For years, proponents of PLM said it would one day become pervasive throughout enterprises, enabling companies to better share product information across internal departments and along the supply chains.
The challenge then for software developers was to enable users to collaborate using three-dimensional design documents and their associated information from the start of product design and to carry them through the product life cycle—across different platforms. The theory was that with the ability to share information early and across firewalls, manufacturers would be able to decrease product development and time-to-market cycles, a key indicator for squeezing savings out of increasingly slim margins.
While much of this has occurred, two issues have handicapped product lifecycle managements widespread acceptance: the lack of a platform from which information can be shared globally and dueling 3-D standards that have split support between the two largest PLM developers, Dassault Systemes S.A. and UGS Corp.
Last week, Microsoft Corp. announced a co-development deal with Dassault that will let users collaborate on engineering documentation much more easily. In the broader sense, it will unite the design world with the business world, said Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash.
"The way products are designed and the way products are manufactured [are] moving to a fully digital approach," said Gates, during a press conference at Dassaults Paris headquarters. "Its a trend that will sweep across all product design. Were very excited by that."
The reality, said Gates, is that a lot of software has to be written to enable that seamless collaboration at the platform level, where Microsoft comes in, and at the applications level, where Dassault will play a role.