PLM has grown to encompass all of the processes and software involved in the creation and control of data associated with a product, from inception through to the end of production. The automotive industry - a leader in taking advantage of PLM to embrace the whole product development, manufacture and after-market cycle - epitomises the pressures that will drive major changes in PLM processes and technologies in the next few years. Cambashi's recent PLM research has been looking specifically at those pressures, which can be summarized as:
• Growing supply chain complexity. The global landscape and shifts in target markets is forcing automotive OEMs and tier one suppliers to re-evaluate their supply chains. They must serve new geographies, mitigate soaring material and energy costs, manage the risk of disruption caused by natural disasters and accommodate rapidly rising labour costs in emerging markets. To develop efficient, flexible supply chains these companies realize that a key success factor is driving adoption of supporting technologies, including PLM, throughout the supply network. The challenge for the PLM vendors is to provide solutions with the necessary scalability, modularization and global access.
• Embedded software. The increasing prevalence of software as a product "component" presents new challenges for PLM technologies. A new vehicle now has over 100 processors and several million lines of code. Previously, good integration between PLM and software lifecycle management software was adequate. The growing interdependence between software and the physical aspects of the product makes a holistic approach necessary. Early in the development effort, the relationship between a mechanism and the associated software for a particular function may not be fully determined and this relationship might change over the life of the vehicle. The physical components of today's products are designed using mechanical CAD products, but in some design teams as much time is now spent on software engineering as on the other disciplines.
• De-siloing of applications. Ten years ago, we talked about the four pillars of enterprise applications: enterprise resource planning; customer relationship management; supply chain management; and product lifecycle management. These were underpinned by manufacturing operations applications like manufacturing execution systems. The transformation of enterprises into industry networks requires increasingly responsive and flexible intra-enterprise and inter-enterprise information exchange. New information flows needed to support these evolving business networks will challenge today's PLM, CRM, ERP, SCM and MES categories. Merger and acquisition activity and in-house development have already given all the larger enterprise applications developers wider portfolios than their original focus. The pace of "cross-category" evolution will only increase.
The immediate future promises to be an exciting period for the PLM industry. Existing leaders (Dassault, PTC, Siemens) will continue to enhance and extend their solutions. Many smaller companies will introduce exciting new technologies. To achieve the PLM scalability, functional coverage and reach to support wide-ranging business networks, we expect suppliers to exploit generic functional components, data management and exchange mechanisms as well as advanced user interface technologies available "off the shelf" to drive web-, cloud- and mobile-based capabilities.
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