Why PLM is not ready for blockchain… yet

Why PLM is not ready for blockchain… yet

A specter is haunting PLM community – the specter of blockchain. As every new trend, it can have a potential to change business as usual and impact existing products and markets. While PLM market is fighting status quo and legacy platforms, every since new thing that can change the status quo can be counted as a differentiation. So, blockchain… But will it or not?

PLM analysts and vendors are starting to drop word “blockchain” and see if waves are resonating with companies and their demands. You can also check few articles I wrote – PLM and blockchain: yes, no, maybe.., PLM blockchain dreams.

If you want to catch up, I can recommend you SharePLM article by Helena Gutiérrez –What is Blockchain, and why does it matter to PLM? While article provides some great educational value, it throws many PLM problems as an opportunity to be potentially solved by blockchain technologies.

It’s still early days, but blockchain may well play a significant role in the PLM world. It has the potential to ease integrations, simplify migrations and enable end-to-end collaboration, and provide an accurate record of the “who, what, where and when” across the product’s lifecycle.

It promises to connect businesses whose applications, data models, part numbering and coding systems are different. Blockchain puts the product at the heart of the systems and allows them to focus on the data they need to collaborate on.

So, how much of this problems can be solved by blockchain? My attention was caught earlier today by TechCrunch article – The blockchain begins finding its way in the enterprise. The article is overall positive, but provides lot of food of thoughts about much many problems blockchain technology is still has before it will become some sort of value for enterprise (manufacturing companies included).

The blockchain is in the middle of a major hype cycle at the moment, and that makes it hard for many people to take it seriously, but if you look at the core digital ledger technology, there is tremendous potential to change the way we think about trust in business. Yet these are still extremely early days and there are a number of missing pieces that need to be in place for the blockchain to really take off in the enterprise.

Suffice it to say that it has caught the fancy of major enterprise vendors with the likes of SAP, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon all looking at providing some level of Blockchain as a service for customers.

Here is a key passage in my view:

“Right now, businesses are missing real blockchain opportunities and instead throwing blockchain in places where it doesn’t belong. For example, they are trying to use it for smart contracts, and that stuff isn’t ready. They also try to use it for cases that require a lot of speed, and again blockchains aren’t ready,” he said. Finally, he says, if you don’t require immutability, trust and tokenization, you might want to consider a different approach other than blockchain.

The question about blockchain use cases are heavily dependent on company ability to rethink their operation, data and processes modeling. Majority of PLM implementations are still live in two main challenges – 1/ replacing legacy systems with newer technologies; 2/ realizing limits of current PLM philosophies or “single version of truth” in the era of networks.

What is my conclusion? Blockchain tech is making big promises. But how close these promising technologies to provide value to PLM scenarios? In my view, it is mostly depends on manufacturing companies shifting from centralization to distribution in their process and data usage. Without that, I have hard time to see some fundamental changes blockchain can bring to manufacturing companies and PLM implementations. 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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  • Hi Oleg,

    We have been talking a bit about this. I have not seen much discussion about blockchain’s ability to handle large files – I think more of transactions, but that could be my naivete.

    One area that could use something like this is the additive manufacturing value chain. I read an article recently about how someone hacked into the STL files for a commercial drone and changed the deposition of material in a way that made the drone fail after minutes of operation. I can see a place in the communications of AM files to AM part producers where this type of protection could be handy.

    Stan Przybylinski
    Vice President
    CIMdata, Inc.
    s.przybylinski@CIMdata.com
    Twitter, Skype: smprezbo

  • beyondplm

    Hi Stan, interesting story. Thanks for sharing! I’ve seen many articles recognizing supply chain as an opportunity for blockchain. But I haven’t seen any implementations that shared or published about operational systems. Did you?