Frank Baldesarra, CEO & Co-Founder, Rand Worldwide
In 1981, just four years after graduating from the University of Toronto, Canada, with a civil engineering degree, Frank Baldesarra went into business with former classmate Brian Semkiw selling time share on main-frame computers to engineering firms for analysis calculations. They called their business Rand Engineering. Today, renamed Rand Worldwide, the company has its foot in the product lifecycle management (PLM) space selling IBM and Dassault Systemes products.
What is your definition of PLM? In my opinion, PLM is the ability to get detailed design information throughout the enterprise in a simple and easy fashion. That is not so easy to do because it means that marketing, manufacturing, and design all need to view product information in different ways. At the same time, the information has to be consistent throughout the organization.
Has PLM lived up to its expectation? Like any business, there is a phase where people become initiated to a product. You test the product to find out where the problems lie, you fix things, and you keep going at it. When we first began working with a significant CAD technology called Pro/ENGINEER, it took five years for that technology to go from a concept to something that was meaningful inside of an organization.
Are there any full implementations of enterprise PLM? Rand has been selling PLM solutions from Dassault Systemes since July 2002 and to date we have implemented components of PLM in a variety of different companies. People are thrilled with the early successes and they are embracing the concept. But no one who has deployed it has said, "This is the greatest thing we've ever done." We expect those kinds of references in a year or two.
Are there parts missing? It's not a matter of things missing. As with any major system, PLM has to be adapted to a company's needs. It takes time to roll the process out department by department. First, you get it into engineering and then expand to manufacturing and marketing. It's like implementing an ERP or Oracle system. It takes time.
What about the little guys? Do you foresee companies with 100 employees or less implementing PLM? The intent of PLM is to distribute information throughout the organization, so as more products are outsourced, more suppliers will adapt the same PLM architecture as the OEMs so that they can be part of the optimization and product development process, too.
Will there be a shakeout among companies offering PLM products? There already has been. The companies that offer PLM are historically engineering software companies. Five or 10 years ago, there were maybe 10 major CAD players on the market. Now there are only a few. But at the end of the day, whether there are two, three, or four left, that is still a small number of companies that have a major impact on what PLM means.
What's on the horizon in terms of new technology for PLM? The ability to view things over the Internet is critical to PLM. And the new technology will be in how they can embrace the power of the Internet to make information more secure, faster, and more readily available to the supply chain.