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PLM_Platform“What’s next?” This is a question often asked in the PLM market but seldom fully understood without looking at what has already happened (i.e., letting the past predict the future). Fortunately, there are a multitude of signs that indicate significant growth well into the foreseeable future. But what do these signs tell us? What will the PLM solutions of the future look like? What solution characteristics are industrial companies looking for? What functionality do they need? What type of business solutions are really required to be successful?

In general, today’s signs point to the ongoing evolution of PLM. What it is…what it looks like…how it supports a company…all of this is progressing and evolving fairly rapidly. In this ongoing evolution as a business strategy, PLM is approaching, and in some cases already achieving, the status of a business platform. PLM has always been a core enabler for innovation as part of a business strategy. Now, I see PLM-as-a-platform, or the “platformization” of PLM, morphing to offer new ways of going about the business of innovation.

The two main drivers required for increased levels of innovation are unstoppable. One is the Circular Economy, where, according to the UK-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “today’s products are tomorrow’s resources.” Closely related to the Circular Economy is “servitization,” manufacturers delivering their products as services under service level agreements. Under these agreements one buys the ability to wash clothes over a specified time period with a given availability of washing capabilities instead of buying a specific washing machine. The other major driver is globalization and the unsettling way it can quickly turn today’s innovations into tomorrow’s commodities. The Circular Economy and globalization aside, there are many needs to meet: allocation of capital, definition and management of product/service portfolios, scarcity of human talent, regulation, litigation, and fickle consumers, to name a few.

To meet these and many other challenges and needs, a quick study of the global PLM economy shows that PLM solution providers are developing platforms and industrial companies are demanding them. These platforms—a construct of software solutions, enabled business processes, and business strategies—embody new end-to-end lifecycle management approaches in the creation and cultivation of product and process innovation.

It’s worthwhile to be clear about a few of the terms I have been bandying about. First, we have to stop thinking about a product as only a physical item. Products can also be a system and/or a service that is defined, delivered, and supported, or some combination of all of the preceding items. And innovation is the definition and realization of a new process, product, service, and/or business approach to a problem, one that performs better or delivers more value than any previous solution.

So what should/will the PLM enabling innovation platforms of the future look like? In my opinion, these platform-centric solutions need to be reliable, robust, and boundaryless. Reliable solutions must be able to withstand multiple system upgrades and platform migrations. In turn, these robust solutions must be adaptable, maintainable, extensible, scalable, reconfigurable, compatible, and stable. And finally, these boundaryless solutions must be free of artificial limitations on functionality that are imposed by the marketplace segmentation of design and engineering systems with conventional architectures. Meeting these characteristics will be a tall order for many of today’s commercially available PLM solutions, but one that must be met for the future of PLM to be successful.

There should be no doubt that PLM has been and still is the core enabler for product and process innovation as part of a business strategy. Fundamentally, I strongly believe that the platformization of PLM is inevitable. It is a strategy for Business Agility, which today, more than ever, is not optional. A strategy that no enterprise can afford to miss out on. What’s your opinion?

For more on this topic read our recently compiled (and in progress) Dossier: PLM Platformization at http://www.cimdata.com/en/resources/a-cimdata-dossier-plm-platformization

Peter A. Bilello, President

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