Ed Miller: The PLM footprint steps onto the factory floor

Once predominately focused on engineering design, product life-cycle management (PLM) today encompasses a broadening range of activities—from early-stage product strategy to design, manufacturing engineering, and field service. One aspect of this evolution is tight integration with factory automation equipment, which creates a more seamless flow of information between virtual product and...


Once predominately focused on engineering design, product life-cycle management (PLM) today encompasses a broadening range of activities—from early-stage product strategy to design, manufacturing engineering, and field service.

One aspect of this evolution is tight integration with factory automation equipment, which creates a more seamless flow of information between virtual product and process designs and the physical world of PLCs and transfer lines.

Expansion into factory automation entails integration with the physical product arena, and represents an opportunity to share and leverage key product-related information within both environments.

Conceptually, the combination of design solutions with production automation systems creates an all-inclusive, seamless environment. This enables manufacturing knowledge to be incorporated earlier in the product-development process, and production-related issues to flow back into product design.

This integration between factory automation and PLM has evolved over decades, and is aimed at fulfilling computer-integrated manufacturing strategies launched in the 1970s.

The fulcrum point in this evolution today is Digital Manufacturing—systems aimed at developing production processes and simulating factory-floor workflow. Digital Manufacturing brings manufacturing engineering into the scope of PLM.

Another area where efforts span decades is NC programming for individual machine tools. Today, however, we're talking about controlling the hardware of entire work cells.

Recognizing the market potential, the vendor community has responded with commercial product offerings aimed at closer integration of PLM and factory automation. Pioneering efforts in Digital Manufacturing were made by Siemens PLM Software with its Tecnomatix product line, as well as by Dassault Systemes with DELMIA and joint initiatives with companies such as Schneider Electric.

The Siemens acquisition of UGS may elevate these initiatives to the next level in terms of industry visibility and attention for both industrial companies and suppliers of solutions, resulting in increased value to users.

The opportunity to facilitate bidirectional information flow between design systems and production equipment offers huge potential for substantial savings as companies eliminate barriers, knock down traditional organizational silos, and flatten the walls that block information from flowing freely between engineering and manufacturing. Engineering changes can be transmitted to the shop floor efficiently in an integrated system, for example. Conversely, data on production problems can go directly to product engineers for evaluation of product design and process plans.

In some of the first implementations, automotive, aerospace, heavy equipment, and other large manufacturers with heavy investments in manufacturing systems have integrated pieces of their automation systems to PLM. As these giants gain experience, other companies will follow.

Technical challenges and organizational barriers notwithstanding, early adopters that integrate PLM and factory automation have a tremendous opportunity to differentiate themselves on an otherwise level playing field.

Author Information
Ed Miller is president of CIMdata Inc. (

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me