What We Are Losing By Going From CAD to PLM?

What We Are Losing By Going From CAD to PLM?

Do you remember the time before PLM? Time, when our focus was about CAD and Product Data Management? With all latest developments around Product Lifecycle Management and collaborative business processes, I think we lost some important grounds related to the critical data management issues related to engineering and product development.

CAD and related Design solutions is the biggest source of engineering data produced in the organization. For the last decades CAD and other design-related systems produced huge amount of engineering data – models, drawings, bill of materials, analyzes and more… These pieces of data are very critical to the organization from the standpoint of making product related decisions.

On the other side, product lifecycle management is running forward and shifting focus on how to optimize business processes in the organization. The new PLM solutions is very focused on how to define and run organizational processes related to product design, manufacturing, support, disposal, etc.

But here is the point. I think these two pieces become more and more disconnected. By shifting focus on the process-oriented environment vendors are losing their grounds in data management. Today design and related product knowledge is pretty locked in the systems that used to produce this information. PLM systems are not focusing on how to make this information managed and available inside of the enterprise. The solutions like 3DVIA composer, PTC Arbotext, Autodesk Inventor Publisher are good initial signs, but they are too much focused on geometry and very little on data.

What is my conclusion today? PLM is too much focused on how to capture processes and make it visible on CIO level. It obviously comes from the interest to compete with existing ERP and other solutions. However, on that way PLM is losing some core business related to the ability properly manage product and design data. We need to get back to product management roots and analyze what we still need to accomplish there.

Just my thought…
Best, Oleg


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  • sounds like Back to Basics…


  • Yoann, Thanks for comment! Yes, I think fast moving to process-orientation leaves a lot of unsolved problems in mainstream product data management. If I will play an analogy of ERP industry formation, we can see that fundamentals of MRP/MRPII were much before current migrations of ERP to become a business platform in the organization. Best, Oleg

  • Cam Bickel

    I think good management of product design data is fundamental to PLM so perhaps it is take for granted. It corresponds to accounting information in ERP. Just as every ERP transaction ultimately hits the general ledger all PLM process should revolve around the product record.

    I agree that the high profile attention is paid to expanding the PLM footprint and it seems that innovation in the core PDM aspect does not get noticed, but advances are being made in features and integration possibilities.

    PLM should be built on a core of excellent, not just adequate, management of product design data. That would be a good make or break criteria for system selection.

  • Cam, Thanks for your comment. I liked how you emphasized “excellence” in the ability to manage product design data. The interesting point I’d like to figure out is that to manage “product record” is not a trivial task. Especially when product record is distributed in space and time. Best, Oleg

  • Oleg

    I don’t agree with your view. In my opinion, PLM systems have actually increased the emphasis on product data management. Process excellence is not possible without good data (management and governance).
    By combining processes related to NPI, procurement etc within PLM systems it is now easier to construct / create part numbers in PLM and automatically drive placeholder creation in CAD (which greatly alleviates pains faced by engineers) and subsequent release of part numbers and CAD documents to suppliers.
    In addition, PLM systems can support manage all supporting data for design in addition to CAD data normally stored in PDM systems like product release/phase gate process requirements (MRD, PRD, test data, validation), design reviews etc…The key is to enable a single stop for all product information not just CAD/drawings/spec sheets within PLM.

    I think more needs to be done on knowledge management within CAD and working towards delivering more on the capability and potential of CAD. I had blogged on these topics (http://improveprocess.blogspot.com/2009/08/how-to-manage-knowledge-within-cad.html and http://improveprocess.blogspot.com/2009/07/has-cad-delivered-on-its-promise.html) comments are welcome…

  • Swati, You are right when assume that in order to have good NPI processes, your data management needs to be on the level of excellence. The problem I see, is that products (and companies) shift focuses and leaves some of the requirements not released. What you defined as a key (single stop for product information) is a not achievable goal in most of the organization. When everybody understood that target cannot be achieved, their actual results falling sharp down. This kind of situation creates an excuse and becomes a norm. The example you put in your blog (Multiple studies have indicated that 25-40% of designs are duplicates) is a result of wasteful and low quality data management in the organization happens at the time when the organization is shifting focus on processes management and KPIs… Thanks for your comment and disagreement :)… Best, Oleg

  • Not Important

    Well true what is being said What is missing is Data connectivity.
    I would not put arbortext in the same box as 3D Via and Publisher ( a light 3dvia).
    Arbortex is about data gathering and data redndering/publishing in an integrated manner with PLM information. And is more about textual information. ( when talking about Arobortex product)
    When you talk about Itedo like 3 Dvia and Publisher) then we are comparing apple to apple.

    And it is true that we are talking about 3 D content being shared only.

    Was there before 3 D and PDM associated a way to share data and manage Data ?

    Other than ERP I do not see any system in use out there ?

    Data management is evolving but it is really dedicated to provide a day to day support to design process as a first proprity and to make the data accessible to downstream and upstream application.
    if we try to do more then we are getting in other fields liek ERP ….

  • Dear Not Important, Thanks for commenting. Agree about your point with regards to data connectivity. This is missing point and actually missed link in many product data management solutions. With regards to Arbotext, I’m less familiar with these tools (in comparison to 3DVIA), however looking on the following description I can think about matching capabilities – “Arbortext is an end-to-end product information delivery system that automates the authoring and publishing processes for the delivery of high quality, tailored product information in the form of operator manuals, service documentation, and eLearning courseware”. 3DVIA composer is also the tool can be used to prepare manuals, manufacturing instructions, etc. This is “similar” to 3DVIA Composer ideas. Where do you see a difference? I think usage of these products are not limited to 3D Contact Sharing. They are more combining new type of content by re-using 3D and other information. Data management should be, in my view, be responsible of moving data about design downstream/upstream, but today, as you mentioned, it is only providing basic function to make it accessible for designers (i.e. Revisions, changes, etc.) Best, Oleg

  • DickTerleth


    I must agree with Cam Bickel, Data Management is (or should I say SHOULD be) an essential part of PLM. But how to manage data without a process?? That was the early days of PDM when we were happy to have a vault to consolidate data after Engineering release. Then PDM was an Engineering application, but PLM has expanded the usage of Product Data outside Engineering.

    PLM is about managing PRODUCTS through the Lifecycle, managing the information (data) about products should be an integral part of that process.

    However, I think a lot of companies are still in need of a good PDM solution…although PLM salesguys like to sell them PLM…

  • Dick, Thanks! Formally, most of PLM solutions have data management or product data management or even more… collaborative product data management). Now, think about, how many of data are un-managed and died inside of CAD (CAM/CAE…) files? This is what I called “bad data management”. Now, instead of think how to improve it, companies are running to “process”. Of course, process sounds attractive and data management sounds boring… So, what we are trying to build is “process management solutions” on top of lousy data management tools. Don’t you think so? Best, Oleg

  • Oleg-

    As usual, you make some compelling points.

    But I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition between good data mngt and process-focus. I wrote a bit about it here: http://bit.ly/bxUMMI


  • Fredrik

    Tom you are my hero…but i am interested what Oleg meant with “PLM systems are not focusing on how to make this information managed and available inside of the enterprise”…and the tools like the Arbortext series should be focused on geometry. I think Arbortext will be the bridge for the more document centric departments to understand the value of detailed engineering data when you easily can tailor your message for the audience and stay integral/linked to the source data and get notice if any changes are on the way. Utilizing different consumption format like dmp,html or even stupid pdf format to get the VP HR to actually understand the product and business value his/her company are offering the market. I doubt as you that the HR person will log in to the PLM tool or use tools like 3dvia…..Please don’t put Arbortext in the same corner of the PLM map.

  • Tom, Thanks for your comment. It is the honor for me to be on top of PTC blog! The stress my point- PDM is the fundamental roots of PLM. To be able to manage Product Data (with all aspects) is “the must” functionality. For the moment, I see lots of product-related data is still not managed at the time we are making ourselves excited about process optimization. I can find many examples when basic CAD/PDM fails and team just cannot get to “process implementation”. In today market condition, “back to roots” strategy can be a very interesting. What is you view on that? Best, Oleg

  • Fredrik, Thank you for your comment and welcome! My main point is that most of PLM tools today are not focusing on how to expose data they manage. Proprietary data formats, incompatible schema, etc. Note, I’m not talking about CAD data. After many years, vendors still have no agreements with regards to industry standards. STEP is probably, the only success on top of the long lists of failures. Tools like 3DVIA Composer, Arbotext and similar are focused on how to unlock data from CAD and expose it outside of CAD. So, their main objectives to create non-CAD accessible model. However, fundamental is geometry. Hope it answers on your question. Let me know if you have more questions… Best, Oleg

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