PLM: Data, Search and Future User Experience

April 4, 2012

Disclosure: As a co-founder of Inforbix, I understand that my opinion about PLM Data and Search can be unintentionally biased. Nevertheless, I believe the topic itself is very important, so I decided to share my thoughts anyway.

PLM Data. A lot of data. You are probably familiar with that. The amount of data is growing. I can say the same about the complexity of the products and product development processes. It creates significant challenges for everybody in the company – designers, engineers, manufacturing, marketing, sales and support. How to overcome the level of complexity and provide customers with easy and intuitive tools? This is one of the challenges I mentioned in my presentation few months ago during AU 2011.

In this article which is going to be unusually long, I’d like to explore trends and show examples of applications specifically focusing on user experience.

TeamCenter Active Workspace

Siemens just released videos and information about so-called TeamCenter Active Workspace. Per my understanding Active Workspace is a first module to implement so-called HD-PLM vision Siemens PLM presented last year. I caught the initial info about Active Workspace was in October 2011. I captured it in my Inforbix blog. The discussion was started on twitter by @dorasmith. In addition, you might be interested to read an early review done by Kenneth Wong of Desktop Engineering. The short definition of Active Workspace was like this “Active Workspace is like Internet search, simplifying PLM complexity”. I was listening to the following video by Chuck Grindstaff of Siemens PLM talking about Active Workspace.

Finally it came to the release. In the following video, you can see a first review of the product.

I find user experience quite comprehensive. In my view, it is clear simplification compared to a traditional PLM environment. According to my understanding Active Workspace is running on top of TeamCenter platform (as a module). So, where it provides a clear user experience simplification, customers still needs to take care of IT, installation and implementation cost.

Dassault System 3DExperience and Exalead SBA

DS has a concern about user experience too. DS started 3DLive product about 5 years ago as an innovative way to collaborate, visualize and navigate through product information. These days, DS is presenting something they call 3D Experience platform that allows people to experience real product in a virtual environment. According to Dassault, it will change the way innovators innovate with consumers. You can see a visionary video below. This is still a vision, in my view.

3D Experience platform contains many elements supported by other DS products. One of them, Exalead is a platform for Search Based Applications. DS acquired Exalead two years ago. Since that time, I’ve heard lots of talks about Exalead as a platform. According to Dassault, Exalead platform and applications can be embedded into other applications or used a platform for building new apps. Known as “French Google”, Exalead was a company founded back in the beginning of 2000 with some core roots in Alta Vista search platform. In my view, Exalead is a powerful toolkit. With all power it comes with, Exalead is a very generic and not related to PLM. In the video below, I found an application developed by DS partner – NovaQuest, which can be positioned as much as close as possible to PLM.

Autodesk PLM 360

The story of Autodesk PLM 360 is just in a very early beginning. Autodesk is presenting PLM 360 as a major breakthrough into changing the way people work in PLM including delivery and implementation (Instant On the cloud) and ending up with a user experience. I presented some of my thoughts about PLM 360 on my blog before. Navigate to the following link to read more. From the standpoint of user experience, PLM 360 is completely browser-based (except of Workflow designer)

It also provides some interesting capabilities for product information navigation.

Opposite to Siemens PLM and Dassault, PLM 360 is running in the cloud. User interface is a strong point of PLM360. It is also very flexible and customizable. At the same time, because of the cloud, connection with the data in the company, remains one of the weak points and the gap that Autodesk needs to cover.

PTC, Windchill and SharePoint

The last version of Windchill product put a lot of focus on the user experience. PTC mentioned it many times in their presentations. You can see a video of Windchill 10 demonstrating all usability enhancements. The core concept of Windchill UI is to combine the best desktop experience with the best web experience. How successful is that? Take a look on the video and tell me, please.

On the side of search, PTC relies on SharePoint infrastructure heavily. In the following video, you can see how PTC mixing SharePoint search with Windchill products.

Inforbix Product Data Applications

The big idea of Inforbix is to change the way how people in manufacturing company can access product data located in disparate locations (file vaults, local computer drives, database, PDM/PLM applications and other sources). Inforbix doesn’t require you to migrate data into a single database. Inforbix runs from the cloud (private or public), scans product data and helps you to search, find connected elements and create different reports and visualization. Learn more here. User experience plays one of the central roles in Inforbix. The following video shows Inforbix Search user experience that helps you navigate and discover product data.

This video presents Inforbix Tables user experience helping you to slice and dice data in virtual reports.

What is my conclusion? User experience is very important these days. What we learned from the internet and mobile space, one “extra click” can kill your product. The new motto – “don’t make me think” can be easy applied as the most important requirements nowadays. The idea of user experience started to proliferate to enterprise space. PLM companies are clearly interested how to make improvements and create new generation of tools, which will not look like ’95 anymore. Just my thoughts….

Best, Oleg


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