Product lifecycle management is adopting software tools

Organizations within the military and aerospace realm increasingly are adopting product lifecycle management (PLM) software tools, as the benefits include reduced time to market, improved end-product quality, reduced prototyping and iteration costs, reduced waste, increased security, requirements tracking, and efficient and streamlined engineering.

By Courtney E. Howard

Organizations within the military and aerospace realm increasingly are adopting product lifecycle management (PLM) software tools, since the benefits include reduced time to market, improved end-product quality, reduced prototyping and iteration costs, reduced waste, increased security, requirements tracking, and efficient and streamlined engineering.

PLM is considered to encompass five key areas: systems engineering, product design, manufacturing process management, product/portfolio management, and data management.

Product lifecycle management is evolving into an enterprise-wide discipline that spans multiple product design systems and interacts with a wide range of enterprise applications to manage the complete product lifecycle from concept and design, to production, sales, and service, says a representative at Oracle in Redwood Shores, Calif.

"Profitable product innovation is critical to product-based industries, making PLM one of the fastest growing application segments," explains Oracle president Charles Phillips.

Common themes drive organizations toward modern design processes supported by next-generation tools underpinned by PLM, says Steve Trythall, product line director at the Integrated Electrical Systems Division of Mentor Graphics in Berkshire, England. Design automation is but one of those themes.

"There is a year-on-year ramp up in the complexity and size of mil-aero systems," Trythall describes. "This explosion in product complexity means that yesterday's design processes and tools can no longer be used to design tomorrow's products. Next-generation tools and processes are raising the level of abstraction in the design process, allowing the designer to focus on describing the behavior of the system and allowing the design tools to handle implementation concerns."

At the same time, modern product design software enables the capture of the best practices within an organization and embodies them as part of the design process for all, Trythall explains. Examples include synthesis rules that control the generation of a physical design from an input specification, or automated design rule checks that ensure that the product design meets all guidelines and mandates. "Next-generation software is much more focused on the capture of such knowledge and rules so that they are an intrinsic part of every designer's process and not just the highly-experienced and exceptionally talented," he says.

"Mil-aero product development is a collaborative, cross-functional, multi-organizational process with tight dependencies between all the participants," Trythall notes. "In such a complex environment, controlled and timely access to the data is essential to create an efficient flow."

Organizations are moving to enterprise-level tool suites that are integrated around a common data repository. "There has been a change over time in organizations' view of their data with it now being seen as a critical asset that is at the heart of their competitive advantage, and it therefore it must be professionally managed and exploited," Trythall says. "Product data management solutions have therefore become a cornerstone of the design process."

The mil-aero design process is common with other industries, such as automotive and commercial aerospace, but Trythall notes a much greater interest in security and controlled access to data, as well as requirements traceability in mil-aero applications.

"Organizations need to be able to understand who did what and when; how design artifacts are linked together; where components have been used throughout the vehicle design; and to control who has access to what," Trythall continues. "Our data management solution is at the heart of our solution to these issues. All such issues are supported by a design environment that is underpinned by a modern data management solution."

Software engineers also benefit from PLM processes, practices, and tools, although it is considered application lifecycle management (ALM).

In mil-aero more than most, software must be validated and tested for safety-critical requirements, such as DO-178B, says Tom Schultz, director of products at Coverity in San Francisco. "Software process and checks must be established to meet these external and internal coding standards. Software systems are long-lived and these legacy systems must be modernized to interoperate flawlessly. Lastly, even the incorporation of third-party code or open source code adds the extra requirement of being fully accountable for all software component quality. All of these drive the need for tools that can aid in the ability to deliver high-integrity code."

ALM solutions, such as those offered by Coverity, enable engineers to develop, deliver, and maintain high-integrity code bases though the use of static analysis. ALM delivers a reliable method for automatically finding the important defects in the code that would cause issues, and the ability to identify, track, and fix these defects, as well as to keep defects from being re-introduced through time, Schultz explains.

"Using a technology like static analysis identifies critical defects earlier in the development cycle, which many studies have shown not only to speed the development of the system, but to lower the overall cost of the system," Schultz states. "Finding defects early saves time and money along with insuring the safely and quality of the system." Also essential are the abilities to map defects to known standards for compliance and reporting, and to extend analysis to open source code. Both of these capabilities are important to those who are required to guarantee the integrity of the entire system, he says.

Company information

BAE Systems
Rockville, Md.
www.baesystems.com

Black Duck Software Inc.
Waltham, Mass.
www.blackducksoftware.com

CIMdata
Ann Arbor, Mich.
www.cimdata.com

Coverity Inc.
San Francisco, Calif.
www.coverity.com

Dassault Systemes
Auburn Hills, Mich.
www.3ds.com

EON Reality Inc.
Irvine, Calif.
www.eonreality.com

GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms
Charlottesville, Va.
www.gefanuc.com

Hewlett-Packard Co.
Plano, Texas
www.hp.com

IBM
Dallas, Texas
www.ibm.com

LDRA Technology Inc.
San Bruno, Calif.
www.ldra.com

Mentor Graphics
Wilsonville, Ore.
www.mentor.com

Omnify Software
Andover, Mass.
www.omnifysoft.com

Oracle
Redwood Shores, Calif.
www.oracle.com

Parasoft Embedded, a division of Parasoft Corp.
Monrovia, Calif.
www.parasoft-embedded.com

PTC, The Product Development Company
Needham, Mass.
www.ptc.com

SAP Labs U.S.
Palo Alto, Calif.
www.sap.com

Siemens PLM Software
Plano, Texas
www.siemens.com

SofTech Inc.
Lowell, Mass.
www.softech.com

Zuken USA Inc.
Westford, Mass.
www.zuken.com

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