Recently, I attended the PLM Road MapTM North America Conference in Washington, DC., hosted by CIMdata.

One of the key themes from the conference is the disconnect between the trend toward “Digitalization,” the use of digital technologies to change the business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities and the need for PLM systems to be the flexible, sustainable platform to achieve continual processes improvement, make better use of enterprise-wide talent, and drive new business outcomes.

The overall message at the conference was that, while the PLM industry continues to grow (7.3% – $43.6B), many companies are still stuck in PDM, not realizing the full value of end-to-end PLM for the digital transformation of their product’s lifecycle. Nor were they utilizing their PLM as an enterprise innovation platform within their enterprise landscape. As a result, executives are not pleased with the results they are getting from their PLM investments. To quantify that, according to a CIMdata survey, only 25% of executives think PLM is effective at meeting their objectives and only 22% see a direct link between PLM and their Digitalization efforts. In many cases, PLM was oversold and under-delivered, unable to provide executives with a lack of clarity and completeness. The PLM initiatives suffered from lengthy deployments and rigid customizations, causing them to get bogged down in engineering and subsequently failed to adequately support manufacturing and services. The survey data does show a willingness over the next few years to move off traditional PDM/CAD deployments and on to more digitally transformative end-to-end PLM initiatives.

Due to the complexity and connectivity of the products being created, PLM now encompasses the optimization of an increasing amount of multidisciplinary data (MCAD, EDA, ALM, SE requirements, simulations, analytics, etc.), as well as the need to manage the product’s configuration and change management—spanning the full lifecycle from idea/concept through end-of-life. Now, more than ever, PLM is required to be an enterprise innovation platform that provides the flexibility to adapt to continually evolving processes and business solutions with collaboration across the full eco-system.

There were many excellent presentations of Model Based System Engineering (MBSE). One major takeaway for me is the disconnect that exists between Systems Engineering and the rest of the enterprise. As multidisciplinary products with embedded software are developed both concurrently and updated in-service, systems engineering can no longer afford to be a disconnected conceptual discipline. How will PLM systems address this challenge going forward?

Long-time professor, author, lecturer, PLM thought leader and founder of EIGNER Consult, Dr. Martin Eigner presented “System of Systems Approach to Product Design” makes the point: “We have to change the traditional, more discipline-oriented design methodologies, processes, and organization completely and develop new collaborative, integrated, and interdisciplinary methods and processes for innovative smart product and systems design.” He proposes a resilient federated lightweight backbone above the traditional fragmented legacy systems.

One of the key transformative changes discussed was the Digital Twin of the physical asset, along with the Digital Thread. This was presented by Aras’s VP of Strategy, Marc Lind, and discussed in a round table. With the advent of IOT, where almost everything can be smart and connected, you must have configuration control of your As-Running assets with transparent full open APIs, and an open and dynamic data model.

Microsoft’s Boris Cononetz, Director, Enterprise PLM, provided an excellent presentation on their “Rip & Replace to enable a PLM Platform” an agile deployment that stood up a production system in four months, provided tangible benefits, and delivers updates every month. Some of those benefits included: increased Cloud SKU availability by 30%, increased usage by 900%, reduced month incidents by 70%, integrated Devices & Cloud supply chains, integrated with MS Office and E/MCAD, enabled business analytics in Azure Data Lake and Azure Data Warehouse for BI, reduced TCO by nearly 50%, consolidated to one enterprise solution, and migrated from on-prem to Azure.

PLM needs to be flexible and upgradeable so it can “evolve as the business evolves.” As Peter Bilello, President of CIMdata, concluded: “You need to know how PLM supports your company’s digital transformation and other important initiatives. What you define today may not be appropriate tomorrow. Flexibility, configurability, and sustainability are critical.”

Companies will be transforming, forcing PLM capabilities to be implemented and maintained in an agile and sustainable manner—one that naturally addresses change. (Bilello) As an attendee said to me, “If it can’t be upgraded continuously, it’s either our fault or their (the PLM vendor’s) fault, and one of us is going to change.”

The growing complexity of products and connectivity has created a need in the PLM industry for the convergence of Configuration Management of multidisciplinary domains and Systems Engineering practices to understand product behavior and manage the variant complexity of what is valid and who defines it. To do so requires spanning the entire product lifecycle to allow for in-service changes utilizing Digital Twins and a Digital Thread.

We’re now in an era where the convergence of trends and disruptive technologies are impacting both the PLM software providers and companies trying to use PLM for their Digital transformations. In my opinion, over the next few years, you will see dramatic shifts in the Fortune 500 landscape as well as those technologies that support the winners in their digital transformations.

Disruption breeds opportunity, which is good news for Aras and others. And let’s just assume I am biased. Ask yourself, five years ago, would Aras or its customers have been presenting or mentioned in multiple presentations at a CIMdata conference and attended by Aras customers?

A wave of change is coming fast and that’s always a good thing for the disruptor. A key message delivered at the conference was to rethink your PLM strategy and make sure it aligns with your Digital Transformation strategy. I encourage you to do so and enable your company to achieve the outcomes that will make it a disruptor.

I highly recommend future CIMdata conferences and, as always, I welcome your thoughts.