Flexibility is one of the most demands characteristics in PLM business. As complexity of products and systems is growing, the demand to provide a flexible solution is getting even stronger. In the past, so called “toolbox” approach was quite popular in PDM / PLM business. PLM systems were delivered as a set of infrastructure around database with some elements of user interface, but most importantly – flexible API. Such APIs can be used to developed anything else engineers want. And I have to tell you – they did. The amount of self-developed systems on top of existing PLM systems is huge and the more I learn about it – the more surprises I’m finding.
Last week, I shared my thoughts about complexity of “last-mile” in PLM deployments. Edo Drenth of Volvo Cars made a comment about multiple front-ends
…with multiple front-end vendors I mean the following: the PLM back-end is the PLM as-we-know-it, but with proper defined API’s and open standards. Other vendors can make tools targeted for a certain type of users that use data vaulted in the PLM system.
The idea stuck in my head. Is there a rational to bring PLM system as a backend service with open architecture and API to let somebody else to develop last mile solution and multiple front-ends and specific services for customers?
The idea isn’t new. I guess Aras Corp. was playing alongside the same lines with their enterprise open source solution allowing to partners and customers to use free Aras Innovator licenses and deliver a specific solution as an open source. The advantage of Aras Innovator is the fact software is free. You don’t need to spend additional $ for software licenses. But, it still required IT, installation, computers, infrastructure, upgdates.
So, Aras is a good example of open initiative that can help developers to deliver solution to diversified community of customer. However, future expansion of cloud technologies can provide even more opportunities. Micro-service architecture and cloud environment can give an interesting platform to deliver PLM backbone with open API to serve it as a foundation for multiple front-end development.
What is my conclusion? Cloud technology will help to rethink some of old paradigms. One of them is PLM toolkit. Originally, toolkits requires computing installation, complex configuration and maintenance. New cloud architectures and micro-service architecture can provide a technological backbone that can be used by individual developers and partners to deliver highly customized and configured solution to satisfy needs of diverse groups of customers. Just my thoughts…
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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain.