PLM Infrastructure and Smart Engineering
The IT systems referred to by the umbrella term “product lifecycle management” (PLM) play a crucial role when it comes to organizing a product engineering process that is geared to innovation. The PLM world, which has expanded greatly in recent years, is therefore a natural and powerful instrument for achieving the goals associated with Smart Engineering and Industry 4.0. PLM has a vital role to play in the digitalization of value chains and the implementation of smarter engineering processes.
Are existing PLM infrastructures adequate for meeting the new challenges?
What extensions are suitable and make sense?
What PLM architectures and technologies are best suited for this?
If you look at today‘s development processes with a view to the challenges posed by Smart Engineering, you will see that mechanical, electrical/electronic and software development at many companies is still rooted in different organizational units. This often means that the same tasks, such as change management or functional modeling, for example, are performed using different IT systems in different processes.
This wide range of systems, in particular, is a challenge for which modern PLM concepts provide solutions. It is, however, important that the right course be taken and that the approach best suited to the individual circumstances be selected when designing the architecture.
In general, we need strategic approaches which, where possible, reduce the complexity of the PLM architecture and make the dynamics of the changes involved in the restructuring manageable. They should also be capable of dealing with fuzzy future requirements and other terms of reference.
It can be assumed that process innovations will result in a significant increase in efficiency when developing, manufacturing and servicing smart products. If these opportunities are to be exploited and, at the same time, the risks minimized, the aim of creating new and more efficient PLM processes should be approached step-by-step and on an iterative basis.
The following strategic PLM-related subject areas have been identified as areas of activity (see Figure 2):
- Agile processes and modular PLM architectures
- Integration of ALM, PDM and ERP systems
- Systems Engineering and Model-based Systems Engineering
- Interdisciplinary variant, configuration and change management
- Collaborative PLM processes
- Implementation of the digital master model
Existing PLM solutions cannot be used to address these areas of activity or only with a high level of implementation and administrative overhead. Most PLM experts agree that what we need are federated systems with a modular and open architecture. A modular, multilayered architecture allows data to be linked across different systems.
The creation of a digital workspace, which provides every user with the information and functions they need to perform their respective task in a uniform user interface, is a key prerequisite for making the growing complexity of the systems and processes involved in the interdisciplinary development of smart products manageable. Intelligent algorithms provide support here and allow fast, personalized access to information via role-based graphical user interfaces.