PLM And Management Of CAD Files

April 23, 2010

One of the questions that disturbs me when I’m thinking about PLM is a complexity. In a modern enterprise manufacturing organization, complexity kills. When I’m thinking about the way data management passed since the first introduction in PDM systems, I see a huge amount of blocks built on top of basic PDM functions. In the beginning, PDM was about managing of data records about file. After, additional silos of data were added to represent various aspects of products – Bill of Materials, ECO, Requirements, Projects, Supply, etc. Then we got a mess…  I’d compare it to the situation happened with MRP/ERP industry about 15-20 years ago. Started at the early beginning as MRP and lately a MRP-II, it comes long way to acquire all possible and impossible islands of enterprise data to become, finally, ERP. We are facing a very similar situation these days in PLM.

CAD Files Control Dilemma
For every PLM system, the management of CAD files is a fundamental question that needs to be answered at the early beginning. This is Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be” question of all PLM vendors. Touch CAD files or do not touch CAD files? I see a lot of advantages in management of CAD files: you are getting control on valuable design and engineering information, there is an ability to have a system that has deep and tight connections to the daily life of people in the organization via CAD system operation and many others. On the other side, control of CAD files put a lot of restrictions on users, increase the overall system complexity and in the end create dependencies on vendors of CAD products.

Invisible CAD Data Management
There are two examples I want to talk about in the context of CAD data management: CATIA V6 and Google Apps. Do you see something in common between them? Yes, I do. In both systems, data management and version control are embedded parts of products. You have a built in mechanism to manage version of CAD models as well as Google Apps document. You still need to take care about next version, lock and un-lock operations in CATIA. However, you shouldn’t care about version of your files in Google Apps. The idea I had is a notion of “invisible CAD data management”. It happens, but users should not care about that.

What is my conclusion today? I think, dependencies on CAD were born in the beginning of PDM. We need to revise our technological decisions came from early days on how we can keep control of CAD files and management their revision. The connection between the CAD version management and overall product development (PLM) processes need to become less restrictive and more flexible.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

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6 Questions About Your Future Cloud CAD/PLM

April 16, 2010

Cloud is trending topic these days. During the last few months we had chance to see quite many examples of CAD/PLM vendors starting to speak about cloud computing, cloud applications and services. Autodesk, SolidWorks made a cloud related statements and announcements on their past user conferences. Large infrastructure providers are promoting different type of “cloud paradigms” such as “private”, “public”, “applications” and other clouds. In addition, I need to mention companies that are doing software OnDemand (such as Arena PLM, PTC, IBM) in the PLM field and basically saying “cloud” and “OnDemand” is about the same.

The cloud-related presentations are not always simple to understand. It is hard to predict how today’s desktop CAD application will move to the new “cloud” paradigm or how rich database oriented apps will start to provide cloud services. So, I decided to outline set of questions, that I think, every customer can ask about cloud apps when talking with potential cloud apps provider.

Security
This is the primary concern for most of users today. For some reasons people feel very secured when  data is located on your hard drive as a bunch of CAD and Excel files. However, what happens when you move this data on the cloud? In some cases, and it can be a surprise to you, the cloud solution will be more secured. You can ask you potential vendors how a cloud solution can prevent massive copy of the information out of cloud location? CAD/PLM data is normally very large. Vendor can increase the ability to secure data, for example, by recognizing significant data movement in/out cloud account with patterns different from normals.

Access and Device Support
This is a very important question, in my view. One of the biggest advantages of cloud apps is the ability to use it on any device – desktop, laptop, mobile, etc. So, don’t forget to ask if a cloud solution is supporting relevant mobile platforms as well as newcomer’s devices such as Apple’s iPad. It will allow you to make your engineering stuff visible to your bosses on their cool iPhones and other new devices.

Customization and API
This is one of the key questions. PLM software needs to be flexible. You need to be sure, that it is not only out-of-box product you cannot change, but also customizable service you can configure, combine with our services in your company, etc. Good example is to review all information related to Force.com platform provided by Salesforce.com as an example of customization capabilities. Another option, to see how customization capabilities are compatible with programming cloud solutions such as Microsoft Azure or Google can provide.

Backup, Upgrade and Compatibility
Cloud applications are different from what you are familiar on your desktop. This also can be not similar even to client-server paradigms. You need to think how you secure your future for the long term. Important aspect here is a backup, so you can be able to extract and keep your information in the safe place. It is not less important story of upgrades and compatibility between different versions of software. You need to know what is your provider policy with regards to data compatibility and customization compatibility. These are not simple questions for cloud/SaaS based software providers.  The solution here is hard, in my view.

Application Cost
One of the advantages of cloud/SaaS software is a low entrance barrier. You can start doing business using application subscription. However, you need to be prepared with questions about how much will cost you to increase a number of people that can access application and also, how much will cost storage capacity? When the first question is trivial, second one may be not so simple. You will need to estimate a scale of the data you are going to manage using this app and make appropriated cost estimation.

Vendor Risk Assessment
You need to make an assessment of your vendor. In the early days, the development cost of enterprise software was pretty high. So, company making enterprise business, in most cases, considered as a solid and financially backed. This is not true nowadays. The development cost of cloud/web apps dropped significantly and not requires significant investment. So, you need to check what is the chance your future PLM cloud provider will go out of business.

These are just my thoughts… I’m sure this list is not complete. It will be interesting to hear what do you think? What concerns and issues do you have when thinking how to migrate to your next solution on cloud? What are your questions? Where do you see problems and what advantages do think cloud apps will bring you?

Best, Oleg

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What We Are Losing By Going From CAD to PLM?

January 19, 2010

Do you remember the time before PLM? Time, when our focus was about CAD and Product Data Management? With all latest developments around Product Lifecycle Management and collaborative business processes, I think we lost some important grounds related to the critical data management issues related to engineering and product development.

CAD and related Design solutions is the biggest source of engineering data produced in the organization. For the last decades CAD and other design-related systems produced huge amount of engineering data – models, drawings, bill of materials, analyzes and more… These pieces of data are very critical to the organization from the standpoint of making product related decisions.

On the other side, product lifecycle management is running forward and shifting focus on how to optimize business processes in the organization. The new PLM solutions is very focused on how to define and run organizational processes related to product design, manufacturing, support, disposal, etc.

But here is the point. I think these two pieces become more and more disconnected. By shifting focus on the process-oriented environment vendors are losing their grounds in data management. Today design and related product knowledge is pretty locked in the systems that used to produce this information. PLM systems are not focusing on how to make this information managed and available inside of the enterprise. The solutions like 3DVIA composer, PTC Arbotext, Autodesk Inventor Publisher are good initial signs, but they are too much focused on geometry and very little on data.

What is my conclusion today? PLM is too much focused on how to capture processes and make it visible on CIO level. It obviously comes from the interest to compete with existing ERP and other solutions. However, on that way PLM is losing some core business related to the ability properly manage product and design data. We need to get back to product management roots and analyze what we still need to accomplish there.

Just my thought…
Best, Oleg


The pains of file management, will PDM be popular again?

August 10, 2009

file-pain-pdmTime ago, I had chance to discuss second mover innovation. For me, second movers are perfect example to learn from experience, talk to customers and introduce something breakthrough in the place of something we have today. So far, I came to my old friend, PDM system. Actually, the perfect trigger for my thoughts was SolidWorks’s “pain of the file management” campaign. Actually, SolidWorks people raised a very good point – after decades of PDM and later PLM, how many people still have “file management pains”? My conclusion – still many…

If I will go back 10 years and analyzes what was the “value proposition” for PDM systems in the middle of 90s, my short list will be simple – 1/ability to control documents; 2/ getting right revision of my work; 3/collaborate with co-workers. So, what we learned since that time. My assumption is that lots of experience with different PDM approaches can be concluded as following.

  1. Successful PDM system should rely on a design system (CAD etc.)
  2. Designers and Engineers normally tries to put all possible and impossible information to PDM system.
  3. Complexity kills.

So, where we are after all these years? I think one of the main PDM trends these days is to have PDM capability combined with CAD system. When it makes a lot of sense in context of functionality, the reality is to have multiple CAD systems in organization. The second point is related to information PDM is trying to manage. Simple in the beginning, any PDM systems become very complex as soon as we stretch it to support additional information.

So, what will be PDM trends in nowadays? SolidWorks proposal sounds very right – there are still lots of people having “file pain”. SolidWorks PDM these days is a good example simplicity in managing of SolidWorks files and document. Is it new? Probably not. So, I just wonder what future PDM system will look like?

Best, Oleg


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