Last week, some interesting posts about the storage and analysis of data in PLM systems popped up in the blogs I frequent. The conclusion of these posts? PLM needs to be more like Google – it needs to go beyond conventional taxonomies and make sense of keywords, hyperlinks, file references, and timestamps to intelligently link related data.

The recent SolidSmack article by Adam Ohern explains:

“If I save three files in a three minute period—a PDF, a SLDPRT, and a PNG—a PLM system should know that these chunks of data might be related by the simple fact that a single user created them within a short time.

“But wait!” you scream. “You’re just talking about Product DATA Management! Product LIFECYCLE Management is so much more than data storage!” Whatever dude. No it isn’t. PLM is data management. Sure, PLM helps you organize lots of different kinds of data, but that’s the whole point: it’s all about data. I’m arguing that it’s time to separate the storage of data from the analysis of data, and PLM is all about the latter.

Let me store whatever I want wherever I want, and PLM should help me make sense of it… It’s all data; PLM should just help me make sense of it, and give me opportunities to organize it as much–or as little–as I see fit for my organization.” Oleg Shilovitsky, a big blogger in the PLM world for those who don’t know, posted twice on this matter, first inspiring and then responding to Adam’s post.

The most interesting point to come out of these posts, however, was what it means for PLM vendors and their products. Google doesn’t insist on hosting the entire Internet on its own servers, doesn’t discriminate against data types, and doesn’t rely on the publisher to organize their content with arbitrary keywords… Google finds it own way to make sense of it, and it works. This is what PLM solutions need to do… make sense of data and organize it in a fashion that makes sense to humans, not computers.

As Adam put it, “PLM is not about who can build the biggest mess of arbitrary rigid structures, it’s about who can get the most information out of the files that we already have. The PLM giants should be finding ways of breaking down information silos, not building ever-bigger ones.”

What Oleg and Adam were discussing just makes sense. It’s time to ditch the “mangled mess of rigid databases” that come with legacy systems.  It’s time to be different.