NL-PLMAs a genuine Dutchman, I was able to spend time last month in the Netherlands, and I attended two interesting events: BIMOpen2015, where I was invited to speak about what BIM could learn from PLM (see Dutch review here) and the second event: Where engineering meets supply chain organized by two startup companies located in Yes!Delft an incubator place working close to the technical university of Delft (Dutch announcement here)

Two different worlds and I realized later, they potential have the same future. So let’s see what happened.

BIMopen 2015

bimopenBIMopen 2015 had the theme: From Design to Operations and the idea of the conference was to bring together construction companies (the builders) and the facility managers (the operators) and discuss the business value they see from BIM.

First I have to mention that BIM is a confusing TLA like PLM. So many interpretations of what BIM means. For me, when I talk about BIM I mean Building Information Management. In a narrower meaning, BIM is often considered as a Building Information Model – a model that contains all multidisciplinary information. The last definition does not deal with typical lifecycle operations, like change management, planning, and execution.

The BIMopen conference started with Ellen Joyce Dijkema from BDO consultants who addressed the cost of failure and the concepts of lean. Thinking. The high cost of failure is known and accepted in the construction industry, where at the end of the year profitability can be 1 % of turnover (with a margin of +/- 3 % – so being profitable is hard).

Lean thinking requires a cultural change, which according to Ellen Joyce is an enormous challenge, where according to a study done by Prof Dr. A. Cozijnsen there is only 19 % of chance this will be successful, compared to 40 % chance of success for new technology and 30 % of chance for new work processes.


It is clear changing culture is difficult and in the construction industry it might be even harder. I had the feeling a large part of the audience did not grasp the opportunity or could find a way to apply it to their own world.

My presentation about what BIM could learn from PLM was similar. Construction companies have to spend more time on upfront thinking instead of fixing it later (costly). In addition thinking about the whole lifecycle of a construction, also in operations can bring substantial revenue for the owner or operator of a construction. Where traditional manufacturing companies take the entire lifecycle into account, this is still not understood in the construction industry.

This point was illustrated by the fact that there was only one person in the audience with the primary interest to learn what BIM could contribute to his job as facility manager and half-way the conference he still was not convinced BIM had any value for him.


A significant challenge for the construction industry is that there is no end-to-end ownership of data, therefore having a single company responsible for all the relevant and needed data does not exist. Ownership of data can result in legal responsibility at the end (if you know what to ask for) and in a risk shifting business like the construction industry companies try to avoid responsibility for anything that is not directly related to the primary activities.

Some larger companies during the conference like Ballast Nedam and HFB talked about the need to have a centralized database to collect all the data related to a construction (project). They were building these systems themselves, probably because they were not aware of PLM systems or did not see through the first complexity of a PLM system, therefore deciding a standard system will not be enough.

whyworryI believe this is short-term thinking as with a custom system you can get quick results and user acceptance (it works the way the user is asking for) however custom systems have always been a blockage for the future after 10-15 years as they are developed with a mindset from that time.

If you want to know, learn more about my thoughts have a look at 2014 the year the construction industry did not discover PLM. I will write a new post at the end of the year with some positive trends. Construction companies start to realize the benefits of a centralized data-driven environment instead of shifting documents and risks.

The cloud might be an option they are looking for. Which brings me to the second event.

Engineering meets Supply Chain

This was more an interactive workshop / conference where two startups KE-Works and TradeCloud illustrated the individual value of their solution and how it could work in an integrated way. I had been in touch with KE-Works before because they are an example of the future trend, platform-thinking. Instead of having one (or two) large enterprise system(s), the future is about connecting data-centric services, where most of them can run in the cloud for scalability and performance.

KE-Works provides a real-time workflow for engineering teams based on knowledge rules. Their solution runs in the cloud but connects to systems used by their customers. One of their clients Fokker Elmo explained how they want to speed up their delivery process by investing in a knowledge library using KE-works knowledge rules (an approach the construction industry could apply too)


In general if you look at what KE-works does, it is complementary to what PLM-systems or platforms do. They add the rules for the flow of data, where PLM-systems are more static and depend on predefined processes.

tradecloudTradeCloud provides a real-time platform for the supply chain connecting purchasing and vendors through a data-driven approach instead of exchanging files and emails. TradeCloud again is another example of a collection of dedicated services, targeting, in this case, the bottom of the market. TradeCloud connects to the purchaser’s ERP and can also connect to the vendor’s system through web services.

The CADAC group, a large Dutch Autodesk solution provided also showed their web-services based solution connecting Autodesk Vault with TradeCloud to make sure the right drawings are available. The name of their solution, the “Cadac Organice Vault TradeCloud Adapter” is more complicated than the solution itself.

observationWhat I saw that afternoon was three solutions providers connected using the cloud and web services to support a part of a company’s business flow. I could imagine that adding services from other companies like OnShape (CAD in the cloud), Kimonex (BOM Management for product design in the cloud) and probably 20 more candidates can already build and deliver a simplified business flow in an organization without having a single, large enterprise system in place that connects all.

The Future

InnovDilemmaI believe this is the future and potential a breakthrough for the construction industry. As the connections between the stakeholders can vary per project, having a configurable combination of business services supported by a cloud infrastructure enables an efficient flow of data.

As a PLM expert, you might think all these startups with their solutions are not good enough for the real world of PLM. And currently they are not – I agree. However disruption always comes unnoticed. I wrote about it in 2012 (The Innovators Dilemma and PLM)


Innovation happens when you meet people, observe and associate in areas outside your day-to-day business. For me, these two events connected some of the dots for the future. What do you think? Will a business process based on connected services become the future?

Sometimes we have to study careful to see patterns have a look here what is possible according to some scientists (click on the picture for the article)