PLM and multidisciplinary system development

PLM and multidisciplinary system development

Munich, January 26, 2017

The first question of this background series, addressed to all major PLM providers, was: What support does PLM offer for multidisciplinary system development / systems engineering / model-based systems engineering? The answers give the following picture.

For many years, the importance of electronics, electrical engineering and, above all, software has continued to grow alongside the mechanics in industrial product development. This trend is even intensifying while moving towards the Internet of Things. After all, software-controlled, electronic sensor technology is a core element when data from the product operation are delivered and exploited via the network. For this reason, the support of the cooperation of all engineering disciplines is of high priority for suppliers of PLM systems.

The providers focus on two different aspects: on the one hand, the supply and further development of authoring tools and their integration, on the other, the linking of all system-specific data and models in a central system model of metadata.

Integration of authoring tools

Depending on the nature of their products, it can be of great importance to an industrial company how closely the authoring systems are integrated. Can the mechanical mounting conditions be represented in the E-CAD system, and vice versa the electronic components in the M-CAD? Can a system for requirements management be linked with the implementation of the requirements in the various specialist areas? The more important such questions are for the respective engineering, the higher ranked is the direct integration.

This is the reason why Dassault Systèmes, PTC and Siemens acquire authoring systems and their suppliers. The integration of requirements management however plays a special role: It is the prerequisite to be able to track requirements from their realization in the specialist disciplines to their functional fulfillment in the later operation, i.e. over the entire life cycle. Traceability is the keyword. The three mentioned providers can now claim this for themselves.

M-CAD, E-CAD, software development as well as a wide variety of simulation tools are now part of the product portfolio of these manufacturers or are closely linked as partner systems. All of them are at the same time interested in the fact that through application programming interfaces (APIs) they ensure that their customers can also integrate the systems with the tools of other manufacturers. Openness has become an important buying criterion.

System model of the metadata

The second aspect, the management of a central meta-model for complex products, is important for a much larger customer base and almost regardless of the branch's affiliation. Here, the range of providers is expanded by Aras, Oracle, Procad and SAP. Contact Software did not respond to the request, but it also belongs to it. There are also other suppliers, which focus on specific industries, but do not play an important role in the concert of the important players.

Here it is crucial how far the data models of the PLM systems can actually comprise all the data belonging to a product. Karl "Charly" Wachtel, Managing Director of XPLM Solution, a specialist for integration in the area of PLM, says: "The meta model must be practical, it must be easy to use, so that it actually is used. But above all, it must be strong enough to manage all data, including, for example, entities such as requirements or functions. And it should be easy to expand, because new systems are always added to the IT landscape of a company."

Even though Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) is still a long way from being a standard method in the manufacturing industry, it will have to be that in many companies sooner or later. Then it is no longer enough to have the geometry, the circuit diagram and the source code of the software. The competitive advantage will be to master the relations, to have access to the system data from the requirements to the simulation models simple, fast and up-to-date, namely bidirectionally.

It is only in recent years that life cycle management has become increasingly important also for software development. Therefore the tools for application lifecycle management (ALM) have also been added to the PLM vendors' purchasing list. PTC and Siemens have already bought here, with the other providers possibly still to do the same. But even with the system in the same house, it does not become an overall system without great efforts. There is only the great opportunity to interlink both systems more closely. In the foreseeable future, a coexistence of PLM and ALM is expected, where the customer compiles his specific best-of-breed solution.

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