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 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…