Drawing Callouts and Future Google PLM Design

June 27, 2014


For me, Google is one of the symbols of simple software design. Therefore, Google developers event is always a good place to get inspired with ideas and new technologies. Google I/O was this week in San Francisco. I had now chance to attend the event, but was able to watch video streaming of keynote and few other sessions. One of the things Google introduced this year was Material Design - a new approach to rethink user experience to make it more natural, consistent and clean. Watch the following video to learn more.

Material design presentation made me think again about how to develop simple PLM experience. The topic isn’t new. I’ve been talking about it already for few years. Remember my presentation almost 3 years ago at AU 2011?


The time of complex and cumbersome enterprise user experience is finally over. Simplicity is an obsessive motto of every enterprise software company these days. However, to develop good UX is a big deal. It requires time and effort. “Don’t make me think” is my favorite quote by Steve Krug about how to develop good UI. How to do so? This is a tricky question. In my view, one of the key elements of this process is to capture elements of well known customer behaviors. You need to learn how people work today. It is extremely hard to change existing user behaviors.

I’ve been reading GrabCAD blog post -BOM Find Numbers: Don’t Get Too Attached. Read the article – it is short and sweet. I’m sure you are familiar with “drawing callout” and find numbers. It was absolutely must feature on paper drawing. Should we keep them in the future? This is a question Ed Lopategui is asking in his post? His conclusion – not really. Here is a passage explaining that:

Find numbers will make little sense in the future, so it’s probably best for everyone if you don’t get too attached to them. There will come a day where the find number is finally retired, and we can move on to the next chapter of BOM management. How can you get to that future faster, you might ask? That’s the easy part: move away from all those outdated BOM authoring tools (like Excel for one), and adopt a modern, integrated BOM editing capability.


I liked BOM find numbers example. New technologies can clearly help us to interlink between BOM and 3D models. It is good to shift away from managing Bill of Materials in Excel spreadsheets. At the same time, maybe we need to think twice and not to kill familiar user behavior and experience? Maybe we can re-use it for the future clean user interface design. Users are familiar with existing experience and it can help them to understand how to use the system.

What is my conclusion? Existing engineering behaviors have long history going back to drawing boards, paper drawing and engineers collaborating live in one room. Digital technologies are ripping off these behaviors. We create digital models and collaborate using internet and computer screens. New ideas and technologies are good. At the same time, it is might be a good idea to learn from existing behaviors and preserve some of them in the way that will simplify digital collaboration and design. It will definition good for user adoption. What to keep and how to combine existing behaviors and technologies? This is a very good question. I’m sure it will inspire PLM innovators for coming years. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

CAD and Future Office Design Walls

March 26, 2014


Collaboration is inspiring. It is very overloaded word in engineering space. Collaboration is often used in the context of CAD, design and engineering environment to allow engineers and other people to work together when they are located remotely and disconnected from each other. This is sort of mainstream collaboration scenario – to connect people.

While, this is absolutely true and important, I want to raise another perspective on collaboration. What about people working in the same office? How team of designers located in the same office can collaborate and discuss their ideas. What can help to the team to exchange information and discuss what they do. You may think – it is not a problem. When people co-located, the collaboration is not an issue. I don’t think. Sharing information together in the same place, exchanging ideas and discussion design options can be equally hard.

I’ve been thinking about office collaboration comparing it to our home communication. Our homes are getting more and more digital these days. Think about such a popular communication as photo sharing. Everybody knows Facebook, Instagram and other social apps. I’m sure you use it a lot, but it is mostly imply to the situation when you share photos with people connected by internet. However, rules are different if you are at house or in the party. You want to exchange photos and information. Facebook is too complex and won’t provide you the way to collaborate. My attention caught by Google Photowall announcement. This application allows you to share and stream information from multiple mobile devices to Chromecast player connected to TV set. Read more here. The following video give you an idea how it can work:

Google Photowall app made me think about potential opportunity to help engineers and designers to collaborate at office. Are you familiar with the way people stick drawings on office walls for review and discuss design options? What is you can replace it with special "design wall" collaboration app that will beam drawings on the screen from multiple devices and computers? It can be scalable, easy and won’t require to print paper and stick it on the wall. To me it sounds like a good digital alternative for 21st century.

What is my conclusion? We are moving into digital life everywhere. Screen size is getting bigger. New visual experience will replace the traditional paper communication. It is fascinating to see how it will happen. It is not in the future. It is here and coming. Just my thoughts…


How CAD/PLM can capture design and engineering intent

November 8, 2013


It was a big Twitter day. Twitter IPO generated an overflow of news, articles, memorable stories. For me, twitter become a part of my working eco-system, the place I use to capture news, exchange information and communicate with people. If you are on twitter, try Vizify to visualize you twitter account. I did it here. The most insightful information for me was the fact I tweet 24 hours a day… (well, I don’t know how Vizify deal with my time zone changes). It made me think about what impact Twitter-like ecosystem can provide on engineers and designers. It came to me as a continues thoughts about failure of Social PLM – Why Social PLM 1.0 failed and What PLM can learn from public social data?

I’ve been reading an article and interview with Biz Stone, Twitter co-founder and entrepreneur – Be emotionally invested. It is a good story. Read it, especially if you are involved in startup activity. One of interesting pieces that caught my attention was a story about Google working environment. Here is the passage:

“I used to just walk around. I don’t know if I was supposed to, but I’d just open doors and see what people were doing.” One led to a guy surrounded by DVRs. Stone asked what he was doing. “I’m recording everything being transmitted on TV all over the world.” Another led to “a sea of people operating illuminated foot-pedal scanning devices. “We’re scanning every book ever published.”

Another interesting article that caught my attention was about an interesting behavior – deleted tweets. Navigate to read – Why do people delete their tweets? University of Edinburgh researchers have been looking into the motives behind deleted Twitter missives. You can read more about this study here. The funny part of this mechanism is that it implements the old idiom – Word spoken is past recalling. Here is passage explained the research and how it works.

Right now there’s no way to tell whether you’ll be proud of your rousing 140 character defense of James Franco in a few years, or deeply, deeply ashamed. But hiding the evidence isn’t hard. Deleting a tweet is not a complicated process. If you don’t like what you wrote, you can trash it in a few clicks. And there are services like Tweet Delete that help you mass-delete older tweets.

These two examples – capturing of information streams from global and personal perspective made me think about how potentially we can capture engineering activities and discover design intent of decision making factors similar to techniques used to identify deleted tweets and other related twitter user behaviors. The challenge of CAD/PLM environment compared to Twitter is obviously security and open APIs. It is hard to capture information from design and engineering systems. In most of the cases, the information is secured and access is restricted.

What is my conclusion? There is a huge potential in analyzing of design and engineering activity from capturing information about people behavior. My hunch, it can become one of the places CAD/PLM companies and startups might crack to discover a future potential of design optimization and decision making. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

2D-3D CAD Transformations and Design Interaction

September 13, 2013

I want to continue the topic of design interaction started in my CAD and Design Interaction: 50 years in 3 videos post. CAD software started as a vision to replace drawing board and, eventually, it was 2D. 3D CAD and the vision of 3D design came later in the game. It wasn’t simple to create 3D objects in first 3D wireframe CAD packages. Solid feature parametric modeling was a huge innovation open a new page in 3D design and design interaction. However, I can see a new trend – we can re-create 3D objects from physical objects and / or photographs of physical objects. To have an easy way to recreate 3D objects can increase the level of adoption of 3D design software. Until now, my only experience in this field was Autodesk 123d Catch.

By itself, it is an amazing tool to create 3D objects. However, if you’ve been listening to startup pitches, you probably familiar with the phrase "there is a better way". From Huff post publication few days ago, I learned about Israeli company 3-sweep claiming they can create 3D objects from a single 2D photo by making only few selections. Watch the video. It is cool and impressive.

Here is how founders of the company defines their approach:

"Our approach combines the cognitive abilities of humans with the computational accuracy of the machine to solve this problem. Our technique provides the user the means to quickly create editable 3D parts– human assistance implicitly segments a complex object into its components, and positions them in space."

Read another article from Singularity Hub. Here is an interesting passage confirming the intent of 3-Sweep technologies:

Ariel Shamir, of the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, and Daniel Cohen-Or and Tao Chen of Tel Aviv University hope to knock that barrier down with software they’ve developed that allows the user to extract the beginnings of a 3-D model of an object from a single photograph. “The key idea is that you could create 3D objects based only on single images,” Shamir told Singularity Hub. “We wanted a model that would be simple for almost anyone to use.”

What is my conclusion? The debates about moving from 2D into 3D are already couple of decades long and jury is still out. In last few years 3D scanning became an interesting trend. While price of 3D scanners is going down together with 3D printers, the opportunity of 3D object creation from existing physical objects becomes real. However, the size is still matter. Also, it is not always possible to scan a physical object. The ability to recreate 3D objects from simple 2D photos can revolutionize design process by bringing another way to interact and design objects. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

CAD and Design Interaction: 50 years in 3 videos

September 7, 2013

My father was engineer. As a child, I’ve been coming to my dad’s office to watch how engineers designed metallurgical plants and heavy industrial machines. Back that days, the design was all about drawing boards and paper. Fast forward in our days. Lots of things changed. Our design interaction is not with a paper anymore. Computers made a revolution by transforming design interaction completely. Since first graphical displays were introduces back in 1960s, the idea of how people can interact with design system evolved into completely different process.

First, it moved from paper to 2D CAD. Later it transformed from 2D into 3D. It started from graphic pen and digitizers, evolved into use of different styles of mouses, moved to multi-touch displays. Finally, modern devices introduced a completely new way to interact with design systems and computers. We started to think about how to design using some magic hands gestures.

Earlier this week, I watched a very interesting video by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla motors. Read this post – Elon Musk on the future of design: motion gestures, 3D viewing and 3D printing. Thanks SolidSmack for sharing this video.

Here is how this technology explained – SpaceX is exploring methods for engineers to accelerate their workflow by designing more directly in 3D. This device is integrating sensor and visualization technologies to view and modify designs more naturally and efficiently than we could using purely 2D tools. This is just a beginning, but eventually SpaceX hope to build the fastest route between the idea of a rocket and the reality of the factory floor.

This video made me think about distance CAD industry passed since first invention of graphic design interaction. It was always about simplicity and user experience. The very early appearance of graphic design interaction is dated by 1963 when Ivan Sutherland presented his Sketchpad.

Here is a description of the technology. This work was seminal in Human-Computer Interaction, Graphics and Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), Computer Aided Design (CAD), and constraint/object-oriented programming. It is important to remember what type of the computer you see in this video. It was TX-2 computer (built circa 1958) on which the software ran was built from discrete transistors (not integrated circuits -it was room-sized) and contained just 64K of 36-bit words (~272k bytes).

Now, let’s move forward 30 years. Back in 1990s, Microsoft Windows became a mainstream platform. SolidWorks was pioneering in creation of design interaction using standard Windows technology. The idea was to make it easy to learn and use by engineers. Watch another remarkable video (thanks Rick Chin for making it available on Youtube). In this video John Hirschtick (SolidWorks founder) and Rick Chin are demonstrating SolidWorks on Windows together with Bill Gates.

I found Rick’s commentary to this video on Youtube interesting. In 1998, Microsoft had an event to show the world that Windows NT was ready for industrial strength enterprise work. Jon Hirschtick was invited to demonstrate SolidWorks to Bill Gates on stage as part of this event. I was incredibly fortunate to join them and be a part of the demo. As you will see in the demo, Jon Hirschtick is a master at making the complex simple, compelling, and very relevant to everyone watching.

What is my conclusion? It is amazing to see the speed of innovation in design interaction. These three videos demonstrated a huge distance computers and design technologies passed for the last 50 years. However, you cannot stop the innovation. Just look around. New computers, new interaction devices, cloud, mobile – all these elements can create a new generation of design interaction these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

COFES 2012: Design Risk and Information Availability

April 19, 2012

One of the sessions I especially liked during COFES 2012 was a keynote by Richard Riff – The Intersection of Design and Risk. The name of the keynote was the same as a theme of COFES 2012. Here is a snippet from COFES 2012 agenda describing this session:

…we’ll explore the role of risk in design, the impact time-horizon plays, and what actions we can (or should) take in response. Richard’s keynote will extend our understanding of the role of risk in the day-to-day decisions of where and how we allocate engineering resources. We all address risk daily, each in our own way. In design, risk is a consideration in each decision we make. But how and when we think of risk needs to change. Not only do we need to pay attention to our risk horizon (which is much closer than our reward horizon), we also must look for opportunities where risk has not yet participated in the decision process, but should.

Below you can see few pictures from the keynote to give you a feeling of the atmosphere in the room.

In my view, Richard keynote was a brilliant from the engineering side. The main points about risk measurement, assessment of what is the cost of risk and considering a "failure is an option" are fundamental with regards to the complexity of engineering problems every large manufacturing company is facing. One of the interesting slides presented was about why are we wired to err..

Another great summary made by Riff was about ‘why the decision goes bad’. The clear point on people’s ego is an important element that made me think about some potential changes that can help us to improve decisions.

I want to connect three dots – risk, cloud and information availability. Few years ago, technology writer Nicholas G. Carr introduced a topic that raised a lot of discussion in press – "Is Google Making Us Stupid?". Navigate to the following wikipedia link to read more about that. Some new researches in this space actually took an opposite view to Carr. Internet is actually making us smarter. Navigate here to read an article about the research. Here is an important passage, in my view:

The Pew Internet and American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center asked nearly 895 technology “stakeholders and critics” about their expectations for the Internet 10 years from now. Making ‘better choices’. In the Pew study, 76% of the respondents said they agree that by 2020, “people’s use of the Internet has enhanced human intelligence; as people are allowed unprecedented access to more information, they become smarter and make better choices. Nicholas Carr was wrong: Google does not make us stupid.”

Another interesting observation from the same article was related to how we will use Net to synthesis information:

“We measure intelligence in a certain way now, and maybe the whole nature of intelligence will be changing 10 years from now,” he said. “It won’t necessarily be how much you can retain, how much your hard drive can hold in your head, but it’ll be the way you can assess information, that you can think critically, that you can synthesize information.”

I wanted to connect the question Richard Riff asked in a context of decision-making and risk with the future perspective of a broader information availability. My take on this simple – our way to make a decision 10 years ago and now will require a complete rethink since we will be able to involve the web / cloud and other information services to make a right decision. The decision-making process will be different since the access to information will become ubiquitous.

What is my conclusion? The question of risk and decision-making is one of the most important questions of the design process. It seems to me, we will make a fundamental shift towards a completely new way in decision-making and risk assessment. Information availability will play a key role in this shift. The way to predict it actually very simple – look on how our life became different as a result of the internet and Google. We are still before this big revolution, but it clearly coming. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

COFES 2012: Quick Summary

April 16, 2012

I was very busy since last Thursday. As you probably know, I was attended COFES 2012. It took all my time from early Thursday until Sunday. COFES is a unique event. You have a chance to speak with many people of the industry, share opinion and check your ideas. From that standpoint, the value of COFES is absolute. Below, I wanted to put few pictures from presentations I’ve seen during COFES 2012. They made me think about some of the future ideas I’m going to share with you on the blog.

This year weather (it was cloudy and cold) provoked many jokes about cloud related discussions. Cloud topic was clearly one of the most important to me. The following picture of Scottsdale Plaza is unusual for April. Few interesting points from the conversation about the cloud.

Another interesting discussion happened during the keynote by Richard Riff. The keynote was about decision and risk. Here are two interesting slides from his presentation. About data and skills ownership:

About the reasons we are taking wrong decisions. Main reason – ego.

Last, but not least. I was impressed by presentation of Ponoko - cool DIY factory. The idea of personal manufacturing is interesting and inspiring a lot of people these days. Ponoko personal factory is an interesting attempt to do so.

So, what is my conclusion? COFES 2012 was the biggest COFES since it was first introduced 13 years ago. I’ve seen many first-time attendees. The strength of the COFES is that you can make it very personal. Your choice – meetings, offline, discussion groups, briefing, keynote presentations and big discussions. I’m always learning something new there. Just my opinion, of course.

Best, Oleg

Electric Design and PLM Roadmap

June 29, 2011

In the early beginning, solutions for manufacturing were focusing primarily on machinery and mechanical design. The historical reason here is simple – mechanical design was a key element of manufacturing for many years. However, the era of ‘mechanical design only’ ends. We can hear more and more about various aspects of combined solutions – Siemens PLM was coming with mechatronics already a couple of years ago. Earlier this month, on PlanetPTC, I’ve heard many stories about software related aspects of product design.

I’ve been reading Design New article yesterday – Mentor Takes a Lifecycle Approach to Electrical Design. It talks about latest Mentor announcement related to the expansion of their Capital electric design platform. This is my favorite passage (actually quote by Martin O’Brien):

The new Capital suite delivers on all of its traditional capabilities in addition to new functionality for designing the architecture and aiding service technicians supporting the finished product in the field. It also encompasses enterprise data management and compliance functionality, serving as a single repository to help manage and support the highly specialized materials and workflows associated with seeing a complex electrical system through each phase of its lifecycle.

Does it mean Electric Design is going to PLM route now? This is an interesting question. In my view, PLM approach is very successful when we deal with complex product development issues. Remember aircraft design, product configuration, etc. These are examples where product lifecycle management presented significant improvement and good results. Electrical design was standing separate long time. The same was for electronic and software. Is it going to change now?

The picture is courtesy of Design News blog.

The complexity of products is the real issue we need to discuss and mention in this context. Everything becomes more complex now. Ford T was a simple car. Nowadays, products become really complex. The integration of various elements is key problem manufacturing are facing these days.

What is my conclusion? I can see Mentor is going down to the road and implementing many features and functions we’ve seen in traditional PLM products. Lifecycle, Technical documentation, multiple functional representations. The word “single repository” mentioned by Mr. O’Brien made me worry a bit. In my view, traditional PLMs found themselves in the “single repository” mouse trap by trying to integrate everything in a single database. The cost and complexity of implementations are growing. Is it something vendors like Mentor can avoid? Learn from other mistakes? Is it possible in software word?

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg

Design To Manufacturing Process: Bumpy Road?

June 12, 2011

Integration between design and manufacturing is one of the topics that normally hits a lot of discussion in the product development and PLM space. To support this process becomes more and more important in a modern enterprise manufacturing organization. You can ask me why? Let me put is simple – this is one of the most important processes that can drive cost optimization in the companies. Everything a company is making need to be first designed and later manufacturing. If it breaks – nothing can help.

Design to Manufacturing Connection

One of the numbers that always amazed me is what percentage of product cost is defined actually early in the design process. Do you want to guess this number? Well, it is around 70%. I think, this is an amazing number. At the same time, the initial cost planning is something that poorly can be done without getting information about manufacturing, supply and other related elements. Efficient transferring of the information between a design system (CAD, PLM) and manufacturing system (MRP/ERP) is an important element of streamlining of manufacturing processes.

Integration Challenges

Despite the high importance of the integration between design and manufacturing, the reality of many companies shows that few of them can show successfully implemented integrations. There are several reasons for that. The top three, in my view, are as following: 1/ high diversity of engineering and manufacturing processes; 2/dependencies on CAD, PLM, ERP and other home grown systems; and 3/ significant cost of implementation and changes. Each vendor develops his own strategies and relies on multiple technologies and partners to deliver that.

Design to Manufacturing Integration Examples

To illustrate the need and the level of complexity, I decided to pull together few videos that present some elements of integration solutions. The first one is the integration solution between Autodesk Inventor and SAP. The solution developed by Autodesk partner – CIDEON Software.

The next one is the solution developed by CORDYS, Holland based company, which focuses on the development of business process management middleware and tools. What is interesting in this solution is complete Independence of CORDYS from both software vendors manufacturing solution CORDYS integrates.

The following video presents TeamCenter 8 integration with Microsoft Dynamics AX developed by Microsoft’s partner To-Increase. This is another example of "a process like" integration between two packages – engineering and manufacturing.

The last examples show a different approach of integration. Dassault 3DLive solution is providing an interesting approach to access manufacturing information from ERP and other systems via the native 3DLive user interface.

What is my conclusion? The space of design to the manufacturing solution is complex and not covered well, in my view. The demand from customers is significant and the same time the requirements are complicated and solution in a most situation needs to be tailored for every customer. Most of the software vendors are talking about design to manufacturing processes and, at the same time, moving integration to partners, service providers and 3rd parties. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

CAD, PLM and Product Cost

February 7, 2011

Cost is important. Period. About 70% of product cost is defined during the design phase. So, to have PLM helping you to predict a product cost and drive it down can be a very important feature and benefit of spending the time to implement your PLM software and set up right processes. However, to get an enterprise view of cost is not a simple task in manufacturing companies. Last year, I wrote – PLM and Enterprise View of Product Cost. Since then, I had few very interesting conversations about a product cost related issues.

Who is working on this?

I wanted to find recent examples of tools (CAD, PDM, PLM) dealing with cost calculations. I found few examples and references of PLM vendors doing “costing work”. Agile, Dassault, Siemens did some work. However, I didn’t find visible public references related to the cost integrations into their product suites. I know two vendors – aPriori and Akoya, focusing on cost issues. I thought, PTC InSight is planning to provide a solution for cost visibility. However, for the moment, more focuses on environmental problems. The following two videos present slightly different aspects of cost calculation.

SolidWorks World 2011 Demo Preview (thanks deelip.com for capturing this video during SolidWorks World 2011) presents future SolidWorks cost calculation capabilities. The important element of this implementation is the level of integration of costing functions into the design environment.

Obviously, SolidWorks’ focus is on part manufacturing-design aspects. SolidWorks solution is not up to solving enterprise cost scenarios.

Then another example comes from aPriory video. aPriory is a company developing Product Cost Management software. Watch the following video to get a glimpse of understanding how stuff works.

This video made me think again about integration with various tools and information related to the cost. This example is more focusing on multiple aspects of product cost and not limited to “design environment” only.

Cost: Important, but NOT transparent

I can hear two voices related to the cost. One – cost is (obviously) important. The ability to control cost is absolute. The enterprise software (in general) and PLM specifically needs to solve the problem of cost analysis and visibility. Second voice says, cost is not transparent in an organization. The transparency of cost is not obvious and there are multiple interests a company to make cost transparent. Part of them is coming from work with suppliers, part of them is coming from manufacturing.

PLM Software Fails, Excel Wins

I can hear “Design for Cost” more and more often. At the same time, I don’t see products in this space demonstrating strong functionality and capabilities to solve costing problems. When talking with customers, I’ve heard about the complexity of the costing problem and inflexibility of solution. Most of the solutions, I’ve seen relies on our “PLM buddy” – Microsoft Excel to solve any problems.

What is my conclusion? I think, costing is another place where MS Excel has huge market dominance. Software vendors slowly, but started to understand the importance of vertical cost integration. The solution in this space is not obvious and requires significant effort in data integration. So far, I’ve seen little activity in this space. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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