PLM’s future is its platformization. This isn’t a revolution. It is an evolution. It will take years, commitment, and patience from industrial companies and the solution providers that support them. Today, many leading PLM solution providers are developing highly integrated platforms as constructs of application delivery solutions. From these open and highly accessible platforms, users will be able to assemble the processes and workflows of ideation and product development—the building blocks of innovation—and re-assemble and reconfigure them whenever they need. Assembling and reassembling has always been done, of course, but today’s product developers work with a kaleidoscope of rapidly evolving tools, systems, and strategies. Moreover, the task of assembling and reassembling building blocks gets bigger every year.
In many ways, PLM platformization is a re-architecting of software-based solution suites and the links between them. It speeds up business processes, refocuses and sharpens business strategies, and leverages innovation with agility. Peering deeply into platformization, one sees that its ultimate goal is making the infrastructure of product and process innovation completely transparent from concept through the entire life, making innovation the natural focus of the enterprise and all of its extended-enterprise participants.
Achieving these transparent infrastructures will not be easy, however. Industrial enterprises struggle to realize value from current and recent investments in innovation strategies and enabling technologies even as the solution providers continually launch new products, architectures, and solutions.
The benefits of PLM are usually couched in terms of supporting collaboration, and ensuring quick access to the right data in the right format. The real value of PLM platforms, however, is that they embody new approaches to ongoing, repetitive tasks executed throughout the product lifecycle. As PLM platforms help users and managers find better ways to work, platformization sustains the extended enterprise.
But there are more aspects to platformization that must be addressed—great variety in workflows and procedures for approving and releasing designs, for example, and for managing subsequent changes, plus myriad process maps, formats, workflows, databases, and file naming conventions.
Finally, it should be noted that as platformization grows, pushing PLM deeper, wider, and to higher levels in the extended enterprise, the status quo will be continuously challenged. Upheavals in customary ways of working will result in the adoption of dynamic new approaches to identify, evaluate, deploy, and integrate enabling technologies; opportunities hidden among the everyday disruptions of markets and technologies will be more easily recognized. In such an environment, best practices will be just a starting point, a first step.
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Peter A. Bilello, President