The Notion of Trust in PLM

October 30, 2009

Picture 29This week was signed by a significant event – Dassault Systems announced intent to acquire IBM’s PLM Software distribution activities. In the shadow of this event, I was looking on various publications related to activities of big companies, acquisitions and mergers. One publication, IT leaders trust Microsoft more than Google, 2-to-1 by Jason Hiner, was very interesting. I hardly can estimate how to compare my trust in two huge public companies. My trust-measure-kit failed to designate it. Large and publicly traded companies generate feeling of trust. On the other side, we all know other examples.

However, this publication drove me to think about a very practical topic related to selection of CAD/PLM software and trust in PLM vendors. Choosing of PLM software is not a simple activity. I’ve seen many companies making this decision, and always it is a very complicated process. The nature of this complication, in my view, is that PLM activities have a very long time span. Once started with specific software, you will keep this for multiple projects and products. Even if you’ll decide to change your CAD or PLM software, it will probably reflect your future activity.

I’m not big fun of surveys, but many times selection of PLM vendors reminds me one big survey customer filling in trying to decide what software to choose. In the end, one of the final questions is the question of trust. Big PLM vendors generate feeling of trust and stability. DS and IBM with their history of relationships and trust in IBM big blue brand, Siemens PLM with their famous statement – we never let a customer fail. Do you believe in well-established PLM companies? Stable niche players? Innovative startups? Maybe you trust more in association with big service providers in this space?

These are just my thoughts. I wonder to know how do you see the notion of trust in PLM?

Best, Oleg

Design and Manufacturing: Top Down PLM approach with Treehouse?

October 29, 2009

The new release of SolidWorks Labs Threehouse V2 hit me to think again about Top Down approach and efficient communication between Design/Engineering and Manufacturing.

SolidWorks Labs released V2 of Treehouse. You can get more information on their website as well as take a look on multiple blog articles about that. My favorite was SolidSmack’s “Full Speed TreeBleed. SolidWorks Treehouse, Not Just a Treehouse“.

Design, Engineering and Manufacturing
Problem of disconnecting between Design/Engineering organization is not new, in my view and exists in many manufacturing organizations. It’s obvious Engineers sees a product they develop very much in the light, of how they build parts/sub-assemblies/assemblies/configurations models. For them this is what make sense. However, from manufacturing side, it always looks different because their structure is driven by assembly process, packaging, supply chain and other factors from a shop floor. Most of the systems today are not providing a good solution for this problem. Those customers that made decent solution in this space built it based on huge customization and service base.

Treehouse, Modular design and Top Down

In my view, Treehouse concept is interesting since it can provide a communication bridge between two worlds: design and engineering/manufacturing. The way to initiate design top-down in SolidWorks is not trivial and Treehouse can be an interesting approach to do so. It can facilitate modular design and ability to create new products and configuration top down initiated from Engineering/Manufacturing space.

What is your opinion on that? Have you had chance to think or implement the top-down approach in your organization? What systems you had in your mind to support it?

Best, Oleg

PLM Prompt: Amazon RDS and future PLM apps on cloud?

October 28, 2009
Amazon announced Amazon RDS. In my view, this is the next logical level of cloud services’ deployment. Now you can develop you cloud applications with RDBMS back-end on cloud… Impressive? I think so and I think multiple PLM providers will be able to leverage that.

Quote from the Amazon Web Services blog article:

Today I’d like to tell you about our newest service, the Amazon Relational Database Service, or Amazon RDS for short. Now in beta, RDS makes it easier for you to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. You get direct database access withoutworrying about infrastructure provisioning, software maintenance, or common database management tasks.

Using the RDS APIs or the command-line tools, you can access the full capabilities of a complete, self-contained MySQL 5.1 database instance in a matter of minutes. You can scale the processing power and storage space as needed with a single API calland you can initiate fully consistent database snapshots at any time.

Much of what you already know about building applications with MySQL will still apply. Your code and your queries will work as expected; you can even import a dump file produced by mysqldump to get started.

This is also a good time to point back on cloud watching Kate and I made on 3D Perspectives. Below you can see current results.

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What do you think about that? Do you or your organization is thinking about the future of cloud applications?

Best, Oleg

Open Source Threat for CAD

October 28, 2009

Open Source and CAD. Do you think something is going on in this direction? I had chance to discuss Open Source topic several times in my previous posts. But, actually, I almost never took an angle of CAD and open source relationships. The following article drove my attention yesterday.

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What is interesting is that Open Source CAD alternatives specifically focusing on AutoCAD space. It will be probably obvious to remind you that in the past Autodesk made a revolution change in the CAD software space by moving CAD from lucrative and exclusive high-end environments to PC. So, should current CAD software vendors worry about Open Source threat? I don’t think so – not yet. However, in my view open source will come to the space of CAD too, and I see initial signs of movements toward this. My expectation that open source CAD introduction will happen bottom up, first will come as a mix of graphic and drawing tool and future expand in the space of mid-range CAD packages.

I’d like to mention few projects and systems in this space that I tracked so far – Archimedes project, BRL-CAD project, K-3D.

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Another interesting project is Russian Nanocad is promoting ideas of of Open Software.

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Separate thinking should be done around Google Sketch-Up. The product is free is available from Google. With Google’s general interest and focus on Open Source, it can be considered as an interesting option too.

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Just my thoughts. YMMV.
Best, Oleg

SharePoint 2010 Communities and PLM Social Demands

October 27, 2009

Picture 14PLM is moving fast towards social computing and social product development. I had chance to share some of my previous thoughts related to social features in PLM  few weeks ago and we had a very good conversation. If you haven’t had chance to be involved, I’d suggest you to take a very brief look on the following posts as well as comments to these posts.

Emerging Social Economies and PLM communities

Social PLM Challenges

PLM Goes Social – Don’t forget your daily job!

Looking back I definitely would like to mention few very visible activities related to PLM and Social Trend: DS announcement of collaboration with Community Platform BlueKiwi, PTC social product development. Don’t miss also small vendors such as Vuuch stepping into this space with Social PLM and Business Communities.

Now, Microsoft SharePoint 2010 is coming with some very strong messages related to communities too. As you can see on the  slides, Microsoft put Community as one of the key pillars in their new SharePoint 2010 marketing mantra. With four key areas of experience- social content, social networking, teamwork and groups, SharePoint provide wide spread of potential benefits.

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What is behind this? Actually quite many things. Microsoft is taking huge bulk of stuff, some of them are old in SharePoint such as Sites and Workspaces. Some of the features got a face – lift such as blogs, wikis, podcasting tools. Several new features and some of them very impressive released around people-related searches, tagging and social networking. You can see Microsoft’s marketing slide below. What is clear is that SharePoint 2010 is introducing a very significant bundle of tools that will make new SharePoint reminding even more than before “A universal enterprise hammer”.

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However, I think, the biggest advantage of SharePoint as a platform is the ability to combine in the single box these multiple capabilities that in the normal situation need to be purchased from the different vendors and combined together.

So, with such background, SharePoint 2010 Social Computing presentation severely hit my mind with SP capabilities around social tools. It’s clear Product Development Activities can be significantly improved by using technologies and techniques developed by social networking tools. Software vendors developing products for manufacturing intensively investing in such features and concepts as communities, voting, the crowd-sourcing, tagging, micro-blogging, wikis and others. So, introducing of such features on popular Microsoft’s platform can be an interesting turn for Product Date/Lifecycle tools to jump over new capabilities. However, on the other side, I see SharePoint 2010 platform capabilities in business collaboration, information and knowledge management as very broad and requiring a very significant additional investment from future customers.

What is my conclusion today? SharePoint 2010 is a new kind of platform enterprises are going to experience in the near future. To see, how these technologies can co-exist without significant overlaps – this is a key for future PLM and SharePoint success. So far, we can wait until SharePoint 2010 BETA next month and expect some interesting new features and implementations.

Best, Oleg

PLM Strategy and Six Thinking Hats

October 26, 2009

six-thinking-hatsDo you know how companies are making decisions about their PLM related strategies? I don’t… Each time I see this process, I think a company is trying to invent the wheel. I think, the most closest methodologies related to such decisions are in the space of Configuration Management and Engineering Documentation.

I was reading about Six Thinking Hats methodology over the weekend and found it interesting to apply to way organization apply their thinking about PLM-related strategies.

White Hat:
Thinking about Design, Product models, Bill of Material, Structures, Information.

Red Hat:
This is the way to think about how we work now. In most of the cases, I think, we are taking very emotionally, analyzes of how we work now. In most cases, it is very hard to disconnect.

Black Hat:

This is the place where all thoughts about previous unsuccessful projects come to our mind.

Yellow Hat:
Here all PLM Marketing messages going to be presented. Benefits, Values, ROI, TCO etc.

Green Hat:
This is the place where we are going to innovate and brings new technologies, a suggestion to change, improve etc.

Blue Hat:
This is our process control hat. When we think how to organize processes, how to decide. I’d call it probably “management way to think”. Sometimes, this one can turn us to data - reducing of Part Numbers, Optimizing ECO etc.

So, I’d be interesting to hear about ways you think when made your previous PLM-related decision? Do you see six hats association work for you? Share your thoughts, please…

Best, Oleg

SharePoint 2010 for Collaborative Product Development Applications

October 23, 2009

Picture 11I’d like to share some of my initial thoughts about SharePoint 2010 technologies presented by Microsoft during this week. This is my first and not systematic impression. I’ll, also, try to eliminate all marketing messages and product re-branding that Microsoft made. I’d like to focus on SharePoint from the technological standpoint and analyze what potential, I see to use this technological platform to develop Collaborative Product Development Applications (also known as PLM).

What is the box? Coming from MOSS 2007 to SharePoint 2010 Microsoft added FAST Enterprise Search product as part of SharePoint. This is probably the most significant product enhancement. Rest of the package is significantly improved, but keep the same functional scope. Of course, it includes all technological components – .NET framework, Office 2010 and many others.

So, what is the basket of technological components that can make it attractive to develop Collaborative Product Business Applications? Here is my short list – Content Type, List and External List, Business Connectivity Services, Web Parts, LINQ, Workflow Services.

Content Type. This is the basic data modeling element in SharePoint. Defintion of content type well integrated and accomplished with rich set of tools. On one side, this is of course, not a replacement for RDBMS and have many limitations. Don’t take me wrong. Content Type cannot be use for product modeling, Bill of Materials etc .. However, on the other side, accomplished by events, notifications, workflow and additional embedded features can be used to define a model of collaboration.

Lists. This is very powerful, in my view, element of collaborative structure. You can “share a list” in many ways and this is very flexible. Simplicity of the list-based collaboration made a success of SharePoint. This is my opinion. Expanded with something called “External Data Lists” in SharePoint 2010, can be used widely to share information between people. The purpose of External List is to share data located in external applications and data sources.

BCS. I already touched BCS as part of my post about SharePoint 2010 Composites. BCS is fundamentals of SharePoint connectivity to external data sets. SharePoint definitely focuses on how to collaborate and access data in enterprise systems, which make it quite powerful tools. BCS (formerly known as BDC) was expanded to become CRUD (Create Read Update Delete). In MOSS 2007, BDC was available only to access read-only data from external systems.

Web Parts
. As a technology, Web Parts are not unique in SharePoint. However, SharePoint contains rich set of Web Parts that can be used together with different content types and lists. Therefore, I see it as sufficient set of building blocks for collaborative applications.

The same as WebParts, Workflow is a not unique, but quite efficient bundle of the process-oriented technologies. SharePoint contains very basic stuff out of the box, but additional tools allows to develop new processes. Some of the tools look very impressive and allow to develop processes in the traditional, diagram-based view, but also in the view of english-typing conditional text.

You can tell me, some of these technologies are available also without SharePoint. You are right! The question is not if you can use LINQ or Workflow services independently. My point is if SharePoint as a package will become attractive enough for software and service developers in the area of Collaborative Product Data Management. And, if yes, how all these components can be used together to develop cost-effective and powerful applications.

I’m sure IT, Service Companies and PLM vendors will be making their own tests and assesments about what are pros and cons of SharePoint 2010. Product BETA will be released later this month and released in the beginning of 2010. What is clear, SharePoint 2010 is a significant commitment from Microsoft to provide the platform for enterprise organization, and it can be considered as a valid option for organizations these days.

I will continue to share my future thoughts, ideas and analyzes about SharePoint and will be interested to hear your voices too.
Best, Oleg

BOM: Manufacturing and Engineering

October 22, 2009

I’d like to continue discussion about Bill of Materials. I learned a lot from previous posts. Thank you all for excellent comments!

For those, who just joining us, these are links on previous posts:
BOM: Overstructured, Understructured or Lean
Seven Rules Towards Single Bill of Material

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So, today, I want to focus on potential differences between Engineering and Manufacturing bills and put some ideas how, I think, these bills can be managed as a single, or more synchronized one bill. A very logical situation I had chance to see in many companiesboth engineering and manufacturing have their own BOM. If you will request part list from both BOMs for the same part number, two different BOMs will appear. And these two bills supposed to be in sync…. However, they don’t. In my view, the fact, these bills are not synchronized can bring a very significant damage to the company nowadays. Increased regulation requirements, IT resource optimizationthis is the only initial list of the reasons why we can prefer to make some optimization around both engineering and manufacturing BOMs.

I will try to figure out why engineers and manufacturers prefer to have their own bills. Engineers don’t understand the manufacturing’s need for more or less levels in BOM. Most of engineers prefer to have fewer levels in the bill, so it will simplify the process of changes. From their standpoint, it will make the process of changes straightforward. Another situation when engineers, indeed, create additional levels of sub-assemblies. However, in real life these sub-assemblies are consumed on the shop-floor almost immediately and manufacturing doesn’t see any need to assign Part Numbers to these sub-assemblies (lean practices). There is also a situation when manufacturing leads to a false conclusion about two BOMs need. One of the examples is when the assembly requires many partsbut manufacturing is not using them all in once, or they are used in different assembly areas. Even more complicated situations may happen in case you are manufacturing configurable product with multiple options. Set of engineering documents and engineering parts can be significantly different from manufacturing bill you’ll have for a particular order. To manage synchronization between these bills can be a huge task, and it will result in high complexity of software (or procedures) used to make this synchronization happen.

The solution for this problem, I want to discuss is to maintain single bill of material with the sufficient level of granular (or I can call it modular) definitions of parts. The granularity needs to be on the level to satisfy both engineering and manufacturing. Engineers need to have the ability to manage parent/component information. At the same time, manufacturing can maintain the operation information and lead time offset data. In the case of manufacturing to order, a unique bill of material will be generated from a modular set of components.

Advantages of this approach will be eliminating costly synchronization between engineering and manufacturing BOMs. The visible disadvantages of such approach is how to implement it using today’s software. I’m not familiar with applications that can provide the level of flexibility to manage bill of material. I assume some service implementation or customization can be done, and maybe you can share your experience about that.

Just my thought.
Best, Oleg

Why PLM Need to Learn about SharePoint 2010 Composites?

October 21, 2009

Picture 5Some technology and infrastructure thinking today coming out of SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Without going to more systematic analyzes what Microsoft presented in future coming SharePoint 2010 version (beta is planned in November and release is next year), I’d like to go straight ahead and talk about very interesting topic, in my view, called SharePoint Composites.

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As you can see on the picture above SharePoint composites are fundamental part of overall SharePoint marketing architecture and pretty much focuses on rapid creation of no-code collaborative solution. Looking on that together with the ability to unlock enterprise data, I saidthis is something that sounds very PLMish? I think every PLM solution has a strategic need to collaborate and communicate with various pieces of enterprise data and systems. Bill of Materials in ERP, Customer information in CRM and endless list of various databases and homegrown solutionsthis is the only initial list of enterprise data that we face in every PLM implementation.

So, let’s dig inside and see what Microsoft is planning to offer as part of Composites. The major piece of SharePoint composites is evolution of SharePoint BDC (Business Data Catalog). Back in SharePoint 2007, BDC was created to be able to read data from multiple external sources (Microsoft presents it as LOB- Line of Business Systems) and connects these multiple data sources into SharePoint Lists, Workspaces etc. BDC evolution path in SharePoint 2010 is what calledBCS (Business Connectivity Services). You can take a look on this picture bellow. What is important is that BCS is supporting full CRUD (for non-programming peopleCreate Read Update Delete) framework. So, the application will be able to make full manipulation of data in external systems. This is, of course, depends on technology systems will be connected (SQL or proprietary APIs / Web Services).

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So, what is my short conclusion today from initial presentation and review of Microsoft composites and BCS? I think, this framework is an interesting approach SharePoint will use to acquire enterprise data and interplay with enterprise applications. There are two possible scenarios I can figure out for PLM applications with regards to SharePoint Composites:

1. Internal. This option assumes PLM application will be re-using elements of SharePoint composites to get broader system and enterprise data connectivity. This is something that I see logical and should be compliant, in my view, with how Microsoft Composites and BCS will be introduced for companies.

2. External. For this option SharePoint Composite and BCS specifically will assume PLM apps is one of the LOB. So, collaborative scenarios can be built on top of PLM data and interplay with enterprise data and collaborative processes that will come from other systems.

I’m sure, there are much more options and these are only major directions. Good place to see how BCS and Composites will be developed and implemented is to discover and learn everything happens between SharePoint and SAP applications. I’m sure we’ll see interesting scenarios and new types of applications coming out and based on new SharePoint technologies. However, it doesn’t mean it will introduce new conflicts between Microsoft technological frameworks and Enterprise Application vendors frameworks.

Stay tuned on next discussions about SharePoint and related technologies later this week.

Best, Oleg

BOM: Overstructured, Understructured or Lean?

October 20, 2009

I’d like to continue discussion I started in my earlier postSeven Rules Towards Single Bill of Materials. So, what are possible collisions on the way to the single bill of materials?. So, let’s take design, engineering and manufacturing bills. When I look on opposite sidesdesign and manufacturing, the purpose, and as a result, how these bills look like. Design bill started from CAD and, obviously, take as a starting point, design structure. So, we can get very structured bill of material. As opposite, manufacturing bill of material foundation is manufacturing process. The levels of manufacturing bill are driven by manufacturing process definitions, stocking and other elements of manufacturing process. What is the role of engineering bill? Do we need it?

If I’m looking from the perspective of needs, it looks like engineering bill is not needed (wait for a moment, don’t kill me now :)). Design Bill provides information about how my product structured. Manufacturing Bill provides information how my product will be assembled (or build). However, I found distance between these structures / views is a huge, connection between them is not obvious. This is, in my view, place where product lifecycle technologies need to be focused – to step beyond pure design or manufacturing structures to engineering level and build lean engineering bill of material that will become master BOM in the organization.

What are the advantages of such approach? Master Engineering Bill will be able to connect design elements, especially those that related to custom manufacturing and will provide set of configurable modules. Master Engineering bill will support different techniques to create a condition-based structures and many others. From Manufacturing side, engineering bill will get required information about Item MastersDifferent elementsdesign and manufacturing, will be interconnected in this engineering bill, so no more missing parts or impossible product options.

What are the disadvantages of such approach? I see two major problemsneed to build unified data structure and synchronization work between department and people. The multiple bill of material approach solves problems of people collaboration and communication. Each department has their own bill, they are working on. The problem is in the endmissing parts on the shop-floor, missed dates or high product cost. In order to support, single Engineering Master Bill of Material, we need to find right technologies that allow to people to work simultaneously on different pieces of this bill, synchronize, change, update. This collective bill of material should be supported by PLM technologies looking on how to collaborate between design and manufacturing.

Just my thoughts.
Best, Oleg


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