According to LinkedIn, there are over a 7500 PLM consultants in my network.  It is quite an elite group of people as I have over 100.000 CEOs in my network according to LinkedIn. Being a CEO is a commodity.

PLM consultants share a common definition, the words Product Lifecycle Management. However, what we all mean by PLM is one of the topics that has evolved over the past 19 years in a significant way.

PLM or cPDM (collaborative PDM)?

In the early days, PLM was considered as an engineering tool for collaboration, either between global subsidiaries or suppliers. The main focus of PLM was to bring engineering information to manufacturing in a controlled way. PLM and cPDM, often seen as solving the same business needs as the implementation of a PLM system most of the time got stuck at the cPDM level.

Main players at that time were Dassault Systemes, UGS (later Siemens PLM) and PTC – their solutions were MCAD-driven with limited scope – bringing engineering information towards manufacturing in a coordinated way.

PLM was not really an approach that created visibility at the management level of a company. How do you value and measure collaboration? Because connectivity was expensive in the early days of PLM, combined with the idea that PLM systems needed to be customized, PLM was framed as costly and hard to deliver value.

Systems Engineering and New Product Introduction

Then, 2005 and beyond, thanks to better connectivity and newcomers in the PLM market, the solution landscape from PLM became broader.  CAD integrations were not a necessary part of the PLM scope according to these newcomers as they focused on governance (New Product Introduction), Bill of Materials or at the front-end of the product design cycle, connecting systems engineering by adding requirements management to their PLM suite.

New players in this domain where SAP, Aras, followed by Autodesk – their focus was more metadata-driven, connection and creating an end-to-end data flow for the product. Autodesk started the PLM and cloud path.

These new capabilities brought a broader scope for PLM indeed. However, they also strengthened the idea that PLM is there for engineers. For the management too complicated, unless they understood the value of coordinated collaboration. Large enterprises saw the benefits of having common processes for PLM as an essential reason to invest in PLM. The graph below showed the potential of PLM, where the shaded area indicates the potential revenue benefits.

Still, this graph does not create “hard numbers,” and it requires visionaries to get a PLM implementation explained and justified across the board.  PLM is framed as expensive even if the budgets spent on PLM are twenty percent or less compared to ERP implementations. As PLM is not about transactional data, the effects of PLM are hard to benchmark. Success has many fathers, and in case of difficulties, the newcomer is to blame.

PLM = IoT?

With the future possibilities, connectivity to the machine-level (IoT or IIoT), a new paradigm related to PLM was created by PTC.  PLM equals IoT – read more here.

Through IoT, it became possible to connect to products/assets in the field, and the simplified message from PTC was that now thanks to IoT (read ThingWorx) PLM was now really possible, releasing traditional PLM out of its engineering boundaries. The connected sensors created the possibility to build and implement more advanced and flexible manufacturing processes, often called Smart Manufacturing or Industrie 4.0.

None of the traditional PLM vendors is talking about PLM solely anymore. Digital transformation is a topic discussed at the board level, where GE played a visionary role with their strong message for change, driven by their CEO Jeff Immelt at that time – have a look at one of his energizing talks here.

However is PLM part of this discussion?

Digital Transformation opened a new world for everyone. Existing product lifecycle concepts could be changed, products are becoming systems, interacting with the environment realized through software features. Systems can be updated/upgraded relatively fast, in particular when you are able to watch and analyze the performance of your assets in almost real-time.

All consultants (me included) like to talk about digital transformation as it creates a positive mood towards the future, imagining everything that is possible. And with the elite of PLM consultants we are discovering the new roles of PLM – see picture below:

Is PLM equal to IoT or Digital Transformation?

I firmly believe the whole Digital Transformation and IoT hypes are unfortunately obfuscating the maximum needs for a digital enterprise. The IoT focus only exposes the last part of the lifecycle, disconnected from the concept and engineering cycles – yes on PowerPoint slides there might be a link. Re-framing PLM as Digital Transformation makes is even vaguer as we discussed during the CIMdata / PDT Europe conference last October. My main argument: Companies fail to have a link with their digital operations and dreams because current engineering processes and data, hardware (mechanical and electronics) combined with software are still operating in an analog, document-driven mode.

PLM = MBSE?

However what we also discussed during this conference was the fact that actually there is a need for an end-to-end model-based systems engineering infrastructure to support the full product lifecycle. Don Farr’s (Boeing) new way to depict the classical systems engineering “V” also hinted into that direction. See the image below – a connected environment between the virtual modeled word and the physical world at any time of the product lifecycle

So could MBSE be the new naming for PLM?

The problem is as Peter Bilello also mentioned during the CIMdata/PDT conference is that the word “ENGINEERING” is in Model-Based Systems Engineering. Therefore keeping the work what the PLM “elite” is doing again in the engineering box.

So perhaps Model-Based Enterprise as the new name?

Unfortunate MBE has already two current definitions – look here and here. Already too much confusion, and there a lot of people who like confusion. See Model-Based – The confusion. So any abbreviation with Model-Based terminology in it will not get attention at the board level. Even if it is crucial the words, Model-Based create less excitement as compared to Digital Twin, although the Digital Twin depends on a model-based approach.

Conclusion

Creating and maintaining unique products and experiences for their customers is the primary target of almost every company. However, no easy acronym that frames these aspects to value at the board level. Perhaps PID – the Product Innovation Diamond approach will be noticed? Your say ….

 

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