Who wants to manage Product Data?

One of the ambitious goals PLM puts in front of strategists, implementors and developers is to manage a product lifecycle from early on (requirements, initial product designs) and until the end of product lifecycle towards manufacturing, supply chain and disposal processes. At first glance, it sounds like a great idea, as it looks like PLM is on a fundamentally unique track of providing this solution to a customer…. but, here is the problem. I think that PLM is not really unique when it comes to the company’s landscape, and there are many different systems in organization claim to manage product data.

So, I decided to cluster a few tools from different areas to outline who are these “PLM” competitors to data in an organization. So far, I found five fundamental product domains.

  1. Content Management. This is company document storage. Most of the companies in this area are working primarily on documents, the ability to put them on the shelf, manage their access and lifecycles.  Since most of product lifecycle information in the end becomes a “document”  I’d put this companies on ‘Red Alert J…
  2. ERP /MRP. This is a traditional neighbor and competitor. PLM and ERP/MRP have been “competing” against each other for many years. I discussed this issue many times on blog. I don’t predict a “system expansion”. Many ERP vendors have a solution with a specific PLM flavor. We can see them and what they offer on the market.  These systems can evolve and claim to manage even more product data in the future.
  3. Business Process Management. This is a newly emerged trend. In my view, the BPM market is relatively small in manufacturing, and therefore BPM tools will feel they need to work out their potential in  PLM cases as well.
  4. MDM – Master Data Management has a relatively good adoption rate by big enterprise customers. In my view, as MDM cannot scale down, I’d provide limited importance to being able to compete with PLM. Indeed, we need to pay specific attention when we plan for enterprise PLM.
  5. Collaboration Tools and Applications. Hot topic. People are looking how to collaborate better. Various collaboration tools are looking at how to improve data management solutions too. With the introduction of Google Wave and the expanded future offering of MS SharePoint 2010, collaboration tools definitely can expand their offering to a more specific PLM space. There is a potential danger from the low end.

So, how will PLM be able to compete with these systems successfully?  This is a big question – which is why I’m asking for your advice and feedback here, as well as find out what else you have in mind.


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  • Roberto Picco

    Oleg, I don’t see the competition between PLM and other domains. I think “integration” is the magic word. My next challenge will be an integration, a link, a bridge, whatever, between a proprietary ERP and Enovia/ST. I can assure you it’s a BIG challenge. There are not only technical difficulties, but cultural ones too. The former can be tamed with knowledge, the latter must be managed with psychology. Don’t forget the human factor in PLM success/failure…

  • Roberto, Agree. Combined management of data and integration is also challenge in my view. And human… yes, in my view humans perceive “data management = complex” -> bad :(…

  • Hello Oleg,

    I’m also agree with Roberto, that all those solutions are not competing between each other, but they have to be integrated into a entire development environment.
    I think ENOVIA/Matrix One is focused to do it better than ST.

  • Keyur Kachhadia

    Hello, I fairly agree with the previous replyies that these are not competing soultions but instead complimentary solutions. They have fair degree of overlap with each other.. But i guess thats good as it would ensure nothing lands up in no man’s land. The key is to integrate them all and a proper implementation plan to outline what things need to be taken care by whom in the areas of overlap, thus ensuring efficiency.
    Alost all plm solution will offer you some sort of integation capabilites, but leading PLM solution such as Windchill offer you the versatality to integrate at various level within both plm solution as well your other applications.

  • Hello Keyur, thanks for commenting! I agree, these solutions are not competing from functional standpoint, but they have significant degree of touching related product data. So, integrated is the most important key. I’ve seen many integrations solutions. In the end all of them quite complex. Can you share you experience how you can have integration using Windchill tools? Best Regards, Oleg.

  • Arthur, Agree. MatrixOne federation capabilities can do nice work from my standpoint to federate data comes from different environments. Did you have this capabilities implemented in your organization? Thanks, Oleg

  • Keyur Kachhadia

    Hello Oleg,

    Windchill has a federated architect., in fact it is the first one to have that and which lead to all other packs of plm suits to follow.
    It follows open standards and its internal structure itself is service oriented (SOA is the buzz). You can use a middle ware application such as tibco to IBM’s mq series to integrate it with your ERP’s
    You could pull or push data to and from windchill using those. Almost all of windchill’s functions, you can get it done using XML’s meaning you just need to push data in xml’s from ERP’s or other applications.
    You could even create your own services to run within windchill and use it to do certain tasks or fetch / edit data directly from some other databases or applications.

    I would not say that its all very complex, but its just laborious initially.

    you could visit the ptc.com to look into official capabilities of windchill,
    and you can contact the IBM team for implementing. They offer a range of services in this area to suit your needs.


  • Keyur, I think, I’m familiar with this capability of Windchill. This is called Info*Engine and it was acquired around 1999 from auxilium. Is it what you mean? Thanks, Oleg.

  • Keyur Kachhadia

    yeah info engine. info engine does serve you as data mining engine.
    But just info engine is not the limit. you could also use ESI connectors to formally connect to well know ERP’s.
    You could as well write services using java to run in method servers and these could make use of existing windchill services and viceversa and your client layer could user combination of all above to present data from various places.

  • Keyur, thanks! Connectors is loooong story. Some of them… Time ago IBM acquired CrossWorld and made them part of WebSphere (inc great deal of connectors). MS is using various connectors for BizTalk. In DS, there are also connectors and infrastructure for federation/integration. Similar stories exists for many enterprise vendors, I assume… Oleg

  • Keyur Kachhadia

    I was referring to ESI conector in Windchill (a module in the windchill)

    [Oleg] got it… thanks!