Connected PLM – buzzword or differentiation?

Connected PLM – buzzword or differentiation?


Marketing can be boring. But not when it comes to competitive clashes and differentiation game. And, PLM is getting even more competitive then ever. Nobody wants to sell plane bagels and PLM vendors are trying to create a differentiation stories. There are different ways to create differentiation. You can create a differentiation story by claiming what you do differently, by focusing on your competitors’ weakness or by just saying in loud something that will stand your brand out of crowd. Depends on your technology, product and resource availability, you can choose what path to go.

One of the very much popular words today is “connected”. Few days ago, I debated if the idea of connected applications in PLM domain can replace the one version of truth mantra.

PTC blog –  Connected PLM: An Interview  makes the announcement of  “Steps to Digital Transformation” Virtual Conference and speaks about importance of so called “Connected PLM”.  Here is a passage I captured from the blog:

PTC: What is Connected PLM? Steve: Connected PLM is the deployment of smart, connected technology in a PLM solution. This deployment makes it possible to deliver a higher level of visibility and traceability of product information throughout the entire product lifecycle: this includes visibility into smart, connected products in the field and their real-world operational data. Connected PLM can also be used to seamlessly connect disparate systems that contain data that is relevant to the product development process. Companies are able to bring this data together – in context – with the engineering Bill of Materials (eBOM) and other supporting product information typically managed in PLM giving stakeholders early visibility to important product information.

I was surprised to see the ideas of data connecting disparate systems, silos of information and lifecycle stages was PLM imperative since the early beginning.

I checked Wikipedia article about PLM and found pretty much similar PLM definition goes back to 1985.

The inspiration for the burgeoning business process now known as PLM came from American Motors Corporation (AMC).[4][5] The automaker was looking for a way to speed up its product development process to compete better against its larger competitors in 1985, according to François Castaing, Vice President for Product Engineering and Development.

The product data management was so effective that after AMC was purchased by Chrysler, the system was expanded throughout the enterprise connecting everyone involved in designing and building products.[6] While an early adopter of PLM technology, Chrysler was able to become the auto industry’s lowest-cost producer, recording development costs that were half of the industry average by the mid-1990s.[6]

During 1982-83, Rockwell International developed initial concepts of PDM and PLM for the B-1B bomber program.[8] The system called Engineering Data System (EDS) was augmented to interface with Computervision and CADAM systems to track part configurations and lifecycle of components and assemblies. Computervison later released implementing only the PDM aspects as the lifecycle model was specific to Rockwell and aerospace needs.

The way you think about PLM as a decision framework was proposed by Jim Brown and it makes lot of sense to me. Navigate to my earlier blog to read more.

PLM is a decision framework for engineers. It made me think about two important elements of such type of framework – information collection and decision tracking. The first element of the framework is a capability to collect the information needed to make a decision. It is a complicated process; information is siloed in different systems and organizations among people. Sometimes information is in the database, sometimes information is in the email and sometimes information is in people’s mind. This is a challenge PLM framework need to solve. Second part of the framework is the ability of the system keep records of decisions. Sometimes it comes as ECO management system, and sometimes it can come as more generic process management systems.

What is my conclusion? We live in “connected” world these days. There are lot of new information management technologies around us that makes our life better connected – we can be connected by applications, sensors, devices… However, I’d be careful to add word “connected” to any software, which is by definition connected to the information. To defend “connected PLM” marketing position, I’d agree new technologies allowing us to track information about physical products can make a difference in the future. But PLM vendors are still scratching the surface of how to make it happen and even more important – how to keep existing PLM systems afloat when tsunami of connected information is coming. 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. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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