4 Reasons that CIMdata’s Product Innovation Platform Definition Matters

CIMdata introduced the term Product Innovation Platform a few years back, in partnership with Gartner and IDC, in recognition of the new rigors of complex product development and the short-comings of legacy PLM systems. The initial definition - an innovation-enabling business platform that would support all product related disciplines and users through the entire product lifecycle – was a good start. CIMdata recently expanded the definition into a framework of five (5) Strategic Imperatives and seven (7) Foundational Characteristics. The full paper, Product Innovation Platforms: Definition, Their Role in the Enterprise, and Their Long-Term Viability, is a must read for manufacturers of smart, connected products (meaning almost everyone).

CIMdata wrote extensively about Product Innovation Platform previously, however, it took a few years to get to this framework. Given the industry’s rate of change, it was essentially an effort in classifying and characterizing a moving target. And to be fair, three years is how long the typical legacy PLM system takes to implement.

The good news is CIMdata nailed this one. They have now given the industry some meatiness to help answer one of the biggest questions in manufacturing – how can I transform my business for growth?

Lots of good stuff in the CIMdata paper. Here are the few top line reasons why you should care about the Product Innovation Platform definition.

1. The term Product Innovation Platform refocuses thinking on Product 

“A product innovation platform assures the company’s flow of new products because the tools, staff, and information are working in sync throughout the lifecycle.”

Developing and shipping competitive product is the lifeblood of manufacturers’ success, whether they’re producing party balloons, A330s, or Chevy Bolts. To be competitive and profitable today, manufacturers need close collaboration between design disciplines as well as connection to teams upstream and downstream in ways they have not had. While legacy PLM was conceived to unify disciplines and product phases, in practice it stopped at CAD. CIMdata’s definition is a response to this failure in order to focus an organization on a platform for product success.

2. The definition provides a starting point for internal discussion about digital transformation  

CIMdata’s purpose for the Product Innovation Platform definition is “to help industrial companies plan for a new generation of technology to support the end-to-end product lifecycle.” They present five imperatives and seven characteristics as a the attributes of a system that will support the needs of today and the future. The Product Innovation Platform definition provides a foundation for manufacturers to start a discussion about transforming process through technology to empower people.

Digital transformation is a nebulous, overused term. Everyone from social media companies to complex manufacturers are talking about digital transformation. That said, the concept is not without merit. Most times we hear organizations talk about it, they are referring to the digitization of information i.e., a new system. But we know from customers that there is a critical process component as well. The company works differently today so the system must fit their processes now as well as evolve for tomorrow.

3. Innovation is something that any department can align with   

“Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that your company is able to compete—to meet and exceed customer expectations profitably.” The idea of a Product Innovation Platform is something that should resonate with all departments.

Previous terms, notably PDM (product data management), only connoted the mechanical aspects of a product. Therefore, outside of engineering – and CAD users even - the term PLM has been somewhat esoteric and carries little meaning for downstream teams or departments that do have a vested interest in related product processes such as ERP or MES. However, anyone in a company can relate to innovation and the constant requirement to innovate and improve product for customers.

There’s no doubt that today’s product complexity requires a systems engineering approach for software, electronic, electrical, and mechanical design. What’s important in CIMdata’s position paper is acknowledgement that “These capabilities are increasingly needed throughout the entire extended enterprise including customers, suppliers, and business partners, not just by new product development (NPD)…” Innovation is something that needs to go enterprise-wide, and the data and process that enable enterprise innovation should not be limited simply to those who develop the product.

4. The industry needs this definition to breakthrough to the next level of operational efficiency

As CIMdata notes, “Many [organizations] are too entrenched in their assembled-over-time architectures to be able to move quickly.” A Product Innovation Platform is that innovation layer that manufacturers require to build for the future. Manufacturers can use this definition to take the first steps to get to that next level of productivity and operational efficiency.

They want to embrace new technology but first need to get some of the fundamental aspects of complex product design right. They can’t feed IoT data back to a product configuration they don’t know. They can’t connect MRO to product development using a PLM system that was built to manage CAD data. They can’t make the necessary connections with a spreadsheet, no matter how many macros. The question is where to get started.

Manufacturers are still wrestling with PLM 1.0.

We’re in the midst of the next industrial revolution. We’re tossing around terms like Internet of Things (IoT), Industrie 4.0, connected products, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and Digital Twin. All cool stuff that could transform consumer experience, industrial efficiency, and business models. But…

The Path Ahead for Manufacturers

Taking a bit of license with CIMdata’s words - it’s been 30 years in the making to get us to next generation PLM. CIMdata has set forth an actionable definition that can be the start of a journey that manufacturers should embark on. The pacesetters are already doing it, albeit, they may not be calling it a product innovation platform. The risk for others is that they are left behind to drown in spreadsheets and “one-of -everything” IT architectures that leave innovation locked up only to fade away in vacant buildings.

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