PLM Makers Retool to Jump-Start Market

EDS' PLM Solutions, Agile and Dassault Systemes reorganize to revitalize the product lifecycle management market.

A trio of product lifecycle management software makers are trying to work through their business segments growing pains by reconstituting themselves or retooling their offerings.

Electronic Data Systems Corp.s PLM Solutions business, Agile Software Corp. and Dassault Systèmes AG are each trying to fight the perception among some customers that the concept of PLM has not lived up to its promise of connecting product engineering and component procurement processes.

Joel Lemke, CEO of Enovia Corp., one of five subsidiaries that together provide Dassaults PLM offering, said his company has a ways to go in implementing a complete process-to-end-of-life capability. Dassault is trying to make good on its promise to address the entire range of processes in PLM rather than simply promote individual features in its products.

"The key point we are trying to drive is a new approach to doing product innovation, which is all the way from concept to end of life in 3-D tools, rather than in feature-function software," said Lemke, in Charlotte, N.C.

For its part, Agile, at its user conference in San Diego last week, announced a new iteration of its PLM platform, Agile 9, that manages an enterprises product information across the product life cycle, officials said. The upgraded suite introduces a new architecture that brings the visibility, management, control, collaboration and decision support of common product record information across Agiles software and includes a range of new functions, not the least of them integration capabilities.

Due in January, Agile 9 provides a suite of best-practice PLM solutions, including Product Governance and Compliance, for managing product compliance with industry standards and regulations, and Product Portfolio Management, which provides synchronized program and product information, resource utilization, and cross-program visibility and decision support.

An enhanced Product Collaboration module provides site-specific product information across a company and its supply network, while an upgraded Engineering Collaboration module enables integration with leading mechanical CAD, electronic CAD and desktop-publishing applications and provides design collaboration support.

Meanwhile, EDS, of Plano, Texas, earlier this month changed the name of its business unit that develops PLM software to UGS PLM Solutions. EDS said it will divest itself of a minority stake in UGS, leaving the semiautonomous company to sell shares to the general public or seek private investors. EDS built its PLM business from the acquisitions in 2001 of two companies, Structural Dynamics Research Corp. and Unigraphics Solutions.

"With [the divestiture], were moving now to [become] a separate IT company," said Tony Affuso, president and CEO of UGS. "We want to get back in our market, with our brand, without having to move under EDS core IT market. Were moving full speed ahead."

Working through yet another permutation of EDS PLM brand, Affuso will continue to invest in UGS core products, Teamcenter and Unigraphics NX. Teamcenter acts as the PLM digital enterprise backbone, while NX provides an integrated family of product engineering software that helps users digitally create and capture 3-D product definitions.

UGS will also continue developing new industry-specific software, including Teamcenter Retail and Teamcenter Pharmaceuticals versions within six months.

Mike Webb, senior vice president of IT at Flextronics International Ltd., started using Agiles PDM (product data management) software for bills of material, or BOMs, and document management. Webb shares the vendors vision of moving to an end-to-end PLM environment but said the products are not fully there.

"The difficulty remains on the engineering side," said Webb, in San Jose, Calif. "Managing these engineering tools is very complex, and the areas that we struggle with—not just as a company, but as an industry—are where engineering meets procurement, and youre starting to use a BOM like Agile to make better decisions."

Webb said that Flextronics would like to select the best components based on historical buying experiences, knowledge and suppliers but that the selection doesnt come down to just one component because each decision could involve a group of components. "The area that is missing is not perhaps software at all, but the content to make those comparisons," Webb said. "There arent the databases available to be able to make those sort of decisions. Were getting there."