Oleg is right. PLM should—and will—be like more like Google. Not in its color scheme, but in its openness, its neutrality, its acceptance of bits and bytes as data-for-data’s sake.

The brilliance of Google’s hyperlink-as-citation approach to search was that it broke down all of the arbitrary barriers erected by conventional taxonomical systems. Rather than rely on the publishers of content to organize their content with arbitrary ‘keywords’, Google said ‘forget keywords. Here’s the new web: you make stuff, and we make sense of it’.

We at EvD are impatiently awaiting a major player in the PLM market to step forward and say:

‘forget the mangled mess of rigid databases. Here’s the new PLM: you make stuff, and we make sense of it’.

Google doesn’t insist on hosting the entire internet on its own servers the way most PLM systems do. Wherever your files happen to be, Google will find them. Furthermore, Google doesn’t discriminate about data types. If a bunch of hyperlinks vouch for the validity of a file—no matter the type—Google serves it up. Of course it helps to use SEO-friendly content, but that’s up to you, the user, not some rigid system imposed from the top down.

Why, dear heavens, why can’t PLM be like that? Why can’t my files—JPG, PSD, PRT, and OMFG—all just go wherever I want them, and just have PLM systems that help me make sense of them? Why can’t PLM intelligently link related data based on a variety of criteria that may or may not include conventional taxonomies, but also keywords, hyperlinks, file references, and timestamps?

Think about that last one for a minute. I’m Adam, there’s only one of me, and I’m pretty stupid. I can barely concentrate on one thing at a time, so if I save three files in a three minute period—a PDF, a SLDPRT, and a PNG—a PLM system should know that these chunks of data might be related by the simple fact that a single user created them within a short time. (But more on that in a future article.)

“But wait!” you scream. “You’re just talking about Product DATA Management! Product LIFECYCLE Management is so much more than data storage!”
Whatever dude. No it isn’t. PLM is data management. Sure, PLM helps you organize lots of different kinds of data, but that’s the whole point: it’s all about data. I’m arguing that it’s time to separate the storage of data from the analysis of data, and PLM is all about the latter.

Let me store whatever I want wherever I want, and PLM should help me make sense of it. “PDM” is really my Product Google Search, and “PLM” is really my Product Google Analytics. It’s all data; PLM should just help me make sense of it, and give me opportunities to organize it as much–or as little–as I see fit for my organization.

Oleg’s got it right: PLM is not about who can build the biggest mess of arbitrary rigid structures, it’s about who can get the most information out of the files that we already have. The PLM giants should be finding ways of breaking down information silos, not building ever-bigger ones.


Adam O'Hern is an industrial designer, designing products ranging from laptops to power tools, classroom toys to bathroom fixtures, and pro audio gear to guitar tuners. In 2008 he founded cadjunkie.com, and in 2010 co-founded EvD Media with Josh Mings of SolidSmack.com, and the two collaborate on the EngineerVsDesigner.com podcast.