Electric Design and PLM Roadmap

June 29, 2011

In the early beginning, solutions for manufacturing were focusing primarily on machinery and mechanical design. The historical reason here is simple – mechanical design was a key element of manufacturing for many years. However, the era of ‘mechanical design only’ ends. We can hear more and more about various aspects of combined solutions – Siemens PLM was coming with mechatronics already a couple of years ago. Earlier this month, on PlanetPTC, I’ve heard many stories about software related aspects of product design.

I’ve been reading Design New article yesterday – Mentor Takes a Lifecycle Approach to Electrical Design. It talks about latest Mentor announcement related to the expansion of their Capital electric design platform. This is my favorite passage (actually quote by Martin O’Brien):

The new Capital suite delivers on all of its traditional capabilities in addition to new functionality for designing the architecture and aiding service technicians supporting the finished product in the field. It also encompasses enterprise data management and compliance functionality, serving as a single repository to help manage and support the highly specialized materials and workflows associated with seeing a complex electrical system through each phase of its lifecycle.

Does it mean Electric Design is going to PLM route now? This is an interesting question. In my view, PLM approach is very successful when we deal with complex product development issues. Remember aircraft design, product configuration, etc. These are examples where product lifecycle management presented significant improvement and good results. Electrical design was standing separate long time. The same was for electronic and software. Is it going to change now?

The picture is courtesy of Design News blog.

The complexity of products is the real issue we need to discuss and mention in this context. Everything becomes more complex now. Ford T was a simple car. Nowadays, products become really complex. The integration of various elements is key problem manufacturing are facing these days.

What is my conclusion? I can see Mentor is going down to the road and implementing many features and functions we’ve seen in traditional PLM products. Lifecycle, Technical documentation, multiple functional representations. The word “single repository” mentioned by Mr. O’Brien made me worry a bit. In my view, traditional PLMs found themselves in the “single repository” mouse trap by trying to integrate everything in a single database. The cost and complexity of implementations are growing. Is it something vendors like Mentor can avoid? Learn from other mistakes? Is it possible in software word?

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

PLM Excels and Microsoft Cloud Office 365

June 28, 2011

Do you know what is the most widely adopted PLM system in the world? You probably can guess based on the title of this blog post – Microsoft Excel. I’ve been writing about Microsoft Excel and PLM many times.

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

Microsoft just released Office 365 in the cloud:

Earlier today, I was reading details about Microsoft new cloud offering. Navigate to the following link to read – Microsoft puts Office in the ‘cloud,’ confronts Google. What is the story? For many years, Microsoft was leading in Office space selling Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook to individuals and enterprises. The market share of Microsoft Office products is huge. However, for the last couple of years, Google succeeded to introduce a strong cloud competition to Microsoft Office products – Google Apps. To compete with them, Microsoft is placing Office product in the cloud for a very competitive price. This is a very interesting quote from Reuter blog post:

Google, which has had the most success in the small and medium-sized business range, says there are now 40 million users of online Google Apps suite. Microsoft does not publish equivalent numbers, but research firm comScore has estimated 750 million people worldwide use Office in some form.

PLM and Office in the Cloud

So Office is hearing in the cloud. What does it mean for manufacturing companies and PLM vendors? One of the most problematic side effects of working with Office and specifically with Excel was the ability to share data and collaborate between different people in an organization. Separate Excel files, even if you put them in the shared drives, are very bad for this. Multiple PLM systems were focused on how people can work collaboratively sharing information about drawings and bill of materials. With the introduction of Office 360 and growing competition of Google, PLM companies can find their collaborative solution with cloud collaboration supported by Excel running on cloud. Microsoft is emphasizing how Office 365 will be used by small and medium customers first. As you can see on the picture below – it is just $6 /month.

What is my conclusion? I don’t think, PLM vendors will be in a real jeopardy because of Microsoft Office moves to the cloud and competing with Google Apps. Large manufacturing companies are complicated, and PLM vendors sit deep inside with the implementation of complex PLM product suites. However, what happens with hundreds of these that are running Microsoft Excel as their PLM system? Time to make some thinking and calculations. Important…

Just my thoughts.
Best, Oleg

Autodesk, SolidWorks and Collaboration Renaissance

June 28, 2011

Brian Roepke of Autodesk brought my attention to Autodesk Nitrous Lab Project earlier this week. The context of this comment was about some Autodesk viewing technologies that don’t require any flash or plug-in. So, I decided to put my hands on Autodesk Project Nitrous this morning. When I’m still trying to figure out what is that viewer technology Autodesk is using there, Nitrous made me think about what is going with collaboration and cloud.

SolidWorks n!Fuze – PLM Collaboration Renaissance

Few months ago, I’ve posted about SolidWorks n!Fuze – a new cloud service coming from SolidWorks to help share and collaborate between engineers. I found interesting the way SolidWorks were planning to introduce this service. On the fundamental level, it is not introducing any particular new functions – you can load SolidWorks files and share them. So, what is new? The cloud storage based on Enovia V6 and completely new user experience.

SolidWorks n!Fuze was in Beta testing few months after SolidWorks World 2011. I had a chance to play with that. The user experience was good. The service is not available now. According to the information provided during SolidWorks World, it will be released later this year.

Autodesk Nitrous – a dropbox for CAD files?

Project Nitrous provides a very simple set of functions: upload files, upload new revisions, manage folders, preview, tag and comments. Take a look on few screenshots I made during my tests. The subscription to the service was easy and straightforward. You are getting 1GB of data when you register with Autodesk ID.

The home screen is simple. You can get to the list of file or folders, comment, sort, filter and tag.

Viewer is integrated into a web browser.

I found versioning function a bit strange. It wasn’t clear if it keeps separate copies of the file. When uploading a new version of file, I was alerted that name of the file was changed. The overall it gave me a history of versions in a separate screen.

Autodesk Nitrous is available as Labs product. You can register and use it now. Navigate to the following link to subscribe.

What is my conclusion? CAD and PLM vendors are thinking about the cloud. Looking on services like Dropboxand some others, SolidWorks, Autodesk and others are trying to create similar services adopted to the CAD content. In my view, these are just experiments by CAD companies about how to leverage cloud and relevant infrastructure. Will real customers end up by adopting these services? I’m not sure. Security is still the issue for most of them. At the same time, newcomers like GrabCAD are working on a bit different flavor of cloud libraries containing publicly shared CAD models. GrabCAD is helping engineers to sell their work and services online. A different aspect of collaboration maybe?

Just my thoughts..
Best, Oleg

PLM, Engineering Software and Business Trends in 2011

June 24, 2011

It is a middle of the year, and it is a perfect time to evaluate and talking about business trends. Lot’s of people are ready to relax before long awaited vacation season and summer holidays. What are the topics that we need to keep on our desks and get back to them later this year? This is the question I asked myself few days ago on the plane taking me from Tel-Aviv to Boston. I was reading Business IT Trends 2011 written by Frank Völkel in SAP Info. Take a time, read the article and analyzes. I found some of them are very interesting and relevant in the context of PLM projects and Engineering Software.

Tablet PC and Mobile

The post PC era is coming. Take a look on one of the previous posts — PLM and post-PC era. Something is really happening in this space, in my view. Here is the interesting quote from SAP Info article:

More than a third of the conventional PC market is set to be taken over by tablet devices, making every third new PC a tablet computer. At least, that is what analysts Goldman Sachs are predicting. If we believe the mobile advertising company Smaato, by 2013, there will be more smartphones with access to the Internet than there will be conventional PCs.

I can see PLM vendors are really recognizing “mobile” and iPad story. Last week PTC announcement of two mobile application during PlanetPTC event is another confirmation of high interest of PLM industry in this space. Earlier last year, mobile applications were announced by Autodesk, Dassault and Siemens PLM.

3D Images and Videos

This is an interesting trend. Consumer trend led by manufacturers of 3D devices. At the same time, it starts to proliferate in the business spaces as well.  There is a high interest in 3D from multiple players in the market. It starts from games and continues into 3D street navigation, 2D photo transformation into 3D and some others. I’ve seen few interesting applications and technologies in this space in the past, and I think the number of people and companies in this space is growing.

Social Media and Mobile Options

Talking about social media is not a new thing. I’m covering this topic for the last 2 years on my blog. The new trend of potential combination between “social” and “mobile” option is coming. The number of smart phones and other communication devices is growing. Businesses are using social channels to inform customers about new product features and product failures. However, the most interesting business trend I can see related to the ability to generate additional business with the help of social media. Here is the quote:

However, a central topic for many decision makers at companies is: How can the increased attention gained through social media be translated into new orders and – ultimately – a tangible increase in sales? So far, no one has been able to prove whether Facebook and Twitter activities have led to customer sales.

Now, think about PLM products. The ROI of PLM product suites can be completely different if PLM based information can be used outside of the company to generate additional business interest. Virtual product guides, visuals, online discussions – this is just a short list of what social media can do what it goes mobile with people.

Apps replacing Bulky Software

The era of small applications is coming. People are finally getting it and use it in their everyday life. However, how Apps can get into business space? Here is the deal. Apps can be a disruptive force for many existing software suites. You can get them easy, install on your mobile device and connect it to existing databases, data source and product suites. Read the following quote from the sameSAP Info article:

Apps can be downloaded free of charge or purchased, and can be used in office scenarios, to increase productivity, as tools forvirtual desktops, as voice-over-IP applications, as location-based services, or to access complex ERP software at major companies, to name just a few examples.

PLM software suites developed high level allergy from businesses as something heavy, complicated and costly. Shift your mind to Apps and you can have a different world. The main focus for existing companies and newcomers, here is to watch a precise use case that can be interested to end users in the company in order to sell Apps to them. Examples of useful Apps can be product sales tools, management dashboards, shopfloor applications, etc.

Cloud and Virtualization

Cloud companies are taking more and more attention in consumer and business life. Google Apps, Dropbox, Netflix, Amazon, etc. This is just a short list. Here is the interesting quote:

According to market research company Gartner, total revenues generated from software as a service (SaaS) amounted to U.S.$ 9.2 billion in 2010, which is 15.7% more than in 2009 (U.S.$ 7.9 billion). And SaaS is playing an increasingly important role in the area of enterprise software. In the near future, many organizations will, for example, dispense with their own infrastructures for e-mail, backup, and security – and save costs by renting instead.

I can see two factors turning the cloud into something disruptive in manufacturing and PLM space – cost and IT usability. This is especially interesting in the context of small manufacturers.  Cost is one of the major showstoppers from the side of these companies to deploy PLM solution. Another one is IT needs. If coming solution on the cloud will provide a significant differentiation in this space, it can be a turning point for many of the existing manufacturing companies keeping their PLM plans on hold.

Real Time Analyzes and Data

Last, but not least. Manufacturing companies are swamped in the data. It is everywhere. However, to analyze existing data in manufacturing companies is not simple tasks. Read the following quote:

Almost all companies – regardless of the industry in which they operate – are today fighting against an ever-rising tide of data: The volume of data they have to manage is on the increase, both for transactional and analytical applications. What’s more, creating reports from ERP and CRM data is becoming increasingly time-consuming. And the data is at least two hours old, so no one can really talk about “real time” in such cases. At the end of the day, the various interfaces and software applications result in high total cost of ownership (TCO).

I think, new technologies are coming to solve these problems. Some of them are coming from the web based solutions (Google, Facebook) and some of them are results of hardware improvements, memory availability, etc. To provide data analytical solutions for PLM can be an interesting opportunity.

What is my conclusion? These business trends are hot and energizing. Some really interesting things happen outside and PLM vendors need to watch it. I can see trends that can add some additional benefits to existing software suites. PLM vendors can have leverage the following trends – improved 3D, mobile, social, etc. On the other side, I can see disruptive stuff – Apps replacing existing software suites, cloud architecture that can significantly decrease the cost of existing solutions and improved data and analytical software that can make traditional data management outdated. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

(pictures are courtesy of SAP Info blog)

PDF, CAD rendering and HTML5

June 20, 2011

I’m spending this weekend in Israel these days. My visit is mostly personal because of Bar Mitzvah of my older son, Jonathan. At the same time, I had a chance to have a lunch and interesting conversation with David Levin, founder of LEDAS, the person behind PLM portalisicad.ru and the author of two popular blogs – DL (in Russian) and Not just Russian CAD/PLM. Because of few travel, I had during the last few weeks, the number of unread RSS messages in my reader grown a bit. I was screening them during the last evening. One of them in RWW blog caught my attention – Mozilla is woking on a code allowing native rendering of PDF files within HTML5.

Mozilla is working on technology that will allow PDF documents to be rendered within the browser, rather than utilizing a browser plug-in or an external app to open them. On his blog, Mozilla researcher Andreas Gal has described the project to build a PDF reader in HTML5 and JavaScript.

It made me think about few things: PDF rendering in PLM projects, 3D PDF, and CAD rendering in HTML5.

PDF and 3D PDF files rendering

PDF used by lots engineering and manufacturing companies as a de-facto standard for neutral format representation. Many applications developed in this space used PDF rendering for multiple purposes. How future broader usage ofHTML5 can change existing projects, plug-ins and other applications? This is an interesting question to ask, in my view. The topic of 3D PDF required some validation too. After Adobe lost their interest in PDF and moved this business to TechSoft, there still many companies thinking about 3D PDF rendering. What happens with them and how future HTML5 revolution can change them?

CAD Files Rendering in HTML5

This topic seems to even more interesting that PDF for a long run. How we will be able to render CAD drawings and models in the future in HTML file compliant browsers? Would it be possible to develop a better rendering and lightweight technology for rendering? What will be the dynamic and the opportunity to create HTML5 based rendering and viewing services?. Will changing interest to Flash (caused by the absence of Flash support in Apple tables) drive some additional interesting to HTML5 based rendering? What future technologies will hold in this space?

What is my conclusion? I think, some shakeup is going to happen within a browser based applications. New devices and standards going to drive some changes. Higher diversification of platforms and devices (especially tablet devices) creates additional opportunities here. I’d be interested to know more about new technologies and product developing coming this space.

Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PTC Social Link and SharePoint: What the Future Holds?

June 17, 2011

One of the products I had a chance to review more closely earlier this week was PTC Social Link. I had a chance to post about social technologies before. Navigate your browser to the following links to read my earlier blog articles. Social PLM, Collaboration and Structured Discussion; PLM and Social Technologies Dating? Social Enterprise Discussion and Next Collaboration Buzz.

The following video provides a quick round trip for what PTC Social Link can do. Watch it and make your conclusion. I found it educational. According to the information PTC provided earlier this week, they are using Social Link internally to improve product development processes.


I found "an activity" concept interesting. Watch the following screen shot. As an engineer or a person in the organization you are interesting about what activities are running around a particular CAD model, drawing or similar piece of data. Social link gives you a summary view of activities placed alongside to this data.

Social Link, Technology and Web Parts

PTC is using SharePoint to implement Social Link. I can see some advantages in taking a leverage of Microsoft technological stack. SharePoint provides a good platform and Social Link leverage existing user experience, infrastructure and customization capabilities. To give you a glimpse of what is possible, navigate to the following link and read SharePoint 2007 Automatically updated web parts post. Web Parts is one of the fundamental elements of SharePoint technologies and Social Link uses it as well. However, if you don’t have in your team people familiar with SharePoint, this advantage can become a problem. It is your choice, of course.

What is my conclusion? PTC is thinking about social technologies. Social Link follows social hype, and you can find similarities with products like Salesforce.com Chatter, SAP StreamWork, Vuuch and some others. The question I’m asking myself is what should be the preference of users in a company if they will have a choice between SAP, PTC and other "social technology" applications. My intuitive hunch is that integration with product content (i.e. CAD files, BOM, etc.) can be important. Just my thoughts.

Best, Oleg

[categories Daily PLM Think Tank]

Future Promises and Concerns about PTC after Planet PTC Live

June 16, 2011

Picture-18.pngAs you probably know, I spent the beginning of the week in Las-Vegas attending Planet PTC Live 2011. Those of my readers who follow me on Twitter already paid attention on the overflow of tweets and absence of posts. Yesterday night catching my red-eye flight to Boston, I started to put some of my initial thoughts about what I’ve seen at PTC Live.

Thinking About Apps

One of the fundamental changes I can observe within PTC move to Creo is establishing of Apps sitting on top of the configurable platform and sharing common working environment. The original idea is probably not unique. The idea of workbenches, desktops, suites and many others was before in enterprise software. However, the initial set of apps and future plans shows good understanding of customer needs and easy flow. The devil is in details, and I can see next months of working with a broader set of customers interesting.

Windchill 10 and Usability

The problem is usability is an important one. Among the use communities, PLM is often associated with the complexity of user experience, cumbersome user interface, long and complicated learning curve. PTC definitely recognized the problem and presented some ideas in Windchill. The Windchill 10 UI looks much better compared to what I had a chance to see before. However, at the same the overall Windows UI looks complicated.

Mobile and Cloud

These two topics are trending these days. I see them as very important things. I liked Windchill Mobile application presented by Brian Shepherd iPad. My favorite feature was the way to work with assembly decomposition on parts. It is pretty cool. The interest to mobile is very high these days, and it is a good sign to see PTC jumping to the PLM mobile race.


Cloud is another thing that I’m discussing a lot on my blog. I’ve heard PTC talking about the cloud as a "deployment option". You can deploy to Amazon, Azure, etc. I think, the cloud topic is broader than just deployment and includes other aspects such as multi-tenancy, parallelism and some others.

Social "Things"

PTC introduced Windchill Social Link earlier last year. The trend for social application is strong. I can see almost all enterprise vendors are working on social apps these days. Salesforce.com Chatter, SAP StreamWork and others. What is the differentiation between SAP social app and PTC social app for a specific customer? How they work together? How many social applications do we need in a single manufacturing enterprise? All these valid questions and need to be answered.


I had a chance to speak with people at PTC working on the partnership with Microsoft. PTC is strong Microsoft’s customer, and I’ve seen multiple examples of common Microsoft / PTC technologies working together. At the same time, it will be interesting how PTC customers will be moving to the "post-PC" era. Life was simple with regards to platform supports last 10-15 years. Similar to "a fashion world", we are moving to multi-platform world now again. This is an interesting time to watch.


PTC is presenting strong support related to SharePoint technologies. At the same time, the information about discontinuation of Windchill ProductPoint shows that something is wrong here. PTC retiring ProductPoint. According to the plan, ProductPoint was providing a support for smaller manufacturing companies. The ubiquitous access to information, well know user experience (shared with Windows) was a foundation for success. Navigate to the following link to learn what is my opinion about that. After few conversations with PTC people, my conclusion about ProductPoint retiring is positive. There is nothing wrong is trying the water and pushing back. SharePoint still remains the platform many companies are relying on. At the same time, customers need to asses carefully their spending before going to SharePoint journey.

One Size Does Fit All

There is something that related to the PLM vendors work with smaller manufacturing companies. Very often, vendors are calling it SMB. Without neccarily going to clarify what actually SMB means, my concern is in the way PLM solutions can scale between all companies. I’m personally not a supporter of ‘one size fits all’ approach. In my view, it doesn’t work in other places, and it shouldn’t work for PLM as well. However, to balance between multiple solutions is somewhat that always was hard to PLM vendors. Maybe the idea of Apps can be a good here. So, today I can see some holes in the PTC solutions targeting smaller manufacturing companies.


Unfortunately, PLM has a strong association with a word "complex". PLM companies are doing well in this space, as I can see that. The complication of core functionality multiplies with complexity of customer environments, need to provide tailored solution and smooth deployment create the feeling of "messy PLM projects" nobody wants to be involved in. I think, this is still a painful topic, and it is not much addressed by PTC specifically and PLM industry in general.


We are not living in a world of a single software vendor. Companies are using lots of application and software suites these days. Design, Engineering, Manufacturing, Supply chain, etc. The number is huge and every company is using dozens and hundred applications to get job done. It is a very important goal for PLM product to be connected and interplay with these products. Unfortunately, the dominant idea of "master data" is what used by PTC (and other vendors here). I’ve been attending a session related to PLM-ERP integration during the event and found topics that remain open for the last 10-15 years. The solution proposed here has strong reliance on "workshops" and "people agreement" in a company. Remember – technology is simple, but people are hard. Pushing a solution towards people agreement about how to integrate systems makes it very complicated, in my eyes.

Single Point of Truth

The last, but not the least one. The concept of a single point of truth is strong and heavily supported by PTC / Windchill. This concept remains with us for the last 10-15 years in PLM and maybe even more before with ERP and other enterprise software. My take on this is simple – there is no single point of truth. Company is complicated and it is impossible to have everything synchronized and working as a single whole. Even if a company can do it, it will remain valid only for the next 5 minutes. Next change will disrupt it again. The cost of change is tremendous and companies cannot afford that. Something needs to be changed here.

What is my conclusion? I found Planet PTC very energetic and enjoyed communicating with the executive and marketing team. Two days wasn’t enough to get connected to many people, but I found online community (and especially the community on tweeter) very active, and I’m looking forward to staying connected on the blog, tweeter and other social net. I think some of the things PTC is thinking and working about are very promising and following industry demands. At the same time, the strategy is still lacking some fundamental decisions related to how PLM improves the work with the rest of enterprise software. Another element of the concern is related to the scalability of solutions for different companies. My take – one size doesn’t fit all in manufacturing industry. It shows some promise in Creo Apps, but not reflected in anything else. This is just my opinion, of course.

Best, Oleg
Disclosure: PTC paid for registration and hotel during the event.


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