PLM v BIM: United Or Separated?

PLM v BIM: United Or Separated?


Crossing boundaries is always lots of fun and opportunities. In blogging, it usually sparks so many discussions between people you can hardly see together. My recent blog PLM v BIM: common or different? surprised with the amount of debates on Facebook among my English and Russian speaking friends. Some of comments clearly hinted me onto “don’t cross my territory” messages. Jos Voskuil blog added more fuel into this discussion, so I decided to continue with the topic.

As it was stated in commentary, leading PLM vendors such as Dassault Systems and Siemens PLM are crossing borders of AEC industry and thinking how to apply PLM into BIM. And this is not started yesterday. Navigate to 3D Perspective blog Frank Gehry shares CATIA secrets from 2010 to have a glimpse of what CATIA minded people are doing. More about that in Dassault GT Digital Project here. The following video of Dassault Systems Live Buildings shows first steps Dassault is making into BIM direction. Look on Siemens PLM website and you can see Capital Project Planning and Execution for AEC Services, which hints on the fact Siemens PLM won’t stay away from AEC business by proposing BIM and (new buzzword) BLM – Building Lifecycle Management. I found very interesting 5D press release from Siemens PLM dated back in 2012.

All together it made me think about potential disruption that might happen between PLM and BIM verticals and what it might cause for vendors and customers. So, PLM and BIM vendors can potential unite some services and products. Would it be good idea and what impact it will make on industry, partners, customers? Sounds like a big topic for a single blog. So, to keep it simple I decided to share one reason why to unite PLM and BIM and why we would prefer to keep it separate.

Why to unite PLM and BIM?

Unification and convergence in software products can lead to simplification and reduce software development waste. I can see significant amount of technologies and products that can be united and converged between manufacturing and AEC domains.

Storage, files, viewing, revisions, data management, data sharing – all these artifacts and activities should be seamlessly applied to AEC and manufacturing domain. Especially, when industry moves towards cloud services, it doesn’t make much sense to keep these services separate. Communication and collaboration tools have no borders. To keep separate tools to collaborate between architects and mechanical engineers sounds like a weird idea.Project management is pretty much single discipline. In my view, application that can keep track of your project activities, deliveries and schedules should be consolidated and converged among manufacturing and AEC domains.

Why to separate PLM and BIM?

Technologies are easy, but people are really hard. We strive to individual and professional differences and specific communities. It helps us to reduce information noise and stay more focused. It helps us to bring specific professional practices. It helps to companies to be more focused in sales and go to market activities. Every industry has specially developed language, terminology and practices. All together it might lead to specific vertical products, lifecycle models and business processes that cannot be cross-utilized without significant changes.

PLM and BIM products are traditionally distributed using different partnership networks. Companies involved in two different industries have hard time to justify cost and specific business practice structures. All together it provides lots of reasons why PLM and BIM should stay away and not intertwine in the future.

What is my conclusion? I have no silver bullet about future trajectories of PLM and BIM. Nevertheless, I’m confident some of services and products provided by both verticals such as storage, viewing, data management are better to be united. For most of vendors and customers it will eliminate waste and allow to focus on better (and simpler) solutions. At the same time, focused solutions, vertical products, sales specialists and and go to market strategies are better stay separated. The last one includes producing of new buzzwords, which probably should stay back in 20 century. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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  • martynday

    Any idea how few practices use CATIA in AEC? By quoting an atypical user, almost unique, you aren’t talking about the industry at all.

    “Storage, files, viewing, revisions, data management, data sharing” – Go look at the Bentley Systems Portfolio.

    BIM products can’t even talk to one another as the formats are all highly proprietary – IFCs are lowest common denominator. Standards are nearly all unique and processes vary widely.

    You are right, AEC projects are highly distributed and involve many firms which are also involved in many other projects and they all use a very different mix of tools, even if they are in the same field.

    The industry’s inefficiency isn’t because the lack PLM. It’s much deeper, it’s contractual,, it’s cultural, it’s mindsets and the majority of the users are still actually only 2D. BIM is a long way off and those that were early adopters are still trying to iron out their processes and have trouble finding other like minded BIM partners.

    Companies like Boeing own their product and are actively involved in fabrication and supply chain. In the building AEC chain (excluding Process Plant), the owner is, in the main, distinctly absent in the day to day collation and control of the data. Post production FM is still very 2D – there is no real BIM FM yet.

    In this whole PLM in AEC I see a load of folks from manufacturing naively looking at the general AEC and thinking it’s easily transferable and the benefits will be the same. This is moronic. I also see these firms that sell expensive consultancy to implement these systems, with many failed PLM implementations (and systems garnering bad names for themselves) around the world and before PLM CPD and all that crap which turned out to be mainly hype. The AEC industry doesn’t like spending much on its software, it doesn’t like change and is slow at adopting new technologies, projects can take 3,5, 10 years. Aim the conversation at document management don’t evangelise PLM – a term with no footing or place in AEC.


  • beyondplm

    Martyn, thanks for your comment and deep insight! I agree completely- the topic is multi-dimensional. If I go with you, I can see even benefits of taking all files (2D, spreadsheets, some 3D) and placing them in the space storage / data management system. Or at least provide a capability to search for them. Next to that is project management. Not much diff between project management for manufacturing supply chain and AEC field. However, lots of vertical apps stay separate as well as industry channel, biz models ($$$) and language. Best, Oleg

  • Christine


    Do you just cut and paste your reply at this point?

  • martynday

    I’ll save you all the pain. Just re-read what I wrote and inwardly digest, you PLM junkies.

  • Youhey


    As I read this blog post, I remembered this nice Quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
    You are a visioneer and your blog is full of nice ideas and visions for future. 😉

    Keep on going, the world needs more like you in all fields of science, society, etc. It doesn’t mean that all that you and yous say is correct and will be someday realized. But without challenging ideas and visions, we would still travel with hours!!!

    Now to your post:

    The similarities are fundamental and important (especially at data-level). It makes it possible to have one back-end solution with various front-end modules in different layers, which makes the solution multi-usage.

    Indeed it is a XLM solution and X can be theoretically anything with the basic similarities at data-level. It needs however more flexibility and new technologies at meta-model levels to make it possible. I think it’s just a question of time and hopefully will be seen in a near future ;).

  • beyondplm

    Youhey, thank you for your kind words! I agree, to unify data foundation for both PLM and BIM solution can be potentially a good first step towards unification. Best, Oleg

  • e_shirinyan

    Martyn, Oleg

    I’m a bit disagree that PLM (or something similar, I’m not an engineer) is so different from AEC. If we look at the design-build concept as a buisiness, the “design-builder” is responsible for the physical outcome. A vague design project becomes a product for him.

    I had an interesting practice with designing and producing certain artistic installations.

    You can check an example here (translated version from isicad) :

    And that was our 8-th “product” (other are here

    Since the third installation we started to aggregate all the info on past projects because it was rather precious (suppliers, fixtures, contacts, materials, models, schedules etc). Was it an architectural design? Yes. Was it close to manufacturing? Yes.

    Were we, architects, closer to (lowtech) PLM?

    That is truly cultural issue.


  • e_shirinyan
  • martynday

    Deign build isn’t the normal process in AEC. It’s a segment and most that do Design Build produce awful boring repetitive boxes that nobody gives a damn about. Too many people in this PLM debate think that deist build is how things are done in AEC – it is most certainly not the norm.
    An artist installation is not typical AEC either. The fewer project participants, the more control from the ‘owner’ the more it cab be seen as PLM. Which is why, when you look at the industry PLM can not be easily cut and paste to fit AEC.


  • e_shirinyan


    Thank you for your answer. I do not prefer a copy-paste method. However it’s always interesting to try smth if it’s applicable (maybe here have copy-paste) or not. If not – I can understand better what my buisiness is and where it differs from others.

    “It’s a segment and most that do Design Build produce awful boring repetitive boxes that nobody gives a damn about” – in Russia we have the same.



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