PLM Open Source Tradeoff

April 30, 2010

I’m continuing to hear comments about importance of Open Source for PLM. It comes to me multiple ways during the last year, and I have to say that the overall knowledge about what means Open Source in various aspects related to software code, different type of licenses, customer communities. I think that PLM Open Source industry conversion is growing. Today, I want to figure out what is a potential tradeoff in Open Source PLM implementation. In my view, if a customer is thinking about Open Source, he needs to make a potential tradeoff in the context of the following three aspects: Business, Community and Technology.

The Business
Every manufacturing company is thinking in terms of their core business. What are the areas of innovation and how they can develop their market competitive advantages? Product Lifecycle Management has a direct impact on the development of company competence via providing services and tools to develop products, provide service and optimize engineering and manufacturing processes. For many years, making business with IBM was considered as a safe business decision. As soon as you put your core development processes into IBM safe deposit box, you will be ok. In my view, it is a still right way. And if you company is ready to pay a premium price for making business with IBM-like providers you can do it. However, you will need to play according to the IBM (and other rules). In every business, you have multiple risks and to choose how to manage them is your own choice. Your tradeoff with Open Source PLM is to choose a more vulnerable solution. You are taking definite risk stepping into this pathway. Even so, you can find appropriated options to compensate your risks by hiring more knowledgeable team or paying subscriptions. This is your choice, of course.

The Community
This is a very interesting aspect. In general you can consider a community contribution as a tax. Do you like taxes? This is a very good question :). My answer is – it is depending on how it will be used. If I think about old days standard creation communities presented sponsored by vendor and targeted to produce sort of a common denominator between different vendors. Nowadays, we can see a significant change in the way community can be created, valued and in the end monetized. To be a member of a community today means to have the most trusted relationships and information about what is going on. The common opinion of community members (vendors, customers, industry professionals) can have a different level of trust in comparison to the opinion of a single vendor. When you work with a specific vendor you can think in terms of committed relationships. This is an important for business and provide definite value. However, you can exchange this value and have a community opinion about what is trusted way to implement PLM that will be proven by community members. You won’t be able to convert to the legal terms, so it will be your decision in the end. So, this is another tradeoff, in my view.

The Technology
I had chance to write some topics about innovation and PLM technologies before. The technology is certainly matters, and you want to use the best one to help you to develop innovative products. I think all PLM vendors these days have an impressive technological development. You can choose the best one for you and use it. The importance of this option should not be underestimated. This is still the most straightforward way to use technological development in production. On the contrary, I can say that technology innovation of well established software companies is following a particular pattern driven by multiple customer, business and product commitments. So, you are paying tax to have a committed technological roadmap. However, what if you want to have a risky business decision to drop this commitment in exchange of being involved into the community of technological and product innovation. This is a tradeoff. However, it may pay off by getting an access to something that well balanced and diversified due to community involvement.

Here is my simple take on PLM open source. I’m trying to think about industry and not about a specific vendor. Most of the debates I’m hearing about PLM open source is too focusing on a comparison between PLM software that coming from mindshare PLM leaders and Aras PLM. I think this is a wrong focus. In my view, we need to be more focused on customers and benefits of the industry. I certainly see lots of customers that will not have benefits from open source. However, I see many customers that can consider open source tradeoff as an appropriated way and will try to get a value from open source and an ability to build a wide community of customers related to PLM implementations.

Just my thoughts and the decision is yours.
Best, Oleg


PLM Excels And The Ugly Truth About iPad

April 29, 2010

If you ask me, who is the biggest competitor of PLM apps, my constant answer is simple – Excel. I think Excel plays a huge role in the engineering and manufacturing life. An amount of information that engineers load and management with Excel is enormous. I’ve been writing quite many time about Excel. If you had no chance to see it before, you can take a look on some of the following posts.

PLM Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes
Why Do I Like My PLM Excel Spreadsheet?
Do We Need Chief Excel Officer To Manage BOM?

However, today, my post is not about Excel. I wanted to touch Apple Numbers for iPad. Since iPad was released few weeks ago, there are lots of discussions and conversation about if this new device will find his pathway into enterprise organizations. Yesterday, I had a very interesting discussion with my friends working for one of the manufacturing companies. There are two polar opinions were stated – 1/ iPad is a useless device; 2/ iPad is a very slick device. The second was mentioned by their manager. The point was made very clear, in my view. If we can make an interesting and useful apps on iPad to satisfy needs of manufacturing communities, the situation with  iPad in organizations in few years can be similar to iPhone. I decided to dig a little to find what can be attractive out-of-the-box in iPad and found a very cool demo of iPad Numbers.

Now, think about these two things together. Excel as the king of PLM universe and iPad Numbers. Sounds as a perfect match to win hearts of managers. I’m almost sure your Bill of Material will look very slick on such device, and you will like the idea to show it this way to your boss. In my view, this is the “ugly truth” about how iPad is going to win in the organizations.

I’m interesting to hear your voices? Have you had chance to play around Numbers on iPad? Would you like to have Your BOM on Your iPad?

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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PLM Content and Facebook Open Graph

April 28, 2010

Facebook F8 conference this week was a place for some very interesting announcements that, in my view, may have an impact on PLM too. I can recommend you to read a good summary of news introduced by Facebook here. In my view, it presents a very interesting dimension in the future development of Facebook. The question I’m asking – should PLM care? Is there something new presented by Facebook, that can catch a focus of current and future PLM development?

Web Content Creation

Facebook is making next steps in the development of content on the web. FB introducing a new way to build social sites where a site itself converted into meaningful content item able to accumulate links to other elements of web content. It presents another dimension in the way web content can be structured.

Social Graph

The notion of connection between social sites is presented in the Open Graph Protocol. Facebook OGP API will provide a way to browse through dependencies and connection between content elements based on social dimension. This is a very interesting approach in the development of rich metadata about web content.

PLM Content

I see a comparison between the way Facebook is building social web content and PLM content. For the last few years PLM presented a very hardwired way to create structured content. It creates a lot of complexity in user interaction and tools integration. The fundamentals of this content are in the ability to structure product information in various dimensions – design, bill of material, projects, etc. The similarity between Facebook social content and PLM structured content is obvious to me. However, Facebook presented an interesting approach to build it. There are several developments on PLM horizon that can fit such concepts – DS/BlueKiwi, PTC Windchill/SharePoint, Vuuch. It will be interesting to see the future development of these products.

What is my conclusion? Facebook is going to change a way to create the web content. Current PDM/PLM software seems very cumbersome from the standpoint on how to interplay with user on content creations. PLM can learn few lessons about how to create a content in the organization and across the value chain. Some concepts and ideas can be replicated in my view. What is your opinion?

Best, Oleg

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PLM, Product Development and Social Search

April 27, 2010

Last week I wrote a post about how I can see twitter and other social tools can be used to predict the future of products. As much as social tools’ popularity is growing, the importance of monitoring these tools are growing. Manufacturers in consumer goods, telecommunication and others facing end users (but not only), can think about various ways to get input from social environment these days. I can see multiple use cases.

Requirements Gathering
Social space can be an excellent environment to find what are your potential customers are looking for. There is a real possibility to establish a set of keywords that can be used to find them out. The same social connections (i.e Twitter and Facebook) can be used to communicate new products with advanced features.

Quality Monitoring
Another interesting use case, in my view. I can see multiple users communicate the experience about a product they use in the social network. Pro-active monitoring of such experience can provide a good input to quality department and help to fix product problems on the early stages of usage.

Competition
The competition is a significant threat for most of the manufacturers these days. You can use the same social tools to monitor your competitor’s activity. In my view, it becomes a must thing to do nowadays.

I’d like to put below a short collection of various online social search and monitoring tools. These tools mostly cover Twitter, Facebook, Social Bookmarking sites such as digg, redit and some others. This is of course not exhaustive. I had chance to listen to Steve Arnold presentation yesterday and would like to give me credit to him related to the selection of search tools. I loaded most of the examples and links with “Product Lifecycle Management” keywords. This is what I’m monitoring. However, you can play around various keyword selections relevant to you.

Topsy. A search engine powered by tweets.

Sency. Search what is going on.

Its Trending. a real time feed of the most shared content on Facebook

Glozer. What is trending online?

Tweetmeme- Hottest Links on Twitter.

Collecta.Real-time information.


Itpints. Real-time search.

Scooper.


What is my conclusion today? It is amazing how much information you can find these days. As a manufacturers, you can get a significant competitive advantage in using these tools. As a software vendors, you can get an ultimate connection to your users and their experience. This is, of course, an addition to all existing traditional methods of work.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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3D CAD Future: How To Liberate Data?

April 26, 2010

Last week I had a chance to listen to Mike Payne during the COFES 2010 event in Scottsdale, AZ. Mike’s 18 minutes talk was entitled “Future of Mechanical CAD (Where does PLM fits In?). Mike provided a very interesting retrospective view on the history of mechanical CAD from initial 2D and all 3D evolution and revolutions. I personally liked his take on why 2D is still alive – “because it just works”. Whatever you’ll do in 3D will depend on the software you use. Whatever you are making in 2D can stay forever.

Mike’s view on the future mechanical CAD target was as following:
1. All in 3D

2. Discoverable (the learning curve is really fast)

3. Models unaffected by changes of software release

4. Intelligence built-in CAD tools

5. Data can be re-used between all apps

6. Interchange of best-of-breed tools

7. Based on Geometry and Topology

8. Inexpensive

9. Support for long term storage (i.e. PDF, STEP)

Mike Payne and Brad Holtz

For me the most interesting points presented by Mike were points 3, 4, 5, from the summary above. My short name to this change – “Liberate data from CAD tools”. In my view, they can present the biggest disruption in the 3D CAD industry since the introduction of the feature-based parametric modeling. Here is my take on this and why I think this change is so disruptive.

Dependencies on CAD vendor
In today’s world, companies are required to follow CAD vendors. Everything, they are creating in 3D is heavily dependent on the specific CAD application. It comes accumulated dependencies on the format of data, 3D features as well as a very long learning curve of CAD users in the companies. However, it creates huge benefits for vendors in the way of a maintenance revenue stream. It doesn’t mean you cannot shift between tools, however it presents a significant associated cost of change.

Competition On Tools
When/If dependencies on tools will be removed, the new form of competition can be presented. Vendors will be enforced to compete on a tool proper. The cost of change or switch between CAD systems will be no longer a factor in this competition. So, we can expect CAD market to become similar to the telecom market where a switch between previous and next mobile phone is zero for the end user.

Long Term Data Retention
Since intelligence will be introduced in CAD, forward data compliance will help to resolve the problem of long data storage. This is a very important topic for many industries, especially regulated ones. Some of them are required to keep data for 50-60 years. Today 2D is the ultimate way to do so (because it just work). Future may be different.

What is my summary today? The future Mike observed, sounds very disruptive for today’s CAD vendors. It can present a significant shift in business models and competitive landscape. In my view, it can generate the biggest change in CAD vendor’s landscape. What about PLM role? The presentation wasn’t specifically about PLM, but provided some hunches about what can happen to PLM too. Next time, I will think about how PLM fits in the Mike’s future of CAD.

Best, Oleg

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PLM And Management Of CAD Files

April 23, 2010

One of the questions that disturbs me when I’m thinking about PLM is a complexity. In a modern enterprise manufacturing organization, complexity kills. When I’m thinking about the way data management passed since the first introduction in PDM systems, I see a huge amount of blocks built on top of basic PDM functions. In the beginning, PDM was about managing of data records about file. After, additional silos of data were added to represent various aspects of products – Bill of Materials, ECO, Requirements, Projects, Supply, etc. Then we got a mess…  I’d compare it to the situation happened with MRP/ERP industry about 15-20 years ago. Started at the early beginning as MRP and lately a MRP-II, it comes long way to acquire all possible and impossible islands of enterprise data to become, finally, ERP. We are facing a very similar situation these days in PLM.

CAD Files Control Dilemma
For every PLM system, the management of CAD files is a fundamental question that needs to be answered at the early beginning. This is Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be” question of all PLM vendors. Touch CAD files or do not touch CAD files? I see a lot of advantages in management of CAD files: you are getting control on valuable design and engineering information, there is an ability to have a system that has deep and tight connections to the daily life of people in the organization via CAD system operation and many others. On the other side, control of CAD files put a lot of restrictions on users, increase the overall system complexity and in the end create dependencies on vendors of CAD products.

Invisible CAD Data Management
There are two examples I want to talk about in the context of CAD data management: CATIA V6 and Google Apps. Do you see something in common between them? Yes, I do. In both systems, data management and version control are embedded parts of products. You have a built in mechanism to manage version of CAD models as well as Google Apps document. You still need to take care about next version, lock and un-lock operations in CATIA. However, you shouldn’t care about version of your files in Google Apps. The idea I had is a notion of “invisible CAD data management”. It happens, but users should not care about that.

What is my conclusion today? I think, dependencies on CAD were born in the beginning of PDM. We need to revise our technological decisions came from early days on how we can keep control of CAD files and management their revision. The connection between the CAD version management and overall product development (PLM) processes need to become less restrictive and more flexible.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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PLM And Sustainability: Where Is The Problem?

April 22, 2010

Last week during COFES 2010 I had chance to attend DaS Symposium. This half-day Sustainability Think Tank was fully loaded with presentations and discussions about various issues related to sustainability. You can take a brief look on additional information about DaS Symposium on this link. I have to say that this topic seems to be HOT and vendors are trying to approach it with multiple solutions these days. I just want to mention few – SolidWorks Sustainability Xpress, PTC InSight, Autodesk also made the impressive presentation with a significant emphasize of the digital prototyping role. More about Autodesk Sustainability is here. This is, of course, not a full list of sustainability projects and resources. Another interesting discussion was about US Lifecycle Inventory Database – project that focuses on environmental information.

The meeting at DaS Symposium was moderated by Ken Hall, Director, Sustainable Design Systems, Gensler and Brad Holtz of Cyon Research. I’m sure COFES is going to publish all materials from DaS and we’ll be able to see it more in details. I want to put some initial thoughts related to the sustainability in the context of product lifecycle management. There are two main aspects of sustainable product lifecycle management I’d like to figure out: product information and environmental information.

Product Information is obviously data about all product characteristics, design materials, supplied components, etc. This information is actually what we design with sustainability in mind. The second one is all environmental information related to materials and products. This is the information that needs to be in hands of designer or any other person and/or organization that thinks how to design with sustainability in their minds.

So, how to make our design sustainable? I see it as the main question to ask. My take on this is relatively simple. If want to manage something, we to know how to measure it. So, sustainability need to be measures. Another aspect is how you can estimate your desired product performance and characteristics in the context of sustainability. In order to do so, we need to cross paths some information about a product with environmental characteristics. Knowing today product design environment it seems to me as a not trivial task. In most cases design data is in CAD or other design oriented environment. The real manufacturing or supply data and environmental data are separate.

What is my conclusion today? The whole issue of sustainability seems to me as one big data problem. There are too many pieces of data and lots of intersections. Current products almost cannot do it easily and especially with high changing rate. So, thinking about sustainability, my conclusion is to invest in new data management technologies that can handle data about product and corresponding disciplines (i.e. Lifecycle Inventory Database and other regulatory and environmental data). The problem there is hard. Data belongs to separate organizations and managed in different environments.

Just my thoughts… It will be interesting to hear what is your take on this.
Best, Oleg

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PDM/PLM and Customization

April 21, 2010

Customization is a topic in Product Lifecycle Management that always raises discussions. There are multiple aspects related to customization of PLM systems, and I decided to explore them. In my view, the nature of PLM system customization is deeply related to engineering and product development aspects that in most of the manufacturing organizations are related to their core competencies and touch many processes in the organization. To be able to support them PLM systems are providing various customization capabilities. On the other side, the total cost of PLM systems and especially cost of changes becomes crucial for many companies and implementations. When it comes to implementation cost, need to customize PLM system becomes a negative factor.

Early Monsters
In the early beginning, PDM started as a completely customizable toolkit-oriented systems. In order to implementation and customize them, the significant amount of work needs to be done. For most of the early cases, vendors provided unique production builds of the systems dedicated to a particular customer. PDM was considered as 1M dollars project.

Flexible Data Models and API
Since demand on PDM/PLM systems started to grow, vendors looked how possible to deliver PDM system that will not require a significant effort in order to be customized and tailored to customer needs. The concept of “a flexible data model” was born and few very innovative systems were introduced to the market in late 80s and early 90’s. They provided set of customization tools to modify data schema and additional parameters as well as advanced APIs to support customer-oriented environment. Later in the mid of 90s, more PDM systems were created under significant influence of Microsoft Windows environment.

Out-Of-The-Box PLM
Next step in the PDM customization story was so called “out-of-the-box” system, yet fully customizable. Most of these systems were born as a modification of “a toolkit”-oriented implementations and providing their configuration tuned with a specific parameters and data schema. In my view, it was a beginning of “PLM industrialization” bubble. When systems still provided all options to be flexible configured and customized, the marketing story always emphasized their ability to be ready-to-implementation AS IS. Unfortunately, because of a significant emphasizing of out-of-the-box, technological and  development focus shifted from innovation in providing of flexible, customizable systems towards “packaging” and selling of boxed PLM for industries.

Cloud and PLM
Customization is considered as one of the most significant risks and problems related to PDM/PLM systems in what called ASP model in the beginning and later became OnDeman/Cloud systems. I don’t think, there is a Cloud/SaaS PDM/PLM system today that can provide the same level of customization as a system-on-premise. I think, an effort need to be made to learn Salesforce.com environment and specifically their Force.com platform in order to understand the “secret sauce” of their success story.

What Is Next?
I have a feeling, we are in the middle of debates about flexibility and customization vs. out-of-the-box flavors of PLM. When it became clear, out-of-the-box systems cannot provide what customers need, industry is still continuing to promote ready-to-go solutions, industrial verticals and other sales and marketing oriented speeches. Nevertheless, I can hear strong voices to revise experience of the past 4-6 years and focus on technological development that can provide a platform for the future flexible and customization PDM/PLM system.

What is my conclusion today? Product Lifecycle Management is in the critical situation. It started as a complete customizable environment and, since 1990s moved towards out-of-the-box packages and non-customizable solution. The last happened based on the strong message about making implementation faster and cost reducing. It seems to me that out-of-the-box PLM is a marketing and sales dreams. Engineering and product development cannot be done “out-of-the-box” and even so, companies are doing similar things, their strong believe in the uniqueness and benefits of the engineering and manufacturing environments. The key word for me in PLM customization today is a granularity. To make it work is hard. How to bring it up remains a completely technical topic.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


COFES 2010, Maieutic Parataxis and PLM Excels

April 20, 2010

I hope you know about my “love and hate” relationships with Excel. I posted many times about how deep Excel integrated into current CAD/PDM/PLM software life. Think about that, for the moment. You are getting Bill of Materials and Design Tables in CAD using Excel, lots of reports, catalogs and other data. There are lots of other reasons too. Just as an example you can take a look on one of my old “Excel” posts – Why Do I like My PLM Excel Spreadsheets?

About few months ago, I found an interesting Microsoft Live Lab product called “Pivot“. I posted about that. You can see my original post via this link. My initial thoughts were about how to try this pivot functionality on the real PLM data to see what is possible to achieve. Fortunately, this blog post got into attention of Simon Floyd from Microsoft, and he made this experiment. Last week at COFES 2010 during Maieutic Parataxis session, Simon presented his experiments. Full presentation from Maieutic Parataxis session will be available later this link. However, you can see some of the slides below.

I think, Pivot concept is an interesting experiment. Excel paradigm is very popular. At the same time, customer demands towards simple and clean user interfaces in PDM/PLM systems are very strong. Pivot can put lights on some potential in more deep exploration of Excel capabilities. Some of the visual representations in Pivot are similar to existing PLM products. Filtering and pivoting functionality is strong and interesting. To get information into Pivot can be challenging in my view.

What is my conclusion? PLM Pivot experiment requires attentions. Usability in PLM systems is a hard problem.Despite all claims mainstream customers are dissatisfied.  I’m very interesting to hear what do you think about this example? As usual, I’m looking forward to your comments.

Best, Oleg

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Can PLM Use Twitter To Predict The Future Of Products?

April 19, 2010

I can see multiple debates these days related to the social software – Social Networking, Microblogging and others. Despite the absolute success of websites like Facebook and Twitter, there are still a lot of questions related to benefits of such software and experience for enterprise and product development. I see two possible direction, social software can be used in product development and PLM: Collaboration and Business Analytics. Collaboration was the first obvious space, where developers of CAD and PLM software focused on. It was pretty simple. Web 2.0 apps drove lots of interest and provide attractiveness to be applied in the product development. However, the second option seems to me very interesting.

Product Intelligence and Social Trends Analysis

I had chance to come across the following post on BrainSolis blog. Brian wrote about Twitter trending topics and potential power of untapped information that located in Twitter. It made me think more globally about possible usage of analytics in analyzing trending topics on the market of specific products as well as related problems such as deflects, claims and other situations. You can, for example, to use tools that calculate number of times a specific word or phrase mentioned on twitter.

Product Development Tools Evolution
What do you think about the future of your design tool? During last years, I had chance to hear lots of debates about that. One of the topics that requires attention is related to how we can increase intelligence of design tools to empower engineers towards getting better decisions. I can see multiple directions here – physical analysis, visualization, intelligence. Ability to add more tools and capabilities in hands of engineers and developers can be beneficial.

Product Planning and Social Analytics
Ability to analyze potential of the future product can be a powerful option. It can come in the context of different phases of product development. In the planning phases- to understand what is trending on the market, during advanced development phase – to see potential social communication related to future development, during the maintenance phase- do discover bugs and other customer issues.

What is my conclusion today? Social software provides an interesting area, since it touches the communication with existing and potential users. Users are the most important asset for any company. To be able to get more information about them can be an interesting opportunity for the future PLM and related development tools.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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