PLM and Heterogeneous Product Development

May 6, 2010

The issue of heterogeneous is really complicated. I think PLM vision and strategies are heavily missing this point. Most of PLM strategies are talking about a single source of truth, single data sources, single… However, in practice, companies are running multiple systems to accomplish their business goals. The following writeup about Parker Hannifin experience made by Jim Brown of Tech Clarity made me think again about options to manage heterogeneous product development.

CAD and Interoperability
The first phase in the list is an ability to exchange information between different CAD systems. I think, industry is discussing this topic for years (if not decades). There are many solutions for this problem and multiple companies are providing a different type of utilities. My last favorite in the discussion about CAD interoperability is the presentation made by Mike Payne at COFES 2010. You can see my write up here-  How to Liberate data?

PLM and Federation
The early version of interoperability between different PLM systems came with the ideas of Federation. These ideas weren’t introduced exclusively for PLM and actually discussed in the context of ERP and, in general, related to databases. The trial of PLM to establish a federated environment was very interesting one. I think, it really worked for few big customers. However, the cost to establish this environment is huge. The biggest problem is the amount of hand-wiring things you need to. I can see IBM is investing a lot in this direction discussing their PDIF program.

Single PLM Database Dreams
I can hear voices of PLM vendors to establish a single repository for all PLM information. It sounds very promising and interesting for customers. I think, currently, we are about to experience multiple tries to make these system’s works. It comes in the announcement and publications from all mindshare PLM vendors – TeamCenter Unified, ENOVIA V6,  Windchill… I see customers are actively searching for a solution in this space.

Future of PLM and Internet of Things
What do you think come next? I think, the future answer about solving problems of Heterogeneous Product Development need to come from the side of Internet technologies. All previous trials were “files and database oriented”. I think, the internet today demonstrates the capabilities of a big, single and self balanced system. Will it provide an answer to enterprise organizations and heterogeneous product development is a good question? We are going to learn it in the future.

One of the things I’m continuously thinking is the fact, you cannot change your product development systems and practices in a very short period of time (i.e. months). Even more, I think it is very hard to make a change in several years. So, companies proposing today a singe bulk of software will have a very tough time soon. I’m coming back to multiple thoughts about flexibility and granularity. In my view, it becomes a key.

What is my conclusion today? I think, future cloud-based solutions and the internet should impact product development strategies in the organizations. The connectivity, mobility, collaboration, data access – all these terms are going to impact product development practices in enterprise organizations. I think it is not simple to see it happen in the short term. However, I do see a cost of change in the existing systems as a major factor to make a movement towards a different set of systems.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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