One of my favorite conferences is the PLM Road Map & PDT conference. Probably because in the pre-COVID days, it was the best PLM conference to network with peers focusing on PLM practices, standards, and sustainability topics. Now the conference is virtual, and hopefully, after the pandemic, we will meet again in the conference space to elaborate on our experiences further.

Last year’s fall conference was special because we had three days filled with a generic PLM update and several A&D (Aerospace & Defense) working groups updates, reporting their progress and findings. Sessions related to the Multiview BOM researchGlobal Collaboration, and several aspects of Model-Based practices: Model-Based Definition, Model-Based Engineering & Model-Based Systems engineering.

All topics that I will elaborate on soon. You can refresh your memory through these two links:

This year, it was a two-day conference with approximately 200 attendees discussing how emerging technologies can disrupt the current PLM landscape and reshape the PLM Value Equation. During the first day of the conference, we focused on technology.

On the second day, we looked in addition to the impact new technology has on people and organizations.

Today’s Emerging Trends & Disrupters

Peter Bilello, CIMdata’s President & CEO, kicked off the conference by providing CIMdata observations of the market. An increasing number of technology capabilities, like cloud, additive manufacturing, platforms, digital thread, and digital twin, all with the potential of realizing a connected vision. Meanwhile, companies evolve at their own pace, illustrating that the gap between the leaders and followers becomes bigger and bigger.

Where is your company? Can you afford to be a follower? Is your PLM ready for the future? Probably not, Peter states.

Next, Peter walked us through some technology trends and their applicability for a future PLM, like topological data analytics (TDA), the Graph Database, Low-Code/No-Code platforms, Additive Manufacturing, DevOps, and Agile ways of working during product development. All capabilities should be related to new ways of working and updated individual skills.

I fully agreed with Peter’s final slide – we have to actively rethink and reshape PLM – not by calling it different but by learning, experimenting, and discussing in the field.

Digital Transformation Supporting Army Modernization

An interesting viewpoint related to modern PLM came from Dr. Raj Iyer, Chief Information Officer for IT Reform from the US Army. Rai walked us through some of the US Army’s challenges, and he gave us some fantastic statements to think about. Although an Army cannot be compared with a commercial business, its target remains to be always ahead of the competition and be aware of the competition.

Where we would say “data is the new oil”, Rai Iyer said: “Data is the ammunition of the future fight – as fights will more and more take place in cyberspace.”

The US Army is using a lot of modern technology – as the image below shows. The big difference here with regular businesses is that it is not about ROI but about winning fights.

Also, for the US Army, the cloud becomes the platform of the future. Due to the wide range of assets, the US Army has to manage, the importance of product data standards is evident.  – Rai mentioned their contribution and adherence to the ISO 10303 STEP standard crucial for interoperability. It was an exciting insight into the US Army’s current and future challenges. Their primary mission remains to stay ahead of the competition.

Joining up Engineering Data without losing the M in PLM

Nigel Shaw’s (Eurostep) presentation was somehow philosophical but precisely to the point what is the current dilemma in the PLM domain.  Through an analogy of the internet, explaining that we live in a world of HTTP(s) linking, we create new ways of connecting information. The link becomes an essential artifact in our information model.

Where it is apparent links are crucial for managing engineering data, Nigel pointed out some of the significant challenges of this approach, as you can see from his (compiled) image below.

I will not discuss this topic further here as I am planning to come back to this topic when explaining the challenges of the future of PLM.

As Nigel said, they have a debate with one of their customers to replace the existing PLM tools or enhance the existing PLM tools. The challenge of moving from coordinated information towards connected data is a topic that we as a community should study.

Integration is about more than Model Format.

This was the presentation I have been waiting for. Mark Williams from Boeing had built the story together with Adrian Burton from Airbus. Nigel Shaw, in the previous session, already pointed to the challenge of managing linked information. Mark elaborated further about the model-based approach for system definition.

All content was related to the understanding that we need a  model-based information infrastructure for the future because storing information in documents (the coordinated approach) is no longer viable for complex systems. Mark ‘slide below says it all.

Mark stressed the importance of managing model information in context, and it has become a challenge.

Mark mentioned that 20 years ago, the IDC (International Data Corporation) measured Boeing’s performance and estimated that each employee spent 2 ½ hours per day. In 2018, the IDC estimated that this number has grown to 30 % of the employee’s time and could go up to 50 % when adding the effort of reusing and duplicating data.

The consequence of this would be that a full-service enterprise, having engineering, manufacturing and services connected, probably loses 70 % of its information because they cannot find it—an impressive number asking for “clever” ways to find the correct information in context.

It is not about just a full indexed search of the data, as some technology geeks might think. It is also about describing and standardizing metadata that describes the models. In that context, Mark walked through a list of existing standards, all with their pros and cons, ending up with the recommendation to use the ISO 10303-243 – MoSSEC standard.

MoSSEC standing for Modelling and Simulation information in a collaborative Systems Engineering Context to manage and connect the relationships between models.

MoSSEC and its implication for future digital enterprises are interesting, considering the importance of a model-based future. I am curious how PLM Vendors and tools will support and enable the standard for future interoperability and collaboration.

Additive Manufacturing
– not as simple as paper printing – yet

Andreas Graichen from Siemens Energy closed the day, coming back to the new technologies’ topic: Additive Manufacturing or in common language 3D Printing. Andreas shared their Additive Manufacturing experiences, matching the famous Gartner Hype Cycle. His image shows that real work needs to be done to understand the technology and its use cases after the first excitement of the hype is over.

Material knowledge was one of the important topics to study when applying additive manufacturing. It is probably a new area for most companies to understand the material behaviors and properties in an Additive Manufacturing process.

The ultimate goal for Siemens Energy is to reach an “autonomous” workshop anywhere in the world where gas turbines could order their spare parts by themselves through digital warehouses. It is a grand vision, and Andreas confirmed that the scalability of Additive Manufacturing is still a challenge.

For rapid prototyping or small series of spare parts, Additive Manufacturing might be the right solution. The success of your Additive Manufacturing process depends a lot on how your company’s management has realistic expectations and the budget available to explore this direction.


Day 1 was enjoyable and educational, starting and ending with a focus on disruptive technologies. The middle part related to data the data management concepts needed for a digital enterprise were the most exciting topics to follow up in my opinion.

Next week I will follow up with reviewing day 2 and share my conclusions. The PLM Road Map & PDT Spring 2021 conference confirmed that there is work to do to understand the future (of PLM).