PLM opportunity for new CAD heroes

July 2, 2012

Pivoting. Are you familiar with this term? In a modern startup lingua franca, it means the management methods of making course correction when developing products. This term was pioneered by Eric Ries – Silicon Valley entrepreneur and the author of the book "The Lean Startup". Randall Newton of GraphicSpeak mentioned this book in his blog postearlier last week – GrabCAD, Sunglass, and ThinkerCAD are leading a CAD industry pivot. The following passage caught my attention:

Today’s start-ups in 3D CAD have the same vision of 3D becoming commonplace, but the strategy they follow has made a sharp pivot away from delivering a software product. The new kids on the block are skipping the deliverable and putting the experience of using and working in 3D inside the browser. WebGL and HTML5 are the two ingredients of the secret sauce making this pivot possible. HTML5 is the current generation Web programming language; WebGL is an application programming interface (API) for rendering interactive 3D graphics and requires HTML5.

Speaking about "pivots", they are not all the same. In the following Forbes article you can see a classification of 10 different pivoting options – Zoom-in, Zoom-out, Customer Segment, Customer need, Platform, Business architecture, Value capture, Engine of growth, Channel, Technology. At the first look, you may think solutions mentioned by GraphicSpeak all belong to the "technology pivot". Here is the definition:

Technology pivot. Sometimes a startup discovers a way to achieve the same solution by using a completely different technology. This is most relevant if the new technology can provide superior price and/or performance to improve competitive posture.

In my view, many CAD innovations were introduced as "technology pivot". If you remember the move from UNIX workstations to PC and from 2D to 3D enabled by the power of computers and graphic technologies.

PLM – Zoom out pivot?

When thinking about new 3D experience and browser technologies, I came to the point that new CAD technologies have an option to navigate what they do to so-called "Zoom-out" pivot. Here is the definition of that pivot:

Zoom-out pivot. In the reverse situation, sometimes a single feature is insufficient to support a customer set. In this type of pivot, what was considered the whole product becomes a single feature of a much larger product?

An efficient access of CAD and 3D data is an important function in every PLM solution. To simplify the process of changes, manipulation, annotation and collaboration is crucial to deliver a good solution these days. New 3D CAD in-browser capabilities can be well positioned to provide an effective and practically available tool for everybody in the company (and not only to designers, as today’s 3D CAD systems deliver). It also will take the focus from "CAD in browser / cloud" discussion to something having much wider scope of deployment – product development processes.

What is my conclusion? Companies are interested in how to improve their product development processes. People are looking how to improve their experience. It seems to me zoom-out pivoting of 3D in the browser can deliver both. It still requires some technology prove to be done, so it will be very interesting to watch how in-browser CAD solution will become ubiquitous to delivery what companies and people want. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM and 3D printing revolution

March 15, 2012

3D printing is an important and cool trend these days. For those who are not in the business of 3D Printing, navigate to the following wikipedia article to close the educational gap.

3D printing is a phrase used to describe the process of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital file using a materials printer, in a manner similar to printing images on paper. The term is most closely associated with additive manufacturing technology, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material.[1] Recently the term is increasingly used to describe all types of additive manufacturing processes, or even other types of rapid prototyping technology.

It started almost 10 years ago, 3D printing became much stronger and considerably cheaper lately. I’ve been monitoring multiple publications and announcements related to 3D Printing. You can navigate to few of them – The silent revolution – 3D printing in the workplace and the home by Develop3D, 3D color printing as common as a wooded lot tick infestations. it’s coming by SolidSmack and few more.

The last one that caught my attention yesterday was Playing the 3-D printing revolution by By James Saft (Reuter). Have a read. The following passage was my favorite:

If it takes off, it could radically change global trade flows, delivering a huge boost to the indebted and aging developed world, while threatening the fundamentals which underpin manufacturing success in China and some other emerging markets. 3-D printing is a process under which highly customizable products are literally sprayed into existence using something not too dissimilar from an ink-jet printer. Originally used mostly to provide build prototypes, it is now being used for actual production, notably by a unit of EADS which is working on developing 3-D printing-produced aircraft parts. The advantages are huge: easier customization, lower labor costs and, potentially, a severing of the reliance on a supply chain, a feature of manufacturing since the days of Henry Ford.

You may ask me – what is the relationship to PLM? Here is my take. If EADS is working on how to develop 3-D printing produced aircraft parts, it is going beyond toys and exhibition souvenirs. If so, companies will have to apply some production flow and decision-making processes to make it efficient and cost-effective. It also opens an additional market for supply chain relationships for businesses to specialize in operating and maintaining 3D printing facilities.

What is my conclusion? 3D printing revolution can change lots of stable manufacturing relationships. Moving from one state to another will require some new processes in place to make it happen. Another wake-up call for PLM vendors and opportunity for new businesses. PLM perfect storm is coming. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

pic courtesy solidsmack / zcorp.

ERP and “Visual PLM” Weapon

March 13, 2012

PLM space is hyping these days. There are many news floating around about what happens in PLM industries these days. I captured some of the trends in my article PLM Perfect Storm 2012 couple of weeks ago. The picture presented by Gartner, shows two major ERP players laying beyond PLM companies and the rest of providers.

SAP and Oracle are huge software behemoths. Nevertheless, their PLM agendas become more and more interesting these days. Few days ago, I stumbled on the following announcement made by CENIT – CENIT Hands-on SAP PLM 7.02 Workshop. The content is quite interesting. Among regular process management and change management topics, the one that drove my special attention — SAP Visual Enterprise solutions (formerly Right Hemisphere acquired by SAP). Watch the following video. Even if I found it a bit marketing, you can get yourself educated about what route SAP takes in visualization.

Now, what about Oracle? If you remember, few years ago Oracle acquired Cimmetry via the acquisition of Agile Software, which forms so-called AutoVue Enterprise Visualization Solution.

What is my conclusion? I think, ERP vendors are moving towards a more “visual world”. The emerging need is clear – to compete with “big three” PLM vendors that can leverage in full their belonging to CAD and visual world. Will PLM solution from ERP providers become more competitive in the future? With the absence of brand new accounts, ERP-PLM will be going to discover undiscovered industries or compete on existing accounts owned by PTC, Dassault and Siemens PLM. “Visual weapon” will make this fight more interesting. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Historical Perspective: From Ivan Satherland to Modern 2D/3D Sketch Apps

November 27, 2011

The announcement made by Dassault System last week, made me think about a huge distance CAD industry passed for the almost 50 years, since Ivan Sutherland first time demonstrated “Sketchpad, A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System”.

In order to prevent a discussion between Autodesk Alias and CATIA Sketch folks, I just decided to put these two videos. I think, in terms of contrasts, they are both valid comparison to what was done 50 years ago.

What is my conclusion? There are no conclusions on Sunday :). I’m prepping for AU2011 and even more to speak at AU Innovation Forum on Tuesday. For those who are on the way to Las Vegas, hope to catch up and see you there.

Best, Oleg

3D and Communication Strategy

August 24, 2011

Communication methods are interesting. These days lots of things are changing in this space. Internet, Web 2.0, Video communication converted some of our hottest dream to reality available in our everyday life. However, you can say – it is all about gadgets and toys. What modern CAD and PLM software can propose in the space of communication between engineers, designers and other people in manufacturing companies? 3D Mojo (the former blog of Seemage and now Dassault 3DVIA) brings the following topic on the table – 3DVIA 3D Communication Strategy Forum. So, what is this about? According to the 3DMojo teaser:

3DVIA will be hosting the 3D Communication Strategy Forum. This half-day event is designed to promote an open dialogue and exchange of ideas between 3DVIA product leaders and industry representatives who are interested in exploring the use of 3D product communications.

Open to all Dassault Systemes’ customers attending DSCC, the forum will provide attendees with a detailed 3DVIA brand and product strategy, along with an exclusive preview of upcoming 3DVIA mobile and cloud solutions. This will be followed by panel discussions on overcoming obstacles and establishing optimum workflows in enterprise 3D product communications.

The key term I read here is something called3D Product Communication. Let me guess. One of the 3DVIA products – 3DVIA composer is well known as a tool capable to convert 3D CAD objects into something that supposed to be much easy transferred between people in an organization, especially for people having no specific CAD skills. Examples are easy coming from manufacturing, marketing, sales, etc.

The answer I didn’t find in this passage is how 3D communication will become ubiquitous and independent of a specific software and formats. XVL, 3D PDF, JT Open – these formats weren’t mentioned. Is it part of Dassault 3D Communication strategy? One of the best books about that I had a chance to read was – 3D Manufacturing Innovation. If you have some time, find this book and have a read. Disconnecting 3D data from heavy CAD systems and making this data available for all people in the organization is considered as the most important objective that can significantly improve product quality and communication between engineering and manufacturing.

What is my conclusion? Multiple 3D CAD is the reality of the majority of manufacturing organizations. How to make the most efficient 3D product communication between people using these systems and other people in an organization sounds like an important task. I hope to learn more about this later this year and share it with you. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Top 3 Reasons Why Data Sharing is Important for PLM

July 15, 2011

I want to talk today about data sharing. The interest of engineers and other people in manufacturing organization in data sharing is obvious. However, I think demand is much higher than available tools. It doesn’t mean there are no tools that can help you to share some elements or your 2D, 3D, Bill of Materials or other product data. At the same time, tools in the market are very vendor oriented and specialized to support different formats and applications.

What Tools Are Around?

The top question I had been asked many times when visiting customers – can you export data to Excell? The question is not simple, but very important. Customers are looking for ubiquitous tools that can help them to share any data. Excel is well understood. Almost every PDM/PLM tool supports some elements of data share. The complexity is probably another question. However, Excel is the kind. When it comes to 2D/3D, questions become more complicated – type of data, CAD system, purpose of share, precision, etc. – this is only a short list of questions.

I have no intent to provide a full list of data share or collaborative tools. Even so, I wanted to mention few last updates in this space. Few days ago, Autodesk made available their next product allowing instant and easy share of DWF files – Autodesk QuickShare (QS). Navigate your browser to the following links – It is alive in the Lab by Autodesk’s Scott Sheppard to read more details. You can try it on Windows, but as I understand, technologies (webgl) limiting to use 3D on Mac. Another project recently released by Dassault / SolidWorks is n!Fuze. This product is available on the cloud. However, if Autodesk has a strong focus on DWF format, n!Fuze is more focused on SolidWorks files (however, the tool is not supposed to limit usage of other files). To point of one of the tools that not belongs to top CAD/PLM vendors, I wanted to point on CadFaster. CadFaster provides product to collaborate, supports multiple CAD platforms and provides mobile applications as well. Navigate to the following link to see what CadFaster viewer can support.

Data Sharing and PLM Strategies

Here is my take on top three reasons why you need to invest in data – sharing tools and how it can be related to PLM strategy in your company.

1. Decision Making. This is probably the most important and easy thing. You need to have an access to the data in order to take decisions. Project review, Change request, Maintenance, Support Call, Design review, etc. – you better be able to have an access to your information.

2. Process Streamline. Your organization needs to work in a most efficient way. Which means – you need to focus on process and communication. The efficient communication and process organization is the must be here. If you have a tool to share data, you probably going to spend less time in communication.

3. Global development support. The time when all people in your organization were located in the same building is over. Now, people can be located everywhere globally. To have an easy access to the data from multiple places is another must requirement these days.

What is my conclusion? Even if it sounds simple, don’t underestimate the importance of data sharing. Like a lifeblood, data sharing can help you to work or die in a modern product development and manufacturing environment. What should be your choice? My take – the simpler solution is probably better. CAD/PDM/PLM world is full of complicated tools. Choose two factors – format support and simplicity as a first priority. The third one is probably system support. You cannot go wrong, with these three factors. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

3D Mashup: Reality Check

July 13, 2011

I like searching for new technologies. One of the technologies I’m following a long time already is so called "mashup technologies" or just "mashups". In the past, I shared some of my thoughts about mashups. Navigate to the following link to read – Will Mashup Grow Up in PLM? Read the blog post Actify Centro and Microsoft SharePoint: 3D Mashup by Chad Jackson. The information in this blog post about new product Actify Centro made me think about what is the future of 3D mashup and what value proposition Centro can provide to engineers in manufacturing companies?

Actify Centro in a Nutshell

So, what Centro about? According to the press release, Centro delivers a new platform for delivering 2D and 3D product data that can be configured according to the requirements of the customers. It supposed to provide an answer to the problem of growing volumes of data (2D and 3D) and integration to other sources of data. The following description is from Actify Centro website:

Centro enables manufacturing organizations and their supply chains to easily access, interact with and communicate part data through SpinFire across their wide area networks. All major 3D and 2D CAD data formats supported. No CAD system required. One solution does it all.

Take a look on the following video explaining about Centro. According to the information in Actify press release Centro is focusing on Enterprise wide access to CAD files, cost effective archives of CAD files, quick and easy collaboration capabilities with 2D/3D product data and remote access to product data.

If I will follow Jackson’s blog, Centro provides additional capabilities such as integration with enterprise systems and cross-enterprise system search. Combined with 3D visualization and presenting of enterprise information on top of 3D visualization, this is what Chad called 3D Mashup. Centro completely relies on the Microsoft SharePoint infrastructure and functionality related to data integration and search. According to the same blog post Centro developed as a set of SharePoint web parts. Integration functionality relies on the usage of web services. This is a place where Jackson criticizes the approach. This is my favorite passage:

Actify’s Centro offers web services to integrate to these systems and databases. However, as those enterprise systems are upgraded, then Centro’s web services need to be checked to ensure they are still working and fixed if they are not. Some resources will be needed to maintain and plan out the integrations on a go forward basis. Is that a resource that comes from the corporate IT teams? Does the resource come from the engineering IT team? Is it an engineer doing it on the side? Obviously there needs some planning.

This is an obvious disadvantage and will require some integration services to be applied during the system implementation, which is probably having no difference with techniques used by SharePoint integration technologies (i.e. BCS, etc.)

3D Mashup Alternatives

Actify Centro discussion made me think about potential alternatives. From my standpoint, the best alternatives can be found in the portfolios of PLM mind-share leaders – Dassault Systems and Siemens PLM. Dassault V6 platform provides a comprehensive platform to centralize data, including 2D and 3D information. V6 user interface, introduced at first as a product called 3D Live allows you to merge 3D information with information coming from other systems. In the following video, you can see how ERP information mashed up with 3D view.

Enovia platform provides federation capabilities to integrate data coming from other systems. It will obviously require some integration plugins, services similar to SharePoint integration mentioned in Actify Centro.

You can find another example of similar functionality in the product called HD3D supplied Siemens PLM. HD3D focuses on how you can present product information in a contextual way integrated with 2D or 3D view. The following video can give you a glimpse of what you can do.

Future vision of HD PLM from Siemens PLM can finally put you in a nirvana of the future manufacturing dreams.

What is my conclusion? I have mixed feeling about my 3D Mashup reality check. The obvious part – engineers and not only need to have a better and easier access to product information resided in multiple places. So called “3D Mashup” user experience is slick and provide an interesting approach. Granularity is an important concept that was raised in Jackson’s post. It confirms the reality of multiple systems future in companies. Manufacturing companies don’t believe any more in the building of a single data management system combining all information. The obvious concern is the cost of the system and required service to connect all systems together and maintain it up and running. The last create an “open ended” feeling about the overall system cost. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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