The following blog article drove my attention yesterday: CAD File Management ≠ PLM. The short blog post published by Peter Schroer of Aras. The summary of this post, in my interpretation, is simple. CAD Files and design represent a small portion of business problems in a manufacturing company. So, when you are going to make your PLM decision, think about a full scope of business problems – not only about CAD data. I specially liked the following passage from Peter’s post:
I’m not saying don’t let the CAD guys use what they want. Let them use their system of choice for CAD file management. That’s no problem – today’s enterprise PLM systems can move data in and out of it easily. But you’ve got bigger business issues than CAD file management, like LEAN, configuration management, workflow processes, quality, compliance, supply chain integration, FMEA, etc.
Peter is referencing deelip stating the following – “CAD geometry is 1/20 of what it takes to produce and maintain a part” and making straight conclusion “If CAD only accounts for 1/20 of your product, don’t let it drive 100% of your decisions.”
In my view, the discussion raised by Peter raises a very interesting question. How much attention PLM should allocate to CAD-related problems? How it is important for PLM to be deeply connected to CAD systems and CAD data?
CAD Roots and PLM
PLM, as a software, was born as a natural extension of CAD businesses. It initially started as data management for design and engineering, it grew as an important function to manage product development processes. Connection to CAD (design) data provided an important information to drive product lifecycle in an organization. However, this deep connection, also made a bad service for PLM. On a system level, it created an additional level of complexity and increase product dependencies. On a business level it, some of vendors started to use CAD-PDM/PLM dependencies in order to realize their competitive advantage strategies.
Is it possible to create a PDM/PLM software disconnected from CAD and design roots? Companies were looking for answers on this question for the last two decade. Many of these companies went out of business or were acquired by CAD or ERP vendors. The idea of focus on product development processes without having deep roots in CAD, seems attractive to people these days too. I can see a kind of renaissance of these ideas influenced by modern technologies (the Internet, SOA, etc.).
Importance of CAD / PLM integrations
However, I can see a problem in a significant disconnection between design and rest of product development processes. The last release of Oracle Agile PLM 9.3.1 announced on Oracle Open World last week, stated the importance of multi-CAD integrations. It represents a clear path for PLM product to stay connected with CAD. In addition, the last paper from CIMData – Ten Questions to Ask PLM solution supplier presented the importance of PLM system ability to stay integrated with multi-CAD and ECAD data.
What is my conclusion? PLM is focusing on solving manufacturing business problems. The key manufacturing problems are related to how to control a product cost and optimize business. When 70% of a product cost defined during the design stage, the reliance on the design data becomes more than important. This is a strong point behind CAD driven PLM decisions. However, if your system becomes locked in the engineering department, you are barely able to drive a complete view on how to control a product cost and optimize business. The connection between design/engineering and rest of the business is the most challenging piece of a successful PLM implementation.