I’m sure you have heard about Deep Web. For those who are not aware of this term, Deep Web, (also known as Invisible Web) is part of the Web which is not accessible by search engines. Even if Google has reported passing 1 trillion indexed pages, this is still only a small fraction of information available on the internet.
I see that this story is very similar to what is happening in the backyard of PLM. PLM is trying to manage information about products from the initial idea of the product through to its disposal. Although there are lots of design models, engineering bill of materials, manufacturing plans, sales plans, and support reports, it looks like PLM is still catching only a small fraction of Product Lifecycle Data available in the organization.
So, what is the main problem? I think that, content is the biggest PLM problem. This content – designs, different kinds of bill of materials as well as supplier’s bids and support claims etc. – are hidden from most of the organization and is therefore unmanaged by PLM systems. How can we improve it? In my view, the ultimate goal should be to make PLM-related content available in an open format. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about “another 3D format every CAD system can read/write”. I’m talking about an open format that allows us to expose PLM-related information in a way that it will be accessible in the manufacturing organization and beyond.
This time I don’t have a recipe for how to cook up the next steps. I think that PLM and related industries have taken many steps in standardizing CAD/CAM/CAE data by inventing multiple formats. However, most of them, as well as initiatives around their creation, have been rather unsuccessful. IGES and STEP have been used widely. I think PDF is mostly used as a stable format for long term storage, but this is far from providing the ability to manage content.
I will be glad to hear about your experience in this field as well as about developments I may not have discovered (As I’ve mentioned, Google cannot yet dive into all the data available in the Deep Web Water :)).