Have you heard about Platformization and Product Innovation Platforms? Platformization is a new trend that was outlined by several industry analysts and research companies. Check out CIMdata dossier about Platformization here. Innovation is a such a good word – all PLM companies are promoting their software now as Product Innovation Platforms.
In my view, vendors need to be more specific in definitions. It is nice to call a combination of openness, integration and sustainable deployment product innovation platform. But, it is very hard to compare and make an assessment about how a specific PLM software fits the requirements. The terminology is so unclear that it reminded me the debates about the definition of pornography used in 1964 by United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart – “I know it when I see it”… Check my earlier blog for more details.
Recent CIMdata publication – CIMdata: A Product Innovation Platform and Its Impact on Successful PLM Deployments is an attempt to bring a clearer definition of what is Product Innovation Platform. The publication is marketed by Aras Corp. and also explains why Aras is the best software to fit the definition of Product Innovation Platform. Ignore marketing and focus on first part. The following passage from the article connects the problem of existing PLM products to PDM history and specific influence of design integration opposite to flexible data modeling and integration capabilities.
Many of today’s product lifecycle management (PLM) architectures have evolved from PDM solutions that were designed 30 or more years ago. While today’s architectures are greatly improved from what was available back then, the way they are applied in most PLM-enabling solutions still does not support easy integration with other enterprise platforms or solutions nor do they have the flexible capabilities needed for assimilating data, organization structures, and working processes to support the product lifecycle. The outcome is that companies must customize core data structures and solution processes to meet their particular business needs. As business needs change, future adaptations of the solutions become even more difficult, and upgrades, sometimes impossible.
In recent years, platforms have become an important element for enabling business activities. Today, companies want to drive their product lifecycles based on the use of platforms that streamline operations, reduce the costs of doing business, and simplify integration of data and processes across the enterprise and throughout the entire lifecycle. A PLM solution enabled by a product innovation platform is structured to solve many of the difficulties inherent in having to drive innovation with a heterogeneous solutions suite. Such a platform uses modern software and information technology (IT) constructs (well defined layering, modeling, services, native internet support, standards, etc.) to support key elements of sustainable solutions including maintainability, adaptability, upgradability, integration in heterogeneous environments, and others.
I agree- existing PLM platforms have deep connection to CAD vendors and support PDM-like functionality. At the same time, here is the funny thing – all these platforms were born as non-CAD PLM systems. Check my earlier blog with some data points about history of existing platforms here. You can see roots of 3 top PLM platforms: Dassault Systemes (MatrixOne), PTC (Windchill), Siemens PLM ( Metaphase, Teamcenter Engineering). MatrixOne and Windchill are platforms acquired by Dassault Systems and PTC accordingly and have deep enterprise platform roots. Teamcenter story is a bit different. CIMdata paper – Teamcenter “unified” “Siemens PLM Software’s Next Generation PLM Platform” is a good place to read about Teamcenter and its characteristics. My favorite was passage about openness.
Open Business Model—They provide technology and solutions to the market under their PLM Components brand, which are available to all companies, including competitors. These include Parasolid, D-Cubed, PLM Vis, NX Nastran, PLM XML SDK, and the JT & XT Toolkits. Open Data Model—The data model and associated tools are designed to enable interoperability between other business and legacy systems and help customers leverage data more effectively across their enterprise. Open Architecture—This architecture is intended to enable integration with other enterprise and legacy systems. Open Applications—This is intended to allow applications to be easily extended by customers and partners.Open Communities—Siemens PLM works with PLM communities such as user groups, JT Open, and numerous other products.
Aras platform has one big difference with each of these platforms I mentioned above. I shared it in my blog – What is behind Aras momentum? earlier this year. Aras Innovator technology was lucky not to be involved into M&A and technological transformations like it happened to all other PLM platforms. I can call Aras as “the newest old platform”. Aras is ~15 years old. I will use the description provided in Aras press release from 2002 – Aras announces the first true internet PLM software architecture.
Innovators self-describing system and use of run-time logic are radical departures from conventional enterprise software architectures. Total Cost of Ownership is drastically reduced because all of the business rules, data definitions, screens, and data structures are stored as XML in a standard relational database along with the data. Then, Innovator interprets the XML at run-time. Traditional enterprise applications require software developers to code, compile, and link system objects making customization, integration, and technology migration time consuming and costly. The use of run-time logic enables real-time prototyping. Business rules, screens, fields, and even data structures can be changed in real-time by editing the XML definitions rather than compiling or linking object specific source code. As a result, tailoring, integration, and roll out of the Innovator Application Suite occur 5x faster and cost 5x less than conventional systems. Then, once in production functionality can continuously be enhanced to meet evolving customer needs.
You may ask- where is a catch? Which of these PLM software packages is the best candidate to be called Product Innovation Platform. In my view, there are good examples of PLM product usage from all providers in the market. But these examples are coming from years of implementations, customization and transformations. Which is probably a fair statement for any enterprise software. However, I think the longevity of PLM packages deployed to manufacturing companies is amazing. And the real reason is simple – to cost of replacement is sky rocketing. Aras has a momentum because of its technology developed for the last decade. It has a potential to grow… unless it will be acquired, merged and converged with one of existing PLM technology in the market.
What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies live with the status quo of existing PDM and PLM backbones developed and deployed for the last 10-20 years. The biggest question if these technologies can be replaced by something else. The economical aspect of such replacement is very interesting. From system architecture standpoint, it is a project that might take several years and become a technological nightmare for every PLM IT manager. Therefore, large manufacturing companies can choose is gradual integration and enhancements of existing solution with newer technologies and solutions. Companies should examine existing mature PLM technologies. Also, it might be a good idea to check new SaaS PLM systems and cloud-based services. Integration capabilities, ROI and potential system longevity are main decision factors to watch here. 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. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.