I am noticing a change in thinking in the engineering data industry. Current trends in IT are driving new capabilities and new methods. The industry is moving from consolidation to federation, from tightly coupled systems to loosely coupled systems. This transition has important implications for all engineering companies.
There was a time when product lifecycle management (PLM) was advertised as the evolution of product data management (PDM) or engineering document management (EDM). The three largest vendors of PLM software made a nice business for many years helping enterprise-class manufacturers consolidate all their engineering data into a single comprehensive database. In IT-speak, this is an example of a tightly coupled system. All data and all processes were consolidated into one large program. Centralization was a guiding principle, not only for how the software managed engineering data, but also for the computer infrastructure used to run the PLM platform.
Loosely Coupled Systems
Today we have high-speed Internet services and web architecture, which make possible new ways to store, process, and use data. It is no longer necessary to bring the data in under one roof, so to speak. We now have loosely coupled systems which do not require a single, unified data format and a single repository. Programs can be smaller and more focused, sharing data as needed with other software programs and platforms. PLM no longer needs to be the “one ring to rule them all,” to borrow a phrase. Instead it can manage the states and phases of the product lifecycle as originally intended, and leave other tasks to products more tightly focused, such as Synergis Adept in engineering data management.
How Adept Utilizes this Trend
The current version of Synergis Adept takes advantage of these loosely coupled trends. It has moved from a desktop-and-LAN only style of IT architecture to a hybrid of both modern web services and desktop architecture. The Adept development team found the loosely coupled approach to engineering data management resulted in better scalability, faster performance for almost all operations, easier interoperability, and greater security.
In a web services approach to software design, the larger program is broken into many independent parts. They communicate with each other as necessary, but function as separate pieces. It becomes easier to upgrade the platform a piece at a time, and to add new pieces to the product’s overall capabilities. It also becomes easier to link to other systems, such as CAD, PLM, supply chain management (SCM), enterprise resource programs (ERP), and more.
The Future of Engineering
Engineering organizations investing in such technology are on the leading edge of this paradigm transformation. The movement from a singular, tightly coupled engineering data system to a loosely coupled set of lightweight connections provide new opportunities for creating, sharing, using, and storing engineering data. It will be easier for these companies to invest in new technologies such as data mining and cognification (artificial intelligence). Computer scientists use such words as “agility” and “collaborative” to describe the advantages of web services architecture. If you have already upgraded to Adept 2017, you are running on a platform capable of adopting these new services as they arrive.
Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985.