observation As a follow-up of my holiday thoughts, I want to discuss this time the various interpretations of PLM that exist. Of course we have the ‘official’ definitions of the consultancy companies like CIMdata and 2PLM ( I took an American and European example).  They describe clearly that it is a business approach, not necessary a set of technologies and tools to implement.

plm_txt Then we have the PLM vendors, where Dassault Systems and Siemens claim their visionary leadership. Looking at their websites, it is hard to find an explicit message. They both claim PLM brings innovation (how ?) , where Dassault Systemes has a strong message around 3D and virtual product development and Siemens focuses more on efficiency and better collaboration benefits. I am not going in depth into PTC and Aras or other PLM vendors as I am only taking two examples per type of company, but look at their websites and find out how (and if) they describe PLM as a business approach.

erp_txt For a PLM definition at SAP you have to dig a little deeper and I got even more surprised when searching through the Oracle web site. Here it was difficult to find a generic PLM message. There was the list of acquisitions (which make me wonder if this means they are all integrated) and there was the list of industries and only when drilling down into the industries, you will find PLM related information.  Here I still have the feeling that these companies understand there is a need for PLM, but that it is not in their veins, they want to manage product data as a ‘single version of the truth’ – which is not a bad idea and I will come back on that later – but they want to manage different data.

Also upcoming are the generic PLM on-line solutions (Arena and PLM+), which for me still are somehow a contradiction to what consultancy companies describe as PLM. Instead of a bussiness approach it is an IT-solution.  In parallel there are more dedicated on-line solutions that support a specific business process  (where PLM practices are embedded) – like for Apparel, CPG.

For these type of solutions, I have a more positive opinion as they are lowering the threshold to implement PLM in a certain industry. However the biggest skepticism I have for these types of solutions is the degrees of flexibility it will offer the implementing company to be different from standard best practices. As all companies have their uniqueness in being competitive, will they be able to support this ?

And then there was the press release from Zero Wait-State which struck me:

point Zero Wait-State is launching a new website that will provide a central location for Product Lifecycle Management software and partner reviews. This site will be a valuable resource for companies trying to assess different PLM solutions and which partners to work with. The site will be driven by users and allow them to share their experiences with different software products and implementation partners.

See the full press release here: Zero Wait-State Announces New Website for PLM and Service Provider Reviews.
I believe in these times of product selection and reviews certainly a good initiative. Where do we find vendor independent reviews of various PLM products ? Bringing PLM to social communities.

But ……

Here I want to take a step back. What is the essence of PLM and how do you know as a company you want to implement PLM ?

The majority of mid-market companies are not looking for a PLM system. Most of the mid-market companies have the impression that PLM is complex and expensive and typical mid-market vendors like Autodesk or SolidWorks are not pushing PLM (try for fun to search for PLM on their websites).

So will a mid-market company be able to select a PLM product through communities in the same manner as you select a consumer product ?

I believe the main challenge for a PLM implementation is not the software, but the business change.

In a company where most people are thinking (and rewarded) departmental, it is difficult to implement a new system that affects all departments. Creating the single version of the truth for product data is one of the basics for PLM. Try to get an agreement with sales, engineering, production and service who will be responsible for which part of the BOM. SAP’s single version of the truth is much more a statement from an IT-infrastructure point of view not focusing and pushing a change of business processes.

I believe, and this is also based on discussions and comments from colleagues focusing on the mid-market, that many mid-market companies are implementing basics of PLM, not always using a ‘certified’ PLM system or PLM vendor, but a pragmatic solution (customization / piece of software) which connects parts of the product information. These solutions are usually extensions on top of the CAD data management environment or the ERP system.

And here PLM vendors have a mission. Provide building blocks (services) that allow mid-market companies to connect data between departments based on known standard authoring tools. For classical PLM industries (Automotive/Aero/Fabrication & Assembly) the major CAD systems and virtual product development plus analysis software are major disciplines to manage. Other industries also have their authoring tools. Connecting them through services and provide an easy to implement backbone for product information. This should be not a big-boom effect in the mid-market, but more an evolution – moving to PLM 2.0 or beyond ?

Will this come from PLM providers or IT-providers ?

For the mid-market it is not about which PLM, but more about who can provide a gradual business change from sequential and departmental business processes towards company-wide processes, where people share and collaborate around the single version of data. So which PLM should be called which provider …..

I am looking forward to your opinion.