How Fusion360 and Onshape are solving fundamental CAD collaboration problem

June 24, 2015

3d-puzzle-design-collaboration

For many years, design collaboration and change management was an ultimate requirement for PDM tools. To manage revision history, share data in the team and apply changes made by different team members was a dream for many users. I’ve seen many attempts to solve this problem by PDM developers with questionable results. The challenge for PDM system was to connect two islands of data – CAD files and PDM database. More successful implementations in this space are belonging to CAD/PDM bundles provided by a single vendor in the situation when both CAD file structure and PDM data is controlled by a single tool.

Cloud CAD technologies are breaking the barrier of existing CAD/PDM bundles by introducing embedded PDM functionality as part of CAD tools. You probably remember my earlier post – Cloud CAD will have to solve PDM problem first. Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape are two cloud CAD products today that are supposed to turn design collaboration dream into reality. Earlier in my blog I explained why I think Autodesk and Onshape disagree about cloud technology and focus. There are differences in data management approaches, offline mode support and application technologies used by both vendors. But, at the same time, it is very interesting to compare how both products are solving similar problems.

Autodesk Fusion360 blog – June product update review by keqingsong speaks about functionality added to Fusion360 to support distributed design and allows collaboration in distributed teams.

fusion360-distributed-design

The following passage can give you a good description of what means distributed design for Fusion360 including usage of reference geometry and specific version inside of the project. What is interesting is how Fusion360 holds top down relationships between different elements of the project.

This release lays the foundation for distributed designs that will allow for future enhancements. In this update, you will able to insert referenced geometry that is part of the same project. Models outside of the project you are working must be moved or copied to your current project before they can be referenced. When a referenced model is inserted into another model, a reference image appears before the name identifying which components are being referenced.

A “component is out-of-date” notification will appear when a referenced part is updated. You will then have a choice to update and receive the change or keep the current version in your model. Simply right click on the referenced component and select “Get latest”. This intended workflow allows for designs that are in production to reference one version of a model while other versions are being created for a future design. If a component is inside a model that is referenced by another model you must update the sub model first, save it, and then go to the top level and update.

At the same time, my attention was caught by Onshape blog – Under the Hood: How Collaboration Works in Onshape by Ilya Baran gives you a deep insight on how Onshape is managing changes by introducing a concept of "microrevisions".

onshape-microversions

The following passage is explaining how microversions technique applies into distributed environment with multiple users.

For a given Part Studio, at each point in time, the definition is stored as an eternal, immutable object that we internally call a microversion. Whenever the user changes the Part Studio definition, (e.g., edits an extrude length, renames a part, or drags a sketch), we do not change an existing microversion, but create a new one to represent this new definition. The new microversion stores a reference to the previous (parent) microversion and the actual definition change. In this way, we store the entire evolution of the Document: this is accessible to the user as the Document history, allowing the user to reliably view and restore any prior state of an Onshape Document.

These definition changes are designed to be very robust: a change stored in a microversion is intended to apply to the parent microversion, but could be applied to a different one. For instance, if the change is “change the depth of Extrude 1 to 4 in,” as long as the original feature exists (identified using an internal id, so it can be renamed), this change can be applied. As a result, changes coming simultaneously from multiple collaborators can simply be applied to the latest microversion without interfering with each other. Traditional CAD systems based on saving an ever-changing memory state into files cannot do this, even if run on a remote server or with a PDM system attached: the data itself has to be collaborative.

What is my conclusion? Fusion360 and Onshape are trying to solve the problem of design collaboration. Both systems are leveraging cloud data management backend (Autodesk A360 and Onshape) to create robust mechanism to manage data, changes and relationships between design components and projects. The advantage of cloud architecture is that all "implementation mechanics" will be hidden from end users, which is absolutely great news. At the same time, it would be interesting to see how robust these approaches for use cases where Fusion360 and Onshape will have to manage CAD data coming from other CAD systems. To avoid "double PDM tax" is a challenge both systems will have to deal with. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


PLM + ERP = cloud… what?

June 9, 2015

cloud-plm-erp-and-what

Enterprise resource planning is well established domain for many years. ERP in manufacturing made a very long history of transformation from early days of MRP and MRP II and it is usually a suite of integrated applications used to store data from multiple activities – inventory, product planning, manufacturing, service delivery, sales, etc. For many manufacturing companies, ERP is a fundamental element company use to manage business on daily basis.

Product lifecycle management originally came out engineering activities and management of engineering data – CAD files, engineering bill of materials and later on focused on product development processes and product innovation.

The relationships between PLM and ERP aren’t simple. While both PLM and ERP systems are complementary as a vision, in practice both are very competitive when it comes to customer budgets and controlling specific element of customer information – parts, bill of materials, etc. You might remember my very old blog post – The ugly truth about PLM and ERP monkey volleyball. PLM and ERP are clearly separated by a common bill of materials. BoM is a centerpiece of product development and manufacturing data and it sits accurately between PLM and ERP occupying minds of sales and consulting providers and advisers from both domains.

The increased complexity of products combined with even more increased complexity of manufacturing processes and business relationships often put both ERP and PLM on the line for streamlining business processes, simplifying data integration and optimizing product cost. In my view, the future of manufacturing will depends on solving old PLM / ERP integration problems. Old siloed enterprise models used data ownership as one of the fundamental models. To own data and allow access in a silo (such as PLM, ERP or MES) was one of the first priorities. Today and tomorrow the speed of communication will be more important. To make collaboration and communication fast will be a criteria for future models to survive.

Cloud technologies are restructuring existing software domains and changing established business relationships. It happened in many industries. Will cloud become a force to change an established status quo between PLM and ERP businesses?

Diginomica article – Autodesk, NetSuite – chaos theory in action? put some lights on a trajectory of business between NetSuite – a leading cloud ERP vendor and PLM360 new cloud PLM product business established by Autodesk few years ago. The article has a some marketing and promotion flavor speaking about expanding of Autodesk PLM business. Also, author disclosed that Diginomica is a premier NetSuite service provider. However, NetSuite and PLM360 can give you an interesting perspective on new relationships between PLM and ERP in the cloud.

One of the imponderables about working with any cloud delivered service is just what it might add to an established business that could not have been predicted or foreseen. The combination of an established business, with well-defined product families, can still find itself having new business opportunities thrust upon it in a quite chaotic manner by its association with a cloud services provider.

There is, of course, an obvious complementary fit between a CAD toolset and an ERP system – one manages the design of something and the other manages its appearance as a reality. So Autodesk had spent some time talking to other ERP vendors about potential partnerships. But the company had realized that none of them were the right fit.

The company realized that what they were looking for was a cloud component and it was Netsuite’s cloud focus that fitted them best. According to Locklin the fit was good enough from the onset that the two companies were soon talking about a close alliance rather than just a loose relationship.

Traditionally, integration between PLM and ERP is a very painful process. One of the aspects of complexity can be attributed to differences between PLM and ERP technologies and APIs. Cloud cannot solve the complexity of PLM/ERP integration – it is still hard to make it happen. But, cloud technologies can simplify the integration process by establishing common technological grounds for companies creating business on top of PLM-ERP integrations. Jitterbit a company both NetSuite and Autodesk are partnering to integrate PLM360 and NetSuite. Jitterbit is a software outfit built specifically to integrate cloud applications.

Having worked with it as a core part of the Autodesk partnership, the relationship has now spread to NetSuite, which has also formed its own partnership with Jitterbit. It is now being used to provide NetSuite users with connections to over 250 applications. This was formally launched at the recent SuiteWorld conference in San Jose.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is changing businesses and product boundaries. The traditional boundaries of CAD, PDM, PLM and ERP business suites were created by many years of selling on premise products using established partner channels. Cloud removes barriers between applications makes it more transparent. What about business? Will cloud remove barriers between PLM and ERP? Will it create a more granular set of applications provided by multiple software vendors and orchestrated by ERP service providers? The time is to change a traditional marriage relationships between PLM and ERP that I can see conflicting in many ways. Are we going to see Cloud (PLM+ERP) product offering soon? I’m not sure about that, but changes are clearly coming to manufacturing domain. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM, Upgrades and Competition

June 1, 2015

plm-competition-and-upgrades

Traditional PLM wisdom says to buy PLM system is a complex process. Once you decided for a specific platform or technology, it will be very hard to change or replace with something else. I’ve been skimming social network news this morning The following tweet from @jonathanpscott caught my attention – “More details on the #ENOVIA #SmarTeam User Group meeting in OH next week ht.ly/NzuwE #PLM“. I’ve been involved into SmarTeam development many years ago and I’m aware Dassault System is still supporting the system. However, the following message from the agenda – “ENOVIA SmarTeam – a safe place to be”, increased my curiosity up even more. Future in the agenda you can see topics related to SmarTeam migration and co-existence.

It made me think about lifecycle of PLM systems and implementation more. What is the average cycle time for PLM implementation? How often companies are replacing PLM systems and what does it mean for a company in terms of effort, planning, operation and support?

Earlier this month I came across Aras Corp. materials about “resilient PLM”. If you haven’t heard about this new PLM buzz, navigate to the following link to read more. The term was coined by Aras to explain how Aras Innovator’s technology can withstand multiple upgrades and changes. Peter Schroer, Aras CEO is explaining about resilient PLM in the following video. Pay attention to the following part of the video explaining how Aras customers successfully moved between different versions of Aras on different databases – Postgress, Oracle, Microsoft SQL for the last 15 years.

Cloud technologies is another way to solve the problem of upgrades. Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity and Brian Roepke of Autodesk are discussing the advantages of cloud PLM. Watch the following video from 6:05 when Brian speaks about upgrades and revision lock. The upgrade sometimes even more expensive than initial implementation. According to Brian Roepke, cloud PLM technologies are solving the problem of upgrades and migrations in traditional PLM implementations.

Migration of PLM solutions can be significant driver in fundamental strategic decisions manufacturing companies are taking. Earlier last week Siemens PLM announced about the successful completion of PLM2015 project and move from CATIA to NX. Daimler’s decision was heavily influenced by the preference not to move between two PLM systems (Teamcenter and ENOVIA). Read about it in Schnitgercorp blog Reaching that one customer in a PLMish landscape. Here is the passage, which explains the reason:

Daimler‘s decision to move from CATIA to NX, huge as it was, was ultimately made by a team that weighed the benefits and risks in a more limited context than the overall Siemens portfolio. As I understand it, in the end it was simple: Daimler had based many business processes on its Teamcenter implementation; CATIA V6 requires ENOVIA, so Daimler would have had to build links between ENOVIA and Teamcenter to move forward with Dassault Systemes. That was more complicated, to Daimler, than migrating 235,000 “CAD objects” and retraining 6,000 people.

What is my conclusion? PLM upgrade or migration is sensitive and complicated process. It requires a lot of resources and can be very costly. In the current state of manufacturing and PLM technology customers are looking how to insure many years of operation once they implemented the system. However, business is changing and the need to be flexible is striking back as a conflicting requirement. Combined together it brings a very interesting flavor into PLM competition. The ability to implement PLM system and upgrade an existing (often outdated) PLM implementation becomes a key feature in the future competitiveness of PLM system. It is equally important for cloud and non-cloud implementations. I think the PLM vendor and technology capable to do so can gain a lot of traction in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 



How much does it cost to manage CAD data?

May 14, 2015

cad-free-pdm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg


Onshape quietly developed “Google Drive for CAD”

May 11, 2015

onshape-vision

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

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

Onshape cloud storage and collaboration

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

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

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

1-cloud-storage-tool2-collaborate-with-vendors3-design-review-tool4-increase-access-nocad

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

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

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

What products Onshape is competing with?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg


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


Cloud CAD can solve hardest PDM problem

April 3, 2015

cloud-data-management

Document management is hard if you do it manually. To manage versions of documents requires you to follow some rules or naming conventions. I remember one of my first lessons in configuration management many years ago. It was about how to use file names in versions. Simple rule for starters – never ever use words “last” or “final” in names, otherwise (guess what) all you versions will be “last” of “final”.

To manage versions of CAD files is harder than manage Word documents. For many engineering organizations, it was the main reasons to bring PDM tool. I can tell you endless stories about people spending days of work because overwriting the deleted version or companies losing weeks of work trying to restore project baseline in their communication with subcontractors.

Unfortunately, to manage CAD files using PDM is a hard job too. CAD projects are combining multiple files. These files are interconnected and it is hard sometimes to resolve the complexity of these connections together with management of proper versions. The main reason for that was related to the need to keep multiple files in some location on your computer (usually called workspace) and switch between these files in order to get a desired version of your project with right parts and sub-assemblies.

Here are some good news, in my view. Cloud and more specifically cloud CAD systems can finally solve hardest PDM problem. The main reason for that – cloud CAD system should build a solid data management foundation to manage CAD data in the cloud. So, it will fix a broken link between CAD files saved on your computer and PDM storage.

The main outcome of cloud CAD data management is the ability to manage versions and merge branches design. In my view, this is a functionality CAD / PDM users dreamed for years. I remember many requests to support the ability of branching revisions and applying changes done by two engineers together.

In the past I speculated about future of CAD / PDM data management and how cloud can simplify management of design versions. You can read my old posts from 2010 – PDM and management of CAD files and Future CAD and Assembly version management. The technologies are getting mature and we can see some interesting results these days. I captured two recently published videos from Autodesk Fusion 360 and Onshape demonstrating how you can branch design, collaborate and merge results using cloud data management tools.

Autodesk Fusion 360

Onshape

What is my conclusion? Back in 2010, I was dreaming and speculating about “invisible CAD data management”. Fast forward in 2015 – it is a time to see changes in new products. Cloud technologies are reshaping traditional boundaries of engineering tools. For many years, CAD and PDM tools were separate. Integration between CAD and PDM was complex and painful. Cloud allows us to focus on user experience and hide data management form users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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