PLM standards and qualifications

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John Stark Associates                                                                                                                                                         December 7, 2009 - Vol12 #19

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PLM Industry Standards and Qualifications

By Roger Tempest


In February and March of this year, 2PLM considered the knowledge, skills and experience that are required to run a successful PLM team. 

The February 16 issue noted that: "So much has been written about PLM that it may seem strange to suggest that we do not know much about it. However, if you step back and ask: 'What exactly do we know?', then some surprising gaps in our knowledge are revealed." "What we need is formalised PLM knowledge that is out in the open, where everyone can refer to and use it. It does not need to be encyclopaedic, nor to supersede anything that already exists. Rather, it needs to be concise, neutral, well-written, and to cross-reference easily with other sources." 

The March 16 issue continued: "For the PLM Team, the more successful they are, the more their workload increases. The scope of PLM is so wide, and the technical issues are so complex, that most are working on only a subset of the projects that they know are needed by their business." "To make life easier for the PLM Team [...] the work needs to be actioned more effectively so that it can be done with less effort." 

Factor this into large corporations where the PLM Team may consist of 50 or 100 people, and it leads to a massive amount of wasted effort. The PLM industry really needs common metrics, standards and reference models so that everyone can be sure what is the most effective way of moving forward. 

A good analogy for PLM standards is the game of chess. Like PLM, chess is extremely complex, presenting the players with many different possible moves at any point in the game. However, in chess, experience has shown that there are some ways of developing a game that produce far more predictable and satisfactory results. These have become the standard openings and defences, such as Ruy Lopez, Giuoco Piano or the King's Indian Defence. The players are not required to follow the openings exactly, but they know when they are deviating from the norm and can have a good idea of what the possible consequences of that might be. 

PLM standards need to have the same practicality and flexibility. They need to be:

  • structured around the common activities of adoption and implementation
  • relevant and accurate enough to be a practical guide
  • based on standard metrics and methods
  • agreed across all parts of the PLM industry
  • assessed and maintained by a formally-approved industry body

It is clear from this that identifying what the standards should be is only the start. The PLM industry needs to become far more self-aware and cooperative if standards are ever to be developed. If PLM is to be taken seriously by the business world at large, then this change is long overdue. 

Almost every other business function or profession (management, project management, quality, engineering, purchasing, supply chain - the list is extensive) has its own industry body, its own professional standards, and its own qualifications. The PLM industry should be no exception. 

PLM standards lead to more effective working and the possibility of "right first time" implementations. PLM qualifications lead to professional recognition, and an enhanced career path for PLM specialists. 

In order to develop standards and qualifications, the PLM industry will have to get organised. There will need to be meetings to propose, define and agree the standards. There will need to be collaboration to establish exactly which roles, skills and knowledge will be embodied within the qualifications. There will need to be international cooperation to align the standards across countries and regions. Furthermore, there will need to be a new industry grouping of professional experts from PLM organisations that will act as the appraising authority. 

The issues concerning standards and qualifications are covered in more detail in the Q4 issue of the PLM Journal, and the PLMIG may start the discussion process by holding meetings in the New Year. 

Roger Tempest is co-founder of the PLMIG. The PLMIG would welcome your views or suggestions for PLM standards or qualifications, via






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 Product Lifecycle<br />
                        Management: Paradigm for 21st Century Product Realisation


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