PLM Think Tank Top 5 – May 2012

May 30, 2012

Time is flying. My monthly top 5 posts are coming too fast. Which made me think about so many changes that happen in our life these days. The root cause is so-called “re-imagination” that coming from web, new devices, connectivity, new trends in user experience and… beauty. I captured “re-imagination” word from the presentation of Mary Meeker’s of Kleiner Perkins About The State Of The Web. Here is a single slide from the presentation.

It is a bit long, but I’d recommend you to have a look on re-imagination slides that present how our consumer life changed under the influence of technologies for the last 5-7 years. It is not only about computers and websites, the disruption will be much bigger and much broader. The latest example is Nest – wifi enabled, auto-learning, auto-sensing, energy efficient, remote-controlled thermostat. If you haven’t had a chance to read announcements, since today you can buy it Nest in Apple Store. So, expect more news in the future. For the meantime, let’s move to PLM Think Tank top 5 posts:

First look of 3DS SolidWors e-Drawing for iPad

This is something I expected to see in 2011. However, when it comes it drives interest of tens of thousands SolidWorks users. Later is better than never. I think, many of SolidWorks users will appreciate e-Drawing iPad app. The price is $1.99. The Apple iTunes policy is complicated when it comes to corporate purchasing. Does e-Drawing iPad app worth $1.99? My answer is yes. Will engineers buy e-Drawing iPad for $1.99? A good question. I’d be very interested to see the number of uploads within few weeks and months.

Will PLM vendors dig into Big Data?

These two words are fascinating. The combination makes it even more powerful – “Big” + “Data”. The value of big data is undoubted. To adopt “big data”, PLM vendor needs to go to “unknown” place characterized by a different technological stack. It is not clear how they will do so. The time is running. The ability to dig into big data problem will become an imperative very soon.

PLM Implementations and Open APIs

To build a good API is a very complicated task. To make Open API is even harder. I can see a potential in exposing both semantics of data and related system functions in a way allowing me to use it and accomplish processes automatically. I think, web and REST give us a bit promise. The responsibility of vendors is to develop an appropriate level of granularity to make it usable.

PLM Business Models, Open Source and Copyleft Decline

I’m getting back to the conversation about Open Source PLM observing Aras PLM and other candidates. The focus on community building is a key. I’m following the development of open-source software, communities, free software and future potential steps of vendors with high level of interest. In my view, vendors are more interested in how to innovate in business models rather than follow strict rules of GPL licenses.

PLM Perfect Storm 2012

It is an interesting time to be in the PLM market these days. As I wrote in my recent blog –SolidWorks community and opportunity for PLM, there is a significant opportunity to deliver PLM solution to the white space market these days. Gartner’s PLM market dynamics slide is highlighting the same opportunity. It is clearly a perfect storm. Large PLM companies have a lot of money to play the future PLM game. They have a lot to win as well as to lose, in case something will go wrong. Who will take the best “stormy seat” in this game? An interesting question to ask.

Best, Oleg

GrabCAD + 3D Viewer = ?

May 30, 2012

Social, Community, Website, Engineers, Challenges, CAD, MCAD, 3D Viewer… Everybody in CAD/PLM business understand, viewer is an important component of design collaboration.

So, what happened? Read yesterday announcement made by GrabCAD here. GrabCAD is going to 3D by adding viewing capabilities to their website. Here are few passages from GrabCAD blog about new functionality.

Share your models with anyone in 3 dimensions? Check. Pin annotations right on the surface of a model to share advice and ideas with other engineers? Check. GrabCAD’s new in-browser 3D viewer is a huge step toward seamless collaboration and sharing for mechanical engineers and designers.

According to SolidSmack publication, GrabCAD developed their own viewer. I didn’t find a confirmation for that on GrabCAD website. Josh Mings of SolidSmack compared it with Web 3D:

Wow, when I said Web 3D was heating up, I wasn’t kidding. You know GrabCAD is always cooking up new features, but this is a delightful surprise. Today, they launch their own web-based 3D Viewer available right inside the GrabCAD interface to view 3D files and collaborate with others. Here’s the sneak peak.

Actually, I thought Web 3D was branded by Bernard Charles of DS as part of 3DVIA introduction. However, it won’t decrease the importance of 3D viewing for engineers and other people handling 3D models.

What is “in the box”?

In a nutshell, GrabCAD provides the ability to view and annotate CAD models you uploaded to GrabCAD website. Viewer supports STL files and runs in any WebGL enabled browser. GrabCAD automatically converts files to STL (15’000 files already converted according to GrabCAD). Here is what GrabCAD viewer supposed to do:

Collaborate with engineers on projects you’re working on by annotating pins right on the model
Share your models securely with clients, manufacturers, or anybody without CAD software
Check out all public models on GrabCAD without downloading them

Few limitations that may disappoint some users. IE explorer is not supported, for the moment. Automatic conversion of file STL can go wrong and you will be requested to make a manual STL file upload. Speed can be vary and depend on STL file size and connection speed.

From “Facebook” to 3D collaboration business

GrabCAD expansion from community website sharing CAD models to 3D collaboration confirms that company is searching how to provide more services to monetize website performance. Couple of weeks ago, Hardi Meybaum, GrabCAD CEO stated that collaboration service becomes one of the most important one – …the company now plans to launch what could become the focal point of its business: a service that aims to change the way engineers and their customers collaborate on designs….

In my view, GrabCAD is challenged by how to monetize the tremendous success in making 200K engineers to register on their website and upload 40K free CAD models. Funded by few institutional investors, GrabCAD has an access to money that allows them to experiment with different directions.


By stepping into 3D Collaboration, GrabCAD will face more competition. Nobody has a vision for Facebook for engineers. However, to collaborate and share models in 3D is less unique value proposition, in my view.Autodesk 360, SolidWorks n!Fuze, CADFaster, etc. This is a short list of public cloud-based collaboration tools. When you turn to “on premise” solutions, the number of tools will only increase. What will be GrabCAD differentiation among all these products? Usability? Price? Community? It is an interesting question to ask.

What is my conclusion? Viewer is a cool feature. By adding it, GrabCAD will “grab” people to spend more time on the website.However, pivoting is the name of the game. GrabCAD + 3D Viewer = Pivoting.The question of GrabCAD business model is still not answered, in my mind. If GrabCAD focus is on helping engineers in manufacturing companies to collaborate, GrabCAD will be clearly moving closer to PLM trajectory and compete with other cloud-based PLM offerings. Otherwise, Hardi Meybaum and his team have more surprises in the box to come later. Time will show…

Best, Oleg

New definition of PLM from UK Datamation – Info Assets

May 28, 2012

The following twitter message from @raykurland of TechniCom, NJ market research and consulting firm woke me up during the long Memorial Day weekend in U.S.

According to Ray Kurland, Datamation of UK provides a new definition of PLM and even provides some implementation aspects for this definition.

Datamation of the UK defines PLM as the effective management of information assets through-life. It is a “live entity” – not disposable.

— Raymond Kurland (@technicom) May 27, 2012

I navigated to the Datamation UK PLM News from June 2012 to read more. The article is talking about well-recognized problems in PLM – long time of PLM implementation. However, DM provided some unusual look on reasons why it happens. Here is the passage that caught my attention:

There has been much debate recently about why the implementation of PLM solutions takes so long. Some blame the management for lack of commitment/vision, some blame the technology/supplier and others put it to the nature of PLM. In reality, it is none of these. Many still view PLM to be like any other business application.

PLM is different from say CAD, ERP, CRM, etc. and therefore investment decisions in it should be based on different criteria. PLM’s key role, as defined in the Datamation PLM Model report, is the effective management of information assets through-life. In other words, it is a “live entity” – not like a car or a pair of shoes that are bought, used for a specific purpose and replaced by the next model at the end of its life.

According to Datamation letter the focus needs to be place on the decision of what information assets will be accumulated and managed to support and manage business processes.

Note that the one thing that will be present/constant through-life is the accumulated information assets. Therefore the first priority is to decide what information assets will need to be retained to support current and future business processes – this is the foundation on which the system will be built. Only when this is decided, should attention focus on what new applications are needed and what integrations to new and existing ones will be needed -these represent the “structure” of the building. No building should be erected without a foundation.

The focus on data is clearly interesting. Manufacturing companies are accumulating lots of design, engineering and manufacturing information. In my view, all PLM vendors, until now, have been trying to solve the problem data management and data sharing. Which is one of the reasons why it took so long to implement all PLM solutions?

To build a foundation is a good approach. However, life is so dynamic these days. Some of data requirements are coming from regulation / compliance needs, some others are result of strategic acquisition made by a company focused on market share capturing, some manufacturing facilities got re-organized as a result of some economical and/or natural disasters. To re-plan foundation data assets on every step can be a complicated and expensive task. Opposite to that, the ability to have a easy data capture and flexible process management capabilities can be an interesting PLM alternative.

What is my conclusion? In my view, time and cost are two factors that will be driving PLM implementations in coming years. Inability to get fast integration and implementation are preventing companies from adopting PLM. If Datamation info asset’s strategy assumes that, it can "keep water". However, I don’t see it different from information assets related manufacturing (ERP), suppliers (SCM), customers and sales (CRM). Just my thoughts…


If you are interested in more information about Datamation and Daista Software approach, you can consider to register to their webinar "Informaiton as an asset" here and get copyrighted whitepaper after registration.


Secured PLM dropbox with EMC?

May 25, 2012

Speak about the "cloud" in a business community and you have a chance to be slammed by "security folks". Their primary concern is security and, sometimes, I have a feeling whatever you talk to them about, will leave them skeptical anyway. This is probably the type of people that are buying their first cell phone these days. Sort of people that according to the definition of a Roger Bell Curve will not buy "digital phone" until it is possible to buy "analog phone". Nevertheless, some companies are taking cloud serious these days. I was reading GIGAOM article –EMC buys Syncplicity to serve as Dropbox for business.

Cloud-based storage — Dropbox, especially — has become the primary villain in the move toward BYOD (bring your own device) workplaces, but is also an area of strong growth for providers such as that can support business needs. With those concerns in mind, this acquisition makes a lot of sense for EMC… Already, BYOD is wreaking havoc on unprepared companies, including companies like IBM that should know better. Employees want to use their personal iPhones, iPads and Android phones that to work from anywhere, but employers worry that sensitive corporate documents stored in the cloud on service

BYOD trend influence

BOYD (Bring Your Own Device) trend has a clear influence to the story of business dropbox development. According to the latest research the amount of employees supporting BYOD ideas is growing:

According to a recent British Telecom report, known as "Rethink the Risk", 60 per cent of employees are already using their personal devices when they head to work, while 82 per cent of companies surveyed said they either currently sanction BYOD or plan to do so within the next two years. Almost half — or 46 per cent — of employees working in organizations that don’t support BYOD say they’d like to be able to hook up their own devices while they’re on the job.

What is my conclusion? I think the combination of BYOD and business dropbox can have a significant influence on some areas PLM today is focusing on. Supply chain, global design and manufacturing – all these implementations require efficient data-sharing capabilities. Secured PLM dropbox can do it. The competition is clear in place. Fun time… Just my thoughts.

Best, Oleg

Picture courtesy GIGAOM article.

PDM ROI: Myths or Reality?

May 24, 2012

In personal life, the justification of your buying decision is simple. You want to have the next cool device, period. In business, it is different. The magic acronym ROI (Return on Investment) will be the first question you need to answer. Cost is real thing. Benefits must be real too. Last year, I posted about PDM ROI Calculator for SolidWorks. It generated interesting discussion about how possible to create a calculator to measure investment in PDM.

Few days ago, I bumped into another SolidWorks article – Top Five Return on Investment Areas for EPDM. According to Eric van Essen is a Product Group Manager atJavelin Technologies, the areas include – productivity, error reduction, team growth management and training, sales and distribution. The picture from the article is convincing that cumulative benefits of CAD 1.5M after 3 years.

One of the key areas of saving according to PDM ROI calculator is risk reduction saving. I assume it translates into error reduction described by article. The following passage presents 4 questions that can lead us to the right measurement of error reduction.

1. How often do we accidentally manufacture to the incorrect revision?

2. What is the potential cost if we do manufacture to the wrong revision?

3. How many change orders are created a year and how many of them could have been avoided if proper collaboration processes were in place?

4. What is the cost of processing a change order?

The questions represent problems in a very clear way. To have answers to the question is the key. To spot industry numbers providing answers on the question above can be an interesting exercise.

What is my conclusion? The question of ROI and PDM is fascinating. It is well-know fact that 60-70% of MCAD seats in the industry is not managed by PDM and use files or alternative solutions (excel, etc.) to manage data. If ROI is obvious as we can see from examples, why 60-70% of MCAD customers are still not running to buy PDM solutions. Just my thoughts. YMMV.

Best, Oleg

5 candidates for Alien Technologies in PLM

May 23, 2012

Technological disruption is a very interesting topic. The term "disruptive technology" is overused, in my view. Nevertheless, if you can see how technological disruption can make a real play. I found the following list presented by PCWorld quite interesting and entertaining – The 10 Most Disruptive Technology Combinations. Even if all examples are well-known, emphasizing of technological combination makes it a good read. Randall Newton used the term "Alien Technologies" in his Graphic Speak Weekly update. Navigate to the following link to read the review. The review speaks about how CAD companies borrow some technology from game space to deliver interesting solutions. Here is the passage from the write up:

CAD is being invaded by alien technology. Modo is a popular modeler for art, animation, and game development. But the new export utility means Modo can be used as the foundational tool for initial product concept development. Autodesk Labs built Factory.Modz() from its Gameware technology in the Media & Entertainment division. The foundational technologies behind today’s CAD software are complex and brilliant, but in some ways limited. Luxology and Autodesk are at the forefront of what will grow as a trend in the coming months and years, the repurposing of technology created for digital content creation (DCC) for use in CAD.

The term "alien technologies" made me think more about the concept of technology borrowing and combinations in the context of product data management and PLM. Here is my list of 5 candidates for alien technologies that can disrupt PDM/PLM space.

1- Social Networking

The magic of social networking and Facebook are well known these days. When it comes to PDM and PLM, I can see a significant amount of followers trying to bring a magic of social to enterprise space. Will social technology be able to disrupt PDM/PLM space? I think, social technology has a good chance to disrupt the way we communicate. Email still remains a major communication pathway. Is it possible to disrupt email? This is a very valid question to ask.

2- Web Mashups

Multiple web technologies developed for the last 10 years create a good foundation to improve user experience of the applications. Mashups is one the most popular technique to combine information layers. It worked for consumer website and provide an opportunity to disrupt existing applications created 15-20 years ago.

3- Search Technologies

Since Google introduced their search back in 1998, search became a mainstream. Enterprise data management, PDM, PLM requires better data access technologies and techniques. Search can do it. Almost all PDM/PLM vendors made their experiments with search. Open source search lower the cost of search technology adoption. We can see how all PDM/PLM vendors are experimenting with search in a very pro-active manner.

4- NoSQL

Growing amount of data is a reality of all companies today. How to manage data more efficiently? Consumer technologies and web develop a significant amount of technologies growing beyond the capabilities provided by traditional RDBMS. When it comes to efficiency and cost, noSQL data-management solution can provide an advantage and play an interesting role.

5- Semantic Technologies

Last, but not least – semantic technologies. PDM/PLM systems have very rich "semantic layer" related to data organization. Semantic technologies, linked data, semantic web can provide an alternative to model data in a much higher level of flexibility and scalability. So-called "web of data" can become the next wave of disruption for PDM/PLM.

What is my conclusion? Existing PDM/PLM vendors need to think who will come to compete with existing solutions in coming decade. New technologies can become a disruptive factor. To create right combination of technologies solving real customer needs in a much more efficient way can end up with future PDM/PLM disruption.

Best, Oleg


PLM, ERP and enterprise cloud race

May 22, 2012

I was reading GIGAOM article Amazon and SAP put All-in-One in the cloud few days ago. According to the article SAP will soon make an appearance on Amazon EC2 cloud. Interesting enough it is connected to the fact almost all software of SAP rival Oracle is already available from the cloud.

Another interesting point is related to the fact Amazon is working to support product customization on the public cloud. It will remove another big barrier for deployment and implementation of enterprise software. Here is a very interesting passage:

The conventional wisdom is that big companies are wary of running ERP and other enterprise applications in a public cloud — because they tend to be quite customized and tied into other applications, which makes them difficult to forklift into the cloud. But Amazon is working to change that perception.

PLM and ERP: cloud race

In the past, CAD / PLM vendors lost the competition of C-level and IT visibility in the organization. PLM was considered as Engineering tools, and it took many years and significant effort to improve this perception (still not accomplish in full, from my standpoint). These days a typical “PLM on the cloud” discussion usually runs in too many questions about cloud PLM viability and security. At the same time, we can see how ERP vendors run their products on Amazon cloud.

PLM and Cloud / IaaS

When Amazon is considered as a definite leader in IaaS race, Aras PLM is thinking differently. During the ACE 2012 conference earlier this month, Aras announced Aras Spectrum – soon to be available on Microsoft Windows Azure platform. You can take a look on my post-ACE conference blog post – Aras PLM, Microsoft Azure and Cloud competition.

Autodesk (new PLM vendor these days) is playing with lots of “cloud toys” in the portfolio. One of the toys is PLM 360 -recently announced “cloud PLM alternative”. It is not clear what IaaS platform is using for their cloud development and deployment, for the moment.

What is my conclusion? Amazon is pushing to the enterprise by supporting major ERP vendors. Autodesk is playing with new cloud offering and probably going to make their IaaS choice later. Microsoft is experimenting with Aras PLM to provide Aras Innovator up and running on Azure Cloud. Dassault, Siemens, PTC… Are you watching?

Best, Oleg


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