Future CAD-PLM and Assembly Version Management

March 12, 2010

I was reading SolidSmack’s post about how to manage versions of the assemblies. Creating versions of drawing and models is one of the most fundamental activities during your design process.

For the long period of time, I assumed that this field of PDM/PLM activity is well explored – done deal! If you need versions, you need to move to the one of the available PDM systems (whatever fit your CAD system and vendor choice). Sounds like pretty straightforward… Finally, if you don’t want to move to PDM burden, you can follow Josh’s rules and options.

But, what if…?

What if we will be able to automate this painful version management mechanism. Think Google Docs for the moment. You actually can manage versions of your document and Google Doc is taking care of your changes. You can revert to any version you want, compare versions, etc. Sounds simple. I know, you can tell me CAD data is complex, lots of dependent information and not clear how to manage version with actually designer involvement. However, the actual problem, in m view, is not a complexity of design and assemblies. The main problem is the way today PDM systems manage it. In the typical environment, the data is located on your local disk (or shared network drive). Data Management software (PDM or PLM system) is taking care of moving your data to the secured location (vault). Each time you are doing it, the very painful check-in / check-out process needs to happen.The fundamental problem is data management procedures. So, maybe we finally need to remove and reorganize it?

Let me dream about different data management scenarios and work organization. We can split version-related data management process in two separate activities. 1/Save all changes all the time; 2/Tag versions.

Unlimited Storage and Save Command
The storage is cheap these days. Even if you think it is not yet as cheap as you want, the trend is going down. Let assume we have an unlimited online storage that will allow us to keep track of all CAD activity and changes you are doing. Basically, we will reduce the need for <Save> command. Still, you may have it, but normally you’ll not use it anymore.

Revision As Tagging
Think about Version as a tag of the particular design state. When you are coming to this state, just tag all you have with a specific tag (actually you can use lovely revision schema you have in your organization).

There is no magic. The biggest problem is to optimize a process of data saving between CAD software and storage. I think, the network speed improvements and CAD vendors efforts will move us in the right direction. And finally, an alternative is to move your CAD system on the cloud and run it in a browser. Do you think, I’m overwhelmed by the simplicity of some online sotware available today? I don’t think so. Time ago, CAD systems had a problem to optimize save procedure to the disk. Today, they are in a pretty good shape and can optimize loading of huge assemblies in a very efficient way.

So, what is my conclusion? The “second movers” innovation is very important. The problem is on the plate. Today’s PDM Versions mechanism is outdated. Don’t give up and accept “it is as it is” statements. There are some fundamental CAD/PDM activities that can be improved and need to be improved.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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Will Google App Store Disrupt PLM?

March 9, 2010

I think, it is always fun to talk about next disruption. When you are doing so, you have a real feeling something happens. Therefore, I had a real pleasure to read Jim Brown’s ClarityOnPlm about future PLM disruption. The name of the blog “Who will disrupt entrenched PLM vendors” was promising and discussion around this topic was interesting. Take your time and read it via this link.

Few takeaways from Jim’s blog:
1. PLM market is very slow, political and hardly can be disrupted
2. Mindshare PLM leaders will have enough time to react on any future disruption by acquisition or their own development.
3. PLM stuff is complex and big technology leaders (Google, Microsoft, etc.) will have no interest to be involved in this business.
So, for foreseeable future, large PLM and ERP vendors will continue to represent leadership on the PLM market. Nevertheless, few technological and business models related aspects were mentioned by Jim as one of the possible future scenarios.

In parallel, I had chance to read Dion Hinchcliffe’s blog post – The App Store: The new “must have” digital business model and another one that came today about coming Google’s announcement related to Google App store availability next week. These two publications as well as one of my previous posts on PLM Think Tank – Where is the PLM shortcut to the cloud?,  made me think about App Store as a future disruptive technological and business model for PLM.

A very iteresting picture made by Dion in one of his blog. The concept of business apps delivered from App Store seems solid and promise for enterprise. However, is it the same for enterprise PLM?

I summarized my initial thoughts about pros and cons of Google based Business Apps.

Google App Store Advantages:
1. Lower cost of application development.
2. Re-use of globally available platform
3. Availability of general purpose Google Apps and collaboration tools
3. Integration with other Google Apps

Google App Store Disadvantages:
1. Security concern
2. Adoption level in the enterprise
3. Shortage of development skills in enterprise domain for such platform.

As I can see, one of the key inflation points for Google Apps, will be multiple application availability and enterprise adoption rate. Today is insignificant, but tomorrow can be different. As I mentioned in my comment on Jim’s blog, the interesting potential for PLM apps on Google’s platform can be provided by growing collaborative capabilities provided by Google Wave. Still in the early beginning, Google Wave is a very promising collaboration tool.  App store business model is something has that never been used in PLM domain. When existing business model innovators are going after SaaS (Arena) or Open Source (Aras), nobody is looking into potentials of Enterprise App Store. Salesforce is an interesting example to learn with regards to that.

What is my conclusion? App Store business model for the enterprise companies seems as a very interesting idea. The  application built on one of the available app stores (Google, Salesforce or others) can represent a potential disruption in PLM domain. However, to make it happen, these platforms need to get to the next maturity level. Therefore, I think, we need to watch how cloud office applications are moving into the enterprise domain. This can be a real indicator for available business case. Potential disruption will not come from either technological or business direction, but will use both in co-existent mode.

Just my thoughts… I’m looking forward to your comments.
Best, Oleg

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PLM Social Disruption – Whom Should We Follow?

February 15, 2010

I want to get back to social applications and PLM topic. You can ask me why? Last week was the week Google Buzz was born. In my view Google did it, as usual, in  a very disruptive way. I remember, last year or so, Google introduced Google Profile. Nobody clearly understood what is that. I did one for myself. Last week everybody finally discovered what is Google Profile about – it is about your social identity. Btw, if you haven’t had a chance to read my Google Buzz notes, please find it here.

Google Buzz was a trigger, in my view, to start a discussion about what are fundamentals of social connection? What I like about social application is that all of them put people before processes. When I asked teenagers – why are you on Facebook? The answer was simple – because everybody is there. Interesting comparison was made – Facebook is the place to see and stay connected with friends and Twitter is the place to spy celebrities. This is an interesting observation. You are following people you consider as your social or professional connection. And existing social networks provide a clear answers – you can follow celebrities, friends, colleagues, brands- these are they way things become social.

Let’s get back to Product Lifecycle and Enterprises. The application of social tools in the enterprise is in the very early beginning. The most massive social attack on the enterprise is fast growing number of social platforms promising the creation of communities between users, customers, brands, etc. Chatter, 12sprints, BlueKiwi, PTC Social Product Development with Product Point… This is an incomplete list of all apps proposing creating of community of people like Facebook. Finally, we got the new one – “Facebook for files”. I got this definition from Chris at Vuuch in his post “Following A Friend Make No Sense”. So, “whom should we follow?” was the most important question for me to ask?

It is about people.
Files and other data were here before social systems came in. Somebody can put an assembly, file, word document. You never know somebody did something with that. If you will try to spy after all files, things can get crazy. But, if you are following people you’re working with, it can be more relevant. In the end, you are not working with millions. On average, you connected to couple dozens of people in the organization you work. So, stay connected with them, and you’ll get all you need.

It is about data you can get through your connections.
You work with people, so you can collaborate on data everybody owns. Design, bill of materials, changes, product definition, customer’s claims, etc. – all these collections of data can be available from the people are working with. So, stay online with your connections and you’ll have all up-to-date stuff. You’ll become a focal point for the data you own.

It is about openness and share.
If you are in the open social world – share what you have to say. If you’re in the organization – share what you need to work on. If you will do it, the most probably it will allow you to get connected to the right social focal points in your organization and extended enterprise.

What is my conclusion today? You cannot follow “data” or “files”, since data is not social. Files are not social. You can get connected to data by using your social connections. It doesn’t matter if this is an enterprise organization, your high school or college. The aim of social software is to bring “the relevant data” to you. So, in PLM – follow people you need to work within the organization. This will be your ultimate way to get the most relevant information you need. And this is, in my view, the purpose of social PLM (and other social apps)- to get your data by using your organization’s social network.

It will be interesting to know what do you think?
Best, Oleg

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PLM for Individuals – Integrate or Die?

January 26, 2010

I had chance to read CIMData paper figured out interesting facts related to the future trajectory of Autodesk as a PLM provider. You can read the paper on this link (Note, you need to be registered on CIMData site, but registration is free). In this paper, CIMData explains their vision on how they see Autodesk is going to transform from the vendor providing mostly tools used in many departments into an organization into something that allows to CIMData to include Autodesk into line of what they called “PLM mind share leaders”. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts on this topic as well as dreams about possible future trajectories of something I called – PLM for Individuals.

Autodesk and PLM
My pre-assumption for many years was that Autodesk is distant from association of their products with PLM acronym. At the same time, many of their tools used to build PLM strategy for many customers in the world. During all that time, I think, the question of Autodesk association with PLM was just about marketing. Autodesk successfully positioned themselves as a provider of tools and even put it as a differentiations of their strategy. You can take a look on the famous Carl Bass anti-PLM rap.  So, what is going on now? Some undergoing processes are convincing Autodesk to change their state of mind as a provider of tools towards something different. So, what happened?

Facebook, Connected World and File-based collaboration.
For many years, the ultimate mechanism to connect people was… “the file”. In the past, people in the organizations were able to exchange files for different purposes of design, planning, manufacturing. Availability of email with growing capacity of attachments just pushed forward need for more advanced collaborative solutions. So, Autodesk, successfully continue to run file-oriented-tool-focused business. There is no worry at all. However, change came from the outside. Huge adoption of internet in consumer space and, finally, social networks ended up successful ‘file-based” collaboration story. The same individuals in the organization that were perfectly happy with communication using files said – why life is so good in Facebook and bad on my working desk? Why should I stack with Outlook sending big attachments or uploading to the ftp site, when I can share on Facebook and/or other places?

PLM Alternative?
Personally, I don’t see Autodesk is jumping in the existing PLM runaway. On the bright side of PLM, today, is understanding of problem and companies’ need to build a framework or platforms that allow them to run product development, manufacturing. PLM supposed to connect all product-related dots in the enterprise. Autodesk is not there and, at the time that PLM buzz is moving to PLM 2.0, there is no need to join PLM club…

PLM for Individuals and Integrated World
So, what is the alternative? In the world that moving into the direction of social connection, I’d expect Autodesk to use “social integration” as a primary driver for integration of their tools inside and outside of the organizations. Connections between people can be much stronger than the “single data model” promoted by mind-share PLM vendors. Autodesk definitely can take their chance to outperform social innovation and social product development proposed by PLM vendors because of their agility.

Integrate or Die?
In my view, internet finally shifted minds of many people in an organization that change is going to happen. People will move their consumer’s habits into organizational work spaces and look how they can use better tools and experience for their work. There is no way for Autodesk to go with files for the next decade. I think, this is a major observation that stroke CIMData analysts to think about possible Autodesk movement to PLM.

What is my conclusion today? I’d not run fast to think that moving to PLM road is the only one possibility for Autodesk. My bet is on social networks, communication and internet technologies that will position Autodesk in PLM 2.0 (or whatever, we call it). I think, it will be very interesting run and challenge.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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PLM, Chocolate and Innovation

January 14, 2010

I’d like to share some thoughts today following yesterday’s Mass Innovation Night in IBM Center in Waltham, MA. This is my first time on this event. Initially, I was interested to see Vuuch presentation as well as some other companies. If you are local in Massachusetts and want to take a look on new companies and technologies, I’d strongly recommend to keep this event on your list. You can find more information about future events, contact information and links to presenting companies on the following link.

I liked presentation and how the event was organized. However, I’d like to share with you my thought about the company that impressed me the most on the yesterday’s show. As a person that doing most of my time with technologies and everything around that, I found company Taste of Chocolate very fascinating. The biggest lesson here is related to values and passion. We often tend to forget about this when talking a lot about technological innovation. Think about this first when you will start writing your next program :)…

Just my thoughts,
Best, Oleg


How Many Enterprise Backbones Organization Needs?

November 13, 2009

Picture 51Interesting post drove my attention yesterday. Reading about the role of PLM as enterprise backbone, I wanted to raise a question – how many of such “e-bones” do we need? My experience shows that in every enterprise implementation, discussion magically came to the point of “what will serve as a company/organization/product/enterprise or whatever else backbone. And I have to say, that I always got mixed feeling about that. I will try to put my pros and cons in the way enterprise systems can be organized to serve product lifecycle and enterprise resource planning needs.

1. One vs. Many
Thinking about a dream situation when all systems in enterprise will be magically synchronized around a single system (or bone), I came to the conclusion that we need to keep it as a dream. However, practical approach, in my view shows that enterprise organization will continue to have multiple systems serving their needs.

2. Enterprise Platforms
The interoperability between enterprise systems is killing enterprise organizations. Company’s IT is normally trying to develop their strategies around various platforms, but even so, they can rarely reduce the amount of systems and functional needs drive to additional system deployment.

3. Master Data Record
This is another place where “discussion” between enterprise systems becomes critical. Who is controling data and serve as a master? The data synchronization is an expensive. However, decision about master data control comes again and again with each next step of enterprise system development on the functional level.

4. Role of SaaS
In my view, cloud services (or SaaS, if you will) is playing disruptive, but positive role in discussion related to enterprise architecture and various “enterprise bones”. The disruptive role of SaaS is to show to the organization, the reality of no-single system controlling all data and processes in enterprise.

I’m interested to discuss and listen about your experience? What is your opinion on that?
Best, Oleg


GPS, PLM, BIM: Plan the Next Leapfrog?

November 4, 2009

Picture 37You probably wonder – GPS, PLM, BIM… What do they have in common today? In my view, the common is their relationship with real objects of a physical world around us. GPS can position us and give us a direction in surrounding world, CAD/PLM is the universal mechanism to design everything, PLM and BIM respectfully are set of product and tools to organize processes around product design, manufacturing, building etc.

For years engineering and building systems like CAD, PLM, BIM was completely disconnected from a real world. I always had the feeling of separation. This is like a wall between engineering and rest of the company. You (engineers) can use any systems you want, design and plan whatever you want… The real things will be disconnected from this virtual engineering world. Not anymore in my view. Few announcements and publications drove me to think about future leapfrog in this space.

Google’s announced first Droid phone with Google Navigation System. You will ask me how it related to PLM? Not as much, for the moment. However, thinking in deep and applying some PLMish language you can see Google providing 3D application connecting physical driving experience and virtual world model based on Google Maps.

Another one – Google SketchUp. On the surface, there is nothing special. I used to hear from many engineers their opinion about this product as a toy, far from “Real CAD” systems. Slow down, please. Keep your engineering ego for the future. Google is using SketchUp to re-create the world in 3D on top of Google Map. Google 3D Warehouse is a very good example of building blocks in this 3D universe. Read more in about Google Building Maker in Google official blog.

Some business thoughts. You need to see the following article: Google Redefines Disruption: The “Less than Free” business model. This is not the first time when we see the power of free products. I’m almost hearing engineers that saying – but this is not for the real enterprise world, this is on the different planet. Not anymore, in my view. Connection between real and virtual happens much faster that you can think about it.

So, conclusion for today. I’m thinking about immersive world where design, engineering and real people are all connected to dream, design, plan, build and manufacture life around us. And, in my view, this is a perfect time for today’s CAD/PLM/BIM vendors to think about a future of their products. How to catch up before Google’s next leapfrog? Just not to find themselves in place of GPS manufacturers today.

Picture 35

Just my thoughts.
Best, Oleg


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