PLM Standard: From Formats to Frameworks

I want to talk about PLM and Standards today. In my view view, the story of standards is over complicated and confusing. The number of articles about CAD files, Standards, Best Practices is endless. In many situations people put an equivalence sign between openness and standards. CAD/PLM industry has a long history of battles about standards.

The Status Quo

According to the materials presented by LongView Advisors on CIC (Collaboration and Interoperability Congress) the following picture reflects the view of major CAD platforms in the market.

According to the information from the same source, in 2010, CAD industry operates with about 52 CAD standards. The absolute leader is STEP (32% usage for CAD data exchange). Other formats used for the same purposes are – CATIA V5 (21%), SolidWorks (15%), NX (6%). Recently, I fund a very good publication about CAD File formats made by isicad.ru. Use the following link to read it in English (the original was published in Russia. Thanks, to Google Translate for automatic translation feature). If I think about PLM oriented standards, the situation is more complicated. In my view, the notable standards are STEP and PLCS. Vendors are talking about "industry best practices" that represent a common way to implement PLM system.

Formats – an old way?

Most people will think about "formats" when you talk to them about CAD/PLM standards. Usually it is a file format that used by CAD system to store and retrieve data. CAD data exchange formats are primarily focusing on the ability of a system to exchange information with other CAD or non-CAD systems. The need to exchange data wasn’t limited to CAD systems. PDM and lately PLM Systems developed multiple mechanisms to exchange data for different purposes.

Frameworks – a Different Approach?

Thinking more about PLM standards, I came to the idea of future development of standards as a framework. I see it opposite to file formats. You can ask me what is the difference? Most of the formats were invented by software vendors or affiliated parties. Formats represent the need to store and exchange data. However, I don’t see it as a primary goal of PLM standardization process. PLM is a result of company implementation and I see it very different from a single tool. PLM standard is all about communication between different people in the organization. Communication framework (stage / gates, decision points, etc.) are much more important than an ability to convert CAD file from one format to another. The focus of PLM Framework is to ensure a handoff between different departments and people in organization.

Standardization and Uniformity

I found most of the people confuse between these two terms – standardization and uniformity. The biggest mistake is to think about standard as something permanent. The interesting thing I found about standards is that successful standards are only those that evolve alongside with their usage. When presented in the organization accordingly, standards can encourage people to develop flexible and easy adaptable standardization schemas.

What is my conclusion? PLM need to move from the file formats battles to a place where the communication and process framework can be used to control data handsoff and decision making. This will become a new way in development of standards. Used by multiple companies frameworks can evolve into mechanism to realize PLM company roadmap. However, I don’t see one process template fits all companies needs. To have flexible communication and process management tools is absolutely important to make PLM framework successful. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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15 Responses to PLM Standard: From Formats to Frameworks

  1. Evan Yares says:

    It all comes down to data usability. People just need to be able to use the data they have. How, when, and where they want. Whether this is enabled by frameworks, data formats is just a detail. (Though an important detail, it seems.)

  2. Evan, Thanks for your comment! I agree. The requirements is how to make data available. However, I’d not be limiting PLM standards to “data only problem”. In my view, it is about a communication framework: stages, data, hands – off, etc. In my view, to establish such as a framework, you need to go much beyond “just data”. Best, Oleg

  3. Charlie Stirk says:

    Hi Oleg,
    Formats are an important part of the PLM framework, and as you mentioned, they need to flexible and adaptable. PLCS is a framework for building formats, called Data EXchange specifications (DEX) out of re-usable standard building blocks, called templates. From the PLCS templates, one can code-generate software class libraries for adaptors that handle the formats, and web services for communications. The PLCS-based web services can be combined to implement processes. So it sounds like PLCS fits the requirements you are expressing for PLM communication frameworks.
    Regards, Charlie

  4. Charlie, Thanks for the comment! I remember our conversation about PLCS earlier on my blog http://plmtwine.com/2010/04/08/why-do-we-need-plm-data-model/. I found PLSC a complicated. Their website contains many broken links. At the same time, I wanted to find some practical examples about usages of this framework in implementations. Do you have any links and materials you can share? Best, Oleg

  5. vvagr says:

    What do you think about ISO 15926 standard? It looks like you never mention it in your blog, even in this posting. But ISO 15926 is the closest thing to communication framework in CAD domain.

  6. vvagr, thanks for this note. I think, ISO 15926 is initially more focused on “process industry”. Last time I looked over the website links was dated 5-6 years old. Do you have any live examples of usage related to this standard? Best, Oleg

  7. Charlie Stirk says:

    Regarding PLCS implementations, some were discussed at PDT Europe http://www2.pdteurope.com/pdt/history/2010.aspx from a number of industries including aerospace, construction, and energy. There are other implementations, but not many are well known or even public. PDES Inc. and the OASIS PLCS TC are planning on starting up a PLCS Implementers Forum, loosely modeled on the successful CAX-IF for STEP CAD. CostVision is working on PLCS implementations for exchange and archiving of PLM information.

  8. vvagr says:

    Oleg, ISO 15926 is going through a revival last 2-3 years. Parts 7 and 8 dealing with Semantic Web technologies integration are in a final stage of ISO approval. The most important step is an open source toolset iRING (http://iringug.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page), and joint PCA-FIATECH project JORD, responsible for development of reliable reference data library.

    It has indeed a full lifecycle data integration in scope, not a pure CAD interoperability problem. But Part 3 of the standard, covering geometry data (STEP specialisation) is also almost finished by ISO group.

    In Norway they are doing big shipbuilding catalogue project EqHub. In Russia we are involved in two pilot projects in nuclear energy and in shipbuilding – both aimed at obtaining vendor-independent datamodels for projects of substantial size.

    On our site we have comprehensive collection of useful links: http://techinvestlab.ru/ISO15926

  9. Charlie, thanks for this information and links. I’ll take a look. Why all these PLCS implementations are not well known… Is it too complex to publish? Best, Oleg

  10. vvagr, thanks for sharing these materials and information. I will take a look on iRING… it looks interesting. Best, Oleg

  11. Charlie Stirk says:

    Hi Oleg,
    The reason why some PLCS implementations are not well known depends on the implementation. Some provide a strategic advantage that the owner wants to conceal how it was obtained, some have only been presented in closed forums or are covered by NDA, some use PLCS and have no incentive to publicize that outweighs the costs or risks, etc. It is up to the implementer, or their customer, to decide whether or not to publicize. And since no company owns or controls STEP for CAD or PLCS, the incentive is often just not there. So is different from vendor controlled formats like JT, 3DXML, Open PLM XML, etc. Moreover, PLCS, like STEP for mechanical CAD or http, is down in the plumbing, and the users and business managers don’t care as long as it works.

    Regarding the issue of complexity that you brought up, PLCS and 15926 are complicated PLM frameworks from several viewpoints, but there are reasons for the complexity; they satisfy significant requirements imposed on the developers. Depending on your viewpoint, what you need to know can be limited, especially for some software implementers. There is work going on to reduce the complexity for particular viewpoints, and there is training and other resources available, but it is not easy to learn on your own.

    Like STEP for mechanical CAD, there is a vibrant and growing development community around both PLCS and 15926.

    Regards, Charlie

  12. Hi Oleg,
    Another reason why PLCS implementations are not well known is that PLCS is challenging the existing PLM business. PLCS is opening up data moving power to the end users so not all like it. In addition end users as well as ISO and OASIS do not do much marketing. The marketing is left to companies smallar than the large PLM vendors – one of them is Eurostep. Since most of the analysts follow the big players PLCS is not on their radar – with the exception of CIMdata and Gartner. Two great PLCS cases with Share-A-space can be found at http://www.eurostep.com/global/news/share-a-space-success-at-bae-systems-–-microsoft-case-study-available.aspx
    Please note that PLCS as such is not heavily promoted but since Share-A-space is based on PLCS they are in practice excellent PLCS cases.
    Regards,
    Håkan

  13. Hakan, I agree with you. PLCS can challenge mindshare PLM providers. Customers like “open” and “standard”. Big companies are following big names, for the moment. You mentioned marketing and analysts. I tend to agree. However, social media is changing rules of marketing- it becomes affordable and very cost effective. Brands can leverage social media, social networking, blogging to influence the potential customers. My view is that for a the long run “open” has a good chance to win. However, vendor’s excellence can be very disruptive. I’m thinking about “Apple” as an example. They are very closed. Big PLM names behave similar to Apple these days. And I cannot see a brand similar to Google from the standpoint openness and financial power to balance it in PLM world. Just my thoughts… Best, Oleg

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