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Does Your PLM ‘Vault’ Really Fuel Innovation?


by Ken Klapproth

While a unified enterprise knowledge foundation is widely recognized as an enabling benefit of commercially available product lifecycle management (PLM) systems, does better organization or control of engineering, product, documentation, and lifecyle data alone guarantee innovative products? The premise being that if it’s “in the vault”, it’s secure and I can find it. Knowing where to look is certainly a requisite first step and companies can surely put a fence around their own tribal knowledge, but what about that ocean of industry, scientific,PLM Vault research, academic, patent, and commercial information continually swelling on the Internet?

Studies have been quoted showing engineers spend up to 70% of their time looking for data that already exists. The presumption here is that the “data” is the answer or at least “contains” the answer. Here commercial PLM systems employ full text search allowing engineers and scientists to search for relevant keywords. Executed within the confines of the vault, keyword search can deliver relevant results, but how many documents will an automotive frame engineer find when searching for “door hinge”? Here the engineering precept of efficient reuse complicates locating useful answers using keyword search.

Innovation – whether revolutionary or evolutionary – involves synthesizing ideas from disparate, sometimes unrelated resources to solve new problems. PLM systems do a great job of encapsulating and providing access to corporate tribal knowledge, but could greatly benefit from enabling engineers and scientist to search ideas – not just words – across a broader range of relevant data stores. What’s relevant to a tier 1 automotive supplier will be dramatically different to a medical device manufacturer.

A new class of innovation enabling software such as Invention Machine Goldfire is available that easily addresses these limitations, improving the productivity of engineers and scientists involved in new product development and introduction processes, helping them deliver innovative products faster with repeatable results.  Technology such as semantic search recognizes the meaning of words used in search terms delivering precise answers across corporate PLM data stores and any relevant content a company chooses.  Even disparate languages are less of a barrier as Goldfire’s semantic engine can translate across the popular languages of industrialized countries. 

PLM systems have delivered marked improvements in how companies retain, leverage, and automate business practices based on product knowledge. Goldfire offers complementary functionality giving a competitive edge to any company innovating new products or new processes to improve existing product lines.

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