It has been a little bit over a decade since I started to write my PLM blog. Started with a different name (Daily PLM Think Tank), it was transformed into Beyond PLM after I realize how diverse the range of topics around product lifecycle management. A few days ago, my attention was caught by the article PLM 2030 and what last 10 years of PLM can teach us about the next 10 by Jill Newberg of Aras. Interesting enough, her blog also started from the memories of writing about PLM for the last ten years.
I think Aras article is an interesting masterpiece of PLM marketing. It is, of course, Aras marketing, but this is not so important. Let’s get back to the theme – what did we learn for the last 10 years of PLM? According to the article we learned about the importance of open eco-system, communication with customers, more focus on data about products.
Open ecosystems for work … and polarization of skills. According to the research, companies use open ecosystems for work in 50% of projects due to outsourcing expertise in embedded software, cloud technology, AI, cybersecurity, and more. And this need will only grow by 2030,
60% of outperforming companies intensively collaborate with customers,” the study finds. Which is why it’s no mistake that, with the increase of embedded software in products, agile development—the constant evolution of requirements in response to customer needs—is now including not only software but also products.
Never before has data been so abundant―and so useless. Making so much data useful across teams in a coordinated way—separating the signal from the noise so teams can make improvements—is critical to identifying the product upgrades, new features, and next-generation offerings that will deliver the experiences customers want in the next 10 years and beyond.
I agree with these observations. However, there is something else in the article that caught my special attention. It was about what “only Aras” can do as well as the notion of “One Platform”. Here are a few passages to highlight it.
Only Aras offers process agility: Process agility across the platform—or, the ability to change the technology at will when new processes, data types, tools, and teams are needed—is only realized in Aras’ open platform architecture
Only Aras offers one platform for end-to-end product information. The right choices in product development are driven by an understanding of how well your products meet your customers’ needs. This starts in concept and ends in operation—which is why one platform is essential.
Only Aras offers platform agility. With one platform architecture to support the entire product lifecycle, Aras builds an unbroken digital thread—end-to-end, concept through service
Final conclusion is that you need to have “one platform” to own product lifecycle. I found this conclusion going across some of my observations about PLM in the last 10 years.
The first is related to the concept of ownership. At the very beginning of the PLM, the notion of ownership was very strong. Ownership and control of the data were in the focus on PDM and later PLM sales pitches. Remember that – you need to own the data and turn it into a single source of truth about your product. While ownership is important, the reality is that many business models for the last decade turned from ownership of something to services. XaaS is a strong trend and in my view, it also coming to turn some of the PLM concepts upside down. Product data as a service is extremely important. But do I really want to worry about what platform the data is located in? Not really. Even more, the data aggregators are becoming more important. Multi-tenancy is a key element of new data management and to be able to provide a service will be winning trend in the next 10 years.
My second reservation is about “One Platform”. In my view, some PLM vendors learned a few tough lessons for the last decade that an attempt to impose more data control and ownership using their platforms across multiple products. I think vendors learned that it can only harm their openness and flexibility. The biggest reality of PLM is actually lifecycle of PLM systems. The infrastructure and systems established for decades and provide a service in continuity. This is not a mobile device or telecom software that you can change every 3-5 years. Therefore, an attempt to establish a single platform is either not realistic or will lead to the next round of platform wars.
Last, but not least is related to an increased importance of collaboration and diversity of organization involved in the entire product lifecycle process. The need to bring all these companies at once to one platform is probably not realistic. Instead of moving towards one platform and one database, I can see how PLM is turning into a network platform with a variety of services to deliver specific functions, services or data. Digitalization of driving process from using paper maps to later electronic maps with GPS locators and finally move to mobile devices with navigation application is a demonstration how driving process was digitalized from a one platform (map) to a set of services (device, map, traffic, road service, weather, collaboration, ads, etc.). Last 20 years of web development can be a source of some good lessons for PLM companies in the digital transformation of manufacturing.
What is my conclusion? The future of PLM isn’t belong to “one platform”, but to development of connected open services capable to provide data, functions and build a growing product lifecycle infrastructure connecting into a digital thread from concept to service and maintenance. By connecting companies and providing better data intelligence, network PLM paradigm will change the industry and will become a powerful infrastructure to serve manufacturing companies in the 21st century. These are my thoughts and this is what I learned by observing the PLM industry and participating in many PLM projects for the last decade…
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.