It is hard to find somebody in PLM industry not familiar with the idea of "single point of truth". I discussed the latest modification of that idea called "the whole truth" here earlier this year. I’ve been thinking about PLM implementations over the weekend and some perspective on PLM concepts. In addition to that, I had some healthy debates over the weekend with my friends online about ideas of centralization and decentralization. All together made me think about potential roots and future paths in PLM projects.
PLM was started as an idea to provide a central point for data about the product and the lifecycle. It was heavily influence by two factors: 1- protectiveness of CAD business to IP and CAD file formats; 2- ideas and successes of centralized ERP implementations. In CAD and PLM space the discussion was always presented as "best of breed vs. integrated", but in fact, PLM vendors tried to apply their influence to implement centralized data management role in PLM. Attempt to copy ERP businesses was another factor pushing PLM towards centralization.
PDM was another influencing factors in future PLM implementation. The idea of PDM was centralization. It is a great model to centralized all document records, drawings, revisions, etc. PDM was never designed to be decentralized. Even more, all trials to implement decentralized PDM systems in the past failed. The challenge of organizations was to grow beyond a single point of data storage, data model and data organization. Later in time, companies started to experiment with "virtual layers" beyond multiple systems and product data domains. Virtual layers were sort of bastardization of centralized PDM idea. PDM systems worked well with a central repository of data, but failed massively to support distributed and decentralized process management. Virtual layer was complicated, costly and didn’t work well.
The challenge is that number of companies brought to centralized PLM concept is large these days. They are continuing to spend money and resources trying to implement centralized data and processes. Eventually, they might discover at the end (after spending a lot of money), centralized idea of data and processes cannot support what they want to implement and cannot work in a distributed environment.
What is my conclusion? PLM implementations (or how some people calls it "PLM Journey") reminded me "5 years plans" in former Soviet Union. They came originally from the same place – centralization and control. The old formation of PLM systems cannot work in distributed organization environment and support distributed processes. New formation of PLM systems need to focus on network, data connectivity and processes to connect data. Just my thoughts…