Will “cloud” change the way we integrate PLM and ERP?

October 29, 2015


Integration has a very important role in PLM implementations. PLM is intended to manage design and engineering aspects of product development. ERP is intended to manage manufacturing resources, process and inventory. Therefore PLM and ERP are complementary. Most of PLM implementations I’ve seen in my life, required PLM-ERP integration.

At the same time, PLM-ERP integration is often the most complicated part. There is high diversity in the ways manufacturing companies manage data about product, bill of materials, parts, inventory and manufacturing processes. Outcome is multiple BoMs, product and item records and the need to synchronize information.

Traditional PLM-ERP integration is complex and never done out-of-the-box. It requires detailed definitions, data mapping and variety of data synchronization techniques. The last one is usually code effort that done by service provider or IT programmers. In some situations PLM and ERP vendors are offering integration tools, but because of different reasons such as cost and complexity of these tools, integration often end up as SQL hacking into two databases of PLM and ERP. Software vendors are not appreciating this approach, but usually face the reality of large implementation complexity and just live with it. In most of these situations, vendors would not jeopardize PLM deal by preventing customers to access databases directly. The result is high cost of maintenance and problem during upgrades.

Cloud technologies are simplifying IT and deployment. But, at the same time, cloud can create an additional integration complexity. Traditional integration code, including SQL often not applicable without direct access to databases in web environment. But cloud environment is still very complex. It contains PLM, ERP and many other systems and services companies are using. Few months ago, I shared my thoughts about how to avoid cloud integration spaghetti. One of the biggest dangers is that closed data paradigms and data duplication between silos can bring well-know data spaghetti from on-premise applications to the cloud.

For the last few months, I’ve been learning about what cloud PLM companies are doing to simplify cloud PLM-ERP integration. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it

Autodesk PLM360

PLM Connect is a complete solution portfolio provided by PLM360 integrate business systems. First of all, it applies to PLM-ERP integration, but not only. Earlier this year, at PLM Accelerate 2015 conference in Boston, Autodesk promised to integrate PLM360 with everything. PLM360 is using Jitterbit middleware for integration.


In addition to that Autodesk seems to be inspired by IFTTT -like tools announced “evented web” integration for PLM360. Read more here.


From the side of Jitterbit, it looks similar to traditional middleware. The fact it runs on the cloud doesn’t change much. But it has nice UI for integration and mapping. Also, granularity of REST API and ease of code can potentially make PLM360 / Jitterbit environment more efficient. Evented-web integration style has advantages, but it is not clear to me how effectively it can be used to synchronize data between PLM and ERP environments.

Arena – Kenandy integration

I’ve been learning about Arena PLM integration with Kenandy ERP. My attention was caught by the following article and Arena-Kenandy partnership press release. You can get some details about the integration by navigating to the following data sheet.

I spent some time looking into specific ways integration is done. Arena and Kenandy is not using middleware style integration. At the same time, both are supporting modern web based APIs to code integration behavior. Which allows the both solution to leverage service APIs on both sides for efficient and granular data integration. Arena and Kenandy is synchornizing data by transferring XML documents.


Administration console can show you status of data synchronization.


In my view, Arena-Kenandy is a modern variant of point-to-point integration with realization using Web services API. It makes code easier, but still requires implementation of synchronization logic between systems.

Razorleaf – Clover Open Integration Platform

Companies doing implementation services for PLM usually have high sense of urgency to work on PLM-ERP integrations. It is part of their implementation schedules. My attention was caught by Razorleaf announcement yesterday about Clover Open Integration platform. Read more here – Razorleaf Introduces Clover™, a New Open Integration Platform that Supports Any-to-Any Endpoint Integration for PLM Applications. The following passage provides some high level explanation about what Clover does.

“The Clover platform is a result of our long-standing experience in creating CAD/CAM/PLM integration endpoints,” stated Eric Doubell, CEO of Razorleaf Corporation. “We now have created an industry standard application integration platform that has a flexible architecture and can scale easily based on its endpoint applications. This platform helps our customers retain the feature sets they have come to rely upon in their application investments and allow for a more controlled migration path forward when upgrading is a requirement. Making up-to-date data available across applications accelerates decision-making and process efficiency across the organization.”

Razorleaf is providing services for different cloud and on premise PLM environments. Learn more here. You can see on-premise and cloud systems including Autodesk PLM360 and Jitterbit. I’m still learning about Clover technology and platform. So, stay tuned for updates.

What is my conclusion? Cloud brings some limitations to integration techniques. Very often integration was done using direct SQL-code injections and batch processing. You cannot do it anymore in cloud-based / web environment. Web based APIs can compensate it, but it requires products to support granular REST APIs for specific operations. This is something you want to be sensitive to when choosing cloud PLM vendor. Web API can make cloud-based integration easy to code and implement. However, cloud integration patterns are still the same – middleware or point-to-point integration. Cloud didn’t bring anything new here. At least from the standpoint of systems I learned. Integration remains complex and requires planning and resources during PLM implementations. A note or PLM architects and strategists. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

CAD and cloud marketing controversy

October 21, 2015


CAD and PLM marketing folks have tough time these days. It has been just five years ago, when Jeff Ray, former CEO of SolidWorks shocked everyone at SolidWorks World 2010 by introducing the SWAT team with the objective “to kill SolidWorks”. You can navigate back in time to SolidSmack article – Jeff Ray on V6, the Cloud and Killing SolidWorks.

Five years later SolidWorks 2016 is coming with “online functionlity” that allows to run SolidWorks anywhere. Read more on SolidWorks blog. My attention was caught by Cadalyst article SolidWorks 2016 Goes Online. It gives an additional insight on SolidWorks online functionality. Since now, you can run Solidworks via browser using Fra.me platform. In my everyday lingo, I’d probably call it “cloud enablement”. But here is the thing… The latest interview with Gian Paolo Bassi proposed an interesting clarification of terms between “cloud” and “online”. Here is the passage:

During discussions of the Online Edition, SolidWorks executives were careful to avoid the term cloud. “A lot of people flap their mouths with ‘cloud, cloud, cloud,’” scoffed Bassi. “We don’t need to fill up our mouth with big words.” “Cloud” starts whenever you have some part of your workflow, your data creation, outside your desktop, he clarified. “We don’t believe that cloud means you run everything in the browser.”

According to Peter Rucinski, director of product portfolio management for SolidWorks desktop products, not many customers are asking for “CAD in the cloud” in particular, but they are asking for flexibility. “They are asking for anytime, anywhere … and SolidWorks Online gives you that flexibility,” he said.

The definition of “online” functionality is coming across with already existing marketing dispute about cloud between Autodesk’s and Onshape. Cloud is vitally important for both Autodesk and Onshape. Therefore, Carl Bass and Jon Hirschtick are in agreement about future of CAD and the cloud. But, for the moment, I can see some disagreement related to technological approach taken by Onshape and Autodesk.

The best way to get into that is to read read SolidSmack’s parallel interview with Jon Hirschtick and Carl Bass. I can see an acknowledgement of cloud. But I can read some marketing controversy at the same time. Carl addresses it in the following passage with the “cloud” as a key word:

Carl – We’ve been saying for awhile that there are two benefits the cloud brings: first, it gives you virtually unlimited amounts of computing, which is critical when you’re talking about solving real engineering problems, specifically simulation, rendering, CAM and even generative design. And secondly, it serves as the central point for sharing, collaborating and managing data projects—critical for distributed teams and those working across the supply chain. Fusion 360 was imagined for this new world, and because it’s built on the cloud, it will be able to easily evolve over time as our customers’ needs change and all the various platforms they use improve.

You can see a different marketing approach taken by Jon which brings “full-cloud” marketing notion based on the technology to run Onshape in a browser.

Full-cloud has been a great new strategy for improving reliability. Because desktop and semi-cloud systems rely on installed CAD software, bugs cause crashes and data loss. Our full-cloud system is distributed across many servers and has no crash-prone installed software — so even when we have bugs they never result in any interruption or loss of work. This improved reliability from our full-cloud architecture has been astounding to users who suffered from typical installed software crashes.

What is my conclusion? Vendors are trying to find a way to market technologies and products in a best ways they can. It resulted in some marketing controversy. I think we will live in a “cloud CAD” marketing limbo for some time now. What is more important is technology and functionality developed by all vendors – Autodesk, Dassault Systems and Onshape. Al Dean of Develop3D made an interesting prediction earlier this year about cloud CAD technologies (read full article here):

Eventually, Fusion will be available via the browser (I’d put a fiver on that being before the end of the year). DS’ next generation SolidWorks products will get better and more accessible. Though strangely, this is the unknown in the calculations as DS is reluctant to talk about the whole thing, presumably to protect its dominance with SolidWorks.

And hopefully, Onshape will have a way of working when you’re offline, as well as internet connected. Finally, I’d hope that DS is much more open about getting its customer’s access to the tools it is developing . The excuse that “They’re using our resources so they should pay” simply won’t cut it as these tools need to be played with, discovered and explored. At the moment, they’re not getting the exposure that they deserve — leaving a whole new market open to Autodesk and Onshape.

So technologies and functions will evolve. Meantime it is very important to demystify cloud CAD marketing and explain the meaning of technologies and product functions to customers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Cloud storage “race to zero” will help to create new type of CAD & PLM solutions

October 8, 2015


Did you pay attention what happened to cloud storage? I’m sure you did. The cost is racing to zero. You can get basically any storage size you want today. Even more, cloud giants like Google and Apple are promoting additional services with unlimited storage capacities.

Cloud giants are building their businesses on top of free cloud storage businesses. The following article by TechCrunch can give you a short explanation about that – The race to zero is awesome. Here is my favorite passage:

In cloud storage, the large players are working to build apps on top of their storage stack, so that they can have a unique value proposition when the price of storage itself finally reaches nil. In cloud computing, it could be that the value add that the large players will use to compete will be their app environment. If you build for, say, Google’s app ecosystem, your cloud compute might be free. If Google’s app ecosystem is the best, you’ll want to work over there, but you wouldn’t if Google didn’t offer competitively priced cloud computing; smaller players could use that to their advantage, and potentially hem in on Google’s business. So compute prices would be pretty uniform across the industry, falling in near unison. That is, of course, precisely what we have seen with cloud storage prices.

You may ask how does it connect to CAD and PLM? Here is the thing- I think there is a disruptive play in creating applications and business models. It will result in changing of fundamental functional and business behaviors. Free storage is convenient – many of us are using free storage to keep our information. It is accessible and reliable. It is getting better in terms of security.

In my earlier article last week, I’ve been talking about "unicorns" – startup companies valued by private investors for $1B and more. Engineering community got its own unicorn – Onshape. The interesting aspect of Onshape is a new business model – you can use Onshape for free if you agree to limit the number of projects to ten (as I’m writing this article, but the original number when Onshape just released their beta was five). Another important aspect of Onshape functionality is product data management. Onshape keeps the history of all updates and allows you to back to any point in a history of your CAD models. In my view, this is an example of how to combine a desired business functionality with free storage.

I can see a direct correlation between cost and new technologies. The scale and ability to grow elastically can be a game changer for CAD and PLM technologies to grow faster and cost less than before. Another place where we can see a significant growth these days is IoT and hardware development. The cost of hardware components is going down. The cost of prototyping using 3D printing and other online services is going down tool. The result – a growing number of hardware companies and manufacturing services. It will demand new type of software tools – cloud, agile and cost-effective.

What is my conclusion? Storage is an essential component in business. In my view, Onshape is just first example in a row of CAD / PLM companies building solutions on top of cloud platforms. Two PLM examples – Autodesk PLM360 and Arena solutions. Both products are only available as cloud SaaS services which allows to optimize it for cloud infrastructure. Free cloud storage can become disruptive platform to build cloud solutions that can grow and adapt elastically to the demand of users. It brings huge potential to develop new solutions we never seen before. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sweet Dreams about Product Innovation Platforms

October 5, 2015


Everyone likes innovation. It gives you good feeling and brings the whole power of imagination into your brain. If you Google “innovation”, you can find so many interesting things. For example, famous quotes from Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and others about innovation. Navigate here to read more. My favorite quote is the following one:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [A. Einstein]

Switch gears into engineering, manufacturing, product lifecycle management and… product innovation platforms. I found the last one emerged as a new buzzword of trend in PLM visionary marketing.

Few months ago, Engineering.com posted a TV report by Verdi Ogewell –Product Innovation Platform: Plug’n’play in next generation PLM – TV-report. It brings voice from PLM analysts from Gartner, CIMdata and others about the need to adopt a new thinking and new type of IT platforms – “Product Innovation Platforms”. The new platform vision supposed to break company data silos and based on system design and holistic governance. The following picture of Innovation Platform was captured by Engineering.com from Gartner presentation


I found Gartner’s Marc Halpern presentation about “Product Innovation Platform”. According to the presentation, Product Innovation Platforms is more than today’s design and PLM software.


Here you can see list of candidates to become such a platform (according to Gartner)


The adoption of “product innovation platform” marketing is growing. Below you can see few pictures I captured during past conferences and websites. It is a clear indication – marketing is up to the speed with adoption of “product innovation platforms”.

Autodesk PLM vision.


Dassault Systems SolidWorks


Siemens PLM


What is my conclusion? I found “Product Innovation Platform” buzz misleading. I can see a point of innovation. Show me somebody who doesn’t want to innovate. However, things such as community, discovery, reuse, accessibility and others are more desired characteristics of products rather than something that can be combined into a single “platform”. While dreams about product innovation are sweet, the actual definition about future product development platform remains open. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

It takes XX months to implement PLM. Can we fix it?

October 1, 2015


I was attending Aras Innovator Software-as-a-Service – a new PLM cloud offering of T-Systems webinar yesterday. If you are in Europe, Aras / T-Systems can be an alternative to installing PLM servers in your organization. I captured the following data point – it takes ~1 day to get Aras cloud instance up and running when you’re implementing PLM. I believed the number is a bit on a high side (compared to many other SaaS services in our consumer and business life). However, I’ve got the following comment from my long time blogging buddy – Jos Voskui @josvoskuil: and it takes xx months to adapt the business processes and motivate the people ?


That comment reminded me the article I posted one year ago – What cloud PLM cannot do for you?. Actually, Jos is spot on – implementation is the hardest part of the overall process to introduce PLM to the any organization. It made me think again about PLM implementation and organizational challenges.

PLM today is strongly associated with change. The value proposition of PLM was built on company transformation and improvement. Change is really hard for companies and it is not always possible. Company legacy data, established processes, existing technologies, politics – this is a reality of every PLM implementation.

Is there a better way to implement PLM? Very often, it comes to the point of discussion about company business processes as a competitive advantages to win a market.

One of the reasons companies stay in business in the competitive environment is because they built processes, that provide them with competitive advantage or differentiation. Usually companies have business processes that can be optimized or made more efficient by available technologies, but that is different from complete process re-engineering. At the same time, technologies can offer some approaches that would change company business processes business processes in a fundamental way.

Is it possible to capture business processes used by organization instead of introducing an organization change? For a long period of time, it was considered by many companies as the most complicated task. Usually it wasn’t about technology and products, but was mostly about sales strategy and technological partnership between industrial companies and PLM vendors. But such approach cannot scale – hence we are here with a complexity of PLM adoption by many organization.

Flexibility is one of the most demanded technological advantages that can help to adapt PLM products during to implementation and capture existing business processes. Usually, it is presented by PLM vendors as a differentiation. In the example below you can see how Aras does it – Aras adapts to your business, not other way around.


While I agree completely with Aras’ message, I’d love to see more examples how Aras Innovator can be adapted to existing business processes.

What is my conclusion? The change is hard for every organization. Current PLM implementation approach makes implementation as hard as every change. That’s why implementation can take XX months and fail. Is there a better way? For the last few months I’ve heard about several approaches to make implementation easier. The traditional approach is to provide PLM system with predefined characteristics tailored for specific industry and segment – so called OOTB (out of the box). Cloud PLM / SaaS approach is a combination of cloud advantages with better administration and configuration user experience (I’ve heard about it from Autodesk PLM360 team). Super flexible PLM platforms adapting to company business processes can be another way (Aras message above). Is there another way? Who knows… What is clear to me is that PLM implementation is one of the major inhibitors for a broader PLM adoption. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


PLM vendors and multiple IoT platforms

September 15, 2015


How are you doing this morning? About joining IoT world and create (or buy) IoT platform? You are not alone, by the way. Just two weeks ago, I mentioned Autodesk/SeeControl acquisition in my article "How IoT can eclipse and outcompete PLM vendors".

Earlier this morning, the big news coming from Dreamforce 2015 conference – Salesforce is jumping into IoT bandwagon and announced Salesforce Thunder. I picked few articles from endless list of publication already available about Salesforce/IoT. Here is my favorite short explanation about Salesforce Thunder:

The platform will collect data from connected sensors, mobile devices, social networks, wearables and cloud technologies and will be powered by a new events processing engine called Thunder. Thunder is the massively scalable events processor while IoT Cloud is the user interface built on top of the information it provides. Salesforce plans to release the product in trial for in early 2016 and make it generally available later in the year.

ComputerWorld article brings few interesting examples of companies making early testing of Salesforce Thunder. Read the following passage about two use cases from Emerson climate and Hexagon-Metrology.:

Wanting to go one-up on Next, Emerson climate used the platform to connect thermostats for both commercial and domestic settings. Emerson used the sensor data to generate insights into problem identification, preventative maintenance, proactive alerting, and customer life cycle management.

Hexagon-Metrology, a global manufacturing company headquartered in London, used the IoT platform to monitor real-time data feeds from laboratory and production line machinery. They used this data to identify catastrophic event and combined the insights with a real-time manager information system to send notifications of these events directly to the person responsible.

Both examples are coming from "manufacturing" space. The use cases mentioned by Salesforce are very similar to those I’ve heard earlier from PLM IoT presentations – machine monitoring and predictive maintenance. Which made me think that a competition for customer IoT mind have started.

Does it mean Autodesk, Siemens PLM, PTC and other PLM IoT visionary will be competing with Salesforce Thunder? This is a good question to ask. And the competition will have two trajectories – customer vision and data infrastructure. Another example from the same ComputerWorld article shows you a potential competitive scenario based on Microsoft use case. Microsoft is testing Salesforce Thunder to get information from Office product logs, alongside with point of sale information and customer support data in order to provide a complete picture of customer and product. It reminded me Dell use case presented at Siemens PLM Analyst event last week.

What is my conclusion? IoT is getting crowded by large and small companies. In my view, IoT buzz is dead to be used to sell PLM connected solutions. PLM vendors should think how to develop differentiation solution and technologies that will distant PLM IoT initiatives from a broad range of opportunities and products that will be coming to customers from multiple vendors. This is a note to PLM strategist. It is not too late, but you better move fast. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Autodesk PLM360 and cloud PDM trajectories

September 3, 2015


I’m slowly digesting information from Accelerate 2015 – Autodesk PLM360 event that took place in Boston earlier this week. If you missed that, try to catch up by searching for #XLR8PLM on twitter. Although, most of sessions at the even were dedicated to customers and partners, the last keynote presented by Jared Sund, Autodesk Sr. Product Manager – Autodesk PLM360 Sneak Peek – provided a good portion of information about latest PLM360 development.

One of the topics that caught my special attention was cloud PDM. Those of you following my blog regularly won’t be surprised – cloud PDM is fascinating and important topic. Despite the fast development of cloud technologies, majority of cloud enterprise applications are running in a browser and have no or very little dependencies on files. Opposite to that, engineering environment is different and significant portion of design these days is still done by desktop CAD software.

You might recall My first take on Autodesk PLM360 system and technology. The original PLM360 incarnation excluded CAD data management. My first take to articulate the scope of PLM360 back in 2012 was: PLM360 = PLM + Cloud – CAD Data Management.

However, things are changing. Last year, at Accelerate 2014, we’ve seen a presentation and demo of how Autodesk is planning to solve a problem of managing CAD data in the cloud – Autodesk early preview of cloud (PDM) document management.

Cloud PDM vision and implementation becomes even more mature. In my view, it is an important element behind capabilities of Autodesk products to handle CAD data. It empowers ADSK Cloud by providing “first CAD data management (PDM) in the cloud“.




The following slides can give you an update about Autodesk CAD data management in the cloud, examples of Fusion360 PDM functions and CAD data management preview in A360 and PLM360.




What is my conclusion? CAD data represents one of the most important sources of information about products. Design systems are transforming engineering vision and ideas into reality. It is important to plug-in CAD and related design data into the overall product lifecycle. So, to have future cloud PDM environment tightly integrated with PLM360, Fusion360 and A360 is a very good news for users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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