Somebody asked me last week about how I see th future of PLM… Does it look like-BOM or like-Workflow? I found this question very interesting. Bill of Materials and Workflow (or process management) are fundamentally two most important pieces of PDM and PLM systems for many years. So, we have them already in place. However, thinking about the future – what will be a dominant solution? Do we need re-invent the wheel? Is there any conflict here? I want to elaborate about both to see what future PLM looks like.
Bill of Material World
BOM is considered as a foundation of design, engineering and manufacturing. You can see it everywhere – design BOM in CAD system, Engineering BOM, Manufacturing BOM, Support and Service BOM. You can follow a product lifecycle by discovering different bill of materials. You can find lots of methodologies and systems that help you to handle your Bill of Material world. These things are really complicated. Bill of Materials represents many issues related to product development and in the end of the day you can think about a virtual Bill of Material representing everything.
Processes (or how we can simply call them Workflows) are very important for an organization too. They are a life blood of every manufacturing organization. Organization is running business processes and making overall execution of the business. We can classify them as local and global cross-department. Local are mostly focusing on departmental processes. The more interesting and challenging thing are cross-departmental processes. These processes are connected people working in different departments. Cross-departmental processes are very important if you think about the overall product lifecycle.
PLM Philosophies Difference
So, why I put BOM world against Workflow world? You can draw your organization in terms of Bill of Material and, at the same time, in terms of organizational processes. Is it about philosophy or about real development practices? In the early days of PDM and PLM, the main focus was absolutely on files, data management, revisions, Bill of Materials. Later, PLM system discovered “process world”. This “discovery” was part of the competition between PLM and ERP world. PLM systems made an upscale to compete in the high society. The “process approach” presented organic change to fit product development processes in organizations.
What is my conclusion?
I think, this question represents one of the biggest philosophical collide in engineering and manufacturing software. What will be the winning behavior in the future? It is hard to say. In my view, the end-game solution will need to provide answers to both sides of the problem. BOM and Worklow need to be equaly included into PLM solutions. Only together they can keep an organization to manage efficiently product lifecycle. Just my thoughts. What is your take?