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...

01/01/2008


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. (




No comments
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.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
World-class manufacturing: A recipe for success: Finding the right mix for a salad dressing line; 2015 Salary Survey: Manufacturing slump dims enthusiasm
2015 Top Plant: Phoenix Contact, Middletown, Pa.; 2015 Best Practices: Automation, Electrical Safety, Electrical Systems, Pneumatics, Material Handling, Mechanical Systems
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Getting ready for industrial IoT; Visualizing the (applied) automation continuum; Preventing VFD faults and failures; Using wireless for closed-loop applications
Migrating industrial networks; Tracking HMI advances; Making the right automation changes
Understanding transfer switch operation; Coordinating protective devices; Analyzing NEC 2014 changes; Cooling data centers

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

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.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.