A PLM Conference in Middle Earth

According to Arthur Clarke, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. A technology comes as a combination of science and engineering. Science provides fundamental understanding of the natural world, while engineering applies this knowledge to design and build practical solutions to real-world problems. Thus, it is quite possible to imagine magical science, magical engineering, and a magical PLM.

Speaking of magic, what can be a better metaphor to a PLM competition than Tolkien‘s Middle Earth?

For ages, Dwarves focused on their mines, smiths, and related magic. At the same time, Elves excelled in quite a lot of domains, including a powerful general magic and extended longevity, allowing accumulation of knowledge. Yet, for all the clamor, compared to our world, Tolkien’s Middle Earth civilization existed for thousands of years without advancing much in construction, transportation, medicine or warfare – and even declining. Why? Because engineering collaboration between different races was minimal.

With all the bad press he got from competitors, Sauron had a real innovation drive. His rings theory was a step towards a platform-like engineering collaboration. Each race got a force multiplier for its own unique capabilities. It became much easier to transfer knowledge between Dwarves and Elves. Sauron’s numerous enterprises were “always connected” to his Mordor-based data center.

In our industry terms, the ring brought all engineering power under a single proprietary CAD standard and entity/philosophy paradigm. Our world’s big PLM vendors would love that kind of power-multiplier. It would be an engineering collaboration dream coming true.

Another innovator, Saruman was more or less on the same page: he also got tired of dull living, and he believed in platforms. He just wanted to create his own platform, using Sauron’s ring or make his own. A competitive partnership by all accounts.

Not all was sweet with Sauron’s platform, indeed. It was quite restrictive. His business methods were also rather questionable.

Just like in Middle Earth, our world’s large super-integrated PLM platforms cause fear of excessive lock-in, and overwhelming dependency on the PLM platforms’ features and release cycles. Suppliers prefer to keep their IP in their own systems of record, while exchanging information with OEMs’ PLM systems only when necessary.

Based on circumstantial evidence, Gandalf (another prominent PLM theorist) advocated for destroying the ring, and creating a system that shares all magical CAD data freely, thus focusing our attention on real science, engineering, and innovation. I suspect he would choose the path of data collaboration hub-like solutions like OpenBOM or ShareASpace to connect various players and systems, while keeping them completely independent.

Speaking of independence, there were also hobbits in Middle Earth: persistent, capable, innovative and stealthy. They were able to get into the deep and scary internals of the Dragon Den and Orodruin. They were not interested in corporate politics, nor they were corruptible by various promises of power; they were highly collaborative, and they often brought other friendly races and factions together when they were in disagreement.

To me the hobbits look very much like Team Senticore.

We do believe in co-existence in the PLM world and Middle Earth. Perhaps both Sauron’s and Saruman’s platforms can thrive for their own customer base, while allowing Elves and Dwarves to tend to their own knitting; all parties exchanging data using industry standards based collaboration hubs.

The power struggle in Middle Earth and our PLM universe continues, and Team Senticore is always ready to support your journey with proper steel, magic, applicable software tools, and best practices.

P.S. By the way, we also have ideas about how to deal with these pesky Part Numbers, data transformation between various CAD-derivative structures, and more.