PLM—Product Lifecycle Management—has become a major topic at most software conferences. But even some proponents have difficulty defining it. Here, the top PLM executive at IBM/Dassault Systemes gives his perspective on its value.
Isn't PLM just for big companies? PLM is a strategy for making companies more innova-tive, and because that impacts business results and drives business strategy, it applies to many different size companies. For a large, very process-oriented OEM company, PLM implements lifecycle-management processes from concept to end-of-life. For a smaller company, the greatest value may be the ability to respond to a customer on time, and always being able to work with the latest data.
How is PLM different from concurrent engineering? PLM incorporates a very comprehensive set of capabilities that help companies go from the concept of a product to end-of-life management. Concurrent engineering—having design and manufacturing share designs and work at the same time— fits within that domain. But PLM is much broader, extending the concurrent engineering concept to the entire enterprise.
Did software developers invent PLM because CAD is a commodity? No. First, CAD isn't a commodity. We haven't even begun to broach the value of 3D. I think that software developers invented PLM because our customers needed it to be competitive. Dassault and IBM invented the term PLM. It grew out of the realization of what customers needed to go to the next level of innovation.
What about the value in meeting face-toface to resolve design issues? Historically, meeting face-to-face and getting to know your colleagues has helped. But, I think we're going to see fewer and fewer physical face-to-face meetings. PLM takes away the time and expense of traveling. For example, if you have someone at Boeing in Seattle working on a fuselage, and someone in Asia working on the wing of the same plane, and Seattle goes home at night, stopping work on their "best-so-far" fuselage, the guys in Asia can continue from where they left off collaborating on the interfaces. If you do face-to-face meetings, you can only do one every two months or so. PLM-based collaboration, on the other hand, can occur every day.
Are there any complete PLM installations in industry? Complete is a big word, and the comprehensive world of PLM is huge. We could define PLM such that nobody has done it yet. On the other hand, various entry points in PLM deliver quite a lot of business value. I think it's fair to say that no one has really demonstrated full PLM. We have some good examples, such as Volvo Penta, where they've gone a long way toward complete PLM on their engines. I think that what's going to drive full implementation is what happens with Boeing 7E7 Dreamliner. Boeing has made the boldest, most open statement about full, complete, comprehensive implementation of PLM.
How about concrete results? IBM has been very public about the billions of dollars of savings they realized by implementing their PLM. I'd say that people are talking about getting value in such areas as reduced cycle time for certain design tasks. That's driven by collaboration, an integrated model, and better data sharing.
Lemke is general manager, PLM Americas, for Dassault Systemes, and CEO of Enovia Corp.