PLM & System Modeling – Flirt or Serious Engagement?

PLM & System Modeling – Flirt or Serious Engagement?

Many years ago, I’ve been following research papers of George J. Klir related to system approach in solving problems. My favorite was a system modeling hierarchy proposed by George Klir’s. If you never heard about it and you’re interested in system modeling, check out this book – Architecture of System Problem Solving.

The following picture is below. It is hard to cover an entire theory in a short paragraph. Nevertheless, I especially like this theory since it covers fundamental systems concepts, major categories of systems problems, and some selected methods for dealing with these problems at a rather general level.

Complex technical systems represent a significant challenge from both theoretical research and practical application. The examples of complex systems are advanced mechatronic systems (Eg. car or airplane), embedded control systems, distributed software systems, Internet of Things, cyber-physical and many others.

For the last decade, system engineering or system modeling becomes more used for development, testing and validation of complex systems. System thinking principles are at the code of system engineering to organize the body of knowledge. The outcome of this system engineering process is to create a system that as a combination of its components can perform functions based on a set of requirements. Systems engineering ensures that all likely aspects of a project or system are considered, and integrated into a whole.

PLM as a system is managing and controlling an entire product development, manufacturing, maintenance and support process is somewhat responsible to cover all these disciplines. However, original PLM systems were mostly focused on mechanical aspects of design and not covered an entire system thinking process.

For the last several years, I can see a process of connecting between PLM and System Engineering. Because PLM vendors suggest that their software is capable to oversee an entire product creation process, there are more voices asking PLM vendors and practitioners about how to answer on questions how disciplines involved into complex product are connected, integrated and functioning together with all other systems and sub-systems. Finally, the question how an entire system can be simulated and how to bring together all digital models to make it work as a single system. The most important question is how these systems are integrated during design, production planning, manufacturing and maintenance processes.

Recent growth in the popularity of Digital Twin and Digital Thread created a bigger demand to explain these marketing buzzwords and put some theoretical and practical foundation behind new digital PLM marketing. The outcome is a strong interest of PLM vendors to establish relationships with system engineering and system modeling domain.

Aras Corp announcement earlier this week is a good example of this type of activities. Here is a press release – Aras and Modelon Announce Strategic Collaboration for Integrated System Modeling to Support Enterprise MBSE in the Digital Thread.

Aras extends its vision for Simulation Management and mixed-fidelity simulation using a systems-centric, unified data model across all levels of model fidelity, physics, and disciplines. Aras provides tool-agnostic simulation automation to meet the demanding simulation needs for connected multidisciplinary products.

Partnering with Modelon, Aras will expand the scope of simulations that can be managed and automated within its low-code enterprise platform. Users of Aras Simulation Management can expect to span the entire spectrum of model fidelity, capturing simulation best-practices and scaling them to more teams throughout the enterprise. Incorporating Modelon’s advanced Modelica-based technology increases the use of multi-physics, multi-fidelity system simulation across the product’s lifecycle – effectively reducing physical testing, improving requirements verification, and accelerating design space exploration.

Modelica is a system language used by a number of applications these days. Check more here.

The Modelica Language is a non-proprietary, object-oriented, equation-based language to conveniently model complex physical systems containing, e.g., mechanical, electrical, electronic, hydraulic, thermal, control, electric power or process-oriented subcomponents.

Bringing system modeling language to PLM is an interesting twist. First, it creates a broader platform for data modeling. especially when it comes to complex systems. It also can potentially shift PLM implementation focus to engineering and simulation from configuration and change management functions.

Is there a danger in such a shift? Hard to say. Introducing system modeling can give additional points to people looking at how to get PLM systems more engaged in the overall product development process. Still, system engineering can be more narrow application comparing to configuration management tasks. The growing complexity of products and as a result, the growing popularity of System Engineering indicates a shift of platform vendors like Aras to step into SE competition with other PLM vendors usually associating system engineering with the functionality of CAD (design systems). Example of this is CATIA System and CATIA Dymola, which is also using Modelica as a foundation of system modeling.

What is my conclusion? PLM vendors are broadening their horizons by expanding into additional domains. System modeling and system engineering are one of them. While this is probably not new for leaders of PLM market such as Dassault Systemes, Siemens PLM, and others, it is a new trend for Aras looking how to expand their functional coverage to compete with top three PLM providers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels


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