Cloud PLM in 2023: Technology, Functions and Vendors

Cloud PLM in 2023: Technology, Functions and Vendors

For the last decade manufacturing industry made a huge move in adoption of cloud technologies and cloud PLM. From almost ignorance a-la “cloud won’t work for PLM”, we moved towards the place where all software vendors provide some form of “cloud”. Yesterday in my article I was referring Digital Engineering article PLM Stays Relevant in Manufacturing by Randal Newton. Here is my favorite passage about the cloud PLM made by Jonathan Scott, CTO Razorleaf, PLM product and services implementation specialist. 

With the advent of more options for cloud services, which deliver some component(s) of PLM, I see more small businesses finding PLM accessible. In other words, there are more people shopping for PLM tools/capabilities and the budget range has grown even wider. 

Small groups expect they can subscribe to a cloud service, spend a few thousand dollars, and have some capability up and running. Those folks are not expecting full enterprise PLM, but they are often startups or aggressive groups who are happy to build their own systems using combinations of toolsets. This mindset translates to forward-leaning groups within larger organizations, too, when they are not constrained by IT policy not to explore solutions like these. 

Again, the advent of cloud-based services means that even groups constrained by corporate policies can find some wiggle room because the customer isn’t “installing” anything and there is no “project” involved. In some cases, large corporate IT is not discouraging this exploration; they are encouraging it as a means of innovating their technology stack. They can challenge the traditional PLM vendors without threatening to displace them, by adding cloud-based solutions to complement their enterprise PLM and solve “point” problems.

There is a subtle knock-on effect of this affinity for cloud-based PLM solutions, which relates to PLM services. Once buyers see that they can try out PLM capabilities via services like OpenBOM, Duro, Propel, Upchain and others without a large financial justification and without engagement of their IT team, they are eager to move ahead and don’t think about (or choose to ignore) the work needed to implement and adopt the capabilities. 

I like the definition of “knock-on effect”. Cloud-based solutions are easier to deploy and organizations of every size are trying to explore what it means for them. While cloud PLM sounds as an interesting option, I can see how “cloud PLM” is quickly becoming a marketing instrument for all PLM vendors. It is almost impossible to find a product lifecycle management vendor who is not offering its own version of “cloud PLM”. All traditional PLM vendors are making their solution “cloud”. However, what is even more interesting, some of the new cloud/SaaS PLM vendors also playing with the cloud/on-prem definitions and telling that their cloud-PLM solutions are also available on premise.

This trend made me think that the time is now came to refresh some technological, features and product vendor differences between different “PLM clouds”.

This is my first introductory blog, but later this week I plan to publish three more articles speaking more in deep about each of these aspects of cloud PLM.

Cloud PLM Technology

Can you have both cloud and not-cloud versions of the same software? This is an interesting question and I’m going to discuss it more in deep. Modern cloud technologies are powerful and allows to host servers and use virtual computing, storage and communications services.

It sounds like a very simple idea to host existing PLM product lifecycle management, product data management, supply chain management and document management systems to support cloud-based product development process and turn existing client-server and web architecture. Although vendors didn’t plan to host computer aided design systems and desktops at the beginning, the last few years of cloud development made desktop hosting very easy.

Another interesting technical question comes in the context of cloud PLM software – can SaaS software be available on premise and what technical implication it has? I will talk more about that as well.

Cloud PLM Functions

Another important question is related to functions of cloud PLM. Until now everyone got the idea of cloud servers and infrastructure. In a nutshell, it looks like cloud is a big saving moment for every company looking how to “offload” all IT, upgrades and migration complexity that companies were struggling with PLM systems. to PLM vendors.

Customer feedback is important. What does it mean that all new cloud solutions like Teamcenter X, Windchill+ and DS 3DX can be delivered from managed clouds and PLM vendors will be managing all complexity by themselves. I can see this plan can work nicely.

However, cloud PLM functions are not only about offloading PLM IT related work to the vendors. What does it mean for service providers, customization and integrations? Also, how data can be shared using cloud hosted systems? What other functions only can be available in cloud PLM systems?

Cloud PLM Vendors

There are 5-6 dominant PLM mindshare vendors (this is CIMdata definition). Those vendors are the same for the last 20+ years. The product’s lifecycle and manufacturing process are different, but most of PLM implementations are still focusing on engineering aspects of product lifecycle management. The only change there was Aras that the “youngest old PLM software vendor”. Will cloud PLM change the status quote, how new coming SaaS providers will be able to make services to co-exist and/or replace existing PLM vendors, what to expect and what is available now?

What is my conclusion?

Cloud PLM is more than a decade old. since the time time large CAD and PLM vendors officially moved to deliver SaaS solutions. Some companies were offering the solution even earlier, the last decade was the time when cloud PLM moved from the “if” to “when” status. I suggest you to watch and reflect on multiple aspects of cloud PLM including technologies, functions and vendors. While this article was mostly about questions, I will be brining more answers in my follow up articles. Stay tuned…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital-thread platform with cloud-native PDM & PLM capabilities to manage product data lifecycle and connect manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


Share This Post