Ozone and Big Unsolved Problems in PLM

I had chance to read Solidsmack’s post about PTC new vision coming to us very soon- PTC Project Lightning. PTC Strikes a Plan for the Future of MCAD. We don’t know yet what is PTC Project Lightning. This is what Josh wrote – “We’re out at PTC/USER 2010 in Orlando, Florida and we’ve found out as much as possible about the gameplan PTC has for product development. Could it be a new product? A new platform? Or perhaps their position on that Cloud mess and how to deliver apps to the user? Hmmm. Here’s what we know and what we think it might be.”. I recommend you to take a look on Josh’s blog to get some additional information related to PTC Project Lightning presentation and slides.

I think, PTC is taking a very interesting time to go with new vision, platform, technology, products… For the last five years, we had chance to see major transformations in enterprises and PLM platforms. Just to mention the most important such as Oracle Fusion, TeamCenter Unified, ENOVIA V6. PTC will have a chance to come last to the game, but to learn from mistakes that were done by all predecessors.

PTC slides posted by Josh made me think about big unsolved problems that manufacturing organizations are experiencing these days. In my view, there are three major domains where PLM software is troubled today- Data, Openness, Heterogeneous Environment and Change Management. I will to put some thoughts and analyze it.

The majority of PLM software these days is focusing on accumulating of data. Data produced by MCAD, ECAD and various data management and collaboration applications. The absolute amount of data is growing in all manufacturing organizations and resulted in very complex data and content processing challenges. Modern product development and manufacturing put a high demand on how data need to be processed and transferred between people, departments and organizations. This is my view on what I call – data problem. Two major PLM vendors (Siemens PLM and Dassault Systems introduced new strategies focused on how to manage product IP. When I see PTC’s slide presenting multiple apps fitting different stages of the product lifecycle, my first question is how application will transfer data between them. It seems to me, PTC’s is going to rely on Microsoft SharePoint platform capabilities.

When I think about data, the next question that comes to my mind is what application is producing this data. Manufacturing today are using a large amount of disparate software coming from different PLM vendors. In many situations, a decision about usage of a particular tool dependent on how these tools can exchange data. The situation is this space is far away from ideal. Openness is a complicated and unsolved problem for customers.

Heterogeneous Environment
Manufacturing companies are accumulated a large stack of software – legacy systems, database, design system, engineering software for different needs. Multiple attempts were made by vendors to migrate to organize legacy – trying to integrate, to federate and, in the end, to replace all legacy systems with migration of existing data to a new system. I don’t think we found a silver bullet. My take is that we need to take “heterogeneous” as a problem and something given at the same time.

Change Management
This is the last, but not least problem. Change Management represents a significant problem for organizational lifecycle. Change in the software and implementations is hard and very expensive. Solving such problems can provide a significant pain relief for IT organization.

What is my conclusion today? It is definitely time to produce some ozone in PLM atmosphere. Manufacturers are going to operate in the new reality. It will be very hard to come into this reality with the existing unsolved problems in the PLM software space. I don’t think problems are purely technological. I see them as a blend of problems coming from business models of PLM vendors, application delivery mechanisms and technology. Some of them cannot be resolved by a single vendor and dependent on PLM industry health and the ability to communicate. However, to understand problems and to have an industry agreement is a first step towards the better future. These are just my thoughts…  I’m very interesting to hear your opinion and thoughts on that as well as to have an option to discuss.

Best, Oleg


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  • Hi Oleg,
    I think what’s missing from editors and consultants is a paper-based discussion process about what we really need, what is involved in PLM what are the data to exchange, how to implement change management, what’s the impact of a change, what should be the possible options for capitalising old informations…
    I like the CMII statements (http://www.icmhq.com/). They defined Change and configuration Management process on paper, and then explained through a “compliant tool certification” which solution can support their process. And today in PLM we’re always starting from technology, not from paperbased concepts. So what happens is, because some topics are hot like document management, PLM is following the technology (Sharepoint integration) and not giving a straight direction of what the whole framework should be.
    I think we need some people to escape software for a while, follow all the PLM processes in various environnement draw diagrams, confront them and come to some best practices. Maybe it won’t be possible to apply these with the actual technology but at least it might initiate some developments which will go in the right direction for PLM.


    Yoann Maingon

  • Олег Болховский

    Прочитал с интересом. В голове всё время крутится одна мысль(как червь сомнения) насчет данных из разных источников. Попробую выразить.
    Всё было бы просто если бы компании обладали и оперировали только данными, которые находятся в реляционных БД ,PDM и CAD файлах (к ним есть интерфейс и API). Хуже, когда часть этих данных расположена в БД интерфейс к которым закрыт. т.е. Есть дырка только через приложение, которое продавец ПО и пытается всучить. Хотя интерфейс программы убогий, функциональность ничтожная(но это видимо специально, чтобы потом можно было бы продавать новую версию этого ПО с дополнительной кнопочкой и пр. иначе кто её будет пытаться обновлять). Причём беда в том, что производитель этого ПО пркладывает гораздо больше усилий для разработки защиты БД от копирования(иморта, декомпиляции), чем на разработку функциональности. Ценность-то в БД, а не в продаваемом ПО. Такие БД+ПО всё чаще находят своё место в компаниях, которым “сопровождать” нормативно технические БД не позволяет штат(нет операторов для набивки). Как индексировать такие данные?

    (automatic translation using Google Translate tools)
    I read with interest. My head is spinning all the time, one thought (as the worm of doubt) about the data integration from different sources. I’ll try to express.
    Everything would be just if the company possessed and operated only data that are in the relational database, PDM and CAD files (this is the interface and API). Worse, when some of these data is located in the DB interface that is closed. ie There is a hole only through the application, which sells software and trying to palm off. Although the interface cripple the functionality of a tiny (but it’s probably on purpose, so that you could sell the new version of the software with extra buttons, etc. or who it will try to update). Moreover, the trouble is that the manufacturer of this software put a special effort to develop a database of copy protection (import functions, decompiling) than on the development of functionality. The value of something in the database, rather than being sold on. Such a database + software is increasingly finding its place in companies, which “accompany” the normative technical database does not allow the state (no operators for stuffing). How to index such data?

  • Yoann, Thanks for your comment! In my view change management is a HUGE issue. Companies manufacturing software are building software focusing exclusively on their own technology. Even if they (vendors) are thinking about a change process, their view is limited to their product space. My believe is that orientation on communities and openness can change this trend. Best, Oleg PS. Thanks for sharing CMII conference link.

  • Oleg, thanks for commenting and for sharing your thoughts! You are absolutely right about companies that preventing their data to be accessible. This is the problem of openness I mentioned in my post. Most of them (companies) are building their fundamental business models around data protection. For them, the policy you mentioned is a life-warranty. In my view, is that in the future companies will gain their business and competitive advantage from application services rather than data protection. So, customers, will ditch vendors that protecting data access. However, this process will take time… Best, Oleg

  • Jeff

    These types of marketing blitz cause me pain. We have a mixed vendor environment (PTC CAD and Siemens PLM). As you can imagine because we have not delivered the much sought after PLM vision of integration to legacy and ERP, we have groups of people that see the grass as greener with another PLM solution. And, this is like throwing fish food on the top of a lake – they all come to the surface. Do you have any words of wisdom?

  • Jeff, Thank you for your comment! These two topics – mixed PLM environment and PLM-ERP integration are the most painful, in my view. The root cause of these problems is in the fundamentals of enterprise software business these days. Everything is swinging around ownership of the data. It started from CAD, continued in the PDM/PLM. ERP is not much different. I see two possible strategy – 1/ Go with a single vendor. Select who is the best for you – PTC, Siemens, Dassault and unify all you have. 2/ to neutralize the influence of vendor’s business models on your business. The second is more beneficial, since you will combine a unique blend of tools that will help you to perform. It doesn’t mean you will be independent on CAD/PLM/ERP vendors, but you’ll have a choice. Best, Oleg. PS. Some of my thoughts about disparate systems and PLM are in this post – http://plmtwine.com/2010/06/02/plm-and-alm-how-to-blend-disparate-systems/.

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