PDM/PLM. Why The Cloud? Wrong question…

PDM/PLM. Why The Cloud? Wrong question…


You may think engineers like everything new. You may think it is so obvious. Engineers are developing all new technologies, gadgets and machines. All this new stuff… Literally everything… was actually developed by engineers. Engineers are in love from everything new they develop.

But, here is the problem. When it comes to the point of deciding about technology and software engineers use by themselves to develop products, it turns opposite. Engineers is probably one of the most conservative group of people to adopt new tech. It may take months to manufacturing company to decide about usage of enterprise software. When it comes to PDM/PLM system, the evaluation can take even longer…

I’ve been reading Manufacturing Business Technology Magazine article – Why The Cloud? Navigate here to read the article. It speaks about benefits of cloud technologies such as low license cost, fast deployment and ease of data sharing. It makes some points of advantages of cloud PLM tools. The last one is the most interesting, since it emphasize the ability to turn manufacturing and supply chain into connected eco-system. Here is my favorite passage:

As engineering and manufacturing data moves to the cloud, mid-sized manufacturers are finding that they can easily and automatically pull component and engineering data into their designs, transparently move those designs between different tools to ensure performance and manufacturability, and securely and directly publish data to suppliers worldwide for prototyping and production. Manufacturing data in the cloud is nimble: It can be connected into a larger ecosystem of cloud services and moved where you need it, when you need it.

This article made me think that the question “Why The Cloud?” is a little bit… outdated. I will try to explain what does it mean for me. For the last 3-4 years, we’ve seen a massive shift of IT into the cloud. It is clear to every CIO and IT manager these days that they can benefit from the cloud. All PLM vendors are developing cloud strategies and provide a way to deploy their software in the cloud in some ways. However, this is exactly the place that requires validation. Not “why the cloud?”. This is wrong question. The right one is – how to implement the cloud? I can see 3 main groups of cloud PDM/PLM tools applicable for engineers and manufacturers

Mainstream cloud tools

IT people can disagree with me. I can see people every day are using consumer and other mainstream cloud tools for business. If your Exchange cannot handle large emails, Gmail most probably does. You can share CAD and Excel files  via Dropbox, Google Drive,  iCloud, OneDrive and others. Most of these tools are free or very cheap and it is very hard to prevent people from using them.

IaaS based PDM/PLM tools

Many PDM/PLM vendors are choosing IaaS as a cloud strategy. I’ve been posted about it here. Nothing wrong with that. By leveraging elastic computing power and virtual servers, you can get PLM system deployed on private and/or public cloud. For most of cases, these we are talking about PLM solutions adopted to cloud IaaS infrastructure. While vendors can create a different licensing schema and get all advantages of cloud infrastructure, for most of the cases, these tools are still replicated the same “PDM/PLM story”. The main difference – your server is on the cloud now. And some of your servers can be shared between multiple customers, so you can get cost advantage of shared resources, deployments and updates.

Specialized “born in the cloud” (PDM/PLM) tools

The main difference of these tools is that they were natively developed for the cloud. Tools in this category leverage not only computing infrastructure, but also social, functional and business aspects of cloud eco-system. Most of them are implementing the ability to support social interaction and communication. Also, these tools are focusing how to share information beyond the point of single organization.

What is my conclusion? The period of early adoption of cloud technologies is over. It is clear – cloud is going to stay with us. However, the question how to leverage cloud technologies and turn it into best products expanding customer ability to design and manufacturing best products is still in front of us. It is going to be a massive shift towards different approach in the way cloud will helps to build new products. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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