Future CAD won’t require PDM

January 13, 2015

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Let’s be honest. Engineers hate data management. This is something that stands between their engineering creativity and formal configuration control. Check-in/check-out are two most painful functions for CAD users when it comes together with PDM. I recall my very old blog from 2011 speaks about the notion of "invisible PDM". Navigate your browsers to PDM. Pre-configured? Painless? That was my conclusion back four years ago:

Engineers normally dislike PDM functions. They are trying to avoid it as much as possible. Therefore, PDM systems are not as popular when it comes to implementations. It requires time, cost and affect CAD functionality. However, the industry perception is that you need to have PDM to control your data. CAD vendors are trying to embed PDM functions into CAD packages and improve vertical integration between CAD and PDM packages. Can it be completely pre-configured and painless? I’m not sure. I think, the best PDM engineers can think about is the “invisible PDM”.

Solidsmack article about OnShape new CAD system put an interesting perspective on future PDM option for CAD:

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.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is changing paradigms and we are going to see a different user experience appears in engineering software – CAD, PDM and beyond. It can shift the way people are collaborating and eliminate the need for painless check-in/check-out functions that are moving files between servers and desktops. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit OnShape


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.

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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:

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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


What stops manufacturing from entering into DaaS bright future?

January 7, 2015

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There are lot of changes in manufacturing eco-system these days. You probably heard about many of them. Changes are coming as a result of many factors – physical production environment, IP ownership, cloud IT infrastructure, connected products, changes in demand model and mass customization.

The last one is interesting. The time when manufacturing was presented as a long conveyor making identical product is gone. Diversification and local markets have significant impact. Today manufacturing companies are looking how to discover and use variety of data sources to get right demand information, product requirements and connect directly with customers. Data has power and the ability to dig into data becomes very valuable.

As we go through the wave of end of the year blog summaries, my attention caught Design World publication – 7 Most Popular 3D CAD World Blog Posts of 2014 . I found one of them very interesting. Navigate your browser to read – Top Ten Tech Predictions for 2015. One of them speaks about DaaS – Data-as-a-Service will drive new big data supply chain. Here is the passage I captured:

Worldwide spending on big data-related software, hardware, and services will reach $125 billion. Rich media analytics (video, audio, and image) will emerge as an important driver of big data projects, tripling in size. 25% of top IT vendors will offer Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) as cloud platform and analytics vendors offer value-added information from commercial and open data sets. IoT will be the next critical focus for data/analytics services with 30% CAGR over the next five years, and in 2015 we will see a growing numbers of apps and competitors (e.g., Microsoft, Amazon, Baidu ) providing cognitive/machine learning solutions.

The prediction is very exciting. Future data services can help manufacturing companies leverage data to optimize production, measure demand and help manufacturing a diverse set of product for wide range of customers. However, here is a problem. I guess you are familiar with GIGO – Garbage in, Garbage out. When you deal with data, there is nothing more important then to have an access to an accurate and relevant data sets. Big data analytic software can revolutionize everything. But it requires data. At the same time, data is located in corporate databases, spreadsheets, drawings, email systems and many other data sources. To get these data up to the cloud, crunch it using modern big data clouds and make it actionable for decision processes is a big deal.

What is my conclusion? Data availability is a #1 priority to make DaaS work for manufacturing in coming years. The ability to collect right data from variety corporate sources, clean, classify, process and turn into action – this is a big challenge and opportunity for new type of manufacturing software in coming years. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: IvanWalsh.com via photopin cc


Mobile CAD and PLM development options

December 10, 2014

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Mobile PLM is one of the topics I’m following on my blog. You probably remember my post – How PLM vendors can find mobile moments. Today I want to speak about technological aspects of mobile development. For the last few years, mobile development took us into the world of multiple platforms and device compatibility. I posted about challenges of mobile and native web development in the past – Mobile PLM: Apps vs. Mobile Browsers? and Mobile PLM Native Apps Challenge.

If you think, mobile development is “native apps” now, there are some of good news on the horizon. ReadWrite article – What Google Has In Store For The Mobile Web brings few interesting data points about underline mobile development from Apple, Google and Microsoft. Article mentioned Apples WKWebView inclusion in iOS 8 as well as Microsoft’s WinRT. Google’s Chrome team is working to improve performance. If you want more technical details, the following article – The future of Web according to Google can give you deep insight. I found the following passage capturing the momentum well:

In other words, Google is about to bring the Web back to parity with native. In some ways, actually, it’s making the Web better than native, because the Web doesn’t have the same problem with app distribution that app stores have. As Google makes the Web a first-class citizen on mobile, there will be less cause to worry about Apple and Google duopolizing our newly mobile world.

One of the main aspect of to be in love with native mobile apps is offline. It is a huge factor and today native apps have an advantage here. However, it won’t stay that way for long time.

Offline is a big deal, it’s one of the most defining features of native apps vs. web in today’s climate. As Alex Russell put it in his talk: “It isn’t an app if it doesn’t run when you tap.” Once ServiceWorker lands [around the end of 2014], it’s only a short time later that we’ll see Push Notifications in the browser (they use ServiceWorker to coordinate). This will mean that, with a simple permission opt-in, a website will be able to notify you days, weeks, or months after you visit it. With the growing importance (and interactive nature) of notifications on mobile platforms, it’ll be great to see the web get to participate.

What is interesting that even today some iOS and Android apps are not purely native. Here is an interesting chart I captured from another ReadWrite article – HTML5 has a new best friend –and it is Apple, not Google.

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These mobile web news made me think again about what it can give to CAD and PLM developers in a near future. PLM vendors invested in mobile development and you have mobile app for almost every PLM today. It added lot of complexity to development team – getting back to web can be a good news for development and product managers working to align mobile and web features. Offline wasn’t supported for most of mobile app, so it was never a case. However, offline work can be a big deal, especially for CAD tools.

What is my conclusion? CAD and PLM development (as well as most of enterprise software) has longer lifecycle compared to consumer application. To cut development cost can be interesting option for engineering team. Users will have benefits of better alignment in functionality between mobile and web versions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How CAD and PLM vendors will compete with “Facebook at Work”

November 18, 2014

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Social software was hot topic in engineering software ecosystem for the last few years. The results are somewhat mixed. Start-up companies and well established CAD/PLM vendors learned by mistakes, some of them failed and some of them is still in process of developing new type of collaborative engineering software. I captured some of my thoughts about that here – Why Social 1.0 failed

One of the most famous messages of social software was to create “Facebook for XYZ”. Many companies tried to deliver this message in variety of forms in engineering software. The most impressive one was GrabCAD, which created a community of about 1.5M engineers sharing 3D CAD files. Even so, GrabCAD put their focus on development of cloud PDM software – to find a way to monetize. Some of my comments on what GrabCAD did are here – GrabCAD – from Facebook for engineers to PLM. GrabCAD is probably a company that unofficially can own the tag of “Facebook for engineer”. Google search is a good confirmation for that.

A very interesting news came from “original” Facebook. Earlier this week, Facebook leaked the information about Facebook’s intent to create so called “Facebook at Work”. Forbes article gives you some details about Upcoming Facebook at Work service will rival LinkedIn and Slack.

Facebook is preparing Facebook at Work, a service aimed at enterprise customers that will allow them to chat with colleagues and “collaborate over documents,” according to a new report in the Financial Times which cites anonymous sources.

Social business wasn’t an easy job for many companies. For the last few days, I see many speculations and reports about how easy (or not, actually) Facebook can capture a new business niche. Here is the article from ReadWrite – Why Facebook For Work Will Be A Hard Sell To Employers. This is my favorite passage:

Users will be able to chat with coworkers, collaborate on projects, and build catalogues of colleague’s contacts, with each of these services directly competing with Microsoft’s Yammer, Google’s Drive, and LinkedIn. All the services Facebook at Work will offer already exist. Slack, Google Drive, and LinkedIn already do these features well, and have the market for these respective services cornered. If Facebook at Work is going to have a chance of competing, it’ll need to extremely improve on its competitors’ services. And from the little we’ve seen of the service (with Facebook declining to comment), it’s hard to tell if Facebook for Work even has a chance.

“Facebook at Work” news made me think about what it means for engineering software ecosystem? First of all, it reminded me how is dangerous profession of industry analyst. It is still unclear how successful Facebook at Work is going to be, but Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity should be probably concerned about his 5 years old statement – We are not Going to Design an Airplane on Facebook!

All engineering vendors (CAD and PLM companies) just got a new mindshare competitor in everything that can be considered as social and collaboration. In my view it will be hard for Facebook to focus on “project collaboration” for design and engineering teams. The space is too narrow. At the same time, “social collaboration pond” is not as safe as it was before such a big fish as Facebook jumped into it.

My special attention caught by feature related to document sharing and collaboration. In my article – The path towards ubiquitous CAD cloud drive, I mentioned few examples of companies working on how to leverage cloud for CAD files storage and collaboration. Cloud file storage is an interesting place and I expect to see many changes in this domain in coming years. Every engineering company will have to think about pros and cons to have a special CAD files sharing tool. Facebook is just another behemoth convincing companies to store files on their servers and developing slick user experience to collaborate and share project information.

What is my conclusion? Facebook just captured a piece of attention for social project collaboration from everyone. “Facebook at Work” won’t compete directly with engineering software businesses. However, most probably, CAD and PLM vendors have to review their sales and marketing presentations. How to differentiate engineering collaboration software from Facebook? I will put security and CAD viewers on the top of my list of differentiators. Facebook won’t be able to change security perception overnight. Also, it will be challenging to develop 3D viewing solutions. Some specialized vendors can decide to jump and partner with Facebook about 3D CAD viewers. At the same time, there is one thing, which will challenge CAD and PLM vendors already tomorrow. Together with Google, LinkedIn and other web giants, Facebook will challenge engineering teams by setting even higher bar for project collaboration user experience. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: aldoaldoz via photopin cc


The path towards ubiquitous CAD cloud drive

November 4, 2014

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I’ve been talking about future of cloud file system and CAD data trajectories the other day on my blog. It goes back and connected to multiple discussions about future of file system. What will be future of file systems and file paradigm. Can we announce the death of file system? So, file system is dead, long live cloud file system. The cloud eco-system is developing fast and I wonder how CAD companies will keep up with the speed of changes, environment, technologies and adoption. One of the things is related to cloud storage. Navigate to one of my earlier posts to read more – CAD companies and cloud storage strategy. One of the main points – storage is a temporarily market.

It looks like CAD companies are certainly following the trend. Autodesk just recently released a completely refreshed version of Autodesk A360 Team version of project based collaboration tool. Navigate here and you learn more about how to share documents and cloud storage. Here is a short passage, which summarize A360:

Our customers are in the business of creating things and they organize people and data around their business and their projects. A360 is a tool that brings together people, design and project data, ensuring everyone is informed and involved.

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My attention was caught by another announcement few days ago – MySolidWorks Drive. According to SolidWorks blog MySolidWorks drive provides a way to collaborate on data located on public cloud – Google and Dropbox.

Connects cloud-based file storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive with MySolidWorks. MySolidWorks Drive enables SOLIDWORKS users to view their designs online with the eDrawings online viewer and easily share large designs files with manufacturers, colleagues and vendors from anywhere.

I captured few screenshots showing more details about MySolidWorks drive from Michael Lord’s blog.

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Both examples made me think again about transition of design environment to the cloud. The biggest challenge here is to operate in the environment with mixed data. Existing design data is heavily persisted on engineers desktops and company shared network drives. At the same time, new products are providing customers with the opportunity to improve design collaboration using new modern cloud environment. The third factor is related to mainstream cloud providers. Cloud storage is a temporarily market and cost of storage is decreasing very fast.

Autodesk and SolidWorks examples are not unique. Recently, on my blog, I was talking about cloud file sync features developed by Kenesto. In addition to that, you might remember by discussion with Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD about CAD file sharing collaboration tools.

What is my conclusion? We are coming to the point of potential collision between CAD vendors strategies and giant cloud vendors strategies. Customers are tempted to move their data to Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Box.com and other non-CAD specific cloud storage. At the same time, CAD and other engineering software vendors are developing cloud collaboration software with specific value proposition tailored to engineering and CAD specific data. How new CAD collaboration and data management products will navigate in such environment? This is a good question to ask. My hunch, cloud file collaboration will be in a focus of all CAD vendors in a near future. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How to build online community around CAD/PLM software?

October 13, 2014

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There is one thing that seems make everyone interested and listen carefully these days – online communities. To build a successful community is a tricky thing. To make a money out of community is huge. Successful online communities can provide a lot of insight about how people are communicating, what is the value of community for different users and businesses. Communities are also a good reflection of business and software vendor ecosystem.

I’ve been discussing communities and marketplaces earlier on my blog. One of the most earliest discussion about that was Marketplace and Engineering software back in 2010. The interest of people to stay in the community is one of the most interesting factors to watch and learn. What will keep users to stay in the community and how to make it grow? Some of my earlier thoughts about that is here – PLM communities and let go threshold.

Online activity is a good indicator of community potential. I’ve been using blogging community as one of my own checkpoint about potential of users and customers to form a successful online community. Go online and try to find number of blogs about specific topic and their traffic. Do it for well-known MCAD packages (CATIA, Creo , Inventor, NX, SolidEdge, SolidWorks) as well as for PDM/PLM products. Google is of course not the best reflection of community size and activities. But it can give you some idea anyway.

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Another interesting observation is related to how customers are sharing their knowledge. You can see very different behavior models. One of them is practically – share everything. This model is creating high viral content online. For this group it is not unusual to see how users are sharing their best practices and problems. Another group is conservative and closed. It is hard to get people to speak about this software. Most of information about it is curated either by software vendors and customers.

So, what are examples of successful in creating CAD/PLM communities? I can come with few examples. The list below is alphabetically sorted and I’m sure miss few communities (so, please don’t hesitate to suggest me additions to this group)

Aras. Back in 2007, Aras Corp. turned their Aras Innovator PLM product into so called “Enterprise Open Source”. This community demonstrated steady growth and I can see lots of information about Aras customers, open roadmap and open source development.

AutoCAD. The community of AutoCAD is big and reflect wide spread of this package in a very diverse set of verticals. I can see some association with community of users working with DWG. However, these users have the tendency to follow specific CAD packages developed around DWG formats.

GrabCAD. This is an interesting example of 1M+ engineers sharing 3D CAD models and related work online. GrabCAD website contains about 400K CAD models and this is probably one of the biggest in this kind.

SolidWorks. The community of SolidWorks is not a typical online (web) community. It was created around SolidWorks software back in before-web days. Nevertheless, this community demonstrated very high engagement level and shared lot of their work online in for the last 10+ years.

I guess “one million dollar question” is how to create a successful online engineering community. One of the myths of engineering world is that engineers are representing very anti-social group of people. The CreativeEngineer blog – A Few Common Myths About Engineers is actually bringing some opposite facts.

If you are thinking of being an engineer, you need to think of yourself as a leader, not a cubicle dwelling, anti-social, door mat. Here’s an except from Geoffrey C. Orsak, Dean of Engineering, SMU: In today’s reality, engineers are the new leadership class. Don’t believe me? Well, consider a recent survey of the S&P 500 CEOs by the global executive search firm SpencerStuart. Of these 500 key corporate leaders, nearly a quarter (23%) were educated as engineers and computer scientists.

So, is there an opportunity to create a larger community for engineers and users of CAD / PLM software? I guess the answer is yes. The shift towards online work is in a very beginning. My hunch existing engineering communities were just a beginning of future online working environment. The real community can be build around economic or social interest. In my view, the center of gravity will be moving from a specific CAD/PLM software towards companies and individuals. Internet is a new platform and community is a form to run business relationships on this platform.

What is my conclusion? Think about existing online communities: shoppers, open source software developers, education and many others. Try to make an analogy with manufacturing world. The economic and social interest is driving the most successful ones. I guess we just in the beginning of huge shift of engineering and manufacturing community towards online work. Economic interest will lead people to find new forms of business relationships and create new forms of CAD/PLM communities. Just my thoughts….

Best, Oleg


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