How to transform old CAD-PDM integration paradigms

January 23, 2015

cloud-pdm-paradigm

Integration of CAD and PDM is a field with long history of battles, innovation and failures for the last 15-20 years. You can hardly undervalue the importance of integration between CAD and data management tools. For some time in the past CAD and PDM were separate systems. Engineers had to switch from CAD to PDM to perform specific tasks related to data management functions. To integrate PDM tools inside CAD was one of the greatest ideas of 1990s, which improved significantly what we call today “user experience”.

However, the complexity of data management interfaces was always something that made engineers uncomfortable. Another innovative approach that was introduced in the field of integration between CAD and PDM was to embed PDM tools into File Explorer user interface. One of the companies that did it back in 2000s was Conisio (later SolidWorks Enterprise PDM). The idea got lot of traction and allowed to engineers to work with a familiar file based interface while in fact using PDM tools.

People are hard. Especially, when it comes to adopting of new paradigms. Dassault System blog SOLIDWORKS and PLM: No Fear Required brings an interesting perspective on integration between ENOVIA PLM and SolidWorks.

3DEXPERIENCE platform offers a fresh approach to this problem. Recognizing that our existing Enterprise PDM solution has been greatly accepted by the design community, the same R&D group has designed a new product that offers the usability of EPDM but actually stores the data in a broader and more capable PLM solution. The result is the SOLIDWORKS Collaborative Innovation Connector, a product that works and acts much like a workgroup solution would but gives the designer just enough access to the PLM functionality to innovate their processes beyond what they can do today in a PDM environment.

The following video is one of the confirmation for that. You can see how ENOVIA PLM traditional web interface is morphing to provide File-Explorer user experience for SolidWorks users. What I found specifically interesting is that you can hardly distinguish between ENOVIA PLM and SolidWorks EPDM, which has very similar user experience for both file explorer and SolidWorks UI.

The video about ENOVIA SolidWorks integration made me think about what can be a new PDM paradigm as we move forward into cloud future. I’d like to bring few references to new products and companies in that space – GrabCAD, Autodesk Fusion360 and Onshape.

Fusion360

At recent Autodesk University in Las Vegas, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass presented the evolution of Fusion360 and its connection with cloud services such as Autodesk A360. According to Carl Bass, you can think about Fusion is a GitHub for engineers. Combined with A360, Fusion is a full digital re-imagination of how designers and engineers will collaborate – online and social. What is important to understand is that A360 provides data and collaboration backbone for Fusion360, so engineers are not facing file-based operations like in traditional desktop CAD tools.

carl-bass-fusion-360-au2014-2

Onshape

Onshape is a new company re-imagining CAD for Google era. Large group of Onshape founding team is coming from SolidWorks. Last week, Onshape started to blog. One of the things I captured from Onshape blog is their claim to rethink PDM role and appearance for cloud CAD. You can read some of my thoughts here – Future CAD won’t require PDM. Here is quote from Onshape blog:

on-shape-world-changed

We tried with traditional PDM, but fundamentally the architecture of copying files around, to and from servers and desktops, is just not a good basis for solving version control and collaboration problems. We think we have a better way to solve the problems, and no PDM system is needed.” Mac, Windows, phone or tablet. No PDM system needed. The files stay in one place. Different UI look. Now those sound like interesting and wonderful things. We’ll continue to anxiously anticipate what they have planned and what you have to say about it.

GrabCAD

GrabCAD workbench is another system that introducing a different experience by merging cloud and file-based data management operations. GrabCAD didn’t develop CAD system as it was predicted by some CAD industry insiders. However, GrabCAD Workbench is a PDM system on the cloud that can remind you some elements of Dropbox combined with CAD viewer and ability to control file revisions.

grabcad-workbench

What is my conclusion? Existing paradigms are hard to change. In my view, engineers are one of the most innovative groups of people. However, when it comes to their own tools, engineers are very conservative. You can easy expect the following vision for data management from an engineer – “I want to work with my designs (files), please leave me alone and stop selling me PDM tools”. However, here is the thing – collaboration can make a difference. The integration of data management and collaboration can provide a significant advantage to engineers in a modern mobile and distributed environment. This is a key thing, in my view. Cloud and mobile collaboration will change CAD /PDM integration paradigm in the future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Why today’s CAD & PLM tools won’t become future platforms?

January 12, 2015

yesterdays-tools-are-failing-todays-engineers

PLM business and software vendors are transforming. Manufacturing companies are looking for new type of solutions that can give a faster ROI as well as become a better place for engineering and manufacturing innovation. The dissatisfaction of customers about slow ROI and low value proposition is growing. Back in 2012 I was listening to Boeing presentation – Reaching for the value of PLM at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. You can read my notes in the old blog post – PLM Innovation: Who will provide PLM to Boeing in 2015. I hope to hear more about new PLM trends at upcoming PLM Innovation congress in Dusseldorf next month and later this year at PI Americas in Boston in November 2015.

Earlier last year I posted – Traditional PLM have reached their limits. My main point was around ability to PLM platform to support a continues pipeline of business solutions in current business environment. Integration is one of the key inhibitors that preventing easy PLM implementation and deployment. However, from a broader perspective, existing PLM platforms were invented 10-20 years ago and vendors made only minor changes since then. In my view it means a lot in terms of changing paradigms of today’s business and computing environment and processes.

I found an interesting explanation about distribution nature of design in a recent blog by OnShape by Jon Hirschtick – Why we started from scratch (again) in the CAD business:

The Design World Has Changed – The way that design and manufacturing teams work together has dramatically changed. Teams that used to be under one roof are now fragmented and globally distributed. And teams are also changing faster, with people coming on and off projects all the time.

on-shape-website

Another provoking statement was made by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass at few conferences last year – Why yesterday’s tools are failing today’s engineers”. He speaks abut inefficient tools and a conflict of paradigms. You can watch his presentation here:

carl-bass-why-yesterday-tools

My attention was caught by CIMdata post – Platformization: The Next Step in PLM’s Evolution by Peter Bilello. An article speaks about what future development can support PLM growth and, specifically, about the impact of circular economy in manufacturing. Here is an interesting passage:

So what should/will the PLM enabling innovation platforms of the future look like? In my opinion, these platform-centric solutions need to be reliable, robust, and boundaryless. Reliable solutions must be able to withstand multiple system upgrades and platform migrations. In turn, these robust solutions must be adaptable, maintainable, extensible, scalable, reconfigurable, compatible, and stable. And finally, these boundaryless solutions must be free of artificial limitations on functionality that are imposed by the marketplace segmentation of design and engineering systems with conventional architectures. Meeting these characteristics will be a tall order for many of today’s commercially available PLM solutions, but one that must be met for the future of PLM to be successful.

I specially liked a notion of boundaryless solution and conventional architecture. It hard to say what is behind, but I wanted to speculate and connect it one of my previous articles – the end of single PLM database architecture is coming. To me it make sense – the amount of data is growing, companies are getting even more distributed, distributed design nature becomes a norm.

What is my conclusion? Existing tools and platforms limitation can slow down engineers and companies to innovate. Desktop tools and existing database architectures are limiting ways to implement and use them for new innovative process. Future PLM platforms will re-think existing design, product data management and business process paradigms by making them distributed and boundaryless. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Future of design: how to connect physical and digital entities?

December 3, 2014

connect-physical-digital

Technology can help us to expand horizons of possible and impossible. I’ve been experiencing this expansion earlier today while watching AU2014 keynote session online while physically traveling to Denver, CO. Twitter and streaming video are quite efficient way to stay in touch with event virtually everywhere. If you missed AU live streaming earlier today, you can catch up on it in recording here.

Autodesk’s CEO Carl Bass was talking about changes computers bring in our lives and how it impacts engineers. He spoke about interaction between physical and digital worlds. Scott Sheppard summarized key points of Carl Bass speech here. I specially liked the following passage:

Computers and software are great tools, but only if the data they are computing is in the right form. When they know what to do, computers can do awesome things, but they are almost useless when we have problems we can’t communicate in terms they understand. Technology is the driving force behind the biggest changes in the future of how we design, engineer, and make things. There are two fundamental shifts in play: (1) The first is narrowing the gap between the physical and digital world — essentially what’s on the two sides of the screen; (2) The second big change is getting the computer to understand the relationships and interactions of the people and companies doing the work.In each case, our ability to represent the problem in the computer determines how well we can use the computer to solve it.

One of the key things I captured is related to understanding of relationships between physical and digital assets. This is where things are getting really interesting. This is also something that connected me to Jeff Kowalski’s story about design for live objects.

It made me think about how future design can be connected to real information we are capturing today online. Google is ahead of many other companies in building online knowledge base about the world we live in. It comes in variety of digital forms – maps, traffic, information about physical entities and many others. If I will try to connect Jeff’s example with self made bridge, I guess information about this bridge, city and traffic is already available on Google in different forms. So, how future design companies will create technologies with information that can be intertwined between digital and physical entities?

Google Knowledge Graph is one of the technological elements to represent a diverse set of information about physical and digital entities. I’ve been writing about it before. A new article caught my attention few weeks ago – Insightful Connections Between Entities on Google’s Knowledge Graph. Read the article and draw your conclusion. Here is the most interesting passage speaking about data connections:

The node in a data graph may represent an entity, such as a people, places, items, ideas, topics, abstract concepts, concrete elements, other things, or combinations of things. These entities in the graph may be related to each other by edges which connect them. Those may represent relationships between entities. For example, the data graph may have an entity that corresponds to the actor Tom Hanks and the data graph may also contain information about other entities such as movies that Tom Hanks and others have acted in.

google-data-graph-nodes-edges

Google Knowledge graph is not the only way to embrace connection in digital world. Facebook, LinkedIn and other web companies are focusing on building of information graphs about digital assets and physical entities. I’ve been touching it in my semantic enterprise graph post. Together with design and engineering information it can provide a view of future physical and digital universe.

What is my conclusion? The border between digital and physical entities is getting blurred. According to Carl Bass, in the future we will capture physical entities and re-use it for design of new products. We will capture experience of live object and build models to make analysis and improve them. It will require deep understanding and management of connections and relations to create a giant model of future hybrid universe of physical and digital world. Just my thoughts and thanks Autodesk for inspiration.

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m Autodesk employee. However, the views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own only and in no way represent the views, positions or opinions – expressed or implied – of my employer.


Social PLM: How to pull a trigger?

November 19, 2014

plm-social-trigger

In my yesterday blog, I shared some of my thoughts about “Facebook at Work” and potential impact on engineering and manufacturing software. It made me think again about all discussions and stories related to social software trend and social PLM.

Social was trending topic 3-4 years ago. Many new companies were founded back those days to realize the idea of “social enterprise”. No doubt it was heavily influenced by the large popularity of social networks and web. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many other companies supported that trend. In enterprise domains, companies like Yammer and few others made a successful swing by introducing their products in business domain.

CAD vendors reacted on social trend by introducing “social platforms” or “social products”. It was mix of new development (Dassault 3DSwYm) , partnerships with other vendors (Microsoft SharePoint – PTC Windchill Social Link) or technology acquisitions (Autodesk – Qontext). In my view, none of these products and technologies changed a way people used to work in organization. Vendors blamed engineers for anti-social behavior. Customers blamed vendors for non-intuitive user behavior, missed features and bad integration with engineering content.

I put some of my notes about why I think social PLM trend lost the opportunity: Why Engineers Don’t Like Company Private Social Networks? and Why Social PLM 1.0 failed? I guess,despite all attempts, email remains one of the most visible collaboration tool for most of engineering and manufacturing companies.

At the same time, I believe, it is a time to rethink ideas of how to bring social into business eco-system. This is not an easy task. Some of key elements can be – structured enterprise communication, integration with existing messaging and communication system and thinking about social in connection to task management.

I had a short tweeterstorm with Jim Brown yesterday, following my blog about “Facebook At Work”. Jim kind of dismissed my points about usefulness of Facebook as a business social tool. Jim stands behind his old article – What I Learned: We are not Going to Design an Airplane on Facebook!

@olegshilovitsky: Maybe @jim_techclarity will rethink his 5 years old statement about airplanes design on Facebook

@jim_techclarity: @olegshilovitsky No, not rethinking it. Re read the post and you will see my predictions are pretty spot on. This time, at least

@jim_techclarity: @olegshilovitsky There is a lot more low hanging fruit elsewhere. Easier to add social to PLM than PLM to social. Talk to you in 2019 ;-)

jimbrown-olegshilovitsky-tweetstorm-social-software

Most of the time, I’m in agreement with Jim. However, I disagree on his view on social software add-on role. We should not view “social” software as an addition to something else. This is a mistake that many enterprise software vendors did in the past few years. Social is a reflection of people behavior. I believe, this is a fundamental thing in what Facebook did – to emphasize the importance of “real person” identification in social network. All social networks before dismissed the importance of identification. Facebook made it as a core function and won. Of course, it doesn’t mean the same thing will work for social enterprise or PLM.

Facebook at Work is coming to capture attention of people during work time. Today, many places are banning Facebook as a destruction. I guess, Facebook wants to figure out how to offer social value for people during their work time. To me it means to crack “social behavior at work”.

What is my conclusion? The main point of “social” is not to become a nice addition to enterprise software to improve collaboration. Unfortunately, this is how most of enterprise software vendors (PLM included) understood it. Collaboration is important and existing PLM products need to focus how to improve user experience. But, social is not about that. Social is about “behavior” of people at work. Today, it is mostly around email and important business systems. Not much social. We don’t know how to pull the trigger of social software in a company. In order to do that, we need to think about “behavior”. We need to think how to make people addicted to business social function through the value it brings on everyday basis. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: Ian Ruotsala via photopin cc


PDM & PLM UI Makeup: new trend in user experience

November 12, 2014

old-UI

User experience is in focus these days. Slowly, but surely enterprise software companies are coming to the point of understanding how important is that. It is not about changing of colors and making buttons nicer. It is about how to get a major revamp in behavior of software or how often we call these days – user experience. I’ve been following this trend since my very early posts. I want to mention few of them you may consider to review again – PUI: Not PLM UI. Future User Experience and 5 NOs to make PLM usable. I want also to refer you to the article in UX MagazineOverhauling a UI Without Upsetting Current Users. My favorite passage is related to differences between aesthetic and functional improvements.

A redesigned UI that looks pretty but fails to deliver new value will not only disappoint new users but will also alienate existing, previously satisfied users, and the news of this failure will spread rapidly. Never make the mistake of thinking that a product’s aesthetic is the same as the product’s actual experience.

My attention was caught by SolidWorks blog speaking about redesigned web client for widely popular SolidWorks Enterprise PDM.

Web2 for SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM is a brand new web client for both desktop and mobile platforms. This new web client enables fast file searching and browsing, easy navigation, and access to all common functions like Where Used, Contains, Check-in and Check-out, and Change State. It is also easy to upload and download files for remote workers to interact with the vault and your design projects.

SolidWorks blog made think about actually a whole trend of UI redesigns for PDM / PLM products for the last year. I’ve made few Google searches and want to come with examples.

Autodesk Vault Thin (web) client’s new look was delivered as part of Autodesk Vault Professional 2014. Navigate here to get more info. The following description and video can give you an idea of that.

The new Autodesk Vault Thin Client 2014 has been completely redesigned to provide a superior experience when accessing a Vault through a web browser. The redesign includes Enhanced user interfaces, Customizable view functionalities, New BOM interface, and Enhanced report printing.

Earlier this year, Aras Corp came with new Aras Innovator 10 version delivering long awaited new web client. Navigate to the following link to get more information and read Aras press release. Here is a short snippet to summary UI changes.

The latest open release provides a new level of PLM platform scalability for enterprises with global supply chains, and introduces an HTML5 browser interface which redefines usability making PLM more accessible for business users. Aras Innovator 10 introduces an HTML5 browser interface with a clean, modern design. The release is technology focused with Firefox browser support, the item on our Roadmap that has received the most votes ever, and includes inputs from ECCO, GE, MAN and others.

Aras-10-UI

Another example came from recently announced update of Autodesk PLM360. Design & Motion blog post by Scott Moyse does a great job outlining UI changes:

When PLM 360 was launch in late February 2012, the web technology used within the user interface was circa 2008 & 2009. In web terms that’s quite old, although nothing like the 20-30 year old technology used by some of their competitors. As a result the Autodesk team believed they could do a lot better to redefine the User Experience. With these upcoming changes, the development team have leveraged the most modern HTML 5 & AngularJS web frameworks, to provide a rich speedy interface. The website now behaves much more like a desktop application with respect to response times from user interaction.

plm360-html5-UI

What is my conclusion? I guess nobody wants to work with application like you can see on the first picture above. PDM and PLM vendors are clearly recognized the trend towards improvements of user experience and user interface. It confirmed by multiple projects in that space and acknowledged by many customers. New generation of users is coming and the demand to deliver modern consumer level user experience in enterprise software tool is the reality of today. The danger here is to come with polished user interface without re-thinking actual product experience for end user. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit.


PLM Vendors and Tunnel Vision

November 11, 2014

plm-tunnel-vision

I’ve been following Dassault Systems 3DXforum this morning. Thanks for technology improvements these days you can be almost present at the events by combination of live streaming and social media communication. The first presentation by Bill Taylor, Fast Company editor struck me by mentioning of the idea of Tunnel Vision. I took a trip to Fast Company website. Navigate to the following link to read Six Ways to Prevent Corporate Tunnel Vision. In a nutshell, I can see tunnel vision as a sort of decease that keeps company in the eco-system of existing business boundaries. At the same time, business is getting so disruptive these days that focusing on a known boundaries, suppliers, partners and business models will crash you eventually. Here is my favorite passage:

Such upheaval is evident everywhere in the business world today. Did you know that big-box retailer Walmart now competes with Comcast, and Netflix for movie streaming on TVs? Or that a business-to-business network equipment giant Cisco now competes with Kodak and Sony for consumer camcorders? Most market incumbents stick with their current products, business models and industry for their entire existance, such that they don’t see opportunities to move—or the risk of new entrants. Such tunnel vision presents a tremendous opportunity for savvy executives looking outside their current base to grow revenue or maintain leadership.

It made me think about PLM vendors attempts to think out of the box by pushing boundaries and challenging current paradigms. If you had a chance to read my yesterday blog, you can see how Siemens PLM is pushing PLM-ERP boundary with the strategic objective to develop fully digital manufacturing and take over mBOM. The comparison of engineering and manufacturing performance with Google self-driving cars was pretty bold. At the same time, you see how Dassault System is innovating into multiple domains by pushing CAD file paradigms introducing “Zero file” strategy and, as I just learned this morning, very much focusing on experience. PTC is looking how to expand their horizons with IoT strategy and services. The last, but not least – Autodesk is focusing on cloud as a strategic differentiation in PLM.

PLM vendors are clearly coming to push existing PLM boundaries. I’ve been trying to map PLM vendors’ strategy to six ways to prevent tunnel vision – business models, encroachment, simplification, total customer, next wave, distribution. I think there are bits of these ways in everything PLM vendors are doing. However, I want to come back to the one of the slides I captured – Apple Lazarus Strategy.

apple-lazarus-strategy

Apple repeatedly outsmarted competitors by introducing revolutionary products in the domains of other companies by providing new experience, combining services and new design. PLM companies all have their strengths these days. However, in many situations, PLM implementations are all look very similar if go down to nuts and bolts of business.

What is my conclusion? PLM companies are innovating to change traditional boundaries of what we know about PLM. My hunch, we are still in a very beginning of PLM disruption. I want to bring Marc Andreessen’s talk about competition and market -“The common theory is that you want to be first to market, but actually you want to be last to market and close the door [on that industry] so no one can come after you“. So, from that standpoint, it is interesting to see who will become last to PLM market. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit


Cloud PDM hack with Google Drive and other tools

November 6, 2014

google-drive-app-launch

Earlier this week I talked about future of ubiquitous CAD cloud drives. My hunch CAD and other engineering software companies will be trying to use new cloud technologies to improve the way people collaborate on design. The question what tool to use for CAD file collaboration is not simple. I discussed it last year – Top 3 pros and cons to have a special CAD file sharing tool.

Engineering software vendors are trying to bring values such as collaborative viewing, redlining and even project collaboration. At the same time, companies focused on generic file sharing and collaboration are in a full swing to improve their mainstream solutions as well.

Some interesting news came from Google yesterday. Read Google blog post – Launch desktop applications from Google Drive in Chrome. The story is quite simple – Google is chasing Dropbox in the way how to make Google Drive even more transparent to work with desktop tools.

But here’s the catch: when it comes to browsers and installed applications working well together, they aren’t quite on the same page. To change that, today we’re launching a new extension for Chrome that lets you open files from Google Drive directly into a compatible application installed on your computer. This includes apps like advanced image and video editing software, accounting and tax programs, or 3D animation and design tools. So, no matter what you keep in Drive, using the web to access and manage files doesn’t mean you’re limited to using applications that only work in your browser.

Unfortunately, CAD files are not in the list of supported file types. I guess, it may change in the future. A transparent sync of files between cloud and local file storage can open a new opportunity and hack the way to simplify future cloud PDM solutions. Still, majority of tools used by engineers today are desktop tools.

One of the biggest challenge I can see here is speed of synchronization and work with multiple dependent files. It can create an opportunity for cloud PDM vendors to innovate. Some of these problems can be solved by software technologies – cloud PDM and Dropbox Streaming Sync. CAD vendors are looking how to innovate in cloud PDM as well. Example – Autodesk adds PDM functionality to PLM360. Alternatively, I can see some potential in hardware solutions to create virtual cloud file system. Here is one possible example of such solution – Panzura Global File System.

What is my conclusion? Cloud to desktop transparency is a big deal. There is no magic. If you want to use desktop tool you need to sync files. However, technology that can make it transparent can simplify user experience and make users unaware about actual location of files and the way files are going to be synchronized. It will allow to use existing CAD tools but and manage and collaborate using cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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