Why PLM stuck in PDM?

Why PLM stuck in PDM?


I’ve been following CIMdata PLM market industry forum earlier this week on twitter. If you’re are on twitter, navigate here or search for #PLM4UM hash tag on twitter. The agenda of PLM forum is here. The following session discussed one of my favorite topics- PDM v PLM. PLM: Well Beyond Just PDM by Peter Bilello. This passage is explaining what the session is about

CIMdata’s research reveals that leading industrial companies are looking to expand beyond PDM functionality to truly enable a more complete PLM strategy. This becomes even more important in a circular economy. In this presentation, CIMdata will discuss which areas are most important, and what opportunities they create for PLM solution and service providers.

My attention was caught by the following tweets coming from this session:

According to CIMdata, leading Mfrs are now looking to move beyond PDM. #PLM4um
— ScottClemmons (@ScottClemmons) link to tweet.

Peter B / CIMdata explains that it’s hard to find a ‘real’ end-to-end #PLM implementation hat works #plm4um
— Marc Lind (@MarcL_) link to tweet.

It made me think why after so many years of PLM implementations, most of vendors are still solving mostly PDM problems for  customers and it is hard to move on into broad downstream and upstream adoption of PLM beyond CAD data management functions. Here are my four points explaining in a nutshell why I think “PLM stuck in PDM”.

1- Focus on design and CAD. 

Most of PLM vendors historically came from CAD-related domain. Therefore, PLM business for them was the expansion of CAD, design and engineering business. As a result of that, use cases, business needs and customer focus were heavy influenced by design domain. The result – PDM focus was clear priority.

2- PLM is a glorified data management toolkit 

The initial focus of many PLM systems was to provide a flexible data management system with advanced set of integration and workflow capabilities. There are many reasons for that – functionality, competition, enterprise organization politics. Flexibility was considered as one of the competitive advantages PLM can provide to satisfy the diversity of customer requirements. It resulted in complicated deployments, expensive services and high rate of implementation failures.

3- Poor integration with ERP and other enterprise systems

PLM is sitting on the bridge between engineering and manufacturing. Therefore, in order to be successful, integration with ERP systems is mandatory. However, PLM-ERP integration is never easy (even these days), which put a barrier to deploy PLM system beyond engineering department.

4- CAD oriented business model 

Because of CAD and design roots, PLM sales always were heavily influenced by CAD sales. Most of PLM systems initially came to market as a extensions of CAD/PDM packages. With unclear business model, complicated VARs and service companies support, mainstream PLM deployment always focused on how not to slow CAD sales.

What is my conclusion? Heavy CAD roots and traditional orientation on engineering requirements hold existing PLM systems from expanding beyond PDM for midsize manufacturing companies. The success rate of large enterprise PLM is higher. But, it comes at high price including heavy customization and service offerings. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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  • Oleg,

    I agree with your observations regarding PLM/PDM software, but the blame lies with manufacturing companies using the tools as much as with the software vendors. If a manufacturer looks at PLM software as a vault and version control mechanism for CAD models, then this is what it’s going to do. If, on the other hand, you think about a BOM hub for all product data, including data residing, for example, in ERP (your point #3), and employ simulation, analytics and decision support systems, then you can extract much greater value from product data throughout the useful life of the product.

    The concept isn’t new (despite the newness spin from #PLM4UM). I described it circa 2005 under a framework I called “Product Lifecycle Economics” that is centered on business-oriented multidisciplinary decisions that take into account all product lifecycle phases/activities, especially downstream, early in the product’s lifecycle and throughout its useful life. This is the principle behind Siemens PLM HDPLM, SAP’s BCV and Visual Enterprise, etc. (This is not an endorsement as far as how effective these tools are.)

    I also agree with your observation that deep CAD roots and strong design engineering culture that typify the PLM vendor community sometimes appear to stand in the way of their ability to truly expose the ‘L’ in PLM. At the same time, Product Lifecycle Economics requires organizational changes that take time to implement and hone.


  • Interesting thing with the integration point, it’s at least a two-sided problem, perhaps n-sided. While we can blame PLM for poor integration with ERP, ERP shares some of the blame as they don’t do nearly enough to foster integration on their end. They have a very similar focus problem, it’s just coming from the opposite end of the business. The relationship thus far has been like nations with a precarious treaty, and not the true organic symbiosis that’s required.

  • Ed, agree. One can appreciate the challenge PLM vendors might see in providing a reliable connector to ERP, but I think that Oracle, SAP and Infor, which claim to have a PLM system, do not deliver enough of the potential value.

  • Gireesh Sreenivasa Iyer

    Agree with you Oleg. Also, companies who buy PLM tools, think of it as a traditional Software Development Project, rather than a PLM Implementation Project. This is an education which needs to be provided to the IT stake holders. With respect to business teams, they are misled in the sales/pre-sales sessions about the timelines of realizing the value PLM. I am sure any successful company satisfied with their PLM implementation would say that it was a journey they took which led them to somewhere. Not 1phase and couple of million dollars. So educate and validate the understanding of the IT/Business Stake holders and take the steps which make sense, they may be baby steps. Or else you will end in CAD management/PDM and be done.
    And lastly, success factors are not understood well across the stake holders, often legacy systems removal is the goal rather than a goal which says “ensure that CAD data is managed well globally”. Many a times I have seen IT put up slides which surely will have one bullet point – “Reduce Time to Market”. Well that is the eventual thing which will happen, provided you take that journey. Things below this are left for consulting companies to figure out. Sadly, it does not work that way. It works only in a partnership where all take a journey together and to the same destination.

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  • beyondplm

    Gireesh, thanks for sharing your thoughts… Agree, for many companies, PLM implementation is a long process with lots of “self-learning” and improvement of company business processes and systems.

  • beyondplm

    Why ERP should foster integration? You reminded one of my old posts? – The ugly truth about PLM-ERP monkey volleyball – http://plmtwine.com/2010/03/05/the-ugly-truth-about-plm-erp-monkey-volleyball/ .

  • beyondplm

    Joe, thanks for sharing your insight. Yes, many manufacturers (unfortunately) recognize PLM as a buffer zone between engineering and manufacturing. To manage product lifecycle phases is not simple, but I can see more and more companies considering that as an option. The implementation phase is still very tough…

  • beyondplm

    Joe, you are right, ERP vendors are trying to say- PLM is just a module in ERP strategy.

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  • Just stumbled on your nearly 3 year old post. After this time your four bulletpoints are still existing. Only point 4 has change a lot, but it is still there.
    And on the business side the process of using PLM as PLM not only as PDM is slowly starting.
    We will see in three years from now where we will be.


  • beyondplm

    Massimo, thanks for the comment! Yes, manufacturing software is changing very slowly. There are lot of talks today about new PLM business opportunities, digital thread is one of them. But major PLM vendors are too stuck in core CAD business to unlock other opportunities.