PLM platforms & digital transformation complexity

PLM platforms & digital transformation complexity


Digital transformation seems to be inevitable goal for enterprise companies these days. Manufacturing companies of different types and sizes are embarking into digital transformation journey. The truth is that few companies fully understand what they are getting themselves into. For most of these companies digital transformation sounds like a matter for survival – efficiency , cost, user experience, competition and many other compelling business goals.

After top-down goals are set, IT teams are usual left to figure out to make it happen. It means to figure out how existing applications, infrastructure stacks will meet the requirements of future “transformed” manufacturing company. The problems IT teams are facing are multi-disciplinary – cloud infrastructure, integration of omnichannel into user experience, operation processes, tools and building hybrid applications using existing product and technological assets with a new toolset and requirements.

In this game of engineering and technological complexity PLM platforms, tools and products can come either as something that can become a life savior or as a complete burden trailing in the back and crashing plans. How can we position existing PLM technologies? How much help and how much complexity these tools can bring to digitally transformed companies.

The new complex

In the past, the top complexity of PLM infrastructure was multi-site environment with replicated database and vault (file storage). It was long time ago. The complexity these days is coming from the nature of company business and applications. Just think about smart product such as connected camera. It requires hardware, software, monitoring, cloud infrastructure, security, global monitoring and many other tools and processes. Manufacturing process demands personalization, which includes assets provided by contractors suppliers and OEMs. In addition to that, an overall manufacturing can be outsources to another contract manufacturing company… Huh? Can you imaging the level of complexity? New hybrid environment is a reality of most manufacturing products these days.

Are PLM systems ready?

An obvious question is how PLM platforms can be coming into such environment with reasonable amount of risks and transparency. PLM infrastructure usually 20 years old and not prepared for hybrid cloud environment, online monitoring and tools Manufacturing companies should figure by themselves asap.

Organizational complexity

Existing PLM platforms assumed single version of truth and vertically integrated organizations with hierarchy, management, technology and support tools. To operate in a new environment can be next to impossible for many organizations. What was managed as set of silos is now a complete network of people, data, tools and resources. Companies not only need to invest into tools, but also make people familiar with new environments and processes.

Digital transformation opportunity

As much as complex digital transformation could be, it creates an event to rethink your infrastructure and application roadmaps. An increased complexity combined with new technical requirements is an event to review architecture, tools and products company is using. It is a time to take a fresh look on all infrastructure and come with something entirely new.

What is my conclusion? Digital transformation is a moment of time that presents the biggest challenge and opportunity for manufacturing companies and software vendors. To succeed in digital transformation companies need to develop new digital service and practices, to compare them with existing tools and decide what is the right choice. The criteria is multi-dimensional, the decision can be tough for manufacturing companies and vendors at the same time. 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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  • I like your writing “to compare them with existing tools and decide what is the right choice”. I think that is one of the biggest challenges. Everywhere you’ll find a new company with a perfect solution for the “new” problem. But then implementing it in the existing infrastructure (PLM system) is done only with big efforts on cost of the ROI. Or you have to cut down all the good features of the new tool, so everybody is dissapointed.
    The right way, as you wrote, is to find a not so perfect solution, but a better integrated.

  • beyondplm

    I like the term “digital plumbing”. I use it to describe a modern, agile way to deploy online SaaS products with low frictions and maximum iterations. Tool that can be developed and evolving together with manufacturing busienss needs.

  • Yes. At the moment in my team we are changing our principles of operation to a agile method. I think, this is the best way to advance step by step, mvp to mvp.

  • beyondplm

    @massimocastell:disqus I cannot agree more. Agile sprints is the only path to develop sustainable software these days. This is how we did 28 releases in during last 2.5 years.