The last three years were one of the most turbulent in the history of PLM. COVID, supply chain challenges and now growing cost of energy sources amid the Ukraine war are creating one of the most challenging environments for manufacturing companies. Altogether, it brings many questions to people that are responsible for business systems and business processes connected to disciplines such as product lifecycle management, product data management, and supply chain management. As interest in product lifecycle management (PLM) from manufacturing companies is growing, the questions about what is your PLM (product lifecycle management) software strategy is becoming more and more relevant.
What did we learn during COVID time?
COVID was major destruction and challenging factor for many companies that instantly were requested to charge their operational mode and find a way for technology that can help them to be remote, independent from location, and stressed by their business (both scaling down and up at the same time). The joke was that COVID19 was primarily responsible for digital transformation and changes that are coming to the product development process. Here are three things we learned during this time:
1. Cloud technology is ready for its prime time to help manufacturing companies. Companies were switching overnight to remote work and didn’t die. It was a real wake-up call for IT to massive switch to the cloud-based infrastructure.
2. Internet and other technological advantages can help companies to overcome problems of old computer-aided design (CAD)and PLM system tools. The combination of faster internet and virtualization technologies allowed us to take existing file-based and technologically outdated products and give them a second life.
3. There is a need for new tools and digital technology to support a modern business environment with a data-driven approach that can help companies to manage their work in a more intelligent way and be prepared for sharp turns. Pandemic was just a “first demo”, but more challenges are upfront for us.
Business and PLM Strategy
Jos Voskuil brought an article discussing the demand for Business Lifecycle Management as the next step for PLM. While I think everyone is tired of new acronyms, his point about business is right. Connecting PLM to business can be actually a good thing.
At OpenBOM (disclaimer, I’m a co-founder), we connected the BOM management and purchasing process and it brought amazing results. Instead of focusing on details of collaboration and saving time for engineers, we went straight ahead and talked to procurement, supply chain, and C-level people about how to run a business using OpenBOM, saving money on procurement and optimizing business process while bringing a fully digital representation of the product designed in OpenBOM and Solidworks. It is all about digital data and how it can bring a difference to modern PLM solutions and customer experience. Check for more here.
Connection to business can bring more benefits and Jos Voskuil was speaking about it in his article. Here is my favorite passage:
In my interactions with customers, the focus is no longer on traditional PLM; we discuss business scenarios where the company will benefit from a data-driven approach. You will not obtain significant benefits if you just implement your serial processes again in a digital PLM infrastructure. Efficiency gains are often single digit, where new ways of working can result in double-digit benefits or new opportunities.
What is available in PLM Strategic Toolbox in 2022?
Starting from a PLM strategy can save you from making horrible mistakes such as point-to-point sending CAD data to an ERP system, dumping thousands of CAD files into Google Drive, or bringing an outdated PDM/PLM technology with a lipstick on a pig to run your future digital transformation project.
So, let’s assume you’re open to exploring PLM strategy and empowering your company (small and large), and helping to rethink the existing way your company is doing business. What is available in the PLM strategy bag in the middle of 2022.
To be connected is a way to survive in a modern business world. Manufacturing is not different. This is how we come to the idea of a digital thread. While the discussion about how many threads we need and how to choose the right one can be as fascinating as the old discussion about EBOM, MBOM, and xBOM, there is no doubt that companies will have to come to be on someone’s digital thread to stay in business. Digital Thread is one of my favorite topics because it is leading directly to the topic of connected data and services in global manufacturing networks.
Make Businesses Scary and Vulnerable?
What if a compressor your company is building caught fire and caused substantial damage to specific customer business. Not to speak about food poisoning and many other examples where manufacturing companies should be responsible for a damaging event or regulator requests. If you don’t have an organized set of information with traceability, you (as a company) and sometimes management can find yourself financially responsible and sometimes even find yourself in jail. PLM as a way out of jail – can be a strategy too. I’ve heard it once from PLM leaders.
Moving to SaaS is a big thing for all PLM vendors regardless of the technology and products. The definition of SaaS is blurred between just the subscription business model, to hosting existing PLM tools and bringing multi-tenant platforms. But by just saying SaaS, you don’t really explain what is behind it – just signing for an annual contract (instead of buying licenses), simplifying your IT life by eliminating the need to install, configure and upgrade or providing a new platform to be used by your business.
Technical Information, Digital Twin, and Industry 4.0
Being able to simulate everything is not an important part of what manufacturing companies want to do upfront in any project. This brings multiple questions about how to arrange product and technical information to make it available, simulate a real-time behavior and build a connected production model. Depending on your company strategy, you might find these things connected as part of your PLM strategy.
SME and International Production
Global manufacturing is real and it can be a real pain for SME manufacturing companies. The ability to decide in a multi-factor environment, make data available across the company boundaries, working with multiple suppliers and contractors – is just a small fragment of your decision on how SME can survive and be profitable in a global market.
From PLM Platforms to PLM Services
PLM platformization was a trend a few years ago. The problem is that PLM platforms are turning into digital blackholes of a single vendor as was explained by Marc Halpern a couple of years ago. Check my article about how companies can transform their infrastructure in the post-monolithic PLM world. The role of PLM Services will be growing and will provide a new model for data management and architecture of enterprise PLM services. I will write more about it soon.
What is my conclusion?
What is the new digital technologies that will be changing the future PLM landscape? The next few years will be a busy time for PLM architects and PLM business consulting. More economical challenges, combined with cost pressure and supply chain challenges will bring a lot of turbulence. At any turbulent time, it is an opportunity for change. While change is hard, I recommend that manufacturing businesses not save on PLM strategies. It is a time for critical business, technological and people-related decisions. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital cloud-native PLM platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.