PDT Europe 2017: The culmination of complexity in PLM and next steps

PDT Europe 2017: The culmination of complexity in PLM and next steps

I’m digesting information from PDT Europe- the event I attended for the last 2 days in Gothenburg Sweden. Check website for more details. The event theme was “Continues transformation of PLM to support Lifecycle Model-Based Enterprise”.

Not an average PLM marketing event

It was my first PDT Europe event after many years. The last one I attended was in 2011. Comparing to many other PLM events I had a chance to attend, PDT Europe is different. And the main thing here is the depth of technical discussion. I think, it is a result of significant Eurostep investment in standard-related activities. It has pros and cons. However, if you’re coming here, be prepared for complex slides and technical diagrams.

PLM transformation

The event theme “continues transformation” gives you a strong hint about the need to change all the time. For the last 15-20 years, PLM made a journey from engineering toolkit to business strategy. But, new manufacturing environment brings new challenges and opportunities demanding changes. PLM adopted mostly by large companies and to apply changes in these enterprise isn’t a simple goal.

Challenges of transformation in large systems Marc Halpern (Gartner):

How to sell PLM to enterprise companies by Jos Voskuil:

Bimodal approach was heavily debated during the event. You can clearly see who is against whom in this bimodal strategy. On the surface, bimodal is a reasonable way to rationalize stable and innovative environment together.

However, if you look at slides presented by innovators (eg. Aras Overlay strategy), it is clear that bimodal approach is only tactical thing and the end game is to replace established PLM vendors by introducing more flexible and modern data modeling approach and level of openness.

Combination of new cloud-based technologies, real-time collaboration, multi-tenant data management and new business models can provide a unique set of solutions for global manufacturing world.

Product Lifecycle expansion

PLM roots are deep in engineering. However, development of new business models (service-based) and expansion of IoT technologies is bringing new perspective on what is the role of PLM in the future digital manufacturing.

The top theme in these discussions at PDT Europe was “digital twin” . The definition and strategies of digital twin is still evolving, but it seems like a way to re-introduce PLM technologies to the world.

At the same time, another newcomer in the lexicon of PLM vendors “digitalization” seems like a new buzzword for old tools and processes.

Model-driven approach

Document (file) based approach was long time a dominant abstraction used by CAD / PLM industry. Single database , PLM and single version of truth was dominant set of messages about how to move away from CAD documents.

New and evolving approach is “model-driven”. It is an improved version of database message focusing on how to leave document envelop towards something that can be semantically rich and provide a new mechanism for information management and decision making.

Model-digital ‘as-is’ by CIMdata:

Model-based everything architecture by Prof. Martin Eigner.

Enterprise business and PLM – culmination of complexity

So, what product development technologies are on horizon for enterprises to support business transformation and growing complexity? Model-driven X-enterprise, digital twin, bimodal strategies, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

All these technologies and tools can bring lot of new things, but unfortunately not addressing one of the biggest enterprise pains – complexity and evolutionary approach in IT strategies. Enterprise PLM is a demonstration of one of the most complex information management technologies in knowledge-sensitive environment where any decision can lead to significant business damages.

To decide “not to decide” is one of the most popular decisions taken by IT and business leads. Significant organizational changes can bring an opportunity to start from scratch, but even so, old tools leading to re-introduction of old problems in new environment

What is my conclusion?

My favorite Gall’s law says that all complex systems that work evolved from simpler systems that worked. If you want to build a complex system that works, build a simpler system first, and then improve it over time.

What is the implication for PLM? How to make a change in complex environment? This is a question asked by many people working on PLM technologies. Unfortunately, you cannot solve the problem created by PLM tools using PLM tools. It won’t work. PLM paradigms is what need to be changed first. How to do so? My advise – go back to basics and re-build PLM bottom up from simple systems that work. Granularity and global web scale are two fundamental principles of new PLM paradigm and architecture. Web technologies, cloud, new data modeling, global approach, new business models – these are elements of  new PLM architecture and re-imagining of PLM. 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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