A sexy version of ugly PLM customizations?
In my earlier article about Low code platforms, I discussed what is the opportunity to bring low code capability to the PLM domain. Low code is an interesting trend. Behind sexy names, you can see interesting application development platforms, the ability to customize data appearance, and business logic. Low code platforms solve the problem of mobile applications getting access to legacy data and a simplified experience. Low code became a sexy name to bring technologies to combine data and business logic into re-usable applications. Inside, the technique and tools are not much different from web application development, enterprise integration platform, workflow builders, and cloud delivery platforms.
Fundamentally, the low code gives you a better way for development teams and especially to implementation teams to tweak and customize the behaviors of applications to the customer needs. This of course raises the question of how it connects to what for years was known as the demand for flexibility and customization in PLM.
PLM Low code platforms – between business process and enterprise systems?
Gartner’s list gives you a good perspective on available low-code platforms. It is interesting to see the roots of these platforms. Some of them are coming from the space that was known as Business Process Management (or workflow applications). At the same time, you can see also enterprise systems, document management systems, and some others.
In a nutshell, a Low-code platform is a collection of tools and features that enables the development (visual and code) of applications through data modeling and graphic user interface. Usually, the low code enables developers to skip coding, speeding up the process of getting an application to production.
PLM vendors were sensitive to the trend, therefore for the last few years, we’ve seen substantial interest in marketing, development, and M&A activities around low code platforms and PLM systems.
In my view, an example of a PLM system positioned as ‘low-code’ can be what the Aras Low Code platform is presenting. Another, probably more advanced low code platform is Mendix, whose acquisition by Siemens Industrial Software was an interesting moment for the PLM industry.
Mendix Platform and BOM applications
I attended a webinar organized by Mendix – Plan for Every Part. The webinar speaks about Mendix’s low code application focusing on viewing and retrieving complex BOMs. Here is the passage about why the application was created.
Early in the development process, a large amount of newly introduced parts, not yet under contract, need to be carefully managed. It’s possible to build and use an app to overcome this challenge. This webinar will introduce the low-code applicability across manufacturing organizations. You will also learn more about the Mendix app – Plan for Every Part – and how it supports the requirements of viewing and retrieving the large BoM.
You can watch the video of the app here.
I found it interesting to see how the problem which is typical for every enterprise manufacturing organization is supported by a component that “smells, looks and feels like Siemens Teamcenter PLM”, but they are actually not.
I can see it as a trend towards future PLM customization – to deliver tools and capabilities of PLM platform to provide such custom applications. At the same time, I believe SaaS platforms will provide LCAP capabilities after some time.
However, the ultimate question is about how to make low code delivered as a SaaS to make it available to remote developers and a broad spectrum of customers.
What is my conclusion?
Low code development and platforms provide an interesting perspective on how to develop new applications (or capabilities) in the PLM platform to make it a rich PDM/PLM environment. The ease of use and ability to have many modules using flexible build features can be useful things to deliver PLM customization. At the same time, the absence of ready-to-go components can bring slowness in development and ROI. Another big question is about low code and SaaS. But this is in my next article. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital cloud-native PLM platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.