PLM Modernization Linked to Digital Transformation Success

CIMdata study charges that deferred PLM upgrades delay time-to-value and inhibit digital-era business strategies.

CIMdata study charges that deferred PLM upgrades delay time-to-value and inhibit digital-era business strategies.

Product companies across sectors are all-in on digital transformation. Yet too many are entrusting their next-generation business strategies to outdated PLM platforms that are ill-equipped to deliver the flexibility and agility required for digital-era processes.

The PLM upgrade study, conducted by CIMdata and sponsored by Aras, found that staying current on modern PLM platforms can be difficult given  strained budgets and enterprise inertia. Yet doing the work to avoid PLM obsolescence is a must to maximize ROI and maintain the agility required to execute on modernizing product development and sourcing strategies.

“Organizations are striving for a digital transformation—one that applies digital technologies in new ways,” the report read. “This is more than just digitizing documents and other information. It’s a new method of working—leveraging digital technologies and applications to transform how the company operates and how it manages and leverages its product information.”

PLM, CIMdata contends, is a critical component for fulfilling those digitalization strategies, yet even as companies move forward, they are held back by old, highly customized PLM environments that are difficult and expensive to upgrade. Consider the example of multi-BOM, an emerging trend among manufacturers now integrating Engineering Bill of Materials, Manufacturing BOM, and Service BOM. “The transformation must be enabled by the appropriate supporting configuration management capabilities, a capability now added to recent releases of many of the PLM enabling solutions,” says Tom Gill, Practice Manager, PLM Enterprise Value & Integration, at CIMdata, adding that a significant benefit from this new feature is the ability to perform change impact analysis across design, manufacturing, and services processes. “Doing this upfront can dramatically improve a change process, but if an older release without multi-BOM capabilities is being used then the impact analysis will take more effort and be less reliable.”

To ensure resiliency and upgradeability, customers should be looking for PLM platforms that have stable and complete APIs and webservices, support standards, and incorporate a robust integrated development environment (IDE). A DevOps pipeline to manage code and supported automated testing is helpful as well, Gill says. “Good governance that ensures that customizations are only done when the business case works is critical,” he adds.

Here’s a look at survey highlights:

Shorter upgrade cycles mean faster time to value. Companies leveraging cloud-based PLM platforms like Aras were more likely to upgrade compared to other leading PLM platforms. Nearly half (47%) of Aras respondents upgraded PLM within the last six months and 71% within the last two years. In comparison, the average upgrade cycle for competitors was 10% within six months and 32% within two years. “What was somewhat surprising is the number of implementations that had not been upgraded in the last decade,” the CIMdata report found, speculating that one reason might be the high levels of customization done by early adopters. “Often this type of implementation is a subset of a larger PLM implementation where another solution suite supports additional PLM capability.”

Upgrade complexity encourages complacency. The more customizations to a PLM platform, the more likely companies are to leave it in place, despite the benefits of modern PLM. The survey found upgrade complacency more prevalent among older PLM implementations, a factor it attributed to early adopters leaning more on customization to meet requirements.

Code changes that need to be made to update a customized solution require complex programming and extensive testing. As a result, companies with highly customized PLM implementations are more likely to carry that technical debt forward, which adds to upgrade complexity and hesitancy. The CIMdata view, according to the report, is that while customizations can add significant value to PLM implementations, they should be business or cost-justified and should deliver appropriate ROI over the long term. Moving forward, companies should strive to be more out-of-box with PLM implementations, the report found.

The bottom line: The CIMdata report contends that companies need up-to-date tools that fully exploit the latest capabilities to drive digital transformation. Therefore, they need to lessen reliance on bespoke customizations and migrate towards PLM platforms that focus on resiliency and continuous improvement.

“When evaluating modern alternatives, companies need to have a deep understanding of what they want to do (i.e., strategy),” Gill explains. “They also need a structured evaluation process to ensure the right criteria are used to evaluate the solution and ensure it can satisfy short-, mid-, and long-term objectives.”

This video provides more details on PLM and digital transformation enabled by Aras cloud.

More CIMdata Coverage

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About the Author

Beth Stackpole's avatar
Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to [email protected].

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