What PLM Professionals Can Gain from Digitalization

A fireside chat with leaders from CIMdata, Gartner, and Eurostep.

A roundtable featuring Peter Bilello, president and CEO of CIMdata; Marc Halpern, VP and analyst with Gartner; and Torbjörn Holm, founder and technical fellow with Eurostep. (Image credit: CIMdata’s PLM Roadmap and PDT 2020.)

A roundtable featuring Peter Bilello, president and CEO of CIMdata; Marc Halpern, VP and analyst with Gartner; and Torbjörn Holm, founder and technical fellow with Eurostep. (Image credit: CIMdata’s PLM Roadmap and PDT 2020.)

The closing event of this year’s CIMdata PLM Roadmap and PDT 2020 conference was a fireside chat about why an enterprise digital strategy must include key elements to enable digital twins and the digital thread. 

The session included final words of wisdom from Peter Bilello, president and CEO of CIMdata; Marc Halpern, VP and analyst with Gartner; and Torbjörn Holm, founder and technical fellow with Eurostep; and was moderated by Ken Versprille, executive consultant with CIMdata.

In a nutshell, the panel covered the following three themes:

  1. How to maximize business value from digitalization, and how to define the scope of digital thread and digital twin strategies?
  2. How does the digital thread contribute to enabling product innovation, from knowledge sharing to collaboration?
  3. How do integration standards contribute to effective digital strategies and how does the digital thread enable supplier collaboration

1. How to maximize business value from digitalization, and how to define the scope of digital thread and digital twin strategies?

Peter Bilello opened the debate by reiterating that the digital thread is about feedback loops and is unique to how a given organization operates—hence, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are, however, pragmatic guiding principles to consider when adopting digital thread solutions, such as avoiding boiling the ocean in interpreting the steps required toward the vision.

Marc Halpern highlighted the need to start small and experiment while aligning to a business value realization from the outset, which typically includes considering return-on-investment and break-even points and risk mitigation. This clearly refers to applying good project management practices and common sense when dealing with complexity. He added that it is important to start with something that can be measured and is reusable. Furthermore, Marc Halpern suggested starting with a baseline: running a waste assessment, clearly identifying pain points or gaps, addressing their impacts in terms of operating costs, gathering quantifiable evidence, and then building out an improvement plan. Once again, a good dose of common sense is helpful when dealing with complexity and business justification.

Lastly, Torbjörn Holm mentioned that the key is to first get clarity on the common language per the current practice, putting “gaps” in context of the big picture in order to make informed decisions based on holistic priorities. 

2. How does the digital thread contribute to enabling product innovation, from knowledge sharing to collaboration?

Halpern described an innovation platform as a “common environment” where business applications can coexist, enabling information to be “freely shared” across business functions. Such platforms typically combine hybrid cloud solutions with analytics, fostering value creation from automation, AI, machine learning and other modern data analysis capabilities to mine data into valuable insight—toward optimizing products and how they are used.

For Holm, it is important to make sense of the “spiderweb of information” through integration and collaboration standards, which are becoming ever so essential. He also highlighted that knowledge comes from both structured and unstructured documentation and other information shared across teams and tacit knowledge from people’s expertise and experience. In turn, knowledge contributes to creativity and innovation.

In addition, Bilello elaborated on the fact that platformization has been a trend for many years and that, to be effective, innovation platforms must be scalable, open, accessible and flexible.

3. How do integration standards contribute to effective digital strategies, and how does the digital thread enable supplier collaboration?

Building on the many excellent presentations from this year’s CIMdata PLM Roadmap and PDT 2020 conference, both Holm and Bilello highlighted the importance of new technology adoption and new business models—such as what cloud and software as a service (SaaS) solutions can offer.

Halpern discussed the shift in working practices in the current context and touched on potential changes ahead: from the rise of remote working to social distancing in factories, prototype and experimentation labs, and leveraging cloud solutions for better remote access. He continued by highlighting the importance of enabling connectivity and hybrid cloud integration capabilities, as well as recognizing that face-to-face collaboration might remain the best way to work with others—at least based on the product maturity, the collaboration culture of the organization and the maturity of its operations (and its digital thread).

So, What’s in It for the PLM Professional?

There were several interesting closing remarks from the panel about the value of PLM, and the role of the enabling enterprise and integration platforms:

  • PLM is about data quality, accuracy and productivity more than it is about reducing costs or delivery time.
  • PLM is about managing change throughout an organization.
  • PLM is about sharing information and data across the extended enterprise.
  • PLM is about managing complexity, defining and using standards to help simplify how platforms are implemented and integrated.
  • PLM helps with managing unknowns, as in “what we don’t know, we don’t know.”
  • PLM is not a quick fix. “If it looks too simple, look twice.”

These is surely something that resonates with many of us PLM
professionals. Furthermore, to quote the title of the conference, it would have been interesting to hear more about the “people” side of things on the “path of delivering innovation, efficiency and quality.” 

For example: how do digital advances help organizations implement and improve their PLM practices: across people, data and processes, that is, what is relevant for organizations, starting from a robust minimum viable product? Are new technologies such as cloud solutions helping PLM
professionals to make better use of digital platforms? How can new technologies contribute to making
professionals more effective and helping them to work in smarter ways? What new skills and talents are required when using these new platforms? What practical framework or approach contributes to ensuring new PLM practice adoption? Will PLM implementations get easier and what talents are required to define effective master data management strategies across the digital thread? How can organizations ensure that digital twins deliver sustainable value to the business and what must people learn to achieve this goal? What new talents and approaches are required to implement, maintain and operate such solutions? Is PLM as a practice getting closer to the wider enterprise IT practice? Does that mean that it is getting more technical for people working on the back end while getting more user friendly and intuitive for people working on the front end? What impact does digitalization of everything have, and how will it continue to affect the role of PLM in the digital future? There are many questions for next year’s conference.