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-Data is fascinating and intriguing. You probably heard it before – data is a new oil. For the last two decades, we’ve seen a growing number of businesses built on top of data rationalization, turning data into the business value, making data easily accessible and available. You cannot ignore – it in the digital economy, the data is the fuel that helps you to build your business and grow.

PLM and engineering software has complex relationships with the data. It goes a long way back. From one side, the core of PLM is data management. First started as a way to manage files, then moved into managing more information, taking on more complexity to manage multi-disciplinary data, relationships, and supply chain. These days, the opportunity of managing complex connected  products with a lot of software brings even more questions about what is the role of the data in PLM

On the other hand, PLM systems were (and still are) very reluctant about making data easily available, shareable, accessible, and connected with other systems. The best-kept secret of PLM and many other enterprise software is that “data locking” is still a foundation of PLM business models. Keep data close and upsell additional applications – this is a traditional path for PLM software and until now, nobody invented anything better than that. Another very painful aspect of PLM function is dealing with legacy data import, data migrations during upgrades, and many other aspects of data management that is not sexy and very hard to get done.

Meantime, manufacturing companies are drowning in the data, which is badly organized, not available, and cannot be used for decision making. A typical large enterprise manufacturing company can run multiple ERP systems, a few PLM systems, many legacy and old database solutions, and tons of Excel files. And this is only the tip of the data iceberg. To make this data available, analyzed, processed, and connected can create enormous value. World Economic Forum white paper – Unlocking the value of shared data in manufacturing brings the following data point:

Emerging technologies such as advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming the world of production. Although manufacturers are making strides in applying data-driven technologies, most focus on applications within their companies and have difficulty maximizing their return on investment. By sharing data across companies, manufacturers can unlock additional value and accelerate innovation. The potential value of data sharing simply by focusing on manufacturing process optimization has been estimated at over $100 billion, based on best practices.

The wite paper speaks about several important areas that can bring significant benefits – Enhancing asset optimization, tracking products along the value chain, tracing process conditions along the value chain, exchanging digital product characteristics, verifying provenance. Read the article and draw your opinion.

My takeaway from the article is that future data opportunities in manufacturing will be coming from the data recombination located in multiple silos, tracing data connections, patterns, and other aspects of data sets. One of the main challenges of this process is to decouple the data from the original legacy data sources, but at the same time not to make it “dead” and not connected to the operational business environment.

Momentum PLM brings the article about PLM career opportunities. I found fascinating multiple options – technical, functional, system, business. Which made me think about “data career”. It was not on the list, but data was mentioned in the system option.

System career path: understanding what is under the hood of PLM toolset is what system analysts, PLM administrators and support engineers or even IT architects are about. They can acquire such system expertise by working with vendors, solution providers or possibly IT department of OEMs, moving into technical architecture roles. They are likely to either have PLM vendor specific knowledge or be tool agnostic; they can equally engage in other IT roles across ERP, MES and other digital enterprise platforms. IT infrastructure expertise can help them grow into IT leadership roles, especially if they are able to learn how to derive (and sell) value from these technical solutions. They can also expand their expertise into analytics, big data, cloud technology, cyber security, mobile apps and platforms.

Understanding PLM technologies is important as it gives you a great perspective of what technology can do and what tech is lacking today. At the same time, the focus on data is significantly missed in the list of possible careers and opportunities.

What is my conclusion?

Manufacturing is a goldmine for data professionals these days. Take any manufacturing companies and you will find tons of inefficiencies, disconnected silos. outdated systems and tons of Excels. How to re-engineer this data to make it valuable and bring it back to businesses is the question that must be asked by PLM professionals these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networksMy opinion can be unintentionally biased.

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