The PLM Platform Comes of Age
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The PLM Platform Comes of Age

Peter A. Bilello, President, CIMdata Inc
Peter A. Bilello, President, CIMdata Inc

Peter A. Bilello, President, CIMdata Inc

Product lifecycle management (PLM) like every technological advancement, has a lifecycle of its own. Various technology and non-technology oriented trends are placing great pressure on traditional product lifecycle management approaches; many of which are resulting in new ways of looking at and enabling innovation. This evolution is underway and there are no signs that it will slow down.

At the heart of the evolution of innovation, PLM solution providers are offering powerful new capabilities. These include leveraging the Cloud, Service Oriented Architectures (SOA), and other emerging technologies such as enablers for the Internet of Things (IoT). Their strategies include a surge in acquisitions of best-in-class software, on which hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent, and well-thought-out new product lifecycle management architectures. 

Many of these acquisitions opened up direct access to a myriad of applications and toolsets demanded by today’s product innovators. More importantly, this evolution is bringing transparency to what has long been a fragmented process.What we are doing today will not cut it tomorrow. This applies equally to product development and to PLM implementations. 

Much has been written and spoken about platformization and the emergence of innovation platforms, but viable definitions are scarce.  

Irresistible Trends 

The platformization of PLM is the culmination of four irresistible trends. First and foremost is the rapid evolution of personal productivity tools (e.g., office automation and computer-aided design) and the integration of their capabilities within an enterprise framework to support systems engineering and multi-disciplinary design creation, optimization, and validation. This includes the interoperability of digital models for simulation and analysis (or model-based engineering) irrespective of dissimilarities in toolsets.  

The other three: 

  • Migration of discrete capabilities for end-to-end lifecycle management into business units and the enterprise—onward and upward from the engineering units and their “silos of expertise.” That is where engineering document management (EDM) and product data management (PDM) originated.  

  • Recognition of the ever growing and increasingly urgent need for collaboration—across engineering specialties, spanning scientific disciplines, and reaching throughout the extended enterprise. The enormous value to be extracted from intuitive collaboration and information sharing that is increasingly easy to see. 

  • The evolution of specific technologies such as SOAs in the cloud that enable the platformization of innovation. Fading away are closed or proprietary systems that are hosted in-house and supported by corporate information technology units.  

Solution providers have devoted hundreds of millions of R&D dollars in a quest—that is the right word—to see that users have everything they need, when they need it, all in one place. “Everything” means connecting developers to every aspect of the innovation environment. “All in one place” means the single source of truth.  

The Age of Continuous Upheaval 

In our age of continuous upheaval, digitization threatens to disrupt everything in an extended enterprise. Familiar technologies are sidelined. Established business processes are undermined. Workflows are turned inside out. Feedback loops multiply. Silos of expertise are rewired. Employees are jolted out of their comfort zones. Organizational charts go into the shredder.  

There’s more. Gone or fading fast are long-established boundaries between enterprise disciplines such as design (e.g., mechanical, electrical/electronic, and software development), production, supply chain management, logistics, and services. The playing fields of the product lifecycle constantly tilt first in one direction and then in another. For good or ill, these changes are driving the development of innovation platforms.  

In an era of disruption, globally competitive may not be good enough. Secondly, not even bedrock concepts such as first and last are spared. 

Every upheaval has its enablers. For innovation platforms, these are: 

  • The Internet of Things (IoT), whose sensors and connectivity reveal what happens to products, systems, and services in the field. 

  • The cloud and its 24/7 connectivity for just about anything imaginable. 

One way to understand the importance of the IoT and the cloud is to contrast them with the advertising theme of the Las Vegas Convention Bureau: “What happens here, stays here.” In innovation, that notion has zero traction. It is the ultimate non-starter. Innovations and insights emerge from here, or there, or anywhere. Enterprises must not let insights disappear into silos of expertise, never to be seen again. Minimizing the difficulties with silos is why Dassault Systèmes, Aras, PTC, Autodesk, Siemens PLM Software, and others constantly work on interoperability with best-in-class solutions. 

Check Out: Top PLM Solution Companies

Moving Lifecycle Management Forward 

Innovation platforms draw together personal productivity tools, end-to-end lifecycle management at the enterprise level, and cross-functional collaboration. End-to-end lifecycle management increasingly is about sustaining the enterprise and not just better, faster, cheaper products and services.Add to those challenges: the growing recognition of the scarcity of resources as population and incomes grow.

  CIMdata defines innovation as the intellectual processes of creating new products that compete globally and sustain the enterprise through end-to-end lifecycle management  

The fundamental rationale of lifecycle management is evolving into something new. CIMdata defines innovation as the intellectual processes of creating new products that compete globally and sustain the enterprise through end-to-end lifecycle management. End-to-end means just that: from requirements and concepts all the way to recycling, repurposing, or remanufacturing. Product innovation, in all of its forms, is the heart of competitive and disruptive products, systems, and services. 

For all the reasons outlined above, the platformization of PLM is inevitable. No one standing in the way of these processes can achieve much in the way of success. What this means for innovation is that the fundamental rationale of lifecycle management is evolving into something new. CIMdata defines innovation as the intellectual processes of creating new products that compete globally and sustain the enterprise through end-to-end lifecycle management. End-to-end means just that: from requirements and concepts all the way to recycling, repurposing, or remanufacturing. Product innovation, in all of its forms, is the heart of competitive, disruptive products, systems, and services. 

Sustaining the Extended Enterprise 

Our concluding point is about the relationships between innovation, lifecycle management, and sustaining the extended enterprise; as time passes these relationships steadily grow tighter. Recognizing these relationships is why solution providers are aggressively building end-to-end lifecycle management platforms focused on innovation. Over the long-term, enterprises are sustained only by enabling innovation, fostering through-life product support, and driving organic growth (as opposed to buying up one’s competitors). 

Despite their complexity, innovation platforms will ultimately make the infrastructure of product and process development completely transparent to the users. Users will be better able to work with team members no matter who they are, where they work, or their schedules. Businesses will get speedier returns on investments (ROI) in lifecycle management and lower total cost of ownership (TCO). Part of both these calculations is maximizing the use of scarce resources, as in the tenets of the circular economy. 

Today, PLM is gaining widespread recognition as the key to sustaining the organic growth of the entire extended enterprise. That makes innovation platforms the best strategy yet to focus the extended enterprise on developing products that, even if not disruptive, are highly innovative in themselves or take advantage of innovative processes and services. 

The 21st century’s challenges to the enterprise can only be overcome with creativity, innovation, ingenuity, and resourcefulness. If innovation weakens, market shares contract and profitability slips away. The sustainability of the enterprise is placed at risk.  

Fundamentally, then, platformization is a strategy for business agility, which today more than ever is not optional. No enterprise can afford to miss this opportunity. 

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