The Future of the PLM Suite
The future of the PLM Suite will include more applications that cover product-related functionality and further expand the benefits available. As the PLM Suite matures, companies will benefit from increased functionality and increased integration between business processes. The ultimate expression of this more mature solution will result in a broad suite of focused, integrated applications that leverage a core of unified, structured product data the PLM Platform.
In order to understand the future of the PLM Suite, it is important to understand how suites become suites. If we take what we now call ERP as an example, it has evolved over time. The suite started with Inventory Control systems, then became Material Requirements Planning (MRP), then evolved to MRPII which included extensions to MRP including order management, then transitioned to ERP which firmly included non-manufacturing concerns such as Financials and Human Resources.
What happened with ERP is that the definition of the core system extended as complementary functionality was combined with it. As the footprint expanded, it deserved a new name. This is similar to what has happened with Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suites. In the final analysis, PDM will probably be to PLM the same thing that Sales Force Automation (SFA) was to CRM. SFA is still a core component within the overall suite of CRM products, and it also served as the catalyst that got the market moving.
seems to be following the same pattern. Software suites naturally grow as suite
providers add new products to their offerings, and specialty vendors with complementary
value propositions look to take advantage of the marketing awareness that the
suite offers. As suites expand, the level of pre-packaged integration typically
grows making more functionality available to users. There is a lot of room to
grow in the PLM footprint, and as a suite of solutions PLM will probably be
as broad as CRM or SCM are today. PLM will continue to expand, as we have seen
from the growth strategy of companies like Agile Software.
Agile has aggressively expanded their product suite through acquisition, with
more than 5 acquisitions announced in less than two years, see "Has
Consolidation Made The PLM Market More Agile?"
is Part Two of a two-part article.
One discussed the current state of the PLM Suite and provided insight into how
application suites develop.
New Additions to the PLM Suite
new application areas belong in the PLM footprint? There are many valid opinions,
and time will tell which functional areas will be most rewarding to the companies
that adopt PLM systems. Today, PLM is being leveraged as the source of consolidated,
uniform product information. This provides a platform to serve many other purposes.
One such area is the publication, or syndication, of product catalogs and product
data. Several leading consumer goods companies, for example, have used solutions
from MatrixOne and Prodika to link with exchanges
such as Transora and become UCCnet compliant.
area that has been regularly included in PLM conversations, that again leverages
the single source of focused product data, is Regulatory and Compliance. Vendors
such as Advanced Software Design (ASD), a sponsor at the PDMA
conference, and Atrion provide regulatory focus in the process industries, for
example. Sopheon highlighted the need for regulatory compliance
by introducing their capabilities to support FDA 21 CFR Part 11, an important
requirement in the Life Sciences industry. This focus is increasingly important
as new regulations are being unfurled, such as WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical
Equipment) and the TREAD (Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability,
and Documentation), whose requirements span large segments of the product lifecycle.
PLM focus on regulatory and compliance issues is not entirely new, as SAP
has long included Environmental Health and Safety in the definition of their
PLM offerings and vendors like Formation Systems support many
regulatory requirements for the process industries.
are additional areas that are moving into the PLM footprint as well. Component
Event Management, for example, focuses on managing the disruption that component
obsolescence and change place on products that rely on electronic components.
This application, from vendors such as PCNalert, provides complementary value
in the product lifecycle. Another area that overlaps considerably with PLM is
product configuration. While Configuration Management has clearly been included
in the PLM footprint, product configurators are just beginning to be looked
at as PLM. As more product-related information is included in the PLM application,
configuration information in PLM will likely expand from the current design-centric
solutions such as PTC's Dynamic Design Link and RuleStream,
to include more sales-related information like what is found in solutions from
BigMachines, Cincom, Firepond,
TDCI and Trilogy. For more information see
Drives Complexity Why It's Hard to Design, Sell and Produce Simple' Products."
Another area that seems destined to collide is Computer Aided Process Planning, or CAPP. CAPP manages and captures the processes by which complex assemblies are produced and maintained. This product-related information is currently addressed by applications from companies like HMS Software and iBASEt, and is more tightly aligned with Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) than with PLM.
is the logical end to the expansion of the footprint and the consolidation of
markets into PLM? One could argue that there will be continuous innovation in
the software industry and that new solution areas will continue to be identified.
The inevitable result will, of course, be an overlap with other solution areas
in the same way the CRM and SCM collide with functionality in ERP suites today.
This natural evolution will continue to provide more pre-integrated functionality,
and will make the trade-offs between integration and best of breed functionality
more important, requiring more detailed and overlapping product selection criteria.
For more information on the tradeoff between PLM functionality and integration,
ERP Speak PLM?"
The PLM Platform
every software application that focuses on products really a part of PLM? If
you take a broad definition of PLM, such as "a suite of applications that focus
on leveraging product information to improve product profitability", the answer
is yes. More important than a simple answer to this question is recognition
that application "spaces" are artificial boundaries, and that PLM is still a
relatively immature market (see" The
Different Evolutionary Stages of ERP And PLM"). The most valuable reason
to expand an application suite is when integration between business processes
spans applications in a way that a lack of integration makes the overall process
less effective. Advances in integration technology have greatly improved the
ability to pull together disparate applications into coherent processes, (see
Wrong With Application Software? Business Processes Cross Application Boundaries),
but companies still value pre-defined integration and business processes when
they are available. Companies would ideally prefer an approach that builds off
of a common architecture and data model that can support the related business
processes of PLM. This integrated view of the PLM Suite is sometimes referred
to as a "PLM Platform".
The PLM Platform provides a central location for product related information and processes. This approach provides for consolidation of product information and processes into a common system. The common system promotes higher levels of data cleanliness because it is focused solely on being the source of product information, as opposed to simply providing enough product information to fulfill a particular function. By naming one system as the core system of record, companies will have a much clearer answer to where they should source product information for other activities and other applications. The common platform also promotes integrated business processes and provides for greater product intelligence and analysis.
that are developing a long-term strategy will need to weigh a vendor's vision
to provide an integrated PLM Platform vs. best of breed functionality, and may
need to make short-term tradeoffs between integration and functionality. Companies
that have stated a strong direction towards a PLM Platform are Agile,
PTC, and MatrixOne. The architecture of the
PLM Platform must be very flexible to support varying types of information and
processes and must provide strong capabilities for information visibility and
Don't Forget The PLM Program
important than what applications belong in the PLM application suite, is what
applications can provide increased value for the companies that use them. Manufacturers
today are facing a dilemma with PLM. They understand and need the benefits that
the PLM value proposition offers, but are also confused about which part of
PLM will provide the benefits. There is no single answer to that question that
works for every company. There is not even a single answer for every company
within a particular industry, although industry does play a critical role in
identifying PLM needs and potential solutions. For more information on the impact
of industry on the requirements for a PLM solution, see "PLM
is an Industry Affair Or Is It".
to achieve the value of PLM, manufacturers must carefully prioritize their needs
and implement a series of initiatives that not only lead to the long-term value
of PLM, but also provide tangible short-term ROI that pays for the program incrementally
along the path. The priorities identified will lead to a series of inter-related
requirements that should be considered in selecting the appropriate software
partner, or partners, for the manufacturer. For more information on selecting
the appropriate software partners, see "Selecting
a PLM Vendor".
to the confusion for manufacturers is that the same benefits are often touted
for different aspects of PLM. For example, faster new product introduction is
a common strategic goal for companies starting a PLM initiative. There are multiple
paths to improving time to market, all of which may be valid. In fact, the best
answer may be a combination of approaches. For example, better project management
and the introduction of stage gate processes might help to speed projects along.
Reducing the clutter of competing projects through better project selection
and portfolio management techniques could help. Design related approaches such
as design reuse, parametric search tools and design collaboration can compress
the development time. If time to production volume is as important as time to
market, then speeding up the handoffs between R&D and manufacturing might help,
particularly if outsourced manufacturers are involved. The following table highlights
some typical goals in PLM programs, some different approaches to attaining the
value, and then some of the tools or solutions that can be used to help. This
is not an exhaustive list, but a quick example of how the PLM value proposition
to Production Handoff
Transfer, Design Collaboration
Management, Resource Management,
Sourcing, Specification Management, Design Collaboration
||PDM, Design Tools, Requirements
Management / QFD
Product Success Rate
Management, Design Collaboration
||Product Portfolio Management
Process Management, Resource Management
Change Cycle Time
Management, Technology Transfer
Management, PDM, ECO
Clearly, Product Lifecycle Management is a broad suite of applications that is still developing in terms of footprint. The PDMA Conference provided an excellent overview of a number of the solution areas that contribute to the PLM value proposition. The PLM footprint will grow, and continue to provide deeper and broader functionality. Manufacturers will be the beneficiaries of this continued growth because of enhanced integration of technology and business processes.
The value of PLM to each company may come from different approaches and tools, so each company must focus on defining their PLM Program in a strategic way, providing them a roadmap that offers incremental value along the way. Throughout the PLM Program, PLM applications of many different types will contribute to the ultimate value proposition achievable with PLM. Ultimately, an integrated approach will be available that will provide companies with a unified PLM Platform that integrates all product related information and processes, but at this time companies must prioritize their needs and choose from a selection of different kinds of tools that will help to deliver the value they desire.
concludes Part Two of a two-part article.
Jim Brown has over 15 years of experience in management consulting
and application software focused on the manufacturing industries. Jim
is a recognized expert in software solutions for manufacturing and has broad
knowledge of applying Product Lifecycle Management, ERP, Supply Chain Planning,
Supply Chain Execution, and e-business applications to improve business performance.
Jim served as an executive for software companies specializing
in PLM and other enterprise solutions before starting his consulting firm, Tech-Clarity
can be reached at email@example.com.