As car companies integrate development platforms and standardize their PLM, the requirements for supplies may become a bit easier to meet as well.

“The PLM market is heading toward unified, integrated architectures, to increase the benefits of product life cycle management,” says Michael Sauter, senior vice president and country manager for Central Europe, at American PLM provider PTC. Internet-based solutions as well as open architectures with web services are an important foundation.

“The basic question in the supplier area is: How can various heterogeneous solutions be combined on one platform,” Sauter said. Product development complexity has grown tremendously, in light of globalization, cost pressures, increasingly strict environmental requirements, and initiatives for CO2 reduction or the electric car.

“Platform thinking and lean engineering have been given extremely high importance, to enable distributed development or the reusability of standard components in various configurations,” Sauter told automotiveIT. “PLM decisions have become a matter for chief executives.”

This is especially true for international companies, which more and more are doing their development work globally. The idea is to consolidate information with the help of a development platform ”“ even if nothing will likely change in the heterogeneous, application-rich landscape.

Seref Erkayhan, head of PLM business development at Seeburger, a German systems integration company, says that some systems houses and integrators deliver development platforms and priority information environments as a turn-key solution. The PLM software portfolio is a core component and forms the middleware,” he said.

“More and more, the two are coalescing into a comprehensive PLM solution,” said Erkayhan.

The PLM specialist says that, in this approach, a framework is made available to users, who can then use it to integrate their processes into a PLM environment. The key is the architectural approach, he said.

“The current architectures of PLM solutions are still mainly client-server oriented,” Erkayhan said. “In the medium term, open, flexible, service-oriented architectures (SOA) must predominate.”

Some results can come quickly

At the same time, PLM functions are offered as services to handle process-related activities, he said. “The combination of PLM and SOA helps companies build up and alter their existing infrastructures gradually over time, allowing many different systems to re-use services.” He added that “this also makes possible the service-based integration of suppliers.”

PTC’s Sauter says results can come within three to 12 months. The US company’s approach consists of mapping PLM processes specific to the industry.

For example, for the auto industry, 22 core processes, such as changes, approvals or DMU processes, are predefined based on best practices.

Daimler is seeing more PLM solutions for the management of data for simulations, electronics and software. “The V model known from electronics is gaining recognition and acceptance in product development,” said Alfred Katzenbach, information technology management, group research and product development at Mercedes-Benz Cars.

“Total support for the V model is a major challenge for all PLM providers.”

The V process model for system development projects also encompasses project management and quality assurance areas. Daimler is mainly turning to Teamcenter from Siemens PLM, complemented by its own development work.

The automaker is well-aware of the challenge in the supplier environment. “Suppliers are helped by systematic development of process and system standards,” said Katzenbach. He noted that 350 participants discussed these issues last April at the 13th ProStep iViP Symposium, a meeting of IT decision makers.

Through its technical program, the group is creating a platform that will let automakers, suppliers, the IT industry and scientists move ahead with targeted standardization.

As an example, Katzenbach cites the ISO certification of the JT format. “With the introduction of this standard format, the dependence on proprietary authoring formats can be reduced,” he said.

“In this way, fairly small suppliers with a less powerful PLM landscape at their disposal can be integrated efficiently and securely.”

PLM provider Dassault Systèmes also sees a trend toward a community orientation. “PLM will be directed even more strongly to users that aren’t actually involved in the design process,” said Achim Löhr, director of PLM Value Channel Central Europe at Dassault Systèmes.

“That includes managers, purchasing agents, or employees involved in launches. And end-customers who are actively integrated into product research, origination and development process.”

Greater complexity means new PLM requirements

With the move to electric cars and the growth of computing power in the vehicles, the trend to greater complexity is set to accelerate. That, says Seeburger’s Erkayhan, will lead to new PLM requirements.

PLM services providers will have to offer new functions in the short-term, such as simulation data management, mechatronics product and process management, compliance, Web 2.0 technologies, cross-enterprise engineering, data exchange management, product data traceability, and virtualization.

In this context, solutions are also needed for asynchronous data exchange using the Odette File Transfer Protocol (OFTP2) and Engdat.

“Long-term, PLM must also map the lifecycle of micro and nano products as well as smart products with embedded chips, and support them with methods and tools, from the idea, through development, all the way to recycling,” Erkayhan said. That’s also a an issue for ProStep.

Erkayhan believe PLM will make the integration of suppliers easier. Said the Seeburger executive: “I

“I assume that, for suppliers, the PLM concept will also become part of corporate strategy.”

By Daniela Hoffmann