Safety in numbers: IBM Centers of Excellence facilitate protected product launches

IBM says clients visiting the new centers are afforded access to a proven set of “PLM best practices” and software development models for use in new product-development initiatives.


IBM says its global network of nine product life-cycle management (PLM) centers will help customers launch new products more quickly and safely by leveraging proven business methodologies and software development models.
The Center of Excellence (CoE) "lab environment" offers clients access to more than 3,000 researchers, 9,000 software developers, and 1,000 consulting and technology practitioners worldwide. The teams work closely with clients to integrate the millions of processes and transactions—typical of any product's life cycle—across a PLM community of partners, suppliers, and customers.
Clients visiting the centers are afforded access to a proven set of “PLM best practices” for use in new product-development initiatives key to a company’s future growth and brand reputation.
Early client engagements include those with Harley Davidson Motor Company ; the only major U.S.-based motorcycle manufacturer; and Bombardier , a Canadian manufacturer of innovative transportation solutions.
"Our goal is to create a technology infrastructure to support the easy flow of millions of data transactions and graphical transactions typical of our daily design process," says Robert Benoit, VP of applications, Bombardier Aerospace. "Working with the Center of Excellence, we can rely on [IBM's] expertise to deliver proof-of-concepts that have a high success rate."
The task of connecting disparate applications and data sources across a product life cycle is challenging. Within a company, “Each group sees product information through the lens of its own role—CAD geometry, manufacturing processes, spare parts data, pricing, and packaging—so it’s critical to enable role-based views inside and outside the company for faster decision support. A service-oriented architecture [SOA] would reduce these complexities,” says Jeff Hojlo, a PLM analyst with Boston-based AMR Research .
IBM lists these specific offerings as available today at the centers:
SOA and Web 2.0 solutions : As companies create a more diverse product portfolio, supplier and partner collaboration will become critical. With a standards-based SOA foundation, clients can build composite applications using Web 2.0 technologies to help suppliers and partners collaborate in a fluid and rapidly changing environment. For example, a manufacturer trying to identify a product compliance issue can tap into Lotus Sametime, IBM's unified communications platform. This platform integrates presence, instant messaging, Web conferencing, voice, and video that bring suppliers and partners together to solve problems as if they were in the same room.
• Executive workshops: Client executives have the opportunity to step out of their daily work environment to join a team of IBM Global Services experts in determining the strategic steps necessary to make PLM part of a company's business strategy. For example, with the PLM Value Creation Workshop, clients can access industry benchmarking studies to map their PLM performance levels against competitors and partners and then identify areas of improvement that are aligned with their business goals.
Proof-of-Concept factory : The IBM Product Development Integration Framework offers software assets leveraged by software developers to create industry-specific solutions. These industry frameworks form the foundation of future technology projects. Using IBM SOA industry frameworks, which contain interrelated and reconfigurable software modules called business services, clients can customize solutions based on an industry or technology need.
PLM process transformation : Working with open standards for PLM data and processes, IBM CoE staff demonstrate an innovative approach that allows business processes to span multiple and diverse PLM and enterprise applications. For example, engineering change processes are demonstrated that connect multiple brands of PLM databases to SAP ERP and a service-after-the-sale management system.
PLM Application Integration : Through a loosely coupled SOA, Web services interfaces are applied to connect PLM applications called Product Data Management and Simulation Data Management repositories together. Once connected to SOA middleware, PLM product data can flow freely between systems to follow the natural course of product design and change management processes.
PLM emerging technologies : Manufacturers can leverage new technology prototypes such as mobile 3D viewers that can render and manipulate three-dimensional models on Linux-based, Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and Pocket PC devices. Mobile access to 3D designs, including those derived from mechanical computer-aided designs (MCAD); give business managers and designers the flexibility to stay in touch with the latest product information anytime, anywhere.
Many of the centers offer PLM customers access to a rich portfolio of software and services from IBM and its business partner community. For example, the Nice-La Gaude Center hosts the SOA Leadership Center, the Worldwide Nuclear Power Center, and the RFID Competency Center.

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