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PLM and IPTwo terms pass me every day: Digital Transformation appears in every business discussion, and IP Security, a topic also discussed in all parts of society. We realize it is easy to steal electronic data without being detected (immediately).

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation is reshaping business processes to enable new business models, create a closer relation with the market, and react faster while reducing the inefficiencies of collecting, converting and processing analog or disconnected information.

Digital Transformation became possible thanks to the lower costs of technology and global connectivity, allowing companies, devices, and customers to interact in almost real-time when they are connected to the internet.

IOTIoT (Internet of Things) and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) are terms closely related to Digital Transformation. Their focus is on creating connectivity with products (systems) in the field, providing a tighter relation with the customer and enabling new (upgrade) services to gain better performance. Every manufacturing company should be exploring IoT and IIoT possibilities now.

Digital Transformation is also happening in the back office of companies. The target is to create a digital data flow inside the company and with the outside stakeholders, e.g., customers, suppliers, authorities. The benefits are mainly improved efficiency, faster response and higher quality interaction with the outside world.

digitalPLMThe part of Digital Transformation that concerns me the most is the domain of PLM. As I have stated in earlier posts (Best Practices or Next Practices ? / What is Digital PLM ?), the need is to replace the classical document-driven product to market approach by a modern data-driven interaction of products and services.

I am continually surprised that companies with an excellent Digital Transformation profile on their websites have no clue about Digital Transformation in their product innovation domain. Marketing is faster than reality.

PIBerlin2017-1I am happy to discuss this topic with many of my peers in the product innovation world @ PI Berlin 2017, three weeks from now. I am eagerly looking to look at how and why companies do not embrace the Digital Transformation sooner and faster. The theme of the conference, “Digital Transformation: From Hype to Value “ says it all. You can find the program here, and I will report about this conference the weekend after.

IP Security

The topic of IP protection has always been high on the agenda of manufacturing companies. Digital Transformation brings new challenges. Digital information will be stored somewhere on a server and probably through firewalls connected to the internet. Some industries have high-security policies, with separate networks for their operational environments. Still, many large enterprises are currently struggling with IP security policies as sharing data while protecting IP between various systems creates a lot of administration per system.

dropboxCloud solutions for sharing data are still a huge security risk. Where is the data stored and who else have access to it? Dropbox came in the news recently as “deleted” data came back after five years, “due to a bug.” Cloud data sharing cannot be trusted for real sensitive information.

Cloud providers always claim that their solutions are safer due to their strict safety procedures compared to the improvident behavior of employees. And, this is true. For example, a company I worked with had implemented Digital Rights Management (DRM) for internal sharing of their IP, making sure that users could only read information on the screen, and not store it locally if they had an issue with the server. “No problem”, one of the employees said, “I have here a copy of the documents on my USB-drive.

lockedCloud-based PLM systems are supposed to be safer. However, it still matters where the data is stored; security and hacking policies of countries vary. Assume your company´s IP is safe for hacking. Then the next question is “How about ownership of your data?”

Vendor lock-in and ownership of data are topics that always comes back at the PDT conferences (see my post on PDT2016). When a PLM cloud provider stores your product data in a proprietary data format, you will always be forced to have a costly data migration project when you decide to change from the provider.

Why not use standards for data storage? Hakan Kårdén triggered me on this topic again with his recent post: Data Is The New Oil So Make Sure You Ask For The Right Quality.



Digital Transformation is happening everywhere but not always with the same pace and focus. New PLM practices still need to be implemented on a larger scale to become best practices. Digital information in the context of Intellectual Property creates extra challenges to be solved. Cloud providers do not offer yet solutions that are safe and avoiding vendor lock-in.

Be aware. To be continued…

Many thanks (again) to Dick Bourke for his editing suggestions


Two years ago I wrote a post called PLM in 2050 as the concluding post for 2008. Now two years later it is time to see what has changed my landscape during this period. Are we going to a predictable future or are new trends arising ?

These were the points I raised at that time:

1. “Data is not replicated any more – every piece of information that exists will have a Universal Unique ID, some people might call it the UUID.  In 2020 this initiative became mature, thanks to the merger of some big PLM and ERP vendors, who brought this initiative to reality. This initiative reduced the exchange costs in supply chains dramatically and lead to bankruptcy for many companies providing translators and exchange software.”

image I believe this trend is still happening only the big risk here is that it requires an open standard definition of this UUID. I am sure that before my retirement (see later below), there will be no global standard. There will be platform-vendor specific UUIDs and the challenge will be to operate in a heterogeneous platform-heterogeneous vendor environment. I feel less discussion on this topic in my environment, therefore the downward arrow.


2.”Companies store their data in ‘the cloud’  based on the previous concept. Only some old-fashioned companies still have their own data storage and exchange issues, as they are afraid someone will touch their data. Analysts compare this behavior with the situation in the year 1950, when people kept their money under a mattress, not trusting banks (and they were not always wrong)”

image For sure this is the most important trend and I would rank it now as the number one trend for 2010. I just read an interesting article about Cloud Computing Predictions which addresses all dimensions of a cloud strategy and execution – very much worth reading.

What you see in that article and also around you, is that there is going to be a battle between legacy vendors, who will try to transform the cloud definition to a private cloud into a way it suits their platform,  and the new cloud solution vendors which also require a platform and from there build and extend their services. It relates to one of the other trends I also mentioned in the 2008 post:

3. “Then with a shock, I noticed PLM did not longer exist. Companies were focusing on their core business processes. Systems/terms like PLM, ERP and CRM did not longer exist. Some older people still remembered the battle between those systems to own the data and the political discomfort this gave inside companies”

imageCombined with the new battle around the services platform it will be clear that in this approach dominant business systems, like CRM, ERP and PLM will no longer exist, as the focus will be to build business processes based on services and apps on a platform. Here I see PLM as the last hurdle to take. CRM already is understood by the market that it can be replaced by a cloud based solution, the first ERP attempts are already there too, but as PLM is a more, diverse and wide set of non-standardized functions, you will see that in this area the challenge to offer the required PLM capabilities will be the biggest. Another rising trend PLM vendors will move more towards the manufacturing execution, where ERP vendors will provide more PLM services.

The battle will be around, who owns the intellectual property of the company and where it is stored and managed.


4. “After 3D, a complete virtual world, based on holography, became the next step for product development and understanding of products. Thanks to the revolutionary quantum-3D technology, this concept could be even applied to life sciences. Before ordering a product, customers could first experience and describe their needs in a virtual environment”

imageThis trend will also continue I believe and combined with different types of user-interfaces, mainly from the gaming world; the virtual reality will be the space where we do the most of our engineering work, shopping experience and entertainment. Big question will be, especially for the Matrix fans, will the real world stop to exist? So also here a growing trend – 3D television, 3D communication narrow the gap between the real and virtual world and understanding.

A trend I did not pick up at that time was the issue of social media and their influence on the existing business processes. At that time I wrote:

5. “As people were working so efficient, there was no need to work all week. There were community time slots, when everyone was active, but 50 per cent of the time, people had the time to recreate (to re-create or recreate was the question). Some older French and German designers remembered the days when they had only 10 weeks holiday per year, unimaginable nowadays.”

image And I have to say I was completely wrong there. Thanks to social communities, I am spending now more time per day to jump from community to community, from blog post to blog post (I admire my colleagues who have time to produce blog posts). Meanwhile I try to follow all my Twitter and Facebook friends and meanwhile processing the messages coming from everywhere, without having time to really dig into a problem I want to solve.

So quickly I post a question in various forums to see if someone has the answer, as I have not time to solve it anymore – hopefully somewhere in the world there will be a person who has the answer or time. Where to position this new trend into the relation of PLM is still a question for me. Yes, collaboration becomes easier, less boundaries, but also less structure to store data. Intelligent search engines which also understand the context of the information become more and more important, as we cannot structure upfront all information as we did in the classical past.


Due to the economical crisis another trend came clear. There is no retirement money left for the older workforce that should retire in the next 20 years. So companies will have a new generation of people asking the questions and if the older workforce adapts the new social media capabillities, they can be the ones that provide the answers. 

In 2050 I will just be retired at the age of 90, and according to statistics, I have still another 20 years to enjoy my bionic life.

I wish you all a happy and successful new year and that the good dreams may come true.
Keep innovation and sustainability on your agenda




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