PLM IoT: Expansion vs Redefinition?

PLM IoT: Expansion vs Redefinition?


IoT discussions are booming these days. The hype and expectations are so high. According to Gartner’s hype cycle, IoT is remaining at the peak of inflated expectations. Companies are making huge investments in IoT business and everyone is very much interested who will be the winner in IoT competitive race.

PLM vendors and industry analysts are making their predictions and bets on the future of IoT and PLM. Earlier today, I was reading CIMdata article – IoT: Expanding the PLM Opportunity. According to Gerard Litjens, IoT is becoming a major economic force for the next decade. Here is an interesting passage which reflects on how it will impact PLM vendors.

The process of defining, analyzing, and monitoring a successful IoT enabled business strategy, comes with the need for product and portfolio related executive PLM capabilities. These executive PLM capabilities will require the ability to combine information from different sources with PLM managed data. These sources include ERP, SCM, CRM, MES, LIMS, and others, as well as the ability to simulate and optimize several business scenarios. PLM solutions that implement the enterprise innovation platform concept are best positioned to adapt to this expansion into the executive office.

It looks like CIMdata believes that PLM platforms will be capable to combine the data from all information sources. As much as like love the idea, I have a doubt existing PLM platforms have capability to do so. It reminded me one of my earlier articles – IoT data will below up traditional PLM databases and Digital Twin- an extended version of as-maintained BOM that will crash PLM platforms.

In both articles, I’m speaking about the potential of current PLM platforms to scale beyond their existing capacities. And I doubt, current PLM technologies developed 15-25 years ago and modernized over the last 10 years of extensive M&A can make the jump. A potential believe that RDBMS vendors such as Oracle and Microsoft will scale up their RDBMS platforms  and it can give a “pain relief” and ability to scale existing enterprise PLM vendors. Time will show more about that. An alternative is to hope that PLM vendors are making top secret platform development and investment to prepare how to scale their platforms. I can see some data points about these activities as well.

Another interesting passage I captured from CIMdata article was about how IoT will transform the definition of product data.

Finally, IoT requires companies to reconsider their definition of their products. In the IoT enabled economy a product that a company has on its price list can be anything from the single products we have known for so long, to several products that (autonomously) work together as a system to realize a task, and the data generated and gathered by the connected devices. So, what did the robot provider deliver? Was it the 3,000 robots, or perhaps a picking system for the uninterrupted support of fulfilling orders? Probably the latter. This system consists of the individual robots that need to work together according to a specific set of rules, criteria, and characteristics. The individual products become part of an overall system, whose rules they will need to obey: they become actors in a larger connected and coordinated information system.

It is fascinating to think how PLM products can be used to design a whole system interacting between ordering system (ERP?), engineering system (PLM?) and few other manufacturing systems. At the time, any PLM-ERP integration requires at least several months of implementation services, I can only image the level of complexity required to make existing PLM product to be integrated and functioning in such environment with high level of connectivity and velocity. I’d be very much interested to see at least one system that can make it happen. I publish this use case on my blog if you will find me a public reference to such implementation.

What is my conclusion? IoT is very promising. I believe IoT dream can certainly come true to some manufacturing companies operating on the edge of engineering and manufacturing technologies. At the same time, I’d like to see how many of them will consider existing PLM products as a platform to manage an overall process of system design, manufacturing and operations. Most of these systems out of the box can only manage CAD files, organize change workflows and push updates to ERP system in a batch mode. Everything beyond that is rare and really custom-made implementations taking months and sometimes even years of implementations.Manufacturing companies can consider to develop their own PLM platforms.  However, I agree, IoT future will certainly redefine existing PLM technologies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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