5 signs you need to replace PLM software

January 2, 2015


Happy New Year! This is my first post in 2015. Internet is overloaded with new things, trends and New Year resolutions. It made me think about new PLM. Should you plan a new PLM in a New Year? I think, this is a good theme for a New Year post.

To implement PLM is not a simple task. It takes time and resources from organization. After PLM is passing the initial adoption phase, it becomes a valuable organizational IT asset. Nevertheless, as everything else, it can get old, inefficient and expensive. So, what are those signs that can tell that your organization should start thinking about new PLM software? I wanted to come with 5 signs that can indicate you need to find a new PLM system.

1- It gets harder to make changes and support new processes

Nothing is static. New products, changes, new problems, business requirements – this is only a short list of things that can bring you to the point of PLM implementation enhancement and changes. A well designed and implemented PLM system should be flexible enough to adapt to new processes, integrate with new tools and solve business problems with a reasonable cost.Usually, it related to 3 major elements of PLM system – data model, integration with other tools and compliance to new versions of design tools, databases and operation requirements. If you feel that every new project is a big deal, changes are costly and new requirements are impossible to implement – it is a moment you should think about replacement.

2- Workarounds are proliferating

Another good sign that something goes wrong with the existing system is to watch how people are avoiding to use it. Watch internal IT projects that delivered functionality similar to what is demanded from PLM system. To monitor that, you can check main engineering tasks related to new product introduction, BOM management, ECO/ECO, data collaboration, supply chain and design sharing. You can see how often engineers are preferring to use PLM system alternative (Excel, SharePoint, Google Drive, Email, etc.) to get job done instead of PLM software. If it happens too often and you can see resistance to use existing PLM software, something is wrong and this is a moment to think about replacement.

3- The use of PLM in organization is not growing

The nature of PLM system is connect people in organization. PLM provides an information hub that can streamline processes and deliver information. A good indication that things are going well is a growing number of people using PLM system. It is easy to get this information from monitoring existing system. Watch how departments, teams and people are using PLM system. If the usage is growing, you are in a good shape. However, if you see a decline or stagnation, it is a sign of a problem. This is still not a reason for change, but it is a good indication something is going wrong.

4- Support & Maintenance cost is increasing

This is an indicator of how healthy is your PLM provider. It is not unusual for software companies to raise maintenance cost at the end of software lifecycle. Essentially, it means organization is looking for an additional compensation to cover cost of support and maintenance. There is nothing wrong to pay for support. However, in case of increased support cost, the recommendation should be to look for strategic alternative before vendor will shutdown a product and it will become non-compatible with new hardware and software.

5- Product or vendor have merged or went out of business

Mergers and acquisitions can happen. If PLM vendor and product got involved into M&A activity, you need to watch carefully the situation. The product you are using can be discontinued and merged with another product. Depends on vendor and situation it may take years until product will be discontinued. However, as a customer, you may see some strategic changes in a way new requirements will be satisfied or strategic effort will be applied.

What is my conclusion? Lifecycle is a natural thing. PLM software has its own lifecycle. It is important to watch carefully the way PLM vendor and product are performing and take decisions accordingly. Poor software performance and poor vendor performance can lead you to the right decision. To get there on time is your responsibility in today’s dynamic business environment. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: reidrac via photopin cc

Future PLM selection: It is like to get married or buy a smartphone

November 17, 2014


Ask people about PLM selection process. You can get an impression it is not a simple process. The same can be said about any decision related to enterprise software – it is complex. Today, I want to take a look on that from a bit different perspective.

I know few manufacturing companies that literally spending years to make a decision. In PLM domain, it is quite regular to invest few months in investigation about what is the right PLM system for your organization. You can find many articles and presentations from vendors, service providers and industry analysts about PLM selection process. Here are just few of them (priority order by Google search) – Gartner PLM selection criteria; The art and science of selecting the right PLM for your organization; PLM selection – do this.

Jos Voskuil (you might know him as Virtual Dutchman) just posted another story that caught my attention during this weekend – PLM selection proof of concept observation. Have a read – this is very thoughtful article. I found it as a very good advise how to manage complex enterprise software selection process. For good and for bad, it can be applied to any piece of software, hardware and probably even to situations beyond that like decision about business partnership, etc. I replaced word “PLM” in the article by “ERP” and found it as a very good piece of advise too. I tried to applied it by “mobile solution” or “home theater system” – hold your breath… with some stretch, I think you can use it as well. Because.. the process of decision making is very similar.

It made me think about lifecycle of things and solutions around us. So, I want to come with two examples – ERP system and smartphone. Navigate your browser to the following article by fairphone – Next step in lifecycle assessment. Article speaks about average lifecycle of smartphone is about 2-3 years these days.


The following article – Why your new smartphone is already obsolete by MyPhoneMd brings you an interesting breakdown of smartphone lifecycle by country. From absolutely extreme case of 21 months in U.S. it goes to some more conservative numbers in Europe, which is about 40-50 weeks.

Another example – ERP system (I wanted to come with PLM and CRM, but didn’t find any meaningful data). Bluelinkerp blog – When should you replace your ERP software brings an interesting diagram – the majority of ERP implementations is up to 7 years old. The chart based on data provided by Aberdeen study – Aging ERP – When your ERP is too old.


Now, I want to take it to extreme. Lets speak about marriage. For most of us, this is a fundamental decision we supposed to take for a very long time (I hope most of my readers would agree). However, modern statistic provide a bit different data points. Navigate to the article – 32 shocking divorce statistics article and you learn that average marriage lifespan is 8 years (almost like ERP system in my example above). My hunch, we can improve this situation by applying of some recommendation and observations from Jos’ article about PLM proof of concept, but this is already different story for another blog post.

What is my conclusion? The lifespan of things in our life is getting shorter. While it is sad in some situations like family, it is probably good for most of other examples I mentioned. In my view, this is a reflection of speed of changes in technology and industry. What it means for your PLM selection process? Do it faster and think what pains you can kill and what processes you can improve in your organizations in a short period of time. Modern trends in software development – cloud and SaaS will make software lifecycle easier and replacement less painful. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: toprankonlinemarketing via photopin cc

The Complexity of Product Lifecycle and Google’s Blindspot

September 6, 2013

The power of search giants like Google is enormous these days. Think about the amount of information Google, Twitter and Facebook are processing and you will be knocked down by the numbers. Consumerization is a significant trend these days and everybody are thinking how we can apply well proven web and open source technologies in the enterprise field. Think about product designs, engineering documents, Bill of Materials – things that we commonly considering as product data. Eventually, the dream could be to see how Google’s engineers are recommending best parts to use or cracking Bill of Materials with 100s levels of data. Not so fast…

When it comes to a product data you can discover that this type of information processing is different from what we got to know on the web. It starts from the diminished importance of ranking mechanism based on other people discoveries. For example, if you happen to be searching for “Part CHI-93939-STD” it may not come up on the first pages of a search. But it may be found more directly via a connection to an existing assembly that references it. Data semantics in this case is more important than data ranking.

I recently came across the following study – Top Google Result Gets 36.4% of Clicks. Have a look at the charts, you’ll get my point quickly: if you are out of first five (5) page results, you essentially don’t exist. So if you’re “Lady Gaga”, you are certain to appear and ranked in the top pages. These days "social ranking" is adding some additional flavors to the overall search results. Nevertheless if you are “Part CHI-93939-STD”, then chances are, you don’t exist!

Another interesting blindspot of Google search – lifecycle data. Few days ago, I caught an interesting study – Filling a Search Engines Blindspots. Here is the passage describing lifecycle blindspot:

Today, Christian von der Weth and Manfred Hauswirth at the National University of Ireland in Galway identify one blind spot in Google’s coverage and describe their vision for how to fill it. This information blackspot consists of location-specific information that is only useful for people for short periods of time. An example would be a question such as whether an advertised bargain is still available at a particular shop. Another is to ask whether parking spaces are available at a public event such as an air show, music concert or such like. There is no way that a search engine like Google can index that kind of information that is specific to a particular location for just a short period of time.

What is my conclusion? Product data is extremely complex. It contains lots of relationships, dependencies and semantics. However, it is not everything. The most important element of product data is lifecycle information. Since product data is changing as a result of product development, use, maintenance, etc. systems need to be able to capture this product lifecycle data in a real time to provide a correct data representation for people in manufacturing companies and extended eco-system. It is not a trivial tasks and very interesting problem to crack. PLM software architects and other techies – be aware about complexity of product data lifecycle management. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Product Lifecycle Future in 60 years point-of-view BBC film

September 5, 2013

Speak to people about PLM and they will tell you about CAD design, BOMs, processes, ECOs, collaboration and other similar topics. I want to change it and speak about “lifecycle” part of PLM. The core function of the lifecycle is the ability of PLM system to maintain changes and manage snapshots of product design and organization in a specific period of time. Some of products have very short period of time. However, many of products such as airplanes, powerplants and even cars have very long lifecycle. The information about a specific aircraft can easily live for 50-60 years and more.

Few years ago, I discussed the problem of long term product data retention problem. Navigate here to refresh your memory. The main part of that conversation was about how to create logical model and physical data storage for data to be preserved for a long period of time.

Earlier today, I was watching a very interesting video created by BBC. Take a look below. Here is what they did.

Sixty years ago, the BBC filmed a train journey from London to Brighton, squeezed into just four minutes. Thirty years ago, we did it again. Now we are bringing it up to date, to see how much has changed – and how much is still the same. Here’s all three journeys side by side

Here is the challenge I can see in front of design, simulation and PLM systems. How we can store and play with design and other information about products that can help us to recreate a product virtually in a different periods of time. How I can create a product experience of “a specific version of a car” company designed ten, twenty or even more years ago? How we can store all information about product environment to recreate what we had on the street and in the city 50 years ago. Some information is available in GIS and other mapping services. Some of this information is available in PDM/PLM product designs and other data sources. To combine all these data sources together can be an interesting and real challenge for PLM system.

What is my conclusion? I think PLM industry is underestimating the value of lifecycle data and the ability of this data to influence the analytic and decision process. The ability to ‘recreate’ product experience in a different stages of lifecycle and period of time can provide a tremendous changes in the way we design, manufacture and support products in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Data vs. Process: A Turn Towards Linked Data.

September 4, 2013

Data vs. Process. The egg or chicken of PLM industry. This topic is near and dear to many people in PLM ecosystem . What comes first and why? My attention was caught by Jos Voskuil blog post – Mixing past and future generations with a PLM sauce. Have a read and make your opinion. I liked the following passage:

This culture change and a different business approach to my opinion are about modern PLM. For me, modern PLM focuses on connecting the data, instead of building automated processes with a lot of structured data. Modern PLM combines the structured and unstructured data and provides the user the right information in context.

Link is a powerful word. I appreciate the power of data connection. I reminded one of the writeups I did in Inforbix blog – Product Data: The Power is in the link more than one year ago. It goes back to Richard Wallis’ presentation on Semantic Tech and Business 2013 in Berlin.

…the power of the links in Linked Data – of the globally unique identifiers of things and relationships described by URIs (Uniform Resource Identifier) in RDF – for more seamlessly interconnecting data within users’ own domains and with other data in other domains, too…

Jos’ commentary made me think about process vs. data again. I addressed this topic few times in my past blogging. My first attempt was PLM: Controversy about Process and Data Management. I wanted to emphasize my strong believe in the need to solve the problem of product data access in an organization.

…the failure to design data access in organizations, was a recipe for disaster for many PLM implementations. PLM programs were focused on “how to improve processes” and forgot about how to put a solid data foundation to support cross-departmental process implementations. So, I’d like to put a quote from Bell Helicopter’s presentation during DSCC 2011 as something PLM vendors and customers need to remember – “to get the core data right first”. Just my opinion, of course.

My next attempt to talk about data vs. process was earlier this year. The discussion was triggered by Tech4PD dialog between Jim Brown and Chad Jackson. It was precisely named PLM’s chicken or Egg Scenario. In a bit confusing (to me) voting between "going beyond file control data" and "data beyond engineering has to be centralized, secure and accessible to PLM", I decided a process is more important. I explained myself in the post – PLM: Data vs. Process – Wrong Dilemma? My conclusion that focus on product lifecycle – a data set combined information about the product (data) with information about process (lifecycle).

The debate made me think about why Data vs. Process is probably a wrong dilemma in the context of PLM. In my view, the right focus should be on “lifecycle” as a core value proposition of PLM and ability of PLM to support product development. In a nutshell, product development is about how to move product definition (in a broad sense of this word) from initial requirements and design to engineering and manufacturing. If I go future, next stages of product definition will be related to maintenance and disposal. To define what represent product on every stage together with what is required to move product from one stage to another is a core value of product lifecycle and PLM.

What is my conclusion? I agree with Jos. Business is getting more data sensitive these days. Time ago, the value of data wasn’t predominant like today in our Google era. It is clear to everybody that "data matters" and the best you can do to prove your point is to bring "data points". This is why the ability to bring "linked data points" about a product becomes so valuable. This is the next PLM turn. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How PLM will embed information in products?

July 24, 2013

Experience is a new modern hype. You can see it everywhere these days. User experience, selling experience, learning experience, total experience, etc. You can continue the list… I want to talk about "product experience" today. This is obvious and new at the same time. Manufacturers are interested to know more about their products. It related to sales, usage, problem reports and defects, maintenance, etc. It becomes almost obvious – the more information you get about usage of your product during whole product cycle – the better you can do. I like old, but famous quote by W. Edwards Deming – "You can’t manage what you can’t measure."

An interesting article by SolidSmack caught my attention earlier today – InfraStructs: Embedded ID Tags in 3D Printed Objects Eliminate Need for RFID and Barcodes. The article speaks about how to embed the information in 3D printed objects:

California event is the announcement from Microsoft Research that they are developing embedded ID tags for 3D printed objects. Titled InfraStructs, the internal tags are created from the same 3D printing process already used to create the intended, printed object; effectively generating an internal, invisible tag that can be read with a terahertz (THz) imaging scanner.

How manufacturers will use and why PLM vendors will benefit is? The premise of existing RFID technology is to use a specific tag that must be attached to product that will allow to tag manufacturing items, spare parts during whole lifecycle. The idea was good, but the implementation is a bit complicated and still costly. By direct embedding of additional information manufacturing can achieve the next level of efficiency. Here is another passage from the article.

Ultimately, the benefit of this approach for manufacturers is that they can embed unique information such as serial numbers or simple programs in coded tags by integrating the design into a pre-determined 3D printed design. In turn, this eliminates the potential need for other (and oftentimes more expensive) identification systems such a RFID tags and electronic chips that can add cost and complexity to the manufacturing, as well as the need for bar codes which can be cumbersome to work with and are vulnerable to tampering.

What is my conclusion? We are moving towards connected world, where design and engineering parts will be more connected to their physical implementations. It will allow better measurement of product experience and, as a result -better product lifecycle management. Just my thought…

Best, Oleg

Do We Need a Delete Button in PLM?

May 14, 2013

Delete is a special function. In the system dealing with the live data, the meaning of delete is interesting. My first lesson about <delete> function in PDM was 25 years ago. In one of very first data management systems I implemented we used a special flag to mark deleted parts. Later on, I was discussing delete functionality with engineering managers of one of the firms. Think about parts used in production. How you can delete them? They can be not effective for usage, out of stock, discontinued, etc. However, you cannot literally delete them. Back 20 years ago the technology was different. We marked parts and revisions as "obsolete", but we didn’t keep them forever.

Yesterday, in the airport, the following CNET article caught my attention – Google’s Schmidt: The Internet needs a delete button. Schmidt is discussing the nature of internet to absorb data and information that cannot be deleted. Here is an interesting passage:

Actions someone takes when young can haunt the person forever, Schmidt said, because the information will always be on the Internet. He used the example of a young person who committed a crime that could be expunged from his record when he’s an adult. But information about that crime could remain online, preventing the person from finding a job. "In America, there’s a sense of fairness that’s culturally true for all of us," Schmidt said. "The lack of a delete button on the Internet is a significant issue. There is a time when erasure is a right thing."

Well, privacy has a different angle, of course. People are not Part Numbers. However, think about technology behind the internet these days. Think about Gmail. You can be doing email forever without deleting them. I’ve heard some rumors first version of Gmail had no delete functionality. Storage is cheap these days. You literally can keep all information created by design, engineering, manufacturing all the time without deleting this information. Isn’t it fascinating. It can change the way people design and manufacturing things.

What is my conclusion? Delete is a very specially functionality when it comes to systems dealing with a lifecycle. Internet is very much change our horizons in understanding what potentially can include a "total lifeycle" management. It also change a perspective of how to manage lifecycle for a particular eco-system such as PLM. The increasing lifespan covered by PLM systems can improve decision making and provide additional insight in the areas of product development, quality management and others. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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