image This week I was happy to participate in the PLM INNOVATION 2011 conference in London. It was an energizer, which compared to some other PLM conferences, makes the difference. The key of the success, to my opinion was that there was no vendor dominance. And that participants were mainly discussing around their PLM implementation experiences not about products.

Additional as each of the sessions were approximate 30 minutes long, it forced the speakers to focus on their main highlights, instead of going into details. Between the sessions there was significant time to network or to setup prescheduled meetings with other participants. This formula made it for me an energizing event as every half hour you moved into a next experience.

In parallel, I enjoyed and experienced the power of the modern media. Lead by Oleg,  a kind of parallel conference took place on Twitter around the hash tag #plminnovation2011. There I met, and communicated with people in the conference (and outside) and felt sorry I was not equipped with all the modern media (iPhone/Pad type  equipment) to interact more intensive during these days.

Now some short comments/interpretations on the sessions I was able to attend

Peter Bilello, president of Cimdata opened the conference in the way we are used from Cimdata, explaining the areas and values of PLM, the statistics around markets, major vendors and positive trends for the near future. Interesting was the discussion around the positioning of PLM and ERP functionality and the coverage of these functionalities between PLM and ERP vendors.

Jean-Yves Mondon, EADS’ head of PLM Harmonization (Phenix program) , illustrated by extracts of an interview with their CEO Louis Gallois, how EADS relies on PLM as critical for their business and wants to set standards for PLM in order to have the most efficient interoperability of tools and processes coming from multiple vendors

image Due to my own session and some one-to-one sessions, I missed a few parallel sessions in the morning and attended  Oleg Shilovitsky’s session around the future of engineering software. Oleg discussed several trends and one of the trends I also see as imminent, it the fact that the PLM world is changing from databases towards networks. It is not about capturing all data inside one single system, but to be able to find the right information through a network of information carriers.

This suits also very well with the new generation of workers (generation-Y) who also learned to live in this type of environments and collect information through their social networks.

The panel discussion with 3 questions for panelist could have been a little better in case the panelist would have had the time to prepare some answers, although some of the improvisations were good. I guess the audience choose Graham McCall’s response on the question: “What will be the Next Biggest Disappointment” as the best. He mentioned the next ‘big world-changing’ product launch from a PLM vendor.

myplm Then I followed the afternoon session from Infor, called Intelligent PLM for Manufacturing. The problem with this session I had (and I have this often with vendor sessions) was that Venkat Rajaj did exactly wrong what most vendors do wrong. They create their own niche definition – Product Lifecycle Intelligence (is there no intelligence in PLM) , being the third software company (where are they on Cimdata’s charts)  and further a lot of details on product functions and features. Although the presentation was smooth and well presented, the content did not stick.

image A delight that day was the session from Dr. Harminder Singh, associate fellow at Warwick Business School, about managing the cultural change of PLM. Harminder does not come from the world of software or PLM and his outsider information and looks, created a particular atmosphere for those who were in the audience and consider cultural change as an important part of PLM. Here we had a session inspired by a theme not by product or concept. I was happy to have a longer discussion with Harminder that day as I also believe PLM has to do with culture change – it is not only technology and management push as we would say. Looking forward to follow up here.

The next day we started with an excellent session from Nick Sale from TaTa Technologies. Beside a Nano in the lobby of the conference he presented all the innovation and rationalization related to the Nano car and one of his messages was that we should not underestimate the power of innovation coming from India. An excellent sponsor presentation as the focus was on the content.

In the parallel track I was impressed how Philips Healthcare implemented their PLMD architecture with three layers. imageGert-Jan Laurenssen explained they have an authoring layer, where they do global collaboration within one discipline. A PDM layer where they manage the interdisciplinary collaboration, which of course in the case of Healthcare is a mix of mechanical, electrical and software. And above these two layers they connect to the layer of transactional systems, that need the product definition data. Impressive was their implementation speed for sure due to some of the guidelines Gert-Jan gave – see Oleg’s picture from his slide here.  Unfortunate I did not have the time to discuss deeper with Gert-Jan as I am curious about the culture change and the amount of resources they have in this project. Interesting observation was that the project was driven by IT-managers and Engineering managers, confirming the trend that PLM more and more becomes business focussed instead of IT-focused.

Peter Thorne from Cambashi brought in his session called Trends and Maximizing PLM investments an interesting visual historical review on engineering software investments using Google Earth as the presentation layer. Impressing to see the trends visualized this way and scary the way Europe is not really a major area of investment and growth.

Keith Connolly explained in his session how S&C Electric integrated their PLM environment with ERP. Everything sounded so easy and rational but as I know the guys from S&C for a longer time, I know it is a result of having a clear vision and working for many years towards implementing this vision.

image Leon Lauritsen from Minerva gave a presentation around Open Source PLM and he did an excellent job around explaining where Open Source PLM could/should become attractive. Unfortunate his presentation quickly went into the direction of Open Source PLM equals Aras and he continued with a demo of Aras capabilities. I would have preferred to have a longer presentations around the Open Source PLM business model instead of spending time on looking at a product.

I believe Aras has a huge potential, for sure in the mid-market and perhaps beyond, but I keep coming back on my experiences I also have with SmarTeam: An open and easy to install PLM system with a lot of features is a risk in the hand of IT-people with no focus on business. Without proper vision and guiding (coming from ????? ) it will become again an IT-project, for cheaper to the outside world (as internal investments often are not so clear), but achieving the real PLM goals depends on how you implement.

image After lunch we really reached to the speed of light with David Widgren, who gave us the insight of data management at CERN. Their problematic, somehow a single ‘product’ – the accelerators and all its equipment  plus a long lifecycle (20 years development before operational), surviving all technologies and data formats requires them to think all time on pragmatic data storage and migration. In parallel as the consumers of data are not familiar with the complexity of IT-systems they build lots of specific interfaces for specific roles to provide the relevant information in a single environment. Knowing a lot of European funds are going there, David is a good ambassador for the CERN, explaining in a comic manner he is working at the coolest place on Earth.

image Last session I could attend was Roger Tempest around Data Management. Roger is a co-founder of the PLMIG (PLM Interest group) and they strive for openness, standards and  interoperability for PLM systems. I was disappointed by this session as I was not able to connect to the content. Roger was presenting his axioms as it seemed. I had the feeling he would come down the stage with his 10 commandments. I would be interested to understand where these definitions came from. Is it a common understanding or it it just again another set of definitions coming from another direction and what is the value or message for existing customers using particular PLM software.

I missed the closing keynote session from John Unsworth from Bentley. I learned later this was also an interesting session but cannot comment it.

My conclusion:
An inspiring event, both due to its organization and agenda and thanks to the attendees who made a real PLM centric event. Cannot wait for 2012