Rethink PLM for the next industrial revolution

April 28, 2015

rethink-plm-in-moution

The last decade changed many things in our everyday life. It is hard to imagine, but just think about few examples. We printed driving directions from MapQuest just about 10 years ago. Your 17 years old kids grown up without tablets and YouTube. Our everyday life was based on paper communication and phone conversations. We visited post offices, shops and other organizations to manage our daily processes. Then something magical happened over the course of last 10 years. Our everyday life became much more digital. It comes in a way of mobile device with the map, online banks, mobile payments, video communication, online shopping and entertainment.

Let me switch gears and speak about business domain. Engineering teams and manufacturing companies are traditionally managing product development with a mixed set of tools such as emails, spreadsheets, PDM and PLM tools. Product lifecycle management was originally born as a method of organizing product development data and processes for large organizations. It was tailored to operate as part of large companies with complex organizational structure and processes spanning across an organization. Every PLM implementation is a bit different because it reflects customer requirements and specific product development processes.

Popular science article – Welcome To The Maker-Industrial Revolution speaks about changes in manufacturing eco-systems. Read the article – I found it interesting and inspiring. Large manufacturing companies are struggling to develop new products with speed and level of innovation demanded today. The following passage describes how local hacker collective LVL1 helped GE to develop an innovative solution for bar-code scanning of cooking instructions from frozen products.

To the executives at GE, Cprek’s hack came as a wakeup call. The idea for a bar-code-scanning oven had come up in internal ideas sessions before, and they knew it had great potential. In retirement communities or urban food deserts, such an appliance could help people eat healthier meals without requiring much time or expertise. And yet, the concept had never left the brainstorm stage at GE. That’s because, for giant manufacturing companies, putting something into a production run is a giant gamble. Navigating the obstacle course of requisite departments (R&D, design, prototyping, market research, manufacturing) can take years, and tooling a factory line can cost tens of millions of dollars. That the executives were now staring at a working prototype of an idea they already liked—and it hadn’t come from them—made them wonder how much innovation they were letting slide by. Why couldn’t they build a more nimble product-development pipeline? For that matter, why couldn’t smart hackers like Cprek have an ongoing role?

Smaller teams can develop faster and bring results that cannot be achieved in large organizations. This observation made me think about changing role of PLM in new industrial eco-system. Originally, PLM was considered as an organizational force that can help to run business and product development processes. For example – “change management” processes or provide a template to run New Product Development Introduction (NPDI). It looks like smaller teams and new agile methods can better stand for the challenge – develop fast and innovative products. It can create a next opportunity to rethink PLM into a system organizing collaborative work in small agile teams. It can be a fresh change for PLM opposite to focusing on process approvals and synchronizing data between engineering, manufacturing and sales.

What is my conclusion? Speed is one of the key differentiation factors to innovate. PLM should adopt it to support new agile process product development environment. What if we can revise existing approach of PLM systems. Think about shift from processes management to instant collaboration. Instead of spending time and effort to define processes, new PLM paradigm will focus on communication and collaboration as a new form to run processes in organization. It won’t eliminate process management, but it will turn it upside down for a quicker run. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


The future of PLM apps

April 27, 2015

enterprise-apps

PLM technologies and products went through many changes for the last two decades. If you long timer in PLM industry, you might remember initial PDM / PLM products. In my view, most of them provided some sort of toolbox solutions used by large companies and IT service organization. You had to spend time to tailor a solution that can be used by a manufacturing company. The last decade of PLM development was featured by an invasion of Out-of-the-box PLM solutions. While flexibility was an ultimate requirements by all manufacturing companies, Out-of-the-box (OOTB) strategy used to lower implementation cost and demonstrating capabilities of PLM products for specific industries and needs.

The new trend came in 2010s. Apps and App stores. Everybody got an “app virus” in their strategies. To develop apps is a new way and we are getting infected by this trend. If you cut the marketing buzz, the idea of app development has some strong grounds. Think how to deliver a specific tailored solution for customers.

Who is developing PLM apps?

Apps is a language that used by several PLM providers in the past.

Aras PLM community solutions (projects). Aras enterprise open source model is allowing to partners to develop variety of solutions to cover specific customer needs. The openness of Aras and zero cost of platform (if you don’t want to pay for subscription) made Aras a good choice for partners and companies developing PLM solutions. You can learn more by navigating to the following link.

Autodesk PLM 360. Autodesk PLM360 flexibility and cloud delivery was presented a one of key differentiations. Navigate to PLM360 app store to learn about solutions (apps) available on top of PLM 360. Navigate to the following link to see available apps. The following Autodesk blog post by Mike Watkins make a demonstration how to build a new app using PLM360.

Dassault 3DExprience platform. DS is speaking about apps on top of 3DEXPERIENCE platform, but I didn’t find signs of these apps online. Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insight put a good review of apps strategy on his blog, which indicated flexibility and apps as part of DS strategy.

GrabCAD Engineering apps. This is probably a history, but one day GrabCAD had a strategy to build an app store together with Autodesk. Navigate to this blog from 2013 to read more. After GrabCAD acquisition I never heard about GrabCAD building app store.

Siemens PLM apps and platform. Siemens PLM is also thinking how to come with PLM apps. Navigate to the following link to learn more about platform extensibility. Lifecycle insight article about separating platform and apps can give you an additional insight on that.

How to develop apps

To develop app is actually a challenge that requires many steps to be done. Every PLM implementation is a bit different. So, how to make an app store that can be used by multiple customers. To support these apps can be also a challenging factor.

What happens outside of PLM world? Salesforce1 is probably one of the best examples of a platform that used to develop enterprise apps. More to come. You can find publications of companies speaking about how to enable application building app stores or focusing on development of mobile apps. One the most notable was Apple / IBM partnership from very large companies (Apple and IBM). Box Dev edition is another interesting example. I posted about it last week here. I stumble on another interesting example coming from startup world – Fliplet – a platform to develop mobile apps, which reminded me some sort of “WordPress for mobile apps”.

What is my conclusion? How to develop, deliver and support enterprise apps is an interesting challenge software vendors are facing these days. It is especially painful problem in PLM world where each PLM implementation is a bit different. So, do you think PLM apps is a future? How to deliver PLM apps platform that will eliminate the need for painful and expensive PLM implementations? Do you think one of existing PLM platforms can be robust and open enough to provide PaaS for future PLM apps? What is your take? I don’t think we have an answer today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Who will build PLM startup on top of Box platform?

April 24, 2015

box-platform

Few months ago, I speculated if Box can become a platform for PLM. Navigate to my previous article to read more details. In a nutshell, it was about aligning Box industry strategies with the opportunity to use Box cloud storage for engineering data.

Business insider article yesterday Box and VCs have created a $40 million fund for startups building on Box’s platform made me think again about the potential opportunity for Box to be a platform for engineering applications. The article is stressing the point of use storage for business applications. Here is the passage from article explaining why Box is looking for startups.

If Box wants to rule the business software market, it needs a lot of people using it. To get a lot of people using it, it needs apps that use it as the storage service on the backend. To get apps that use the service, it needs more startups willing to do it.

So, how to start? Navigate to the following TechCrunch article to learn more about Box development edition. The cost of storage is decreasing and companies like Box are looking how to create future business differentiations.

Box has recognized for some time that cloud storage is a commodity. Knowing that and noting it on stage, the company pressed its various services that it has built on top of storage, like permissions, access statistics and content management. Box Developer Edition is a bet that developers want to integrate storage and file management into their apps, but don’t want to bother with all the hassling details, something that Box has spent significant time and resources figuring out.

More details about Box development edition is here. On the following picture, you can see a possible template for enterprise application on top of Box platform.

box-enterprise-app-pattern-2

Take a look on many enterprise PLM applications and you can recognize similar pattern – groups, folders, content, permissions, collaboration.

What is my conclusion? I like the idea of turning Box towards a platform to build enterprise applications. The barrier to get in the market of enterprise applications is high. Enterprises’ preference to work with large trusted companies is well known in the market. And most of startups are dying because they cannot reach customers. Having investors and neutral horizontal service like Box as a foundation can be an interesting start for new PLM company. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Onshape, API and cloud architectures

April 23, 2015

cloud-API

I assume you are aware about Onshape, the new CAD software outfit founded by Jon Hirschtick and part of his old SolidWorks founding team. The software is in public beta for the moment. You can reference to my previous posts – PLM thoughts after Onshape public beta and Develop3D live set a stage for cloud CAD competition. I also recommend you Develop3D article – Onshape Beta goes live – start your engines. Navigate to the following link to discover more Onshape resources.

Integration is a very important thing in engineering application domain. Engineers and manufacturing companies are using multiple applications for design, simulation, product data and lifecycle management. Therefore, system architecture and availability of APIs is absolutely important in order to develop integrations and more specific and complex engineering data flows.

Earlier today, my attention was caught by Onshape blog by Steve Lewin-Berlin, which gives you some perspective on Onshape APIs. Onshape is using own APIs to create first integration with Graebert Drawings. Here is the passage from the blog explaining that:

I’ve been leading the development of the Onshape API for the past year. COFES was our team’s coming out party, marking the first public discussion of the API. The introduction of Onshape Drawings and our partnership with Graebert GmbH is an important part of the story.

We decided to build Onshape Drawings on top of the same API that will be available to partners. In a classic case of “eating our own dog food,” we believe that using the API for a significant internal component validates the capability and performance of the API. This also provided a clean interface between Onshape and Graebert technology, allowing us to leverage the extensive technology available in Graebert’s core drawing engine.

As you can see in the screenshot below, Onshape Drawings run in a tab just like Parts and Assemblies, and use a native Onshape style toolbar and command structure.

onshape-drawings

Last week at COFES 2015 I spent some time learning about what Onshape is doing with APIs and integrations. You will be able to integrate Onshape using three different approaches – file exchange, live link using REST API and by creating more complex integrated cloud workflows. Few pictures below can give you some idea about Onshape integrations (apologies for the quality of pictures. I’ve made them in standing room only during Onshape presentation at COFES).

onshape1

onshape-file-exchange

onshape2

onshape3

Onshape is promising to make APIs and documentation available to broader audience later in May.

What is my conclusion? Hybrid architecture and APIs. For the next decade we will live in the world of new cloud apps and existing desktop tools. I can see people starting to use new cloud services in parallel with existing design applications. Openness will be even more important than before. It is critical to follow open integration architecture and REST APIs to support a mix of required integrations. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


Will Aras pave the road to PLM heaven?

April 22, 2015

plm-heaven

I’m following Aras PLM annual event online this week – ACE2015. There is a moderate volume of tweets coming from Detroit. Navigate to the following link to have a look. You can take a look on the agenda here.

For the last few years, Aras is developing as a very interesting story. Do you remember my post back in 2011 – Aras PLM lines up against Windchill, Enovia, and TeamCenter. If you listen to updates coming from Aras, this is actually coming truth and I’ve seen presentations made by few customers explaining how Aras is replacing existing PLM implementations or co-exist with PDM implementations from Enovia, TeamCenter and Windchill.

The following slide caught my attention yesterday. It was part of Sonnax presentation at ACE2015. It gives an interesting definition of PLM nightmare vs. PLM heaven.

aras-plm-heaven

PLM Nightmare

Spreadsheets, Workflow software and Activity database. I can see a point of spreadsheets. Especially after my yesterday blog referencing complex automotive configuration environment made of Excel. However, the sense of nightmare with workflow software and activity database was a new thing for me. If I think about each PLM software, workflows and activities is an essential part of every PLM platform. My hunch is that PLM workflows are complicated and hard to implement. And it makes terrible experience for users.

PLM Heaven

Flexible, accessible by all and dollar doable. I found this combination interesting. It clearly shows the level of concern manufacturing companies have with software licenses cost. Flexibility is something that often associated with spreadsheets, but I can see a point of configurable flexible data models. Accessible by all is the most important. And this is, in my view, it is a combination of technology and license cost. Cloud, web and mobile are technologies that can make PLM software accessible. However, it should come in the package with business models allowing to all parties to be connected.

It made me think about accessibility of PLM solution as a key component of a successful PLM software. PLM software must be available to every person in manufacturing companies and connected eco system of suppliers, contractors, service providers and (probably) customers. Without that, PLM will be in a danger to stay a database of engineering change workflow and manage revisions of CAD files.

What is my conclusion? Aras is using tagline “Rethink PLM“. Actually, I like it very much. Coincidentally, I posted about it – Cloud is not the way to rethink PLM. Then what? We can see lot of disruption these days in many industries – communication, transportation, connected devices, home automation, mobility. So, rethinking will be coming to PLM too. But, the meaning of “rethinking” is tricky and should be filled with clear differentiation supported by 10x better technologies, new business models and use experience. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


The role of Bill of Materials (BOM) in PLM competition

April 21, 2015

trucks-scania-man-vw

It is hard to overestimate the value of bill of materials (BOM) in product design, engineering and manufacturing. It is everywhere – product design and configuration, engineering, manufacturing, operation, etc. BOM is equally important and complex. In my earlier articles, I touched multiple dimensions of BOM complexity – disciplines, product lifecycle, changes. PLM vendors are focusing on high level of integration of product information into development process. Few months ago in my article When BOM is not BOM, I touched some of aspects of BOM complexity and how it related to BOM ownership, BOM errors and future battle for MBOM ownership between PLM and ERP.

Actually, the battle between PLM vendors for superior BOM solution can be even more interesting. Engineering.com article – Volkswagen’s Epic Challenge to synchronize PLM for its Truck Brands brings a very interesting story about German automotive giant trying to unify PLM solution across its commercial vehicle brands. Take some of your lunch or evening time and read the article.

The example of Scania brings up the value of well integrated PLM solution to support vehicle configuration and manufacturing.

The secret to Scania’s success is a sales model where product development and modular manufacturing processes are interwoven with sales into a holistic system. The company is known for its tailor-made vehicles. Scania’s PLM plays a big role in its business model. Scania uses Dassault’s (DS) CATIA V5 while ENOVIA V5 serves as the CAD vault. PDM functionality is handled via Scania’s proprietary OAS platform which defines the rules for how the components can be assembled. The OAS works as a product database, configuration and structural control solution. CAD geometries are downloaded from the ENOVIA CAD vault in accordance with the configurations delivered by OAS. In terms of the eBOM and the mBOM, it’s once again about OAS and its couplings to ENOVIA. The company’s manufacturing solutions can’t handle many variations; you have to prepare one at a time and make them individually for each truck.

For some your it might be a big surprise, but according to the article, Excel is a key element of PLM solution used by another vehicle manufacturer. MAN is using Excel based technology to work with EBOM and MBOM.

MAN uses both Dassault’s CATIA V5 and PTC’s ProEngineer/CREO. After a succesful pilot last year that considered product development (ie, not production), the company chose PTC’s PDMLink (part of Windchill) for their CAD vault and PDM system. Configuration and structural control is principally handled via an Excel Integration with PDM Link. The eBOM (engineering BOM) and the mBOM (manufacturing BOM) are produced by PDM Link via the Excel integration, picking up the parts from the CAD vault. The implementation of PDM Link is under way but at a low speed in anticipation of a final PLM decision.

The story of MAN and Scania made me think about importance of BOM management in complex product configurations and vertical integration with manufacturing. Build to order or engineering to order environments are extremely complex and require fine tuned integration between engineering bills, configuration parameters (features) and ability to translate it into manufacturing and as-built environment.

Here is my favorite passage from engineering.com article which put nail in the head of BOM importance.

BOM management issues will be the most crucial and will determine the direction the company takes. Regardless of what VAG decides to do, the gains that can be made through sharp, highly automated BOM creation and MDM (Master Data Management) solutions is significant. The advanatge of an MDM solution is that it connects the PLM, MES and ERP systems into seamlessly functioning IT units for the shop floor and manufacturing.

What is my conclusion? Platformization is one of the trends in modern PLM according to CIMdata. The example of VW shows an importance of BOM management in order to provide robust and scalable PLM solution for complex automotive manufacturing. My hunch BOM will become one of the most important weapons PLM vendors will be using to differentiate future PLM platforms. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


COFES 2015: PLM and the cloud briefing

April 20, 2015

plm-cloud-adoption

Last week at COFES 2015, I shared my thoughts and opinion about what happens between PLM and the cloud for the last few years. That was a teaser of my COFES session in the agenda:

As recently as three years ago, the cloud was viewed as a differentiator for some PLM vendors. The PLM world was divided between those who viewed the cloud as “the future” and those who viewed it as a fad. Today, most PLM vendors touch the cloud or engage with it in some way. But… what has really changed? Where do we stand with the big questions/challenges with PLM? Can the cloud still be the source of a competitive differentiator for PLM vendors?

Cloud is an outcome of web technological revolution of 2000s. Consumer web applications and social networks provided great user experience, open source technology and taste of new business models. In many situations, we experienced better performance, usability and robustness of consumer applications compared to our business solutions. Which basically set all enterprise CIOs on fire from 2010 to deliver new enterprise solutions.

But cloud is not only about technologies. It is also about transformation in business models. We can see a shift towards SaaS applications with subscription models and variety of innovation in different business models – pay for storage, pay for use, references, etc.

Manufacturing companies are looking for new PLM business models, which can allow them to have sustainable licensing mechanism to grow, remove upfront cost and deliver “less expensive PLM” to existing and new users.

Enterprise software discovered SaaS applications and cloud too. Salesforce.com was pioneering so called “no software” paradigm from early 2000s. In manufacturing and enterprise, Netsuite is another example of software vendor using cloud as a strategy. Bom.com (later transformed into Arena Solutions) was a first on-demand application providing PLM related functionality. Windchill and Agile PLM software are also examples of PLM products experimenting with hosting and on-demand delivery.

plm-cloud-history-2015

The revolutionary step was done by Autodesk PLM360 in 2012. Autodesk was not engaged with PLM activity until that time. It was even famous for anti-PLM rants. However, in 2012, Autodesk introduced PLM 360 (built on top of Datastay acquisition), which became a game changing trigger for PLM industry. Since 2012, we can see an increased trend among PLM vendors to adopt cloud strategy.

Below is a slide deck summarizing my PLM and the cloud briefing. It provides few more details, so take a look.

Cofes 2015 plm and the cloud briefing (public) from Oleg Shilovitsky

What is my conclusion? Few things are clear today about PLM and the cloud. It is obvious that cloud is not fad and it removes significant IT headache to install, configure and maintain PLM. With cloud option, you can start PLM development almost instantaneously. However, PLM implementations are still hard. What is not clear is the future cloud PLM adoption trajectory. Manufacturing companies made significant investments in existing PLM installations and implementations. What ROI can trigger their decision to move into cloud PLM? There is an opportunity for companies that never engaged in PLM, to start with cloud PLM as a more efficient and easy way to adopt PLM. However, the implementation phase is still painful for many customers. Therefore the main question for me is what can bend future a curve of cloud PLM adoption. Just my thought…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Pixomar at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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