Interoperability will play a key role in a success of future CAD/PLM

January 26, 2013

Data. Conversion. Interoperability. Translation. The discussion about these topics is endless in CAD/PLM world. Customers are looking for interoperability between different product versions, competitive products, data models, data formats, databases and geometrical kernels. Customers were always first impacted by problems of interoperability. The lifecycle of engineering and manufacturing work is longer than typical lifecycle of product version or even engineering IT solution. Technically, data interoperability is a complex problem. It is not easy to solve, even if you are want to do so. Evan Yares recently posted an interesting article about interoperability – CAD Interoperability today. Interoperability plays an important role in product lifecycle applications in large OEMs and Supply Chain.

Until now, the perception was that customers are most impacted from data interoperability problems. It was true until very recently. However, I can see some new trends and changes in this space . Consumerization, BYOD and cloud trends are introducing new elements and aspects in product development roadmaps. CAD/PLM vendors are forced to think about cloud and mobile development as well as potential disruptive competition coming from newcomers and other vendors. New design applications become more granular and focusing on a specific functionality or target customers. Two examples of recent announcements are Autodesk Fusion 360, SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. These application were born to co-exist with old products. Existing products won’t retire tomorrow. The ability to re-use data with existing product lines such as Inventor (for Autodesk) and SolidWorks (for Dassault) and other CAD packages will be vital for success of new products. I’ve been reading GraphicSpeak – SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual introduced but not delivered article earlier today. Randall Newton is talking about the product SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (SWMC) announced by SolidWorks during SolidWorks World 2013 in Orlando last week. SWMC is build on top of Dassault 3DEXPERIENCE platform. I found the following passage interesting:

Reading between the lines, so to speak, of what was said at SolidWorks World, it seems two critical challenges remain before SWMC will be a selling product. It must prove to be fully and seamlessly interoperable with SolidWorks, and it must be more cloud-based. Interoperability has always been a significant challenge in the 3D CAD industry. 3D kernels are complicated. Dassault’s 3D Experience platform uses the CGM 3D kernel; SolidWorks uses the Parasolid 3D kernel from Dassault’s rival Siemens PLM. Completely accurate automated moving of files from Catia V5 and V6 is not commonly possible, and they share the same 3D kernel. Most of us can only imagine the complexity of moving between CGM and Parasolid.

Granularity is one of the most trending topic these days. Everybody are thinking about Apps. Company are moving away from developing heavy and complex product suites towards granular applications. Al Dean of Develop3D wrote an interesting article about granularity few years ago – Why granularity is going to rock your future… This is my favorite passage:

There are two things that might influence this and push us into further levels of explicit detail and granularity. The first is the ‘cloud’ (yes, I broke my own rules). When you’re working on a system that’s remotely located on a server, whether that’s over your internal network or across the wider web, you’ll need to manage and exchange finite packets of information, features, sketch entities and such. To do that, you need to manage and keep track of those individual parcels of data and oackets of change. That’s going to require a level of granularity that’s way beyond what most data management systems are currently capable of. Consider what would happen when you start to work on today’s products, in a highly collaborative environment, where data is being passed globally, between teams, between languages, between professional disciplines. And you still need to track data down to this type of level. And when you’re working on a product that looks like X-Ray image.

What is my conclusion? I agree with Al Dean. We will see more granularity in data and new applications. Interoperability becomes a very important factor in a future success of new apps. New level of data compatibility is required. Vendors will be forced to improve the level of interoperability of their existing products as well as new apps. Interesting time and change happens these days. Vendors need take a note. Important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How Granularity and Google Lockdown will drive PLM Excels

August 8, 2012

One of the technological trends I’m observing these days is a trend towards granularity. Speaking about marketing, the word granularity sounds nice. I don’t know if I have a right to vote about how it sounds with my “broken English”. At the same time, Al Dean ofDevelop3D opinion about word granularity is interesting. Navigate to the following link and read the article Al wrote two years ago –Why granularity is going to rock your future. Here is the passage I especially like about how word granularity sounds:

Granularity. There’s a word I love. It just sounds nice and rolls off the tongue nicely, even with my dodgy mid-british accent – unlike ‘caramel machiato’ which sounds horrendous and causes American baristas to look at me in the same manner people look at dogs when they’re trying to tell them something – a look that says “Ummm… What?”.

However, let me get back from poetry to technology. Chad Jackson talks about Suites vs. Best-of-breed approaches in engineering software. Chad took on this topic earlier this year in his blog – Point Solutions, Integrated Solutions and the Granularity Value Proposition. In the context of point-solutions Chad introduced the concept of “PLM Granularity”. My favorite passage from this articles captures the essence of our discussion. It described the notion of “layers”, which resonates well with me:

The fundamental idea is that you layer on different solutions that each do something very specific and well. Basically, it is the point solution approach but from an ecosystem perspective. It would include something like leaving your workgroup PDM software in place. Layer on top of that a workflow. Then add some social computing solution for collaboration. Then you can add in a project management solution. You get the idea. Leave what you have in place. Add in other point solutions where needed. And integrate them as lightly as you can.

Yesterday, I was reading CNET article featuring Google’s spreadsheet lockdown feature. You can learn more from Google blog. In a nutshell, the idea is to provide granular access rights to different parts of a spreadsheet. The implementation technology behind relies on Named and Protected Ranges technique.

This feature resonate with some of my ideas about PLM granularity and implementations of single Bill of Materials. BOM can potentially contain multiple elements of data representing a variety of BOM data (eg. engineering, production, support, etc.). So far, most of Excel-like implementations techniques were problematic because of absence of granular approach. Google’s approach can be an interesting step towards simple and powerful solution.

What is my conclusion? The simplicity is hard. Many companies today are using Microsoft Excels or alternative spreadsheet solutions. However, Excels can get messy very fast. Absence of granular level of security beyond Excel file created a showstopper. The combination of cloud combined with the simplicity of Excel can be powerful. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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