What is wrong with “PLM of Things”?

What is wrong with “PLM of Things”?

IoT is plm

CAD and PLM companies are in a full swing to embrace IoT technologies. Why not? IoT is probably the most visible hype in technology and industry these days. And it is easy to understand. Just look around – everything from thermostat to toothbrush is connected to internet.  Every day we can hear about new type of sensors that can be placed everywhere. Here is the  one I captured from last week news – Remarkable new sensor chip pulls power out of the air so it never needs to be charged. In parallel with sensors, the technology that can crunch data from sensors is getting better too. Data flowing from the Internet of Things creates opportunities to analyze equipment performance and track the activities of drivers and users of wearable devices.

PTC was the first out of traditional PLM companies that moved to discover IoT opportunity. Recent Windchill 11 launch introduced future development of IoT related capabilities. Graphic Speak article provides a good review of what is available in a new Windchill 11 release – smart, connected PLM.

Kevin Wrenn, PTC’s GM of PLM says that with ThingWorx, PTC got technology that enables them to connect data from objects and from other information systems such as ERP, MES, etc. and to create mashups. The new, more integrated Windchill can offer customers information about the lifetime of a part through Windchill Prediction (formerly Relex Reliability Prediction) and this goes back to those long suffering dedicated customers Kevin Wrenn has talked to who have been dutifully entering product information into the PLM system. All their work pays off as information on parts, inventory, purchasing, sourcing, etc. can be brought together with ThingWorx as it monitors operation and give customers reliable  information and predictions such as meantime between failures (MTBF). Customers can opt in to Windchill Performance Advisor, which is powered by ThingWorx and they can get information for optimization, support, and service.

Autodesk embarked to IoT journey with the acquisition of IoT vendor SeeControl -no-code, cloud-based, enterprise IoT service that gives designers the ability to collect the data being generated by the products they offer. Engineering.com article can give you more information and analysis about Autodesk / SeeControl solution.

Although IoT is still a fledgling part of the design process, Autodesk believes that data collection and monitoring will be a tremendous driver of product innovation in the future. SeeControl’s CEO Bryan Kester believes that with rigorous monitoring, companies will be able to not only create better products, but also develop new revenue streams. Given that Autodesk’s products such as Fusion360, Inventor and 123DConnect are used to build a vast number of products from industrial machines to smart watches, it makes sense for the CAD giant to have an IoT suite that can be seamlessly integrated into the Autodesk family of products.

Siemens PLM is sending a message compliant with European vision of IoT – Industry 4.0. Digital Enterprise software suite based on Teamcenter collaboration platform is Siemens’ answer to Industry 4.0. I captured the following slide at Siemens PLM Analyst event few months ago.


The trajectory of PLM IoT development made me think about “PLM of Things” – set of islands empowered by technology to capture information from product sensors and crunching the data to get a meaningful actionable results (for example predictive maintenance solution). Nothing wrong with that, but let me ask you – where is the “internet”?

Most of IoT product suites in a nutshell are tools to build a data model for information to be captured from sensors. These “models” is a data foundation for solution created using dashboard, analytics, etc. What we really have is a series of isolated “Intranets of Things”. This fragmentation and the high costs of integration required to overcome it, shows that PLM IoT solutions will suffer from the same problem all PLM suites have today – isolation and the lack of interoperability.

What is my conclusion? From what I’ve seen, most of companies are building “PLM of Things”, which has a lot of similarity with old “single source of truth” model. Now, this model is extended into the domain of capturing information from sensors and data analysis. Some companies can tell you – these are old news and industrial companies captured data for the last two decades without calling it IoT. At the same time, cloud technologies (especially in data crunching and analytic) are enabling new level of functionality and can make a better sense for the data capturing from devices. But the core demand in my view is to build a model to describe metadata, property and commands for physical objects that can lay a foundation for IoT solution interoperability. Think about REST API, but for devices. It can change a trajectory of PLM IoT development to become an “internet” and not IoT in a box. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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