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How PLM can stop living in the future?

April 30, 2014


One of my favorite keynotes last week at COFES 2014 took me to the definition of time paradox and how different time orientation can reflect personal happiness. People are usually in one of the three time phases orientation – past, present or future. It appears that such presence phases have influence on lots of aspects of people’s behavior. If you never heard about this (like me until last week), the following video by Philip Zimbardo – The psychology of time is a very good starting point to learn about it. I’m looking forward to read Time Paradox book coming weekend.

COFES keynote time paradox made talks me think that time phase orientation can be applied organizational behavior as well as vendor-customer relationships. The realization that PLM vendor and PLM customer may be seeing the world very differently is important. Evermore, it can lead to understanding of how to improve that behavior and “customer happiness”.

In my view most of PLM vendors as well as technological providers are future phase, which makes a lot of sense. From that standpoint, I can see PLM is standing out, especially when it comes to SME organization. For many of them, technologies are mostly meaningless. To think about process improvement? Meh… What is important is to get job done and deliver orders. Which made me think about customers are in present phase. It come with risk management, cost optimization, interest to protect current job and current business status, etc.

It is very hard (almost impossible) to change people. It will take long time to make customer re-think how to perceive future tech investment. At the same time, vendors need to learn how to become more present oriented and turn PLM solutions that can bring short term practical benefits without significant investment from their side.

What is my conclusion? Customers are demonstrating high level of resilience against technological changes. For most cases, they see it as a disturbance. Vendors need to find a way to show more customer-orientation – it will help to bridge between future and present time orientation and move implementation focus into present time. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Pintrest will teach CAD companies to search

April 29, 2014


Search is a difficult problem. Especially when it comes to enterprise and organization. According to researches, more than 2/3 of people searches are not returning satisfactory results. Enterprise is messy, complicated and contains lot of unstructured data these days. CAD and other 3D files are part of this messiness. For many years, we generally thoughts of web and enterprise search as a place where text begot text – you input some text, press search, and get a bunch of relevant results, also in text form. However, in many places, and 3D and CAD is one of them, search by keywords is not very efficient.

Company have been trying to innovate in 3D or Shape search for the last decade or so. Read my old blog – 3D Shape Search in CAD and PLM. Despite many available solutions in 3D search, I can see a low adoption rate. In connection to that, I saw the opportunity to rethink 3D search.

The following article caught my attention earlier this week – In Challenge To Google, Pinterest Launches Guided Search. Pinterest is a visual discovery tool that people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests. People create and share collections (called “boards”) of visual bookmarks (called “Pins”) that they use to do things like plan trips and projects, organize events or save articles and recipes. According to the article

At an event at Pinterest headquarters Thursday evening, CEO Ben Silbermann announced Guided Search, a new visual way to explore Pinterest’s more than 30 billion pins—links or images chosen by users and assigned by them to topical collections. Unlike most search engines, where you must choose a precisely constructed string of keywords for what you want to find, Guided Search offers suggestions as you go, based on the associations Pinterest has learned to make between all the objects in its database.

You can learn more about how guided search works here and on the following video:


The idea of "discovery" is very compelling in the engineering discipline. In many situations it is very hard to formulate a specific keyword based query to find a result. Therefore the ability to classify, categorize, slice and dice data can be very powerful to search and navigate 3D data.

What is my conclusion? Guided search is not a completely new idea. You can see that in some old enterprise search systems. However, to combine together with visual data corpus provides some fresh experience in results. The combination of technology and experience is important. Web is slowly becoming a future platform for engineers. We are spending more time online and getting additional web experience. Some web tools are providing ideas, technologies and solutions that can be re-used in engineering and product development. I think Pinterest guided search is one of examples. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

3 things PLM can do with IoT tomorrow.

April 28, 2014


I’m coming back from COFES 2014. As always, COFES, is an excellent place to get in touch with industry big thinkers and have an opportunity to discuss trending topics. One of the hot topics this year was IoT (Internet of Things). It made me think and re-think about IoT and PLM again. First time I came to IoT topic back in 2009 (PLM and Internet of Things). Back that time I’ve been thinking about IoT as a technology that can connect digital and physical world. Here is a snippet from my old post:

All physical objects surrounding us designed and manufacturing with a certain level of PLM system involvement. Different manufacturing companies have various levels of PLM deployment, but most of them have CAD to create digital models, they track data about what they were engineering and manufacturing. Since we take more and more environmental responsibilities, we need to track what we designed in real life. This is where I see “internet of things” are finally connecting.

Last week at COFES 2014, I had a chance to attend rountable abut IoT, PLM and Manufacturing. Here is a teaser for that roundtable.

PLM, IoT, and Big Data: Managing the Feedback Loop. IoT ("the Internet of things"), is bringing changes to the way we design. IoT will also generate "big data". Beyond the needs of IoT functionality, how will PLM need to evolve to leverage this new design asset? Is PLM the right place for it? If not, where does it get managed and how do critical ideas get back to design and engineering?

One of my takeaways from the meeting was that people still see IoT in a very blur and abstract way. The following business maturity diagram for IoT was proposed by David Sherburne and discussed during the meeting. It was a good attempt to put some logical layers for PLM & IoT solutions.


I think it will be beneficial to come with mature definition and what is more important to bring few examples of IoT practical usage today. So, I wanted to come with 3 use cases and ways to leverage IoT within existing PLM scenarios and solutions.

1- improve MRO solutions.

Maintenance and service are getting more focus these days. It reflects an increasing interest of manufacturing companies to new "service business models". Sensors will provide a data foundation to connect and communicate with products. It will help to optimize future service schedules and lower maintenance cost.

2- improve requirement management function

To know how customers are using your products is getting more and more important. It will be beneficial to know that some product functions are not in use and inject this information in future requirement analysis and management tools.

3- product performance monitoring

It is getting more and more important to monitor product during their lifecycle. What if you can get real performance data from an engine and other parts of the car, airplane, computer, toothbrush. It helps to deal with growing set of regulation and other environmental requirements. There are lots of interesting opportunities how to leverage data produced by devices and products. I can see a growing demand for data analysis tools capable to handle this data.

What is my conclusion? We are going to live in the connected world of smart product with lots of sensors able to produce useful information. It will help to improve products and optimize manufacturing, production and support costs. It will not happen overnight. However, I can see some use cases very practical. Companies can start implementing them already today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

COFES 2014: Will PLM survive until 2020?

April 24, 2014


I’m attending COFES (The Congress on the Future of Engineering Software) which starts today in Scottsdale, AZ. COFES is not a traditional "Power Point Decks" event. It is a unique type of interaction between people interested in what will drive engineering software beyond five years horizon. The topic of COFES 2014 is – Correcting 2020 Vision.

On my flight to Phoenix, earlier today, I was looking at COFES 2014 agenda trying to prepare myself to coming presentations and discussions. Few discussions caught my attention and I wanted to mention them here.

Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insight speaks about – It’s 2020: Do You Know Where Your Software Is? The time when we installed software on our desktop computer from CDs is finally over. Where is my software and what does it mean for us? It is a good question to ask.

Traditionally, design tools have been loaded and run locally. Recently, software providers have started to offer design tools (CAD, simulation, analysis, collaboration, etc.) with a variety of deployment options (public cloud, private cloud, virtualized, as well as “file-less”) and new business models. What are the implications for both the end-user and his/her firm for these new offerings. How does this affect the management of design data? How should we think about this as we look six years down the road?

User briefing by David Sherburne of Carestream Health raises the topic, which is one of the most important for me – The Evolution of Product. The uniqueness of this question for me is that it equally applies to PLM vendors and PLM customers. What do we make and why?

What am I selling? What does my customer think I’m selling? What is my customer willing to pay for? What do I need to do to deliver that? Then, comes: How do I do that better, more efficiently, with less risk and more profit? As we head towards 2020, the move to “customer experience” and the “Servitization of Product”, much of the answers to these questions will change. How does that change the way we need to think about product and the tools we interact with to create “product”?

New trending topic of IoT (Internet of Things) is about to bring new challenges and lot of new data to product development, manufacturing and support. To me it raises a question – what will be product data management in 2020.

PLM, IoT, and Big Data: Managing the Feedback Loop. IoT ("the Internet of things"), is bringing changes to the way we design. IoT will also generate "big data". Beyond the needs of IoT functionality, how will PLM need to evolve to leverage this new design asset? Is PLM the right place for it? If not, where does it get managed and how do critical ideas get back to design and engineering?

Another topic, which is tightly connected to the evolution of data and related technologies is search. The roundtable topic called – How Search is Changing Engineering Data. In my view, search topic is beyond search. Customers are not interested to search- they want to find data. And it impacts the way we need to manage data. It changes everything.

New search technologies can help avoid designing or specifying new parts when existing ones will do. Search can also help engineers find new parts and manufacturing or construction methods that can reduce costs and schedules. Search is also changing the way we store things. When search was poor, we stored things in logical analogs of physical storage: files and folders. Now we can consider even things like email to be searchable databases. How is improved search likely to impact other areas of how we store and interact with engineering data?

What is my conclusion? COFES 2014 is clearly packed with lots of interesting discussions. You can follow twitter #COFES2014 for the next few days and read my and other blogs for updates. Interesting observation – cloud topic wasn’t mention in any presentation or roundtable title (except of weather forecast for Friday :)). But I’m sure it will come as part of many presentations and discussions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Six dimensions to customize PLM

April 24, 2014


Ask two engineers about how to make stuff and you get at least three opinions about possible ways to do so. To find consensus in engineering, product development and manufacturing is hard. From my experience engineers and software developers is the group with largest diversity of opinions and custom requirements. I’ve learned it hard way implementing and developing PDM / PLM software. Large manufacturing companies are better organized and leaning towards well-established business processes and polices. PLM vendors are using so-called "business transformation" approach to implement PLM for large manufacturers. It proved to be efficient for many companies (not only largest OEMs, but also smaller companies). However, the TCO of existing solutions is still too high. It is very hard to convince small company to implement PLM. In addition to that, smaller companies are less influenced by corporate hierarchy, business processes and IT system governance. I put some of my thoughts about that here – Why PLM stuck to provide solutions for SME?

Software vendors and service providers are facing the problem how to customize PLM for large and diverse set of requirements. Software toolkit was the first way to solve customization problem. Only very large customers accepted toolkit approach. It was complicated and costly. The next answer provided by PDM / PLM vendors was flexible data modeling and configuration. Most of modern PDM / PLM software suites are providing set of configuration tools to do that. Nevertheless, PLM implementation is still long process taking weeks or months. In many situations, it still requires some customization to be done.

Vendors need to find another way to customize PLM system. Current customization approach is mostly focused on a company – industry, size, processes. It made me think about another way to customize the system by focusing on a specific user in a company. I can see some of these ideas in role-based and out-of-the-box approach in developing of enterprise systems. However, I can see it different by stepping down from holistic company-wide customization towards specific user-oriented goals. In other words, company was the customer before. Now, it is about individual users.

Below, I summarized six dimensions of customization that can help to identify customization directions.

1- Who. This is very similar to role-based approach. It can help to identify specific key people and their everyday needs. List their functions and pains. What is specifically different for each of them. How to personalize apps / service for every individual.

2- What. This dimension speaks about specific function. How to customize the system to a very specific operation. What do customers do differently with the system. Go to the level of person (not department)

3- Where. This is a dimension that helps you think about customized locations. How is your system different for every place. How customer can do the work everywhere and how is that different. How to provide system wherever customer wants.

4- When. There are two major aspects here – how to make system available 24×7 and how to make system available instantly (by eliminating long implementation cycles and preparation).

5- Why. One of the most critical customization factors. Why user needs your system? How to provide ROI and make system stick? How to add more value for every specific user and not "in general" for the company.

6- How. This dimension is about customization factors responsible for how to delivery the product to different customers. What delivery forms to use. How my customers are different and how to satisfy customers in every way.

What is my conclusion? Today, company policies, business practices and organizational structure are factors that impact the way PLM vendors are customizing their software. Nothing wrong with that approach. Future customization can move from holistic "company" wide customization towards specific "customer" (read – user) needs. PLM software should be more personal and, by doing that, to attach to specific user functions in a very unique way – to provide value, be available everywhere, anytime and in any form. This is a future for truly customizable PLM software. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Why Excel and Multi-BOM are killing collaboration?

April 22, 2014


Excel and Bill of Materials. What can be better to start a discussion? One of my favorites blogging buddies and author of eng-eng blog Ed Lopategui hit the button of BOM & Excel discussion in his GrabCAD blog – It’s time to drop Excel BOM. I liked the following passage. It speaks about huge cost involved in management of changes using Excel:

There’s one fundamental constant in all of engineering: change. Aligning with the capability to change quickly and often is crucial in fighting back ever-increasing schedule pressures. Excel BOMs provide no help here. A separate Excel BOM has to be manually synchronized with each design change. It’s usually in this confusion where some of the bigger and most expensive errors tend to happen. Conflicts are common and notoriously difficult to set straight. Recognize that the information in a BOM is every bit as vital as your CAD design, and should be managed accordingly. For the very same reasons you benefit from managing CAD, so should you do the same with a BOM.

Ed’s post took me back five years to my Why do I like my PLM Excel spreadsheets? Excel is super flexible and powerful. However, it comes with cost. I summarized them here – PLM Excel spreadsheets: from odes to woes. Very recently I put a possible recipe how PLM can compete and take over Excel spreadsheets. These are important 3 ingredients – (1) flexible data model, (2) easy customization and (3) flawless user experience.

One of the topics in Ed’s blog, took me far beyond just usage of Excel to edit BOM. It was about how to manage bill of materials between engineering and manufacturing space. Here is the passage:

So far we’ve been talking about BOMs strictly from a design perspective. But the expectation that there can be only one BOM to rule them all is unrealistic. There are different ways to slice BOMs, different disciplines may have a need for their own specific view or information. How manufacturing looks at a BOM in ERP will be fundamentally quite different from how engineering looks at a BOM.

The topic of multiple BOM management isn’t so new. The truth is every enterprise system wants to manage their portion of BOM. In PLM space BOM management is often comes with the strategy of multiple BOMs or BOM views. Most of PLM systems can support multiple BOMs. The idea of separating BOMs into different slices or views is current answer to how to let every department in the organization to own their portion of BOM. Most of organizations are doing that because they didn’t find an alternative way to agree how to manage BOM. So, data is split between CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP, MRP, CRM and other domains. Read more about it in my article Why companies are not ready for single BOM? One of the biggest problems in using multiple bill of materials is related to collaboration between people in organization. Multi-BOM leads to huge data synchronization problem. The question “where is my BOM?” is usually the one that kills collaboration.

What is my conclusion? To manage BOM in Excel is a nightmare. So, to bring BOM management tools to replace Excel is a very good idea. However, most of companies are having though time to decide how to manage bill of materials among different systems and environments. In a real world companies are relying on combination of Excel, PDM/PLM and ERP to manage multiple BOMs. Unfortunately, it kills collaboration, productivity and innovation. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Why PLM stuck to provide solutions for SME?

April 21, 2014


PLM is in the focus on many companies these days. Questions how to improve processes, optimize cost and improve quality are important and PLM vendors are laser focus on that. But… with one small clarification . It works for large manufacturing companies. To transform business processes is the way PLM succeeded to deliver ROI and demonstrate clear value. It is hard to find large manufacturing company these days that is not implementing kind of PLM. You can see multiple options – complete home made PLM system developed by IT department (usually based on some of available PLM toolkits), combination of older PDM/PLM system with some additional development and complete solutions from leading PLM companies.

However, when it comes to small manufacturing companies, the situation is very different. It is not rare to face the question "what is PLM and why do we need it?" as well as to see customers confused about the difference between PDM and PLM. The last one is a big misleading factor in PLM marketing. Few weeks ago I posted Why PLM stuck in PDM? The article raised lots of comments and opinions. The question I want to ask today is about why PLM software and strategies failed to deliver value to small manufacturing companies or so called SME (small and medium enterprises).

Speak to software vendors about PLM and SME and you will learn about top three PLM inhibitors – (1) limited financial resources, (2) lack of IT support and (3) diverse set of requirements. While PLM competition for large OEMs is getting stronger, SME becomes a very attractive opportunity for PLM to growth. It is an attractive and turbulent market with lots of innovative companies. Together with growing number of smaller suppliers. To win this market is a very interesting opportunity with significant growth potential.

SME remains a very challenging place for PLM vendors. The question about how to serve SME with PLM solutions is open for a long time. Large PLM vendors tried to serve these customers by scaling down their large PLM product suites and developing special packaged solutions. Newcomers tried to provide special applications for SME. Open source, SaaS, Out-of-the-box (OOTB) applications… After all, SME PLM marketshare remains very fragmented with lot of opportunities and no mainstream solution.

It made me think about some problems in existing PLM strategies for SME. I can see some similarity with mass customization trend in manufacturing. The time when car supposed to be "Ford" and "black" is over. Automotive and other manufacturers explored new opportunities to customize their solution to satisfy turbulent market with diverse set of requirements. So, focus on the niche markets and individual customer is important. In the past, it was a strategy Japanese firms captured marketshare in U.S. PLM vendors are trying to win PLM SME market by focusing on flexibility of their solution and OOTB applications. The problematic part of this strategy is cost. This is where flexible PLM failed. The cost of PLM implementation is still very high. Marketing, sales, business development and implementation services are not allowing to PLM vendors to scale their PLM operations for SME.

What is my conclusion? Low cost and efficiency. When it comes to customization and fulfillment of diverse customer requirements, low cost and efficiency are "must have" components of your strategy. Flexible platforms and OOTB Apps are not enough. Cloud solved some problems related to cost and IT support but left implementation services cost open. PLM vendors need to think how to deliver PLM services at low cost or think about alternative strategies. So far, PLM vendors failed to deliver to SME. Cost of the delivery is too high. After more than a decade of "focus on flexibility", I think it is a time for PLM vendors to find an alternative. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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