PLM Prompt: PLM Collaboration Waves?

May 30, 2009

Analyzing waves comes out of Google Wave presentation. I can see multiple responses and perspectives on potentail use of Google Wave for enterprise. Do you think Wave is future of PLM collaboration? 

plm enterprise waves

PLM Prompt: Contextual Collaboration with Microsoft Vine

May 29, 2009

I’ve been playing with Microsoft Vine Beta last few days. For me this is sort of contextual collaboration. You can put notifications and alerts. You can use groups and places as context. Very similar to 3DLive collaboratoin in my view, but with map. 

Oleg Collaboration with Microsoft Vine

PLM Prompt: Google Wave is ringing bell for PLM collaboration

May 29, 2009

Watch this presentation. Do you see it as future PLM collaboration paradigm? Stay tuned for my future posts about how to use it for PLM. 

PLM: How to enable long term retention of you product data?

May 29, 2009

5inch-floppyjpgDo you remember how a 5-inch floppy disk looks? And how to use it? It doesn’t seem like so long ago that we used this floppy quite widely. But, as you can see, we have moved forward, and it’s very interesting how we can enable fast ROI for PLM, how to make a quick implementation, updates online, etc. But at the same time, in my opinion, there are problems that exist today and are also related to long processes. The problem is how to keep my product data for a long period of time. I think that this problem will become more urgent over the next 2-3 years. There are two main reasons for this: Data around us is growing very fast. Most of today’s PLM implementations (even if they are 3-5 years long) are still located on corporate “spinning disks”. As storage is becoming cheaper, this problem is getting pushed to a longer queue, since you can increase your operational storage and postpone the problem to a few years from now.

Most of the discussions related to long term data retention were around CAD formats. Indeed, this is an important topic, but I think that the problem is not limited to data formats, and much wider in scope. I have separate issues on four topics and will analyze the options I see possible for solving these problems.

1. Physical Storage

This is probably not a very “PLM-related” problem. How do you physically keep data? Most of today’s examples I’ve seen use a CD/DVD combination to store data. I’m not so sure if this is so good. The main problem is that by copying data onto a DVD, we are removing data. This is really bad. The biggest value of data being able to use it – by putting your data on a DVD, your data will die. The new development of cloud data centers shows a big promise for solving this problem. I think that companies using cloud data centers will benefit from long data retention and therefore resolve the physical storage problem.

2. Data Models

This one is tricky. Product data is quite complex and not sequential. If you backup your mail, the only model you need is a calendar. You can retrieve any data back using your calendar model – sender(s)/year/month/date. This is all you need to know when you want to retrieve your mail. This is not true with product data. Product data has many dependencies that are very complex and span across timelines related to multiple products etc. So, this is a big problem, in my opinion. Even today I cannot say that a data model is stable for most PDM/PLM implementations. It becomes even less stable over a long period of time. The most advanced development in this field is based on the STEP format, but I still consider this issue very challenging.

3. Data Formats

Most of today’s discussions about long data retention are about formats or CAD formats. When we discuss mainly 3D, one of the first questions we ask is how to store our 3D (and non-3D) graphical models for the long-term. Lifecycle of CAD packages is too short. I think most of today’s implementations are focused on 2D and print storages. There is no silver bullet today, in my view. 3D PDF is promising. Private formats (even if they pretend to be according to industry standards and acceptance, such as JT) can solve the problem only partially.  Combining a good data model and data format may work. But more promising is granular data storage – this will let us keep the underlining model behind 3D and 2D data. 

4. Logical Access

This is a complex term for the simple word “search”. I don’t want to oversimplify, but maybe I’m wrong. At the end of the day, I may need to find data that I saved 30 years ago and examine or reuse it for a particular reason. You can call this simply “searching”, but we need to bring new ideas to this issue – about how to logically retrieve relevant data in the context of a specific problem/issue/task.

And one more thing… There is a certain promise in environment virtualization usage for long term data retention. You can keep your data and your applications together with you computer systems – and you can use a virtual environment to bring your old systems to life. I don’t know why, but this option always reminds me of sci-fi films when humans were frozen and un-frozen after 100-200 years…. Imagine that you start your MS-DOS now to read your document in Word Perfect.

And this topic probably is not be complete if I don’t mention the aging workforce. Not only do we need to keep product data over a long period of time, but we also need to keep data in order for tomorrow’s users “to use data” rather than “decode” data – there’s a big difference.

So, to sum up: I don’t think we have a fundamental solution for this problem. I’ve heard about a few programs such as LOTAR, development done by PDES. Inc; The Siemens announcement of JT approval for long term retention program, and more (sorry if I left something out).

I’d be glad to discuss if you have had experience in this field and what’s your opinion on how to solve this fundamental issue.

Options to Streamline PLM Collaboration: Microsoft vs. Google

May 28, 2009

After starting a massive Excel discussion last week and continuing this week, I got a lot of comments that I was too Microsoft-oriented. And, folks in Redmond, I love you, but we need to check whether or not this is blind love. I will not talk much about the Microsoft option. I think that Microsoft has a major market presence (I think some people commented on my Excel article they have seen about 90% of users are using Excel for BOM management). Excel is very popular, but becomes messy over time.

What are the alternatives to multiple MS Excel attachments that create one big mixed BOM salad on our tables? One of the possible ways is to move online. This is really nice! Think about being able to keep your BOM tables online (actually, I discussed cloud options last month – Host PLM Data using Cloud Services , Should PLM take Excel to the Cloud?). And this is time I also was thinking about Office online alternatives, and came up with Google Apps. I polled your Google Apps opinion last week in PLM Prompt Should PLM think about Google Apps?  You also need to check what was result of Kate’s Cloud Watching, but I’ve seen definite interest in this.

So, the main idea is to be able to co-edit document information (spreadsheets, in our case) online. This simplifies the editing process of potential Bill of Materials and allows many participants to edit/view them at the same time. As this is an advantage, where is the drawback? For Excel, one of the big disadvantages of PLM Spreadsheets is how to connect it to multiple data sources – design, manufacturing etc. This is still a problem in my view. One interesting possibility is the connection as demonstrated by Google Apps and Another option is to move forward with cloud applications, but these seem still to be in their infancy. 

Google Docs in Plain English

Google Apps and 

I can see that collaboration in the future with Google Apps has a nice potential, but what is going on with the parallel Microsoft option? There are two main options for organizing my big Bill of Materials salad created in MS Excel. One is to move it to MS SharePoint. This is a really beautiful option. The combination of MS SharePoint Lists and MS Excel interoperability works fine. You can almost seamlessly move an Excel to SharePoint List and populate an Excel View based on a MOSS Web Part – or just export a MOSS list to Excel. There are practical things you can do tomorrow with MOSS 2007, and this is a real benefit vs. Google Apps, since it don’t have the grace of leveraging all MS Excel install bases for this purpose. But at the same time, Google Apps is really a leader in providing online collaboration with Gmail and Google Docs. Even if Microsoft is proposing to host MS SharePoint, I think this is still far from a real production for manufacturing organizations.

 SharePoint online

SharePoint Online

Combination of SharePoint and Unified Communication also can bring additional benefits. I wrote about this back to SolidWorks World. SharePoint Social Platform capability for SolidWorks

And to be fair enough, discussing all online collaboration option, I think I have to mention Arena Solutions option. This company has already been providing online Bill of Materials collaboration for many years. Although I don’t know if Arena is Excel-friendly, I had a chance to read a few white papers  explaining Arena’s benefits vs. MS Excel. Based on what I read, I think this is a more competing rather than coexisting offering.

 So, I think there are pros and cons on how to streamline collaboration. I’m looking forward to discussing this with you, as usual.

What will be the future potential cost saving with PLM 2.0?

May 27, 2009

Web 2.0 and following 2.0 technologies came to us a few years ago (around 2003 and 2004) and changed the way people interact with the Web. Web 2.0 created a massive wave of 2.0 and social technologies (including Enterprise 2.0) and changed the way people work in many areas in our lives. Back in 2008, PLM companies such as DS and PTC introduced new offerings (PLM 2.0 and Social Product Development) based on concepts of Web 2.0 and social development. I’d like to discuss the various aspects where future PLM 2.0 technologies can impact what we are doing today in and around PLM.

One of the important characteristics of the future PLM 2.0 is the potential cost saving factor for enterprises. Usage of Web 2.0 has changed the way enterprises work. Here are my potential cost saving factors for companies implementing future PLM 2.0 technologies:

1. Optimize communication, reduce email, streamline processes

Social tools and the internet can simplify communication. People are more connected and easily communicating. Open social communication reduces the need for email and simplifies processes. Collaboration will be easy. You will easily be able to find relevant people to communicate to inside and outside the organization. Companies will reduce online storages (i.e. for mails) and will move gradually to cloud-based services.

2. Improve information transparency

Product data and related information will become more available. You will be able to easy share information outside of the engineering organization, collaborating with people downstream – in manufacturing and sales – as well as with people in the value chain. Social tools such as wikis, blogs and others will establish a more transparent layer of information sharing.

3. Reduce IT costs

There are two main sources of IT cost reduction. First of all, PLM 2.0 rely more on internet and other social resources that have a much lower cost compared to dedicated corporate IT expenses. Secondly, the ability to share resources (corporate and public clouds) will bring additional IT savings.

4. Reduce integration costs

Usage of Internet technologies will lower the cost of integration. The use of open Web-based technologies will streamline the ability to integrate data and systems across the enterprise and value chain. You can use Mashup and other Web tools to manipulate, mix, and share data among people and applications.

5. Reduce printing services

Development of various connectivity and information share options will decrease the need for printing services. This will happen in organizations as a result of the wider availability of information outside of an organization – in the sales and supply chains. Wide usage of internet and mobile devices will reduce the need for paper materials.

6. Change trend in software cost

Last, but not least. The leverage of Internet, Web 2.0 and other 2.0 technologies brings a stream of new providers to the PLM eco-system. These providers are less dependent on legacy, on-premise product offering and maintenance revenue streams. These companies will be more dynamic and will drive the software cost trend down. Many companies will be leveraging this new trend.

I think that the future of PLM 2.0 is good, but still very challenging. We have seen dramatic changes in Web 2.0 and changes that the following technologies made in our life and on social communication. I’m sure that PLM 2.0 has a great potential and am looking forward to your opinions and discussions.

PLM Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes

May 26, 2009

Although, I love my PLM Spreadsheets, it is a sort-of “Love and Hate” relationship. Since it’s so easy to start with Excel, we always do…, but what is the price of this easy move? So, I decided to follow-up my love letter to Excel with some “hate” statements.

1. It becomes complex within time. You always start with something simple to do. A few columns; simple formulas. But life adds additional parameters, and data to manage…. and then you can hardly manage it at all. You don’t remember all your excel dependencies. The Copy/Paste you loved in the beginning is no longer an easy task…

2. You cannot change it easily. At the beginning of your Excel story, it seems so easy to change. You can send it to any person, add information, delete, manage reports, etc. But as time goes by, nobody remembers the really good relationships you built in Excel. To touch data in Excel becomes so complex! I’ve seen many organizations who have an “Excel Manager” duty. These people are called “mission critical Excels”.

3. Data is not only in Excel. Your PLM life is not in Excel only. A lot of information exists in CAD, Designs, ERP, or in additional legacy applications. In my view, Excel is a very bad integration tool. You cannot easily point to information residing in other systems. But to manage these relationships, it’s really important to have the right data in your hands when you need it.

4. Where is my latest Excel? I’m sure you have asked this question many times. Is it the one connected to your mail? Is it the one on your laptop, or is it the one in SharePoint? When you have multiple Excels, and especially if you have multiple versions of these Excels, you will really be lost…

5. Hidden cost of dependencies. In the beginning of the Excel journey, it so easy to send an Excel file to your colleagues. You just attach it to your mail and you it’s delivered. But as soon as your Excel becomes complex such as being connected to other data sources or linked to other Excels, you cannot encapsulate it so easy. So, sometimes sending it via email isn’t so trivial.

What should I do next? I still really like my PLM Excel, but before building my PLM system on Excel grounds, I would like to try to find ways to avoid these hidden Excel problems. How should I do this? Keeping it simple is a good recommendation in theory, but not always easy an easy task to put into practice. I will think about a few recommendations and possible solutions, and will come back to you in future posts. I’ll record the recommendations in an Excel sheet before posting them here. Or maybe not….Stay tuned…


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