PLM And Sustainability: Where Is The Problem?

Last week during COFES 2010 I had chance to attend DaS Symposium. This half-day Sustainability Think Tank was fully loaded with presentations and discussions about various issues related to sustainability. You can take a brief look on additional information about DaS Symposium on this link. I have to say that this topic seems to be HOT and vendors are trying to approach it with multiple solutions these days. I just want to mention few – SolidWorks Sustainability Xpress, PTC InSight, Autodesk also made the impressive presentation with a significant emphasize of the digital prototyping role. More about Autodesk Sustainability is here. This is, of course, not a full list of sustainability projects and resources. Another interesting discussion was about US Lifecycle Inventory Database – project that focuses on environmental information.

The meeting at DaS Symposium was moderated by Ken Hall, Director, Sustainable Design Systems, Gensler and Brad Holtz of Cyon Research. I’m sure COFES is going to publish all materials from DaS and we’ll be able to see it more in details. I want to put some initial thoughts related to the sustainability in the context of product lifecycle management. There are two main aspects of sustainable product lifecycle management I’d like to figure out: product information and environmental information.

Product Information is obviously data about all product characteristics, design materials, supplied components, etc. This information is actually what we design with sustainability in mind. The second one is all environmental information related to materials and products. This is the information that needs to be in hands of designer or any other person and/or organization that thinks how to design with sustainability in their minds.

So, how to make our design sustainable? I see it as the main question to ask. My take on this is relatively simple. If want to manage something, we to know how to measure it. So, sustainability need to be measures. Another aspect is how you can estimate your desired product performance and characteristics in the context of sustainability. In order to do so, we need to cross paths some information about a product with environmental characteristics. Knowing today product design environment it seems to me as a not trivial task. In most cases design data is in CAD or other design oriented environment. The real manufacturing or supply data and environmental data are separate.

What is my conclusion today? The whole issue of sustainability seems to me as one big data problem. There are too many pieces of data and lots of intersections. Current products almost cannot do it easily and especially with high changing rate. So, thinking about sustainability, my conclusion is to invest in new data management technologies that can handle data about product and corresponding disciplines (i.e. Lifecycle Inventory Database and other regulatory and environmental data). The problem there is hard. Data belongs to separate organizations and managed in different environments.

Just my thoughts… It will be interesting to hear what is your take on this.
Best, Oleg



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