Top Five Disappointing PLM Technologies

Once in a while, industries, companies, or developers come up with something that they think will change the technological and product landscape. PLM is no exception in this lineup of excitements and disappointments. Here are five technologies, that disappointed me in the CAD/CAE/PDM/PLM world listed from least to most disappointing): 

#5 – 3D Search

The CAD and PLM industries probably developed the most advanced capabilities to create 3D models, design products and everything around us. But they are pretty unsuccessful at being able to find them, once designed.

 #4 – Viewers

One of the top requirements of PDM since the early days is the ability to view what designed without running a CAD system used to design a specific product. So, I’d expect that viewers should be a commodity. But, unfortunately, this is not happened and the ability to view products/models continues to be a challenge for an organization

 #3 – CAD Interoperability

The inability of CAD vendors to agree on how to exchange models continues to affect people in the industry. You can see people spending their entire lives translating files from one CAD to another. You can still find “translation departments” in organizations. Quite a large amount of companies in our industry still focuses primarily on interoperability. So far, it looks like this problem will be still with us for awhile…

 #2 – PDM/PLM to ERP Integrations

When I look at the problem of integrating PDM (and later PLM) with the ERP environment, I see that the same list of unresolved problems has remained for at least  the last ten years. New PDM, PLM and ERP systems have been developed, technologies for EAI, middleware, programming languages have changed, but the problem of how  to integrate PDM/PLM with ERP in a robust way still faces us.

 #1 – PLM Standards

This is my ‘favorite’ disappointment. Standards are like toothbrushes. Everybody needs them, but nobody wants to use those of somebody else. There is some correlation between this problem and CAD interoperability. There are a few more/less stable standards – STEP, IGES. But this space continues to disappoint me with the lack of an approach that can change the status quo of “yet another standard development” adopted by one or two vendors only.

 So far, this is my perspective on my disappointments. At the same time, I see each topic in my list as both a challenge and opportunity. And I’m looking forward to an interesting (rather than disappointing) discussion…


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  • Personally I’m surprised your disappointed. These items are not interesting or it is clear why they are the way they are.

    3D Search – Just not needed. At best a nice to have. There are better ways to find something you might reuse. Look up what is being used in the ERP system.

    Viewers – This market exists, it is just small. Most are to complex relative to what the user needs. Just look at howm many emails have a simple 2D attachment.

    CAD Interoperability – You must be kidding. We don’t even have word interoperability.

    PLM & ERP Integration – They both want to control the BOM so why would they work to integrate…

    PLM Standards – Where are the ERP standards?

    While it might be nice to have all this but why be disappointed when things you want have clear reasons for not being available?

  • Hello Chris, First of all thank you for your honest view. Disagreement is good basis for discussion and good chance to find truth.

    I will try to put my arguments in front of your comments.

    >> 3D Search: The biggest problem I see with 3D Search is that people see it separately from “other ways to find something”. Definitely, there is small value in pure 3D Search. But, if we will be able to bring 3D Search in context and integrated with other criteria, I think value of 3D will be multiplied.

    >> Viewers. I think you took viewer capability too narrow. In my view, this is about to provide robust way to visualize content, remove constraint, improve performance, make it device independent etc. We are not there in my view. People put 2D image since this is the most simple and comfortable way to do it today.

    >> Interoperability. Yes, we don’t. This is big problem. The question if we want to have it? -Not sure. Another question – do we need it? – Yes.

    >> I think both ERP and PLM have different perspective on BOM. They are complicated, have overlapping rules and cannot be implemented separately without affecting major performance characteristics of organization. This is why they fight for BOM, instead of define how to collaborate between BOMs.

    >> Standards. I think ERP space have more commonly agreed standards, rules and procedures. Such as In PLM situation is even worst…

    I’m waiting to get your comments and view!. Thanks-Oleg

  • 3D search – sure it would be better mixed with other means of search but I think the facts are it does not really add that much value even mixed in with other approaches. If I am searching for a motor I will find it faster with other parameters like shaft dia and hp. Maybe 3D could offer value for small parts like some bracket, but I need to model something to do the search so I’m already partially completed. Seems like technology looking for a problem.

    Viewers – Maybe this should not be called viewers? Maybe what you mean is access. If so I agree that access should be improved. This is certainly going to be improved through WEB based approaches versus monolithic closed solutions.

    CAD Interop – We don’t need it. We have proved we don’t need it. Design is about interface management. So as long as you manage your interfaces you can very simply use multiple CAD systems that don’t talk to each other.

    PLM & ERP Integration – The PLM and ERP BOM are very different. One is about planning and one is about execution. It would be intertesting to explore what work with the BOM can be done without the CAD models.

    Standards – You cannot count the ARMY. Commercial examples are the only ones that count. The ARMY is doing this to effect themselves. This is not an example of the ERP market providers embracing standards. This is an example of a buyer trying to control the seller.

  • Chris,
    To search for whole motor doesn’t make sense. But imaging case you are working on particular geometry or model problem and you can find all models where you had similar problem? Make sense? Also agree, similar small details in context of configuration/model/supplier/manufacturing site (this is combined search example).

    I don’t care if we need to call “viewers” differently. I mean something that allows me to have appropriated visual access to what I created. What is important – any device, appropriated quality (not always I need the same) and ability to keep IT rights.

    I’d define CAD interoperability differently. I certainly will not translate just to have it in the same CADs. I mean, today what we create in one CAD is not interoperable with other CAD or different versions of the same CAD. You’ve been married on CAD system you work and this is doesn’t make sense. So, this is not about how to work with interfaces or without interfaces, this is about how to keep your IP separately from CAD and use any CAD you want.

    PLM and ERP Bills are different. I agree. They are about different aspects of planning- design/engineering and manufacturing. Since there is impact between them in both direction and this impact can be significant for business to improve operation, the face we wasn’t able to have this solution in place is very disappointing.

    And finally – standards. I don’t suggest to count on Army. They created standards, since they probably more organized. Our industry haven’t created widely adopted standards and this is shows industry maturity. This is advanced option of CAD interoperability. As an example, you need to keep your IP (not only design) for long period of time. You want to insure level of compatibility. I’m sure we can find many others, like supply chain optimization etc. But it doesn’t happen… yet.

  • Jovan

    Oleg, it’s a real pleasure to read you everyday, you just reactivate my mind on many many topics!
    3D seach = have you looked what google hs done with 3D wharehouse? when you are on a shape, you can “See other models shaped like this”. That works quite fine! actually the best I have seen so far!

  • #5 Shape search

    Oleg wrote:

    “The CAD and PLM industries probably developed the most advanced capabilities to create 3D models, design products and everything around us. But they are pretty unsuccessful at being able to find them, once designed.”

    Chris, putting aside ‘3D search’ for now, do you disagree with Oleg’s statement? If you don’t know a part number, which assembly a part was used, or your parts are classified badly, then it can be nightmare to find a part in a PLM system.

    Chris wrote:

    “Maybe 3D could offer value for small parts like some bracket, but I need to model something to do the search so I’m already partially completed.”

    The costs of part proliferation extend well beyond the labour cost of building a 3D model. You’ve got to do the drawings, work out process plans, get quotes for manufacture etc.. Then you’ve got increased purchasing costs – you’ve now got two parts at smaller batch sizes rather than one bigger batch. Inventory costs are increased because you’re carrying two parts
    where you could have had one. Overhead costs of administering, documenting, qualifying and distributing the new part are also increased. And so on. A large company recently told us they’d done a study and found that on average each new part
    introduction cost them £5000.

    As I see it, if you want to avoid these costs, you’ve got to make it easier for the designer to find and reuse an old part than to take out a new part number and design a new part. This is challenging.

    What criteria do you want to search by? It depends on what you’re looking for and what you know about it. As you point out you wouldn’t look for a motor by shape. You’d use the parameters that were relevant. Equally though, there are circumstances where you don’t know what attributes to search by and browsing by shape can get you to the part you want. I wholeheartedly agree with Oleg that some ideal future ‘search for product data’ incorporates all these criteria, along with appropriate filtering and visualization. There’s real value there.


    Or perhaps you just look it up in your ERP’s BoM 🙂

  • Jos Voskuil

    Oleg hi, reading your post today I share very much Chris’s first reaction – there is not so much reason for disapointment.
    I believe it is a given strategy of most of the vendors to be open only in their context.

    Before the 3D search we had the hype of the multiple views that a PLM system should support (I believe DH Brown wrote a white paper on that around 2001). Now we have become more 3D and want to execute the concept in 3D instead of tree structures

    Also integrating PLM and ERP are clear capabilities for me, the only place where it fails is in the companies where you implmement, because of historical and political reasons – not the PLM or ERP providers but the departments inside the company who battle for their territory. We are not used (yet) to share pieces of the master data – we want all the master data to be managed by one system.

    As coming from Europe I know integrating different countries, cultures, languages into one European Union is the same. Yes we can have standards, but No we don’t give up our own color.

  • Jovan, My pleasure. Re Google 3D Warehouse – see my PLM prompt from today-

  • Andy, what will be very interesting is to have integrated 3D with something PLM today have. We discussed it back to COFES this year. Enjoyed your comments and wait for Chris now :)… Oleg.

  • Jos,

    You wrote: <<>> So, from my standpoint even if companies build strategies to be closed, this is not enough reason not to be disappointed by that. In my view by playing open strategies, ISV can make industry as whole stronger. However it may introduce different challenges for ISVs and require to develop new competitive strategies. On the other side, stronger industry (in this case PLM) can be able to compete with outside world (for PLM, this is ERP, IT vendors etc.)

    I’m not sure got your point with regards to Trees and 3D analogy. Sorry.

    Re PLM/ERP – it’s always easy to blame politics and organizational problems. However, imagine Google will blame website creators in the case they cannot index their sites (actually they workout lots of very complicated problem). So, in PLM/ERP case, this is state of mind. The right solution and/or technology will come in the future, in my view.

    Standards is something that create wide acceptance and openness. Today business is global, therefore I don’t see why industry vendors cannot build certain common denominator. Btw – they did. Examples like STEP and IGES. There are some more, but still not enough… therefore I disappointed…


  • Boris


    I think that the PLM/ERP integration story is bad because its hard. Since both the PLM and the ERP worlds are dynamic in their definition any integration will also have to be fluid. If you look at the internet world you’ll find lots of other failed attempts at integration, other then email, what else really works well together?

    At the high levels the BOMs look like they could be both in PLM and ERP, but the reality is that each system has its own distinct needs, its an impedance mismatch, if you will.

    Attempts by vendor of one system type, to make the other system type have also failed.

  • Oleg,

    Nice article. Having looked at PDM and PLM from three viewpoints (user, developer, implementer/consultant), I believe that the reason PDM/PLM integration is hard is because companies (i.e. end users / customers) make it hard.

  • Boris, Thanks for comments and welcome to discussion on plmtwine!. I agree with you- BOM problem between ERP and PLM (which is core of integration) is complicated and vary from customer to customer. BOMs are influenced by many people and process on both sides (engineering and manufacturing). To keep them separate, create very not efficient system; to make them work together is hard, as you mentioned.

  • Jeff, Agree. This is hard problem. Mostly because there are multiple complexity – technological, social, functional (not necessary in this order). Welcome to discussion on pltwine! come again… Best-Oleg.

  • Re. PLM/ERP integration

    I don’t know much about ERP, but in my naivety it seems the problem (at least in part) is that a hierarchical tree-based data structure isn’t rich enough to model all of the relationships between parts and assemblies in an enterprise.

    From an exclusively PLM perspective, a tree-structure suffices to model the relationships in an engineering BoM. From an ERP perspective, a tree-structure suffices to model the relationships in a manufacturing BoM. But the fact that these are different suggests they’re merely views onto a more complicated enterprise level product structure.

    This more complicated structure isn’t explicitly modelled anywhere. Instead it’s implicitly modelled with competing BoMs and integration and synchronisation code – not an ideal, easy to maintain, way of doing it.


  • Lets look at 3D Search from a business point of view. The CAD market is considered to be a small and difficult market and PLM is considered to be smaller and more difficult. At least from a VC point of view… So 3D Search is going to be a very small market! From a company point of view how many people make decisions on parts to use in the design? On a team it is really one, the project manager… So it is small again. Yes a few CAD guys on the team might need it, but a project manager will need to tell one of them “see if there is something already designed”… From a process point of view many designers will tell you they know there is a part already designed but they don’t want to use it because they will not have control over the design of it, the first project will… From a CAD guy point of view they are paid to model so why look for something that is done?

    3D Search for me is a technology looking for a solution. Maybe this will change in the future, but for now this is where I stand. And even if people wanted it, the market is just to small…

  • Andy, you are right. Complex modeling was one of the reasons why PLM/ERP integration technology wasn’t successful. Since, they multiple-present in both systems PLM and ERP having complex rules and relationships to make it work well is not simple. -Oleg.

  • Chris, I think you are taking 3D Search technology too narrow. I’m sure 3D Search will have big market in the future. But today, because technology around this are very limited what you said is right. This is basically main point of my disappointment … I agree with you – solution for 1-2 designers in department- is too small business. But there are few trends in my view to move it forward in the future. Cloud data and cloud services will increase amount of 3D Data we need to search for. Consumer oriented 3D services. May be something that will allow me to search “what other people likes visually”. Who knows… I’m just thinking in loud. Remember, 10 years ago, nobody thought that regular search will change our life. Today we can see… Regards, Oleg.

  • I agree that like google search 3D will be something ‘IN THE FUTURE’ that we will wonder how we lived without. I just think this will be far into the future. What I think is more interesting and viable today is 3D notification or sumbscription. Meaning let me be notified of anything that happens within a space I care about.

  • Chris,
    3D Notification. This is something I had in my mind before and called 3D RSS… It make sense.

  • This is a concept we have planned for vuuch. Just like you can invite a person to a discussion you will be able to invite a part and or a 3d space. This way you do not need to know who specificly needs to be involved, just let vuuch figure it out.

  • Chris, This is interesting concept. Actually, as we discussed, when you select in 3DLive a specific part, you can see who are people related and/or working on this part. I believe details are different, but main concept to have 3D context is similar. -regards,Oleg.

  • Interesting comments about interoperability. Just to be clear, I work for TransMagic – a company that develops and sells interoperability (data exchange, translation, etc) software.

    Just to add to the interoperability issue, it isn’t just moving 3D data between CAD systems. That is just one small part. What about getting accurate 3D data to CAM or analysis or simulation or any other person who deals with 3D data.

    At a recent conference on interoperability (can someone please make an easier word), there was a great deal of discussion about getting 3D data to users who were not CAD experts but need to use the data – i.e. marketing, documentation, manufacturing, analysis, simulation.

    This isn’t just a CAD vendors issue, it is an issue with anyone using 3D data. And then throw in PLM/PDM and it is a huge problem.


  • chrisg

    I agree on the following points:

    5) 3D search IS needed when looking for small tooling and fixture-like components. I agree with others that motors, etc cam be found better using HP and shaft size, if like us, you have a ‘family table’ or similar for this component. Worse is the rest button, lever arm, ejector rod, etc… that has been designed for the fifth time in ten years and only noticed when the wrong one is used in an assembly.

    4) 3D viewers. We are using Spinfire with good results opening IGES, STEP, Pro-E, Solidworks, and CATIA parts (not sure about assemblies) I would think that 3D pdf will help here. I look forward to seeing ‘thumbnails’ of my parts, etc.. in Windows directories similar to Solidworks viewer.

    3) This is a not issue. Our biggest customers said ‘read CATIA!’ We use Transmagic software to pass models back and forth, but downstream for us we use STEP exclusively. We are nervous about giving native models to our sub-suppliers. No CAD vendor wants true interoperability.

    2) PDM to PLM / ERP this is difficut, because one system has to be the ‘last word’. If the Engineers did not revise products often, it doesn’t matter. I’d like to know how the EDA people do it. Electronic boards and assemblies are WAY more complicated than anything else I know.

    1) Can’t argue with others on this topic. I agree it is linked to CAD interop.

    Overall, when organizations are willing to pay others to re-model parts to get them in their CAD system all of the above won’t come to pass anytime soon.

  • Hello Christopher, Welcome to plmtwine discussion and thanks a lot for your insight and thoughts!… I got right to my point on #5. I think to be able to bring right 3D Search in context of design work is something that really beneficial. Let’s call it contextual 3D search will be probably right way to go. On #4 – viewer need to be seamless and absolutely transparent. We are not there yet. Therefore you will cannot see it. 3D PDF have chance, but royalties for viewing components is still to high. On #3, I agree – no CAD vendor want, but question assuming you can achieve it, will customer benefits from this or not? On #2, I guess EDA is using special tools for manufacturing and these tools are well integrated with EDA CAD tools… not sure about this. In general, on #1, I think industry in general, can benefit of growing standardization level. Not everything can be standardized, but should be established right balance. So, I’m not sure we are in the right place on this. Electronic industries achieved more in standardization. Take, for example, Rosetta Net effort…. Best. Oleg

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  • Geometric Ltd. has endeavored to provide a solution for the 3D Search. Please feel free to browse the below link to get an insight into how Geometric is addressing this pain area in an effort to help increase reusability and reduce time to locate the required part.

  • Ravi, thanks for link! Best, Oleg./

  • Ken, thanks for your comments! I agree, of course, interoperability is not only issue for 3D CAD. I just think this is starts in 3D CAD… I had chance to attend 3D CIC (this is short name for this conference in Estes park, CO). Best regards, Oleg

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