The foundation for next PLM platforms

The foundation for next PLM platforms


Platform. This is a sweet word in a lexicon of every developer. The desire of software vendors is to become a platform to fuel the development of other products and serve needs of customers. In my debates with Chad Jackson about granularity and integration earlier this month, I outlined what, in my view, can differentiate tools, bundles and platforms. That discussion made me think even more about what PLM platforms are made today. In my view, there are two major foundations for most of PLM systems and tools developed today: 1- 2D/3D design platform and 2- object database modeling abstraction. Let me speak more in details about each of these foundations.

2D/3D design platform

Geometric paradigm provided strong foundation for design and engineering since early beginning of CAD/PLM. Therefore, CAD systems are deep in roots of PLM vendors today. Historically, all major PLM vendors today developed their software and businesses from CAD and related engineering applications. As a result of that, 2D/3D geometry, design, modeling and related information is a foundation of their products. Geometry modeling combined with PDM (product data management) created core foundation of these platforms.

Object Database Modeling

Object data modeling paradigm used by many CAD agnostic PLM vendors. Many of these vendors started as PDM companies expanded to support product development processes. Therefore, flexible data management approach became a main foundation layer for these products. Most of these systems were developed on top of relational databases (RDBMS). The flexibility of these platforms to manage any product information and related processes is a key strength.

Next PLM platform

What do you think will happen in the future of PLM platform? Are we going to see new elements and technologies to fuel future PLM development? In my view, last decade of innovation in open source, data management, web and cloud technologies created a new foundation for future PLM platforms. At the same time, the maturity of product lifecycle management implementations can provide a better understanding of functional architecture of PLM products. It made me think about what can become a foundation of future PLM platform development. Below, I put my four candidates to play a role of next PLM platform foundation.

1. MBSE (Model Based System Engineering).

As products are getting more and more complex, the approach that helps us to support product development becomes more visible and important.  Product is going much beyond 3D mechanical design and contains information about system architecture, requirements, functional decomposition of mechanical, electronic and software elements. From that standpoint, MBSE is a good foundation to create a platform and I can hear many voices these days about future of MBSE approaches.

2- Unbundled 3D service

3D was born as part of CAD design. Engineers need to use 3D CAD system to create actual product. However, there are many people in manufacturing ecosystem that just need to consume 3D data or information in the context of 3D data.  Think about 3D service unbundled from CAD system providing ability to visualize and re-use 3D information, combine it with other non-3D information. In my view, such approach can create a good foundation for future PLM platforms. I can see PLM vendors taking some elements of this approach today.

3- Product Development Standards

The level of dependencies in a modern manufacturing eco-system is huge. You can hardly find a single manufacturing company solely responsible for the development of their products. Companies are relying on development partners and hundreds of suppliers. Therefore, standards are getting more and more important. Some of product development and vertical industry standards can provide a functional foundation for future PLM platforms too.

4- Database technologies, big data and web infrastructure

Data technologies is a key element of any PLM system. We need to be able to manage a diverse set of information about product – visual, structured and unstructured. Functional requirements are different from the ability to create and maintain the information as well as ability to make analysis and re-use the information in a very scalable way. Modern data management software stack can become a foundation for future PLM platforms.

What is my conclusion? Product and technological development are going together. New platforms can arise from as a result of maturity of product and technological innovation. I see these four sources as a list of core elements of platform innovation sources. This is of course not an exhaustive list. I can see potential mix of these approaches together as well.   These are just my thoughts and I’m looking forward to your comments.

Best, Oleg


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  • Håkan Kårdén

    Dear Oleg,
    again well written. Some comments below.
    It is extremely important that we can manage all legacy data with the huge investment it represents.
    And mobile will be there in big numbers and it is important for mobile apps to be able to access and update data in many systems. Mobile should not just be with ERP or PLM, a field service engineer needs to connect to many sources.
    More on this topics at PDT Europe in Paris in October where the theme is the PLM Platform of the Future.
    Best Regards,

  • beyondplm

    Håkan, thanks for your comment! I’d not call data “legacy”. Data is the most critical element of any organization these days. Always was… however, nowadays companies are starting to understand much more about the value of data they own. Look forward towards your publications about PDT Europe.

  • Interesting exchange, for sure! I am surprised though that often when we speak about technology and direction, we unintentionally overlook two important points, “what problem am I solving-will they use it?”. In my opinion, change only sticks if the change is needed, and doesn’t conflict with one’s way of working.
    Looking across all of business, engineers comprise a relatively small percentage of the total workforce, yet, we are adapting tools designed for their business processes to everyone else in the value chain. At the risk of high hyprocrisy, maybe pure lfecycle management is less a technology, and more a collection of methods, features and functions and benefits that satisfy a business need. PLM for real estate surely doesn’t look, feel, or taste the same as PLM for an auto company. So, do we need something else-industry hybrid solutions? Is it time for”xLM” and the delivery systems and business models they require?


  • beyondplm


    thanks for this insight! I think you’ve made a valid comment – PLM has a lot to do with company methodology, business practices. A diversity of vertical industry and domain means a lot as well. However, after all, we also need a software platform too. It might be a toolbox of components and different tools and/or might be something else. So, my point in this post is how we find a unified piece of technology to work towards PLM implementation in different industries. The answer could be (potentially) – we don’t need one. In that case, may I ask you what technology we should use?

    Thanks, Oleg

  • Oleg,

    Your point in the post is right on the money and I for one wish there was a simple and clear answer to “what technology we should use?” Your suggestion of a toolbox of components is intriguing-perhaps that will become the eventual direction for lifecycle management solutions? Cherry-picking the features and functionality for the business process, and selecting an optimized delivery model seems like a sensible possibilityand modern approach. Arguably, streamlined business processes require streamlined solutions that enable efficiency, speed and flexibility-core technology tenets for a company.


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