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PLM and Modern Enterprise & Manufacturing Environment

By Oleg Shilovitsky, PLM Consultant, Beyond PLM


Oleg Shilovitsky, PLM Consultant, Beyond PLM

Business environment is changing fast these days. Enterprise and manufacturing processes are very slow moving segments. Long production programs, dependencies on costly manufacturing shops, equipment and tools, slow decision process are challenges faced in these times. Manufacturing is a very conservative domain for technological disruption. PLM programs took years and cost millions with no alternatives. Things are changing. PLM industry is impacted by changes in enterprise software, manufacturing technologies, development of web and data management.

New enterprise software reality for PLM vendors
Dot com crash was a significant event for software and IT industry. At the same time, it provided a significant push for technologies during the following decade. Open source, web, beginning of mobile revolution. Appearance of iPhone became a tipping point for IT to lose control. It was clearly about mobile and web revolution. Five big technological disruptors emerged during that time - smart mobility, social media, consumerization, cloud, and big data.

Consumer IT revolution created a significant impact on the future of enterprise IT. It is all about to become faster, cheaper, and better. If enterprise IT won’t figure out how to work in a new environment, employees will no longer depend on them. They will bring their own devices (PC, tablets, phones) and will buy the cloud services they need.

Engineering IT that controlled and ruled PLM for many years understand the potential impact and see the significance of changes. Many manufacturing companies are not satisfied with ROI from current PLM products and looking how to bring alternatives to solve urgent business problems. There are three fundamental changes in enterprise software - Distributed, Connected, Cloud.

Distributed software is everywhere. Nothing happens in a single place today. Regardless of the type of company and industry sector, companies are dealing with customers, partners, suppliers, engineers, manufacturing facilities located everywhere. This is a new reality and it is getting reflected in the enterprise software. Software is not considered as something that exists in a company in a specific location.

Everything is connected. The time where companies were sending faxes and emails is in the past. A new type of software gives you a new type of connectivity between people and organizations. Social networks and the web disrupted the way enterprises are operating nowadays.

Cloud moves into the stage of practical implementation. Cloud gives companies a new way to scale your IT organization. It is new communication and computing paradigm. It is elastic and it is fast to get started with. Amazon and other cloud service providers can give you as much resources as you want at the time you need it.

The reality of today is distributed enterprise software. The information is flowing between people at high speed and frequency. Systems need to bring the information and make it connected to people decisions is a critical aspect. Cloud brings computer resources elasticity and global access.

PLM and changes in manufacturing eco-system
A lot of new things are happening in manufacturing – new shoring, new industrial revolution, manufacturing 4.0, makers’ movement, open hardware. These changes will impact the overall manufacturing eco-system. There are three most important trends - global manufacturing network, small & agile manufacturing, changes in IP paradigm. It will set new requirements for engineering and manufacturing software.

World is a global network of manufacturing. It is impossible to imagine manufacturing company in isolation these days. Small manufacturing firms are multi-located, using rich supply network and manufacturing facilities. Individual makers, mini-factories are getting more power and distribution efficiency.

Manufacturing companies are becoming small and agile. Hierarchical structures are displaced with networks. Size won’t matter in the future. Network is more powerful compared to single hierarchical manufacturing structure. The power of communities for manufacturing is yet to be discovered.

IP paradigm is changing too. Manufacturing is going to challenge IP ownership. Traditionally manufacturing companies are owners of IP. Patents, trade secrets, design, and manufacturing techniques protection. These days manufacturing companies are opening patent portfolios. Open Source Hardware (OSHW) is a new trend, which is like to Open Source Software (OSS) is going to change everything in manufacturing.

Small is a new big. The new manufacturing will be built on top of new principles of globalization, networks and open IP. It will influence existing PLM paradigms.

How to break limits of existing PLM architectures
The adoption of new versions of PLM platforms and application is relatively slow. PLM vendors are fighting slow ROI and have challenges to convince customers to adopt new products. Manufacturing companies are not replacing PLM platforms for decades. As a result, many PLM implementations are belonging to previous technological era. It impacts performance, IT flexibility, ability to communicate, etc.

New cloud based architectures are can bring a significant change into technology and the way companies are implementing and using PLM. Traditional systems would not work for modern, massive, cloud-based architectures. In fact, they would not work properly for cloud-based architectures of any scale. The architecture of systems is moving “from servers to services”. Existing traditional PLM architectures and paradigms are “server-based” and they won’t fit well in modern cloud architecture paradigms and manufacturing environments. In modern technologies, servers are parallel and can scale horizontally.

Database technology is central piece of every PLM implementation. It is a crucial part defining capability of applications. PLM are pushing the scope and limits of implementations to cover full cycle of product development. The power and scale of these platforms are near the capacity from the standpoint of logical and physical architecture. The cost of maintenance and expansion of these platforms is high. The complexity of product lifecycle problems brings the need of new concepts in data modeling and data management. Within time and understanding of the scale and complexity of databases most of PLM vendors unofficially gave on the idea of a single database and move to data federation.

Manufacturing companies are dependent on significant amount of information originated and maintained outside of organization – product catalogs, supplier and other reference information. The traditional PLM approach to put information in a single database is changing. Modern engineering and manufacturing environments are more likely network of sacred resources rather than single PLM database.

Changes in enterprise software and manufacturing eco-system are going to impact future development of PLM system. The demand from customers to have distributed systems capable of managing information and processes near real-time. These future systems will be available everywhere and won’t require special on premise installation and configuration. Existing PLM technologies will face significant challenges driven by scale and complexity of data environment. It will demand innovation and next generation of PLM environments.

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