The future of free PDM

February 12, 2015


Free is an interesting trend. As we always said, there is no free lunch. But, last decade introduced us to a new way of thinking about FREE. I recommend you to read a book – Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. Free trend is interesting and has many opportunities. It is, of course, not a silver bullet to solve any problem. I can define two main use cases for free service or software: 1/ multi-level business schema in which monetizing is enabled by free product. The best example is Google. More generic use case is any ads selling in social networks; 2/ freemium model in which free product used to increase market share and product reach. Despite many discussions about significant potential of freemium models, it didn’t change the grand business schema in PDM/PLM. Most of “free” examples are coming into option #2 I mentioned above. PLM is a system that must be “sold” opposite to other products that can be “bought”. However, PDM is a bit different. Last 2-3 years indicated some shifts in PDM development. The value became more clear, the functionality is more standard and cloud file sharing and storage tools gave some vision for the future of PDM. In parallel, CAD/PDM integration became more integrated and customers are often assume that it must be provided by CAD vendors.

Today was a big day for customers looking for PDM solutions. First news came from SolidWorks World 2015. Here is the news – I picked it up from #SWW15 tweet feed – SOLIDWORKS 2016 package will include Standard PDM.


Second news came from GrabCAD. A short email from GrabCAD this morning informed me that GrabCAD Workbench is now completely free. According to Hardi Meybaum, GrabCAD CEO here is why GrabCAD decided to make Workbench free.

…the reason is a focus on growing the community. “Our goal with this change is to reach more people. Returning to the free model of Workbench will increase the speed of adoption and support uninhibited product design collaboration.”

These two events made me think about future trajectories of PDM value proposition and pricing. Few interesting data points – if you are listening to companies developing cloud CAD solution, you can get the message – future cloud CAD won’t require PDM. More specifically, PDM will be a fundamental part of cloud CAD allowing people to collaborate on design. Even more, it will be much more transparent and intuitive than today. On the other side, generic cloud file sharing and collaboration tools are getting much more smarter and can quietly become ready to manage CAD files. Last, but not least – the complexity of CAD / PDM integration is well know fact. The trend towards simplification of integration and an attempt to re-imagine the way PDM can be integrated with PDM gain some support from both software vendors and customers. It might end up by removing check-in/out commands or tight bundling of CAD/PDM solutions coming from CAD vendors.

What is my conclusion? Everyone needs to manage CAD data, but nobody wants to implement CAD data management. My hunch, GrabCAD decided to give away Workbench to reach more customers and learn more future potential of GrabCAD business models. SolidWorks is trying to gain more market share from own customers without PDM solutions before they will implement free cloud PDM from other vendors. SolidWorks customers will get standard PDM package for free, which is a good news for large amount of companies having 2-3 SolidWorks seats. It looks like we are in the beginning of PDM market disruption. I can be wrong, but users are winning and this is what mostly important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Why PLM got stuck with people?

February 11, 2015


I want to step back and look on PLM development trends for the last 4-5 years. Cloud PLM was one of the most visible one. It came as a result of enterprise software consumerization – the trend that made lot of mature web and cloud technologies available for enterprise organization. The adoption of cloud technologies by PLM vendors is accelerating. It became clear that none of large PLM vendors is ready to leave such competitive advantage such as “cloud” to others.

Regardless on technological and product maturity, all PLM vendors today are providing some sort of “cloud PLM” today. Also, there are running debates about what is “real cloud” and what is “pseudo-cloud”. I can see some valid points in these discussions, especially when it comes to availability, browser support, upgrades and the most important element – cost. I don’t want to judge PLM vendors in their run for cloud tech for any cost. However, after dust will settle in cloud adoption process, vendor’s cost and infrastructure utilization will become of the most important competitive elements. They challenge for vendors will be to provide the most “economically reasonable” PLM solution.

I was thinking about first round of cloud PLM adoption. Let’s call it Cloud PLM 1.0 for this conversation. It made lot of good things – customers now can start implementing and using PLM without high upfront cost. It allows global access to information regardless on location, it removes customer challenges related to upgrades because vendor is essentially responsible for a solution and sell it to you as a service.

Do you think we live in PLM nirvana now? Not so fast… There is something cloud PLM cannot do for you. And it comes to the point of how to get PLM implemented for your company. Implementation of business processes is an interesting aspect of adopting PLM. In practice it means to define data structures and business processes. This process is essentially the same for both cloud and non-cloud PLM systems. Cloud based systems might have advantages related to the way system can be administrated. But, this is not something that impossible for non-cloud solution. It is all about people, processes and organizational changes. So, the ugly truth is that cloud PLM won’t reduce your need of implementation services. In case of on-premise PLM, implementation will be done on site and collaborate with IT – installing, configuring and debugging customized software. In case of cloud PLM, you will need to work with cloud PLM vendor or hosting provider.

Earlier today, I was reading Aras PLM whitepaper called – Is your PLM initiative stuck? Navigate to the following link to download a whitepaper. It speaks about top 10 typical ways your PLM initiative get “stuck”. There is one thing that struck me the most when I was reading this white paper. Majority of issues are clearly related to people in an organization that adopting and implementing PLM. Software vendors, service providers and consulting cannot solve this problem. You need to solve it in the interaction with customer. Here are some examples – poor planning, taking decision to automate everything because you can, the decision to take one giant implementation step, no long term vision, too long consulting stage with no “go live” moment, decision to implement fragmented “point” solution, etc.

What is my conclusion? People is the most complicated part in PLM paradigm we have today. Regardless on a specific PLM system, PLM implementation process is heavily dependent on people and sensitive to many things – ability of organization to understand their problems, internal organizational politics, building consensus within organization, aligning requirements between departments, divisions, suppliers and contractors. All together it creates a potential for implementation failure. How to solve this problem? Would it be a magic technology that will create a complete new paradigm for PLM? Maybe it will be a well defined blueprint for implementation that company can easy adopt? To remove PLM sensitivity to people factor is an interesting challenge PLM vendors will have to deal sooner than later. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of iosphere at

Cloud CAD will have to solve PDM problems at first place

February 10, 2015


The race towards CAD in the cloud is getting more interesting every day. I’ve been watching SOLIDWORKS World 2015 live streaming this morning. Overall SOLIDWORKS show was very impressive, as usual. I look forward to keep watching it following days.

However, what caught my special attention today is a presentation of a new cloud product – SOLIDWORKS Industrial Design. Couple of interesting facts about new product – works on top of Dassault 3DEXPERIENCE platform (in many aspects, think about it as ENOVIA V6); focus on free design with no traditional CAD constraints; leveraging cloud approach for social connection between users and collaboration. And… it is complimentary for SolidWorks users. Demo of product presented few scenarios in which design flow went between new cloud product and old SolidWorks connected by 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Sounds like a big deal.

The story about new SOLIDWORKS/3DEXPERIENCE product took me back to my comparison of Onshape and Autodesk Fusion360 visions few days ago – Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD. In my view, changes in design world towards distributed teams and ability to work effortlessly on any device without installation and manual upgrades are two main driving factors behind new cloud solutions. The story about Autodesk Fusion360, Onshape and SOLIDWORKS made me think about interesting priorities all creators of cloud CAD are thinking about. It was well articulated during SolidWorks World 2015 first day keynote – supporting any device, information is up to date all the time, users are connected (see picture above).

It makes a perfect sense to me, since it is a great reflection of modern cloud paradigm you can see well developed in products such as Google Apps, Office 365 and others. However, this is a place where complexity of CAD data requires from cloud products to be more sophisticated. Traditionally, CAD project is combined of multiple files – assemblies, parts, drawings, etc. As you start making changes you very quickly end up with a complexity of many-to-many relationships between different versions of parts, assemblies and drawings. Move it to the cloud – the complexity won’t disapear. Therefore, you can see both Autodesk Fusion360 and SolidWorks Industrial Design are trying to solve. I had no chance to see Onshape product yet, but my hunch Onshape will try to solve this problem too.

Autodesk Fusion360: revision control, branching and collaboration



SolidWorks Industrial design: 3DEXPERIENCE collaboration, branches, revision merging



What is my conclusion? In a traditional CAD world, the problem of file revisions, collaboration and data control was part of PDM solution. Historically, CAD vendors were reluctant to solve PDM problems unless it became absolutely necessarily. PDM was complex, required services, special pre-sale process, etc. However, cloud is creating a new demand and constraints for new CAD in the cloud paradigm. With the absence of file system exposed to end user, cloud CAD system will have to solve a PDM problem first. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

A message to my readers about Beyond PLM in 2015

February 9, 2015


Dear friends! I wanted to share some personal news with you. I decided to make a next change in my professional career in 2015. As you might noticed on my LinkedIn page, I will focus on PLM consulting, writing and social media.

PLM consulting

Technology is changing fast these days. Cloud, social and mobile technologies are changing engineering and manufacturing software landscape. I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about cloud technologies and what it can bring to product lifecycle management. All PLM companies today are providing some sort of cloud solutions. It was a very interesting industry shift that happened over the past 2-3 years. At the same time, manufacturing is changing too. We can see new types of manufacturing companies and products in the market. I feel the need to spend more time working with customers on how today’s PLM technologies can solve practical engineering and manufacturing problems for companies of any size. The real value of PLM solution can only come in the intersection of what technology and people can do together. It made me think about coming to PLM consulting to discover future potential of product lifecycle management.

PLM blog and PLM book

Last week, I counted 1’815 blog posts on Beyond PLM blog since I started it six years ago. I know, some of you are following my blog on a regular basis. However, I’ve got many comments from people using my blog as some sort of knowledge source about PLM. It made me think about the need to provide a better access to the information on the blog. Honestly, for myself, I’m using Google to search my own blog articles. It works, but it is still not the best solution for you. I’ve been puzzled with the idea to recompile blog content into a online book about PLM. I’m still not sure about how to do that, but I took it as my new year resolution for 2015. Stay tuned – more news will come about later.

Social media

Social media became part of our life. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn etc. I’m trying to be active online and I’m pretty sure some of you are getting into my blog articles via updates in social media. Nothing wrong with that, but I want to take one step forward and make Beyond PLM social media more interactive. I still don’t know what does it mean. I’ve been looking on twitterstorms as a way to share information on twitter. Tweeting during PLM conferences and events will be another way to share more information. I will make my first experiments during PI congress in Dusseldorf. Another form of social media communication – twitter Q&A about PLM. I’m considering to experiment with that later this year. Tell me what do think about it.

For conclusion… I’m very excited about upcoming changes. If you are interesting in PLM consulting, you can find contact information on Beyond PLM website. Beyond PLM will keep providing you daily portion of vendor-independent PLM ideas, thoughts and comments about CAD, PDM, PLM, products and technologies. However, I will be looking how to make it even more interactive than before. These are just my thoughts. But, I’m planning to turn it into actions. Tell me what do you think. I look forward to your comments.

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of pakorn at

Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD

February 7, 2015


Cloud computing is changing a world around us. CAD and engineering applications are not exception. It has been already five years since SolidWorks team at SolidWorks World 2010 announced about developing of CAD and mobile applications. I found Cadalyst articles – SolidWorks World 2010: Clouds, Macs, Movie Making, and More which speaks about capability of cloud computing to change CAD and design world as somebody was able to think about it back in 2010.

“This is designed not for flash, but to solve problems and make your life easier,” Ray said, adding that the technology has been in development for three years. Cloud computing overcomes the challenges of software installation and maintenance and, according to the company, keeps data secure. It is multiplatform by its very nature, meaning it is accessible to users regardless of operating system, and it can accommodate touch-based modeling and finger and pen interaction — that is, any wireless-connected device from anywhere could link the user to the full functionality of the 3D software. Now you can use a Mac to model in SolidWorks, Ray told the audience, which reacted with cheers.

Cloud computing facilitates collaborative modeling because there is just one source of data and one version of a file and model updates take effect immediately, and it better facilitates data sharing and legacy data reuse. On the cloud, users can employ traditional search to locate legacy files quickly and minimize the need to create design sketches from scratch. “[This data] can be your own data, others’ data, or template data from SolidWorks,” Ray said. Cloud-based design can be more flexible as direct 3D editing is based on window selects, and the increased power of cloud-based servers can speed design and rendering time and decrease system crashes. Even if a system does crash, you never lose any data because the model always stays where you left it, even if you didn’t save it, Ray explained.

Well, this passage above is a history. While engineers and CAD industry analysts are on planes to sunny Phoenix to discover new SolidWorks software at SolidWorks World 2015, two other companies – Autodesk and Onshape are working to build a future cloud CAD software. My attention caught by two articles providing an insight on the development of both systems – Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape. Take some time during the weekend and read How and Why We’re Building Fusion by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass and Why We Started From Scratch (Again) In The CAD Business by Onshape Founder Jon Hirschtick.

Both articles are providing an interesting perspective on current status of design tools, technological and customer landscape. Actually, I found a lot of similarities in thinking expressed by both articles. I decided to bring few passages here, so my readers will be able to compare notes.

1- Yesterday’s tools are failing today’s engineers

Jon Hirschtick> There’s no problem in CAD that’s been completely solved yet. CAD systems still aren’t fast enough, they’re not easy enough, they’re not robust enough or reliable enough. All of the core issues in CAD are still there – and I think as an industry, maybe we’re halfway done.

Carl Bass> While there are many capable software products in the market today, none comprehensively solve the major issues in product development. So people are forced to string together tools that make iteration cumbersome and working in teams difficult. We’re bringing together the most important portions of product development into one comprehensive, integrated environment to help people go from concept to production—form, function, fabrication, data management and collaboration.

2- Computing world has changed

Jon Hirschtick> We are in the midst of the biggest change ever in computing platform technology, from the old world of desktop PCs to the new world of cloud, web and mobile computing. Younger people have grown up in a post-desktop world and have different expectations about computers. They don’t even think about having “a computer.” They walk in with their laptops and their tablets and their mobile phones. They expect computing to be modern and available anywhere, anytime on any device. Cloud, web and mobile technologies are our exciting new raw materials for creating CAD – they are like carbon fiber is to Boeing or battery chemistry is to Tesla. And if used properly, they have tremendous potential to solve many of the problems faced by today’s CAD users.

Carl Bass> The world of LANs, firewalls and identical workstations is aging and being replaced by cloud computing and a wide variety of devices, increasingly powerful and mobile. The architectures of the future will be tuned to combine what’s best done locally with what’s best done on the cloud, giving us access to nearly infinite amounts of computing power, letting us imagine how we would design differently if computing power was unlimited. As an example, Fusion completely utilizes the cloud to offload compute intensive tasks like analysis and visualization. The cloud also allows for fundamentally new ways to structure data so teams can easily share and collaborate, particularly as those interactions reach beyond the firewalls of a single company. And most importantly, this information needs to be available on every device—PCs, Mac, phones and tablets—allowing us to choose the most appropriate device for the task at hand.

3- Design world changed

Jon Hirschtick> The Design World Has Changed – The way that design and manufacturing teams work together has dramatically changed. Teams that used to be under one roof are now fragmented and globally distributed. And teams are also changing faster, with people coming on and off projects all the time. Traditional CAD was never built for this new model of distributed design – we know because we’re the ones who built it.

Carl Bass> The world of our customers has changed greatly. They are working in distributed teams with global and complex supply chains. When legacy 3D mechanical design tools were developed, competitiveness centered on quality. Today, high quality products are table stakes and companies who thrive are focused on innovation and shortening time to market. Just as tools like GitHub have made managing software projects much easier, we’re doing the same for design and engineering projects. We’re building a tool where everyone can work together and where data management and collaboration are foundational, not an afterthought.

Overall, I’ve got an impression that Carl and Jon are in agreement about many things. It would be interesting to see what will be a difference between Onshape and Fusion360. Actually, you have an opportunity to listen to both Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick at DEVELOP3D Live next month in Warwick, UK. Both are keynote speakers -the program is here.

What is my conclusion? I like the way engineering and manufacturing business is becoming more social. I can see it from my perspective of six years of daily blogging about PLM. It means that the way companies are building software is changing too. Both articles are helping to understand the vision and future trajectories of CAD software, collaboration and product data management. My hunch, it is going to bring benefits to customers and industry. The world has changed forever. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Autodesk Fusion Gallery

The complexity of PLM business models

February 6, 2015


I’ve been blogging about future of PLM licensing earlier this month. It sparked few interesting discussions online and offline. One of the topic I captured out of these discussion was related to relationships between different players in a business model. In some situations, relationships are simple and easy. You have suppliers and consumers. Consumers are paying to suppliers for products or services. Simple… However, the real life is much more complicated. In many cases, there is no direct connection between suppliers and consumers. Even more, modern business models can have more than one level of relationships. Simple example – Google. As a customer of “search” product, we use Google for free. However, companies and individuals are paying Google for advertising. Even more, Google is in business to sell advertising to companies using Google sales channel.

It made me think about complexity of PLM business models. I ended up drawing a following diagram, which contains “players” involved into typical PLM business.


Here is a question – do you think I missed any player? Originally, I put 3 main groups – Customer, Partners and Vendors. After some additional thoughts, I added Community. The importance of communities is growing these days and, often plays a significant role in overall business schema. Here are some explanations about each group:

1. Customers. If you think about typical manufacturing company, you can figure out multiple players – engineers (end users of PLM products), budget owners (for example, CIO), Exec sponsor (somebody from upper management, who is responsible for PLM program) and PLM team (you can often see a group of people responsible for PLM system deployment). Sometimes they are aligned, but sometimes, they might have different interests.

2. Partners. In many situations, companies are using partners for different reasons – indirect sales, implementation services, etc. It is not unusual for company to hire independent consultants to help with decision making or strategy. Implementation services can come from vendor, but also can be provided by independent company.

3. Vendors. There are multiple vendors involved into PLM system deployment. Of course, it starts from software vendors for CAD, PDM, PLM. Companies are often working with multiple vendors, IT/Software vendors are selling other enterprise software – databases, information systems, ERP, CRM and other enterprise software. Hardware vendors, obviously, is in business of selling computing resources. In modern eco-system, you can see new type of vendors – IaaS provder (Amazon is an example of public cloud IaaS). However, sometimes, IaaS provider can be provider of hosting computing services.

What is my conclusion? PLM business models are complex and composed of multiple players and relationships between them. To make it work is not a simple task. To make it profitable is even more complex goal. PLM vendors are operating in an existing eco-system of customers, partners and other players. This eco-system was mainly created as a result of years of relationship building between vendors, companies and partners. My hunch, customers are thinking about some sort of “re-imagining” and refresh, which is driven by new business models and trends. It is a time to think and ask right questions how to do it. I can see vendors are coming with additional services, subscriptions and other business initiatives. A good start, but what will come next? Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Money fight via photopin (license)

3D printing of electronics can change product data management

February 5, 2015


3D printing is changing the way we can manufacturing products. Which potentially means changes in how companies are going to manage product development processes. While it is still unclear how it may happen, I wonder if 3D printing can also change the way we manage data about product.

Forget about 3D printing as a way to make plastic covers for mobile devices and furniture for dolls. Medium article – 3D Printed Electronics Have Arrived speaks about very interesting innovation in 3D printing – Voxel8 printer capable to produce a complete electronic device as a single piece. Here is a high level explanation about printing process:

The printer uses a modular design to print both circuitry and plastic parts. One printer head extrudes PLA plastic, building the bulk of the object, while another head prints out circuitry using a very conductive ink. As the printing process goes along, the printer automatically pauses (thanks to some nifty software from Autodesk) to allow the designer to insert electrical components like motors and resistors into the print. Once the component is placed, the printer automagically resumes printing where it left off.

What future scenario you can think about? The following passage is proposing “printing phones in store” as an option:

This printer is important because this is your future. Eventually the price for circuit-printing printers will come down, and we will see electronics shops that print phones in the store, rather than buying them from a 3rd world sweat shop. I expect that within a decade average users may even be able to customize the shape and color of their phone to their liking.


The story made me think about how a new 3D printing approach can influence the way we are managing data about products. Currently, the design is done separately for electronics and mechanical parts. Think about PCB design, electrical components and plastic body. You have data managed separate in these systems. Then you have to bring all elements of product together to create an engineering and manufacturing bill of materials. The new approach can change some fundamental principles companies are managing data today. It is hard to say how it will work, but my hunch that composed bill of material should be available at much earlier stage. It might influence the integration of design and assembly tools.

What is my conclusion? Changing paradigms. This is probably the easiest way to describe a potential change that devices like Voxel8 can bring. It can change product data management fundamentals by requiring to manage product structure differently. It can potentially change processes between engineering and manufacturing as well. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

A CT scan of a 3D Printed drone (courtesy: Voxel8)


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