Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Have you ever wondered what really happened to a product once it left your hands? Maybe until now such detail has been of little interest. But things are changing, and Closed Loop Lifecycle Management (CL2M) provides the means to address future challenges and opportunities.

Of course for certain kinds of product, there is no reason to want to follow up on what happens to it. However, there is increasingly stringent regulation of product safety and environmental impact. There is a requirement for monitoring and accountability of middle and end of life of each batch, and even each individual product instance. This means that producers are being challenged to focus more and more on traceability of their products.

Certain classes of product have a relatively short lifespan from production to consumption, as in the case of the food chain and pharmaceuticals. Here the requirements for verification of pedigree and assurance of correct storage and handling are paramount. Even in the case of these “short” life spans, such verification requires the collection and amalgamation of monitoring and event data from multiple actors: maybe several producers, distribution warehouses, multiple logistics providers, and finally retailers.

Products which have longer life spans introduce further complexity in terms of the number of actors involved. Therefore the tendency is for the information that is required for verification to become even more scattered across organisations. Such “long-life” products are also more likely to be subject to multiple maintenance and part-replacement interventions, maybe by different service providers. Such events contribute vital information to the overall “knowledge” of what happens throughout the life of each product instance. Their loss or isolation can severely impact on the history of each product.

The EU PROMISE Project identified “PLM Events” as the basis of the solution to these challenges. PLM Events are defined as a subset of the PROMISE Messaging Interface (PMI) which supports the communication of events by any system that has implemented the PMI.

PLM events typically convey information about changes in life cycle phase, service updates, change of ownership, substitution of parts, environmental changes, etc. The PMI allows any authorised and interested party to make a subscription for events relating to a single product instance or even a whole series.

An organisation is able, subject to proper authentication and trust, to follow significant life cycle events of a product even though it may have left their immediate scope of control. This also permits relevant regulatory authorities to subscribe for events which fall within their jurisdiction, such as end of life disposal or temperature of foodstuffs being exceeded.

The PROMISE PMI is already openly published. It is a primary focus of an open standards consortium currently being formed under the auspices of The Open Group. This consortium will address the further development and promotion of open standards that will significantly affect the future of PLM. Please register your interest in joining this consortium at www.opengroup.org/qlm/.

In the next article, the final one in this series, we will look at what is standing in the way of the future for PLM.

If you have any comments or questions related to this article, please post them on my blog at cl2m.com.

David Potter is Chief Technical Officer, Promise Innovation International Oy., and former Chairman of the Project Steering Board of the EU PROMISE Project.