PLM single tenant model – dead end?

PLM single tenant model – dead end?

I tried to visualize single tenant PLM model and global manufacturing. Here is the result and it looks ugly…

The days when manufacturing companies was associated with a single build workshop building are gone. Manufacturing companies today are global enterprises with the manufacturing facilities located in multiple places, contractors, suppliers and customers. The complexity of the relationships between these companies is high and it is skyrocketing multiplied by complexity of product and customers.

Cloud has come of age and manufacturing companies are exploring how to leverage cloud models and new applications in the most efficient way.  Very often, it brings a question about single-vs-mult-tenant architectures. You can check my earlier blog – how to ask right questions about multi-tenant architectures.

Today, I took a different approach. I’ve made an attempt to visualize an architecture of existing PLM systems and and possible relationships between companies, data and systems.

Let’s think about fictitious manufacturing company developing industrial equipment  and using contractors, suppliers and customers world wide. It is not hard to imagine such company as well as the number of contractors and suppliers. I downgraded the number to minimum to create the following chart.

Think about enterprise systems used by each of these companies. The reality of manufacturing is that every single company in this diagram will run some database driven system to manage design data, bill of materials, purchase order, procurement and customer data. With the growing demand for connectivity, a typical solution will be to use Excel and email to transfer data between companies.

Excel is bad, but what is the alternative? Companies understood how bad is the situation. Even so, the alternative proposed by traditional PLM architecture is also questionable. Imagine every manufacturing companies deploying PLM system in such a way they can centralize data and communication. Majority of existing PLM software architecture is represented by a single tenant database models. With the growing amount of relationships between companies and the need to share information, the picture is getting messy very fast.

Check this image below on which I attempted to visualize a potential relationships between 4 manufacturing companies, their contractors, suppliers and service organization. Suppliers and contractors are manufacturing companies as well, so the number of single-database PLM units will be growing and very soon can become not manageable.

What is my conclusion? Complexity of products multiplied by complexity of business relationships and communication. This is a reality of manufacturing companies these days. Single tenant application model was invented back in days the focus of the companies was how to control information inside of a company. Business today is much more connected. Contract manufacturing, suppliers, outsourcing – these are just few examples. The reality of manufacturing is that it doesn’t fit anymore into single tenant model. New data management concepts should be developed to support manufacturing companies in 21st century. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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  • Robert Ferrone

    You couldn’t be more right about the challenge Oleg! People from different cultures are not only speaking different languages but across businesses different digital and process languages too. We’ve seen over the years how organisations have digitised (e.g. paper > Excel) but it has created a universe where you need to have specialists interpreting and translating the digital comms; building the digital information flow plumbing as a colleague describes it. We’ve built a business around that need (within and between businesses) and there is a soup of system integration companies. When will the system creators start thinking about it from a mobility perspective? For example people will soon cease to own cars and instead it will be about the A to B transport service solution. Richard Dawkins talks about the selfish gene holding humans back, what about the selfish business/system gene? I know organisations like ProSTEP are championing the code for PLM openness. What do you think is the answer?

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  • beyondplm

    Robert, thanks for sharing your insight. I like “digital plumbing” term. It is the best description of what is happening in a real life in manufacturing companies. The company that can provide best plumbing tool will be wining. It means – no friction, low cost, maximum flexibility and agility. I’m of course biased :).

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