PDM, Part Numbers and the Future of Identification

July 29, 2011

Let me talk again about Part Numbers. The last time I wrote about Part Numbers, it created a healthy discussion. I’d encourage you to refresh your memory and read one of my blog post back one year ago – PLM Data, Identification and Part Numbers. I found some interesting facts specially reading all 51 comments to this post. Finally, the following picture on Josh Mings’ yfrog, made me think about Parts, Items and Numbering system again.

The picture is, obviously, funny… However, it made me think about some problems related to identification of “things” in CAD, PDM, PLM products and, actually, about global data identification in a manufacturing company.

Part Numbers and Global Identification Problem

One of the problems I can see in manufacturing organizations is related to identification of assemblies, parts, documents and other related information. The problem is not new. It was exists many years. The elements of identification have multiple dimensions. You can think about different phases of lifecyle on one side. On the other side, you can think about manufacturing sites. There are many other elements in this identification schema. You can ask me – companies are implementing solutions to identify parts – what’s the big deals? It is just names or numbers…

I think, these problems become more complicated because of several trends that happen in manufacturing these days. I just bring few – globalization and global manufacturing, the complexity of products, supply chain optimization and many others. In my view, the complexity of identification causes raising complexity of software to support it and, at the end, the complexity of business processes. Take a look on the following picture fromWikipedia (obviously, I don’t want to expose any customer data I have):

I can also mention few other problems that exist in every manufacturing company and not only for large OEMs – handling of loosely coupled information, manage multiple and sometimes un-planned information sources, harmonization of many “small packets” of corporate data, etc. To have an efficient identification can be helpful. I can see companies are spending lots of time discussing an “identification” problem and trying to come to a reasonable solution that fits their need.

Identification Silver Bullet and Semantic Web Promise

Is there a “silver bullet” that can help to companies to solve identification problems? Unfortunately, in my view, the technologies that were developed 20-30 years ago cannot scale up to handle existing complexity of the information stored in CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP and other business systems. I see an interesting promise coming from semantic technologies that were developed for the last decade. One of the possible solutions is to apply the techniques developed on the web such as URI as well as elements of RDF and OWL to identify elements of data. In a nutshell, the idea of unique global data identification that can be developed on the level that provides Part Numbering schema in multiple divisions in your company.

What is my conclusion? There is no silver bullet that can solve the problem of Part Numbers and data identification in manufacturing companies tomorrow. Data related problems cannot be solved overnight. At the same time, application of new technologies that were developed on the web for the last 10-15 years can provide a step by step plan to solve the current “data disaster”. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

*picture is courtesy of solidsmack yfrog account.


The future of CAD Without Files?

July 27, 2011

No files any more. Period. I hope I’ve got your attention. File system is one of the most stable paradigms for storing data for the last 20-25 years. However, here is the question – do we really need it? Take a look on the following quote fromWikipedia:

Programs do not necessarily require file names or directories to access data, and direct data access is possible by hardcoding programs to directly access data regions on a storage device. Similarly, directories or folders are technically unnecessary, and all data could be arranged in a flat-file manner, identifying data using some external locating method such as typed pages in a binder. Such a system would be extremely difficult for day-to-day management and organization of data by human users.

We use files almost everywhere. However, stop, for the moment. We actually are not using files on the web. The meaning of files changed when it comes to the web-like organization of things.

I was reading Alex Bowyer on O’Reilly Radar Blog – Why Files Need To Die? Take a moment of time and read that article. Make your opinion. How much of your everyday lifecycle is dependent on files and what is completely file-less. I found the following passage inspiring:

The file folder metaphor makes no sense in today’s world. Gone are the smoky 1970s offices where secretaries bustled around fetching armfuls of paperwork for their bosses, archiving cardboard files in dusty cabinets. Our lives have gone digital and our data zips around the world in seconds as we buy goods online or chat with distant relatives.

The complexity of folders and files these days is similar to paperwork in the example above. Alex is coming with the idea of streams and related information. I found it interesting since it actually eliminates the need for files. You are just browsing through the information.

CAD with No Files?

Now, let think about CAD/PLM world. The fundamentals of CAD and design systems are files. We use them to store assemblies, parts, drawings. In addition to that, we use them as a reference in many places. Do think “file” paradigm will live with CAD and other design systems forever? The movement of CAD vendors seems to me the obvious application of modern web principles to the world of design and engineering. The initial signals are here. CATIA V6 pushed the limits and eliminated files by connecting CATIA system directly to Enovia back-end. Autodesk cloud experiments with systems like AutoCAD WS made existence of files on the disc obsolete. PTC introduced Creo Apps. It will be interesting to see if PTC will come with the future idea of eliminating files.

What is my conclusion? I think the computing and information paradigms are shifting from file-oriented to data (and web) oriented. The initial signs are here. The speed of this movement is questionable. Manufacturing is slow changing environment and engineers are very reluctant to changes. Just my thoughts. What is your take on the future without files?

Best, Oleg


Engineers and Video Collaboration?

July 26, 2011

Think about enterprise software and collaboration. I think, collaboration is boring. It is complicated, requires lots of system configuration and implementation skills. Try to talk to your colleagues engineers about a potential new system for collaboration. How many will be listening? Probably something is wrong. What can be a new reality for "collaboration"?

MenloParkPatch announces, “Facebook Launches Video Chat.” You can see Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made his livestreamed product announcement. Facebook will include video chat powered by Skype’s technology. I found the following Zuckerberg passage interesting:

“I actually think the driving narrative for the next five years or so is not going to be about wiring up the world, because a lot of the interesting stuff has already been done,” he said. “It’s about what kind of cool stuff you’re going to be able to build… now that you have this wiring in place.”

As you can see Facebook is not alone in this video chat race. Google just came with a new feature in Google+ called Hangout.

What is my conclusion? I think, an average manufacturing company already implemented way too many enterprise systems. Maybe we need to stop trying to re-invent "collaboration" by introducing new names and set of complicated user interfaces? Let just think about adding some cool features. Think, video chat is one of them. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud PLM and Amazon S3 Scale?

July 25, 2011

I can see cloud PLM is trending. The announcements about running on Amazon are coming from multiple vendors. Dassault just announced few weeks ago the availability of V6 platform on AWS, Aras announced earlier this year about the availability of Aras Innovator on Amazon with support of Minerva France (former Prodeus). Autodesk aims for cloud with multiple projects – AutoCAD WS, future Autodesk PLM product and other so called “infinite computing” initiatives.

I read the following blog – Amazon S3 – more than 449 Billion Objects. Have a read and take a look on the picture below.

The numbers Amazon brings are quite impressive. I liked the following one – 64 objects for each person on Planet Earth (source: World Population Clock). It is certainly a lot. However, is it really big when you put on the scale compatible with typical PLM/Manufacturing products and projects?

Let’s talk about Boeing 747-400. If you exclude fasteners, Boeing 747-400 has about 3 million parts. For the whole history, Boeing delivered 694 of Boeing 747-400 jets. Now, let’s make calculations. There are only 650M S3 objects for each manufactured Boeing 747-400. It means about 200 S3 objects for every part in all Boeing 747-400 in the world. If we think about the cloud, it should include all part and manufacturing info, documents, drawings, revisions, etc. Is it a lot? I’m not sure. Think about different Boeing airplanes as well as Airbus jets. Make your math… YMMV. Let me know what do you think?

Best, Oleg


PLM and New Openness

July 21, 2011

The topic of openness in PLM software isn’t new. In the past decade, I’ve been hearing lots of good and bad things about PLM and openness. Last year, I shared my thoughts with regards to PLM and openness in my post – Closed Thoughts About PLM Openness. Few days ago, I had a chance to read Ralf Grabowski was interviewing Fabien Fedida of Dassault Systems. Among all topics they discussed, one was about "new openness". Navigate your browser to the following link to read the interview. I put below some of my thoughts and references on PLM openness for the last year.

New Openness in Dassault V6 R2012

According to Mr. Fedida, Dassault is thinking how to improve the openness of their PLM software. Few examples: releasing of new APIs, adding V6 to external PDM integrations using Web Services and XML schemas. Here is my favorite passage:

Dassault is aggressively releasing API [application programming interface] calls "to the entire eco system." For example, ENOVIA V6 is now up to 3,000 API calls, 3DVIA Composer has 500, and CATIA has new ones in the area of composite manufacturing. There will be more APIs to come…

I can see the release of new APIs as something very positive. However, I’m afraid a bit about measurement of openness in the number of API calls, which reminded me how software was measured by LOC (lines of code) twenty years ago.

Aras, PLM Data "Obfuscation" and Other PLM vendors

A different perspective on openness is coming from Aras blog, which talked to us about PLM vendor’s practice of Lock-in, interoperability and need to make database and data models transparent and interoperable. Navigate your browser to read What is PLMData "Obfuscatopn" and Why Should I care?!? The following quote explains the "data obfuscation problem" and core idea behind Aras’ openness in database and data modeling technologies:

This is the way the other major PLM / PDM systems were / are designed. The database table for the Part Master is notcalled / labelled “Part” – it’s labelled “0034543908543TG324” or something else confusing like that… the data aresometime split into different tables so that access is non-intuitive. This is “obfuscation” and it’s done by design. PLMsystems have traditionally (and still are) very hard to get at the data and figure out, sometimes impossible…. Aras is an open and transparent data model that is designed in a very simple and straightforward manner. Parts are in a table calledPart”, Suppliers in a table called “Supplier”, etc. and you have complete access along with a published data dictionary. That’s very different from the other major PLM providers and one more way that we are helping companies take control of their own destiny. “

Talking about other PLM, I’d be mentioning TeamCenter PLM XML schema, which is a good example of openness, in my view. You can get more details here. It is interesting to see that the same Aras was delivered Aras’ connector to TeamCenter using TeamCenter PLM XML openness. Navigate to the following press release made by Aras back in 2009 – Aras announced connector technology for Siemens PLM Software TeamCenter.

What is my conclusion? Openness is a tricky thing, in my view. It depends on environment and in many times it is a part of the company fundamental strategies. I have to say that DS API numbers and connectors to everything are really reminded me the shelf in Apple store with connectors with all possible sources of data. At the same time, I cannot completely agree that usage of right naming in a database can solve the issue of data transparency and interoperability. The fact vendors are thinking about openness is a good sign. We will watch results… What is your take on PLM openness?

Best, Oleg


Google+ potential for PLM and Business use

July 20, 2011

Well, time is running fast, and I counted my first week of G+ experience. It is still too early to share any specific experience, but probably a good time to share some of my initial thoughts. For the moment, I can see Google+ as a real geekdom. Most of the people there are mostly experimenting, so did I. The main question I wanted to ask, in the beginning, is how Google+ can be used by businesses as well as how Google+ potential can be used in business applications.

Personal Workflow

I started from the analyzes of my personal workflow. I can seaparate my activities into content creation, content consumption, maintaining relationships and broadcasting. The main tool for my content creation activity is blog (WordPress). For the last years, any attempts to replace or combine WordPress usage with additional tools failed. My main content stream is blogging. It seems to me, Google+ is not going to change anything here for me in a visible future. I still don’t have a stable picture stream – all professional and personal photos are fragmented and only part of them lives on the cloud. On the side of consumption, G+ easy became a part of my consumption streams. The easiest way for me was to consume Google+ as RSS stream, which in parallel can be viewed on iPad using Flipboard. Sharing was easy as well. I’m sharing my content today on multiple sites – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others. Google+ becomes another one, for the moment. Not a big difference…

Relationship and Networking

Building connections in Google+ is different from other networks. First of all, Google+ is asymmetric. It means you can connect to a person without having this connection confirmed. It is different from Facebook and LinkedIn. Circle mechanism is powerful and I like it much more than existing list mechanism in Facebook and Twitter.

Google+ and Business

The biggest question I have is what Google+ can provide for business. For the moment, Google+ is blocking creation of business profiles. However, take a look on the following video. You can hear clear statements that Google is planning to introduce Google+ to a business domain.

Google+ and PLM Business Domains

What are possible domains of Google+ applications in business. Future usage of Google+ tools for a better collaboration is obvious – ad hoc meetings, chat, email, mobile group calls, messaging. Circles provide an efficient team and group organization mechanism. Finally, a video conference can be a good competition to Skype. Next level of benefits related to future integration of Google Apps. It can make collaboration even stronger. Group sharing of spreadsheets can be a very strong feature in PDM/PLM domain.

What is my conclusion? Obviously, it is too early to make a conclusion. It is interesting to know what we will feel with regards to Google+ closer to the X-Mass party. What I can tell is that for the last week Google+ succeeded to take some attention, and I embedded it into my day-to-day flow. I like user experience and some features look very promising. Time will show if this is for real. Just my thoughts.

Best, Oleg


PLM Collaboration: From Old Concepts to a New Reality

July 19, 2011

I wanted to touch the topic of “collaboration” today. The term collaboration is very broad. Hit Google to search for “collaboration” and you will see Google counter jumps to ~240’000’000 results in 0.2 sec. The word “collaboration” has lots of meaning. Navigate your browser to the Wikipedia link about collaboration and you will see all of them – from arts to business and technology, including kibbutz, military, business and some historical meaning coming from a second world war. I found the following one as the most appropriate in the context of engineering and manufacturing software:

Due to the complexity of today’s business environment, collaboration in technology encompasses a broad range of tools that enable groups of people to work together including social networking, instant messaging, team spaces, web sharing, audio conferencing, video, and telephony. Broadly defined, any technology that facilitates linking of two or more humans to work together can be considered a collaborative tool. Wikipedia, Blogs, even Twitter are collaborative tools. Many large companies are developing enterprise collaboration strategies and standardizing on a collaboration platform to allow their employees, customers and partners to intelligently connect and interact.

Now, let’s move to PDM, PLM and other “sorts” of collaboration. Engineering software (including PDM/PLM) is practicing active usage of word “collaboration” for the last decade. For some reasons, marketing fellows decided that the term is selling well. So, they oversold…

These days, “collaboration” means almost nothing. Collaborative PDM (cPDM), Collaborative PLM (cPLM), Collaborative… Engineers actually hesitate to say “I’m collaborating”. One of the most strong opinions, I’ve heard about collaboration came to me in the comments to my previous blog post about collaboration:

I work as an engineer. So after seeing this social trend proposed for CAD/CAM/CAE/PLM I cannot bear anymore and have only one thing to say! This is all bullshit and we engineers do not need it! Let me explain a of course…

First of all in a typical environment the only person to whom I want to collaborate is another engineer and I will come to him ,or email, with direct problem or issue to seek advice or help. In most cases he is even sitting in the next room to me. I do not want to collaborate with all the people in the company, I do not want to collaborate with people who do not understand what is the difference between bolt and nut, and I will not :)! And later constantly get email updates that new answer is posted, this is worse than SPAM! I do not want to collaborate with PR, Marketing, Manufacturing etc in an endless thread of useless suggestions about the fastener type, color, button, shape etc. Because all these things should be defined already in specification, if they are not and you still have to ask all that from the people mentioned above, this means that this project will lead to a disaster and will be a huge money drain. Management should act immediately if these things are happening in a company

New Social Way

Last two years, we are facing a massive influence of social networking and other internet-related technologies (i.e. Web 2.0) on what before we call collaboration. One of the most “passionate” about that – Vuuch is proposing to stop usage of word “collaboration” in the context of collaboration software. Vuuch proposes a very interesting term called “Enterprise Social System” to explain the technology to revolutionize the way engineers can collaborate (oops.. work together) based on the more efficient contextual information sharing. Navigate to 1 hour length webinar which will take you step-by-step into a new “social way” of working together. When I think, Vuuch is really innovating by trying to find a new way to solve the old problem, I found the following passage from Vuuch blog a bit provoking.

But we never use the C(ollaboration) word to describe Vuuch. In our minds, there’s a bright line between the capabilities and usage patterns in Vuuch and a legacy system like SharePoint. And we understand that until the conventional wisdom catches with Vuuch, many people need to use transitional terminology to feel comfortable.

It explains, actually, why Vuuch is using word collaboration internally in the software:

The Reality – People Just Want To Drink a Beer

I can see these days are really going to change a lot in the way people collaborate or just simply working together. The changes are coming from a complete new set of technologies and tools we have at our disposal to communicate and share information. Here is my short list – mobile, communication and data sharing. It becomes much easy these days to communicate. Think about a mobile device you keep in your hands. Your ability to contact people changed completely for the last 3-4 years. It is true not only from the standpoint of capability, but also from the cost standpoint. Communication, including broadband web access, video conferencing and tele-presence allows us to talk with people remotely almost without any problems. Finally, data sharing technologies were improved dramatically. In my post – PLM Online Data Sharing: From Spreadsheets to Databases, I discussed various products and technologies that can help you to share data. Here is a part of one comment I’ve got related to data sharing capabilities of Google Docs: The bigger advantage is total freedom of device…your laptop, an associate’s laptop, your phone or iPad… Just look at what college students are doing with cloud technology…a good barometer of what they will expect once in the workforce.

What is my conclusion? I think, collaboration is a word that will continue to live with us forever. However, technologies, product development and marketing will move towards something simpler and well understood. I think, future engineers will share screen, part, bill of materials to work together without thinking about how collaborative or social a particular software is performing. This is my view on the reality of collaborative software. What is your take?

Best, Oleg


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