I’ve been reading Jim Brown’s article about Innovation Platforms over the weekend. Navigate the future! Check the following link to read it – Operating System for the Digital Enterprise | Navigate the Future. The article is published on Dassault Systemes blog with the remark that Jim Brown will host a panel discussion titled “Accelerating Your Business & Reducing Complexity with the Cloud” during coming 3DEXPERIENCE forum. I won’t be able to make it, so I will share my thoughts online and hope to have a productive discussion with Jim as we usually do.
The article describes in details why Innovation Platform is the next great thing that will happen in product development. It says those people who think it is the next step in PLM development aren’t wrong. The concluding passage in the article says basically there is no way to deliver Innovation Platform without cloud. However, cloud can be actually anything – private, public, hybrid.
Based on the requirements, it’s hard to deliver the product innovation platform in anything other than a cloud platform. The cloud provides the infrastructure with the required capability, connectivity, scalability, and reach required. Whether the platform is on a public or private cloud, or some hybrid model, cloud technologies open the platform up to everyone across the enterprise and the value chain so they can contribute.
The thing that caught my special attention was about related to the notion of open platform for everyone across the enterprise and value chain. This is a huge value. Earlier PLM promise was the same, but the problem was how to deliver it. In the best scenario, PLM platform (system) became a tool to manage data about product in the enterprise organization allowing to contractors and suppliers to get in using PLM system access control.
Another passage from Jim’s article hints about deep roots to well known PLM architecture –
An innovation platform enables a cohesive approach to product innovation, product development and engineering, and continues to play a role through manufacturing and service. It provides a single data model so everyone works on the same information in real-time, creating a cohesive digital twin. This integrated model eliminates the need for a lot of non-value-added work like translating and recreating data, resulting in a single digital thread that connects information and people across the product lifecycle.
It made me think about what is a future of PLM platform in the era of internet connectivity, global manufacturing, disintegration challenges and growing need to speed up real-time collaboration and communication in enterprise organization and an entire value chain.
Are we still at the age of PLM walled gardens (now Innovation platforms)? Is innovation platform a way to exit from PLM walled gardens? One way to think about Innovation platform is monolithic vertically integrated solution. Another way to think about it is set of granular integrated services.
Platform is not about fancy marketing messages. Platform is all about how to manage data and processes in a reliable and connected way as well as providing services to other applications and tools. Vertically integrated platform is a potential mousetrap and at the same time a software heaven from a single vendor. Integration is indeed a key and article is addressing it. But not without concerns. Here is a passage from the article:
From a process perspective, the platform should provide integration across functions. It must provide streamlined processes that cut across departments and other organizational boundaries, but also across traditional software package boundaries. For example, a process may require capabilities of CAD, PDM, and CAE, but that complexity should be shielded from the user so they can focus on the job at hand.
There is a huge promise to shield complexity of integration. My hunch CATIA users will be able to focus on their job and manage processes using Teamcenter or Aras Innovation platforms and vice versa NX users will be able to innovate using Teamcenter or Aras foundations.
What is my conclusion? Innovation platform brings a fresh breeze of integration into PLM world. Web and cloud architecture can provide lot of flexibility, but also to create an illusion of openness. Globalization and other modern manufacturing trends are raising a question how to deliver a reliable global data management platform for engineers, manufacturing companies and supplies. I can see a promise for Innovation platforms to provide an “exit” from PLM walled garden. Will they do so? The devil is in the details. With the complexity of manufacturing systems today, it is a question how to build a global PLM system for manufacturing world. Sounds like a great question to ask software vendors, analysts and industry pundits. 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.