Earlier today on Design News radio, Michael Grieves, PLM author and professor at the Consortium of Universities for International Studies, discussed his vision for next-generation PLM (Product Lifecycle Management). Parts of the conversation drew from his well-known book: Product Lifecycle Management: Driving the Next Generation of Lean Thinking, as well as his more recent publication: Virtually Perfect: Driving Innovation and Lean Products through Product Lifecycle Management.
One of the most interesting parts of the discussion focused on what we can expect to see from the next generation of PLM solutions. Here are the five major trends Grieves identifies:
1. Integrated capabilities – capabilities are becoming more integrated in PLM. An engineering CAD system and a manufacturing simulation system can share information. Design and simulation can feed information to each other. For instance, engineering can integrate finite element analysis with geometry, analysis tools are built-in.
2. Moving further into the lifecycle of a product – PLM is moving further into the lifecycle as it was defined to begin with. Companies are kitting out their products with instruments that can provide real-time feedback on the product as the customer is using it. This will decrease or eliminate the need for surveys and warranty repair data, which has traditionally informed companies how their product is performing.
3. Enabling technologies – “Cloud computing is really the same computing we’ve had,” Grieves says. “We just don’t know where the servers are.” The hardware exists already, but it’s the virtualization that is key. Cloud technology allows organizations to buy software as a service rather than having to worry about putting up a server to service the application. In this respect, Grieves argues, distributive computing changes the model of how software gets sold.
4. Integrating the supply network – PLM has traditionally existed within the four walls of an organization and information tends to get stuck there. Now we are seeing an interest in integrating the supply network within the PLM system, making cloud computing easier. Grieves predicts that this will raise privacy and security concerns, but ultimately these are technological problems which can be worked through and solved.
5. Mobile technology – Grieves gives a great example for this one: what if we could stand next to an airplane and point a mobile at it and it shows us the inside of the plane so we know which access panel to open? Augmented reality has great potential and goes beyond simply looking at information on a screen. Eventually, displaying virtual information on top of a physical object will be the norm.
Has PLM yet to fulfill its original promise? How do you think PLM will change to keep up with emerging technologies and meet the demands of next-generation engineers and manufacturers?