The Death of PLM

There are no PLM experts!

Wow, Joe that's a bold statement!

So, what comes to mind when you hear someone talk about PLM? Nothing, more than likely. There can be no experts because it cannot be standardized!! It is just a broad obscure term many PLM Gurus toss out there to impress other PLM Gurus. They have huge seminars babbling their obscure unattainable concepts, mostly focused on the future of PLM, since it's basically unworkable today. Communicating in mysterious acronyms only they know. Not one of these PHD's, yes most are PHD's, has one hour working in the engineering process, yet they are experts on how engineering works. Beware, these pedantic frauds are going after manufacturing. Luckily, manufacturing must get things made and have no time for this nonsense. I am wondering if a PLM PHD can even be taught?

Engineering Documentation - A Primer for the PLM Guru!

Don't believe me!! Here are 139 programs that claim to be PLM.

Product Lifecycle Management Software

"Find the best Product Lifecycle Management Software for your business. Compare product reviews and features to build your list."

Can you imaging giving an employee this task from this list?

Here is a comment by an engineer about Catia 6 PLM!

 "(Company) has decided to install "3D experience Catia V6". This entails CAD and PLM integrated system. As a design engineer, I loathe this. The package deteriorates the design productivity by at least 50%. It is not completed, it is full of bugs that we are being promised by DS "the next" upgrade will fix. Which it does, with about 50% success and introduces a new batch of bugs...

In short, if anybody was to listen to my engineering experience, I would rather work on the drawing board than with this, unfinished, slow, pretentious, software that has no place at a facility like this."

This answers any question why the major aircraft companies have not moved to Catia 6?
It has only been out since 2008. 11 YEARS???

Telecom Giant Ericsson Halts Its PLM Project with Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE

"The revolution devours its own children," once claimed the French revolutionary leader Danton when he was sent to the guillotine by a 1794 tribunal; an institution he helped to set up. This applies not only to major social upheavals, but can symbolically represent major PLM decisions. If you fail to land a big PLM bet, the response tends to "eat" those who were responsible.

For Swedish telecom giant Ericsson, that image has become a reality today: virtually everyone who had some responsibility for the company’s 2016 decision to invest in the 3DEXPERIENCE (3DX) platform, from French PLM developer Dassault Systèmes, as the replacement for its old mainframe solution, has resigned, been fired or switched jobs. The installation is, globally, one of the largest in the PLM area and impacts around 25,000 users. 

I have watched as the PLM folks try to convince us that this is some sort of proven science. It is nothing of the sort. I have seen article after article questioning the state of this industry. I have come to the conclusion that “PLM” is a "catch all" name for what used to be call "Project Management". We all know that PLM is overly complex, demanding self-defined "experts" to implement, use or consult. Driven by the popular CAD vendors, trying to lock the customer into their product, forever. The basic problem with PLM and its ugly step child MBE is that it is impossible to standardize. We have a very easy document control system concept that is not based on the CAD system.

PLM & PDM Defined

The Data Management Mess

PLM is trying to utilize the native 3D CAD data as the engineering documentation deliverable to other departments or outside suppliers. It really can only be used within the CAD system by the experienced "CAD Operator" (don't you hate that term, LOL). But to deliver our information to the outside world we need an easy to duplicate, accessible and usable "standard" engineering documentation format.

I have actually talked to a engineering manager that was sending dxf's of their drawings to their suppliers generated from Microstation instead of a PDF print. I have no idea how the supplier utilizes this. DXF is hardly a standard, it is bad enough coming out of Autocad. I as sure the suppler just prints them from Autocad or even worse a 3D CAD package.

The basic 3D MCAD operating paradigm shared by all of the popular program was developed by PTC with Pro/e in 1988. All of the 3D CAD programs in those days were sold as a better and faster way to create the drawing. But these were not drawings they were, what I have coined, AIDs (Associated Information Documents). Much, much different than a manual or electronic (Autocad) drawing that is created by generating non-associated orthographic views.

For the life of me, is this so hard to understand?

Until the late 1990's, actual paper prints of these completely detailed AIDs along with the 3D model was the only engineering deliverable. Now, enter the data management folks with the "prime directive" of eliminating the paper print. It was funny this was when Catia 5 was being released and Boeing was quite instrumental in implementing the PLM and MBE.

Their solution was only could be called a "3D drawing". They called it the PMI (Product Manufacturing Information). This was to replace the AID as a paper document that travelled with the 3D model.

This is a Catia 5 PMI imported into ZW3D


The PMI served two purposes:

1. Eliminate the paper AID print

2. Managing a single engineering file

But at what cost, it created a multitude of new problems. Since it was the native CAD file it had to have a native viewer. It cannot be standardized for obvious reasons, but I will tell you: "There are 5 very popular incompatible 3D CAD systems".

31 Years of 3D MCAD Incompatibility



PLM/MBE/PMI Absurdity!!

Today's popular 3D MCAD program are made up of separate part, assembly and AID files. PLM thought this was the only 3D CAD format. There were a few programs that had the AID integrated in the single part/assembly file. Imagine if Boeing would have standardized on that functionality. I guarantee you there would be no MBE or PMI or even a PLM.

Is 3D CAD Productivity an Oxymoron?

CADKEY or Catia? Boeing’s Billion-Dollar 3D CAD Mistake!

3D CAD Single Model Design Environment

The Integrated Drawing in 3D CAD

Today the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is trying to create a STEP format that would include the PMI and each system would have to create. But remember this is MBE (Model Based Enterprise) which means the model is the authority. Boeing takes this quite seriously, demanding the suppliers purchase a validation program to assure the native 3D model is the same as the model that goes into the CAM system if they are not using Catia. Apples to Apples? of course. But those in charge do not create parts, they have no idea of how parts are created. So a STEP translation would not satisfy Boeing. But the supplier works around this by having Catia 5 translators in their CAD or CAM program. That is the purpose for the validation programs.

MBE PMI Validation and Conformance Testing Project

Compare and Validation Programs? Band-Aids for Self Inflicted Wounds!

Here is another interesting 3rd party add-on that brings the bizarre MBE concept full circle.

Quoting Tools: CAD Dimensioning Another Band-Aid for MBE!

Two of the popular CAD vendor have show an incredible ignorance of the MBE or MBD (Model Based Definition). They are even confused on what it is called, but we can't blame them, neither can I!

Solidworks Totally Misunderstands MBD

PTC Creo Totally Misunderstands MBD

Sadly, the PDF was just around the corner but the die was cast. Would we even have a PMI if we could have used the AID in the form of a PDF and became the standard?
Again, of course not.

The native CAD file cannot be used as
a standard engineering deliverable!

Please read this article. Realize that the problem of revisions has been solved for centuries.

Topic: E(E): One Revision to Rule Them All

You can see from the article that there is a huge confusion in the PLM/PDM community. I was made aware of this from the complaints I was getting from my Boeing suppliers. They just ended up working around the PLM and MBE (Model Based Enterprise) requirements. Boeing has even developed a Producibility Group that reviews "released" engineering because there was so many bad designs being delivered to the vendor!! Do you know what they eliminated.

The checking process.

I have watched Ed (the author of the above article) complain and complain about PLM. He is very clever and smart yet he never comes up with any solutions. It is very easy to see why, there are so many problems with this system and with no commonality there is no place for persons or groups to start to fix it.

The current PLM experts do not have the applicable knowledge of what engineering has to deliver to Manufacturing. None have ever even created a part/assembly, documentation and released it to manufacturing. 

Here is a quote from that article.

“So, typical document (e.g CAD assembly or drawing) will have document number and additional version / revision. One of the common mistakes (especially in small companies) to use document number as identification for parts. This is wrong. The right identification for parts is Part Number. Parts have no versions and revisions.” Oleg Shilovitsky

The above statement must be taken out of context. The document he is talking about is the drawing. The drawing number becomes the part number. There is no part until someone used the drawing to create the part. What would we call it? Oleg must have never thought this through. I am sure that Oleg has never designed and drawn up a part, checked it and released it into the system. He, for sure, has never revised a drawing. Can he really not know that the drawing number becomes the part number? Even today the file number is the native CAD file number. We call it the drawing or file number until the part is made, then and only then, does it become the part number.  Of course, he is completely unaware of dash numbers! How could he miss this?

           It is common engineering documentation knowledge!

The below article completely explains part numbers.

The Secret of Part Numbers

This shows a complete lack of understanding the purpose of engineering. But as you can see in the "SW/PTC misunderstand MBD" articles, this ignorance runs rampant. I can guarantee you that PLM and MBE will "never" fill that purpose. My problem is that these Infotech PLM gurus are like the fox in charge of the hen house. There seems to be no way to wake up engineering management. That is, of course, if they want to be woken up. They can just keep writing these huge checks to keep the system operating at optimum inefficiency. 

Engineering’s only purpose is to make available concise, complete and unambiguous documentation to manufacturing.

Please read Oleg articles he seems to be the most outspoken authority on all things PLM.

Beyond PLM

The complexity is beyond belief.

It truly is quite shocking that those that are defining PLM have never study the standard document control of the past. It is very simple. It is also shocking that so many BSME, MSME and PHD's in engineering have dedicate their careers to PLM, MBE and data management. Didn't they ever dream of designing spacecraft, aircraft even telephones? I have worked on those! I will tell you, the document control of the past was manned by low paid administrative folks working in a very simple and uncomplicated standard system.

What do drawing or part revisions consist of? You can see that the revisions are not explained, just called revisions. They could be for errors, modifications or a new part design. The revision is defined by a letter. The drawing will have a history of the revisions. How could anyone that is devising a new system over look this?

How did we make small changes and communicate them to manufacturing. We didn't want to revise a drawing! We would create ADCNs (Advanced Drawing Change Notices). These were 8.5 x 11 sheets released and attached to the drawing. Today you have to directly change the 3D model. I will tell you the PLM Guru has no idea of what I am talking about.


Most of the revisions affect the dash numbers. Dash numbers are part of the original part number and will be revised for a variety of purposes after the initial release. If you have a released part in the field you have to create a new dash number even if they serve the same purpose if their configuration is noticeably different. Let's say we are lightening the part. You need to have a new dash number and the assembly and any tech pubs have to reflect the change. Engineering documentation was done by the draftsman. Today, many large companies have eliminated drafting. Sadly, many have eliminated the standard engineering process of creating, checking, release and maintenance of the documentation. They don't seem to realize this was the only final product of engineering. I will state this again "The creation of concise, complete and unambiguous documentation."

But remember most projects are released and the engineering is archived. In the past the drawings, as prints, were always available for new projects. Today, all we did was add the 3D model. How can it now be more complex and confusing than when the engineering was based on the manual drawing?

Engineering documentation is not live data.
The faster it is archived the better.

I am sure Oleg's confusion comes from having the 3D model available and thinking that the 3D model is the part. Today, we create the AID (documentation) after the modeling of the part. This can get confusing and, of course, give a different viewpoint of the process. I have found that these PLM gurus are not in engineering but are Infotechs in computer data management and have not studied the past "standard engineering system" as it relates to documentation. Sadly, their ignorance is quite on display to a seasoned draftsman!

"The 3D model is not the part, but a pattern,
it is just half of the documentation"

It is interesting, I am sure that many of these PLM experts do not know that the assembly AID is a schematic delivered to manufacturing to show the assembly process, working with with the finished delivered parts.

Our documentation today is mostly a completely detailed AID (Associated Information Document) as a PDF and the 3D model. This is the standard deliverable for smaller companies that cannot afford the PLM fiasco. It is easily maintained in the simplest of document management systems. It is outside the CAD system. The model can be the native model or in a neutral format such as STEP. It is not based on any CAD system and can be utilized in any CAD system with virtually no work. Now, one more point to think about: the unassociated CAD assembly!

Here is an honest comment from a PLM expert on the PLM PDM CAD Network on Linkedin.

Kais Al-Timimi
Managing Director at Datamation Limited

"Hi Joe I think everyone in this discussion agrees with your statement that “PLM in its current form will crumble”. Indeed we have been seeing it crumbling already, which is why we had the call for disruption. So, yes, I would like to see PLM to succeed, but not in its current form – this will never happen. The vision for next generation PLM that we should think of it as a “horizontal”, to manage all product information and not just the design. As such it will address all that is wrong with PLM now .

I don’t think a PhD is needed to understand this. Simply to see it from the perspective of the total business, and not just from the design perspective. Furthermore, I don’t think any of the contributors to this discussion disputes the fact that the drawing has been, and continues to be, a convenient way of communicating design intent. But as several contributors have said, what it communicates represents only a fraction of the overall product data. As I said before, and Paul recently, we should see the drawing as a representation, or a snapshot of the design part of product data. As such it represents only one way of communicating design intent."

Where in the world is engineering management?

It is going to take more than disruption to cure PLM. It is going to take a fresh exterior look at what is really happening with engineering documentation. We need to take engineering out of out of the hands of "Data Managers" and the "Inspection Department" and put it back in the hands of the engineers. Boeing got rid of the Drafting Department and are letting the drafters retire and replacing them with degreed engineers. Drafting was the group that was responsible for maintenance and management of the engineering documentation. Sadly, Boeing did not prepare the engineers for this transition and the  added responsibility.

Boeing also eliminated the "Document Control Group". This was an outside engineering admin group that worked closely with "drafting" to assure the documentation was current and readily available. Boeing was convinced by Dassault that Catia 5 and PLM could handle the complete engineering department, thereby, affecting every operation in the complete Boeing organization.

How in the world did Dassault convince Boeing they did not need a group that was responsible for the concise, complete and unambiguous engineering documentation?

I have worked with Boeing and Catia for over 30 years. Dassault is responsible for keeping Boeing one of the most ignorant and isolated manufacturing companies. Their lack of interoperability is beyond belief. All suppliers work around Boeing's obscure demands.

How ignorant is Boeing engineering today?

I was asked by a very experience CNC programmer and CAD user working for a large machine shop to review a drawing and 3D model from Boeing. The 3D modeler after 2 weeks found 3 cavities inside the part. He wanted to know if the modeler was mistaken. I asked if it was a sandcasting?

I got the drawing and in .25 high letters in the middle of the spec was "This is a sandcasting".

Boeing missed it, my associated missed it... It was right on the drawing!! This is not a trivial problem. Hours were spent on the project. A few of my Boeing and Airbus customers have told both of those companies that parts could not be made. These were PMI's.

Boeing sending out drawings? Why didn't they get a group of young engineers to convert the drawings? It would be great training both in learning 3D CAD and form, fit and function design. Strange as this maybe is that this violates Boeing as the 3D model being the authority. This process is so damaged that even they are working around it. It is such a fraud and it is costing Boeing a fortune in bad parts and slipped schedules.

We really must eliminate PLM, MBE and PMI and look at what we did in the past, again all we did was add the 3D model. We need to put engineering back in charge of engineering. They need to be educated on the documentations standard of the past, this mostly includes engineering management. I am sure they are completely out of touch.

PMI vs AID (Associated Information Document)

PLM/MBE/PMI Absurdity!!

The Death of the Drawing

Educating the New 3D CAD Engineer

Should the New 3D CAD Engineer Learn Drafting?

The Millennial 3D MCAD Engineer

There is a solution on the Horizon!!!

"Onshape is by far the most exciting development that has been introduced to the 3D CAD industry. Today you can have a standard engineering deliverable, including the 3D model, documentation in any format, images, videos, etc. currently maintained and directly accessible to other engineering personnel, purchasing, marketing, document control, manufacturing, tech pubs, management, etc. in one location only requiring access to a web browser on PC or Apple. You could have non-engineering personnel maintaining this information, leaving engineers to do their work."

Sadly, Onshape has not focused on this incredible functionality, but only trying to bring another mediocre 3D CAD system to the market. Onshape is not a viable product due not having a locally saved part file. This subscription only and can hold your intellectual property or engineering data hostage.

Onshape! A View from the Clouds

The Embedded Title Block! A PLM Solution!

The Ultimate Document Control System

Standard Cloud Based Engineering Document Control

Standard Cloud Based Engineering Document Control Part II

One day a smart bunch of folks will see this need and offer this functionality at a great price whether the company is large or small. This is a huge market. But we have to define a new engineering deliverable. The PLM and MBE system based on the PMI will soon fail. It is just too complex and costly.

I can assure Boeing already had a workable system pre-Catia 5 PLM. The difference? Catia 4 was a more engineering centric program!

GrabCAD Workbench is almost there.

We could again have a simple, workable standard.
Trust me, it is truly that easy.

If you would like to discuss any of these issues feel free to give me all call. If you would like to see more articles on the state of the industry please visit:

3D CAD Influence on Engineering

TECH-NET Engineering Services!

Why TECH-NET Sells IronCAD and ZW3D

For more information or to download IronCAD or ZW3D

With 54  years of experience in engineering, 17 years in manual board design as a contract engineer, 37 years in 3D CAD sales, support, training and providing engineering services, I have a high level of understanding of today's 3D CAD engineering world. For many it is in chaos. If you are having problems or just interested in this subject please feel free to call and we can discuss them. There are so many simpler solutions available that will save you time and money.

My First 17 Years or "How did we do it without 3D CAD!"

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Joe Brouwer
Skype: tech-net-inc