For more than twenty years, there have been dozens—if not hundreds—of enterprise-level cloud-based software solutions designed to support various aspects of an organization’s data and process management needs. Some have been focused on resource management, others on customer relationship management, and a select few have been designed to support an enterprise’s product data and lifecycle management requirements.
The adoption of product lifecycle management (PLM) on the cloud has been much slower than in other enterprise software domains. To better understand why CIMdata performed a substantial research project on the topic and published its findings in early 2018.1 The underlining premise and question of the research were that the cloud is clearly taking over other enterprise application segments. Still, cloud-based PLM solutions are not yet widely adopted.
Why is that?
CIMdata’s research report concluded that “…while we did not see anything different about PLM on the cloud vs other enterprise applications, we did see that…cloud adoption in PLM could be poised for significant growth.”
Overall, CIMdata believes that cloud deployment can simplify PLM solution implementation and operations, improve IP security and make some forms of collaboration easier. However, as noted in the research report, “…these benefits come at a cost recognized by the survey respondents: integration can be more difficult and, in some ways, more complex.”
This is because “…there is a significant intellectual property managed by existing data and process management solutions that must be fully leveraged by cloud-based offerings, demanding effective integration.”
Fortunately, the number of solution providers addressing this issue has increased over the last several years. Today, CIMdata believes there are a critical mass of new cloud-based, enhanced and modern PLM solutions. Given the number of industrial companies requesting cloud-based enablement, the number of solutions now available and the amount of cloud-related investment being made by the major PLM solution providers, it appears we have reached the tipping point.
Defining a Modern Cloud-Based PLM Solution
A modern cloud-based PLM solution must be built on a flexible, adaptable and scalable architecture that enables an enterprise to easily adapt the technology, data and supporting applications and business process-enabling capabilities to meet an organization’s changing needs. It is also important that it enables an open ecosystem including a host of third-party business systems, applications, partners and connected devices, whether run on-premise, in the cloud or at the edge.
Such open ecosystem capability is required to enable the implementation of a true end-to-end lifecycle digital thread and a comprehensive, actionable product-oriented digital twin.
- A digital thread is a communication framework that connects data flows, which can be used to produce an integrated, holistic view of an asset’s data from physical and virtual systems (i.e., its digital twin) throughout its lifecycle across traditionally siloed functional perspectives.
- A digital twin is a virtual representation (i.e., digital surrogate) of a physical asset or collection of physical assets (i.e., physical twin) that exploits data flow to/from the associated physical asset(s) and continually evolving as it accompanies its real-world physical companion throughout its lifecycle.
Modern cloud-based PLM solutions allow companies to deploy and scale—in capability, locations and user count—as demand dictates. Other important characteristics of modern cloud-based PLM solutions include enabling fast startup and ease of onboarding so that organizations (and their users) can get up and running quickly. Since business needs continually evolve, a modern cloud-based solution must provide the ability to easily and rapidly scale at the pace the business requires.
Additionally, an effective and modern cloud-based PLM solution (or platform) provides easy-to-use applications and solutions that solve both simple and complex problems, as well as address various business problems as they evolve. They can also be personalized or tailored to corporate, business unit, specific functional domains and individuals to deliver consistent, contextually relevant user experiences, all while enforcing appropriate standards throughout the extended enterprise.
Finally, modern cloud-based PLM platforms can be used to enable an environment that fosters product and process innovation that best satisfies the organization’s current and future PLM platform requirements. Such PLM platforms allow an organization to implement and scale over time in a flexible, affordable and agile manner.
Last but not least, a cloud-based PLM platform hosted and managed by a PLM solution provider (i.e., SaaS-delivered solution), which leverages major cloud infrastructures (e.g., AWS and Azure), ensures security and data loss prevention. This type of hosted and supported environment removes much of the expense and complexities of managing a company’s own on-premise deployment, as well as providing the appropriate support when needed.
Ultimately, all of this can be used to support an end-to-end digital environment where users have secure access to the data they need when they need it—all at a predictable price.
An Industry Example
Other than a few PLM solutions that were developed as cloud-based solutions from their inception, many of today’s successful solutions have a long track record of an on-premise deployment. Some of these solutions have technological, architectural and/or conceptual roots dating back to the era when UNIX and even VAX computers were the mainstays of engineering departments and their computing needs.
For the most successful solutions (i.e., those that have had a long useful life), their providers have been able to stay with or ahead of the technology curve-enhancing, evolving, rearchitecting and upgrading their solution and customer base multiple times over the years.
One such company that has been able to do this consistently is Siemens Digital Industries Software (“Siemens”). Siemens AG, Siemens’ parent company, acquired UGS to form much of Siemens’ foundation—with billions more spent since then on acquiring and integrating multiple companies, including CD-adapco, Mendix and Mentor Graphics, which make up today’s Siemens and their numerous solutions. Most notably, Siemens has a long track record of integrating and evolving their core PLM data and process management platform, Teamcenter.
Today’s Teamcenter has its roots primarily in two product data management (PDM) solutions—Information Manager (iMan) from UGS and SDRC’s Metaphase, which was originally developed by a joint venture between SDRC and Control Data. These two proven PDM solutions were merged, integrated and significantly rearchitected into what was called the Teamcenter Unified platform circa 2005.
Of course, Siemens did not stop there but has continued to evolve and enhance their solution, including re-architecting Teamcenter over the years into what is available today. For Siemens, their continuous innovation approach—one where their solutions evolve and allow customers to move forward when they are ready—has provided flexibility to their large installed base without leaving anyone behind. Siemens recently announced their next-generation Teamcenter solution, Teamcenter X.
It is important to note that Teamcenter X isn’t simply hosted Teamcenter, but rather a new SaaS cloud-based Teamcenter implementation. With Teamcenter X, Siemens has made available a new architecture and microservice framework that can be leveraged by current on-premise Teamcenter customers, as well as new cloud-based ones.
One such cloud-based service example is Siemens’ new product configurator that is also accessible from their Capital solution. Siemens has also architected Teamcenter X to run in a mixed on-premise/cloud hybrid environment. This permits customers to migrate to the cloud and scale their implementation in the cloud if, when and at the pace that is best for them. Additionally, and something that is often overlooked, this architecture allows an on-premise only option to existing that is critical for certain industries, especially those involved with the defence industry or with extreme environment configuration traceability requirements.
Teamcenter X was built using industrial components from Siemens’ Mendix low-code application development and cloud platform. This is important because as new industrial components are added to the Mendix platform, they are available to Teamcenter X and its customer base. Additionally, Teamcenter X customers can work with Siemens to use the Mendix platform and its microservices to create their own unique business applications, as well as integrations that support an open ecosystem across their extended enterprise.
Teamcenter X was designed to provide instant-on PLM capabilities that leverage built-in and simple to deploy and consume use cases. This approach should ease the onboarding of users, as well as help smooth PLM adoption, thereby increasing the chance of implementation success. Teamcenter X shares technology and a common code base with Teamcenter, but extends it using multitenant services.
Additionally, Siemens is providing a full suite of managed Teamcenter X-related services, where they take care of all software and hardware requirements, operations, maintenance and upgrades. Siemens also provides Teamcenter X customers access to training and consultation to ensure that users have everything they need to get up and running quickly and successfully.
Siemens offers functional and domain-specific packaged solutions for Teamcenter X that incorporate best practices based on years of industry experience. These solutions contain preconfigured capabilities, such as workflows, pre-defined user groups and roles, and CAD integrations that are intended to simplify PLM without reducing the ability to address complex issues as PLM use grows and evolves within a company. At any time, customers can opt to add-in more Teamcenter X business and engineering solutions (e.g., Program Planning, Schedule Manager, Product Configurator and Requirements Management) to fit new or evolving functional needs.
Finally, it is important to emphasize that Teamcenter X is Teamcenter, a proven solution for enabling companies to create and manage the digital product lifecycle management environment. It is an environment that has been proven to enable an end-to-end digital thread that connects data flows across traditionally siloed business functions that are used to produce an integrated and holistic view of an asset’s data from physical and virtual systems (i.e., its digital twin).
Furthermore, Teamcenter X can support a comprehensive digital twin strategy by managing electrical, mechanical and software components of a product in a single, multi-domain product structure. Last but not least, Teamcenter X was designed to enable companies to create and maintain a complete digital representation of its product, production and service operations using Siemens tools along with other best-of-breed applications due to its open ecosystem and extensive integration capabilities.
While the availability and adoption of cloud-based PLM solutions have been slow, CIMdata’s experience working with industrial companies around the world suggests that these companies are increasingly ready to invest in cloud-based PLM. This interest can today be served by what appears to be a critical mass of robust cloud-based solutions. This combination of demand and ready supply clearly suggests that we are at the tipping point of cloud-delivered PLM.
Cloud-based solutions are gaining momentum and are more capable than ever. Teamcenter X is an excellent example of how Siemens has continued to develop, enhance and evolve its core PLM solution in a manner that allows their customers to address their PLM needs openly and flexibly. At their pace, to fit best with their IT and business environment, and not the “one way fits all” myth proffered by others. As a cloud-based SaaS solution, Teamcenter X delivers the modern PLM capabilities expected and demanded by small to large enterprises.
CIMdata believes Teamcenter X offers qualities that align with SaaS-delivered PLM:
- Reduce the capital cost of running the solution by eliminating on-premise IT infrastructure and administrative costs.
- Provide the flexibility to make quick changes to business process enablement to respond to business strategy and model changes necessitated by evolving competitive pressures and market demands.
- Enable a company to scale its deployment as quickly and when needed, lowering costs and the risk of not having support.
- Expand the PLM market to include more industrial companies who don’t have the IT staff, funding or requirements to take on a large-scale PLM project, but need to grow their PLM solution as their business requirements grow and expand.
- Operate their PLM environment in the cloud without sacrificing functionality and critical extensions to PLM that early SaaS attempts lacked.
For CIMdata, who has been defining and following the PLM industry for more than three decades, we take note that it has been more than 20 years since the Dot-com era when its SaaS delivery model began. Finally, PLM appears to be more than ready to embrace it.
Don’t hesitate to contact Thanh for advice on automation solutions for CAD / CAM / CAE / PLM / ERP / IT systems exclusively for SMEs.
Luu Phan Thanh (Tyler) Solutions Consultant at PLM Ecosystem Mobile +84 976 099 099
Web www.plmes.io Email email@example.com