A single version of the truth is one of the most powerful PLM paradigm development for the last two decades. It is easy to explain – just think about all the information you need in a single place. But it is not very easy to implement. Data is siloed, companies are working with partners, suppliers, and contractors. Systems are not upgraded. Sounds familiar? This is PLM as we know today.
The demand for a single version of the truth is high. Companies made progress in expanding PLM vision outside of engineering downstream. Next expansion from a virtual to physical – to connect virtual data about products coming from engineering, manufacturing, sales with physical space – think maintenance, support.
I came across Jos Voskuil’s article titled PLM and PIM – the complementary value in the digital enterprise. Check this out. It speaks about one of the oldest dreams of PLM systems to expand into downstream information delivery.
Here are a few interesting things – Digital Enterprise, PIM, MDM. The following diagram from the article speaks about 3 phases – conceptual, deliver, publish. PLM and PIM are covering both and MDM’s role to sync data. The roles of PLM and PIM are divided.
The information handled by traditional PLM consists mostly of design data, i.e., specifications, manufacturing drawings, 3D Models, and Bill of Materials (physical part definitions) combined with version and revision management. In elaborate environments combined with processes supporting configuration management.
PLM data is more focused on internal processes and quality than on targeting the company’s customers. Sometimes the 3D Design data is used as a base to create lightweight 3D graphics for quotations and catalogs, combining it with relevant sales data. Traditional marketing was representing the voice of the customer.
Because of changes in the retail market, the need for information in the publishing processes is also changing. Retailers also need to comply with new rules and legislation. The source of the required product information is often in the design process of the product.
…more and more information is needed for publication in the sales process and therefore needs to be present in PIM systems. This information needs to be collected and available during the PLM release process. A seamless connection between the product release and sales processes will support the changing requirements and will reduce errors and rework in on data.
I found the PLM and PIM value proposition clearly defined. My favorite part is this picture.
I like the picture because it clearly shows how information is intertwined between domains. The article states that PLM vendors are not focusing on the MDM solution, which is syncing data between multiple systems (in this case, it is PLM and PIM, but can be more). To sync data is hard.
And here is my favorite passage:
Companies that have realized the need for connected data understood that Product Master Data Management is more than only the engineering/manufacturing view. Product Master Data Management is also relevant to the sales and services view. Historically done by companies as a customized extension on their PLM-system, now more and more interfacing with specialized PIM-systems. Proprietary PLM-PIM interfaces exist. Hopefully, with digital transformation, a more standardized approach will appear.
The hope for digital transformation is a good one. But how it will be materialized. What will be a digital differentiation? Here is what I think. A traditional approach seems to be push/pull methodology combined with data synchronization and usage of MDM technologies. This is where I think, the future differentiation of modern cloud-based SaaS PLM services.
The challenge of existing systems is to be able to segment SQL databases or separate single-tenant systems to provide layers of data that can be synchronized – so-called PLM and PIM layers. At the same time, modern cloud-based multi-tenant technologies can provide a natural solution to this problem. Because of multi-tenancy, data can be easy shared, segmented and exposed with the right context.
The same can be said about MDM systems. Thinking about one giant master data management system for a company is still a possible thing. Nothing wrong. However, the more I think about the trajectory of master data, I found myself realizing that master data is distributed. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it is what happens with many companies. The single version of the truth is a single system capable to hold information (or a subset of information) coming from multiple companies and data sources. The physical data about products can be intertwined with virtual data about this product located in the same multi-tenant platform.
What is my conclusion? An old paradigm of a single version of the truth was to lock it in a single master database. Push, pull, sync – these are ways to move data between databases worked well in the past. Digital enterprise will open the door for digital data continuum – a new type of information intelligence built on top of multi-tenant data services. Just my thoughts…
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.