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Confused? You won’t be after this episode of Soap. “

Who does not remember this tagline from the first official Soap series starting in 1977 and released in the Netherlands in 1979?

Every week the Campbells and the Tates entertained us with all the ingredients of a real soap: murder, infidelity, aliens’ abduction, criminality, homosexuality and more.

The episode always ended with a set of questions, leaving you for a week in suspense , hoping the next episode would give you the answers.

For those who do not remember the series or those who never saw it because they were too young, this was the mother of all Soaps.

What has it to do with PLM?

Soap has to do with strange people that do weird things (I do not want to be more specific). Recently I noticed that this is happening even in the PLM blogger’s world. Two of my favorite blogs demonstrated something of this weird behavior.

First Steve Ammann in his Zero Wait-State blog post: A PLM junkie at sea point-solutions versus comprehensive mentioned sailing from Ventura CA to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on a 35 foot sailboat and started thinking about PLM during his night shift. My favorite quote:

Besides dealing with a couple of visits from Mexican coast guard patrol boats hunting for suspected drug runners, I had time alone to think about my work in the PLM industry and specifically how people make decisions about what type of software system or systems they choose for managing product development information. Yes only a PLM “junkie” would think about PLM on a sailing trip and maybe this is why the Mexican coast guard was suspicious.

Second Oleg in his doomsday blog post: The End of PLM Communism, was thinking about PLM all the weekend. My favorite quote:

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.

imageIt demonstrates the best thinking is done during out-of-office time and on casual locations. Knowing this from my long cycling tours in the weekend, I know it is true.
I must confess that I have PLM thoughts during cycling.

Perhaps the best thinking happens outside an office?

I leave the follow up on this observation to my favorite Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel, who apparently is out of office too.

Now back to serious PLM

Both posts touch the topic of a single comprehensive solution versus best-of-breed solutions. Steve is very clear in his post. He believes that in the long term a single comprehensive solution serves companies better, although user performance (usability) is still an issue to consider. He provides guidance in making the decision for either a point solution or an integrated solution.

And I am aligned with what Steve is proposing.

Oleg is coming from a different background and in his current position he believes more in a distributed or network approach. He looks at PLM vendors/implementations and their centralized approach through the eyes of someone who knows the former Soviet Union way of thinking: “Centralize and control”.

imageThe association with communism which was probably not the best choice when you read the comments. This association makes you think as the former Soviet Union does not exist anymore, what about former PLM implementations and the future? According to Oleg PLM implementations should be more focused on distributed systems (on the cloud ?), working and interacting together connecting data and processes.

And I am aligned with what Oleg is proposing.

Confused? You want be after reading my recent experience.

I have been involved in the discussion around the best possible solution for an EPC contractor (Engineering Procurement Construction) in the Oil & Gas industry. The characteristic of their business is different from standard manufacturing companies. EPC contractors provide services for an owner/operator of a plant and they are selected because of their knowledge, their price, their price, their price, quality and time to deliver.

This means an EPC contractor is focusing on execution, making sure they have the best tools for each discipline and this is the way they are organized and used to work. The downside of this approach is everyone is working on its own island and there is no knowledge capitalization or sharing of information. The result each solution is unique, which brings a higher risk for errors and fixes required during construction. And the knowledge is in the head of experience people ….. and they retire at a certain moment.

So this EPC contractor wanted to build an integrated system, where all disciplines are connected and sharing information where relevant. In the Oil & Gas industry, ISO15926 is the standard. This standard is relative mature to serve as the neutral exchange standard of information between disciplines. The ideal world for best in class tools communicating with each other, or not ?

imageImagine there are 6 discipline tools, an engineering environment optimized for plant engineering, a project management environment, an execution environment connecting suppliers and materials, a delivery environment assuring the content of a project is delivered in the right stages and finally a knowledge environment, capitalizing lessons learned, standards and best practices.

This results in 6 tools and 12 interfaces to a common service bus connecting these tools. 12 interfaces as information needs to be send and received from the service bus per application. Each tools will have redundant data for its own execution.

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What happens if a PLM provider could offer three of these tools on a common platform? This would result into 4 tools to install and only 8 interfaces. The functionality in the common PLM system does not require data redundancy but shares common information and therefore will provide better performance in a cross-discipline scenario.

In the ultimate world all tools will be on one platform, providing the best performance and support for this EPC contractor. However this is utopia. It is almost impossible to have a 100 % optimized system for a group of independent companies working together. Suppliers will not give up their environment and own IP to embed it in a customer´s ideal environment. So there is always a compromise to find between a best integrated platform (optimal performance – reduced cost of interfaces and cost of ownership) and the best connected environment (tools connection through open standards).

And this is why both Steve and Oleg have a viewpoint that makes sense. Depending on the performance of the tools and the interaction with the supplier network the PLM platform can provide the majority of functionality. If you are a market dominating OEM you might even reach 100 % coverage for your own purpose, although the modern society is more about connecting information where possible.

MY CONCLUSION after reading both posts:

  • Oleg tries to provoke, and like a soap, you might end up confused after each episode.
  • Steve in his post gives a common sense guidance, useful if you spend time on digesting it, not a soap.

Now I hope you are not longer confused and wish you all a successful and meaningful 2013. The PLM soap will continue in alphabetical order:

  • Will Aras survive 21-12-2012 and support the Next generation ?
  • Will Autodesk get of the cloud or have a coming out ?
  • Will Dassault get more Experienced ?
  • Will Oracle PLM customers understand it is not a database ?
  • Will PTC get out of the CAD jail  and receive $ 200 ?
  • Will SAP PLM be really 3D  and user friendly ?
  • Will Siemens PLM become a DIN or ISO standard ?

See the next episodes of my PLM blog in 2013

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