Does PLM industry need a visionary pageant?

Does PLM industry need a visionary pageant? Verdi Ogewell’s recent article came with the question – Who is the PLM industry’s leading visionary? Here are a few passages that caught my eye:

Many would argue that Bernard Charles, Dassault Systémes’ CEO and President, should be considered the leading visionary PLM ideologue among the commercial system developers and the industry in general.

However, within the framework of Dassault’s organization, Bernard Charles has always encountered a wide gap between the greatness of his ideas and what has been practically feasible. This hasn’t been easy, and it’s hardly a coincidence that both the V5 edition of the company’s solutions, as well as the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and V6, have had long implementation times (V5) and long standing when it comes to building customer volumes (V6).

From this perspective, there are several challengers who can lay claim to the throne. PTC’s Jim Heppelmann is a strong name, as is Siemens PLM’ chief Tony Hemmelgarn. What we’re talking about today is a “beyond PLM situation” where Charles’ original ideas have been broadened, and where the strongest concepts are influenced by Gartner and CIMdata analysts’ thoughts on a Product Innovation Platforms (PIP), including Marc Halpern, Peter Bilello and others.

It is interesting that the article brings up “beyond PLM situations” and mentioning PIP concepts. Because this is actually a place where PLM vendors were performing very poorly. Check Peter’s Bilello presentation from last year ConX18 event by IpX (Institute of Process Excellence).

Implementation wise, there is very little evidence that PLM solutions made anything beyond traditional engineering data management and PDM,

Moving into “vision” categories, another slide from the same presentation and poll by CIMdata shows that more than half responded answered that PLM doesn’t really matter.

The slides above show some ugly reality. It doesn’t mean PLM vendors such as Dassault, PTC and Siemens didn’t have some very impressive results. Actually opposite, after years of development, core PLM business is actually improving and investment in PLM is broadening. PLM investments are hot and the number of PLM M&A and investment deals demonstrate strong positions and market opportunities.

However, I’d question “beyond PLM” situations, which is directly related to downstream usage of PLM data and PLM democratization. All vendors are under-performing. All three vendors are positioning their new platforms and applications such as PTC Navigate, ActiveWorkspace and 3DEXPERIENCE to be available for a broader group of users. But, the jury is still out.

In my view, PLM industry needs an “openness” contest. At the time when manufacturing looks more like a network, all platforms I mentioned above have a strong tendency to develop a walled garden vision. Openness is a big missing thing in PLM. I’d call Peter Schroer of Aras a good candidate for PLM openness. Aras made a significant contribution to PLM openness by developing Innovator platform available for free download. It is interesting to see if recent investments into Aras will contribute to a future Aras PLM openness.

What is my conclusion? PLM industry doesn’t need another round of visionary pageants. I’d call democratization, downstream usage and openness as biggest challenges and opportunities in PLM applications. Recent decades of platform development demonstrated the important role network platforms played in the development of global systems and services. PLM paradigm change from isolated vertical platforms to open network services required to bring PLM to the next level. 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.


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  • Thanks as always for your posts, Oleg…

    To your point, there is a great deal of space in the product lifecycle beyond the PLM tools.

    I’ll repeat my comment from a couple of weeks ago – there is no single “PLM” product offering which encompasses more than the initial Create phase. Build is the domain of MES, and Support the domain of MRO. (Dispose is TBD.)

    One can see business value in querying information about a particular aircraft currently in flight to prepare for a repair, but this implies that the MRO database that contains all information about previous repairs can also link to the MES database with information on how the aircraft was manufactured, and to the PLM database which would provide work instructions regarding that particular manufactured and maintained configuration, with all of the appropriate pluses and minuses due to past repairs…

    (And since 80% of the parts were procured through suppliers, we’ll need to reach back through ERP transaction history to get Twin, Thread and Repair data without violating IP concerns.)

    Believe it or not, I have a point… ^_^

    While the scope of the product lifecycle is “lust to dust”, the PLM *tools* are focused on the engineering/technical community. They can be used to create and manage idealized virtual instances of future physical products, but thus far have little ability to align virtual and physical as the latter is manufactured and maintained. As it happens, money doesn’t change hands until manufacture and maintenance, so it is difficult to recognize revenue directly from your purchase of PLM, it is simply a cost of efficiency.

    And I’ll agree and expand upon your conclusions: we don’t need visionary pageants when the vision is so short-sighted.

    If “PLM” is to be important to the overall business, it needs to solve larger business problems. E.g., a robust digital thread/twin might have allowed Boeing to recognize their problems in the 737 Max before any lives were lost. An Op-Ed by former NTSB officials highlight it, as well as other crashes as design flaws. If design is the realm of “PLM”, the tools should help the business recognize these catastrophes in the virtual space.

    Harrumph! ^_^

  • beyondplm

    Hello Patrick, Thanks for your comments, thoughts and insight. I completely agree about solving business problem comment. Unfortunately, PLM business models are very much relying on data ownership and organizing a robust digital thread is a very hard goal. Individual companies can achieve it via very complex integration mechanisms tools integration and data management work. The technologies provided by PLM vendors are still very inefficient and limited to the scope of a single platform. To make data available dowstream and to create a business model to support it can be a big deal and can change a status quo. -Oleg