Heavy customized systems is a potential barrier for future PLM platform progress

Heavy customized systems is a potential barrier for future PLM platform progress


It usually takes time to implement PLM system. One of the reasons for that is heavy customization and adaptations of PLM products to the needs of a specific manufacturing company. Although vendors are can still arguing about differences between configurations and customizations, customers are just looking for how make a system to support a specific data model, run processes and integrated with other systems.

PLM implementations have long lifecycle. I asked few of customers (medium and large manufacturing companies) what is the average time span between major changes in PLM implementations and the answer was at least 10 years. Once implemented, PLM systems are not dying fast. The variation of existing implementations live long time in a company in variety of forms – active systems, legacy reference, data archive.

Existing implementations are creating significant dependencies on the ability of manufacturing companies to move into new PLM products and solutions. Customizations are painful during the upgrades. Heavy customized PLM systems can lock-in customer and prevents future upgrades. Read my last week article – Upgrades and decustomization of PLM.

So, can you imagine a new world where PLM legacy won’t stop manufacturing companies from making progress and using new PLM software? Engineering.com article Volvo Cars, CEVT and “Platform Thinking” in Automotive Product Development by Verdi Ogewell brings an interesting story of PLM transformation in Volvo Cars after the acquisition by Chinese company Geely Group. According to the article, new PLM platform at Volvo Cars was developed based on the out-of-the-box capabilities of Teamcenter. Here is an interesting passage I captured.

“A big advantage is that we are not burdened by an extensive legacy issue. At our inception in 2013, we used Volvo Cars’ database, but quickly realized that we needed a standalone solution, so we took the decision to invest in an out-of-the-box installation based on Siemens Teamcenter.”

CEVT doesn’t work with adaptions, he claimed, since the out-of-the-box-installation generally eliminates the need of costly customizations.  “We create configurations and minor ‘settings,’ and if some more development is needed we simply put it into a workflow,” Gräns added.

“That’s right,” confirmed Siemens PLM’s Sverker Nordlander, a business analyst and senior project manager. He explained that, “As CEVT has no legacy systems, they are standing free from historical considerations and complications. Thus, they can make full use of the out-of-the-box Teamcenter platform, which will not only be cheaper but also technically more rational. They can always use the latest technology and the latest software solutions.”

It made me think about future PLM transformations in manufacturing companies. According to the article, it is possible to clean PLM history in existing manufacturing company and setup PLM environment for automotive OEM to be up and running in less then nine weeks. If this is possible for a company like Volvo Car, maybe it is possible for other companies too?

Engineering.com article doesn’t provide enough details. My hunch is that people and organizational decision can make a difference. CEVT organization (grown from 100 to 1,900 people) had a single goal – to deliver PLM platform without being slow down by historical implementations, tools and decisions. So, it wasn’t about technology. It was about people.

What is my conclusion? Technologies are much easier than people. In my view, the moment of time Volvo Cars made a decision to cut the history, it open the opportunity to deliver a new system. Still… to have 1900 people working on delivery of PLM platform is not a simple task, but new development is always easier when it is not drawn into complexity of existing implementation, old code and mostly important organizational politics. It is still doesn’t provide an answer what can be done for all manufacturing companies that don’t have Volvo car Geely moment of change. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

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.


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