For many years, single (or one) version of truth was a core principle of PLM data organization. It was a vision and slogan behind PLM value and one of the reasons to bring PLM system to manufacturing companies. It was widely accepted and supported by analysts, architects and PLM sales.
PLM single point of truth
Below, I captured few quotes about that going back 5-10 years ago. Here is the one from CIMdata newsletter here
Consolidating all product-related information, i.e., the raw materials, ingredients, formulas, packaging, labels, and artwork, into a single source of truth reduces mistakes and shortens the time to find information. Compliance analysis helps ensure that products meet regulations quickly and that there are no surprises after product launch. Least-cost formulation helps manufacturers compete and be successful both in the short and long term.
Enabling systems engineering with PLM holds forth the promise of the single logical source of the truth. The greatest challenge engineers face is to find the necessary information and verify its source and accuracy. This problem dates back to the dawn of the Industrial Age. A single logical source of the truth, particularly at the project level, multiplies any project team’s effectiveness. A single version of truth is critical for effective decision-making and business success.
Another passage from Jos Voskuil article – Some users don’t like the single version of truth:
I believe the biggest challenge for every organization implementing PDM and later PLM is, to get all users aligned to store their information in a central location and to share it with others. Only in this manner a company can achieve the goal of having a single version of the truth. With single version of the truth I mean – if I look in the PLM system I find there all the needed data to explain me the exact status of a product or a project. If it is not in the PLM system, it does not exist!
Engineering.com video by Tech4PDChannel by Chad Jackson and Jim Brown:
It’s important for the enterprise to work on a single version of the truth. That has been one of the tenants of PLM for at least a decade. That can’t happen if there is one version of the truth in Engineering (PLM) and another that touches the rest of the business (ERP).
The end of single point of truth
As much as single point of truth mantra is simple and powerful, it probably cannot sustain the reality of modern engineering and manufacturing environment. And the biggest challenge is global and distributed environment we live into, complexity of multiple systems and more. It leads to many debates about single point of truth. One of my favorite examples to compare single version of truth with garbage bin by Jos Voskuil blog – PLM and Blockers:
Some vendors claim if you store everything in their system, you have a “single version of the truth”. Sounds attractive. My garbage bin at home is also a place where everything ends up in a single place, but a garbage bin has not been designed for sharing, as another person has no clue and time to analyze what´s inside. Even data in the same system can be hidden for others as the way to find data is not anticipated.
Capgemini article One version of the truth – a phrase that is past its sell-by date? makes the point about a reality of data changes in multiple systems. In such case, to have multiple “versions” and been able to understand data difference can be even more important that bringing all data to a single system.
“Version of the truth” is also somewhat challenging. The truth is the truth, it doesn’t have versions – it just is! The truth may change over time but if it is correctly recorded then at any instance in time there is only one truth. When the raw data sets are consolidated through different systems (Supply chain and Finance) and then arrive at the boardroom as different figures, which one do you accept? When making decisions, should you only use one of them, and if so which one? Or might it be better to maintain both and try to determine why they are different and then eliminate the sources of error?
No-one would deny that having one version makes it easier to make decisions but to make good decisions requires accurate data. One version that is wrong is worse than having two versions (right or wrong!) since it will be used as the truth despite being wrong. With two versions you have to investigate further and while that might be tedious and expensive it at least adds value compared to blindly accepting one version of the truth!
One of the new fancy words in PLM marketing slang is “Connected PLM”. We are much more connected these days – connected cars, connected homes, mobile devices, sensors, Internet of Things, etc. The ideas of search and data sharing are coming to replace the ideas of “single database”. There is an increased interest in data-orientation and data connectivity opposite to a single data container (database). Here is an interesting passage from Jos Voskuil blog
The future is about storing all these pieces of data inside connected data environments, instead of storing a lot of data inside a (versioned) information container (a file / a document). Managing these data elements in the context of each other allow people to build information from any viewpoint – project oriented, product oriented, manufacturing oriented, service oriented, etc.
Automation World article – The New PLM: Highly Connected, a Little Disruptive brings you a perspective of how PLM vendors are investing into data connectivity and IoT. You don’t see singe version of truth anymore. Opposite to that you can see the idea of “connected” information.
And it’s not just automobiles that are morphing into complex electronic systems. Many of the smart things saturating our everyday lives as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) are engineered with mechanical, electrical, software and firmware components, all of which amount to connected chaos when it comes to managing configurations, revisions and quality control as part of the product lifecycle management (PLM) system.
….the industry has entered a new stage in which suppliers and customers are also an important part of the product lifecycle. Suppliers, in some ways, are becoming design partners and customers are leveraging social networks to provide feedback on product functionality. In addition, the “connected products” that make up the IoT are creating a convergence of electronics and software, so there is a need for more integrated simulation models.
What is my conclusion? It became obvious that to maintain a single database storing all data pieces about product is not feasible. PLM industry is adopting a new mantra – connected PLM. It makes a lot of sense because information is indeed lives in multiple places. An attempt to have a system to manage all information together in a single database will fail. How existing PLM platforms will adopt to a new reality? This is a good topic to discuss with industry analysts and PLM architects. 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.