shops and offices."
  9. GE Vscan Portable Ultrasound Clam Shell Scanner
  10. Narayana Hrudayalaya Cardiac surgeries in the United States can cost up to US$50,000. In India, they typically cost around US$5,000-US$7,000. Depending on the complexities of the procedure and the length of the patient's stay at the hospital, the price tag increases. At Narayana Hrudayalaya, however, surgeries cost less than US$3,000, irrespective of the complexity of the procedure or the length of hospitalization.From India Knowledge@Wharton. 

Godrej ChotuKool
Godrej ChotuKool
Tata Swach
Tata Ace
    While this list of examples is by no means comprehensive, I intended to show that there are lots of activities happening in India to give extreme affordability with disruptive innovation. I would encourage readers to have a look at this article published in HBR by Jeffrey R. Immelt, Vijay Govindarajan, and Chris Trimble: How GE Is Disrupting Itself

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Frugal Engineering and PLM

    The term frugal engineering was coined in 2006 by Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn to describe the competency of Indian engineers in developing products. He says in an interview "...We are here to learn about frugal engineering".

    So what is Frugal Engineering?

    From Wiki Answers "Frugal Engineering is the science of breaking up complex engineering processes into its basic components and then re-building each component in the most economical manner. The end result is a simpler, more robust and easier to handle final process. It also results in a much cheaper final product which does the same job qualitatively and quantitatively as a more expensive complexly engineered product.
    It is generally believed that Indians and other South Asians are the most adept in frugal engineering, because resources and capital are scarce in this region."

    The Economic Times says:
    "Frugal engineering is not simply low-cost engineering.
    It is not a scheme to boost profit margins by squeezing the marrow out of suppliers' bones. It is not simply the latest take on the decades-long focus on cost cutting. Instead, frugal engineering is an overarching philosophy that enables a true "clean sheet" approach to product development. Cost discipline is an intrinsic part of the process, but rather than simply cutting existing costs, frugal engineering seeks to avoid needless costs in the first place."

    "...It recognises that merely removing features from existing products to sell them cheaper in emerging markets is a losing game. To achieve the drastically lower prices that emerging markets require companies must be open to rethinking all aspects of the product."

    Frugal engineering is catching on as per this report in Business Standard.

    Some examples of such products in this strategy paper:
    The trend that surfaced when Tata Motors' tiny $2,200 car, the Nano, hit Indian roads in July, has resulted in a slew of new products for people with little money who aspire to a taste of a better life. Many products aren't just cheaper versions of well-established models available in the West but have taken design and manufacturing assumptions honed in the developed world and turned them on their heads. For the farmer who wants to save for the future, one Indian entrepreneur has developed what is, in effect, a $200 portable bank branch. For the village housewife, a wood-burning stove has been reinvented to make more heat and less smoke for $23. For the slum family struggling to get clean water, there is a $43 water-purification system. For the villager who wants to give his child a cold glass of milk, there is a ChotuKool - the $69 fridge for rural India that can run on batteries. And for rural health clinics, whose patients can't spend more than $5 on a visit, there are heart monitors and baby warmers redesigned to cost 10% of what they do elsewhere.

    automotiveproductsfinder says: "The real thrust for frugal engineering and innovation seems to emerge at the supplier level. And helping put up a smooth communication link between suppliers and automakers to seek a closer and more fruitful collaboration are IT companies that are introducing better and more open PLM, engineering and link platforms in India at the same time they are introducing them to automakers in other parts of the world."

    My question is:  In what ways can an existing (or even new) PLM system aid the frugal engineering process? Btw some thinking on a slightly different line here: “Is Frugality Fashionable?”

    Can PLM encompass ALM (Application Lifecycle management)?

    Some time back I had raised this question in the "PLM Group" in LinkedIn - Can PLM encompass ALM (Application Lifecycle management)?

    A large number of products today contain software in them. Should a company which uses a PLM system to manage their engineering data invest in an additional ALM system to manage the software development part of such products? Or as the categories of ALM tools as defined in Wikipedia should there be a convergence of PLM and ALM and PLM vendors start offering support for such embedded software development as well? Are their any PLM vendors already doing this?

    To which David Fulton replied:
    "If you are building a product which has a significant software portion -- you need both an ALM and a PLM system. At least today...
    PLM systems are typically centered around a "part" -- meaning something that is manufactured. ALM systems are typically centered around software code files. ALM systems have to manage all of the complexities inherent in software development -- which are at a much more detailed level than the PLM system, because numerous changes to the software files usually result in a single compiled software module which the PLM system treats as a single part.
    Thus, if you were (for example) a large automobile company and you were having trouble with your electronic speed control in several vehicles, the PLM system would manage the BOM for each vehicle, but the ALM system would need to manage the changes and revisions of the software used in each version of the speed control software. So, if the problem was introduced in rev 3 of a particular software file, you would use the ALM system to determine which version(s) of the speed control software module included that file -- for example, Rev 2.1
    Then you would use the PLM system to determine which automobiles (ie - model and serial number) included the electronic speed control assembly that Rev 2.1 of the "speed control software" belonged to.
    Yes, this is complicated -- but until PLM systems REALLY understand the idea of a "sub-part" and allow it to be associated to individual software files -- you must have both systems -- one to manage the "part relationships" and another one to manage the "software file relationships".
    Otherwise, you don't have enough capability in the ALM system to effectively track the BOM for a collection of physical parts and you don't have enough visibility within the PLM system to be able to drill down and track each software file. (BTW -- this argument goes away if your device has only a few parts, like a cellular phone, or if the software component is minimal, like in an appliance.)"

    And David Sherburne "I agree with David, we are working on what the integration between the ALM and the PLM platform needs to look like. In the end the PLM platform has to house the complete BOM and we want to have good relationships between the change control process and SW and HW team at the products level. PLM has to be optimized for broad access to data and ALM has to be optimized for agile and frequent change control."

    PLM and ALM integration is becoming a real need specially if you are developing electromechanical devices. Last heard, PTC has proposed ALM be included in the PLM solution. The benefit, is “customers will be able to have a single solution that manages mechanical, electrical and software development.”
    Most of the features like Project Management, Change management, Issue management, Monitoring and reporting, Workflow, and Versioning will be the same for PLM as well as ALM systems. However note that a PLM system is more of a “part-based” system whereas an ALM system needs much more levels of granularity. For a mature PLM system to add some kind of logical layer over their original core to attain such levels of granularity will need a major investment – which is only possible if there is an adequate amount of requirement. Looks like there might be “PTC has seen limited adoption of ALM, but said their customers are starting to ask for a software product to help manage the embedded the software.

    For more discussions one can see Oleg's blog entry: "PLM and ALM: How To Blend Disparate Systems?"

    One More TLA - PxM Anyone?

    Edsger W Dijkstra (May 11, 1930 – August 6, 2002) said in his paper “On the cruelty of really teaching computing science” in 1988 “…no endeavour is respectable these days without a TLA (= Three-Letter Acronym)”.

    Use of TLA's is in both industry and academia is now viral. I was surprised to see that the "Lists of TLAs" in Wikipedia spanned 17 pages. Well then, I thought, what TLA’s do I see in my field of work?

    CAx for Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-aided engineering (CAE), Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM),

    CxO for Chief Information Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Information Officer (CIO) amongst others.

    GxP for Good Manufacturing Practice(GMP), Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), Good Clinical Practice(GCP) etc.

    So why not add to this acronym list?
    PXM Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico (Airport Code)
    PXM Processor Switch Module (Cisco)
    PXM Processor X Module
    PXM Point Expansion Module

    PxM for Product lifecycle management (PLM), Product data management (PDM), Product Resource Management (PRM), Product Information Management (PIM), and Product Content Management (PCM).

    Well yes, fundamentally nothing changes and this just adds one more TLA to the list :) Long live free speech!

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Responses to “Top Five Concerns About PLM Systems”

    Oleg Shilovitsky published an article in his blog titled "Top Five Concerns About PLM Systems". My response to the article.

    While TCO and customized change management can be dealt with, I believe huge overselling of PLM as a panacea for all ills as the major concern.  This overselling ups the expectations of all parties signing the bill for the solution but when they see the implementation they find the ground realities to be different. Also vendor lock in and upgrade's to newer version's forcibly by the vendors are major issue's – Usually vendors approach customers saying that the particular product version has reached its end of life stage and will not be supported anymore and whether the customer likes it or needs it or not, they are forced to fork out truck loads of money to upgrade.

    Customers on the other hand should also realize that PLM is not a quick fix solution to enable business improvements while driving out costs – a long term strategy, clear cut requirements and assumptions must be in place before approaching the vendors. Also customers must clearly define their ROI metrics before making PLM investments. More on "Profiting from PLM: Strategy and Delivery of the PLM Program" here. This report states: "Best-in-Class companies achieve twice the ROI on their initial PLM projects, and 2.5 times greater ROI for subsequent PLM extensions" and "Nonetheless, many companies still lack a strategy for recognizing the value that PLM can offer. They know they want to improve their product innovation, product development, and engineering performance but struggle with the best way to transform their business. The benefits are available and compelling. The difference in achieving this value is how companies went about implementing their PLM solutions."

    Resolving compatibility problems between different CAD packages, ensuring that multiple manufacturing partners have the most recent software updates, conversion of existing design data, end-user training and gaining management support so that standard practices and procedures can be put into effect across department and inter-company boundaries are vital. For deep integration with CAD data it's best to go with a PDM system from the CAD vendor.

    Airbus' multibillion dollar problem connected with the postponement of A380 super-jumbo shows what can go wrong in implementing PLM systems. "An unthinkable blunder had happened—as the computer aided design files were passed between the different versions of the Catia software, the company said errors occurred. And software experts familiar with the incident say the errors included changes in measurements. Those errors are going to cost Airbus billions." More on this at:

    Aardvark for PLM?

    This blog is based on a posting I published in the "PLM PDM Professionals Group" in LinkedIn.

    Aardvark for PLM?

    Lately an enormous amount has been written about “Social PLM” and how it has the potential to be a game changer.

    In February 2010 Google acquired Aardvark (available at as well as ). As the site says: “Ask any question and Aardvark will discover the perfect person to answer in minutes!” Now this is something amazing!

    In the research paper “The Anatomy of a LargeScale Social Search Engine” by Damon Horowitz from Aardvark and Sepandar D. Kamvar from the Stanford University says “We present Aardvark, a social search engine. With Aardvark, users ask a question, either by instant message, email, web input, text message, or voice. Aardvark then routes the question to the person in the user’s extended social network most likely to be able to answer that question. As compared to a traditional web search engine, where the challenge lies in finding the right document to satisfy a user’s information need, the challenge in a social search engine like Aardvark lies in finding the right person to satisfy a user’s information need. Further, while trust in a traditional search engine is based on authority, in a social search engine like Aardvark, trust is based on intimacy. We describe how these considerations inform the architecture, algorithms, and user interface of Aardvark, and how they are reflected in the behavior of Aardvark users.”

    Aardvark …is a new kind of tool that lets you tap into the knowledge and experience of friends and friends-of-friends. Send Aardvark a question and you’ll get a quick, helpful response from someone with…The right knowledge and experience to help, similar tastes, Friends in common” More coverage in the New York Times and Wired.

    Will such crowd-sourcing tools like aardvark foster rapid innovation and product development cycles with social search (if they are integrated with enterprise CAD/PLM tools)? Will it drastically change the way people communicate and collaborate? What do you think?

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Quality Risk Management: Missing Link in the Product Lifecycle?

    Tech-Clarity published a new report titled "Quality Risk Management in Life Sciences: Preventing Failures, Protecting Patient Health". The study reviews two manufacturers’ experiences using Quality Risk Management (QRM) to proactively reduce risk. My response to the article.
    Jim – Thank you for the timely article, especially when we are seeing a number of Recalls, Market Withdrawals & Safety Alerts by the FDA (

    Medical products are developed and used within an intricate system involving a number of crucial contributors: manufacturers who develop and test products; the FDA, which does pre-marketing review, authorization and post marketing surveillance; the organizations providing health care, governments, health care practitioners and patients. Such products are required to be fail-safe, but safety does not denote zero risk – rather is one that has reasonable risks, as judged against the amount of benefit/gain expected and alternatives accessible. All participants in the medical product development and delivery scheme have a role to play in maintaining this benefit-risk balance. As per FDA, most injuries and deaths associated with the utilization of medical products result from their known side effects – some are unavoidable, but others can be prevented or diminished by vigilant product selection and usage. Other sources of preventable adverse events are medication or device errors, and product defects. Another category of potential risk involves the remaining uncertainties about a product like unexpected side effects, unstudied uses and unstudied populations.

    The FDA recognizes ISO 14971 as an acceptable risk management model. Even if the makers choose not to implement ISO 14971, they are still expected to conduct and document a risk management process. ISO 14971 specifies procedures for a manufacturer to use in order to be familiar with the hazards involved with medical devices. The process is used to estimate and appraise associated risks, manage these risks, and keep an eye on the effectiveness of the controls. The requirements of ISO 14971 are applicable to all stages of the lifecycle of a medical device. Implementation of ISO 14971, proactive quality risk management, making information retrieval and reuse easier, post marketing vigilance and reporting, and the implementation of Good manufacturing practice, Good Laboratory Practice, Good Clinical Practice etc results in better prevention of defects, higher quality, and reduces cost of poor quality including claims, complaints, and rework.

    Superior risk management is an imperative part of the industry. The extent of business damage due to recalls, warning letters, seizures, criminal prosecution by FDA are exponentially higher than the quantum of investment needed for a first-rate knowledge capture/management solution.

    More Details:

    1. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 PART 820 QUALITY SYSTEM REGULATION
    2. "Managing the Risks from Medical Product Use: Creating a Risk Management Framework"
    3. An Introduction To Risk Management Professional Societies
    4. Drug recalls surge
    5. The Medical Product Safety Network (MedSun) 
    6. Tech-Clarity Insight: Quality Risk Management in Life Sciences

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Augmenting PLM system as a LMS in FDA regulated companies

    Learning Management Systems

    Most of us have used a LMS system sometime or the other. Broadly “A learning management system (commonly abbreviated as LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting of training programs, classroom and online events, e-learning programs, and training content.”
    Modern web based LMS’s usually have certain key characteristics like: Computer-Based training, Training workflow (e.g., user notification, manager approval, etc), On-line assessment, Collaborative learning (e.g., application sharing, discussion threads), and Training Resource Management (e.g., manage users, roles, courses, instructors, facilities, and generate reports, high-level executive dashboards). Some LMS companies are also venturing out into the SaaS and M-Learning (PDA’s etc) space.

    In an enterprise, an LMS can expand its clout when it's coupled with existing Document Management System, Human Resource Information System (HRIS), Talent management systems and possibly Access Control Systems in a regulated manufacturing facility.

    Compliance Management for the FDA-Regulated Organization

    In FDA-Regulated organizations, LMS system’s supports the quality and validation constructs determined by Good Automated Manufacturing Practices (GAMPs) and GxPs. Such systems usually enables companies to manage the distribution of SOP’s - Standard operating procedures, corporate policies, forms, surveys and regular communications with acknowledged electronic receipt and tracking to employees, suppliers and contractors. Quizzes can be produced and associated to SOPs and vital documents, which can then test understanding of the material. Such systems also place a great deal of focus on Electronic signatures and records, Audit logs etc. to comply with 21 CFR part 11 requirements.

    Can a PLM system be enhanced to work as a LMS?

    “A learning content management system (LCMS) is a related technology to the learning management system, in that it is focused on the development, management and publishing of the content that will typically be delivered via an LMS. An LCMS is a multi-user environment where developers may create, store, reuse, manage, and deliver digital learning content from a central object repository.”
    Many life sciences organizations already use their existing PLM system as a LCMS (for SOP’s policies etc.). Also a PLM system already takes care of features which a LMS system provides such as versioning, data security, storage and distribution of documents and auditable record of all activity associated with them, history of end user activity, change control, manage users, roles, and 21 CFR part 11 requirements.

    As noted in the paper “Trends in LMS” by Don McIntosh, Ph.D. prices of LMSs vary widely from as low as USD 5,000 to several hundred thousand dollars depending on the features they offer and the number of people using them. Some of the simplest LMSs just provide a platform for launching and tracking e-learning. While there are a bunch of open source LMS systems out there (for more reading see “Open Source LMS – 10 Alternatives to Moodle by Barry Sampson”) if you want your PLM system to take care of your training needs as well then with a bit of customization (example: to build your own electronic quizzes and exams), it can surely be extended to take care of such needs. Leveraging a single platform to take care of multiple needs increases your ROI.

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    PLM and Innovation

    Does the word “innovation” seem like a clichéd utterance to you? Google it and you get a mind-boggling 142,000,000+ hits. Every company or organization today seems to be willing to attach the word to it. I have been following the PLM industry for some time and roughly all companies (regardless of being a product, services or a pure play consulting firm) seems to promoting that either its products or services can help customers in innovating. So then what is innovation?

    Wikipedia delineates it as: “Innovation is a change in the thought process for doing something, or the useful application of new inventions or discoveries. It may refer to an incremental emergent or radical and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations.”

    Further, “Invention is the embodiment of something new. While both invention and innovation have "uniqueness" implications, innovation also carries an undertone of profitability and market performance expectation.”

    So then “Innovation . . . is generally understood as the successful introduction of a new thing or method . . . Innovation is the embodiment, combination, or synthesis of knowledge in original, relevant, valued new products, processes, or services.”. There are a number of variations to the central theme - Doblin Ten Types Of Innovation™ seems to capture them all.

    Here is what some of the key players say.

    I identify more closely with what Prof VG says about innovation: “Innovation is Not Creativity” and "The guiding managerial model for innovation is just too simple. It reduces to: innovation = ideas. As a result, most corporations have more ideas than they can possibly move forward. Far too many promising ideas on paper never become anything more than . . . promising ideas on paper. Here is an improved equation for innovation: innovation = ideas + execution"

    So then if your company can generate “sell-able” ideas consistently you just need a tool to help you in their execution? Love to hear your thoughts on this.