Do We Have Enough Maps in PLM?

For many years Maps are one of the most popular ways to interact with the environment. In my view, thinking in terms of a map is something that makes people clearer understand the situation. I think, integration of maps in computer systems was very slow until two fundamental events happened – 1/ popularization of GPS and location devices, 2/ combination of search and map. Today, I hardly can imaging our computer interfaces without a map option.

I’ve been thinking about possible implementation of Maps in Product Lifecycle Management. Actually, my first thoughts wasWhy do we need it? PLM Is not GPS – we don’t need to map directions etc .. However, second thinking was different. I see mapbased user interface can be very powerful from many aspects:

1. We are working in a global environment. Connection between people is very important. I think, people feel better connected when they see themselves on the map. So, by integrating map services in collaboration you can improve communication.

2. Activity of manufacturing companies is also very GEO oriented. To be able to project various data on the map can create a very interesting user experience. Sometime, you can see trends that you can hardly see without the map user interface. For example, by projecting reported problem in your product onto the map, you can discover country/GEO based problems in your product design or maintenance. Actually, I can see many additional cases.

Playing around a map topic, I found an interesting serviceMaker. Maker allows you to create interactive maps with embedding a lot of additional data. I found it as a pretty cool service. Actually, this service is featuring in a very good way a potential in Map based user experience.

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Of, course Maker is not the only one. And I’m not getting to analyze all use cases Google Map has today. However, I want to share this with you and ask – do you see use cases for Mapbased user experience in your Product Lifecycle Management implementations? Does it make sense? Can it improve user adoption? Collaboration?

Please, let me know what do you think?

Best, Oleg


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  • Francois


    What I like in your blog, is your ability to make a step back, analyse what is existing in other domains than PLM, and try to figure out if a good idea here could be reuse there, or not, in PLM applications.
    I don’t know smarteam, but I guess there is a lot of good ideas coming from you, like transparent process, map display, and so on, right?

    Seriously, map displays for user adoption is key. All kind of map, meaning graphic display.

    Regarding geographic maps, I see one use case where data contains geographic data, and there is a lot: people location, R&D Centers, plants, customer locations… The question is: Does the user better knows the geographic location of the data he is looking for, than the company name, or the project name, or the project ID, or…?

    I can figure out that the answer is yes, simply because there is no deep business knowledge behing geographic data, that the user needs to know, compared to a project codification, which might contain a so intelligent naming convention that nobody knows it. The key point in that use case is: the search starting point.
    Let’s take an example:
    A company has a project to create a new product using 2 different R&D centers, 4 plants, with financial approval in HQ, with customer approval from 2 different locations. How a given end user (in one of those locations) can find the specification of this product? Program code? Search document in 2 different systems? Call a friend?

    My 2 cents.

  • Vladislav

    Oleg, it’s really very interesting, buuuuuut… 🙂 how to realize it? In what way?

    I think that answer(s) to that question will be not so easy.

    How to add to PDM-system graphical (real graphical) interface…?

  • Francois, Thanks for your comment! There are some initial signs of map services in V6, but still, I think, this is a place where I’d be looking for more inovation in the near future. Best, Oleg

  • Vladislav, Consider we are web/soa/open/…. we can integrate with services like Google Map easy… did I miss something? Best, Oleg

  • Remi Renaud

    On the lighter side…

    If you don’t know where you are, a map won’t help
    – Watts S Humphrey

    If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do
    – Chinese Proverb

    There you go, and there you are.
    So wherever you go, there you are.
    – Buckaroo Bonsai


  • Remi, Great associations :)… Thanks! Oleg

  • Vladislav

    >we can integrate with services like Google Map easy

    Oleg, what do you want to look like google map? Just map of sites?… Hmm… Sorry, but I dont’ have any ideas about that…

  • Loic

    Hi Oleg,

    Maps for knowing where to go??? So obvious and simple that the idea seems so strange… Why does nobody already implemented it…

    Thanks, I find the idea VERY strong, and relevant. Just as Remi and Francois said, it is surely not usefull for everyone…

    Basically said, only the captain need a map…

    Less basically, I really think it is an interessant way to look at. I maybe only fears the use and implementation of it, particulary if PLM editors say : here is map capabilities… you can do what you whant with it!

    I don’t know if studies in this directions are already done, but it could be a great idea for a thesis subject…

  • Loic

    I forgot to say that I can easily imagine a direct application for managment of people, resources, maintenance, marketing, etc. ie: everything that already physically exists…

    ERP are then in a way maybe more appropriated for such an approach.

    I do agree, the idea is a little far from product development, but PLM is far more a global approach as that editors sells…

  • Loic

    why do you limit maps to geographical maps?

  • Vladislav, Map (and Google Map is just an example) becomes very interesting if you put additional information. This is all about visualization, usability and user adoption. Definitely, information can be presented using lists, but my guess that by using maps as one of the user experience option we will get much bigger customer adoption. Best, Oleg

  • Loic, Thanks for your thoughts and comments! GEO maps is something that was very successful in consumer world. I think, there is an opportunity to find dedicated scenarios and I’m not sure, but may be somebody already doing so. In my view, from PLM perspective to connect physical and virtual worlds maps can work well. In general, maps are not only GEO, but this is in my view different… Best, Oleg

  • Douglas


    I can think of at least one example of a combination of Maps and PLM. In this case it is already over 12 years old. It comes in the shape of a combination of a GIS system (Geographical Information System)and the link to a document management system. It was used for the development of a line infrastructure (=railroad or road) in this case a railroad from Rotterdam to the German border. I think that a more modern combination of GIS and PLM is a very interesting one to develop as the Civil Engineering procesess are still very backward in their application of PLM in general.

  • Douglas, Thank you very much for your comment! Indeed GIS and other building related issues are more covered and they are more straightforward. I think, a lot of them are under focus of various AEC and BIM (which conceptually is very similar to PLM, in my view). Best, Oleg