My attention was caught by the following tweet coming from PTC CEO Jim Hepplemann:
When I co-founded Windchill nearly 20 yrs ago, it was 1st to market as an internet-based PLM solution. The vision to see #IoT = #PLM is why @PTC ranks the highest in the new @forrester Wave PLM For Discrete Manufacturers report.
Jim’s tweet made me think about technologies and PLM development. What technologies made an impact on development of PLM products for the last decade and what will impact the next 10 years of PLM? Was internet the to most important thing to impact PLM adoption and user experience? What technologies got missed by PLM vendors? Here are some of my thoughts.
If you think about database as a centralized storage of PLM records, database technologies are one of the most fundamental technologies to impact PLM development. And it was true for many years. Variety of database technologies impacted PLM in the past – modeling flexibility, storage capacity, data types and many others. Earlier PDM / PLM systems used proprietary databases to store information. SQL and Relational databases gave a huge boost to PLM development two decades ago. Many PLM vendors were in love from object databases, but no successful systems were released to production. Modern noSQL and Graph databases are giving much more freedom to developers experimenting with multiple database usage and application.
Internet / Web
Web development impacted information management systems for the last 20 years and PLM clearly leveraged a lot. Such aspects as distributed systems, web user interfaces and scale of web systems impacted PLM developers. Most of PLM systems today have browser based user interface and look very much like all websites and web applications. Development of so called Web 2.0 applications helped to create a vision of improved PLM collaboration.
Although “cloud” can be considered as part of Web category, I decided to keep it separate. The biggest impact so far from cloud to PLM was IT simplification and cost reducing. PLM massively discovered cloud and SaaS applications for the last 5-7 years. It didn’t change PLM fundamentally, but created many initiatives to improve PLM business model.
Mobile devices and technologies changed our lives for the last decades, but didn’t impact PLM much. Although most of PLM products are available on mobile devices, besides workflow application it didn’t change much. Yes, we can approve ECO from mobile phone or review drawing on shopfloor. I think, mobile realization of PLM is still in the future.
Modern technologies darling, IoT is considered as a “next big thing” in PLM. Not all PLM vendors are jumped fast into IoT bandwagon. PTC was one of the first to do so. The most fascinating part of IoT for PLM is to extend the ability to combine digital and physical product models into a single lifecycle model. Time will show how it will evolve.
What is my conclusion? PLM is heavily impacted by technologies. Data management, IT infrastructure, collaboration, internet. I can bring a list of next cool things that can impact PLM. Among them blockchain, quantum computing, graphic processors, in memory databases, analytics and others. However, the biggest challenge is actually PLM paradigm. Current PLM paradigm requires too much from people to change. It is hard to bring a single system to a company to improve product development and manufacturing. Anything that will make it easier will provide a strongest boost to the future of PLM. Just my thoughts…
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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.