I took a break last week from blogging while spending my family vacation time on Cape Cod. It was also a great time to catch up on reading and thinking. Today, I want to share my 5 things you don’t want to miss in PLM for the remaining part of 2021.
1- Don’t Get Confused By Buzzwords – Focus on Data Connectivity
Unless you live under the rock for the last few years, you’ve been hearing about Industry 4.0, Digital Transformation, Digital Twin, Digital Thread, Cloud, and SaaS. While each of these topics is worth a multiple article discussion, the key thing is to stay aware of buzzwords. There is one common thing between these three trends – an intersection of the data and connectivity. It is all about how to get data from all possible places in your company (machines, customers, processes) and make it actionable; it is about how to make the data to drive your process instead of pushing paper and documents and it is about how to leverage enormous resources to collect, index, process, analyze and make the data available to everyone at the time it is needed for making a decision. You can give any name to this activity, the fundamentals remain the same.
2- Cloud / SaaS PLM- Are We There Yet?
Back in 2017, the cloud PLM research made by CIMdata indicated that 30% of companies plan to be using Cloud PLM by 2020. It didn’t happen. The recent cloud PLM research made by CIMdata earlier this year alongside the statement that the recent prediction was wrong, again stated that 60% of companies are considering cloud PLM migration opportunities. With such promises, we should see a big portion of PLM revenue is coming from SaaS products. However, it is not happening yet. Here is the main reason why it is happening- market mismatch. There are two big portions of the PLM market – (1) existing PLM customers, mostly large enterprises; (2) white space – newcomers changing their very old legacy data management tools, Access databases, and Excel files with PLM solutions. The first group is very hard to move. You can see a 20 years old on-prem PLM customer asking how to justify the migration to the cloud tools and getting stuck in their decision-making process. At the same time, the majority of new SaaS PLM formed by converting existing on-prem products (eg. Teamcenter X, Aras) or first-generation PLM SaaS products (eg. Arena) are not made to provide really lean and simple solutions for new customers (mostly mid-size manufacturers).
3- Real-Time Collaboration
In business, revenue trumps everything else. In product development and manufacturing, data access and collaboration means practically everything. The last 18 months of COVID accelerated the trend that was already strong – companies must figure out how to manage the data, how to make it accessible, and how to share the data between engineers, production planners, procurement, contractors, and suppliers. The company boundary is broken and companies are looking for ways to collaborate between engineers and everyone else. This means how to manage the data in the way it can be used by multiple players and multiple companies, but at the same time, not to break the IP, data control, security, etc. That’s why new data management platforms are needed to manage engineering data in a new way.
4- Data Management & Data Opportunity
Data is a new oil. You probably heard about it from me. It is extremely important to focus on the data and find a way how companies can extract the value of the data. The control is very important, but the collecting of data from multiple sources inside the company, but also outside can be the biggest differentiators for modern engineering data management platforms. A key element in turning data into a new value is in modern data management technologies – big data, graph databases, knowledge graph, analytics. How to make all of them work is a tricky question, because the majority of old PLM systems (including SaaS) are running on the traditional SQL database tech stack.
5- Files are Not Dead (yet)
Moving from file (document) centric to data-centric is a key element of digital transformation. It is true, but here is the thing. Customers are reluctant to make a change and to abandon existing “file nirvana”. Honestly, customers don’t really want something new – they want an existing thing delivered differently. – Thanks to the internet speed and some cloud technologies, managing files and storing them in the cloud was never easy. And the bandwidth multiplied with cloud storage allows very efficiently to keep using existing file-based systems and also to use files as it was before, but differently. It is very much possible that files can stay with us for another decade or even more.
What is my conclusion?
It is a very interesting time to be in the PLM business these days. The major system shift is coming. The existing PLM systems are represented by legacy architectures and providers developing these systems for the last 25+ years. There is a need to provide systems with a new architecture, but most importantly to figure out how to leverage all these new techs to improve collaboration, seamless communication, and intelligence. This is a formula for new PLM solutions. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.