Re-platforming for Innovation

Peter Schroer, Founder & CEO, Aras Corporation
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Peter Schroer, Founder & CEO, Aras Corporation

I’ve spent that last 30 years in the engineering and manufacturing industry, and there’s one thing I know for sure: New product development and manufacturing processes have never moved faster or been more complex than they are now. And it’s only going to increase. Advancements in technology mean that everything from smart phones to missile defense systems are ten times more complicated than they were few years ago.

product introduction cycles have been condensed to the point that we should just call them “continuous.” Product and component design, manufacturing and support is a 24x7x365 operation that involves a global network of colleagues, suppliers, partners and customers. Speaking of customers, whether consumer, commercial or government, they all want more. The problem is that most companies I visit can barely keep up with the demands they face today, never mind the ones that are just around the corner. It’s not their fault. They’re doing the best they can with the systems they have for product lifecycle management (PLM). Unfortunately, the PLM systems they have were never designed to handle today’s complex products and processes.

"If you design systems that integrate electronics and software, and supply chain is taking on greater design authority, then you’ve got real challenges"

Most of those systems were built 15 or 20 years ago and the providers have been “developing” them through acquisition and  piecing them together. The result is a mismatch of hard coded legacy systems that were never designed to work together, leave gaping holes in functionality, can’t be upgraded at the same time, don’t scale at the global level, and cost a fortune to customize and maintain.

The fact is you can’t build tomorrows products on yesterday’s technology.

To keep up with the demands of our modern markets, Gartner says companies need a flexible, scalable product innovation platform that can handle all their needs  today, and evolve and adapt at the speed of business to address the accelerating pace of tomorrow’s business environment.

A Different Approach

If your company develops products on more than three continents, if you design systems that integrate electronics and software, if your supply chain is taking on greater design authority, then you’ve got real challenges and they’re getting bigger every day.

Moving forward you’ll need to control CAD design and ALM processes together, manage more complex bills of material, bring together data from numerous  enterprise systems, securely enable global supply chain access, provide systems engineering  functionality, make mobile a reality, and probably provide some
form of cloud or hybrid cloud capabilities for the enterprise applications serving your worldwide product development organization.

Instead of piecemeal PLM systems that address only part of the problem, businesses need a single PLM platform that  can manage the complexity that comes with designing the next generation of aircraft, electronics and life science technologies; assure regulatory compliance and protect critical intellectual property; and guarantee performance when thousands of suppliers are working in the system at the same time. And it must be able to change at the speed of business.

You Have Options 

By now you’re probably thinking, “He’s got a point, but we’ve spent millions on our system. We can’t rip it out now even if it only gives us half of what we need. I don’t want to start over and go through all that again.” Actually, that’s the point of taking a different approach. You don’t have to start over. You have options.


You can keep what works and layer on top of it, to add secure, new functionality without the rip and replace method that other vendors require.

How? Federate your existing systems with powerful, light weight technologies to enable new processes and deliver new value to the business more quickly.

Federation capabilities enable you to build wrappers around data objects that are stored and managed in remote systems, such as a legacy database or your existing PDM / PLM system, exposing the data securely for users to see and update. Federation allows users of the legacy system to continue working in their old environment while other users across the enterprise and extended supply chain have browser access with new capabilities in the context of global workflow, lifecycle, project management. Then you can retire old legacy systems over-time on your schedule.

Alternately, if your old PDM / PLM is holding you back, you might be wise to begin to replatform your PLM backbone today. This is increasingly necessary when legacy  systems are stopping you from taking advantage of newer technologies, maintenance costs become excessive, or flexibility and agility are compromised.

The future is coming fast. You need a PLM platform that can support your complex business needs today and the ones you’ll have tomorrow, whatever they may be.

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