Software is eating the word. Our dependencies on software is increasing. Imagine your life without few software products you’re using on everyday basis. But here is the thing… software is changing traditional products around us. Think about a car. Just a few decades ago, a car was mostly mechanical product with lot of complex mechanical units. To design them was an absolutely critical. For the last 5-10 years, we’ve seen a massive introduction of software elements in an average car, so today it is impossible even think about a car without software. The same can be said about most of products today.
As a result of massive expansion of software elements in manufacturing product, the question about how to manage software during product lifecycle became a critical requirement from all manufacturers these days. Software is an weak point to hack any product. With an increased dependency on software, modern manufacturing products become more vulnerable – The importance of software for hardware security. I shared my thoughts about how to combine engineering and software BoMs. To me, this is one of the key elements of integrating software into product lifecycle.
I wondered if manufacturers are interested to have unified product lifecycle management for both (more traditional) mechanical and electro-mechanical parts combined together with software bill of material. From traceability and completeness standpoint it sounds reasonable and logical to me.
Recent acquisition of Polarion by Siemens PLM was an interesting event indicating the importance of software and ALM for product manufacturers and PLM vendors. Few months ago, I shared some of my thoughts about PLM and ALM trajectories during Polarion webinar. You can access webinar recording online by navigation to the following link (note – you will have give away your email in exchange of access).
ALM tools like Polarion can provide value for manufacturing organizations managing software lifecycle. But how it all comes together with PLM software and related processes?
Bruce Jenkins of Ora Research brings his perspective on challenges of integration between Teamcenter and Polarion. Navigate to his article in 3D CAD world magazine – ALM-PLM integration challenges and opportunities. I captured the following picture in the article
The picture is nicely presenting Teamcenter and Polarion coming into a single box. But how does it solve a problem? This is a good question to ask… As it sounds from Bruce Jenkins’ article, it doesn’t. He brings couple of integration related questions and one of them is about single source of truth between ALM and PLM databases. Here is the passage from the article about that:
Also, a key value proposition of many PLM—as well as ALM—vendors has been the authority and integrity of each one’s respective data repository as the “single source of truth.” Which database should serve this function in a combined world—ALM or PLM? Are there different levels of “truth”? How should this potential conflict be managed
Single Point of Truth smells 1995…
The question about single point of truth made me think we are still fighting the old ideas of PLM to bring everything under the roof of the same database. The dream about that was good 15-20 years ago, but now seems like not sustainable. The number of databases, systems and information dependencies is growing. To think about single database of truth is nice, but not practical. So, what is the solution?
I’d like to point on a combination of two strategies that can provide a way to think about PLM and ALM combination – on demand data search and BoM process:
1- On demand search integrate data silos and connects dots
Search and on demand data integration can help to connect data dots between software, electronic and mechanical elements of products. The technologies and tools for that are advancing. You don’t need to have all data in a single database to make it accessible to users. Teamcenter Active Workspace is probably a starting point for that solution. However, I don’t have enough information to say how Active Workspace can address on demand queries.
2- BOM process brings multi-disciplinary data together
BOM process is a fundamental element of product engineering and manufacturing. Think about bill of material as a complex intertwined data structure combining different elements of information about how product is designed, manufactured and built. The development of BOM for every product includes many stages and involves variety dependencies between engineering disciplines.
What is my conclusion? Integration is a fancy word in PLM and also in enterprise software. Usually, it is a lipstick on a pig of data silos, multiple products and inefficient communication. To complexity of PLM and ALM systems is high. To bring right technologies and processes in place to connect data across multiple disciplines will be a priority for manufacturing companies. Just my thoughts…