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What I Learned: PLM, Please Take 3 Giant Steps Forward

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Updated Post:

PLM evolution gets a fourth formal dimension – process. I am updating this post about a year after I wrote it. I just re-read it, and thought it was worth making at least one minor adjustment. Since that time, I realized that the “three dimensions” of expansion did not give enough emphasis on the importance of business processes. I have changed the way I present this to the “Four Dimensions of PLM Expansion.”

I thought it was worth updating this past post with (at a minimum) the graphic as I present it now. Looking back, it clearly should have been this way in the first place!

What I learned this week … came from reflecting on three major PLM product announcements this week. In one week, Dassault is announcing the new release of their “PLM 2.0” suite, Oracle is announcing the next release of Agile PLM, and Siemens PLM is announcing the new releases of Teamcenter and Tecnomatix. Jeff Hojlo and I will be covering each of the releases in our blog, but I thought it made sense to start with some context-setting across all three. I am impressed with the amount of investment that PLM vendors have made in3 Dimensions of PLM Expansion their products in what has been a difficult year for enterprise software in general, kudos to all three (and the others that have continued to invest in this solution set that continues to grow in importance).

Note: A special thanks to all of my friends in the vendor community for picking my vacation week at the beach to come out with some of the most exciting PLM news in some time! They couldn’t have just checked with me first (sarcasm intended).

Context from Past Discussions and Perspective

I have talked in the past about PLM expanding in three directions:

  • People – Product development and product innovation are expanding across the enterprise to more people inside and outside of the business
  • Product – A “product” consists of much more than R&D or engineering specifications, and needs to include a richer view that includes commercial considerations so we are looking at the “whole product.” In addition, the technical view needs to grow to include mechanics, electronics, and embedded software
  • Lifecycle – Product-related processes are being integrated across previously disparate functions

As I talk about these three, I have to give an honorable mention to:

  • Process – PLM processes are being expanded and integrated across all three of these directions, and it this extension and integration of processes and information that really puts the value into PLM. Without process, the other three are not possible.

Giant Leaps in Functional Scope

First, I want to start with the functional enhancements that the vendors have focused on. In the releases, I see significant investment in all three areas above. But it’s easy to talk about where your predictions come true. Instead of focusing on what I got right (not my style), let’s focus on what I missed. I missed:

  • SOA – From a technical perspective, the adoption of service-oriented architecture (SOA) promises to make PLM more web-friendly, but also to allow it to be more easily pulled apart so individual elements can be incorporated into composite “mash up” processes and applications.
  • Analytics -I am not going to be big enough to admit that I didn’t see this one coming. I have lived through ERP and Supply Chain and seen the transition from gathering information to leveraging it to make decisions. This is happening in PLM in a number of different areas, including designing for compliance, cost, etc. It is exceeding my expectations in terms of adoption by the vendors.
  • Web 2.0 – The impact of Web 2.0 technologies and concepts are having a very big impact on PLM. The further expansion of collaboration and social computing in product development is starting to be seen. PTC also focused on this during their recent PROuser event and their earlier release of ProductPoint.

Implications for Manufacturers?
So what does this mean for manufacturers today? If you are a customer of one of the three vendors, you have some very nice functionality (and technology) to look forward to. It is time to start looking at the potential to improve your business and plan your migration. Vendors have spaced out releases in recent years, so hopefully you are due. It is time to start learning about the capabilities available, deciding how to take business advantage of them, and planning for their adoption.

If you are not a customer of one of these three vendors, take a look at your vendor to see how they are doing against the criteria above. I have seen some nice progress from PTC and SAP this year as well.

If you are not using PLM, it is time to consider why not. I believe there are very few manufacturers that will remain competitive without these capabilities. Further, this is just more proof that PLM is continuing on the path to become one of the most important – if not the most important – enterprise applications for manufacturers. The continued evolution of the solutions is just further evidence of the additional value that customers are demanding from their vendor partners.

So that is what I learned this week, I hope you found it interesting. Let me know what you think. Look for more on each relevant release shortly. After all, the sun is bad for your skin and PLM is good for everybody!

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