What Is The Future of Integrated PLM Systems?

Few weeks ago I had chance to attend WTG Webinar Evolving from PDM to an Integrated PLM system at BAE Military Air Systems. The presentation was quite interesting and outlined main points of single integrated PLM system creation for the big organization as BAE. Large enterprise rganization has his own rules and this webinar outlined it very well – complex data models, huge chunks of legacy data, staged phases of the development (concept, design, release, service). The bottom line (seminar quote) – this is the most complex PLM implementation in Europe (or even may be in the world). Two things impressed me the most from the overall presentation: 1/ complexity of the overall data systems; 2/ integration efforts and data flow between different components.

These two things made me think about what is the future of Integrated PLM systems? What will be the evolution path of PLM systems? When I’m looking on successful PLM implementation, I see the extreme fit in how all components work together. Design, Engineering, Manufacturing – everything seems to be fit and work as a Swiss watch. However, I believe, the significant amount of work, requires to make this job done. For me, such complexity is always reflected in the overall cost. Every organization is different. So, if you plan to make such level of the integration for every organization, you need to be prepared for the same level of effort. Now, the next one – integration data flow. There are different stages, multiple data elements, components, statuses, exchange of information. To make it work requires fine tuning on a scale. This is impressive and scare. What if something doesn’t work or requires changes? Unfortunately, I didn’t find the answer on these questions. These are the future questions PLM implementations need to tackle with. How to replicate the success and maintain existing systems in the operational mode?

So, what is my conclusion today? There are two main factors that will define the future of PLM as an integrated enterprise system: 1/Cost of change; 2/ Mass adoption. The cost of change is very important, in my view. You can craft system on whatever level you want, but the moment of change comes very fast. I hope PLM vendors understand it and drive their strategic developments to these horizons. Modern manufacturing is very dynamic and will be even more in the future. The second factor is mass adoption. The large, unique and complex PLM systems need to learn how to replicate themselves into a smaller organization. I think, “integrated PLM” are not ready yet for this type of replication. This is another challenger for the future of the integrated PLM.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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  • Oleg,
    Could you please elaborate on what features / capabilities distinguish an “integrated PLM” system as compared to a “standard” PLM system? I’m also curious as to how BAE’s system is more complex that what Airbus uses for thousands of users across many, many sites across Europe to manage the design, testing, and manufacturing of the largest aircraft in the world — the A380.

  • Oleg,

    Another major A&D player, EADS, is going through the same process in trying to achieve harmonized collaboration leveraging PLM across its business units.

    EADS’ benchmark video on this explains their approach to this major transformation. http://www.youtube.com/ptcstudio#p/u/101/ev9fBhrAvrU

  • David, Thank you for a very good question! There is no standard vs. integrated PLM system in my view. PLM system for me is a more combination of applications / products responsible for the product development and manufacturing. When the number of the involved systems is growing, we are facing the need to integrate the all together- business processes, data, etc. I can figure out few potential scenarios of such integration depends on environment, specific systems and organization needs. Overall, bigger organizations have a tendency to big “PLM” or “Integrated PLM” implementations. Does it make sense to you? Best, Oleg

  • Matthew, Thanks for the comment and link! My point wasn’t specifically about BAE. I just used it as an example. I believe EADS is similar. However, I’d be glad to learn and compare. Best, Oleg

  • Vladimir

    Hello David,

    I think that doesn’t exist “integrated” PLM or even “standard” PLM. For me it’s just Product Lifecycle Managemnent and depends on the character of business, in this case military aerospace. I had the chance to look on this presentation and I do understand the adjective used by Oleg here that there is a lot of enterprise applications (non-PLM) which are integrated to PLM, some of them bidirectional and some by one way only.
    Because PLM is very dependant on the business e.g. how much the company cooperates with suppliers, how much is in-house production, how copmlex is the product, if it’s mass production etc. then the PLM customer can use different parts of the solution. I believe we can agree that aerospace even military aerospace is very complex (maybe most copmplex) regarding the processes and by using different apps. Based on this it’s quite complicated to compare what is “most complex PLM implementation in Europe”.

    I think this is good&wrong example.
    Good is that we can see quite complex PLM landscape and have the overview what PLM could be.
    Wrong is that this is very unique PLM implementation (because of unique business) and as such hardly could be replicated.
    Thanks, Regrads,

  • Vladimir, Thank you for excellent clarification! With regards to Good&Wrong, I think, many technologies and products were started in the beginning as an expensive military, high-end or other implementations. However, the turning point for many of them is how to make it used widely. The history of CAD presented the exactly same way. In the beginning exclusively used by big companies, turned to be adopted on smaller computers and becomes widely used by all companies. So, when I’m looking on BAE, Boeing, EADS, Toyota and others, my first question how it can be replicated in the mainstream… Just my thoughts. Best, Oleg

  • Vladimir

    Absolutely agree, but I see the contrast in the question “how it can be replicated in mainstream”, because they didn’t invent anything new, it’s just bloody expensive (doesn’t matter on which side) and therefore I doubt it can be widely replicated.

    BTW, a couple of years ago I was working on bigger integration solution (regarding number of interfaces) in a bit different industry (Footware&Apparel) where were ~250 interfaces (here is only 13) between enterprise apps like ERP, PDM, Design tools, SCM, CRM, MDM etc., but still it’s not possible to compare with this one as the processes are more complicated and of course big difference between the products. I believe we can agree that to produce military aircraft and gym shoes resp. polo shirt it’s not the same :-).
    I just nention this to avoid to objection that I dispraise this solution. It’s interesting and influential, but also it’s very specific.

    Happy Easter
    Regards, Vladimir

  • Vladimir, The question of downstream replication is exactly what interesting in PLM today. Large scale PLM implementation presented benefits, but it is damn expensive and complicated (The last is even worse than the fact it is expensive). Marketing wizards copied Boeing, BAE, Airbus, etc. PLM presentation to everybody and over sale it to the smaller enterprise crowd. When vendors crashed into the wall of un-successful implementation, they started to search how to get out. The out-of-the-box mix with industry best practices considered as an option (http://plmtwine.com/2010/03/10/plm-best-practice-torpedo/), but haven’t resolve implementation cost problem. However, here was another problem – the biggest values of PLM are in the “integrated processes”. Even if out-of-the-box story is still popular, I’d expect it to dissolve into other marketing trends such as – social, cloud, etc. Great discussion! Thanks for your comment… Best, Oleg

  • Oleg,
    Thanks for starting this very interesting discussion on the core PLM issue of integration. I believe that we might need to think a bit more about same basic issues in PLM. For example, PLM projects are usually triggered by a need to consolidate many local, customized legacy systems into one, consolidated PLM system as in the BAE case. The direction is always from many to one, never the other way around, from one system to many. Why? I would say it is because the real needs can only be appreciated locally. I believe we must acknowledge that local, customized systems have a value. Integration implies differentiation as well. Then, integration becomes a balancing act, between too much and too little integration. Ultimately, I believe we must make the issue of context a foundation for PLM efforts and start working from there. Local idiosyncratic contexts are inevitable as soon as people start working on something. What goes into the heads of people depend on what they are working on, their worldview starts from there. This is why some customization of PLM systems is inevitable, regardless of whether that is done by programming or tuning parameters. This is also the reason why “Best practice” is, to say the least, problematic as you pointed out. Best, Lars

  • Lars, Thanks for sharing your insight and thoughts. In my view, customized systems reflects organizational knowledge and processes. All today’s efforts in PLM integration (this is not only for PLM, but for enterprise in general) are too much focused around the singularity. Single system, single point of truth, single database, etc. The singularity effect implies creation of mediated schema (we can see it very clear on BAE example, but not only), which is a hardly achievable goal for enterprise. To think about people’s activity can be a very interesting direction. What is your view on current trends of integration in the enterprise? Tank you for your comment! Best, Oleg