Mobile PLM – What the CIO Should Know


A quick peek into some research on … on what IT leaders need to know about implementing PLM on mobile devices such as the iPad.  This is a follow up to my PLM Hits the Road – and the Plant – and the Service Depot… post and the underlying reports, PLM Goes Mobile and Product and Program Management Goes Mobile. I think it is important to provide the technical perspective to complement the business perspective in those reports, so the last paper in the series, Enabling Mobile PLM, is intended to point out some very practical considerations that IT leaders must take into account when taking PLM mobile.

The Research Findings

The two reports aimed at the line of business uses of mobile Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) point out the limitations of current devices that support PLM (laptops, desktops, workstations, and smartphones running web browsers) in mobile environments. One of the key “aha” moments I had while researching the report was that laptops are not really “mobile” devices – they are “portable” devices that can be readily moved from one stationary location (like the office) to another (like a plane or hotel). The reports point out scenarios including traveling engineers and managers accessing PLM when standard devices aren’t practical. It also shares scenarios where plant personnel and service technicians need access to product data but work in non-conducive locations such as the plant, the field, or for that matter on (or in) a piece of equipment. See my views on different devices in common mobile PLM scenarios (below).

The report starts with the premise that using mobile devices such as tablets to access PLM is compelling to the business. If you are not on board with that already, please read the reports (or at least the executive summaries).  If you are with me on the value, then, it is important for IT to recognize some factors that need to be taken into account for mobile PLM. The factors I touch on in the report include:

  • Leveraging existing PLM infrastructure
  • Device considerations
  • Application considerations
  • Process considerations
  • People considerations
  • Management considerations

I think one of the most important conclusions has to do with the applications themselves. While it’s important to leverage as much of the existing PLM infrastructure as possible, existing PLM solutions don’t count as “an app for that.” As the report says, “Purpose-built mobile apps are fundamentally different than web applications intended for desktop use.” While the functionality, security, processes, users, and other entities in PLM are reusable, a mobile application is not designed in the same way as an application designed for use with a keyboard, mouse, and a nice big monitor (or for engineers, perhaps two or three of them).

Implications for Manufacturers

I will leave my parting thoughts simple by sharing two additional quotes from the paper:

  • Mobile applications that take advantage of both existing software assets and the strengths of today’s mobile devices provide a compelling opportunity.”
  • IT has the opportunity to help enable the transformation to mobile PLM, and the responsibility to ensure that mobility is done right so the opportunity pays optimal dividends.”

So that was a quick peek into some recent research on the information technology implications of mobile PLM, I hope you found it interesting. Does the research reflect your experiences? Do you see it differently? Let us know what it looks like from your perspective.

Please feel free to review more free research and white papers about PLM and other enterprise software for manufacturers from Tech-Clarity.