Has PLM innovation stalled?

October 12, 2015


We love to speak about latest gadget features and disruptive technologies. Earlier this month, CNet posted about “telepresence robot” is currently holding a place for a woman in Sydney who will be one of the first in the world to own Apple’s latest smartphone. Wow… it sounds great, but here is an immediate disappointment – the new smartphone biggest difference is invisible.

Stories about enterprise software progress and innovation can disappoint too. Companies are spending huge amount of money on sales and marketing activities to demonstrate their financial strength and vendor sustainability. Dreamforce 2015 was one of the biggest enterprise software conference in the world organized by Salesforce.com. A very interesting data point about the event is here – Dreamforce has almost become bigger than Salesforce and it accounts for more than half of annual revenues.

Over the weekend, I read the article – You Call this Progress? I liked the article. The following conclusion passage was my favorite:

I think we should admit that our hypothetical 1885 person would be more bewildered by the passage of 65 years than the 1950 “modern” human. I think we should admit that the breathtaking pace of major breakthroughs has actually declined. That’s different from stopping, note. I think we need to take our energy predicament seriously, and acknowledge that we have few new ideas and don’t have any consensus on how to design our future infrastructure given the pieces we already know very well.

It made me think about PLM development progress. It is impossible to track 100 years back for PLM, but I can honestly think about comparison between 1995 and 2015 which can give us solid 20 years distance of innovation. And to be more specific about what is PLM, my commentary is specifically about what CIMdata defines as cPDM.

No question – PLM software is getting better. We finally got enterprise software vendors to acknowledge the importance of user interface importance. And you cannot ask to tolerate bad performance. For the last 2-3 years, all PLM vendors came to the agreement about importance of “cloud technologies” and the fact companies will be interested how to bypass hardware purchase and to use system hosted somewhere. But the problem is that after all PLM tech innovation companies still need to spend time and effort to get these systems “implemented” and adopted. Which highlights the fact traditional PLM reached their limits – costly, slow ROI and hard to bring new business functions.

I’ve been sharing my thoughts about PLM and manufacturing in a networked world last week at CIMdata Collaborative Innovation & Product Development Workshop in Louisville, Kentucky. Here is a slide from my presentation:


In a nutshell, 20 years ago and now, PLM (cPDM) was about two main things – to define data model and to set workflow processes. Then spend time on importing of legacy data and synchronizing between silos. The marketing changed, but these fundamental things remained unchanged.

The problem with “data+workflow” PLM vision is that humans (especially engineers) often have a tough time expressing exactly what they want. Items, parts, classes, business objects, data models, workspaces, primary identificators, attributes, characteristic, parameters, classification, links, references, semantics, data model, information model, knowledge model, etc. Also, very often, humans may not know what the heck they want. Many decisions have political flavor and when PLM system is usually stays for at least 10 years, for many people the decision is still about “no one ever got fired for buying IBM”.

What is my conclusion? If I bring engineers from 1995 into today their biggest surprise might be actually large flat screens. Enterprise systems changed very little and for many companies and still managing data with Excel spreadsheets. It is still hard to grasp the idea of how to implement PLM system. The data model of items, parts, documents, bill of materials, changes still looks the same. And it is still enormously hard move data between people, systems and organizations. Perhaps this is something to think about before inventing new PLM buzzword. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Sweet Dreams about Product Innovation Platforms

October 5, 2015


Everyone likes innovation. It gives you good feeling and brings the whole power of imagination into your brain. If you Google “innovation”, you can find so many interesting things. For example, famous quotes from Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and others about innovation. Navigate here to read more. My favorite quote is the following one:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [A. Einstein]

Switch gears into engineering, manufacturing, product lifecycle management and… product innovation platforms. I found the last one emerged as a new buzzword of trend in PLM visionary marketing.

Few months ago, Engineering.com posted a TV report by Verdi Ogewell –Product Innovation Platform: Plug’n’play in next generation PLM – TV-report. It brings voice from PLM analysts from Gartner, CIMdata and others about the need to adopt a new thinking and new type of IT platforms – “Product Innovation Platforms”. The new platform vision supposed to break company data silos and based on system design and holistic governance. The following picture of Innovation Platform was captured by Engineering.com from Gartner presentation


I found Gartner’s Marc Halpern presentation about “Product Innovation Platform”. According to the presentation, Product Innovation Platforms is more than today’s design and PLM software.


Here you can see list of candidates to become such a platform (according to Gartner)


The adoption of “product innovation platform” marketing is growing. Below you can see few pictures I captured during past conferences and websites. It is a clear indication – marketing is up to the speed with adoption of “product innovation platforms”.

Autodesk PLM vision.


Dassault Systems SolidWorks


Siemens PLM


What is my conclusion? I found “Product Innovation Platform” buzz misleading. I can see a point of innovation. Show me somebody who doesn’t want to innovate. However, things such as community, discovery, reuse, accessibility and others are more desired characteristics of products rather than something that can be combined into a single “platform”. While dreams about product innovation are sweet, the actual definition about future product development platform remains open. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

CIMdata PLM forum: platformization and obsolescence

April 1, 2015


I’m returning home from CIMdata PLM market forum in Ann Arbor. For those of you who are not familiar with CIMdata and this event, take a moment of time and look here. Today’s event is the first in a row of "CIMdata world tour" to review 2014 PLM market analysis. You can see agenda and list of topics discussed at forum today. You can also take a look on the twitter stream here. The day was packed with information and it will take some time to digest it. The information about PLM market share, numbers, dynamics and vendors specific is available from CIMdata. PLM market grew up 6.8% in 2014 to $37.2B (vs. 5.8% forecast), which is obviously a good thing.

Two topics caught my special attention today – PLM "platformizaiton" and PLM "PLM obsolescence". I want to share my observations and thoughts about it after presentations and discussion at CIMdata forum.

PLM platformization

This is a new buzzword CIMdata is coming to discuss a broad trend in PLM industry. How existing PLM products and tools will be transformed into "business platforms"? In my view, the topic is important but controversial. It is going back to the reality of many PLM implementations – a diverse set of tools used by a company in a different areas of design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, etc. "Platformization" is a process, which supposed to run product development differently, innovate and transform PLM tools into new type of business process.

In my view, the discussion about platform is very important. It can make PLM industry more integrated and open. However, it raises many questions: 1/ What is a difference between business platform and integrated set of tools. 2/ How platforms delivered by PLM vendors will form a business platform for a specific customer; 3/ How multiple platforms will co-exist in a universe of large and small manufacturing companies.

According to CIMdata, "platformization" is not coming to replace PLM, but supposed to bring a better vision of PLM business and innovation.

PLM obsolescence

What is a lifecycle of PLM implementation? How often companies are replacing PLM systems? How to create a sustainable product development environment which will support manufacturing company for a period of product lifecycle (some of them are 25+ years)? These are very interesting and important questions.

Manufacturing companies are seriously concerned about sustainability of PLM platforms and tools. To replace PLM system was often a very painful process. Companies often considered this step only after PLM vendors stopped to develop and support PLM products. A traditional approach of "rip and replace" was criticized by customers, vendors and industry community. At the same time, vendors and customers didn’t find many alternatives to a brutal process of PLM platform replacements. In my view, cloud can impact PLM platform sustainability because of increased interest of vendors to support software lifecycle.

What is my conclusion? I found platformization and obsolescence topics connected. Here is the thing… Vendors and customers are concerned about sustainability and progress of PLM platform development. The "rip and replace" approach was always problematic for customers and manufacturing vendors. Even so, many vendors handled that in the past. We are coming to the point of time when customers won’t be able to afford a big bang PLM replacement processes. The fundamental issue is to rethink the way we are managing product lifecycle – existing PLM paradigm. Industry is looking how to make continues delivery of PLM platforms together with new solutions. Companies are more connected these days. Future PLM solutions should enable collaboration between different players in PLM eco-system and remain sustainable for a long time. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

PLM Vendors and Tunnel Vision

November 11, 2014


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 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

Accelerate 2014: PLM360 and the state of manufacturing industry

September 18, 2014


I’m attending Accelerate 2014 PLM360 event these days in Boston. This is the first ever live gathering of Autodesk PLM360 community. According to Ron Locking who kicked the event yesterday, it comes to a total number of about 200 attendees combined of customers, partners and industry analysts.

So, why Boston? The welcome joke triggered by analysts Chad Jackson, Jim Brown and Stan Przybylinski speculated – it was all about “beer innovation” that inspired Autodesk people to have this even in Boston. However, in my view, we have more reasons for that – high concentration of PLM companies around PLM highway, vibrant community of manufacturing companies and startups as well as cross-road location between Europe and U.S. Event is taking place in Boston District Hall in the middle of Seaport district. The place brought my memories back to Smart Summit (first SmarTeam customer event in 2000). Back that days, the only building in Boston Seaport district was Seaport Hotel. Now, Seaport district looks completely different.


Getting back to “beer innovation”, I found an interesting association between U.S. beer craftsmanship and state of PLM and manufacturing industry these days. It comes to empowering of small companies to innovate. It happened to small breweries in U.S. back in 1978. It is a good lesson to learn. Here is a passage about brewery innovation:

On October 14, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337 into law, which legalized the home production of a small amount of beer or wine for personal consumption.Since then, the United States has witnessed a resurgence of brewing culture and the widespread proliferation of small breweries. By March 1986, five brewpubs had opened in the United States. The total number of breweries rose from 42 in 1978 to over 2,750 in 2012, reaching or exceeding the number of breweries estimated to have existed during the colonial period. Virtually all of this growth is attributable to small, independent breweries.Today, the U.S. craft beer industry employs over 100,000 individuals brewing 15.6 million barrels of beer per year, generating roughly $14.3 billion in retail sales.

Back to the event itself. Who attended? I found a very interesting mixture of companies attended the event. First and most important is to see a diverse set of manufacturing companies using PLM360 and sharing their stories. Second – a very interesting bunch of partners and service providers representing new “cloud” ecosystem. The last, but probably the most interesting are companies that related to so called “new manufacturing companies”. These days small manufacturing are starting to make difference. And actually, you can see it very well by looking on the list Accelerate 2014 attendee list – Quirky, Dragon Innovation and few others. These companies represents a complete new story in manufacturing industry. Enabled by internet and modern technologies, new manufacturing companies are representing a complete new way to develop products. And, their demand is to have new design and engineering tools.

Specifically I wanted to focus on how PLM can help to new manufacturing startups. Manufacturing is hard. To get from zero to one in manufacturing is not simple. However, to come from one to many is probably even more challenging. It requires a complete new approach and new tools.


Agility, speed and flexibility. This is probably a word that explains in a best way how manufacturing companies are using PLM360. It is interesting to see that these definitions are common between both group of customers – larger established manufacturers and new growing startups. Large companies are learning how to solve specific product development business problems using tools like PLM360. At the same time, small companies are learning how to bring some order in their ad-hoc product development environment. So, both groups have something to learn from each other and it looks like PLM360 can give them some common grounds to innovate as a community.


Innovation was one of the most frequently discussed topics during these two days. The product innovation panel discussion gathered a diverse set of attendees – analysts, customers, vendors.


PLM360 is one of the tools coming as an answer on “manufacturing challenge”. However, it doesn’t come alone. PLM360 comes as part of new cloud eco-system Autodesk develops these days – Autodesk A360, Autodesk Fusion360 and some others.


What is my conclusion? The modern manufacturing world is a complex combination of new challenges and old problems. New manufacturing companies, communities, new type of products, unprecedented level of product complexity even for small manufacturing – all together representing a new state of manufacturing industry. It requires new approach in design and product collaboration tool. PLM360 gives some good examples and lesson learned in that space. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m Autodesk employee. 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.

Cloud PLM and disruptive technology economic impact

June 14, 2013

We love word “disruptive”. It is so nice and tasty. However, very often, we use it without thinking twice what does it mean. Read materials from many startups and large companies – you found lots of statements about “disruptive technology” or “disruptive innovation”. Wikipedia article provides a very decent definition of what disruptive innovation and technology mean.

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market. The term “disruptive technology” has been widely used as a synonym of “disruptive innovation”, but the latter is now preferred, because market disruption has been found to be a function usually not of technology itself but rather of its changing application. Sustaining innovations are typically innovations intechnology, whereas disruptive innovations change entire markets.

I’ve been reading McKinsey Names the Most Over-Hyped (and Under-Hyped) Major Technologies Out There article earlier this week. McKinsey made an analyzes of projected economic impact of disruptive technologies. I found the diagram interesting.

Navigate here if you want to read a full report. I also found the following passage notable.

In its latest report, MGI set out to answer an even more unanswerable question: What will be the economic impact of the dozen most “disruptive” technologies, including utility devices that talk to each other, cars that drive themselves, and printers that can print printers? Their summary graph is the image that kicks off this post. In a sentence: There’s mobile Internet, and then there’s everything else.

What is my conclusion? To predict a future is one of the most risky things. McKinsey ranked cloud as #4 by a potential economic impact. In my view, cloud can make a difference. Will cloud drive future difference of enterprise software and PLM systems? Pure speculations… Nevertheless, I like McKensey’s numeric approach. PLM vendors must take note – the time of fluffy marketing is about to end. Data first. I’m looking forward to see numbers presenting an economic impact of cloud enterprise systems and to compare with a traditional enterprise software stack. Interesting time. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PDM: re-invent the wheel or innovate?

May 2, 2013

Engineers hate PDM. It is an axiom known to all people touching engineering and manufacturing software. Nobody gets up in the morning and looking for PDM software. Most of product development people are considering PDM as an evil that they need pay taxes to get right revision and don’t overwrite changes made by his colleagues. The value proposition of PDM is obvious. Navigate your browser to the reports made by Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity here. Here is a conclusion:

The conclusion from that report was a clear indication that Product Data Management (PDM) helps companies control control and secure product-related data, improve the ability to quickly find and reuse information, and share product knowledge with other departments. The report went further to point out that the companies indicated the results of better control, search, and collaboration are increased efficiency, improved quality, reduced cost, and the ability to bring products to market much faster. So it was easy to make a conclusion from that report that PDM helps companies improve the metrics that drive product profitability.

At the same time, the same Jim Brown in his online dispute with Chad Jackson agreed that PDM is overkill for small and medium design team. I posted about it few weeks ago in my post – PDM: Rightsize, Wrongsize, Overkill? The current status quo of PDM is that majority of engineering and manufacturing companies are not using PDM. The optimistic estimation of amount of CAD seats managed by PDM software is probably 15-20%.

Recently, I saw two startup companies decided to challenge the space of collaboration and PDM using cloud solutions – GrabCAD Workbench and Sunglass PDM.

GrabCAD – company known because of a website providing online storage for CAD models and place to promote your engineering skills via different challenges. GrabCAD is coming with Workbench – an online solution that provide a secured location to share CAD design and collaborate in teams. Josh Mings smacked a review of GrabCAD workbench here. The following passage can explain what Workbench does:

Workbench provides a secure location for sharing models. Inside this environment, people can upload files (3d, 2d, docs, etc.), comment on files and further collaborate on the project files. The 3D viewing interface provides additional tools to section, measure, explode and place ‘pins’ on the 3D object itself. The idea is to replace less secure methods of collaboration like email, FTP, Dropbox or other online share sites, providing a single point interaction for the model and the people.

GrabCAD is planning to come with 3 levels of collaborative solutions – Professional, Team and Enterprise. Pricing is not available yet, but the first (Professional) is available now for limited beta. I requested a try for me and waiting it to be available soon.

Sunglass.io is come to the market as a online collaborative site with 3D viewing solution. Currently Sunglass is introducing what they call “product data management to 3D distributed cloud platform”. GraphicSpeak Randall Newton put an interesting writeup about Sunglass PDM here. The following passage is my favorite:

Nobody gets up in the morning and says, “Hurray, I get to work in our PDM software today.” Most product designers and engineers consider the data management side of using CAD for product design to be drudgery. The more product data management can be unified with design data and the processes of team workflow, the less onerous keeping the data current will seem. Only time and customer feedback will tell us if Sunglass has created a winner.

At $20 per month per user, the price of Sunglass PDM is a factor of ten less expensive than most PDM products on the market. But they offer a much richer, more nuanced approach to data management. Ease of use will be the key to early success.

Target low end PDM white space

Both Sunglass and GrabCAD are using modern web development concepts together with cool user experience. GrabCAD is leveraging the community of more than 500K engineers using GrabCAD website to upload/download CAD files. Both companies are thinking how to fill the gap current PDM packages like TeamCenter, PDMLink or SolidWorks Enterprise PDM left untapped. From the examples I’ve seen, Sunglass and GrabCAD are proposing an alternative experience to traditional PDM. At the same time, most of traditional attributes left without changes.

What is my conclusion? User experience and S3 cloud storage. Community of engineers and dashboard with CAD plug-ins. Most of these attributes were introduced by old PDM tools in the past. Will it be enough to change the mind of conservative engineers about the role of PDM systems in their working processes? Everything new is actually well-forgotten old. The history of software has many things like this. Cost is a huge factor also. Only time will show if GrabCAD or Sunglass created a winner in new PDM space. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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