How cloud PLM can reuse on-premise enterprise data?

April 7, 2014


Cloud becomes more and more an obsolete additional word to call every technology we develop I hardly can image anything these days that we develop without "cloud in mind". This is absolutely true about PLM. Nowadays, it is all about how to make cloud technologies to work for you and not against you.

For cloud PLM, the question of secure data usage is one of the most critical topics. Especially, if you think about your existing large enterprise customers. These large companies started PLM adoption many years ago and developed large data assets and custom applications. For them, data is one of the most important elements that can enable use of cloud PLMs.

Networkworld article How Boeing is using the cloud caught my attention this morning. The writeup quotes Boeing chief cloud strategies David Nelson and speaks about very interesting approach Boeing is using to deploy and use on-premise data on public cloud. Here is the passage that outline the approach:

Nelson first described an application the company has developed that tracks all of the flight paths that planes take around the world. Boeing’s sales staff uses it to help sell aircraft showing how a newer, faster one could improve operations. The app incorporates both historical and real-time data, which means there are some heavy workloads. “There’s lots of detail and analysis,” he says. It takes a “boatload” of processing power to collect the data, analyze it, render it and put it into a presentable fashion.

The application started years ago by running on five laptop computers that were synced together. They got so hot running the application that measures needed to be taken to keep them cool, Nelson said. Then Nelson helped migrate the application to the cloud, but doing so took approval from internal security, legal and technology teams.

In order to protect proprietary Boeing data the company uses a process called “shred and scatter.” Using software supported by a New Zealand firm, GreenButton, Boeing takes the data it plans to put in the cloud and breaks it up into the equivalent of what Nelson called puzzle pieces. Those pieces are then encrypted and sent to Microsoft Azure’s cloud. There it is stored and processed in the cloud, but for anything actionable to be gleaned from the data, it has to be reassembled behind Boeing’s firewall.

It made me think about one of the most critical things that will define future development and success of cloud PLM technologies and products – data connectivity and on-premise/cloud data sync. Here is my take on this challenge. It is easy to deploy and start using cloud PLM these days. However, PLM system without customer data is not very helpful. Yes, you can manage processes and new projects. However, let’s state the truth – you need to get access to legacy data to fully operate your PLM software on enterprise level. Manufacturing companies are very sensitive about their data assets. So to develop kind of "shred and scatter" data sync approaches can be an interesting path to unlock cloud PLM for large enterprise customers.

What is my conclusion? I can see cloud data sync as one of the most important cloud PLM challenges these days. To retrieve data from on-premise location in a meaningful way and bring it to the cloud in a secure manner is a show stopper to start broad large enterprise adoption. By solving this problem, cloud PLM vendors will open the gate for large enterprises to leverage public cloud. It is a challenge for top enterprise PLM vendors today and clearly entrance barrier for startup companies and newcomers in PLM world. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM, Mass Customization and Ugly BOM vertical integration

March 19, 2014


A car can be any color as long as it is black. This famous Henry Ford quote speaks about how manufacturing handled customization in the past. That was the era of mass production. The idea of limited customization options combined with high level of standardization and high volumes of batch production allowed to decrease cost and improve productivity. The concept of mass production is applied to different products in process and discrete industries – food, chemicals, fasteners, home appliances and automobiles.

However, mass production is getting less popular these days. What comes next you ask? The next trend in manufacturing is going to be "mass customization". This is the idea of total "custom output". Manufacturing is looking how to create a possibility to produce goods in smaller batches to meet customer specific requirements. Wikipedia article provides a good summary of mass customization concept together with explaining economical value.

The concept of mass customization is attributed to Stan Davis in Future Perfect[2] and was defined by Tseng & Jiao (2001, p. 685) as "producing goods and services to meet individual customer’s needs with near mass production efficiency". Kaplan & Haenlein (2006) concurred, calling it "a strategy that creates value by some form of company-customer interaction at the fabrication and assembly stage of the operations level to create customized products with production cost and monetary price similar to those of mass-produced products". Similarly, McCarthy (2004, p. 348) highlight that mass customization involves balancing operational drivers by defining it as "the capability to manufacture a relatively high volume of product options for a relatively large market (or collection of niche markets) that demands customization, without tradeoffs in cost, delivery and quality".

However, to turn manufacturing from Ford-T production mode to mass-customizable requires lots of changes in the way companies design and build products. My attention caught by McKinsey article – How technology can drive the next wave of mass customization. Read the article and draw your opinion. Author speaks about mass customization trends in manufacturing and how it potentially impact enterprise software and IT. Look on the following picture – the list of "new customizable products" looks very impressive.


New technologies in manufacturing are going to make mass production possible – social and crowdsourcing, customer facing product configurators, 3D scanning, dynamic pricing and many others. Clearly, I can see lots of opportunities in new tech development for software and hardware companies. It also requires structural changes in product development and process organization.

You can ask me how is it related to PLM? I’ve been posting about PLM role in mass customization before. PLM becomes one of the most critical drivers in the way development and manufacturing will be organized. Now, I’d like to be more specific. In my view, it is heavily comes down to the way product information and bill of materials related processes will be managed. The ability to have customer facing configurator, with dynamic pricing, optimizing company manufacturing facilities requires significant vertical integration. Today these processes heavily disconnected and implemented in silos. This is not how things should work in 21st century. To connect custom bill of material with specific engineering option and make product delivery lead time short is an interesting process, communication, collaboration and planning challenge. I found the following passage from McKinsey article connected to that -

True scale in mass customization can only be achieved with an integrated approach where technologies complement one another across a company’s various functions to add customization value for the consumer, bring down transaction costs and lead times, and control the cost of customized production

What is my conclusion? Mass customization ends up with ugly bill of materials (BOM) integration challenge. By enabling BOM vertical integration, future PLM systems will make mass customization processes possible, shorten time from the moment customer hits company e-commerce web site and until the moment, product will be shipped. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[categories Daily PLM Think Tank]

Future CAD Platforms and Google Chrome Native Client

September 20, 2013

Our life is getting more and more web-like. Think about applications and tools we use in our everyday life 10 years ago and now – you can see how many of them moved from your Windows desktops to web browsers and mobile devices. However, if you are engineer using CAD application and/or simulation tool, most probably, you are still anchored to your desktop machines. The same you can probably say about photo and video editing applications. The common thing between CAD and photo / video editing is related to the need to use extensive computation and/or graphic resources.

Speaking about photo editing applications, Google is clearly making a leapfrog activity in this space. Google+ photo editing application is getting better everyday. Many times in my personal life of photo hobbyist I ended up with editing photos using Google+ without reaching to my usual Photoshop tools.

I’ve been reading TechCrunch article earlier this week – Google’s Bet On Native Client Brings Chrome And Google+ Photos Closer Together. This article confirms my guess about Google technologies behind new Google+ photo editing tools as well as made me think about some potential opportunities in CAD / PLM space. Here is an interesting passage from the article.

As you’ve probably heard a thousand times now, it’s virtually impossible to build great photo apps that can rival the likes of Photoshop in HTML5. That’s where Native Client comes it. This technology allows developers to execute native code in a sandbox in the browser. It can execute C and C++ code at native speeds and with the ability to, for example, render 2D and 3D graphics, run on multiple threads and access your computer’s memory directly. All of that gives it a massive speed bump over more traditional HTML5 apps.

If you want to learn more about Google Native Client, you probably can start here. Google Developers website provides a good set of information well organized with use cases, videos, documents and references. Navigate here to read more.

It is interesting to see common use cases presented on Google Developers website. Some of them are very relevant to CAD / PLM domain – enterprise applications and legacy desktop applications. Another interesting use case is related to existing software components. You may think about Geometric modelers as one example of existing components that can run inside of Google Native client. Look on how Google phrase this use case on the development website:

Existing software components: With its native language support (currently C and C++), Native Client enables you to reuse current software modules in a web app—you don’t need to spend time reinventing and debugging code that’s already proven to work well.

Compiling existing native code for your app helps protect the investment you’ve made in research and development. In addition to the protection offered by Native Client compile-time restrictions, users benefit from the security offered by its runtime validator. The validator decodes modules and limits the instructions that can run in the browser, and the sandboxed environment proxies system calls.

Let me speculate a bit here – recent announcement of Siemens PLM about licensing of Parasolid components to Belmont Technologies developing cloud CAD can provide a potential use case. So, maybe future cloud CAD of Jon Hirschtick with use Google Native Client… who knows?

The following video provide you short summary of how Google Native App works.

What is my conclusion? Web is a future platform for everything. Engineering and manufacturing applications are not exclusion from this rule. However, it will not happen overnight. Companies made significant investment in existing technologies and products. How to move from today’s mostly desktop CAD into future cloud design platforms? This is a good question to ask CAD technologists, industry pundits and internet developers. Google Chrome Native Client provide an interesting technological set to consider. Today Google Chrome Native apps directory contains only games. But who knows what will be tomorrow? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Who should be the first PLM user in a company?

May 9, 2013

Enterprise software implementations are usually not a simple task. Compared to selection of your next mobile device and RSS reader, it is an organizational effort. Enterprise software gets really complicated when it comes to the point implementation requires involvement of people. Product lifecycle management (PLM) is one of these systems. Implementation of PLM is deeply connected to product development and manufacturing processes. Success or failure of PLM implementation is directly impacted by how people are involved in PLM system adoption and use.

Companies are taking different approaches in implementing PLM. However, fundamentally, I can see two different ways in implementation. First is holistic approach usually called "business transformation". It implies significant process changes as a result of PLM system implementation. Companies are analyzing their existing processes, optimize and restructuring the way they do business. Second approach is focusing on a specific process or problem solving. It is usually come as an improvement of a specific activity and/or process.

There are lots of debates about PLM implementations these days. The value of PLM system implementations becomes clear to organizations on different levels. At the same time, it is obviously not easy to people to understand how to start using a PLM system that will have such a significant impact of everything they do.

I was reading an Minerva blog post – Should we pull PLM deployment? A new lean deployment strategy by Yoann Maingon. In this article Yoann shares his view on different approaches to implement PLM. The idea of lean and "pulling data" resonated. Here is an interesting passage:

The lean concept is highly based on a pull flow. Most of the arguments I’ve had were about the fact that the main data is created in Engineering so we should start deployment in engineering. Well, what if you should provide a system to the first person who enter the system. The one who will pull the flow, the customer? the marketing? assistance & support?

It made me think about how to maximize the value of PLM implementation withing short period of time. Here is the idea. Every company is manufacturing products for customers in some ways. The biggest process loop in every manufacturing company starts from requirements and ends with "release" of product to customer. To control the loop between requirements and results can be an interesting problem to handle first.

The idea of "pull" will be related to pulling of product requirements and documents representing released products and combined them together in a single system. In my view, it can provide an interesting insight on company operation. It is also very useful information source that every company can "re-use" for different purposes – new projects, customer support, etc.

What is the conclusion? It all starts from ROI. How to make it faster… This is a challenge most of PLM implementations are facing these days. For most of the implementations the process of getting to results can be slow. To provide system that can capture requirements to release control can be an interesting option. Lots of valuable information is hidden in this relationships of requirements-result. It also can drive management attention and focus in a company. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

The future of PLM Glassware?

April 19, 2013

Technological predictions are tough and nobody wants to make them. Back in 2010, I came with the following post - Who Can Generate 3D/PLM Content For Apple iPad? Back that time, the value of iPad was questioned by many people. Speaking about manufacturing companies, people were very skeptical by the ability of iPad to bring meaningful functionality.

Fast forward in 2013. I’m sure you’ve heard that Google Glasses are coming. If you don’t know what is that about, navigate your browser here. The initial leaks of Google Glass experience are starting to leak the blogosphere. Navigate your browser to the following article - Google Glass is finally here: Tech specs released, first units shipped. The article put some snippets of Glass specification such as display resolution (similar to 25″ monitor), 16 GB flash storage, 5M camera with option to create 720p videos and sync to 12GB of Google cloud storage.

Google is paying a lot of attention to developers community. Navigate to the following article - Google publishes Glass’ Mirror API preview for developers. It contains a link to Google Glass Mirror API you might find useful.

Here is another article that caught my attention - 10 things about Google Glass: Could this be Google’s iPad? Many of Glasses usages are clearly individually oriented. At the same time, author is raising some initial questions and thoughts about business usages of Glasses and how Glasses can be connected to corporate accounts. Here is an interesting passage:

Consumer Google accounts can be connected to Google Glass. No corporate connections yet. The real interesting connection for enterprises would be service-oriented businesses and Google Glass. For now, Google Glass is all about individual accounts. Google Apps access will certainly follow at some point. The business implications for Google Glass will appear later. Google Glass could become a productivity tool. Presentations, location data, sales information and real-time information on the go could be handy. You could also picture a person on an oil rig giving a real-time, real-world view of a product to a manager in Dubai.

Few years ago, Microsoft and BMW released a video – Manufacturing Future Vision. Watch it below. You will find funny, but many of concepts related to tablet computing world are actually reality now.

However, I want you to pay attention to few examples below very similar to what we can see in a futuristic videos of Google Glass interface.

What is my conclusion? The analogy of Glasses with iPad is very strong. Only few years ago, iPad was introduced a complete new experience. Now, we can see tablet computing experience in our everyday life everywhere. Business usage of tablet computer is skyrocketing. I can see Glass experience can change some of businesses as well. We are going to see many Glasware use-cases that will change company processes. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM and Engineering Task (Process) Management

December 13, 2012

PLM is all about process management. This statement comes to the play when people explain the value of PLM in the organization. Usually, when you think about process management, your mind is switching to some kind of "workflow thinking" mode, which assumes you need to follow the process from state to state by accomplishing tasks and activities. In every PLM implementation, this is a moment of time, people ask – how do we manage engineering processes? What toolset we need to have to make it happen?

I can see, engineering people, are bad organized. In many situations to run processes among engineers is similar to herding cats. To manage process in an engineering organization is a challenge. This is a place where PLM vendors usually fails to provide a reliable and simple solution. Engineers are asking for additional flexibility and vendors have a tendencies to provide a complicated solutions. Many PLM tools are providing sort of Workflow designer to create a process model. Later on, you can discover that engineers tend to abandon these processes. Main reason – these processes are not reflecting the reality. I wanted to come with some ideas how to fix that. I came up with the three definitions – tasks, engagement and information context. Take a look on the picture below.

The overall engineering process is described as list of tasks (above). This is the simplest way to present what needs to be done. It easy to digest and follow up. At the same time, the activity around this task list is not linear. In order to accomplish the task, an engineer needs to engage with additional people. This a typical situation when a person who leads the process needs to communicate with other people and comes with the result. Often, it is ad-hoc communication that cannot be formalized resides in people’s mind. Another situation happens when an engineer needs to bring an additional set of information to accomplish the task or make a decision. To combine these activities together is not a simple thing. Workflow is a wrong tool to solve this problem. To support a simplified task management tools with the ability to manage external engagement and connect to information context can be a potential solution to the problem.

What is my conclusion? The simplification is a key word to summarize my thoughts. In many situations, engineers will prefer a simple task list to get things done. However, tools need to provide a collaborative capabilities to connect the engineer’s activity to other people and additional sources of information. Just my thoughts. I’m interesting to learn how you manage engineering tasks in your organizations.

Best, Oleg

[categories Daily PLM Think Tank]

PLM Innovation: Who will provide PLM to Boeing in 2015?

October 25, 2012

I’m in Atlanta these days attending PLM Innovation Americas conference. Today is the first day, and I’m still expecting many things to come. Nevertheless, here is the thing that made me to blog. I’ve been attending first keynote made by Kevin Fowler or Boeing Commercial Airplanes . The name of the presentation – The sky’s the limit? Reaching for the value of PLM at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The presentation provided a very interesting retrospective on how PLM developed at BCA (Boeing Commercial Airplanes) for the last 20 years. In my view, Boeing is one of the companies that stands at the root of PLM development back 25 years. Boeing fundamentally influenced the way PLM tools were developed by vendors like Dassault Systems and Metaphase (now Siemens PLM).

Growth of PLM system was driven by the need to support development and manufacturing processes. The ultimate request was to provide additional features to product development processes. Boeing moved from spatial integration (777) to build integration (737-next-gen) and functional integration (787). It means more and more features. The following slides show a very interesting trend related to Boeing PLM Value.

As you can see, functionality is growing. However, total cost of ownership is growing too, which is not very good sign. The most disappointing factor is related to usability of PLM systems. The usability of PLM tools is going down, which confirms the fact PLM is struggling from complexity and user experience. The level of information complexity at Boeing is impressing – 1B (Billion) parts to manage during the release of aircraft, Boeing has 12000 aircrafts in service and operation, Boeing employees are sending 63M (Million) emails during the month. Boeing engineers need to use multiple tools during their working day.

However, the most important message I captured from Boeing presentation was related the future evolution of PLM system. According to the Boeing, all PLM systems Boeing is currently running are approaching their end of life. Take a look on the following slide presenting four generations of Boeing PLM systems. Actually, it represents only three generations. Boeing put a question mark on the generation of PLM tools that need to come in 2015.

What is my conclusion? It is very interesting to see how large companies are turning towards usability of PLM tools. In the past, usability wasn’t a big deal for enterprise companies. Nowadays, end users cannot tolerate bad user experience. According to Boeing, their users are opening about 19 user interfaces to get data. Future PLM systems need to come with a different level of usability and user experience. The expectation level will be set by iPhone, Google, Facebook and other consumer tools. PLM vendors need to make a note. Important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

New PLM definition from Jim Brown and old PLM complexity issues

October 23, 2012


People are collecting things. Beer bottles, matchboxes, car models, etc. As you probably know, I’m collecting PLM definitions. One of the first articles in my collection was this – How to define PLM? with amazing performance of Al Dean. Since that time, I had a chance to pick up more articles for my collection. Earlier this week, the following Tech-Clarity writeup caught my attention - Should we define PLM as an Engineering Decision-making Framework? The next PLM definition is coming from Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity. Jim is not afraid of tough problems. You can see him in the picture (on the left) exploring to complexity of integrated PLM systems using wassabi toothbrushing method. Jim Brown is taking “decision process” aspect to define what PLM means. It relies on the following research Jim did – Improving Engineering Decision management with PLM. Navigate to the following link and have a read. Here is the passage I liked:

Given the important role of engineering decision-making in product development, manufacturers should treat it as a core competency. Manufacturers must enable decision-makers to make better, more confident decisions. They should also enable engineers to make decisions efficiently and get them right the first time to optimize product development time, reduce time-consuming design rework, and improve time to market. Optimizing engineering decisions is ultimately about driving greater success and profitability of products.

Improving decision-making is even more important today as engineers face unprecedented complexity in product development. At the same time, competition is much more global and competitive advantages are easier to copy. What was a “good enough” decision ten or fifteen years ago will not suffice today. The bar has been raised. Companies are targeting “right the first time” decision-making to make more optimal, confident decisions based on better information. The engineering decision-making processes and tools of over a decade ago will not suffice either – they must evolve to enable data-driven decisions to optimize product designs.

Decision framework: Input information and decision records

Net-net, the PLM definition Jim proposed will sounds like as following- PLM is a decision framework for engineers. It made me think about two important elements of such type of framework – information collection and decision tracking. The first element of the framework is a capability to collect the information needed to make a decision. It is a complicated process; information is siloed in different systems and organizations among people. Sometimes information is in the database, sometimes information is in the email and sometimes information is in people’s mind. This is a challenge PLM framework need to solve. Second part of the framework is the ability of the system keep records of decisions. Sometimes it comes as ECO management system, and sometimes it can come as more generic process management systems.

What is my conclusion? Engineers are making decisions everyday. To support them in this process is important. However, to make it efficient is even more important. The problem PLM can face is to create too complicated “decision supporting framework”. So complicated, engineers won’t use it. It doesn’t mean they won’t make any decisions. So, decision will happen. It just won’t happen here… in PLM system. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[categoty Daily PLM Think Tank]

What is the future of PLM research?

October 4, 2012

I’m in Moscow these days to attend the first Autodesk University Russia (AU.Ru). Even so, I feel like attending multiple conferences at the same time. During the last two days, I was following the twitter discussion about CIMdata PLM Roadmap 2012 in Michigan, USA as well as reading about Bricsys conference in Amsterdam. The amount of information online stroke me to think about how easy industry information became available and how simple to maintain a conversation with your peers – bloggers, analysts and vendors on multiple continents in different time zones. This made me think about significant changes that happens in industry research community because of internet, social media and blogs. Just to clarify, I’m not speaking about dueling analysts Jim Brown and Chad Jakson trying to win the write to brush the teeth with wasabi paste. My point is that the role of industry research is getting different.

One of the articles I read few days ago, came to my mind. Navigate to the following link to read the article – Will Market Research Still Exist in 20 years? by Ben Leet. The topic is interesting. I found the following passage notable to present key changes that happen in market and industry research:

I argue therefore, that market research simply for capturing quantitative data will be long dead 20 years from now, since there will be no need for this technique when the data will already exist in cheaper and more accessible forms. I even question the future role of data analytics, as predictive algorithms will become so advanced that human intervention will rarely be needed, because data confidence levels will be well within acceptability.

Remember 10-15 years ago, market research was mostly about having an access to the data. Now it is different. Today, everybody can have an access to the data. The question now is more about what outcome you can drive from the data. It is also interesting to see how it changes the landscape of larger and smaller analytical and market research firms.

What is my conclusion? We don’t need industry and market research firms to help us to get access to the information. Now data is available. So, to have access nowadays is not a privilege of marketing research companies. Google and other social software changed our ability to communicate. Research is moving from information access to information analysis and building predictive models of the future based on social data. It requires new skills and new people. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Greenbookblog.

SharePoint got infected with PLM disease

September 19, 2012

I was long time I didn’t write anything about SharePoint. I’ve been tracking SharePoint for the last 5-7 years very closely. These days I can hear lots of talks about coming SharePoint 2013. Many of the customers I know are using SharePoint. Back in 2006-2007, the success of SharePoint comes from the ability to provide an easy starting solution to collaborate on files in folders. The technology was easy, came together with Windows server and was free as soon as you have paid Windows server license. It was easy to start and put you hands-on something that gives you value immediately.

Fast-forward to 2012. The situation is different in my view. SharePoint has an established ecosystem of developers, system integrators and support. At the same time, I’m learning that SharePoint became much more complicated. It is not easy to start using SharePoint and it certainly requires time and effort to install and configure SharePoint-based solution.

The following article came to my attention few days ago – Why SharePoint 2013 Isn’t for You. Have a read and make an opinion. I found the following passage important:

SharePoint is not an app that gets upgraded every month as part of an update cycle. It is a development platform for providing business solutions. Large clients who rolled out SharePoint 2010 in the past two years are going to find it hard to justify moving on to 2013 in the near future, unless they can find a business justification for spending the time and money it will take to make the transition.

With this state of mind, SharePoint finally can be qualified with PLM disease you’re familiar. It is hard to install, it requires business strategy and money to configure and support. Bottom line – it is a perfect vehicle to get service organization to earn money. However, the question is how many users will continue to use it and what will happen with SharePoint ecosystem as we move forward.

What is my conclusion? The demand of customers today is how to simplify things. It is certainly true for consumer-oriented software, it comes fast to enterprise as well. I can see many examples here of companies in ERP, CRM and other fields. So, I can see how enterprise software companies are moving towards making things easy. I’d be concerned if the software I use gets complicated and requires more effort to install and configure. PLM was and still there. Most of traditional PLM products are struggling of PLM disease of complicated installation, long implementation cycle and need for support and maintenance on site. Just my thoughts.. Are you using SharePoint and PLM today? What is your take?

Best, Oleg



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