Next Decade of PLM: SaaS, Digital Thread, Model-Based System Engineering and maybe more…

Next Decade of PLM: SaaS, Digital Thread, Model-Based System Engineering and maybe more…

PLM needs a paradigm shift. For the last two decades of PLM development, customers and vendors gathered tons of experience in developing, selling, implementing, maintaining and upgrading PLM systems. When I started my blog back in 2009, I was looking for a better name. This is how I came to the “Beyond PLM” name. I had multiple reasons for that. I’ve seen how cloud technologies are transforming the industries and I believed that PLM can use cloud technologies to change their business models and value proposition for customers. The complexity of product development and manufacturing is skyrocketing. Business is moving at an astonishing speed. Innovation, changes, new businesses, mass-customization. Do you think PLM is up to the job? Do you think current PLM architecture and paradigm are up to the job?

Last week, I captured the following slide during the Onshape event in Boston. Online survey shows that existing PDM and PLM systems can actually slow design process in the companies.

I can see the point of customers that looking at how to workaround existing PLM systems slowing down their work. When systems are hard to use, slow to implement and impossible to upgrade, you don’t want to make your product development process dependent on these systems.

As we move in the 2020s, the question about what will drive the transformation of PLM. Earlier today, I capture the following passage in Twitter – “Poorly architected legacy #PLM that can not adapt to support changing biz conditions”.

I found the comment very interesting because a decade ago, it was the same comment that used against hosting PLM systems in the cloud. Back those days, we’ve heard that there is no single manufacturing company in the world that will agree to put their designs in the cloud. So, these days, legacy PLM providers are defending regulated environments, because of SMB and non-regulated industries companies are preferring SaaS solutions these days.

So, what can we expect from PLM development in the 2020s? Here are a few interesting directions, I would like to outline that in my view, demonstrate potential in the future of PLM.

1- Digital Thread and IoT

The opportunity to have connected systems capable to cover all stages of product development is huge. The reality of modern manufacturing and user experience to have digital and physical assets connected. I’d like to have information about what product does in the customer environment and I’d like the digital twin of this product being able to simulate everything that can happen with the product in real life. The lifecycle record of the product, in both digital and physical environments, must be persevered, traced and accessible. There is a huge opportunity to develop these connected systems to leverage an enormous potential of data we have about a product, customers and experience.

2- Model-Based System Engineering (MBSE)

The complexity of products is skyrocketing. The days when the product was a mechanical assembly with some electronics are gone. Today, every single product is a complex system combined with mechanical parts, electro-mechanical components, electronics, computers, software and cloud software running together. How to manage information about such systems? What models to use? How to make the system capable to control and sharing correct information? There are a lot of questions and MBSE can be an answer. I can see some promising development in this area that can be transformed into useful PLM architecture.

3- Online (SaaS) services

The old PLM was designed on top of the SQL database, installed in the company to control and manage company data. That was a good paradigm and PLM is still selling a paradigm of a single version of the truth. But, here is the thing… the truth is now distributed. It is not located in a single database in a single company. It lives in multiple places and it updates all the time. Companies like to move fast these days. Nobody is ready to wait for an email update. Everything is connected and moves fast. To support such an environment, companies need to move into different types of systems – global, online, optimized to use information coming from multiple sources and capable to interact in real-time. Isolated SQL-based architectures running in a single company is a thing in the past. Online SaaS services are coming to help. SaaS is making the PLM upgrade problem irrelevant (everyone is running on the same version of the software). The cost of systems can be optimized and SaaS systems can serve small and medium size companies with the same efficiency as large ones.

What is my conclusion? We will see a new generation of PLM systems in the 2020s. These systems will be capable to manage a complex set of information about modern products, capable to connect physical and virtual product information together and scale from small to large companies using cloud technology elasticity and salability. It will take time, but this is where PLM is going. 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.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay


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