Early this week I had a chance to read the following blog post by Accidental Product Manager – Really, Really Complex Products: Is PLM Software the Solution? I found it short and insightful. Have a read and make your opinion. The question asked by Dr. Jim Anderson opens an unusual angle of conversation about PLM. Why I see it this way? The product lifecycle management concept was born as the solution to support OEMs in aerospace, defense and car manufacturing industry. I can hear people are discussing the mainstream usage of PLM for smaller companies. However, when talking with major PLM vendors (Jim’s blog points on Siemens PLM), you may think large OEMs (Jim’s points on Toyota) are taking PLM as something that they cannot live without.
There are thee main problems that can pop up when you will start using PLM software: Software compatibility, Missed Errors and Bad Data. Jim mentioned some industry use cases to describe problems (i.e. A380 delay, Toyota virtual tests). In addition he pointed on the complexity of IT related to these solutions. I think these are excellent points to discuss.
Tools Compatibility and FFF
Everybody in manufacturing is familiar with FFF term (Form, Fit, Function). When you design your products, you ultimately can use replaceable parts. The concept of FFF helps you to define if one part can be replaced by another part. I believe, the same practice can be applied to a software when it comes to usage multiple versions of tools. I can agree with Jim – compatibility tests are complicated and not always obvious. This is the place when CAD and PLM vendors can definitely innovate. The main point here is the ability to migrate from one software package version to another. By making this process smooth, PLM vendors to make life of manufacturers easier.
Physical Products and Virtual Errors
The question of how virtual tests can be adequate and represent physical products is not new. I think, manufacturing industry made significant progress in the last 20 years by replacing of physical tests by virtual tests. However, planning of virtual tests is something that still requires people’s experience. The interesting potential in this domain is to increase the ability of PLM software to monitor physical objects (cars, planes, ships, etc.) during their lifecycle. This monitoring will allow to build more trustful virtual tests.
Bad Data and Linked Data
Enterprise companies operate with a huge amount of electronic data sets scattered among disparate data sources. PLM system is an island in the huge amount of data. Integration problem is not a new one. For the last 15 years, I’ve seen multiple attempts to resolve the problem of data consolidation. EAI, Federation, Master Data Management and Data Warehousing is only short list of the technologies and products in this space. In my view, there is a potential here to solve the problem of “Bad Data” by starting to link islands of data in enterprise organization. This is a big and challenging task.
What is my conclusion? PLM software was born to provide a solution for Product Lifecycle Management. However, I agree with Jim – this is not a silver bullet. You need to think about PLM software as a set of tools helping manufacturers to solve their product management and product lifecycle related problems. To find a right set of tools is a challenge for every manufacturing shop (especially a big one). Just my thoughts…