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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Does Historical PDM Usage Limit How we View PLM Today?

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Does Historical PDM Usage Limit How we View PLM Today?

Early in my career, as I was implementing 3d, solid modeling across five corporate divisions, I was asked if I had “ever used a drafting board” by one of the manufacturing engineers who was skeptical about the use of the incoming tool set. My response was “not only have I used a drafting board, I have also used a slide rule and punch cards – and I don’t think any of us would argue that we should go back to those tools today.” That said, we did what every company was doing at that time, implementing CAD on high end personal computers while mimicking the practices of using a drafting board. My premise is that we are doing the same today with PLM.

Companies implemented PDM (Product Data Management) over the past 10 to 15 years with an emphasis on part number creation, drawing management, and engineering change management workflows. The issue here is that the tools were fundamentally defined by manufacturing product structures and not by the engineering innovation perspective. So in implementing PDM, companies were replicating the practices of the document control organizations of manufacturing companies, not by the need to innovate. Manufacturing effectively requires “control” yet fostering innovation requires “freedom” – companies have had to balance this dichotomy for years.

Fifteen years ago I saw a chart of the fuzzy boundary between structured data and unstructured data and the comparison with IT investing that indicated that 80% of IT budgets were spent on managing structured data, and the balance was on supporting unstructured data. Yet structured data only represented 20% of the information being supported by those same departments. The point of that diagram was to stress the importance of thickening the fuzzy boundaries of managing structured data and unstructured data in a manner that would be intuitive and truly support innovation by giving end users freedom to innovate while assuring that the corporate intellectual assets resulting from that innovation are secured.


Many PLM systems today are very capable of managing more than a manufacturing bill of materials, can do much more than support engineering change management, yet repeatedly industry users are using PLM as engineering document management tools rather than doing a comprehensive roadmap of how to leverage their enterprise solutions to truly benefit from increasing the fuzzy boundary between structured data and unstructured data, and to truly enable innovation.

I would love to hear from you on this topic. Do you feel that your business has effectively implemented PLM beyond the replacement of a paper change management process? Have you leveraged PLM for the fuzzier boundaries? Does your business need assistance in getting to the heart of this problem?

Laila Hirr

Plan to join CIMdata on December 3rd for a complimentary webinar geared towards the High Tech industry that will show you how to get the most out of PLM and how to close the value gap. Visit our website for more information or to register.


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