PLM and BIM – common roots or common future?

I was looking at the evolution of PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) and BIM (Building Information Modeling) and found interesting parallels and associations.

Fundamentally, for a long period of time, I associated PLM with Manufacturing and BIM with Architecture, Engineering and Construction. After doing some research in this field, I observed a sort of convergence between both areas from a strategic standpoint and from a (potential and future) technological standpoint.

Based on the most fundamental definition of PLM from CIMData –” ‘PLM’ is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal“; PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and extended enterprise. One core PLM area – Product Data Management is focusing on capturing and maintaining information about product and/or services through their lifecycle; Secondly, CAx – focused on Product Design, other two areas – Product and Portfolio Management and Manufacturing Process Management focused on various aspects of process and decision making. In the scope of these areas, there are multiple development processes and methodologies – Concurrent Engineering, Top Down Design, Bottom Up Design, Design in Context. The most fundamental technologies used for PLM are Product Design Technologies (CAx), Product Data Modeling and Collaboration Technologies, allowing customers to develop the overall PLM processes in organization. I see much agreement in the development of processes for provided by many vendors. Unfortunately I can see significant industry level disagreement in the development of modeling technologies that will allow participants of the entire Product Lifecycle to create, share, and collaborate on product information. 

Now, let’s shift gears to BIM. There are a few roots of BIM definitions. I’d like to take the following simple one: BIM is the process of generation and management of the “building data” during its lifecycle. BIM today is accepted by major vendors in Architecture, Engineering and Construction and used in all building types – from simple warehouses to many of most complex new buildings. BIM covers multiple domains – geometry, spatial relationships, geographical information, quantities and properties of building components. It helps manage a wide scope of works, system assemblies and other related processes. BIM provides potential future as a virtual information model to be handled from Design Teams to Contractors and Subcontractors, and then to Owners, each adding their own additional discipline-specific knowledge and tracking of changes to the single model. The core technological and modeling principles of BIM were defined as IFC (Industry Foundation Classes)  and aecXML which are data structures for representing information used in BIM. There are a few other data structured developed by commercial vendors in the BIM domain. 

From my perspective,  there are definitely common roots for both PLM and BIM. Both came as answer to support people collaboration around the entire lifecycle of products, but in different industries (Machinery and AEC respectfully). In the early beginning, their capabilities were around design tools (CADs or CAx) and improved significantly with introducing of 3D. In machinery, introducing of 3D parametric modeling and, in AEC, 3D building models created a solid base for collaboration and process support. 

At the same time, there are some significant differences in the maturity of information models and process development for both BIM and PLM. PLM developed mature best practices related to development processes in the organization, especially processes and standards for organization in aerospace, defense and auto-manufacturing. At the same time, PLM in these industries was quite unsuccessful in establishing common information data models. IGES and STEP were two of the most successful, but not on the level of supporting virtual information model for the entire lifecycle process. In BIM, the development of IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) has been quite successful in my view. IFC is a vendor-neutral information model and supported by most  AEC/BIM vendors.

It’s also interesting to note how the  future of PLM and BIM is being  presented by vendors. Inspired by Web technologies and the future of Web-based systems, DS introduced PLM 2.0 as the next paradigm of Product Lifecycle Management – online applications with lifelike experience. In BIM, there are emerging definitions of BIM, BIM 2.0 and even BIM 3.0. BIM 2.0, according to these definitions, is focusing on analyses and BIM 3.0 on simulations. According to some other definitions of BIM 1-2-3, BIM 1.0, called ‘CAD on steroids’ focuses on model-driven AEC-oriented CAD .(By the way, this is similar to PLM which  developed around 3D parametric CAD systems). BIM 2.0 is focusing on how to expand BIM systems to non-A/E people (similar to PLM 2.0’s – “PLM for all”).

 Now, the most interesting observation is about 3.0… In some of the research, BIM 3.0 is defined as “post-interoperability”. I see development of IFC and BuildingSmart as something that can provide a future foundation for BIM tools to work in a seamless environment. It’s too early to introduce PLM 3.0, but at the same time, the idea of “post-interoperability” is definitely interesting as the future of both PLM and BIM industries. 



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