14 February 2012

Engineering management software to surge?

WM's IT guru Brian Tinham gets to grips with enterprise asset management software and product lifecycle management suites

So-called enterprise asset management software (EAM, but maintenance management to you and I) and product lifecycle management (PLM) suites are increasingly being understood as key to manufacturing management, according to a study by Frost & Sullivan.

That said, among the international analyst's key findings is the point that widespread adoption still pivots on the provision of flexible, scalable and secure systems, as well as robust software standards. That is the only way mere understanding of the software's significance is likely to morph into anything like the bandwagon that has been ERP – certainly in Europe.

Nevertheless, Frost & Sullivan senior research analyst Karthik Sundaram insists that EAM and PLM are now being seen by more CIOs than ever as essential to a sustainable manufacturing business framework for the 21st century.

Why? Because EAM software sits well with users' continuing quest for increased asset utilisation, helping to provide for uninterrupted production schedules despite reducing opex budgets. Meanwhile, PLM speaks directly to the requirement for much better collaboration across engineering and into production, so enabling much needed efficiencies across the whole design, development and introduction chain.

It's all been said before, certainly on the PLM side – but mostly by manufacturing IT pundits, less by analysts with a respectable study from which to draw hard evidence. However, this remains a prediction and while it's easy to see how EAM adoption could accelerate (it already is, and not just among the big boys), the future for PLM remains less clear.

And yet, reading the runes of recent software launches, it could finally happen. Look at Infor, for example, which earlier this year unveiled what it describes as an enhanced version of its Optiva PLM software for process manufacturers. For Infor, PLM appears to be business as usual. So, apart from a name change to Infor10 PLM Process, the enhancements centred on single sign-on and the company's Infor10 ION middleware – to streamline integration with other applications, such as third party ERP.

"Process manufacturers are facing unprecedented pressure to develop products and get them to the marketplace faster," states Venkat Rajaji, global product manager for Infor PLM. Sounds familiar?

"By taking advantage of Infor's ION and Workspace technology, as well as a scripting library and web client enablement, Infor10 PLM Process delivers greater speed, agility and collaboration than ever before in the industry," he adds. Now that sounds tantalising, doesn't it?

Brian Tinham

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