Do We Need Reporting Standards in PLM?

Do We Need Reporting Standards in PLM?

I want to raise discussion about reporting in PLM. We don’t see it much in marketing materials about PLM. I asked myself why? Maybe in there is no need for reports? Maybe the way to present report is obsolete and people are interested to see information by using normal UI of PLM and other systems? If it is so, why so many customers are in love from their “PLM Excels” with all information presented in cells and rows? My hunch is that we have a problem here… Yesterday I had chance to read blog by Joe Barkai about PLM and Sustainability, which led me to some reporting standards initiatives. So, it was a trigger to investigate it more in deep.

Reports in PDM/PLM systems
In my view, reports in PDM and PLM systems are on the very primitive level. Technologically, they seem as an obvious and during evaluation, customers, are ending up by the conclusion that all is possible, and they can extract, re-format, modify data when they will be a real need to do so. However, in practice, reports are rarely coming to the agenda of implementers (correct me, please, if I’m wrong), since normally, they’re so much other things to do…

Hidden Loss
The problem, I see that absence of reporting capabilities is not allowing to the customers to get information about a product in a timely manner and in a readable form. When user interfaces are complicated, most of the users that might be interested to see information, actually cannot put their hands on it.

Is there a place for Reporting Standards?
I don’t see any standard activity in this place, for the moment. However, getting back to IDC blog post,  as much as we can see growing regulation activities, I’d expect increases in potential to establish reporting standards. So, requests for reports will come from regulators. In these case , regulations, will play a role of the trigger in establishing of reporting standards.

What is my conclusion? In my view, reporting capabilities are undervalued by PLM systems today. PLM vendors see reports as a commodity with low value. The reporting activities for the best are part of PLM services and/or implementers. However, looking again, I’d expect to grow an interest from customers to have the ability to provide reports based on data we have in PLM systems. What do you think? What was your “reporting” experience with PLM?

Best, Oleg



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  • Swati Ranganathan

    Excellent Post.

    I have long been disappointed by the functionality or lack of for reporting within PDM and PLM systems…Over the years, I tapped into the database directly and figured out the table schema and constructed my own reporting solutions…

    In previous posts/comment exchange we discussed how the implementation is tricky because of lack of standard processes across companies…this has a big impact on what reports are necessary. In addition, customizing standard out of box reports can be painful and tricky…sometimes these reports could become performance bottlenecks as well.

    I would recommend that the PLM software companies offer a decoder ring or data cube so that users can tap in and extract what they need. Better integration with common BI solutions would also be very helpful.

    With increased pressures from compliance (FDA/RoHS/Wee/Reach), templates to support standard data requests would be very convenient and useful to the end users within engineering, supply chain and logistics.

  • Stephen Porter

    I too agree the reporting capability in most PLM tools is not sufficient for most users. The real challenged in standardization however is getting everyone to agree on what the standards should be. In my experience there uis a lot of variation from company to company in this area even in the Regulatory reports.

    The vendors try and use reporting as a differentiator but I think it would make senses to have a export feature out of PLM that would more easily allow third party solutions to create reports as needed for each client. I realize there are reporting tools available today but most aren’t always compatible with all PLM tools. Many of these products actually mine data directly from the database which in my mind is a bad idea. If we had an export standard like PDX which would allow for companies to create their own reports I think it would be very useful. Given the competitive nature of the industry and the natures of the vendors I don’t think a standard would get much support.

  • olegshilovitsky

    Swati, Thanks for comment. I like your idea with a data cube for reporting… This can be an interesting application. However, the biggest challenge for user can be… to understand what to retrieve. I think, in many cases, user actually doesn’t know what type of information they can extract. Completely agree with regards to compliance reports. It is on going and need to be addressed fast. Best, Oleg

  • olegshilovitsky

    Stephen, I think you are right by saying it is hard to agree on standards. However, I thought because “regulation” is something you have to accept, they can be the common denominator to agree on standard reporting features. To get the report from the database is not good, since most of PLM tools have pretty complicated data models and SQL-access won’t give you any benefits. However, competition kills, so it will take time until vendors will understand needs. Actually, the situation can be changed if vendors will have a benefit from openness…. The biggest question is how to do it. Thanks for comments! Best, Oleg

  • Dave

    Hi Oleg,
    I think that in many of the more sophisticated second generation PDM/PLM customers, the idea of reporting has changed. In the past customers wanted a report to look at, and communicated information to colleagues by printing and mailing these documents, now they want common ‘dashboards’ which can format and show live data simply by following a pre-configured url. They want simple applications to allow them to build and configure reporting and analytics data, based on user & role.
    The days of sending reports from dept to dept have gone. Users expect their PLM client to be appropriate for their role and the ‘report’ data that they need or need to communicate to colleagues is built ‘on the fly’ and on demand using the PLM applications.
    I see this technology and methodology becoming much more mainstream, live reports where a customer can change a process or design and immediately see the impact on sustainability or carbon footprint etc.
    Keep up the great work.

  • olegshilovitsky

    Dave, You are absolutely right! “Report” doesn’t mean to print it on paper. Live report (what is the funny word for marketing people :)) should come within browsers, dashboards, pre-configured URL etc… However, the interesting angle will be “historical” information reporting. I found, most of dashboards’ abuse “time perspective”. For many regulators, record of status/report at the specific time may be important. Best, Oleg

  • Hal McGee

    I think that most PLM systems supply some basic reports such as Indented Bills of Material, Summarized Bills of Material, Change Reports, some ability to do metrics around the various processes in the workflow. Where I see a critical weakness is in the ability to create reports based upon data structures over history or using fuzzy logic to do comparisons. My users will run two bill reports and then cut and paste in Excel to do comparisons. In the past I have attempted to automate this and ended in frustration. As far as data strucutures over time, we need to run reports for any given end item and know the history of every part that was used in the structure. What we found was the PLM vendor was giving us the history of the parts on the current BOM but not any parts that may have been deleted during the time horizon. We ended up creating custom reports to manage this. I have other examples where we need historical tracing and I have yet to see a PLM tool that will trace properly.

  • olegshilovitsky

    Hal, Thanks for your comment and welcome to PLM Think Tank! In my view, you figured out a very interesting scenario group – historical reports. And I agree, this is heavily missed in today’s systems. I worked on similar functionality. I know few systems that have such a functionality built-in (you can run “BOM compare” and figure out two versions of BOMs). After, you can export it into Excel. Let me know if you want to know more details about that. Best, Oleg

  • Hal McGee

    Oleg, The BOM compare tools I have seen tend to want to compare parts at a single level and cannot do a multilevel compare and want to match at the item with an exact match. Some of our tricks on running BOM compares is that we allow the user to enter a quantity for each part on a consolidated BOM and allow negative quantities. In the result any part with quantity zero is common to both and positive to the positive parts and negative unique to the negative parts. Another tool I developed is based on an older tool called print like matrix. The original PLM was just a cross tab query with the parents across the top and the single level children down the side with the quantity at the intersection. The version I wrote took that a step farther and did a summarized BOM for each parent.
    Also we allow break points in BOM and SumBOM generation. We have design content inside purchased parts, some groups must see all parts and will do a purchased explosion and other groups want to stop at the purchased level. I have not seen this feature in any off the shelf reporting tool. I can imagine other scenarios where this functionality could be used as well.

  • olegshilovitsky

    Hal, Thanks a lot for sharing your ideas and experience. In the past, we developed BOM comparison tool in SmarTeam which made a comparison by levels, but also multi-level. The matrix idea is interesting too. I’ve seen similar interfaces with implemented for configurations where columns are configuration, rows are parts and intersection specified in a particular part is included in this configuration. Thanks for commenting! Best, Oleg

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