Which PLM will climb first to discover blockchain opportunity?

Which PLM will climb first to discover blockchain opportunity?

Blockchain is one of these technologies that very much misunderstood by enterprise, but it has a potential. If you want to understand it better try to start here – Blockchain explained for web developers. I found the article useful. Here my quick summary.

A blockchain is a ledger of data elements, replicated across several computers. You can think about it as a peer-to-peer network of computers. Data elements can be anything from financial transactions to technical documents and content signature. Each computer in this network is anonymous and called a node. All communication inside the network takes advantage of cryptography to securely identify the sender and the receiver.

When a node wants a piece of data to the ledger, a consensus forms in the network to determine where this data should appear in the ledger; this consensus is called a block.The importance of ordering data in a distributed peer to peer systems, relying on a consensus system – the one use by blockchains is the proof-of-work. In addition to storing data, a blockchain can also execute programs. You can add a mini program to each piece of data – smart contract. This program contains the rules for the execution of contracts.

PLM vendors seems to keep silence about blockchain related development (if you’re aware about PLM projects involving blockchain, please comment or write me directly). I shared my thoughts about an opportunity to develop distributed manufacturing ledger using blockchain technologies. If you missed my blog about it, check it here – Blockchain and Distributed Manufacturing.

TechCrunch article yesterday brings a news from Oracle related to blockchain development – Oracle climbs on blockchain bandwagon with new cloud service – TechCrunch. Here is the passage I captured. But it doesn’t give you a clue about what Oracle is trying to develop.

“There are not a lot of production-ready capabilities around Blockchain for the enterprise. There [hasn’t been] a fully end-to-end, distributed and secure blockchain as a service,” Amit Zavery, senior vice president at Oracle Cloud said.

The Oracle blockchain service is built on the open source Hyperledger Fabric project The company joined the Hyperledger project in August ahead of this announcement. Oracle joins IBM in building a blockchain cloud service on top of the Hyperledge Fabric project.

Blockchain is the technology originally created to track bitcoin digital currency on the internet. The idea of a secure, distributed ledger has caught on with many business cases in verticals like real estate, insurance, government and healthcare.

It seems like an exploration rather than development and Oracle doesn’t really know what to do about it yet. However, blockchain is buzzing and so does Oracle.

It made me come back to the ideas I shared in my distributed ledger blog. The data and communication between manufacturing companies are very much distributed these days. To manage processes in such environment is hard. To tack communication between manufacturing contracts and OEMs is an interesting field to explore. To track business transactions between suppliers and contractors is another point of interest.

So far, I haven’t seen any announcement or interest coming from PLM vendors about blockchain. Somebody has to start first. Who will be the lucky company? Remember in the past, IoT was also heavily misunderstood. It is different this days and everyone seems to be following IoT opportunity. But this is a different topic.

What is my conclusion? We are at the beginning of the process to understand how blockchain technologies can be helpful to manufacturing companies and how utilize it to manage distributed product development processes. The vendor who jumps first can get a significant advantage or burn lot of money for nothing. What company will risk to do so? It is not clear for the moment. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.

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  • Michael Wendenburg

    Dear Oleg,
    you are pretty right about PLM muteness with respect to blockchain, but there are some exceptions to the rule. One I know of is SAMPL project headed by German PLM specialist PROSTEP, integrating Blockchain technology in their managed file transfer solution OpenDXM GlobalX to enable a safe and secure end-to-end process for Additive Manufacturing from 3D print data generation to controlled print-out. Find out more here: https://www.tuhh.de/fks/010_research/projects/sampl/en/index_en.html
    Regards, Michael

  • beyondplm

    Michael, thanks for sharing the link. Really interesting project. Best, Oleg

  • Massimo Castell

    In plant layouting in the automotive industry there are many suppliers creating daily changing documents that are linked together. Therfore it is important that everyone has all the latest versions. I think this would be a perfect playground for a Blockchain and a P2P network. So much data and rapidly changing. The distribution is a challenge.
    If a CAD system like Microstation and/or PLM systems could handle such a Blockchain it would be a leap in constructing a plant.

  • beyondplm

    Massimo, Today’s PDM / PLM system can solve the problem insuring that everyone will haev the latest version. The problem is to make everyone to use the same system. It looks like blockchain based systems will have the same problem to solve first. Did I miss something in your point?

  • Of course modern PLM Systems can do this. But therefore you have to work
    alltogether in one PLM System.

    Every supplier has his own PLM System and his own numbering system too. How
    can you connect them without loosing information? In a blockchain one block
    follows the other and there is only on truth.

    Save your drawing in a block and send the public key to everyone. Update
    your drawing and automatically the new public address is in the blockchain.
    Everyone can follow the chain to the newest version.

    Every change is registered and can’t be changed anymore without cracking the
    cryptography. No possibilities for errors or afterwards changed drawing to hide
    errors.

    This is the ultimate documentation for the life cycle.

    And with P2P build in the blockchain, the data would be
    present and fast accessable for everyone who’s participating.

    I don’t know if this is realizable at the moment. But new
    blockchains are coming to life everyday.

  • beyondplm

    Massimo, you explained what OpenBOM (openbom.com) is up to pretty much (Disclaimer- I’m co-founder and CEO). The question is to prove company will trust blockchain more that IT. So far we are getting very interesting results as part of our openbom journey.

  • I should really take a look to your solution. Probably it could solve a few problem we actually have. Thank you for the information.

  • beyondplm

    Massimo, you’re welcome! Please write me – oleg @ openbom dot com. I’d be happy to help you. Best, Oleg