June, 2016

Back to the Future for CM in PLM?

Configuration Management (CM) is an important function that has often been used to justify investment in PLM by industry.  Ironically, however, CM was often not deployed until near the end of many enterprise-wide implementations that often consumed years of planning, budget, and execution.  This is now changing as CM undergoes a renaissance amid shifting industry expectations, new technology enablers, and accelerating market trends.

One of those trends is the “platformization” of PLM, which is renewing the demand for lower cost, rapidly deployable best-in-class solutions addressing specific functions within a PLM system architecture.  These solutions include CM software tools focused on meeting the exact needs of specific user roles within select industries. Some market analysts are even predicting the dis-integration of monolithic, enterprise PLM solution stacks from a single provider into a federated platform of interoperating applicationsIf this comes to pass, it will likely result in a more open, affordable, and dynamically adapting ecosystem of software and service partners.

At CMstat we are now seeing the impact of this clearly.  We are receiving a growing number of inquiries about CM from companies in the supply or service chains of programs or products that are expected to operate in the field for years if not decades.  These firms come to us seeking more cost effective alternatives than investing in engineering CAD-centric PDM solutions, especially when they may only need a subset of PLM capabilities to deliver their contract work which often spread across many OEM customers.

We recently published the new whitepaper Nimble Configuration Management for the Contract Supply and Service Chain  which explores how the requirements of CM for the contract supply and service industries are different than those of new-product development and engineering organizations.  As the paper explains, managing the configuration of the as-deployed, as‐serviced, as‐repaired, and even as‐retired asset “downstream” in the field requires a different set of professional skills and software tools than what is needed in engineering and production of the as-designed and as-manufactured product.

Tracking the changes to product configurations—or to the contract data deliverables that document a complex product or an entire system or network of assets—is critical for industries like aerospace and defense (A&D) where many changes to the “as-built” configuration are made and tracked by supply and service-chain partners over its useful life. These changes are often made long after the product has left the OEM’s production floor, and even longer after the data and documents defining the original product configuration were first entered into the OEM’s digital PDM vault.

Over the next few months in the CMsights™ blog we will explore the evolving role and importance of CM—both inside and outside of traditional PLM architectures—in managing long-life product configurations. We will examine the most frequent questions CMstat has heard from customers over the years as well as the most desirable characteristics of software tools for the CM professional.