What Cloud CAD-PDM Hybrid Means for PLM?

To predict future is tough. Not many people are trying to do so. Especially in tech. Companies are juggling with buzzwords, powerpoints and software. At the same time, analysts are trying to swim into the social information stream of provocations, facts and opinions. There are two terms in manufacturing and product development software that created most of confusion for the last decade – PDM and PLM. Navigate to the following link to find lots of publications about the topic. To my taste, the topic PDM vs. PLM became boring. I’d even suggest to add it to the list of boring PLM topics introduced by Jos Voskuil.

However, here is some news. My blogging buddy and analyst Chad Jackson is predicting PDM revolution. Navigate your browser to read about future PDM Revolution. Chad’s take on PDM revolution smells cloud and two new cloud design systems – Fusion 360 and SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. This is my favorite passage that summarizes Chad’s crystal ball prediction of Hands-Free PDM:

If you take a look at Fusion 360 and Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual, at least in my exposure to it, there’s no step where you explicitly save your design or model. It’s done automatically in the background. When you close your model? The latest version will be there when you return. What happens when you create variations on a design that amounts to branching? Look at the model history and you’ll see those various branches tracked for you. So if you think about it, it is essentially hands-free. It does the brunt of the work automatically and practically invisibly for you.

Sounds like revolution to you? I think yes. However, here is a deal. It impose a significant threat to the future implementations of PLM. The mess of data in your local CAD-PDM now moves to the next step of the product development. Until now, companies implementing PDM took an advantages of their PLM solutions from the same vendors to manage BOM and ECO processes integrated with CAD data. Cloud CAD systems are not there yet and probably will not be there. Integration becomes an imperative to make hands-free PDM successful.

What is my conclusion? Cloud CAD and hands-free PDM is a signal to think about BOM management. In a different way. They key words are "single" and "integrated". Without that, we will enter into the messy world of structure mapping and synchronizations. If you are vendor, you need to think about openness and web APIs. If you are a potential customer of a cloud CAD/PDM hybrid, ask vendors how flexible and granular is "save" function that turns your work into stream of information stored in database. The ugly truth is that until now, file structure was doing integration job for you. Not any more. It is gone. Forever. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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