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(EN) PLE: do we really need another acronym in PLM?

  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Very often we have the tendency to complicate things. We believe that sophistication means results and intelligence but it doesn’t. More information, options, productions, acronyms is not better. In fact, more information and complexity can make people disengage.

    PLM has the tendency to over complication. Tons of acronyms and articles are spent to explain the domain, processes, terminology and form an agreement about the domain and functions customers are expecting to support. You might thing, more discussion about terminology can bring a clarify. Actually not – audience can miss you entirely.

    In the past I wrote about buzzwords few times. Here are links to list of blogs tagged with buzzwords  and complexity in PLM. It is hard and confusing.

    But buzzwords and acronyms in PLM are not stopping to surprise. My recent finding in the ocean of PLM complexity is… another acronym – PLE, which stands for Product Line Engineering. The topic was introduced to me by Engineering.com article. Not only it introduces new concept PLE, but also claims to be a root for another acronym digital twin. The last one is also hugely overloaded term. Here is a short definition provided by article.

    While PDM aims to manage a product and all of its associated information and PLM manages that product across its lifecycle, PLE streamlines the management of product variation across an entire product line, and across an enterprise. And, whereas PDM and PLM are needed to manage the digital side of the digital twin, PLE is, in some ways, the place where that twin is born.That’s a strange thing to say, but it’s also an interesting perspective on both the concept of the digital twin and PLE.

    This passage left me confused. I understood that PLE is not PLM. But what is PLE? Article is interviewing Dr. Charles Krueger, CEO of BigLever, a PLE company. According to the article customers of BigLever are Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, unknown automotive manufacturing.

    Using the company’s Gears PLE Lifecycle Framework, users can select which features (referred to as a bill of features, or BOF) will be assigned to a given product within a family. Once selected, the digital assets associated with those features will automatically be included in that product. These include assets like requirement management, design models,bill of materials (BOM), software source code, user documents, test cases, calibration data, certification documents, and more.

    This passage made me even more confused. Digital assets and bill of features combining requirements, models, BOMs software code, documents, test cases, etc. All these relationships are managed in any product development organization and if an organization is using PLM system, I’d expect PLM system to define product configuration with a specific list of requirements leading to a specific BOM.

    The role of an additional system layer is clear and important – to define what elements of product information are required for a specific configuration. I’d imagining data relationships in PLM system defining relationships between systems, features, items and documents.

    What is my conclusion? The functionality explained in the article is absolutely important for complex configurable product development. A comprehensive and robust PLM system should be able to define rich model capable to hold all things together. However, an additional terminology – digital twin, PLE, BOF, etc. look as something not adding a specific value. As a potential customer, I’d be concerned what system I need – PLM? PLE? anything else? What is a difference between configuration, BOM, BOF? I can see a clear need for simplification in a modern system of tools for engineering and manufacturing. An introduction of additional layers, acronyms and definitions won’t help to improve product development and streamline processes. Just my thoughts…

    Best, Oleg

    Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

    Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.