May 19, 2015

plmconx-2015

Siemens PLM connection 2015 is taking place in Dallas this week. Thanks for Siemens PLM inviting me, I had a chance to attend the conference this week. More posts and thoughts will come, but today, I want to give you some of my notes from the opening day of the conference with keynote from Chuck Grindstaff and several other presentations made by Siemens PLM folks and customers.

First, about the community of PLM connection. Combined from customer and managed by separate board, it represents multiple industries. However, as you can see it from the picture below, the dominant 70% is covered by three main industries – aerospace & defense, automotive and industrial machinery. No surprise here…. if you think about established PLM customer community – these are industries are mostly engaged in PLM use and implementations. The interesting news is to see reps from other industries too.

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The main message I captured from Chuck Grindstaff’s keynote is about smart products and how it will impact the manufacturing. In my view, the main point is that we are not separating products into large and small anymore. What we called in the past small and simple products are not simple. Any product today is a combination of multi-disciplinary technologies: advanced materials, electronic and software.

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Separate note about cloud. Siemens PLM was long time silent about cloud technologies. Not anymore. Cloud messages were sent during keynote and other sessions. Initial Siemens PLM cloud strategy was IaaS and Amazon. I covered it in my earlier posts. The thing I captured yesterday is the work Microsoft and Siemens PLM is doing to certify Teamcenter and other products to be used on Azure cloud. I guess more to watch here in the coming months.

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Another interesting topic I picked up was about cloud services and big data. These days product data is getting more in focus. I lives everywhere – in design, manufacturing records, sensors and many other places. To bring data together, connect it semantically and make available via search-like interface is an opportunity many companies are pursuing these days.

Siemens PLM new cloud services organization is up to the goal. I’ve been listening to Steve Bashada’s  presentation speaking about the work they do following the acquisition of Omneo, which come to Siemens PLM as part of Camstar acquisition. The following pictures can give you an idea of what Siemens is planning and I’m sure will follow this up in my future posts. They are currently working with Dell and few other companies on the solution covering engineering and manufacturing product data intelligence cases.

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I was super excited to listen to Jay Rogers, CEO and co-founder of Local Motors. Not aware about Local Motors? You should close your knowledge gap asap. Why? Because Local Motors is on the mission towards next industrial revolution. Imagine you have an idea for product, push a button and…. yes, you engage in the community of people designing, engineering and manufacturing it. It comes as a smart network of people involved into design, manufacturing and distribution of the product. New materials, new manufacturing processes- agile, collaborative and what is most important – quick and efficient. Local Motors can deliver products with 5x less time and 100x less cost.

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Siemens PLM discussion about Manufacturing Operation Management gave me an addition perspective on how to make more efficient production. It is about connecting engineering and manufacturing together. In a nutshell, unified manufacturing backbone connects production, quality, logistic and maintenance. It is all impossible without tight connection with PLM backbone and integrating product views – multiple bill of materials, bill of process, electronic and software related information.

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The final presentation I was watching was by Craig Brown, leading PLM at General Motors. The main topic is how to deliver connected, contextual experience among all products involved into design, productions and maintenance of GM cars.

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My special attention was caught by the work GM is doing integrating multiple tools including TeamCenter using LinkedData technologies. The most resonating message – use web technology for data management and integration into enterprise.

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What is my conclusion? We are getting in the era of smart products, which will create even more data management challenges for manufacturing companies and PLM vendors. It will come from diverse sides – community based design and collaboration, agile engineering to manufacturing processes, smart manufacturing and production. Existing tools will not be replaced overnight, therefore an ability to co-exist will be demanded by PLM vendors and their customers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM without buzzwords

May 17, 2015

buzzwords

I’m in Dallas, TX for the next few days to attend Siemens PLM Connection 2015 conference. Teamcenter is one of the oldest brands in PLM software and I’m looking forward to learn more about that. One of the things that concerning me in PLM industry is a lack of differentiations. If you remember, my post few weeks ago – PLM and VC firms are facing the same problems – lack of differentiation. On my way to Dallas, I downloaded Siemens PLM Connection agenda here. What surprised me is that it wasn’t overloaded with modern buzzwords. Maybe it is just old fashion. Who knows… I’m still not sure if I like it or not. But sometimes, too many buzzwords are creating bad feeling before the event. You probably remember my blog post following CIMdata forum in Ann Arbor – Cloud is not the way to re-think PLM. Then what?

In my view, we are paying to much attention to trends and the opportunities behind applying buzzwords to describe what we do. Earlier today, I was listening to This week in Startups video with Peter Thiel. The video is a bit long and probably not relevant in all parts for PLM community. However, one part, which is related to “trends and buzzwords” is must see to every person involved in PLM development.

The passage that caught my attention was about buzzwords and trends. Here are notes from the video- you can see them here.

Peter is always skeptical of sectors and trends.People always ask him what trends he sees for the future, and he never likes the question because he is not a prophet and doesn’t think the future is fixed in that sort of way. All trends are overrated. For example – healthcare, IT, location software, etc – these are all somewhat overrated.SaaS is pretty badly overrated. And if you hear the words big data and cloud computing you need to run away as fast as you possibly can. Conversely, the things that are underrated are the things that have no buzzwords and don’t fit in to any pre-existing categories. Here is the statement where proliferation of buzzwords is going to extreme – “I’m building a mobile platform for SaaS enterprises to do big data in the cloud.

What is my conclusion? We need to remove buzzwords from the lexicon of PLM applications. Many of the things PLM industry does is badly and deeply engaged with TLAs and buzzwords. I can see in the future engineering and manufacturing software without buzzword thinking about differentiations. Companies that will be able to runaway from buzzwords, will be winning future PLM competition game. It will probably include removing of “PLM” buzzword too. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


How to stop blaming engineers for PLM sales problems

May 16, 2015

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It is hard to sell PLM. Sigh… Even today. Even with all modern open source, cloud, browser, web, mobile, big data, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and other cool product and technological buzzwords. How to get PLM right? Startups and large companies are trying to bring new ideas and products to the market in hope to make it different. I certainly can confirm that modern PLM systems are better in many ways than what we had 10-15 years ago. They are nicer, faster, more flexible, better integrated and better equipment to deal with problems manufacturing companies have today.

Here is the point. They are better…. Which brings me back to the the sales dispute about difference between vitamins and painkillers in PLM. Analysts and industry pundits are trying to find the reason why is so hard to sell PLM. A very respectful PLM analyst and my good blogging buddy Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insights came with an interesting research related to that. Navigate to his article to read more – Engineering’s struggle to justify technology. His main point – engineers aren’t good at justifying technology investments. As a result of that, engineers just cannot sell these great technologies to CxO executives. Here is the passage from Chad’s blog:

Engineers aren’t good at justifying technology investments. I wish it wasn’t true. But in my mind, the findings prove it. The technologies aren’t lacking. Otherwise, technology capabilities would rise to the top of these lists. They don’t. If there was a problem with the underlying value proposition of these technologies, then that would bear out. However, as seen in a post I published last week, the value of some of these technologies is high. To me, the failing lies in the inability to justify these tools.

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In the conclusion, Chad stated clear that price is also not an issue with regards to the problem related to engineering software sales. It all connected to the ability of engineers to justify the value of the technologies.

Pricing, in my opinion, is not the culprit for these issues. It lies in the difficulty that engineering has in justifying the technologies they need. Engineer’s decisions directly affect company profitability ever single day. Understand that connection and engineers should be able to easily justify their technology needs.

Well… I feel bad for engineers. At least for some of them that struggles to implement complex PLM systems. Certainly, if technological value is clear and price is not an issue, then to sell PLM should be an easy deal to make. But it is not… Which takes me back in my mind into product and technology. I’m sure you remember an earlier attempt of Microsoft to develop tablet computer. If not, the picture above can remind you Microsoft tablets circa 2002. The technology was right and all buttons were in place. However, something was missed. And Steve Jobs iPad circa 2010 confirmed that it was about technology and products. And Bill Gates confirmed Apple did something different. Here is a passage from BI article:

Last July, during an interview with Charlie Rose, Bill Gates explained that Jobs “did some things better than I did. His timing in terms of when it came out, the engineering work, just the package that was put together. The tablets we had done before, weren’t as thin, they weren’t as attractive.”

What is my conclusion? Engineers are easy target to blame. It sounds like product and technologies are right, price is perfect, value proposition is articulated in a most clear way, but… customers are not buying. Yes, it could be about market and prices. Maybe market is not ready for PLM or many be prices are too high or too low. I was in the situation once when customer didn’t recognize the value of PLM product because price was too low. But I doubt, this is a case with PLM systems today. Getting back to the product, we need need to think how to make it more attractive? It is certainly the moment to look again on product and technology. Just in case. Maybe there is still a small chance PLM vendors missed something. Just my thoughts….

Best, Oleg


How much does it cost to manage CAD data?

May 14, 2015

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CAD files. Everyone who is dealing with design and engineering is familiar with this type of data. Large files, many dependencies, hard to store, share, change. That was the place where originally Product Data Management – PDM was born (if you long enough in this industry you might remember EDM or TDM acronyms too). Until very recently, PDM tools were hard to install, configure and use. Engineers didn’t like them and tried to avoid it as much as possible.

There are some good news on the horizon. CAD and PLM vendors are recognizing the need to release engineers from PDM pain and focusing on how to improve it from both user experience and license cost. If you recall one of my earlier blogs this year, I was talking about some interesting changes in PDM licensing from GrabCAD and SolidWorks – The future of free PDM.

Recent announcement from Autodesk about changes in Fusion360 packaging is not directly related to PDM. In a nutshell, it was about moving bunch of premium Fusion360 features into standard package with subscription price $25/month. At the same time, Fusion360 is providing PDM functionality and it is part of the subscription license which cost you 25$/month. Navigate here to learn more.

Another my post “Onshape quietly developed Google Drive for CAD” will give you a perspective from another cloud CAD disruptor – Onshape. A set of CAD data management (PDM) functionality is part of Onshape product. The subscription has free option as well as $100/month option. Navigate here to learn more.

It made me think about how much are we going to pay to manage and share CAD files in a near future?

The more “traditional” CAD / PDM approach is bundling CAD data management and integration functions into PDM/ PLM products. It forms a group of relatively expensive CAD data management tools. Navigate the following links to see examples – Aras CAD data management, Autodesk Vault, ENOVIA CAD data management, SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, SolidEdge SP, Siemens TeamCenter PDM, Windchill PDM Link. The license cost and TCO is not always obvious and transparent (not very different from many examples of on premise enterprise software). At the same time, the functionality of these packages are often goes much beyond just managing revisions and sharing CAD files.

Another group of vendors and products are formed by new “cloud products” that can give you an option to manage and share CAD data. All of them are subscription based. For some of them, PDM is an integral part of a bigger product. There are products with free subscription option under some conditions. Here is the list of vendors – Autodesk Fusion360, Autodesk A360, GrabCAD Workbench, Onshape, Kenesto Drive, Team Platform. I’m sure missed some of new cloud outfits, so please let me know about new cool names to be added.

What is my conclusion? I can see a strong trend for making CAD data management ubiquitous and near free is a reality we might face very soon. Cloud CAD vendors will lead this trend because PDM is an fundamental part of cloud CAD delivery mechanism. It will take trajectory of cost for CAD data management and collaboration to zero. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


What PLM industry can learn from… Hollywood?

May 13, 2015

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I’ve been reading a blog Getting PLM right: no one answer by Monica Schnitger. It is a slick writeup started from one of the most popular questions in PLM community – Why it makes my head hurt when I think I need/want/cloud use/maybe should think about PLM implementations? Monica speaks about why PLM creates so many problems that just thinking about that makes you feel bad. The core issue is simple – engineering and manufacturing is very individual. Each PLM project is different and it is hard to create or even think about “standard PLM implementation”. Although, I guess, some vendors will disagree with me and will try to sell you out-of-the-box PLM implementations. Here is the passage explaining the uniqueness of PLM implementations:

The concept of product lifecycle management, that you track many aspects of your product from inception through design to making to servicing to retiring/replacing — that’s common. After that, every case is unique. Also unique to each company contemplating PLM is its motivation. Do you have a specific quality problem? Need to better communicate with suppliers? Or are you trying to create a major corporate shift (“we want to be #1 or #2 in our industry”) and want to use PLM as a lever to re-examine old processes and shake things up? Each of these is a great reason for PLM, but everything downstream from that decision will be different.

A very nice video at the end of the article give you a perspective on modern trends in PLM implementations time and cost. Watch brilliant spoof by Jim Brown about new PLM tech called SprayON. Just spray PLM on your problem and it is over! Nice… More seriously, you can learn how modern cloud PLM products and technologies can create a new reality in PLM implementations in terms of effort, time and resources. To conclusion is simple – since cloud PLM can be instantaneously at your disposal, use it for a specific project first to get it done, show results, prove a value and move the next projects. This is great way to make PLM easier. However, PLM implementations are still hard and there are things that cloud PLM cannot do for you.

My thoughts about potentially magical new way to implementation PLM, took me to…. Hollywood. Have you heard about business approach called Hollywood Model in business? Navigate to the following NY Times magazine article – What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work. The basic idea of Hollywood model is pretty simple. A project can be done by a team of professionals available on demand and assembled together for a specific period of time with the goal to make it happen and deliver the result. Here the passage, which explains that.

This approach to business is sometimes called the “Hollywood model.” A project is identified; a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands. This short-­term, project-­based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-­term, open-­ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime. It’s also distinct from the Uber-­style “gig economy,” which is designed to take care of extremely short-­term tasks, manageable by one person, typically in less than a day.

With the Hollywood model, ad hoc teams carry out projects that are large and complex, requiring many different people with complementary skills. The Hollywood model is now used to build bridges, design apps or start restaurants. Many cosmetics companies assemble a temporary team of aestheticians and technical experts to develop new products, then hand off the actual production to a factory, which does have long-­term employees. (The big studios, actually, work the same way: While the production of the movie is done by temps, marketing and distribution are typically handled by professionals with long-­term jobs.)

Of course, there are lot of differences between movie production and manufacturing. But if you think more, you might think about it a bit differently. Especially if you look over the growing number of open source hardware projects, hardware startups, and other manufacturing initiatives. According to Ben Einstein of BoltVC in Boston, you can assemble hardware team of 8 people to create a new product. Read more here . The team will be working with many contractors in design, engineering, manufacturing and related fields to bring product to life. And remember, despite the fact hardware is still hard, there are many examples of small teams created hugely successful products.

In my earlier article Why PLM should revise NPI process?, I’ve been talking how future is shifting towards agile manufacturing processes and why PLM systems should revise the idea of structured workflow process as a fundamental approach to manage engineering and manufacturing process. I think, this is where future will take us. By the way, I didn’t find a hint on workflow processes in NY Times article about Hollywood production.

What is my conclusion? Cloud PLM is a step in the right direction. To remove a burden of hardware, installations and coding for customization is absolutely important. At the same time, it is tough to think about PLM as a life changing event for manufacturing company. Nobody likes the change and it is painful to get it (even with help of PLM consultants). But industry is changing. Manufacturing is shifting towards different organizational models. Mass production, large investments, big factories and long product lifecycle are going to be a thing in the past. Flat organizations, agile teams, pulling experience, ideas, skills, money and customers on demand – this is a way to think about future of manufacturing. The processes and software to manage it will change too. A note for software vendors, engineering IT managers and PLM practitioners… Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit NYTimes article. Illustration by Andrew Rae.


BOM and roadblocks for Product-as-a-Service in manufacturing

May 12, 2015

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Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which you are buying software subscription and software is typically centrally hosted. Here is a potentially big news – SaaS model is proliferating into manufacturing. Welcome Product-as-a-Service (don’t be confused with PaaS- Platform as a service). According to IDC report, manufacturing companies have seen some potential in after sales services and support. There is a good chance soon we will be buying services and not manufactured product. Here is a passage from IDC article to explain more.

By 2018, 40% of Top 100 discrete manufacturers and 20% of Top 100 process manufacturers will provide Product-as-a-Service platforms. Leading manufacturers have seen the potential that after-sales service revenues hold, with some generating up to 50% of their profits from after-sales sources. As manufacturers apply service innovation to their efforts, the product becomes a platform to deliver business outcomes and tangible value. IDC Manufacturing Insights defines product-as-a-service as the transformation of service from a standalone function within a manufacturing organization into an integrated product and service offering that delivers value in use. Manufacturers transition from selling physical products to selling the business outcomes the products will deliver.

Among the IT impacts we see as a result of product-as-a-service are the need for IT to support a global service delivery network with systems that enable the process flow for this new business model. Major systems, from customer management to service parts planning to finance and accounting will need to be altered and brought in alignment with how the product-service is brought to market. The change necessary is not to be underestimated, which is why we see approximately 40% of manufacturing reaching out to external IT service providers to assist with the implementation of product-service systems.

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To transform organization to sell services from selling products is a big deal. As it was mentioned above, it will bring significant challenges to transform existing IT systems. However, it made me think about challenges it can also bring to product lifecycle management environment and its core – BOM management.

The article Bill of Materials (BOM): Necessary or Just Nice to Have? from SparePartsKnowHow blog speaks about the role of Bill of Materials in services and spare part management. The article brings some interesting controversy around the need to have an up-to-date bill of materials in service. The article is very practical and I specially liked some examples. Here is my favorite passage:

If you choose to go down the path of software optimization (a theoretical approach) you probably do need to ensure that your BOMS are up to date. However, if you apply a pragmatic and process based approach such as the Inventory Cash Release process then the BOMS are less important. This type of approach forces you to look at the issues that drive your spare parts holdings.

These issues are not related to how many machines you have that use the part, they are almost universally related to the processes in place for spare parts management. These include: the basis of decision making (emotional, logical or data based), supplier relations, commercial arrangements, supply chain, procurement, planning, team behavior, and accountability. These are the most obvious examples.

From direct experience I can say that without a doubt these issues have far greater effect on your spare parts holdings than knowing whether you have X machines that use part Y. Of course the number of machines requiring a part will be an influence on the required holding levels, as it impacts demand, however, for the vast majority of companies their spare parts levels are far more influenced by the issues listed above and addressing these is the best approach for reviews and optimization.

That discussion reminded me very old disputes between Order Point and MRP strategies. It is clearly better to manage inventory by knowing what organization is manufacturing rather than maintaining a specific level of inventories. Moving into modern IoT era, I can see even more potential to correspond to a specific product requirements and needs to manage services and maintenance operation.

To have exact BOM of products in service can be tricky. This type of information is not well maintained by manufacturing organizations (especially, it is related to manufacturers that not using Serial Number BOM). It can be a challenge for this organization to move into more intelligent BOM management practices to bring up-to-date BOM in service management.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing organizations will have to transform to support "Product-as-a-Service" model. It might create some significant IT challenges. One of potential challenges is the need to manage bill of materials for physical products in service and operation. The importance of BOM management will depend on specific "service management practices". We are going to see the evolution of these practices and related PLM technologies in coming years. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Onshape quietly developed “Google Drive for CAD”

May 11, 2015

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Cloud storage and CAD files. This topic always created lot of controversy and questions. File sizes, speed, security, CAD formats and viewing. At the same time, the need to collaborate and share files is obvious. In my early blog – PLM Cloud Concerns and Dropbox Reality for Engineers 3 years ago, you can find some interesting statistics about how engineers are using Dropbox services. I don’t have updated numbers, but my hunch that usage of public cloud storage services is not decreasing.

GrabCAD was probably the first widely adopted CAD storage and share service. I debated usage of specialized CAD storage and collaboration service – 3 pros and cons to have a special CAD file sharing tool. You can find some more comments in my chat with Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD.

Onshape cloud storage and collaboration

I’ve been watching recording of . It is a bit long, but if you have time, watch it. Here is a skimmed version with my comments .

Onshape developed a platform that allows users to store, view and collaborate with CAD files. It allows to export and import files, manage revisions, view and edit models and drawings. The list of export and import file formats is not comprehensive yet, but in my view can easy cover the needs of many small and mid size manufacturing shops.

There are 4 main scenarios explained in the webinar – 1/ use Onshape as cloud storage tool; 2/ vendor collaboration; 3/ design review; 4/ access for people with no CAD (viewer). Slides below can be give you some additional explanations.

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There are few interesting things that are not obvious in my view if you think about Onshape as CAD tool only.

You can upload and store any type of files to Onshape. Embedded browser viewer is available and you can see them online (you need to convert file into Onshape geometry for viewing). The ability to share and comment on files inside of browser brings “social element” into collaboration. Revisions will help you to keep baselines of files shared with subcontractors.

Onshape’s pricing model can support collaboration. I guess, as soon as somebody with paid Onshape license will share file with you (via email), it will give a free access after registration steps.

What products Onshape is competing with?

Onshape is clearly not the only vendor to support collaboration and storage of CAD files. I just want to mention few of them. I mostly focus on public cloud tools. I’m sure missed few tools, so please feel free to add them in the comments to the blog post.

[Update: 11-May 2015] As expected, I’m getting comments about tools I forgot to mention in this section. So, I’m re-arranging the list. It is alphabetical and will be expanded. Watch for updates…

Autodesk A360 is a cloud project collaboration tool that can support different CAD formats, viewing and collaboration. Navigate here to learn more.

GrabCAD (even after acquisition by Stratasys) is around and after GrabCAD announced Workbench is free, it can be an attractive option too.

Kenesto is an outfit that recently announced the availability of “Kenesto Drive” – cloud tool that can help you to collaborate on CAD files instead of using shared network drive. I’ve been sharing my thoughts about Kenesto here. You can get more info here.

TeamPlatform is a tool that was acquired by 3DSystem. More info is here. It can give you a set of viewing and collaboration capabilities with CAD files.

What is my conclusion? The think I like the most with Onshape is simplicity. The ability to follow Google Drive or Dropbox scenario of File download, Save As, Translate and browser (URL) based model is something you can appreciate if you are doing a lot of work online. Onshape feature set is limited and it is not clear how fast it will grow. It can be a good opportunity to discover what Onshape can give you, but you should consider Onshape beta status. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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