Invisible Product Lifecycle Software

Invisible Product Lifecycle Software

PLM industry is transforming. We can hear sounds of transformation everywhere. Data management is getting better – we are capable to store and process a gigantic amount of information these days. Computing power is becoming elastic and available at the time we need it. New sensors and data collection technology is coming enabling IoT revolution tomorrow with billions of devices and new market. If you had a chance to read my blog few days ago, PTC’s CEO and President Jim Hepplemann called IoT a new PLM enabling actually LM of product compared to previous technology that in fact was pure PDM. At the same time, new cloud CAD products are coming to solve what was before a nightmare of every engineer – PDM check-in and check-out process.

However, when it comes to PLM, the situation is far from consensus. In most of situations, PLM is considered as a complex and not very much understood software focusing on business transformation, innovation and lifecycle of product. It is (still) very hard to explain and even harder to execute. Very often conversation about PLM requires whiteboard, deep introduction, agreement about terminology and definition of PLM. Then you can do something…

It reminded me famous Personal Tech column in WSJ from 1991:

Personal Technology column in the Journal on October 17, 1991: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn’t your fault.” It was true then, and for many, many years thereafter. Not only were the interfaces confusing, but most tech products demanded frequent tweaking and fixing of a type that required more technical skill than most people had, or cared to acquire. The whole field was new, and engineers weren’t designing products for normal people who had other talents and interests.

Computers were hard to use 25 years ago, but things have changed since that time. And today, I can give a phone or tablet to any 7-10 years old kid and he can figure out how to use any program. Which was no a case back in 1991.

New generation of software is making many procedures and activities obsolete. Think about “save”, which was an essential function in most of desktop application 10-15 years ago. Such function is disappearing in modern online text editors and cloud CAD tools such as Onshape.

In PLM, a tremendous amount of effort and time is spent on capturing of organizational activity, data structures, models and processes. Every single PLM implementation is started from learning of PLM modeling supported by software and then mapping of organizational processes into this model and efforts to improve it. PLM consultant will call it business transformation, but in fact it is information, process and knowledge mapping.

Now… are you ready to dream 10 years ahead? What was hard for computers 25 years ago, today is easy. Data processing, multi-touch interfaces, speech recognition, prediction analytic and even some elements of AI. The same will happen with application of lifecycle management. The future lifecycle management will become an invisible function to capture organizational information, processes and behaviors by using variety of intelligent technologies. Because PLM is essentially a model (ontology ) of real organization and its products. Here is a useful definition of ontology I captured in KDNuggets article.

“…a model for describing the world that consists of a set of types, properties, and relationship types. There is also generally an expectation that the features of the model in an ontology should closely resemble the real world (related to the object)…”

The ideas and tools described in the article aren’t necessarily technologies that will be used in the future. What is resonating is the idea of describing a specific domain behavior and computing power capable to realize such models in a real world. These technologies will make current process of capturing organizational processes and helping people to change obsolete. New (and I agree futuristic) technologies will allow to people to rationalize the way company will design, manufacture and service products. It will require capturing of information and creating knowledge models.

It doesn’t mean PLM will disappear as product and technology. However, it will provide a new meaning of interaction with this software. Like modern data crawlers are capable to analyze websites and software programs, new lifecycle management application will turn into invisible tools analyzing organizational behavior and people activity, learning about business goals and manufacturing processes.

I wanted to provoke you with the discussion about something that might not be relevant and we might laugh about the idea of invisible lifecycle application in 10 yeas. But as you know, every joke contains truth. The following SNL video will take you 10 years back and I hope will make you smile.

What is my conclusion? I remember  people criticized cloud computing 7-10 years ago by saying manufacturing companies will never trust cloud storage and upload such sensitive information as product design to the cloud. And it is happening now. The idea of ambient computing might sounds crazy and unrealistic. It can be even be crazy to think about  invisible technologies capturing intent, processes and making decisions. If British hospitals have to shut down due to a ransomware attack, invisible lifecylce application can shutdown your manufacturing plant. But, looking back we can see some craziest ideas becoming a reality these days. 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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