I read a nice commentary from CIMdata today titled, “PLM for All: Unleashing Product Data to the Enterprise.” It talks about the actual use and perception of PLM in industry and makes solid points about what is needed to realize the value potential of PLM.

Here is a shocker:

PLM is NOT Engineering

Here is another:


I am in the PLM business. But ultimately my job is to help YOU to make better products and services. Why? Simple, PLM is all about the PRODUCT. A product is much more than a cool assembly in your favorite CAD system. That’s just the virtual manifestation of the as-designed product – we call that the eBOM.

Firms build products. They don’t make Engineering. Operations doesn’t make money. It is ALL about the product. The entire firm is assembled to make that product. The collective effort makes money when that product sells. And if the firm is inefficient or the product is poor quality or doesn’t meet the market need – they may not make money.

CIMdata makes a good point relating to the holistic nature of PLM :

“PLM can’t be an engineering system, just supporting a limited set of product data and a narrow set of processes. It needs to function as an enterprise product data platform, bringing together information from multiple product data sources and delivering value to all product data stakeholders (i.e., all lifecycle participants who create and/or use product data and other relevant information).”

This statement highlights that PLM needs to support different kinds of users throughout the lifecycle of the product. Part of this solution is the “Through Lifecycle BOM.” It details the definition of the product from the customer/market desires all the way through to servicing that product in the field. It is not just Engineering data or Manufacturing process plans. It details the entire Lifecycle of the product in a manner that is traceable from end to end though a system of relationships that connect each individual BOM.

This is not just powerful – that is marketing speak. It provides real value to the firm.  For example, if there were a warranty problem the team could find the impacted units, where the part came from (mBOM make vs. buy) and find out why the part was there in the first place (requirements & eBOM).


Now add in the ability to make changes, from the customer or the quality team, and the value of PLM becomes even more evident. Configuration Management is a key factor in PLM. What may be a simple change on paper may drive changes in the logical BOM, eBOM and mBOM(s), require new analysis and testing, and force a change to the assembly line. Try managing that in Excel!

To enable all of these key abilities PLM needs to interface with many systems. ALL of them are IMPORTANT. No one more than another. I need my ERP system to connect to the as planned BOM (mBOM) and manage the financial aspects of product development. MES handles the actual creation of the product and provides me with the true As Built BOM – after any deviations happen. And the MRO system handles service and warranty issues via the As Serviced BOM. All of these systems interact with the various BOMs in the product lifecycle and contribute to the product. (i.e. Through Lifecycle BOM) The organizational silos are simply our human need for structure.

The CIMdata piece made great points about what PLM is and should be to realize financial value. I completely agree with the concepts shared in the “What’s Required” segment – adapatabliliy, maintainability and upgradability are the hallmarks of Aras Innovator. Wrapping all of this together – the ability to customize, integrate other systems, manage product configuration at any point in the lifecycle, manage complex changes, provide accurate traceability AND provide maintainability and upgradability – these are crucial aspects of a well-built PLM platform. These factors are what enables your firm to make great and profitable products.

Here is another interesting thing I noted about this article. Our competition has a new role-based suite of apps that are touted as being able to “…expand access to product data scattered across an enterprise’s systems landscape to more stakeholders throughout the extended enterprise.” Sounds all well and good. But wait, everything noted are related to the as-designed BOM (eBOM) that should be available to the enterprise NOW – view part list, part structure, design files, models, drawings, etc. PLM basics! There is no mention of the critical ability to view the product configuration at any lifecycle state. This is where PLM brings strategic value. I expect a bit more in a shiny new app.

This is more of the same from Legacy PLM. CIMdata noted regarding why PLM is not seen as adding strategic value that “PLM hasn’t been implemented to address the full product lifecycle.” I think the more accurate statement would be: “Legacy PLM can’t be implemented to address the full product lifecycle due to technology and data model limitations.”

We got this! I’ll put our modern PLM platform up against the other guys any day.

Game on!