Corporate iCloud, iPLM Future and Google’s Apps?

June 8, 2011

Well…It happened. The marketing machine of Apple meets the cloud and cloud marketing. The result is predicted – iCloud. If you haven’t had a chance to watch Apple shows this week, you can do. Spend 7.5 min and enjoy the remarkable presentation made by Steve Jobs, including statements “it just works” and lesson learned from mobile.me experiments.

Corporate Cloud

The obvious question I was asking myself was about what is a potential influence of coming iCloud to enterprise software in general and specifically for engineering and manufacturing companies. Some of the scenarios and challenges presented by CAD and PLM vendors can be (with a bit oversimplification) presented as a synchronization of the content from iCloud to multiple places. The first obvious scenario is synchronization of libraries and content between OEM and Suppliers. Other scenarios are possible as well. I read the following article on PC Word – ICloud and IOS 5: New Challenges for Business. Take a time, have a read and make your opinion. I found the following passage resonating:

Lion Server delivers wireless file sharing for iPad. When you enable WebDAV in Lion Server, you can access, copy, and share documents on the server from applications such as Keynote, Numbers, and Pages.

While Apple specifically references its iWork apps here, it seems pretty clear that the company is using them merely as examples. That makes sense because Apple used them to demo iCloud’s document capabilities. But it seems clear that this feature will extend to other apps as well.

Some of the features mentioned by PC Word article as well as some announcements made by Apple in the context of new Lion Server can be interesting. Wireless file sharing on the iPad is probably a feature that can become a favorite among managers in every manufacturing (and not only) company.

The future of iPLM?

I tried to marry iCloud to PLM. So, it turns out my experiment was bad. Actually, iPLM already exists and eventrademarked by Dassault Systems. So, without knowing if Steve Jobs is planning to come to manufacturing companies, the place already taken Enovia V6 iPLM. I wasn’t able to find much about Dassault iPLM strategy and development, except of the following picture.

iCloud and Google Apps

When I was listening to Jobs’ demo (which was obviously brilliant), I tried to find what features of coming iCloud strategy cannot be realized today using Google Apps. Here is my net-net: I can access mails, calendars, documents from any devices. The notion of push synchronization promoted by Apple is important. It solves many scenarios related to content access.

What is my conclusion? The key word for the next revolution in enterprise belongs to “device” and “mobility”. iCloud seems to solve the key problem available everywhere – synchronization. The situation was bad on a single computer (i.e. Mac). However, the synchronization is really bad behind the firewall. The solution that solves this problem can provide a significant leapfrog in the corporate IT and engineering and manufacturing applications. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Revisions in CAD/PLM/ERP: Old Problems or New Challenges?

June 7, 2011

I want to talk about the topic, which is actually is not very new – revisions. I was reading Autodesk Manufacturing Community blog – Vault 2012 Revision Block Integration. It made me think about the problem of revision in engineering software, how different software engineering and manufacturing disciplines solve it.

Revisions in CAD

The support of revisions in CAD has a long history. From the early beginning of CAD systems, engineers had a need to maintain revisions and changes in drawings and later in 3D CAD models. Because of CAD reliance on the file system, revisions where originally considered as something that “file system” can do. As a result of CAD files’ complexity, it wasn’t as simple as managing of Word file revisions. Companies were developed multiple strategies how to manage CAD file revisions. At the same time, revision must be part of every released drawing. Because of this need, CAD systems started to provide the support for automatic reflecting of revisions (and revision history) inside of CAD files and drawings. You can take a look on the How to make a Custom Revision Table? blog article to get an example of advanced revision reflection in SolidWorks. Other CAD systems can do a similar job from the conceptual standpoint. However, revisions are complicated. To handle them right manually is not a simple job. You can see the following SolidSmack Blog – How To Kill All Previous Revisions on a SolidWorks Drawing? as a good example of problems customers are facing on a daily basis. The last (and not only) led companies to develop advanced tools to manage revisions. It was the beginning of PDM.

Revisions in PDM / PLM

At the time PDM system started it was about a “vault” and “revisions”. The idea of documents (CAD) control was dominant. To put CAD files into the electronic vault (so called EDM, TDM or PDM) was a simple task, in my view. However, it raised few problems very fast – 1/not everybody in an organization can/want to use these DM technologies; 2/the output drawings (2D and printed in many cases even today) need to contain the information about revisions. Even if industry of PDM systems passed last 20 years of evolution, it is still about to solve revision/drawing update problem. You can take a look on two videos from Autodesk and SolidWorks presenting the same challenges and scenarios.

In parallel, the evolution of PDM into PLM raised the new set of problems. Product Lifecycle Management introduces an additional set of information. In addition to Documents, you are management Parts and Part lifecycle almost in 100% of PLM implementations. The problem now becomes not only how to find a right revision of CAD assembly, but also to find relevant revisions of Parts/Items. At the same time, Parts lifecycle is completely different from Document revision management. Connection between them creates another set of challenges for every company- how to relate a right drawing version to the right Part Number and how to manage these relations.

Revisions in ERP

ERP systems have a different pattern of the data and revision modeling. ERP is not actually managing versions. The fundamental difference is that ERP is managing “effectivities”. Revision is not something that makes a lot difference to ERP, except one small elements – ERP system needs to have a reference to a relevant version of document/drawing with the right information inside of drawing. It creates another set of challenges. The following videos present examples of integration between CAD/PDM to the ERP.

What is my conclusion? In my view, after all years of CAD/PDM/PLM, the issue of “revision” is still unsolved. Why do I think so? It is because the simple question like “where is my last revision?” or the question like “Where is the up-to-date document, which belongs to the product X?” are still not answered in many companies. Each system in the whole engineering and manufacturing software world has sort of a revision / version notion. However, the new challenge is probably the interplay of revision in different systems. It doesn’t really happen and PLM systems don’t seem to have a reliable solution these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM: Work-in-progress vs. System of Records?

June 6, 2011

Recently, I’ve been in a very interesting conversation with one of my industry buddies. It was about a role PDM and PLM systems are playing today manufacturing organizations. To summarize our discussion in few sentences, it was sounded like that: all data management systems (PDM, PLM, ERP) are used as a system of records. People keep in PDM/PLM/ERP information about released products. However, people never used these systems as Work-in-Progress systems. I read a AIIM blog post – Is it ever okay to copy "final" documents to a separate system? I learned that problem of system split is not unique in PLM world. Here is my favorite passage from there:

Both organizations have mature ECM implementations and in both cases have had their ECM programs in place for more than a decade. The original mandate of their programs was to manage all information through its entire lifecycle, following AIIM’s advice to capture, store, manage, deliver and preserve all unstructured content.

But a funny thing happened on the way to ECM nirvana. Both organizations decided to pursue a "parallel" strategy; one system for collaboration and work-in-progress documents and one for "official records" or final versions (often copies) of documents that have completed the collaboration cycle (and yes, the rise of SharePoint plays a part in this decision, but that’s a discussion for another day).

It made me think about relationships between work-in-progress and released documents a bit more.

Vaulting and System of Record

In the early beginning, PDM/PLM started as vaulting systems for CAD. The straightforward need was to "vault" all revisions of design (CAD files and others) and maintain their changes. The main objective was to manage traceability of design decisions. The original ideas, strated as CALS (Continues Acquisition and Lifecycle Support) and Configuration Management (MIL-973 and EIA-649) explored to what we know today about PLM. The notion of WIP (work-in-progress) vs. Formal Control was all the time there. In my view, it developed a notion of "system of records". In parallel, the role early PDM/PLM tools played in the organization and their relationships with ERP also favored ERP as a final system of record that disconnected from engineering and R&D in every manufacturing organization.

Design Collaboration

At the same time, CAD vendors continuously developed the tied connection of CAD and PLM tools. This connectivity helped to establish more efficient engineering work and helped engineers to collaborate online. This collaboration tool helped engineers, but becomes complicated and made designers and engineering life really complex. So, justification of the deployment of these tools created a stigma of complicated and expensive PLM environment. However, when established, these systems helped to make engineering information available across the organization and improved the way company worked with engineering and product information.

Downstream Problem – what is the right tehnology?

One of the most complicated problems in manufacturing organization related to engineering, and product development is the availability of information downstream. It initially defined as 3D information availability, this problem is much broader and related to many other aspects of engineering information. Recently, CAD/PLM vendors recognized the problem. Examples of investment in this space are Dassault acquisition of Seemage and 3DVIA Composer product, Autodesk Inventor Publisher release earlier this year. You may be also interested to watch what Lattice Technology is doing in this space. They pioneered the idea of lightweight 3D format’s proliferation. At the same time, the problem is unsolved and lots of engineering information is still not available and not connected downstream in manufacturing organization.

What is my conclusion? In my view, the time when you can split the problem into the two independent problem is over. Last 10 years we split work-in-progress problems with the system of record problems. Engineering was throwing released engineering information to manufacturing and were fighting tons of ECOs. It is still happening. To develop a new way to work is probably the next challenge. What is your take? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM User Experience, Windows 8 and the End of Desktop

June 5, 2011

Some time ago, I wrote about future user experience – PUI: Not PLM UI. Future User experience. One of the fundamental elements of user experience for the last 20 years was the desktop. The organization of desktop didn’t change since first was invented together with file system and first versions of Windows.

The Microsoft announcement and preview of Windows 8 made me think about fundamental changes finally started to happen. This is the first time for the last time Microsoft made me think – the game is not over. Yes, lots of things may happen until the release of Windows 8, but I can definitely see – some folks in Redmond are thinking outside of the box.

The Windows 8 preview made me think again about what changes are expected soon of user experience in CAD/PLM world. The following two videos present some ideas. The first one – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for ipad. You can see a full absence of a mouse as well as touch user experience.

The following one is Numbers for iPad. Many PLM apps have intensive data processing elements. What can be a new paradigm? I think Numbers are a decent example of the directions.

What is my conclusion? In coming years, we will see a growing set of examples of new user experience. Mouse and Keyboard are phasing out. Touch and new forms of user interaction are coming. A good place to innovate… Just my thoughts.

Best, Oleg


PLM, Cloud and Open Source Separation?

June 2, 2011

Cloud and Open source are two topics I’m often touching on my blog. In my view, these two trends are notable if you think about where PLM innovation is going these days. Two years ago, I wrote – SaaS and Open Source: PLM Future Rides. We can see what happened since then.

Cloud services getting some traction. PLM vendors are trying to tap into cloud delivery by introducing focused applications or product. Recent SolidWorks announcement about n!Fuze is one of them. I covered it in my post SolidWorks n!Fuze – Cloud Remake of PLM Collaboration? Autodesk made few bold statements about the cloud with the announcement of Infinite Computing ideas. If you have some more time, you can read my post PLM vendors and cloud strategy where I’m shared my view on major PLM vendors cloud strategy. In parallel, for the last couple of years, I can see valuable development around PLM and Open Source. Some of my post on this includes PLM Open Source: Strategic or Off Road and PLM Wood and Open Source Termites.

Open Source and Vendors lock-in

The issue of vendor lock-in is well known in CAD/PLM world. For many years, the relationships between CAD/PLM vendors and customers was almost similar to "catholic marriage". I learn something new recently. It was about tight dependencies between cloud and open source. Navigate your browser to the to the InfoWorld.com article“Why the Cloud Can’t Be Separated From Open Source”. I found the following passage interesting:

“According to Michael Skok of North Bridge venture Partners, a firm specializing in open source funding, one of the chief customer objections to the cloud is the high potential for vendor lock-in.” Open source technology provides an obvious solution to the vendor lock-in dilemma.

I want to bring some examples of notable open source programs. Navigate to OpenStack – you will discover the program that employs open source and cloud. I can see a quite impressive list of companies, including Dell, Cisco, NASA, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It is hard to dismiss the significance of cloud and open source when you see these names.

PLM Cloud and Open Source Options

It made me think about future potential of PLM, Cloud and Open source to play together. Aras PLM is one of the cloud innovators in this space. I’ve been visiting their ACE 2011 earlier last month. One of the hints Aras made was about their switch towards Linux and other Open Source platforms such as MySQL, On the showcase of ACE 2011 partners presented solutions leveraging some other open source technologies – Lucene and Solr. At the same time, Aras made an announcement about the availability of Aras platform on the cloud.

What is my conclusion? Most of the people are thinking about PLM and Open Source from the narrow "price" standpoint. In my view, the perspective is much wider and covers un-locking from vendors as well as future cloud expansion. Just my thoughts… What is your take?

Best, Oleg


PLM, Manufacturers and Mobile Apps Hysteria

June 1, 2011

I can see around more and more people are playing with mobile devices. Last 3-4 months contained many announcements coming from hardware and software manufacturers related to "mobile business". Android Honeycumb, iPad 2, Google App store, Microsoft / Nokia deal, etc. I started to ask myself – what is behind all this? The following Forrester blog post caught my attention -Mobile App Internet and 2011 Mobile App Hysteria. John McCarthy was writing 3 months ago about some information coming from Forrester Mobile Internet report. Here my favorite passage:

The explosion of app innovation that started on the iPhone and then spread to Android devices and tablets will continue to drive tech industry innovation and have far-reaching pricing and go-to-market implications for software and services providers. A second round of innovation will leverage the intersection of cloud-based services; Smart Computing; and newly app- and Internet-enabled devices like cars, appliances, and entertainment systems. The development of this mobile "app Internet" with hybrid local and cloud-supported applications will not only foster huge levels of innovation but also open up new services opportunities around the creation and management of these B2C, B2B, and B2E apps. The mobile app Internet will also change the way software is priced and designed.

You can purchase Forrester report navigating to the following link. In his blog, John put some numbers from that report. I found the following ones the most interesting:

Even at $2.43/app, the app market will emerge as a $38B market by 2015… Helping enterprises ride out the perfect storm of innovation is a $17B services opportunity…

CAD and PLM companies are not staying aside of mobile applications’ game. I wrote about it in some of my previous posts: PLM and post-PC Era, 3D/PLM: Future or Baloney?, Mobile, Photo, Video and Manufacturing Collaboration, and some others. We also have seen some bold mobile announcement come from companies like Siemens PLM – TeamCenter Mobility Apps.

The Power of Mobile Disruption

Back in 2005-7, BlackBerry was my favorite device. It was super fast, easy and powerful. Few years ago I had a conversation with one of the manufacturing companies about the iPhone and mobile. The person I talked was a huge BlackBerry fun. Our point of disagreement was actually the absence of a keyboard. From his standpoint "iPhone fancy apps had no connection to manufacturing companies". Fast forward nowadays… I know he is running iPhone 4 and has lots of Apps on it.

In my view, mobile platforms create a huge disruption in everything IT does in manufacturing company. People are stopping tolerating existing enterprise suites and limitations. Engineers want the ability to answer on inquires coming from manufacturing also when they are out of their desks, managers want to have live updates ECO bottlenecks. There are many other examples.

What is my conclusion? I think people started to digest initial mobile device hysteria and transform it to something productive. In my view, it will require lots of changes in existing infrastructure and PLM product suites. Some of them won’t survive and some of them will be transformed. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg
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Photo: (Cristiano Betta/Flickr)


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