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Cloud PLM—finding its place within manufacturing organizations

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I just read Oleg Shilovitsky’s Beyond PLM article discussing cloud BOM and change management solutions, and whether they will ever be accepted as a safe and reliable choice for manufacturers.  As Vice President of Engineering at Arena—and someone who believes strongly in the security and convenience of cloud-based solutions—I felt I had to weigh in on the issue.

After 11 years of delivering cloud BOM and change management solutions, I can tell you that cloud is being adopted by manufacturers—and at faster rates than ever.  The idea that cloud-based solutions lack security is quickly becoming outdated, and as all types of cloud software become accepted—even by non-computer people—this trend will only continue. Whether for business or personal data management, cloud is the future.

The changing world of data storage—from 1988 to now

Perhaps some of you can relate to this story. Back in 1988, I used to have a set of floppy disks for transferring and backing up my college projects. This was a mostly reliable system, but the night before a large project was due, I discovered, to my utmost horror, that a critical floppy disk had gone bad and my code was unreadable.

In that moment, all I could hear was the whirring of the drive and the thumping of my heart.

In a flash, I was running as fast as I could to my classmate’s room to see if he still had the other disk I had given him for safekeeping. Thankfully, he did.

A moment later, floppy in hand, I stood grinning ear to ear. A successful 1988 backup story.

Twenty-three years later, floppies are a distant memory, and I rely on the cloud to back up all my personal data.  Since I started using the cloud-based application for data storage, I have lost things multiple times—but have always been able to recover my data without breaking a sweat. I no longer purchase floppies, and I no longer worry that hardware issues will impact my code. Because of the cloud, the way I manage and back up my personal data has been completely transformed.

I tell this story because I think it relates very closely to what we’re doing at Arena for manufacturers. In the same way that cloud-based solutions have transformed the world of personal backups, I believe that easy-to-use cloud-based BOM and change management solutions are transforming the way manufacturers do business.

Why cloud-based solutions are a viable option for today’s manufacturers

As floppies were eventually replaced by more elegant cloud-based options, on-premise product management solutions will soon have a hard time competing with the security and convenience of the cloud—especially when it comes to sharing data securely with outside partners.

Consider this—a manufacturing business needs to create, manage and share lots of design files with multiple individuals inside and outside of the company. To accomplish this with an on-premise system, you must purchase software licenses as well as invest in infrastructure and hire an in-house expert to make sure the various data inputs are always backed up and archived. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to maintain business continuity. With an on-premise tool, supplier and partner access is only possible if you have a certain level of in-house IT sophistication and capacity—and can ensure that individuals outside the company are securely accessing the right set of design documentation and data.

On the other hand, cloud-based PLM solutions provide the same level of functionality as a traditional PLM application, can be accessed anywhere, are more accessible to suppliers and partners and are kept updated automatically. Additionally, cloud-based PLM solutions require a smaller initial investment and are much cheaper to maintain. And as more manufacturers sign up and more features become available, cloud-based solutions will continue to drive down the total cost of ownership in a continuous cycle.

Cloud-based PLM solutions facilitate true out-of-the box collaboration between manufacturers and their global supply chains, and all-in-all, provide a much more elegant solution for product data management. When discussing cloud solutions, there may still be a few lingering technology issues we need to overcome, but they are all addressable technology issues. As consumers have had their daily lives transformed by solutions like Gmail, Backblaze and others, I feel it’s only a matter of time before cloud-based BOM and change management solutions become a widely accepted tool for manufacturing organizations.

Thanks so much Oleg for asking the question that inspired this post, and for getting the dialogue going. We appreciate how you consistently explore thought-provoking and interesting PLM topics.

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