The PLM State: The Shift is about to Hit the Fan

i-am-movieIf you see one movie this year, watch Tom Shadyak’s documentary, “I AM”. Tom set out to discover what is wrong with the world and ended up discovering what is right with the world. Click the link to the film’s web site if you want some background.

It’s in part a story of connectedness and cooperation as a strategy. Darwin’s theory included cooperation and being connected, as an optimal survival strategy for certain species. So what does this have to do with Product Data Management (PDM) and Product Lifecycle Management( PLM)? Well, sticking with the theme of my previous blogs, which is helping educate people in the SolidWorks community regarding setting up a good product data management infrastructure, the relation is this:

For the more sophisticated SolidWorks community companies that require a corporate PLM system, having Enterprise PDM manage their SW CAD Data in a “cooperative” manner with the PLM system, by having EPDM “connected” to PLM, can deliver better business value than a one winner, PLM system, for managing all the CAD data as well as all the other Product Data documentation.

An open PLM system, that embraces departmental PDM for MCAD, has strategic advantages and this approach teaches each vendor to be cooperative, which in the long run, creates better overall product life cycle systems for today’s interconnected companies. Think acquisition, and you will get what I am referring too.

There are a couple of somewhat technical fundamental reasons why this cooperation is worth the effort. Here they are:

Reason #1


EPDM is a file based Product data management system, not an Item based one like most PLM systems. Most engineering departments and we are talking about the people here, find it easier to work with files at the engineering development level. They know files and are comfortable with that paradigm- It’s the Microsoft files and folders paradigm. The SolidWorks CAD user is comfortable with the MS Windows user experience and that is exactly what EPDM delivers- the PDM vault is just an extension of Windows explorer so engineers and designers can adopt PDM controls with minimal disruption.

The other piece of this file/item paradigm is process related. As much as management would like the whole product structure laid out in items before development begins, in the real world, and especially in the SW community, this just does not happen! The whole process at the engineering level is too fluid and messy and chaotic for that upfront structure to be worth the time.

For example, an engineer would sarcastically say, “I know, let’s spend 2 weeks setting up the product item structure, only to have the customer, or marketing, or management, throw us 7 curve balls that change everything so that the upfront work was a complete waste of time!” Welcome to the real world of product development. I do get that there are companies (and some design cultures) with development processes that are so ridged and structured that upfront items work- in that case, I would seriously look at managing CAD with the PLM tool, or even an ERP system with a dab of PLM in it.

Reason #2


The second fundamental reason is that EPDM is in sync with SW CAD releases and maybe more importantly, is in sync with SW CAD development in Concord MA. Having the product data management system, owned by the CAD authoring tool developer, is a big cooperative advantage. You have long term stability and assurance that SW corporation will develop CAD functionality with EPDM capability in mind. Keep in mind this reason applies to associative 3D CAD tools, not AutoCAD 2d. Managing AutoCAD 2d can be done by almost any PDM and EPDM happens to do this very well.



A FILE based PDM, owned by the CAD authoring tool, cooperating and connecting to the ITEM based PLM system, is a better way to go for most SW community companies that require a full blown PLM tool like Agile, Enovia, Team Center or Windchill for their company business processes. Supporting this conclusion is the pricing model, in terms of cost of ownership. EPDM license (floating vs PLM named user) and subscription price/performance is superior to SW CAD management offerings from PLM companies when considering installation, set up, and administration. Also, because of the integration between EPDM and PLM, you can roll to new SolidWorks CAD releases with a simple EPDM upgrade without having to migrate your whole PLM backbone at the same time- PLM migration alone can cost you 10’s of thousands of dollars per migration.

As Tom points out in his movie, humans are actually wired for cooperation and connecting, we have just been inundated with extreme competitive training to be #1 and thus our cooperative skills are less developed than they should be at this point in our evolution. It appears to me that cooperating and connecting can lead to increased human lifecycle value and perhaps, if you architect the right system, the same cooperation and connection can lead to increased product lifecycle value, a better system adoption by people, quicker time to value, and many times, connecting EPDM to PLM is less expensive!

[Edit: Repost from 2011]

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