Future Product Lifecycle and Digital Networks

November 2, 2015


Integration is an important element of manufacturing. Time ago, the meaning of integration was to build a manufacturing factory which created virtually everything needed for manufacturing at the same place. Rouge River Plant by Ford Motors was one of them. Finished in 1928 it became the largest integrated factory in the world. Henry Ford’s dream was to organize a factory combining precision manufacturing with standardized and interchangeable parts and a clear division of labor. Here is quote from Robinson Library article.

The largest industrial complex in the world at the time, the complex would eventually include a steel mill, glass factory, and automobile assembly line. Virtually everything required to build and assemble a Model T was manufactured on the premises. The final assembly line was transferred from Highland Park in 1927. In 1930, the Rogue River Plant covered 6,952,484 square feet and employed 81,000 men.

Fast forward almost 100 years. Manufacturing is different. Integrated plants are history now. Global manufacturing and supply chain is a reality of today’s world. In my presentation at COFES 2015 earlier this year, I’ve been discussing data networks as a new way to support a complexity of manufacturing environment. The picture below shows suppliers of new BMW 3 series.


Each product is a system.The growing complexity of manufacturing environment and products creates the demand for new product lifecycle architectures. These architectures will be able to support management of multidisciplinary product data (mechanical, electronic, software) and will operate as a global distributed data network.

I’ve been thinking about a role of networks in the future of manufacturing and product lifecycle. I’ve been reading Edge article – Digital Reality A Conversation with Neil Gershenfeld [1.23.15]. It is a bit long, but I would recommend it to anybody working on engineering and manufacturing technologies these days. Neil Gershenfeld, Director of MIT Center of Bits and Atoms gives you a perspective of future rethinking of manufacturing.

Engineering and manufacturing processes will be digitally integrated, but physically distributed. In this digital future, we will be able to ship data to make manufacturing local. Here is the passage which explains that:

To rewind now, you can send something to Shenzhen and mass manufacture it. There’s a more interesting thing you can do, which is you go to market by shipping data and you produce it on demand locally, and so you produce it all around the world. There’s a parallel with HP and inkjet printing. HP’s inkjet division is in Corvallis, Oregon because they had to hide from Palo Alto because they were told that inkjet printing would never scale, it would never be fast enough. But their point was a lot of printers producing beautiful pages slowly scales if all the pages are different. In the same sense it scales to fabricate globally by doing it locally, not by shipping the products but shipping the data.

But this is not a final stop if apply a complete product lifecycle paradigm to that. In the world of Ford-T product left the factory and never came back. We have some elements of recycling today in manufacturing. Here is a glimpse of the future:

If you take this alignment between mainframes, minicomputers, hobbyist computers, PCs, the research tools we’re using are like the mainframes, the fab labs are the minicomputers. They’re being used to do the equivalent of invent the Internet. The next step is we’re doing a lot of work on machines that make machines. You don’t go to a fab lab to get access to the machine; you go to the fab lab to make the machine. To do that we’ve had to rip up CAD-CAM, machine control, motion control, all the ways you make stuff, to make machines that make machines. That’s the next step. Over the next maybe five years we’ll be transitioning from buying machines to using machines to make machines. Self-reproducing machines. But they still have consumables like the motors, and they still cut or squirt. Then the interesting transition comes when we go from cutting or printing to assembling and disassembling, to moving to discretely assembled materials. And that’s when you do tabletop chip fab or make airplanes.

What is my conclusion? Majority of manufacturing today is point-to-point. We can define things, design and engineer them, plan the production and make things at the end. There are lot of hype of internet of things today. To me the most important element of IoT and PLM convergence is how we connect them together into digital network in the way that each element virtual or digital will be able to define the network and empower it. Similar to internet, it will grow into a network that won’t require a central control – a departure from point-to-point manufacturing in the future of product lifecycle. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Innovation, networks and PLM database paradigm

October 14, 2015


Last week I traveled to Louisville, KY to attend CIMdata collaborative innovation and product development workshop. The agenda is here. Two presentation in the agenda caught my special interest.

One was a presentation by Taylor Dawson, evangelist at FirstBuild Product Development in the Age of the Internet. FirstBuild is an interesting outfit created by GE Appliances and Local Motors. It is a new model for appliance industry, engaging a community of industrial engineers, scientists, engineers, makers and early adopters to address tough engineering challenges.

What does it mean in a nutshell? The following two slides can give you an idea. The main point is the fact interaction between engineers, manufacturing and customers. It leverage flexibility of microfactory approach and agility of communication in the internet era.



The second presentation was done by Local Motors co-founder and CEO Jay Rogers. Named – Welcome to Local Motors and the Third Industrial Revolution: The story of Local Motors and the 3D Printed Car, it gave a very interesting perspective on how Local Motors is innovating via collaboration in distributed global community.



The thing that bold in both examples is distributed community. PLM industry vendors are talking about communities for the last 5 years. There is a chance you’ve heard about “social PLM” in the past. It failed without getting much traction.

Thoughts about distributed communities made me think about networks as an organization behind the community of engineers, makers, contract manufacturers and suppliers. Here is a slide from my presentation at CIMdata workshop.


You can ask what is the difference between this picture and what we have now. Aerospace, automotive and other industries are relying heavily on a network of suppliers already today. Here is the thing – the PLM paradigm behind current OEM/Supply chain relationships is database driven. Look behind the scene and you will see large PLM databases spinning in data centers with expensive PLM implementations. Nothing wrong with databases, but single RDBM architecture cannot scale endlessly.


With cloud and IoT technologies the trend towards distributed computing and network organization is coming. If you have some time, navigate the following interview with A16z partner Peter Levine on why mobile phones are future of datacenters. It speaks about future distributed computing architecture trends. Here is an interesting passage:

I think it’s very early, but I can see a world where endpoint distributed computing becomes more popular, just like we saw when corporate IT shifted from mainframes and onto workstations and PCs. Are there hot projects right now? Not yet, but I’m starting to see university work being done in this area.

There’s also a very interesting trend, relating to the relationship between datacenters and endpoint computing. If you look back over the history of computing, it started as mainframes or terminals. As PCs or work stations became prevalent, computing moved to the edge and we had applications that took advantage of edge computing, and the CPU and processing power at the edge. Cloud computing brought things back to the center. There has been an ebb and flow in enterprise IT, of centralized versus distributed.

Distributed architecture combined with memory-centric storage can end up with new type of data architecture. An interesting example I captured in the article – Tachyon projectmemory-centric distributed storage system enabling reliable data sharing at memory-speed across cluster frameworks.

What is my conclusion? Distributed teams, data and networks – these are reality of new manufacturing environment and initiatives. These realities will demand for PLM abstraction different from single PLM databases managing processes in large manufacturing organization. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


PLM and Manufacturing in Networked World

July 21, 2015


Our dependence on networks in our life is growing every day. Look around you and you see networks everywhere. Just cut network cable in your house – chances are you are loosing most of your communication channels. But, our network dependencies are not limited to communication. Networks have more transformative influence on how we live, work and do business. It comes in a way of building network-related dependencies. I’ve been talking about some of them in my COFES 2015 presentation – Product Lifecycle, Supply Chain and Data Networks.

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman published a great article about future of driving in network age. The article is a bit long, but I recommend you to have a read. With examples of car and driving eco-system, the article shows the magnitude of changes network transformation can bring in the industry – improving highway throughput, reduce collisions, optimize parking process. The follow passage is my favorite:

Already, the car as network node is what drives apps like Waze, which uses smartphone GPS capabilities to crowd-source real-time traffic levels, road conditions, and even gas prices. But Waze still depends on humans to apprehend the information it generates. Autonomous vehicles, in contrast, will be able to generate, analyze, and act on information without human bottlenecks. And when thousands and then even millions of cars are connected in this way, new capabilities are going to emerge. The rate of innovation will accelerate – just as it did when we made the shift from standalone PCs to networked PCs.

…technologies that allow cars to talk to each other, through Wi-Fi-like networks that use dedicated short-range communications frequencies, exist too. In these vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) networks, cars share information with each other and other smart infrastructure elements – traffic signals, sensor-embedded roads, roadside cameras, eye-in-the-sky traffic drones, etc.

The same networking paradigm will apply to other industry segments as well. For the last few decades, manufacturing became global with companies leveraging market, design, engineering and manufacturing facilities located around the globe. The growing specialization in specific manufacturing verticals created industry of contract manufacturers and suppliers. Many of them are acting like independent vehicles on the road today – following rules, infrastructure limitations and trying to optimize their own local path towards the goal. While cost are still top manufacturing concern, similar to single car on the road, to optimization is highly unpredictable. It happens to manufacturing companies acting independently as well as divisions of large manufacturing giants separated by siloed organization and software.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies are going to have a lesson of networked world. It will be impossible to optimize the performance of single manufacturing entity without relevant network information. It will not happen overnight. Companies will try to gain more information about networked world around them similarly to how GPS developers gathered information from other cars. Intelligent PLM software with network mind can provide a competitive power to future manufacturing. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

PLM: from EGOsystem to ECOsystem

December 1, 2012

I just came back AU2012 in Las Vegas. Among many meetings, I had during AU, I attended Innovation Forum – The Reality of the cloud. The reality of events these days that you can attend actively by participating in social networking via Twitter. One of the tweets during the cloud presentation was Chad Jackson’s: – Think about data as an eco-system.

"Think about data as an ecosystem" from the #Cloud #Innovation forum at #AU2012 twitter.com/ChadKJackson/s…

— Chad Jackson (@ChadKJackson) November 29, 2012

It made me think about PLM as data eco-system. Watch Gerd Leonhard presentation- The future of the internet (SoLoMo) futuristic presentation with strange title – Big Data, Big Mobile, Big Social. I found it is interesting. Navigate here to take a look.

Few slides caught my special attention in the context of PLM and Data Ecosystem discussion. One of them is related to Paul Baran research back in 1960 (way before the internet and even early PLM systems). He was pioneering some of early work related to computer networks. Navigate to the following link to read more. Here is an interesting passage:

The pioneering research of Paul Baran in the 1960s, who envisioned a communications network that would survive a major enemy attacked. The sketch shows three different network topologies described in his RAND Memorandum. The distributed network structure offered the best survivability.

Another slide that sticks in my memory was the comparison of Egosystem and Ecosystem. That slide made me laugh. Especially when I put it next to one of my previous post about PLM Egoism. Think about PLM system transformation. A year ago, during AU2011, I was talking about transformation from Database to Networks. This slide is representing the way how ego-centric PLMs need to be transformed into reliable and modern PLM eco systems.

What is my conclusion? Today’s PLM EGOsystems are not sustainable. The centralized approach made PLM implementation weak and not able to survive long term lifecycle, evolution and business changes. The result is heavy PLM systems that require propriety maintenance. Change management of these systems is either expensive or impossible. It is a time to think about data networks and networked system models. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

pictures courtesy of gleonhard presentation

PLM: How to Cut Tree Hierarchies and Empower Data Networks

August 14, 2012

One of the most profound ideas in the history of PLM is the idea of PLM database that contains all information about product and its lifecycle. Major PLM vendors made a significant effort in establishment of centralized PLM repositories and product architecture backing up the idea and advantages of PLM database. In a nutshell, PLM DB represents the hierarchy of the data – requirements, product configuration, variety of Bill of Materials and not only.

Another idea that correlates to PLM database is the idea of the whole truth. I’ve been blogging about that in my post – PLM and the whole truth problem couple of weeks ago. Here is the conclusion I’ve made back in March.

PLM vendors need to learn more about last decade of web development and organization of large scalable web systems. In my view, an attempt to build a “singular” system won’t be successful and create a complex system that hard to maintain, change and scale. The future belongs to data networks and more flexible data organization.

The idea of PLM database is dominating now among PDM/PLM vendors. When it comes to discussion about how to put everything in a single data, you can hear voices explaining about integration and federation. However, in practice, it usually means an establishment of single mediated schema of data and centralized data repository. This repository is conceptually set of hierarchies. It comes to trees of product structures, variety of Bill of Materials, etc.

My hunch that one of the next PLM challenges will be movement from a single database power to the power of network. I conceptualized this idea during my AU 2011 talk last year – The new frontiers in PLM software. You can see slides here and video here.

Few days ago, my attention was caught by the following video: RSA Animate – The Power of Networks by Manuel Lima. Take your time and watch it. I found it quite interesting. Manuel Lima is a Senior UX Design Lead at Microsoft Bing and founder of VisualComplexity.com. More information about Manuel’s work related to the power of networks is here.

The video brings some very powerful examples related to the shift from hierarchical organization to network organization of information, data abstraction and data. I think PLM data architects need to think how such type of information organization can help to PLM implementations.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of data in product development and manufacturing is growing. In order to solve the problem of data complexity, PLM vendors need to find new models that can scale up and leapfrog the current limitations of databases. Network model is much more powerful and promising in this context. Important, in my view. Just my thoughts…


Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 287 other followers