Rethinking PDM/PLM Architectures After COVID19

Rethinking PDM/PLM Architectures After COVID19

I grew up in a country where supermarkets and grocery shops shelves were empty. Your best luck was to the time when do you need to come to the store to buy something after standing in the queue. Even the fundamental reasons for empty shelves in the U.S. and other places in the world are different, my memory was restored very quickly and provide clear survival guidance. Covid-19 is a tragic event. And as every tragic event, I hope it will lead to rethinking some fundamental things about our behavioral model, social norms and business.

Earlier during the weekend, I was watching Bill Gates TED talk five years ago. It was painful to realize that he predicted the COVID-19 event and how it can happen in his TED speech.

COVID-19 is a tragedy, but it is also an alert for the future as many other tragic events that happened in the past.

Today, all businesses around the world are forced to work remotely, sending people home and IT people of many businesses are urgently bringing up many questions about how much their infrastructure and business systems are ready for such an event.

For the last few weeks, I was getting non-stop questions from readers of my blog about how different PDM and PLM infrastructure can work in the situation when everyone will be forced to work remotely. And there are many unpleasant questions that coming very fast related to file locations, desktop software which can run only on designated workstations, using VPN and many others.

Having friends from Florida, I know that after hurricanes many people rush to install generators. Coronavirus is a tragic disaster. But, even today and especially after it is over, business IT people will be re-evaluating what worked and what didn’t during this bad time. And PLM systems and infrastructure will be on the fire line as one of the oldest and maybe less reliable for the situations when people are forced to work online.

Here are the top 3 questions that come to my head as I was imagining what every engineering and manufacturing organization will work going through these days.

1- Where are my files?

Despite huge progress technologies did for the last two decades, the majority of design and process management systems are working with files. These files are everywhere. When it comes to simple docs, cloud file storage is a simple answer. But when it comes to complex file structures like one CAD system are creating, it all fails. Almost all PDM systems are tuned to desktop-client-server environments running local network vaults and barely available in the browser. You might be lucky to have files on your computer, but how to get them exchanged with the team members is a big question

2- Design Collaborations, Change processes, and Revisions

Continue with the file, the process of updates, collaboration and revision management is tightly related to CAD files and in the case of remote work can be slow down or became impossible. While some PLM systems can provide browser-based functionality not everything is covered by these interfaces and might require access to local files.

3- Share Information for planning and purchasing downstream

Files and CAD systems are just a beginning. A vast amount of data shared downstream is done outside of current PLM systems using Excels, local databases, and other legacy tools. It is often linked to local resources. So, even if you think you can your one big Excel open it will not be connected to the same data sources and can fail. As a result, not updated information, emails back and forth and businesses stopped and losing their money. When companies will be urged to move to remote environments, the question about how to share information globally in a reliable form will become the first priority.

What is my conclusion?

An unprecedented situation that created by COVID-19  will force many IT professional to re-think their requirements, working environment and technologies used by manufacturing companies. CAD, PDM and PLM environments have tons of legacy systems and infrastructure. I think, the current situation will line out a new reality and new requirements for CAD, PDM and PLM systems.

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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