A Perfect Storm for PLM: On the Ownership of Product Data and the Future of Product Development
Verdi Ogewell posted on January 04, 2016 | 12694 views

Who owns your product data? This somewhat paradoxical question arose during the recent PLM event PDT Europe and the answer is not as obvious as a first glance might suggest.

There are important aspects on this that are not always considered,” claimed Gartner analyst Marc Halpern in this TV report.What I do tell my clients is that if they think that they own their product data, they should be thinking about the costs to take that data and migrate it to another system.”

“I think it’s a travesty that they pay their employees so much money to create that data in the first place and then it’s locked into a vendor,” Halpern continued, speaking of how vendors essentially own the data on their systems. “You know, these end-user companies, my clients, have to pay a ransom fee in order to get their data off of their systems.”

These are strong words, but Halpern’s reasoning met with approbation from nearly the entire gathering of event participants—including representatives from many big European and American trans-national enterprises and organizations like Airbus, ABB, BAE Systems, Boeing, Volvo Cars, Volvo Trucks and the U.S. Navy.

Halpern also gave a concrete example of how things can turn out: “A client of mine who was facing a renewal of a license contract—this has happened multiple times, by the way—faced a software vendor that changed their business model, which meant a 30 percent increase in their costs over the lifetime of the contract, which would be three years.”

The client asked Halpern to put together a shortlist of potential replacement vendors. “But when we went through the list and saw the degree of data migration that was necessary, the learning curve, the loss of productivity during the learning period—accompanied by the fact that they would need to keep legacy copies of the existing software—it became fairly obvious that it was easier to pay the 30 percent increase than switch vendors."

Who owns a company’s product data? Gartner analyst Marc Halpern (not in the picture) claims there are aspects of this question which should be considered a higher priority than they currently are. “If a company thinks that they own their product data, they should be thinking about the costs to take that data and migrate it to another system,” he says in this TV report.
Who owns a company’s product data? Gartner analyst Marc Halpern (not in the picture) claims there are aspects of this question which should be considered a higher priority than they currently are. “If a company thinks that they own their product data, they should be thinking about the costs to take that data and migrate it to another system,” he says in this TV report.

What’s the solution to this dilemma?

Halpern said, “I do believe that standards should be playing a greater role. It’s really funny how, among my manufacturing clients, they all want standards and they all want interoperability but they don’t seem to make it a top priority when they are choosing software partners.”

He added that, “If there had been standards supported by the vendors in question, then that wouldn’t have been as much of a problem.”

From the vendor point of view this is great, Halpern concluded, but from the end-user point of view this is bad.


Product Development Beyond PLM

In many ways, this statement brings to light the important issues regarding our potential direction when it comes to life both on this side of PLM and beyond.

The world of product development, manufacturing, distribution and end-user patterns is changing so fast that we should reflect more on solutions that can build the capabilities needed to remain competitive.

Almost every aspect of product realization and usage is digitized and with digital business, the nature of development processes and products is changing. These changes require that product developers and manufacturers adopt new ways of thinking along with new types of IT solutions and Product Innovation Platforms (PIP) in order to define and design products and to manage life cycles. The ability to collaborate is key—and collaboration demands openness and compatibility in order to exchange product data effectively.

So, where are we heading in terms of PIP? What remains to be done with PLM? What are the views of some of the PLM world’s most influential people?
Daimler Mercedes’ former IT director, Dr Alfred Katzenbach, is one of several influential
Daimler Mercedes’ former IT director, Dr Alfred Katzenbach, is one of several influential "PLM personalities" interviewed in this TV report. He emphasizes the importance of standards in today's product development. “Multi-CAD environments demands it,” he said, asserting that the real question is how to combine JT and STEP to make the best of both.

In this TV report, you will meet a number of the world’s most important players and trendsetters in the PLM field representing academia, analysts, consultants and influential users. This includes:

  • PETER BILELLO, Analyst at CIMdata
  • Dr. ALFRED KATZENBACH, Former Director IT Management at Daimler
  • IRENE GUSTAVSSON, Senior Manager OD PLM at Volvo Cars 
  • PATRICK LANGTON, External Collaboration Manager at Volvo Group TT
  • Dr. MARTIN EIGNER, Head of the Institute for Virtual Product Engineering (VPE) at the University of Kaiserslautern
  • Dr. MARC HALPERN, Analyst, VP Research at Gartner Group
  • HÅKAN KÅRDÉN, CEO of Eurostep Group
  • JOS VOSKUIL, Senior PLM Consultant and blogger


“No single vendor can deliver everything”

The idea of a comprehensive Product Innovation Platform (PIP) was launched last year by a number of respected analysts, including Gartner, CIMdata and IDC. This was the key take-away from PDT Europe 2014.

This year, PDT 2015 aimed to investigate and report on the status of this new platform and PDT organizer. Eurostep Group´s CEO Håkan Kårdén used the phrase, “The perfect storm for PLM” to describe where this is heading.

“This theme really comes from the fact that we see the Cloud, the Internet of Things, mobility, 3D printing, standards and et cetera, develop in parallel tracks. A lot of these things are actually developing independently. At some point they will reach a maturity level where you can use them all at the same time, in the same context. Then we have a pretty good chance of experiencing something that is like the perfect storm,” he explained.

He added that the Product Innovation Platform is an acknowledgement that no single PLM or ERP vendor will have the capability or the interest from end-users to deliver everything. The Product Innovation Platform is too big for any one vendor.
CIMdata analyst Peter Bilello said that the end-to-end connectivity characterizing Product Innovation Platforms will “add one of the things we’ve been missing in PLM.”
CIMdata analyst Peter Bilello said that the end-to-end connectivity characterizing Product Innovation Platforms will “add one of the things we’ve been missing in PLM.”


A holistic end-to-end solution based on plug-and-play

CIMdata analyst Peter Bilello agreed, pointing at the PIP as a holistic solution—a federated platform able to activate different components on a plug-and-play basis. 

“One of the things we’ve been missing in PLM is an understanding from the industrial companies of its significant need for an enterprise solution. The innovation platform is trying to connect product lifecycle management with the innovation needs that an organization has. Innovation of products, of services and innovation of itself. We’re seeing a tipping point approaching; a growing understanding within organizations that will move PLM from being an engineering system to being an enterprise solution that enables innovation,” Bilello said in the TV report. His point is that a product’s life doesn’t end when development does.

“The continuation of products from concept through life requires connection,” Bilello continued. “If you have a number of disconnections or gaps within the chain, you are not going to be able to optimize the product for its life. You can lose track of what you were trying to accomplish, lose track of things like, ’did I satisfy the requirements in the market’ or ’did I meet the regulatory requirements’ and et cetera.”

According to Bilello, in its broadest definition a Product Innovation Platform will allow:

  • Availability
  • Agility (rapid-fitting, easy to change)
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Discoveries through research tools for comparison and analysis
  • Insights through simulation
  • Re-use of insights and designs

These capabilities will provide the end-to-end connectivity that has always been important, Bilello concluded, and we’re just now seeing the technology that can make this happen.


Former Daimler R&D Executive Alfred Katzenbach, on JT-Based Collaboration

Collaboration is becoming increasingly important in light of the aforementioned evolving technologies. The automotive industry is a good example of how standards make collaboration easier.

Today, automotive OEMs even work together with other OEMs, sharing a common platform for their cars. Previously they forced suppliers to adopt a certain system but that has changed.

I spoke to Alfred Katzenbach, the former director of R&D at Daimler Mercedes, about this topic:

“Yes, this has changed, and the reason is that the companies are working in multi-CAD environments. A well-known example is the cooperation between Nissan and Renault, which now Mercedes has joined. Nissan and Mercedes are working with Siemens PLM’s NX, Renault with Dassault Systemes’ CATIA and the three altogether collaborate based on the JT-format.” 

The multi-CAD landscapes in Daimler and Renault-Nissan are an example of why standards are essential as this type of co-operation becomes more common. “The global scale of our projects ensures that this collaboration will continue to grow, and we expect to remain partners for the long run,” said Renault-Nissan CEO and chairman Carlos Ghosn (to the right) during the press conference where the joint venture was revealed. To the left is Daimler’s CEO, Dieter Zetsche.
The multi-CAD landscapes in Daimler and Renault-Nissan are an example of why standards are essential as this type of co-operation becomes more common. “The global scale of our projects ensures that this collaboration will continue to grow, and we expect to remain partners for the long run,” said Renault-Nissan CEO and chairman Carlos Ghosn (to the right) during the press conference where the joint venture was revealed. To the left is Daimler’s CEO, Dieter Zetsche.

“In automotive, there is a more or less common situation where all of the automotive companies are relying on JT in combination with—and this is very important—STEP AP 242 XML for auto structure information, kinematics definition and so on. It’s not a question to work with JT or with STEP, it’s a question of how to combine them to make the best of both,” stated the former Daimler IT director.

Clearly, advanced collaboration is a critical success factor in today’s product development, manufacturing, distribution and end-customer related processes, but how far have companies reached in general?

What may appear to be a simple problem on the surface isn’t simple. It is more like a symphony orchestra: the more people that are involved and the more complex the music is, the harder it becomes to conduct. This problem tends to grow exponentially relative to the number of added participants.

Translated to the world of product realization, this means that the solutions to orchestrate communication between players in the development chain have extremely high requirements. These requirements do not get any easier in light of IP protection and security issues.

These topics are ever-present in Patrick Langton’s professional life. He holds one of the rarest titles in the world of OEM’s: External Collaboration Manager for Volvo Group’s Trucks Technology. This title reveals a lot about the nature of his challanges.

 “Our objective is to build a hub where we, to start with, will develop the support of collaboration, meaning the generic processes of engaging with somebody,” said Volvo Group’s External Collaboration Manager Patrick Langton. Parts of the hub are already in production.
“Our objective is to build a hub where we, to start with, will develop the support of collaboration, meaning the generic processes of engaging with somebody,” said Volvo Group’s External Collaboration Manager Patrick Langton. Parts of the hub are already in production.

“Yes,” Langton confirmed, “That’s probably true, but we have many good reasons for it and we invest a lot of money and time into our external collaborations. The biggest ones are, of course, the joint ventures we’re involved in.”

He explained that Volvo Trucks roughly has four categories of collaborations. One, of course, is joint ventures based on different scenarios, among which is the level of ownership and the type of engagement.

 “Then we also have partners that own technologies we want to implement in our products or vehicles. We have suppliers, of course, a lot of components in our trucks are supplied by somebody else. And we also have sourcing.”

Langton added that collaboration platforms are complicated to both set up and to dismount:  “It is because every case is unique, but I think that here we need to develop our capabilities to create solutions which are easy to set up, easy to use and easy to collaborate with on the partner side. This is how Volvo aims to be number one in the automotive transportation segment”.

This demands quality when it comes to the communication between partners. Volvo has already started to build and use a hub for data exchange.

 “Yes,” said Langton, “Our objective is to build a hub where we will initially develop the support of collaboration, meaning the generic processes of engaging with somebody. The definition of a scope of components to work with to address and share information are important parts of this, but also to support the traceability of the information that is shared. Generally, we’re talking about questions, answers, and other deliverables around a component or product that needs to be held together. Today we have a lot of solutions, but it is scattered and part of the traceability is lost. What has been shared and with who, that is something that we want the hub to control.”

 “We have parts of the hub already in production. We call it step one, or WISE 1, where we support the initial phase of collaboration. It’s in production and we’re planning to develop it into the next phase by implementing our service architecture. But that is the tricky part right now, and it’s not a hub that solves that. It’s really our legacy system that is the challenge right now.”

Volvo Trucks need to achieve some kind of standardization, especially related to further developing the definition of a BOM (Bill of Materials), asserts Patrick Langton.
Volvo Trucks need to achieve some kind of standardization, especially related to further developing the definition of a BOM (Bill of Materials), asserts Patrick Langton.

Langton added that in the end, Volvo Trucks need to move to some kind of standardization, especially for the definition of a BOM.  “That’s right, it’s so different. Some companies are very manufacturing oriented, some are very product development oriented. So, we need to find that definition. If Volvo can define it and convince our partners that we have a good definition, that will be the standard.”


Software integration is a problem,” asserted Martin Eigner

There are still parts that remain to be solved when it comes to establishing collaboration as a routine. The PLM journey takes time, and sometimes we tend to show too much focus and appreciation of cool, innovative software.

In big organizations, the challenge is less about implementing popular new technologies and more about how to create smooth processes combined with what you’ve already got.

The secret to success is keeping an eye on many things simultaneously. It is great to develop IoT and M2M solutions, but you need to optimize more immediate challenges in the development chain at the same time in order to enjoy fully the fruits of innovation platforms like PIP. 

“Product structures across the lifecycle and all the processes such as change management, configuration management, release management and et cetera, are problems that must be solved more effectively,” said German PLM professor Martin Eigner.
“Product structures across the lifecycle and all the processes such as change management, configuration management, release management and et cetera, are problems that must be solved more effectively,” said German PLM professor Martin Eigner.

Martin Eigner, head of Kaiserslautern University’s Virtual Product Development department, is one of the world’s most distinguished PLM authorities.

His main point is that no vendor can be expected deliver on everything and we haven’t solved all the challenges connected to PLM, software integration being one of the most important in this context.

But what about “future” platform candidates and concepts like Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things?

“First, I prefer the Industrial Internet because the definition is broader. Industry 4.0 is strongly restricted to production automation, while the Industrial Internet addresses the broader scope of products, production and services,” said Eigner. “I think that what we have to do with PLM and what still has to be changed is that we have to accept that the product and process definition must be in line with the product life cycle concept.

“We have to address this across all the different disciplines and I especially include services as part of the disciplines we have to define, not the least across the supply chain,” Eigner continued. “Product structures across the lifecycle and all the processes like change management, configuration management, release management and et cetera, are problems that must be solved more effectively.”

Furthermore, Eigner asserted that companies generally have too many overlapping legacy systems.

“We have PLM and now we have ALM (Application Lifecycle Management). Of course we have ERP and during too many years we’ve had a discussion: what is soft in PLM, PDM, and what is soft in ERP? Now we have the same discussion: what is soft in ALM and in PLM? I think the solutions are getting more fragmented and the architecture becomes more complex.”

Professor Eigner continued to stress how crucial the interdisciplinary integration is. Specifically, he mentioned the problem of connecting software to the BOM (Bill of Material).

“Yes, this is a typical problem. Software has no Bill of Material and we have to learn that [this type of] software [is built on] linear file structures, maybe with a branch with a merge and they have a manual driven baseline. The manual driven baseline is what we are able to handle with a version, with a revision. At the end, the software should be a part of the Bill of Material.”

Eigner questioned rhetorically whether it is easy to do. “Well I think it is, however, we have to understand that change management of software is totally different from change management of hardware. Ninety percent of my customers have no Bill of Material with integrated software. At the end, this is the problem of not integrating configuration management.”


SAP can’t handle requirements, functions and behavior.”

The bottom line, Eigner claims, is that what is needed is to define and create better international standards is to bring all the different systems together.

 “The dream is that we would have a high-level product structure on top of all the existing systems and that we also had a high-level architecture of change and configuration processes. Maybe we can do it on top of the legacy system.”

But today, IT architecture within companies generally isn’t capable of covering this area, he said. “Yes, it is a problem. What is the solution? I don’t know. I think that SAP would like to have MRP and ERP as an umbrella on top of all the systems. But they are not able to handle requirements, functions, behavior and all the new stuff in model-based systems engineering. It’s not covered in an MRP system. So, we have to do something special. The dream would be one Bill of Material but then we would need new modern technology. I can’t foresee that.”

That said, Eigner wasn’t left without contradiction to his views of what would be possible.

Eurostep’s Håkan Kårdén said: “No, I don’t agree. As a matter of fact, we have been doing the type of integration Dr. Eigner talks about with our software, Share-A-space, for many years. We based Share-A-space very much on the PLCS standard and the PLCS standard has been developed to cover the whole lifecycle. So, including functional break-downs, physical break-downs, supporting design, eBOMs and mBOMs, I would say that we already have in production the type of integration that Martin Eigner is talking about.” 

According to Gartner analyst Marc Halpern, in 2017 the major design, PLM and business suite vendors will all offer product innovation platforms (above). Gartner has a 5-step maturity model based on the readiness of the organization. Moving from reactive, repeatable, integration towards collaborating and ultimately orchestrating, companies become business ready for PDM first, for PLM second and the Product Innovation Platform at the end.
According to Gartner analyst Marc Halpern, in 2017 the major design, PLM and business suite vendors will all offer product innovation platforms (above). Gartner has a 5-step maturity model based on the readiness of the organization. Moving from reactive, repeatable, integration towards collaborating and ultimately orchestrating, companies become business ready for PDM first, for PLM second and the Product Innovation Platform at the end.


Will the Product Innovation Platform concept prevail?

What are the PIP building blocks? How important are PIP standards? And what differentiates PIP from Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things?

It is no surprise that a topic such as the future of product realization is subject to different points of view. But clearly there are a few common ideas that will determine the direction of how industrial IT support evolves.

PLM took a long time to become a reality—more than 10 years—and much still remains to be done. Many observers regard PLM as a watershed between those with ambitions to keep up with new developments and those who are willing to risk their company’s future by not doing so.

Sometimes the dynamics of reality make it hard to see what’s coming.

PLM consultant Jos Voskuil shared his thoughts with the PLM TV News team:

“The perfect storm for PLM is making a big wave and the discussion we all have right now is whether this wave is going to be a fun wave to ride on, or is it going to be a tsunami crashing all the existing business we have. My biggest fear is that companies don’t realize that this wave is coming and are not decisive enough to react to or act on what is coming.”

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