Senior management have always been reluctant to invest in technology and especially upgrades once a technology is in place. I have seen instances where management lays off the senior engineers who implemented something like Advanced Process Control or Manufacturing Execution Systems keeping a recent graduate engineer to maintain the system, if even that. Management sees only a large salary cost reduction. Rarely is maintaining momentum a virtue.

I have been in way too many of these discussions in my career. I’ve seen results one way or another. There have been the instances where they had to hire back the laid off engineer at higher consultant rates to get the system back up and running properly.

So, this report from CIMdata detailing research on PLM software upgrading was hardly surprising. Disturbing, perhaps, but not surprising.

Digital transformation is a popular topic, and CIMdata has written much about it. While many still wonder whether digital transformation is real or just the latest buzzword, many industrial companies are taking its promise very seriously.

While it is clear to all within the PLM community that PLM is foundational to a meaningful digitalization program (or digital transformation strategy), this truth is not always understood by senior leadership within companies. While CIMdata believes that the level of investment in digital transformation is appropriate, based on our research and experience we find that executive awareness of the dependency of digital transformation on PLM is lacking. This lack of understanding of its association to PLM-related investment, sustainability and impacts on business performance and benefits puts many digital transformation programs at risk of becoming yet another program of the month.

This research on obsolescence identified areas that increased the cost of technology refresh and found that heavy customization was at the top of the list. This aligns with CIMdata’s experience in the field and is why companies strive to be more out-of-the-box with their PLM implementations. CIMdata’s view is that customization can add significant value to a PLM implementation, but it needs to be either business or cost justified and deliver an appropriate return on investment over the long-term (i.e., even through subsequent solution upgrades).

A new study from CIMdata exposes the financial risk many organizations face when they take PLM upgrades for granted. According to the study, the cost of upgrades with legacy PLM vendors can average between $732,000 and $1.25 million. The study – which compares industry heavyweights such as Dassault, PTC, and Siemens – finds the Aras PLM platform is easiest to keep current. Aras users upgrade more frequently, over a shorter duration, and at less cost than other leaders in the space. 

What’s behind PLM obsolescence? According to CIMdata, “A sustainable PLM solution is one that can meet current and future business requirements with an acceptable return on investment (ROI) via incremental enhancements and upgrades.” But as clearly shown in the research, many companies using PLM software are not staying current. The five reasons are: 


1. Technically Impossible. Typically, after an arduous deployment and the necessary customization to meet the businesses current needs, the software is no longer capable of upgrading. 
2. No ROI. If you take a year to upgrade and it costs close to a million dollars, the cost and impact to the business is so outrageous it can’t be justified.

3. No Budget. Not having the budget is a real concern, but often the lack of budget is a mistake—a mis-prioritization of what’s important to your organization’s future growth, often combined with a high percentage of the overall budget being consumed by technical debt. 
4. Companies overinvest and therefore are committed. The only thing worse than spending large amounts of money on the wrong thing is doubling down and spending more, expecting a better experience. The pandemic has accelerated the need to change, to expect transformation with less risk, less cost, and greater ROI that will lead to greater business resiliency. Throwing good money after bad is no longer being tolerated—there is more of a focus on the bottom-line and doing more with less. 
5. Leadership Doesn’t Understand Dependency of Digital Transformation on PLM. If your PLM system hasn’t been upgraded in years and isn’t the foundation for continuous digital transformation efforts, there is an absolute lack of understanding of how PLM can transform a business.

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