ERP vendors are ready to clash using PLM weapons

September 18, 2014

plm-erp-competition

The information about Aras PLM OEM deal with Infor caught my attention yesterday evening. It looks like a big deal for Aras Corp. Aras PLM is well known by their innovative Enterprise Open Source model. If you are not familiar with Aras, check their website and blog. For the last few years Aras demonstrated solid capabilities to deliver full scale PLM solution. You probably remember my old blog – Aras lines up against Windchill, ENOVIA and TeamCenter 3 years ago. I think Infor-Aras partnership is a step in the same direction. More information about Infor-Aras partnership is here. Product offering will be re-branded as Infor PLM Innovator. The following passage explains how does it fit Infor PLM strategy:

Infor PLM Innovator – powered by aras – provides a full-featured, highly scalable, flexible and secure PLM solution built on industry best practices that easily adapts to your company’s changing business practices. Seamlessly integrated with Infor ERP, Infor PLM Innovator goes beyond the capabilities of standalone PLM products, to unite your entire product lifecycle for a single view of the truth, which provides actionable information from design and manufacturing to purchasing, quality, the supply chain and beyond.

What is specially interesting, Infor is going to offer Aras PLM as a cloud-service. Consilia Vector research put an interesting perspective on an opportunity related to Aras-Infor deal.

Word of mouth and an open source sales program has taken Aras quite far; this deal with Infor will be like moving from cars to airplanes. It also gives Infor what it craves, a customer checklist that more completely matches item for item with Oracle and SAP. Oracle bought Agile PLM several years ago, and SAP has assembled a PLM system from a variety of small purchases and in-house projects.

I found comments about SAP and Oracle quite remarkable. It looks like all three top ERP vendors recognized the value and importance of Product Lifecycle Management. I guess, manufacturing and enterprise companies are challenged how to support innovation with constraints of global product development and manufacturing. Therefore, adding PLM functionality to their product suites is an important imperative for all of them.

The notion of cloud in Aras-Infor deal is interesting. It is going to challenge cloud ERP providers too. If you noticed, leading cloud ERP provider Netsuite made a strategic partnership alliance with Autodesk about integration between Netsuite ERP and Autodesk PLM 360.

So, what about top three CAD-PLM providers – Dassault, Siemens and PTC? I think, strategic focus on these vendors is outside of ERP-PLM bundles. Dassault is focusing on 3DExperience. PTC is developing strategy for IoT. Siemens is broadening their TeamCenter PLM platform and applications. All these vendors have some sort of partnership agreements with ERP vendors as well as love-hate relationships of selling PLM solutions to same manufacturing companies.

What is my conclusion? All ERP vendors are well armed with PLM weapon to provide a comprehensive product development and manufacturing solutions. It confirms growing adoption and interest of manufacturing companies of all sizes in PLM. It is time to grab some popcorn and get ready for PLM-ERP competitive performance. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Autodesk PLM360 early preview of cloud (PDM) document management

September 18, 2014

Earlier today at Accelerate 2014 in Boston, Autodesk PLM360 team provided an update about PLM360 product, technologies, as well as an early preview of cloud document management for CAD and other files. The "invisible data management" solution supposed to solve the problem of customers looking how to implement end-to-end cloud PLM solution including CAD data management. This photo blog is a series of screen captures from slides and demo done during the event. Note, well known "safe harbor" statement was presented before slides. In simple language, it means not all features and functions demonstrated today will end up in PLM360 product as planned.

1- PLM360 is part of larger Autodesk eco-system of cloud products

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2- Autodesk presents PLM360 "next next" generation

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3- Autodesk PLM360 as part of bigger cloud software eco-system

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4- Autodesk is using latest web tech to uplift PLM360 user experience

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5- New PLM360 user interface

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6- More… New PLM360 user interface

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7- PLM360 mobile apps

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8- PLM360 (cloud) PDM expansion

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9- An alternative – Cloud PLM360 with PDM functions vs. on premise Autodesk Vault

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10- Browser based cloud PDM integration

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11- The challenge to move data to the cloud – Transfer Avoidance (TM)

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12- More about Transfer Avoidance (TM)

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13- How to achieve good performance when transferring large files to the cloud

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14- Demo of PLM360 PDM capabilities

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15- Cloud doc folders user interface in PLM360

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17- Cloud data transfer benchmark

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18- Using web scale technologies

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19- Support of multiple CAD systems

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What is my conclusion? Autodesk PLM360 document management (cloud PDM) expands functionality to cover traditional PDM system. However, it takes a different – invisible data management approach. Technology wise, it leverage the power of open source consumer web tools and infrastructure. Doc management will complement existing PLM360 solution with new technologies and tool capabilities. New customers (especially cloud friendly ones) will appreciate the ability to have end-to-end PLM/PDM cloud solution.

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m Autodesk employee. However, the views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own only and in no way represent the views, positions or opinions – expressed or implied – of my employer.


Accelerate 2014: PLM360 and the state of manufacturing industry

September 18, 2014

accelerate-plm-360-event

I’m attending Accelerate 2014 PLM360 event these days in Boston. This is the first ever live gathering of Autodesk PLM360 community. According to Ron Locking who kicked the event yesterday, it comes to a total number of about 200 attendees combined of customers, partners and industry analysts.

So, why Boston? The welcome joke triggered by analysts Chad Jackson, Jim Brown and Stan Przybylinski speculated – it was all about “beer innovation” that inspired Autodesk people to have this even in Boston. However, in my view, we have more reasons for that – high concentration of PLM companies around PLM highway, vibrant community of manufacturing companies and startups as well as cross-road location between Europe and U.S. Event is taking place in Boston District Hall in the middle of Seaport district. The place brought my memories back to Smart Summit (first SmarTeam customer event in 2000). Back that days, the only building in Boston Seaport district was Seaport Hotel. Now, Seaport district looks completely different.

boston-seaport-district

Getting back to “beer innovation”, I found an interesting association between U.S. beer craftsmanship and state of PLM and manufacturing industry these days. It comes to empowering of small companies to innovate. It happened to small breweries in U.S. back in 1978. It is a good lesson to learn. Here is a passage about brewery innovation:

On October 14, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337 into law, which legalized the home production of a small amount of beer or wine for personal consumption.Since then, the United States has witnessed a resurgence of brewing culture and the widespread proliferation of small breweries. By March 1986, five brewpubs had opened in the United States. The total number of breweries rose from 42 in 1978 to over 2,750 in 2012, reaching or exceeding the number of breweries estimated to have existed during the colonial period. Virtually all of this growth is attributable to small, independent breweries.Today, the U.S. craft beer industry employs over 100,000 individuals brewing 15.6 million barrels of beer per year, generating roughly $14.3 billion in retail sales.

Back to the event itself. Who attended? I found a very interesting mixture of companies attended the event. First and most important is to see a diverse set of manufacturing companies using PLM360 and sharing their stories. Second – a very interesting bunch of partners and service providers representing new “cloud” ecosystem. The last, but probably the most interesting are companies that related to so called “new manufacturing companies”. These days small manufacturing are starting to make difference. And actually, you can see it very well by looking on the list Accelerate 2014 attendee list – Quirky, Dragon Innovation and few others. These companies represents a complete new story in manufacturing industry. Enabled by internet and modern technologies, new manufacturing companies are representing a complete new way to develop products. And, their demand is to have new design and engineering tools.

Specifically I wanted to focus on how PLM can help to new manufacturing startups. Manufacturing is hard. To get from zero to one in manufacturing is not simple. However, to come from one to many is probably even more challenging. It requires a complete new approach and new tools.

manufacturing-is-hard

Agility, speed and flexibility. This is probably a word that explains in a best way how manufacturing companies are using PLM360. It is interesting to see that these definitions are common between both group of customers – larger established manufacturers and new growing startups. Large companies are learning how to solve specific product development business problems using tools like PLM360. At the same time, small companies are learning how to bring some order in their ad-hoc product development environment. So, both groups have something to learn from each other and it looks like PLM360 can give them some common grounds to innovate as a community.

small-vs-big-anagnost-manufacturing

Innovation was one of the most frequently discussed topics during these two days. The product innovation panel discussion gathered a diverse set of attendees – analysts, customers, vendors.

innovation-product-panel

PLM360 is one of the tools coming as an answer on “manufacturing challenge”. However, it doesn’t come alone. PLM360 comes as part of new cloud eco-system Autodesk develops these days – Autodesk A360, Autodesk Fusion360 and some others.

autodesk-cloud-eco-system

What is my conclusion? The modern manufacturing world is a complex combination of new challenges and old problems. New manufacturing companies, communities, new type of products, unprecedented level of product complexity even for small manufacturing – all together representing a new state of manufacturing industry. It requires new approach in design and product collaboration tool. PLM360 gives some good examples and lesson learned in that space. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m Autodesk employee. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own only and in no way represent the views, positions or opinions – expressed or implied – of my employer.


How many parts will be in a 3D printed vehicle?

September 17, 2014

Strati1

3D printing is buzzing trend these days. If you are not up to speed with the trend, you probably should. Because it changes everything around. Start today from Wikipedia article about 3D printing (aka as additive manufacturing). Today’s announcement about GrabCAD acquisition by Stratasys- leading 3D printing company is another confirmation about important role additive manufacturing will play in the future. The following video is a recording of Autodesk CEO Carl Bass about 3D printing topic – The future of how things are made.

3D printing is changing the way we are going to manufacturing products in the future. This is, of course, very high level statement. It is interesting to go down and see the impact in bits and bytes. For example, how it will impact product structure, or how it will impact product data management or manufacturing planning. You probably don’t associate these two things, but additive manufacturing is changing the product structure and everything that related to that. It certainly impact BOM management too.

My attention caught by the following Engineering.com article – Autodesk and Local Motors Collaborate on First Spark 3D Platform Implementation. The article speaks about collaboration between Local Motors and Autodesk about first large scale industrial implementation of Spark. I found the following passage quite provoking:

According to Local Motors, the Strati simplifies the automotive assembly process and is a result of leveraging the contributions of community, advanced manufacturing tools, and software, like the Spark platform. This could bring many advantages, including reduction in the number of parts in a vehicle’s Bill of Materials (BOM) from 25,000 components to less than 50. The on-demand nature of 3D printing means that automotive manufacturers can change aspects of their design—or even come up with an entirely new one—with little or no additional cost in tooling or time.

The complexity of modern car is skyrocketing. Hardware is part of a complex one element of that. Others – electronic, software are playing significant role. In the past car was a pure mechanical beast. Today, it is a combination of hardware and software on wheels. Who knows, maybe in few years, we will see car bill of material very similar to computer today – few mechanical pieces and lot of software. With changing balance between hardware and rest of car elements, the focus can shift towards multi-discipline product structure.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of products is changing. It is important to see trends. While overall complexity of manufacturing products (cars included) will grow, we might see a decrease in manufacturing complexity of hardware as a result of new manufacturing methods – additive manufacturing (3D printing) will pay a key role here. At the same time, the complexity of multidisciplinary product structure (BOM) will grow. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit to ENGINEERING.COM article.


What is the potential of product lifecycle analytics?

September 15, 2014

plm-epr-integration-analytics

The aim of PLM is to improve product development processes and lifecycle. One of the biggest challenges to make it happen is to deal with disparate enterprise applications and tools. The cost of system integration is high and many companies are not ready to make an investment in integration projects that will have a questionable ROI.

PLM-ERP integration is probably one of the best examples of integration projects with complex software, technologies, business dependencies and corporate politics. PLM and ERP vendors are often locking customer data and control access. It prevents customers to make a right decision to integration PLM and ERP. Few years ago, I covered it in my blog – The ugly truth about PLM-ERP monkey volleyball. I don’t think the situation is better since I posted it back in 2010. PLM-ERP integration projects are messy combination of requirements, technologies, tools and specific customer-oriented services. It usually ends up with a number of Excel and XML files flying around between PLM, ERP and other systems (including email). No surprise, companies are not read to move fast and engage into PLM-ERP integration projects.

I’ve been thinking how to change a trend of complex PLM-ERP implementation with slow ROI. Maybe to focus on transferring data between systems is not a first priority (even if it looks like the obvious one)? What can be done these days differently, so it will allow to come with a new definition of PLM-ERP integration value and maybe faster ROI from these projects? Here is the idea I wanted to share – analytics.

I have to admit, talks about data analytics are everywhere these days. It is hard to undervalue the importance and opportunity of big data. However, I want to take it beyond traditional technological level. Think about PLM and ERP applications. With significant functional overlap, companies are often see a high level of competitiveness between them. What if we can bring new capability of capturing data and making analytics into two sources of information – product lifecycle data and ERP. Can we change a trend of data competitiveness into trend of value of analytics?

Here are couple of scenarios that in my view can produce some useful analytic use cases by mixing data coming from PLM and ERP. Let me call it – lifecycle analytics. Think about NPD (new product development), but it can apply to existing products as well. Forecasting is an important step in every project, especially when it comes to a new product design and development. I can see multiple aspects of forecasting. What if I can create a forecast for entire lifecycle cost of the product. Another emerging need today is compliance forecasting. With growing number of regulation requirements to forecast compliance cost for a new product can be a challenging task. Related to that comes the need for recycle cost.

My hunch data for analytics and forecasting is available in both PLM and ERP system. It is on the crossroad between, sales, manufacturing and product engineering. To get data out of these systems and create an appropriate analytics can be an interesting, but challenging process. I think, the number of companies doing it as mainstream activity is very low, but demand should be huge.

What is my conclusion? To switch from data ownership debates into data analytics can be a way for both PLM and ERP vendors to come out of clash and competition. Enterprise databases (PLM and ERP are good examples to that) are holding a very valuable data that can be used to support decision making and provide a way to optimize product development processes. The potential for lifecycle analytics using data from both PLM and ERP systems can be significant. The development of specific analytical application can be an interesting task for existing vendors and new companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


3 security related questions to ask your PLM cloud provider

September 12, 2014

plm-cloud-security

Cloud is getting wider adoption these days. An interesting trend I observe for the last year – customer are asking less questions about security. It was different 3-5 years ago. Everyone got concerned about cloud solutions security. Specifically for PLM domain, customers got concerned about company IP (drawings and other engineering-related materials that can be easy stolen without real ability to be returned).

It seems to me, the situation with security is getting different these days. Most of cloud companies are well prepared to answers on a typical set of questions related to data center protection, data redundancy, protection of customer data, monitoring and audit. Most of cloud companies are providing information about their security policies in a transparent way. Here are few examples – Amazon Security center; Autodesk Trust center; etc. There are lot of information cloud companies are placing outside to educate customers about security.

It is getting really hard for average business decision maker to make a conclusion about cloud security. The devil in details and to ask right questions is getting even more important than before. My attention was caught by InfoWorld article – Cloud security: We’re asking the wrong questions (thanks to one of my readers for sharing). My favorite passage is related to the ability to compare specific on-premise and cloud security aspects for a company:

To get an accurate answer to that question, you’d have to compare your on-premise solution (the entirety of it, including all your relationships) to the security offered by a particular cloud vendor. That’s hard to do in real life for a few reasons, led by the fact that most companies don’t know the security reality of their on-premise solutions — and followed by the fact that most cloud vendors won’t let you do onsite, direct security auditing of their systems. It’s a guessing game.

Companies have serious dilemma with regards to cloud adoption and security. On one side – anti-cloud specialists are keeping to buzz about cloud vulnerability and every security breach. On the other side, let’s face it, employees are using public and free cloud solutions anyway without IT approvals. It is important to come with a practical approach that helps company to make risk assessment with regards to cloud applications. InfoWorld article made me think about some set of initial questions that will help you to build an understanding of what "cloud solution" vendor is providing and how it does fit your company IT infrastructure. Here is the list I had in my mind this morning:

1- Account management. How cloud vendor manage user information and how company user database is mapped, used and / or imported into cloud infrastructure? The information about users and user-related characteristics is one of the most critical places for security breach. It is important to align it with your corporate directory management strategy. Specifically, check how to prevent potential APT (Advanced persistent threat).

2- Understand storage strategy. The risk of cloud implementation is a potential exposure of storage with sensitive data (eg. IP, documents, drawings, etc.). For short term storage oriented products it can be less sensitive. You maybe less concerned about storage for simulation results or visualization. However, storage of native CAD files with actual data can impose a different security risk.

3- Computing infrastructure. Cloud is a buzzword everyone use these days. However, behind fuzzy cloud words, actually you can find more info about specific computing infrastructure – IaaS, hosting, servers, operation systems, geographical locations and many others. Computing infrastructure strategy can be different and in many cases you can either ask vendor to disclose this information or find it by yourself. Usage of Google or Amazon won’t guarantee a specific security level. However, understanding of that, will help you to compare with your on-premise security level and assess your risks.

What is my conclusion? It is not simple to make a decision about your company readiness for cloud applications However, we need to face a reality, regardless on IT and management decision, the high probability is that your employees are already using cloud services. Engineers are placing documents on dropbox and using web email to send messages when your corporate email server stuck. Some of free collaboration software services are more efficient and/or more capable than your corporate PDM/PLM tools. So, better than ban cloud in your company, you should come with the list of questions that can help you to evaluate and build your path to the cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Part management is stuck between PLM and ERP

September 11, 2014

plm-erp-part-management

Few days ago, the discussion about PLM revenue model took me into part management route. This is not entirely related to revenue and business models, but my readers mentioned part cost reduction as one of the most visible ways to present PLM ROI. I have to agree, to manage parts is a critical element of overall product development and manufacturing process. Part management is an essential function of every manufacturing company. And… probably one of the most confusing ones. Design parts, manufacturing parts, suppliers, spare parts, manufacturing, supply chain, SKUs… The list of topics that come to mind when you think about Part Management is enormous.

Today, I want to speak about one aspect of part management – interplay between PLM and ERP systems. Usually, PLM and ERP systems are presented by vendors and advisers as a complementary systems. PLM focus is product definition. ERP focus is manufacturing. Despite that role-play, for the last decade, PLM and ERP systems developed significant amount of out-of-the-box functional overlap.

Part management is one of the areas where interplay between PLM and ERP is very demanded. The traditional focus of ERP on part ordering brings ERP part management in a focus of manufacturing planning process. From the other side, product definition is largely done by PLM system and therefore, on a conceptual level, PLM is responsible for initial BOM setup, drawings and other part related documentation.

There are lot of grey zones between PLM and ERP functionality. These areas are very visible in the manufacturing process setup and initial production stage. Also, it depends on manufacturing type (CTO, ETO, MTO), complexity of supply chain and other factors usually related to a specific company – geographical location, speed of lifecycle, etc.

Another grey zone between PLM and ERP is related to early lifecycle stages (definition) and late lifecycle stages (maintenance, support and post-production). These functionality is suffering from lack of information availability between systems. The philosophy of ERP is to focus on ordering transactions. Serial numbers and post production evolution cannot be managed in ERP. On the opposite side, date effiectivity and other manufacturing aspects of BOM can be hardly managed in a typical PLM implementation.

As I mention in the beginning, effective part management across the product lifecycle can result in significant cost reduction. I can see two main sources of cost optimization – 1/ redundant part cost and 2/ part rationalization. Here are some examples of product functionality that can help

- Part classification available across product lifecycle, including early design stages.

- Mechanisms to support part re-use such as search, where-use and other advanced BOM tools

- Approved manufacturers and suppliers list availability in PLM system

- Advanced BOM tools enabling part rationalization

- Other part, suppliers and manufacturers optimization methods

However, here a problem. The functionality I described above requires very tight interoperability level between enterprise systems responsible for product definition, engineering, manufacturing and supply chain. More specifically, it requires tight integration of part and BOM management functions in both PLM and ERP. The commitment for such integration is a hard decision for many companies. Complexity, cost, legacy tools, product updates, corporate politics – this is only a very short list of factors preventing companies from implementing efficient part management.

What is my conclusion? Part management functionality is crossing enterprise systems and departments in every manufacturing company. As a result of that, part management literally stuck between product design, engineering and manufacturing. The potential to streamline part management process is huge and can be a source of significant cost reduction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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