For PLM, a New ‘Cycle of Life’

HAWTHORNE, N.Y. — IBM  is launching a new framework to help
companies better link product design and development to core business

The Product Development Integration Framework (PDIF) will make use of Big
Blue’s many assets, from services to business process and product data
management applications developed internally and through acquisitions, all tied together using an SOA  technology platform.

Walter Donaldson, general manager of IBM’s product lifecycle management
(PLM) software group, explained that companies have recognized that they
need to innovate and differentiate their products in order to succeed in a
global economy.

“This is not a nice to solve problem anymore. This is not a new problem, but
what’s relevant now is they can no longer not solve the problem. It has
become mission critical,” he said.

To do this, manufacturers have to create an ecosystem that allows them to
capture and make use of data in ways that inform all aspects of the

“The product lifecycle process takes into account all the processes needed
to make anything,” he told PDIF “redefines the
manufacturing industry and is revolutionizing how manufacturing companies do

According to Donaldson, IBM has 40 customers who want to put this framework
in place within the next six months.

The idea is to elevate PLM from the shop floor to the executive suites by
integrating and correlating data gleaned from every part of the design,
production and after-sales process to generate innovation and top-line

For instance, part and serial numbers scanned into a workflow application at
an automobile dealership can be used to help engineers find an inexpensive
repair for a chronic problem and redesign a part for future versions of the
product. That same information can be used in a variety of enterprise
systems, such as inventory management or warranty tracking.

Engineers at IBM’s Watson Research Center here also showed how the PDIF
framework can be used to allow multiple parties to view and manipulate 3-D
design models simultaneously.

Tom Hawk, general manager of the industrial sector for IBM, called PDIF a
“rallying cry” for industry.

PDIF is “the most important announcement that IBM has ever made in the PLM
space,” he said.

According to Chae An, general manager and director of IBM software
industrial sector applications, PDIF will shorten product development cycle
times by improving collaboration between companies across complex supply
chains, including development and manufacturing partners.

It will also increase opportunities for innovation by providing access to
product information distributed among disparate point applications and
enterprise repositories and help make use of existing product development
data by federating product data wherever it exists in a heterogeneous,
multi-vendor systems.

The Armonk, New York-based hardware, software and services giant has also
roped in eight leading vendors of PLM applications who have promised to
work on standards-based applications or connectors to ensure that customers
can all the tools they need without worrying about interoperability.

IBM is asking other vendors to join charter PDIF participants Agile Software
, Centric Software, Engineous Software, Geometric
Software Solutions, MSC Software , PROSTEP, PTC and UGS.

PDIF fits with IBM’s strategy of using SOA to link its various products and
services. It’s being designed to leverage all of IBM’s software brands, including Websphere, Rational and Tivoli.

That being said, several analysts noted that IBM might have trouble selling

Ulrich Sendler of Sendler Circle consulting in Munich, Germany, told that the framework is “game-changing, but I won’t
call it PLM.”

Richard Ptak, principal analyst with Ptak, Noel & Associates, also noted
that the term “lifecycle” in PLM implies there’s a termination point,
whereas IBM is talking about an ongoing virtuous cycle of continuous

“It’s more a cycle of life,” Ptak said, adding that we’re likely to hear a lot more about PLM and PDIF from IBM in the next twelve months.

“They’ve glommed onto this lifecycle thing and they’re trying to push it
through the [IBM] organization… It’s going to be one of their initiatives
for 2007.”

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