Research to Transform PLM

The concept of the Research SIG was that everything was based around existing funding mechanisms. This was logical, but set boundaries that we should be thinking past.

The PLMIG returned to the subject of PLM Research in 2014, but this time taking a completely unconstrained approach.  What would be the best-case outcome?

Starting with the premise of truly Advanced Research, incorporating two global PLM Surveys and a new workshop in Brussels, the initiative generated the concept of the International Research Foundation.

The findings have redefined what PLM could actually be.

 

Why Industry Needs PLM Research

PLM is an important new technology with far-reaching impact and application world-wide.  For similarly important new technologies there are well-structured, highly-visible research programs.  Yet, despite the best of intentions, research into PLM across the world remains fragmented, low-profile, and limited to very specific subject areas.

This is a significant long-term problem for industrial companies.  Lack of research means that PLM is heading towards a "plateau of sameness" in which future capabilities will be no better than were envisaged a decade ago.  If manufacturing performance is to make genuine advances in the future, then new PLM concepts must play their part.

It is now time for industrial companies to show that they have the vision and ambition to take advantage of these new possibilities.  Current progress in PLM is flattered by the effects of social and internet technology.  If these are stripped away, then the PLM of ten or twenty years' time will be little better than it is today.

PLM is a business improvement discipline for industrial companies; and industrial companies are always looking to advance, be more effective, compete or even transform.

To say that "the future will be the same as today" is to stagnate.

 

Academic Survey - Where Research Might Lead

As part of the launch phase of the PLM-IRF, the PLMIG carried out a Global Survey into the Needs and Opportunities for Advanced PLM Research.  A questionnaire was circulated to academic institutions in 51 countries, asking if they saw a need for new, advanced PLM research - and in which areas?

With 44 responses from 28 countries, so many advanced subject areas were proposed that they had to be grouped under 21 sub-headings ranging from 'Auto PLM Learning' to 'Full PLM Modelling'.  There are too many to list here, but the Survey showed not only how many PLM areas need to be explored for the future, but that international collaboration is possible on almost every subject area.

 

Brussels Launch

The Survey findings were used as working material at a new Launch Meeting in Brussels, at which delegates from 10 countries took part.  The central question for the meeting was:-

 

"What research does the world need, to achieve the future PLM capabilities that the world wants?"

 

The Academic Survey had made clear the potential for new PLM research ideas, and the scale and quality of the response showed the tremendous potential to advance PLM beyond its current horizons.

The Launch Meeting was held in Brussels, but with participation from the USA and Canada, and the format could easily be repeated in North America.  There was an insider's perspective of the Chinese PLM landscape, and how a 'PLM Trade Delegation' might carry the message to China; and, by extension, to other "far flung" areas of the world that are in fact part of the global PLM ecosystem.

PLM is moving forward, but current PLM horizons are far too low.  This has consequences for industrial companies, and hence for manufacturing prosperity.  PLM has the power to affect whole economies, and in many ways is as important as the 'green' tidal wave.

This makes industrial support a crucial part of any successful Initiative, and the delegates decided there was a need to get the industrial point of view.  To answer the central question of the Launch Meeting, we need to know what the world wants.

 

Global Industry Survey

The purpose of the Survey was to capture the views of as many PLM practitioners as possible about the future advanced PLM capabilities that should exist by 2025, in order to:-

  • Provide a complementary viewpoint to that generated by the research community; and,
  • Contribute to the first worldwide debate about where PLM is going, and what it should achieve.

The primary question at the heart of the Survey was:-

 

"What advanced PLM capabilities will be needed in 10 years' time to support the manufacturing methods of 10 years' time?"

 

A secondary question, as a corollary, was:-

 

"What is the most advanced future that PLM can achieve?"

 

Participation in the Survey was open to PLM users, vendors, service providers, and consultants - in fact, every PLM practitioner who is involved with the application of PLM, rather than with research into PLM.

It received 62 responses from 15 countries, and with each Form containing the writer's own "freestyle" views about the future of PLM and of Manufacturing, as well as the answers to the fixed questions, the range of ideas was extensive.  As such it is probably the largest Survey on the subject ever undertaken.

 

Industrial View of PLM Research

The full Survey results run to 37 pages, and are reproduced in the Compendium of PLM Ideas.  There is room only for a brief overview of the findings here.

The PLM-IRF Global Industrial Survey contains a wealth of information about how PLM practitioners see the future of PLM.  It covers (as indexed in the Compendium):-

 

CURRENT SHORTFALLS IN PLM

..............................

453

 
 

 

Manufacturing Complexity

..............................

453

 
   

PLM Scope

..............................

454

 
   

PLM Vision

..............................

454

 
   

PLM Application

..............................

455

 
   

PLM Awareness

..............................

455

 
   

Industry Factors

..............................

456

 
   

Product Data, Search and Discovery

..............................

456

 
   

Integration

..............................

457

 
   

Legacy Environments

..............................

458

 
   

SMEs

..............................

458

 
   

Skills

..............................

458

 
   

Technical Issues

..............................

458

 
    Documentation

..............................

458

 
   

Cost

..............................

459

 
   

Licensing

..............................

459

 
   

External Factors / Force Majeure

..............................

459

 
   

Extra-PLM

..............................

460

 
   

No Current Shortfall

..............................

460

 
 

MANUFACTURING IN 2025

..............................

461

 
   

Manufacturing Trends

..............................

461

 
   

How Manufacturing Changes

..............................

462

 
   

How Products Change

..............................

466

 
   

Wider Factors

..............................

468

 
 

PLM IN 2025

..............................

470

 
   

Perfection of Current PLM

..............................

470

 
   

New Horizons

..............................

475

 
   

Wider Factors

..............................

484

 

 

Respondents' Views

The last box on the Survey Form invited participants to add their own views to the discussion, without any prompt about what they should say.  Here are a few quotes:-

 

"I cannot help to conclude that PLM is stagnated. The same problems, the same root causes for failure, the same over-complication / conceptualization, and the business strategy disconnection."

 
 

"It is very difficult for our organisation to envisage where our PLM solution providers are spending their resource and what there roadmaps are. There roadmaps only seem to be what they believe will make the most revenue for them in the next 3 quarters and often appear to be 'cool' IT solutions looking for a problem to solve."

 
 

"In general, despite talk of us being in a '4th industrial revolution', PLM is nowhere near that. The practicalities of what PLM managers face are very mundane."

 
 

"At present people in general are 'doing PLM', but in future there should be an organised industrial framework around the various dimensions of PLM. A framework should be in place to help both sides of the user/vendor divide, with an organised approach to investigating the challenges facing different industry streams."

 

Or, to paraphrase perhaps: "A complete overhaul of the PLM approach."

 

Research Direction

The Survey has established the PLM Practitioners' view of the future of manufacturing industry, and the advanced PLM that will be needed to support it. The question therefore remains: "How will the PLM industry organise itself so that this potential is actually achieved?"

The Hype Cycle for emerging technologies is supposed to pass through a Trough of Disillusionment on its way to a Slope of Enlightenment and a Plateau of Productivity.  The Hype Cycle for PLM is stuck in a groove of Cloud and IoT.

The tragedy is that, if the PLM industry does not wake up to this, then this is all that PLM will ever be.

The evidence is clear to see.  For every PLM Citation listed on Google Scholar, and every publication listed on the various PLM Research web sites, there are researchers who have been trying to improve PLM knowledge.  They are fragmented around the world, because the PLM industry does nothing to help them.  And, despite their best efforts, their aspirations are too low.

The ideas in the Academic and Industrial Surveys will need investment, but spending on IoT in 2015 = $500,000,000.  Spending on genuinely advanced PLM research = $0. Is this the way it should be?

The Internet of Things will happen, because the bandwagon now has its own momentum.  If PLM is to rise along a Slope of Enlightenment, then some industry sages need to come together to join the debate about a truly advanced future.  Reading this, you may be one of them.

 

Evolving the PLM-IRF

This paradigm is far more advanced that the original Research SIG activities.  The Research SIG concept was limited by the availability of Funding Calls.  These ideas are limited by human imagination.

A platform is needed that will enable the PLM industry to debate the direction it is taking and apply some effective leadership and cooperation; and then establish a central mechanism to support global research into the most advanced future capabilities of PLM.

This is the driver for the initiative to establish a PLM International Research Foundation.

The PLM-IRF concept puts everything in a new light.  Funding comes from the industry that benefits from it, and research horizons become the limit of what is possible.

 

Read More

The whole story of the PLM-IRF Launch, including the Brussels Meeting and the Industry Survey results, is published in the Compendium of PLM Ideas.

  Compendium  

The Compendium is available in hard copy format on your nearest Amazon site:-

 


 

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