What is the future of search for PLM?

There is no doubt a search changed the way we work today on the Internet. Remember how looked for  information in the pre-Internet and pre-Google age? It wasn’t so simple as today. 

So, the change of the user’s behavior regarding ‘search’ has created a lot of opportunities on the Internet surface. I’ve tried to look at how PLM and search intersects and perhaps find new ways to improve PLM system behaviors today. I touched on this before in my posts about Enterprise Search and PLM. So, I’ll do a deeper discovery into this space.

 What is available today? :

 1.    Enterprise Search.

This term is used to describe the application of search technologies inside of organization. This term is opposite two other searches – web search and desktop search – it is probably the most relevant to what PLM does inside an organization. The ability to find the right information about product, documentation, changes etc. is extremely important. I think that this area will grow in the near  future.

 Microsoft Futuristic View on Enterprise Search

2.    3D Space search.

This is a very specific area in search applications that allows you to specify your search criteria based on certain geometric characteristics of a product. Even if such capabilities already exist inside of many PLM applications, this search is interesting since it can connect to an enterprise search. Actually, it’s important to integrate 3D Space search into enterprise search and other applications.

 Dassault Systems 3DLive User Experience (UX)

3.    Visual Search / 3D search

If 3D Space search mostly uses 3D as a criteria for search (WHERE), Visual search (or 3D search, as I call it) is mostly about being able to provide a search with information about WHAT to search for. This can be interesting for the decision making and design process areas – because it allows you to find all information visually. Sometimes, however, it’s misleading as it can be hidden by wrong meta-information and additional data.

 Innovative solution from 3DPartBrowser 

The above are my top three perspectives for Search in the PLM domain. I’m going to discover search topic in context of PLM during these days on Infonortics Search Meeting in Boston. During this meeting, I had some casual talk with Steven Arnold and got some interesting perspectives on his Beyond Search Blog. I’m looking forward to speak more about this topic in the future…


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  • Oleg, thanks for the PartBrowser mention!

    My thinking on this is that there are 2 aspects to what search for PLM should look like in the future:

    a) the criteria by which you search (text, attributes, position, shape etc.).
    b) the way those results are presented and visualized so that results can be assessed to allow for further navigation, filtering or comparison.

    Search for PLM will have some commonality with more general enterprise search, but will also need some specific technology:

    a) Criteria. Clearly, search of unstructured and semi-structured data that enterprise search copes with will be important. However, we also generate very rich, well defined models of the geometry of our products – clearly much richer than a textual description – and this information is hidden to traditional search. I think there are numerous circumstances where it should be searchable (‘have we made anything like this before?’) . But exactly how shape search and textual and attribute searches can be combined usefully, I think, is an open question.

    b) Result visualization. The ways in which enterprise search products summarize and present results are optimized for textual data. I think there’s an opportunity to greatly improve on this for PLM data. Lists of part numbers, filenames or attribute values and perhaps dodgy thumbnail images aren’t a great way to present results from PLM search. Effective use of 3D visualization can be very beneficial.

    Finally, I find it all gets rather confused when the term ‘3D search’ is used. Does ‘3D’ refer to the search criteria (ie 3D shape or 3D position you refered to)? or to the presentation of those results (i.e. 3DLive, PartBrowser or something like Cooliris)? Maybe we need a better way of talking about all this.


  • Andy, thanks for your insight and observations. I agree with your view on criteria->search->result->repeat. This is something different from web searches that focus on “result on the first page”. But, problem I see is that information is too heterogeneous. I’m not sure one solution is possible here, therefore I tried to analyze trends. For the moment, enterprise search looks like very unsuccessful. Most of them are focusing on content/document search in enterprise. 3D solutions are more mature, since they are based on previous CAD experience. -Oleg.

  • Debarshi Goswami

    Hi Andrew, sorry for this late reply. I have tried out a product called 3DSearchIT. I like some features of this software. This is a shape based search engine granted US patent for technologies used in it. It’s search results are pretty good & rich. You can search attribute or a shape, you can also generate reports based on some particular search or all your database parts. More than that you can form groups of similar parts or duplicate parts & name them as per your requirement which may help you to manage huge number of parts very easily. Search techniques are awesome & results are very effective. Also you can view the difference between two parts in a separate viewer highlighting zones where they are different. This product has great potential & keeps updated all time. Parts of long range of CAD products such as Proe, STL, Solid Works, Inventor are supported. This is a product from Geometric Ltd, an Indian company works on CAD/CAM/PLM software. For you convenience I am providing you the link of this product.


    Hello Debarshi, Thanks for your comment! will follow links. -Best, Oleg

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