Open Source PLM Is Not Necessarily Free PLM

Open source PLM has been in the market for years and is probably growing frankly In the open source PLM world I observed that there are two major players, ARAS and In the real sense of the term, product can actually be termed as open source; whereas ARAS is offering what it calls Enterprise Open source, where in the source code is restricted but the software is still available for free to enterprises.

So how free is the open source PLM? In a nutshell, open PLM means ‘no more license fees, ever.’ Sounds compelling but what do you actually get for free? License fee is just one part of the actual cost. Manufacturers need to focus in on the value they will receive.

To make things clear, open source companies like ARAS are not a charity or non-profit organizations. As a case point ARAS is a software company with a different business model. The company’s software comes for free but manufacturing companies that download the software from the ARAS site need to pay support and maintenance. The general perception about open source is that it is the collaborative effort of individuals from different companies. While there is some truth in this, but in general the core development is done by the service provider companies, in this case ARAS.

The other aspect is that while manufacturing companies don’t have to pay a license fee, they have to pay a flat subscription fee, which means that as businesses expand their operations and their software costs do not go up. There is no user-based fee so larger companies can expand to other operations without extra charge. This may sound compelling, but you have to keep in mind that PLM systems take time and resources to implement, and there will still be costs for hardware and other supporting infrastructure.

Open source solutions are not for everybody and that cheap PLM, or open source PLM is not necessarily free. Yes, there are no license costs and some vendors also offer heavy discounts to their customers but the real advantage is a low entry barrier – after that you may end up paying heavily.  It is important to understand that PLM is not a special software package meant for product development. On the contrary, it is a comprehensive approach to ongoing product and process improvement.

There are several other factors besides IT that govern product development and supply chain management. This means that business processes are affected over a period of time. The full potential of PLM can only be exploited with a seamless interaction between IT tools, processes and people. So even if open source PLM is free, your costs may add up with regards to people and processes.

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