HD-PLM, Exalead, and Project Lightning, What Do They Have in Common?

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There wasn’t a lack of big news in the product lifecycle management (PLM) industry in the past few weeks. On May 20th, Siemens PLM Software unveiled High Definition Product Lifecycle Management (HD-PLM) at the World Exposition Shanghai China 2010 (Expo 2010). On June 7th, PTC told PTC/USER 2010 attendees that a virtual launch event for Project Lightning was schedule on October 28th, 2010. Two days later, Dassault Systèmes announced the acquisition of Exalead (read the press release). Since the month of June is packed with three major PLM events in the world (PTC/USER World Event, Dassault Systèmes SwYm Conference, and Siemens PLM Connection) in a row, it is no surprise to have some big PLM news  for the sake of marketing. However, this time I also see some new things beyond marketing purposes.


In its press release, Siemens PLM says that HD-PLM is a technology framework that would “reinvent product life cycle decision making”. It is true that in designers and product developers’ day-to-day work, they need to constantly make decisions on geometry, materials, or otherwise information that defines a product. My understanding of the HD-PLM approach is that the system will actively provide relevant information and tools whenever they are desirable. This is helpful because it not only saves product stakeholders’ precious time when looking for information but it also provides additional assistance that one may not be aware of while working.

Dassault Systèmes’ Acquisition of Exalead

Exalead is a software company that provides search platforms and search-based applications (SBA). The acquisition is said to boost Dassault Systèmes’ in-house search capability, as well as explore more possibilities for the search company. I’d hope the combination of PLM and search will also bring the search engine culture (powerful but simple) to the PLM world. If you’d like to know more about the potential of PLM and search solutions, I’d suggest you read Oleg Shilovitsky’s recent blog post PLM Life-like Search Injection.

Project Lightning

Not launched yet, Project Lightning is expected to bring more usability and interoperability to its computer-aided design (CAD) users. In the meantime, users can also expect better bi-directional integration between CAD and PLM. While looking at PTC’s offerings on 2D modeling, direct 3D modeling, parametric 3D modeling, and product data management, it makes sense for PTC to leverage and integrate these existing capabilities. Users will have less concerns on which tool to use and can develop a product in a more natural and intuitive way.

So, Siemens PLM wants to provide valuable real-time information; Dassault Systèmes is growing the synergy between search and PLM; and PTC will improve the experience for mechanical CAD users. These approaches are different but all make sense to me. Do they have anything in common? I see one—PLM vendors now care more about the users of its systems.

Perhaps captivated by the word “management”, for many years, the PLM industry’s attention was mainly placed on pleasing managers. Looking back on the history of PLM, the early days were about product data integrity and security. Later on, people started to talk about workflow, process, and integration with other enterprise systems, and so on. All these are necessary but mostly from the manager’s point of view.

The new approaches from the three PLM vendors are good signs that front-line PLM users are finally receiving more attention and may be served better. From the user perspective, in the future, I’m expecting PLM to be smarter (helping users as expected and unexpected) and simpler (giving users only what is relevant). We’ve been doing a lot to manage the product life cycle. However more management activities adds additional burden to designers and engineers if their individual productivity can’t be further augmented.
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