In enterprise grade applications and specifically in product data management, the main focus of PLM vendors was about how to manage CAD files and optimizing check-in/check-out process , managing BoM , process control and measurement. This was mainly driven by the scientific discipline of “Knowledge management” (This term appeared in early 1990s) which was to use software to manage knowledge base , decision support systems and other joined efforts. But most PLM systems failed to deliver anything beyond data records which are yet to be discovered, analyzed and connected.

Forbes article – How Artificial Intelligence Is Revolutionizing Enterprise Software is a good reminder that AI and ML is coming to enterprise space and we better get prepared how not to miss that opportunity.

We can classify manufacturing environment according to 3 main types – Make to stock (or build to stock), Assembly (Configure) to order and Make (Engineer) to order sometime called Build-to-order. These three types of manufacturing environments can bring different challenges for product lifecycle management and require different functions and capabilities. There has been a lot of research by PLM vendors in terms of how lifecycle of a BoM across product lifecycle can be done. There has been a lot of trial and error going on in the space of product configuration or variant management as well.

However, as futuristic it may sound, all the development across AI and learning space has made me think about future intersection of PLM and AI platforms. Manufacturing is becoming more connected these days. The relationships between OEMs and suppliers, contractors, different product configurations, demand, global manufacturing, etc. All together is a potential grid of information and options that cannot be digested and optimized by a human mind. There is a demand for “intelligent” platforms capable to make analysis and help people to make decisions. It is a moonshot, but I believe there will be a time where “intelligent” PLM system will be able to suggest/prescribe entire BoM structure along with possible involved people along the lifecycle. Just my thoughts…

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