Free CAD File Conversion In The Cloud?

July 9, 2010

The problem of CAD file conversion in old and has never been easy. Engineers are working in multiple CAD systems and conversion is a real problem. Quite many companies are in business of CAD conversion. The policy and practice of CAD vendors with regards to their ability to open/save competitor’s files are different. The person who needs to solve this problem is either engineer in a small company or CAD manager or IT in a bigger one. What if… we can find a solution for this problem by leveraging internet scale and cloud availability?

I found an interesting web site The idea behind is pretty simple – you have your file to convert, and you can use services. I found it quite useful for myself.

I tried to Google “CAD File Conversion service online” and wasn’t able to find any similar online service for CAD data. I know, many companies have different solutions and services that either provide you with conversion service or selling a translation software. Is it a time to think how to convert it into an online service? I can think about several monetizing strategies of this service. It sounds simple and viable. What do you think about that? Do you know somebody who tried to accomplish it in the past?

Best, Oleg


PLM and One Big Spreadsheet

May 12, 2010

Everybody in the engineering and manufacturing loves MS Excel. I had chance to write about it multiple times before. You can take a look on few of my previous talks about MS Excel and PLM- Why do I like my PLM Spreadsheets? and PLM Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes. The reaction of customers on using spreadsheets in PLM is always positive. In my view, there are few aspects why Excel is welcome in the engineering communities- flexibility, granularity and ownership. You can always define what you want, format it in the way you want and what is the most important piece – own it! Nobody will take your Excel file. You can keep it everywhere, you can access it anytime, and you can do with this everything. There is no special licenses, no training needed. However, the biggest disadvantage of such a way is NO collaboration. Yes, you can send your Excels back and forth via email, but this is not what I’d call collaboration in the modern world.

Real Time Collaboration and Spreadsheets
Google and Microsoft are two companies that understand the power of spreadsheets very well. These days both companies are working to take Excel and spreadsheets to the next level of collaboration. You can see recent announcement of last version of Google docs is presenting ability to work collaboratively on Google Docs. Together with new features that closing some of the gaps with MS Excel, you can see Google Spreadsheets as a decent tool to take care of PLM data.

In parallel, coming announcement of Microsoft SharePoint 2010 later this week will introduce new set of the functionality a-la Excel related to data handling in the spreadsheet and collaboration. Microsoft Excel Services is a very interesting technology started in SharePoint 2007 and getting many enhancements in the new version of SharePoint

PLM Big Spreadsheet
I see spreadsheet as a way to innovate in PLM. In the end, if this is the best way to collaborate between people in design, engineering and manufacturing, we can take it as a lowest possible denominator in our PLM applications. I found multiple time during meeting with customers, the capabilities of PDM/PLM products compared with capabilities of Excel or spreadsheets. Think about mapping all PLM data you have to a single big spreadsheet and give it to users.

What is my conclusion? In my view, PLM needs to shift strategies in achievement of sophisticated features. Low gear… The next PLM sophistication can come from the side of simplicity. Make all requirements, documents, BOMs, manufacturing plans available in Excel-like format and give it to customers. This will be One Big PLM Spreedsheet. I think it will be cool. What is your take on this?

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


PLM and End-To-End Business Process Myth

March 31, 2010

I was reading Arcweb SAP Insider 2010 related to the manufacturing, sustainability and product lifecycle management domains. The tag line “End-to-End Business Process Management” came to my attention, so I decided to go inside and try to understand what SAP is up to in their new PLM deliveries.

The overall document is heavy loaded with general statements about SAP and their investment into PLM program, important customer needs and problems that can be solved by SAP PLM. In the area of new product development, I found three pieces of new release achievements: 1- SAP new user interface; 2- New Project and Portfolio Management; 3- Integrated Development Environment. The last one was related to the information about end-to-end business processes I was looking for.

SAP PLM’s offerings for the Integrated Development environment.  Following the theme of end-to-end business processes, SAP PLM has focused on the need for a comprehensive product development and innovation approach.  This would involve multiple components of their PLM solution portfolio including robust CAD integration, project and portfolio management, single repository for product and process data, and a collaborative development platform that manages role-based IP protection. One of the more interesting offerings in this area is an Integrated Product Development platform for discrete industries and a companion IPD for the process industries.  IPD for the process industries included specific solutions for area like recipe management, material and task sourcing, compliance, and document management.  This follows the trend among PLM providers today to focus on specific industries with tailored solutions sets.

I think, I succeeded to get an idea of End-to-End business processes SAP is talking about. If I will translate to simple words it will contain a single repository for product and process data as well as set of tools and application to work on this data such as Project and Portfolio Management and some others. I still have few important, but not answered questions with regards to End-To-End business processes:

1. How to capture existing business processes?
2. What is the process of “solution tailoring”?
3. How IPD will be integrated with non-SAP modules and tools?

End-to-end business process management is a nice marketing slogan. In the end, there is nothing more than pieces of product and process data that need to stick together. SAP Wizards assumes that they know how to put them together to get an organizational job done by providing a specific tailored solution. Maybe they are right. However, the process to do so will contain lots of small steps related to existing business processes analyzes, integration and customization. I turned me back to one of my previous posts: PLM Best Practices Torpedo. End-To-End Business Processes are set of best practices on top of the single product and process data repository.

What is my conclusion after all? End-to-End processes sound very profound and attractive. However, it seems to me SAP was focused last three years on how to gather all definitions and implementation practices to introduce the comprehensive product portfolio making best practices for customers. The implementation of such can be bumpy and requires lots of energy, skills and the most important – time. The last becomes the most critical for manufacturers today. I’d like to quote another pace from the same write-up: “… that the number one goal for manufacturing companies was to reduce “time-to-profit” for new or changed products...”. With long PLM End-To-End business processes implementation cycles this goal will not be achievable and can easily become Dead-End.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


Will Mashups Grow Up In PLM?

December 23, 2009

Short prompt to think about before Holiday break. Mashups. First coming to us with the world of Web 2.0 and dynamic web site content, mashup becomes an interesting function in many web applications. I think mashups are still very tiny business industry, but this technology was very successful in my view for some of applications like Google Map and not only.

Here is Wikipedia definition of Mashup:
In web development, a mashup is a web page or application that combines data or functionality from two or more external sources to create a new service. The term mashup implies easy, fast integration, frequently using open APIs and data sources to produce results that were not the original reason for producing the raw source data. An example of a mashup is the use of cartographic data to add location information to real estate data, thereby creating a new and distinct web API that was not originally provided by either source.

You can find some interesting ideas related to Enterprise Mashups and development around that in the recently created Open Mashup Alliance. Take a look on the following white paper:

So, my question today is as following. How do you see Mashup advantages in building of product data services and improvement of PLM applications? In my view, the technological foundation of mashups can be an interesting choice when moving PLM application to become more open and available in the way of online services.

Just my thoughts.

3DLive, HD3D and demand for CAD/PDM immersivity

November 10, 2009

Few months ago, in this post, I had chance to discuss the future of immersive CAD and Data Management. Looking on the latest DE  article by Kenneth Wong, NX7 with HD3D: Where CAD Geometry and Lifecycle Data Mingle, I found it very interesting to couple it together with some of my previous thoughts. HD3D from Siemens PLM (announced month ago) and 3D Live environment from DS (introduced 2 years ago and embedded into DS V6 last year) clearly representing the answer on user’s demand related to immersive representation of data from both 3D environments like CAD system and data management system like PDM/PLM.

You can see on the next few slides and videos of 3D Live application from DS. The famous turn-table allows you to filter, search, browse and navigate on assemblies, parts and related information.

On the next few slides and video you can figure out look and feel of HD3D app from Siemens PLM. Use of visual tags helping user to snap and browse information related to 3D Models as well as filter and search data.

What I see as a set of common characteristics of this trend?

1. Use 3D as a basic user experience

2. Use Immersive 3D as an entry point to browse through product geometry and lifecycle data

3. Mashup metadata, lifecycle data and other related information

So, what is my conclusion today? Both, DS and Siemens PLM experience represents clearly customer demand to bridge 3D and non-3D information together. With some difference in marketing and product buzz around, I see an overall trend is to unified 3D and non-3D environment for advanced CAD/PLM users.

Best, Oleg

Why is Change Process Speed Important?

November 5, 2009

Picture 38Have you ever thought how important is speed of the process? Thinking about a potential implications of change process speed-up, I got to the conclusion that this can be a very good idea. I will try to explain why. Think about typical change you are making in the product you currently designing and/manufacturing. I’ll try to simulate questions you need to ask yourself and your colleagues to brainstorm and discover to unlock potential of process speed-up.

1. How fast/slow is “the typical change process” in your organization?–> About 20 days
2. How many hours you need to really proceed with this change? –> Abut 4-5 hours
3. How fast process should be in your view? –> 2-3 days
4. What your organization is doing during 18 day left? –> Queue….

This is sounds like obvious, right? However, let’s continue with additional questions that will help you understand what happens in your organization during 18 queuing days.

1. Your suppliers are doing work that probably needs to be returned, reworked or scrapped
2. Your manufacturing facility is making product that needs to be reworked or scrapped
3. Your assembly and test facility is doing unnecessarily tests
4. Your production line down or potentially down for extra 18 days
5. Your organization is shipping product that potentially needs to be fixed or factory returned
6. Your customer is probably waiting extra 18 days.

Now try to calculate worth of all this topic I just mentioned for your organization. I’m sure you got  a very good number to justify your tomorrow’s thinking about why your PLM system is still not managing the overall change process in you organization.

So, what is the conclusion? You need to speed up processes. Period.This is the main role of PLM system that connects organizational dots and makes life blood of your organization to move faster. I’d be very interested to hear about your (or your customer’s) experience.

Best, Oleg


Should I keep secrets from my PLM system?

August 12, 2009

Product Lifecycle Management pretend to manage everything in the organization that related to product, information about product, development IP etc . So far, a pretty long list. The ultimate PLM goal, is to manage product lifecycle from an initial idea until disposal. When I’m thinking about such as goal is always sounding big and ambitious. However, do we really need it to success with PLM?

Maybe we can learn from people experience in non-PLM areas. I was reading interesting post on New Com Biz related to people notebooks. I discover some interesting observations related to notebook (paper, not computer :)) management. You can see below a picture of weekly pages separated into four zones – Work, Projects, Personal, Misc. You can consider it as a weekly lifecycle. So far, this approach will not manage all your tasks, but will provide you quite good control on what is going on.

My experience in the area of digital control is related to my own implementation of GTD (Getting Things Done) in my Outlook system. If you are not familiar with GTD approach, take a look on this book. Take a look on the picture. You can see a stream of incoming messages, contextual folders, next actions, projects etc. This is an ultimate system to control your digital life.

My Getting Things Done Folders

My Getting Things Done Folders

Now, back to PLM. Should we take “total approach” and manage everything related to a product with PLM? The answer probably yes, but the long term. For the short term, please keep secrets from PLM. Don’t give PLM system power to make your life complex. You better keep your PLM implementation simple and get your things done on time.

Best, Oleg

PLM 2010: Game changers

May 8, 2009


Life around us is changing dramatically. The current global economic situation and technology have the potential to change the business and industry landscapes for many existing companies. When I look at the companies’ performance indicators and on how users are looking for highly optimized solutions, I think that this will result in what I term as ‘game changers’. Crisis and downturn is always a time when you cannot do ‘business as usual’ and you need to come up with a diversified solution and technological set. So, with this intro, I’d like to sum up my potential ‘game changers” for PLM in 2010.

PLM Evolution

Product Lifecycle Management is in a complex position. The two biggest elements of this position are value proposition and enterprise software cost. What actually happened is that the market became mature for PLM. Companies have recognized the value and benefits on one side, but perceive PLM solutions as being expensive, on the other side. This creates a barrier on the PLM road to success. In the current economy, cost becomes the driver for change. The companies that will be able to lower the costs of their solutions while keeping the value of PLM value will be leapfrogging in 2010.

Microsoft Enterprise Convergence

The long-term dominance of Microsoft in the Desktop application was the foundation of enterprise productivity. MS Office and beyond-Office applications hold the majority of the enterprise market share. With the development of SaaS based alternatives, Microsoft will be actively looking at how to increase their enterprise presence by multiple product and technologies for the enterprise. For Microsoft, the next disruptive offering afterwards will be the enterprise information worker. MS Office, MS SharePoint and other products look like a very good platform for this, and MS will be actively moving in this direction. The ability to converge PLM collaborative capability with the Converged Microsoft offering can have a good potential for companies in this space. 

Google Push 

Google Push into the enterprise is becoming more visible. GSA and Google Apps comprise a potential collaborative platform for the enterprise in the future. In addition, Google offerings in 3D technologies such as SketchUp and O3D have the potential for future mainstream deployment in applications related to 3D design and Product Lifecycle Management.

Open Source

Open Source software has not reached a leading edge in the PLM industry. But, in the current economy, some vendors can consider the open source option for gaining access to new potential customers. When initial license cost is going down and there is visible increase in service and recurrent revenues trend, open source has a good potential for growth.

I’m sure that there are other trends and opportunities for making changes in the PLM industry. I’m convinced that in the near future, manufacturers will be looking for new and innovative ways to solve their problems. I think that the trends mentioned above have a good chance of being part of these new stories.

How to Improve Engineering Change Processes using Enterprise 2.0 Technologies?

April 22, 2009

I think that using Enterprise 2.0 technologies for Product Lifecycle can bring significant improvement in implementation and services. Today’s traditional approach is to use workflow-based tools to implement ECO processes. Is this good? Yes, it’s probably good, but at the same time, establishing such implementation can be relatively complex. You need to rely on database management tools and process management infrastructure. This is expensive. What alternative do we have today? I noticed that there is an emerging group of software which is starting to be referred to as Enterprise 2.0. Although there isn’t a consolidated agreement as to the scope of Enterprise 2.0 software, but there does seem to be a reference to a group of software tools and technologies that use Web tools for collaboration.

So, a typical, traditional ECO implementation includes the following components: Data, Process and Collaboration. Data allows you to keep information about ECO and link to the relevant CAD files located in a vault. Process allows you to set up a workflow to pass ECO information and requests among people in an organization. Collaboration tools are dedicated tools that allow you to present connected information about change and design to users. Collaboration tools normally include data and visual tools. Most of such implementations today are based on proprietarily rich (windows) clients and web tools. Workflow implementations in most cases rely on proprietary process tools, and sometime rely on IT process middleware. Overall, such implementation requires significant planning of everything – starting from ECO data through down to processes and people communication.

How we can make this implementation simpler and cut implementation costs? First of all – managing of all data natively in RDBM can be replaced by an implementation based on Wiki. This would allow us to keep information about ECO and reuse regular Web wiki editing tools to put information there. Depending on the Wiki engines you choose, you will have already user interface (web like) and data capture capabilities. You can tag this information and make it easy to search using desktop and/or enterprise search engines. Approvals and ECO process can be part of associated Wiki page data and ad-hoc collaboration. To establish more formal process you can use built-in workflow engines (i.e. Windows Workflow Foundation etc.). And last but not least is collaboration. Your environment can be Web-based and use all Web-based collaboration tools, and co-editing web pages. Additional power is that all ECO information can be easily shared as regular URLs. Additional interest can be gained by using subscription models similar to RSS. These can easily be applied on native web data and gives you the ability to use organizational information to discover which people to whom you should connect..

I believe, we are only in the beginning of Enterprise 2.0 tools introduction in organization, but for me it looks very promising…

How to improve PLM Collaboration by focusing on people?

April 16, 2009

I’d like to get back to the idea of how to reuse potential of social networks in organization. In the past, I discussed about how to use micro-blogging for collaboration in an engineering organization. One of the questions came after was how to collaborate with right people in organization. In this context, I’d like to share with you some interesting results based on a collaboration profile I created using product Mailana. This particular profile was generated based on my twitter network and allows me to explore my contacts in the net. So, you can see who your peers are and how you communicate with them, i.e. frequency of messages, topics for collaboration etc.

mailana olegs profile

I think that this user experience has a great potential to improve the way we collaborate inside of the PLM system around product development. This type of tool allows us to focus our collaboration around a specific person and see contextually all topics we need to discuss with this person. Today most of our collaborative scenarios follow around tasks (i.e. ECO). In this situation, we come to a particular topic first and need to discover the right people with whom to collaborate or discuss about the particular task. But this is not always the best way to work – people are not always available and you jump between topics basically based on people availability.

My idea is how can we manage our collaboration around people? The scenario of collaboration can be changed and improved to start the collaboration from a person. At the time you start to collaborate with that person, you can see the summary of all topics related to the person and you can improve the way you work with him or her. Simply put, when you speak to your colleague or manager, you will have a summary of all open issues / designs / ECO

So, people will become the focal point for collaboration.


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