Data is a new oil. Unless you lived under a rock for the last few years, I’m sure you’ve heard this statement at least once. The data is indeed a source of much recent innovation and super-successful businesses in this world. If you can make data work for your business model, the sky’s the limit. However, to say it is much easier than to do so. PLM companies are not different from everybody else in this world and they are trying to bring the power of the data to help engineers and manufacturing companies and to change the way PLM is doing business.
I can hear some of you saying – but what does the data-driven approach mean? PLM was always about data and information. PLM vendors always sold it as a single source of truth for a company. What should be different in the data-driven approach that we didn’t do in the past by managing a single source of truth in PLM systems during the last two decades?
Earlier this year, I published a few articles that give you a fundamental perspective on changes in PLM system, data and applications. Check them out.
In my article today, I want to share ideas on the architecture transformation of PLM systems that will bring PLM systems and data architecture to the next level of data management and intelligence.
System Architecture: From File Servers To Connected Applications
The architecture of PLM systems goes back to the time when the data created by CAD systems was stored first on desktop computers and later on shared network drives. While it provided a huge step to data management, files are not a good way to manage data and share it. At the time, when these CAD files were created, the focus was more on how to store the data and less on how to get this data managed properly and accessed by a growing network of people and organizations. The new approach is to get rid of files and move to the applications that can be loaded in the browser or installed on mobile devices and computers. The key element of all these applications is to stay connected to the data (not files) and provide you universal access to the information.
Data Architecture: From Isolated Databases To Product Data Networks
The first data architectures of PLM systems were using SQL (or other) databases as a central storage of the data for a company. The database was a boundary for data and using this boundary over time became a limiting factor for companies to work together. These databases and old fashion data management architecture don’t allow data to be naturally connected and intertwined. The same old data architecture didn’t provide a universal way to manage data between multiple companies in the connected form. A new approach of data networks brings a way to manage data in global scope, connect islands of information between multiple companies and build intelligence on top of the data.
Application Architecture: From Data Hoarding To Data Services
Openness is a super important factor. Old legacy PLM applications were focusing on how to hoard as much data as possible and controlling it by restricting access to other applications and services. That was also part of the old business model which focused on how to close data (opposite to open data) and to upsell more applications based on the exclusive data access and control. Moving from this single vendor black hole, a new approach is to provide data as a service to everyone with the ability to monetize data services and their openness.
What is my conclusion?
Data is the next superpower. However, to make it happen, the PLM industry should make a move from old fashion file servers holding CAD files with a proprietary format, isolated databases with limited data management capabilities, and from the data hoarding and control into a new world of connected applications, networks of information and open data services. To make data work for companies means to shift our approach in the way we manage the data and make it available in a controlled manner to business partners and other applications. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.