Like many of the ingredients in a manufacturing organization’s computer technology alphabet soup, such as ERP, SCM, CRM, not to mention CAD, CAM, and CAE, product lifecycle management (PLM) for years has been touted as being the “next big thing” and the the final frontier for integrating all manufacturing IT functions. Honestly, though, can it truly provide all that the various vendors are promising? I have asked myself that question for several years now — is PLM a great hope or just another great hype?
It seems that every vendor defines PLM in a manner that best suits their respective existing product lines and business practices, and not always necessarily the processes of the customers they are trying to serve. Therein lies a big part of the PLM problem. PLM should address processes and not just products – neither the vendors’ nor their customers’ – and too few vendors to this point have stressed the processes they are claiming to improve over the products and services they are trying to sell.
It also seems like everybody (yes, now including just about every CAD vendor big and small) is at least trying to get into the PLM act, regardless of whether they should or should not based on their development and integration capabilities or the needs of their customers. Even database giant, Oracle, says it wants to be a major PLM player, although the company has eluded that it doesn’t want to dirty its hands with traditional CAD/CAM stuff — it wants to look at the bigger picture, although it doesn’t elaborate what that picture is.
Although they are quite different in requirements, approach, implementation, and task load, I continue to see PLM and PDM (product data management) regarded practically as equals in vendors’ conference presentations and promotional advertising. Using these acronyms interchangeably only adds to the confusion that already exists in the PLM marketplace. However, it does give more vendors more opportunities to say that they “do PLM.” By definition, PDM handles only data and is a subset of PLM; whereas PLM, to many peoples’ thinking, should interface and interact with every other IT system within an organization, including ERP, CRM, etc. at a similar level as a peer system.
So, is PLM fulfilling the prophesy that the vendors have promised? That’s the question we’ll tackle in the next MCADCafe Blog.