Product lifecycle management (PLM) software has changed. That was an observation Paul Vogel, Siemens PLM Software's executive vice president of global sales, threw out as part of his presentation at the company's recent press and media day. I have to say that I think he's right.
Back more than a decade ago, when I first started covering PLM and Siemens PLM Software (then EDS PLM Solutions and part of the systems integration giant EDS), the software was widely misunderstood. It was touted as this larger-than-life enterprise application along the same lines as ERP or MRP, but the truth was the system never really broke out of the engineering ranks. Despite being positioned as a central repository for all types of data throughout all stages of a product's lifecycle, PLM of that era was really nothing more than a glorified replacement for product data management systems.
What a difference a decade can make. PLM systems of today -- Siemens PLM Software's Teamcenter, PTC's Windchill, Dassault Systemes' ENOVIA -- are finally evolving into those "one version of the truth" product development systems that the vendors long discussed. No longer just repositories of mechanical CAD models, these are true multidisciplinary enterprise engineering platforms used by a sizable cross-section of folks involved in product development, from engineers to marketing specialists to field service support professionals.
All you had to do was listen to the Siemens PLM Software executive presentations to hear that transition borne out. There was tons of emphasis on creating a "systems-driven" engineering approach to lifecycle management. This strategy is supported by three key pillars: intelligent information integration (getting the right information abstracted in different ways, depending on the role of the folks who need it), a future-proof architecture that carries users over to new technology but doesn't leave them stranded, and a high-definition user experience that leverages visual reporting, social media conventions, user interface enhancements, and other advances to make data more accessible.
Creating bridges between physical requirements and functional and logical requirements was a central discussion point, and so was supporting mechatronics workflows that allow mechanical, electrical, and software engineers to collaborate on models and designs in parallel.
Siemens PLM Software obviously isn't the only vendor turning up the volume on this message. Dassault has rigorously built out its systems engineering capabilities, as has PTC, which, through its acquisition of MKS Integrity, has also extended Windchill's capabilities to manage embedded software.
Chuck Grindstaff, Siemens PLM Software's president, said the PLM sector's consistent growth these last couple of years is proof that the multidisciplinary emphasis fills a need, and that the benefits of PLM are finally well understood.
"The growing pains of PLM are largely behind us," Grindstaff said in a one-on-one interview, citing integrated data models and technologies that help facilitate customers' time to value as things contributing to the tipping point. "We had the concepts right, but the implementation had been tricky, especially for global companies."