Future CAD file management trajectories

July 1, 2014


CAD data is a core and one of the most fundamental parts of every manufacturing design. It all starts and dies from how your product looks and feels. In the past, 3D CAD was most focused on mechanical elements of design. Today, CAD systems are meshing into a complex conglomerate of data about shape, assembly, simulation and many other aspects of product design. Thinking even more broadly, CAD files are representing a significant part of engineering and product knowledge.

Despite overall significance, many manufacturing companies and engineering organization are missing the point of CAD files management. It is not unusual to hear that 60-70% of companies manage CAD files on shared network drives. Engineering.com article – The Risks of Manually Managing CAD Files speaks about what is a danger of keeping your CAD files not managed. The following passage makes it very clear:

Perhaps the most common way to manage CAD files is on a shared drive with a directory structure and file naming conventions. That can work in some situations, but it carries significant risks and limitations. "It was easy when it was just me, but when we added a second person it was difficult to have the same file structure," recalls Andy Homyk, the lead mechanical engineer at medical device company HemoSonics. "It was hard to get updates from his computer onto mine and ensure I had the right revision."

These manual approaches are better than nothing, but in all but the simplest scenarios lead to errors. As complexity and number of engineers increase, unmanaged approaches fall apart. Relying on individuals to consistently follow manual rules eventually leads to problems. This approach frequently results in the errors discussed earlier, specifically overwriting each other’s work, using the wrong version of a file, multiple people working on the same file, and lost productivity.

Article references e-Book written by Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity with more detailed discussion about how to choose write level of available CAD file management solution – from keeping CAD files on shared drives and up to full PDM system. Jim mentioned possible solution in between, which is CAD file sharing on the cloud. The article and e-book made me think about potential trajectories of future CAD file management solutions.

1- Cloud File Systems.

Quite a few companies these days are trying to virtualize file system and make transparent between on-premise and cloud storage. If it turns into reliable, fast and cost effective solution, engineers can just use this cloud file system to save files. I can see a good opportunity for cloud file systems to support revision history. So, it is almost PDM and these companies can start eating PDM lunch.

2- PDM with cloud file storage

The complexity of CAD data can make option #1 not very reliable. In that case, we can see a next turn in the evolution of existing PDM system – turn them to the cloud via IaaS and / or cloud hosting. Technologically, these solutions can be very similar to any existing PDM system. It might require some tuning to work with low latency and cloud file storage. But underlining idea will remain the same.

3- Engineering data platforms

This is one of the most interesting trajectory for me. Somebody would like to re-think the way engineering data (include CAD data) stored and managed in the cloud. The process of re-thinking can touch also technological aspects (databases and storage) as well as logical and functional aspects related to collaborative design and engineering and more.

What is my conclusion? One of the biggest challenges these days is how to leverage cloud system advantages on top of massive amount of CAD files. Every engineering organization is struggling to find an efficient solution to manage engineering data accumulated on desktops and network drives. Security, cost and scale – these are three most important elements every manufacturing company will be assessing to find an appropriate CAD file management solution. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

What makes “cloud” a good alternative for PDM system?

June 20, 2014


It has been a year since I published my How to select PDM system in 5 simple steps? Engineering.com article The Difference Between Cloud-based and Traditional PDM made me think it is a good time to re-evaluate my writing and see if I need to correct my recommendations. Note, Engineering.com article is paid promotion by GrabCAD. However, as stated in the bottom of the page – GrabCAD haven’t had an editorial input to the post.

The article makes a comparison between traditional PDM and Cloud PDM for three different customer segments – small, medium and large. It brings some very good characteristics of these environments in terms of how companies work, IT capacities, process maturity, etc. Nevertheless, with different pros and cons, after all, the conclusion is simple and straightforward – Cloud PDM maybe an option for all these companies. Here is a passage which explains that:

Whether you are a part of small, medium, or large business, it is clear that cloud-based PDM has a lot more to offer than file system management and in some cases more than traditional PDM. While traditional PDM has been around long enough to be a mature product, there is no such thing as an off-the-shelf installation. Traditional PDM requires experts trained in the front-end and back-end administration. It also requires significant investment in hardware and infrastructure.

The article is long and contains comparison tables. It took me some time to review all of them. I’ve been looking how to capture the enhancement of my simplified PDM selection process. After few reads of the documents, I finally got what I need. Here is my +3 points to PDM selection process:

1. Global access to CAD data: If global access to CAD data is important, you can get significant advantage from cloud PDM system. You will have much simpler access including mobile application option.

2. CAD / PDM integration. Cloud PDM still requires integration with CAD environment and this is important for all types of companies (in my view, this is a missing point in the article, which points on integration needs only for medium-size companies). So, in case, there is no specific CAD plug-in for cloud PDM, you might prefer traditional PDM environment.

3. Cost. Cloud PDM will shift your PDM expenses into operational cost. It is hard to say something about TCO and ROI, but clearly, you will be able to run PDM environment with much lower upfront cost.

If you are interested to read more about Cloud PDM alternative, I can recommend you the following article – Lightweight CAD Management using the Cloud by Jim Brown. The following passage is my favorite:

Living in an unmanaged, manual environment is highly inefficient and prone to errors. For companies that have outgrown chaos and are tired of crossing their fingers and hoping they don’t order or produce the wrong part, it’s time for a practical solution. Fortunately, there are more options available today than ever before, including new cloud-based tools. It’s time for a rational discussion to explore the basic requirements for CAD data management and discuss whether they can be achieved without the cost and complexity that make traditional solutions impractical for many smaller manufacturers.

What is my conclusion? If you have reliable internet connection and not very complicated IT landscape you can find cloud PDM gives you overall advantage in terms of cost and accessibility. If you have complex integration requirements, traditional PDM will be a better option for you. Larger companies might decide to implement multiple PDM systems anyway to match multiple CAD systems environment and/or facilitate work with suppliers via cloud PDM options. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture courtesy of GrabCAD.com

How to eliminate PLM customization problems?

March 28, 2014


I’m following strategic visions of the major PLM vendors 2014+ publication by Jim Brown – well known analyst and my blogging buddy for last few years. It started as a publication covering Autodesk, Dassault, PTC, Siemens (vendors listed alphabetically). Last week, Jim expanded his PLM vision publications by adding Aras Innovator to the list. Navigate here to read about Aras 2014+ vision. Aras is well known by their Enterprise Open Source strategy. One of the interesting differentiation I captured in Jim’s article is related to Aras’ strategy to break rules of PLM customization. Here is the passage:

Aras has decided to break the rules [of PLM customization]. They aim to become the PLM company that defies the conundrum, allowing manufacturers to customize their software and still upgrade to future releases without major disruption. They can do this because customers can update the data schema, business rules, workflows, and forms without jeopardizing the integrity of the system. How does this work? Aras’ XML-based, model-oriented approach coupled with their willingness to provide customers with the business flexibility and tools to make it feasible. Aras has effectively morphed themselves into a PLM Platform with solid core functionality with a built in ability to be extended by customers and partners. To put this strategy into action, they have told me they are “putting their money where their mouth is.” They now include upgrade services as a part of their subscription service. I haven’t seen that from anyone else anywhere, particularly while encouraging people to enhance and modify the package. This is a clear differentiator and makes Aras unique in the PLM market.

PLM customization is a tricky deal. Honestly, nobody is dreaming to make PLM implementation with zero customization effort. It all starts from flexible data modeling, which imply certain level of data customization. Time ago, I posted – Is PLM customization a data management Titanic? Earlier this year, I’ve been discussing options and reasons on How to de-customize PLM? The story of PLM customization is tightly related to PLM system flexibility data modeling. Typically, every PLM implementation contains some portion of customization that usually done by service organization and/or internal IT department. Lifecycle rules, data import, workflows, integration with other enterprise systems – this is only a very short list of customizations done during PLM deployment. Another huge aspect of customization is related to system upgrades. That one is actually mentioned by Jim Brown in his Aras’ review.

So, is there a way to solve customization problem? In my view, the answer is – it depends. In my view, you cannot eliminate specific implementation activities. Adding of new features and infrastructure technologies (eg. RDBMS) will require certain upgrade activity to happen. However, if you are selling services, the interest will be to optimize this work. Cloud vendors have similar incentive to optimize infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, otherwise operational cost will go up. So, smart technology can optimize cost and customization efforts.

What is my conclusion? Business and technology are going together. To have good business incentive to optimize technologies is always helpful and can put pressure on development organization to optimize cost of infrastructure upgrades. Service based offering (open source and cloud) are two great examples where business interests of vendors and customers are going at the same direction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

The Future Unbundling Strategies in CAD/PLM

November 6, 2013


Engineering software has a long history of aggregation and disaggregation. In CAD, it was long time about new features vendors added to CAD tools. Ultimately, it was a long run towards new features. Later in the history, CAD industry came to the idea of integrating of various add-on systems into CAD environment. So, we got simulation, CAM and many other features and systems. In addition to that, data management tools (PDM) drove their own road – first independent from CAD and later on more integrated. Later on, PLM ideas came and provide an additional set of tools, features and systems. The latest history of design and PLM tools development introduced even more "integrated product lines" with CAD, PLM and many other systems. These days leading vendors are providing product suites with huge number of tools and subsystems bound together.

I was reading Unbundling: AOL, Facebook and LinkedIn article and reviewed a very fascinating diagram about Craiglist. Here is an interesting quote:

There are a swarm of services, often mobile first or mobile only, trying to peel off parts of the Craigslist offer, or do things Craigslist should have been doing. AirBnB is only the most obvious. Chris Dixon has a good note about this here, and Andrew Parker produced this great graphic back in 2010.


Major CAD/PLM vendors are selling big product suites, which can be considered similar to Craiglist. CAD / PLM product suites are providing lots of functionality. However, each function or service is probably not "best in class". PLM analysts and duelists Jim Brown and Chad Jackson discussed it in their video blog – CAD: Granularity vs. Integrated Suites.

Another interesting interesting perspective was presented by Adam O’Hern in his blog – Why I will pay $1372 for a fillet tool? Adam is writing about tools diversification and CAD subscriptions value prop. Adam is bringing the example of Autodesk Fusion 360 as cost effective tool that can be used as a substitute for some of features of SolidWorks. Here is an interesting passage about CAD tool diversification:

I use whatever combination of tools offers me the best cost-benefit ratio for whatever task I’m trying to achieve. In my various corporate jobs I’ve used CATIA, UGNX, Rhino, and Alias for design work, and each has its own advantages. For the last five years or so I’ve found that a combination of SolidWorks and MODO–along with various plugins, scripts, and sidecar tools–has provided the best price:utility ratio for my specific 3D design needs.

The unbundling article made me think about what will happen if we will follow similar strategy for CAD and PLM. Here is my top 3 assertion:

1. CAD and PLM is too big to sustain as a one big aggregated solution provided by a single vendor. This is a polystate diversified space that needs to be covered by multiple solutions, features and vendors.

2. Vendors are never good enough to see what exact problem customers want to solve. Especially when it comes to large manufacturing companies and complicated supply chain eco-systems. That’s way armies of consulting services as well as diversified products must be applied to provide a final solution.

3. Customers often don’t know what problem to solve. For most of the situations product development is a complex problem. It requires the team of people to work on. In addition to that, large organizations are involved into politics and confrontation related to usage of different enterprise software and tools.

What is my conclusion? If my assertion is correct, future unbunlding of features and services from CAD/PLM product suites can provide a potential opportunity to diversify market and solution options available for manufacturing companies. Cloud and SaaS models will be very helpful in this process. It is much easy to use unbundled cloud services compared to old set of CAD/PLM tools. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How to select PDM system in 5 simple steps?

July 3, 2013

Are you in the market for enterprise system? Traditionally, the process of enterprise software selection is long, complicated and expensive. The variety of requirements, combined with the complexity of systems, specific characteristics of company, vendors, implementation, support, licenses, etc. Whoever tried to do it at least once from any side (buyer or seller) will confirm you that it is not a simple thing to do.

Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity is well-known analyst in engineering and manufacturing software space published his research PDM Buyer’s Guide – Ensuring Maximum Value from Product Data Management. You can get an access to the summary paper by navigating your browser to the following link. If you want to get a full copy, you can do it here free of charge, but you will have pass you contact information to PTC. The guide provides a comprehensive overview of all aspects of PDM selection process started from the functional analyzes, vendor specific requirements, integration, scaling, sizing and many other aspects. Here is a picture, which outlines the framework proposed by Jim. If you are looking for PDM system, this paper is clearly "must read" materials.

One part of PDM buyer’s guide is related to integrations between CAD and PDM. Here is the passage you should pay attention.

PDM should be tightly integrated with underlying authoring tools such as 3D CAD in order to automatically manage the file relationships for assemblies. This is typically a key difference between solutions and should be evaluated closely, considering any multi-CAD control required. Tight integration with authoring tools should enable automatic revisioning, tracking, and traceability of design changes. Integration should include electronic design (ECAD) and software development in addition to mechanical CAD if those are applicable to your products.

PDM business was evolving for the last decade mainly around CAD business. CAD vendors leveraged the tight link between CAD and PDM solutions to deliver well integrated bundles. It was done to satisfy customers’ demands to control CAD portion of product data management. On the other side, it made a selection process sometimes silly and simple.

Jim’s paper made me think about how complicated and painful PDM selection process could be. At the same time, maybe we can pickup few important characteristics that will simplify the process for many companies? Here is my take on PDM Selection Tool for Dummies in 5 steps.

Step 1: If your company is using single CAD system, CAD/PDM bundle from the same vendor is your best choice.

Step 2: If your company is using multiple CAD systems, try to identify a strategic CAD system for your and follow CAD/PDM bundle from that CAD vendor. Check if other CAD integrations are supported as well before making a final choice.

Step 3: If your company has no dominant CAD systems (e.g. your company is a supplier and using multiple CAD systems required by you upper tier provider) and your company is looking how to manage CAD neutral product data structures (eg. BOMs), you need to look on PLM system.

Step 4: If your company is large and has multiple CAD systems, you probably want to have a dedicated PDM system managing every single CAD combined together with PLM or ERP system.

Step 5: If you company is looking how to manage product development processes beyond controlling and sharing CAD (product) data, you need to evaluate PLM system. Don’t make a PDM choice without making your PLM decision first.

What is my conclusion? Simplicity is a key. We can clearly see "simplification" as an important trend these days. Companies are looking for solutions to solve their problems, but they want to make it simple. CAD/PDM integration requirement is a reality of today’s PDM business. We cannot go away without integration between CAD and PDM/PLM. Even the number of characteristics is huge, by focusing on few specific ones, you can save lot of time during the selection process. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM, Product Cost and Bridge to Nowhere?

November 5, 2012

Product cost. Talk to any manufacturing company in the world and they will tell you that cost is one of the most important factors for them. Fundamentally, you need to produce goods to enable profitability of your enterprise. Sounds simple and straightforward. It looks like one of the first pieces of software any company should buy is "product cost software". Actually, in the reality, things look different. Many companies are talking about "cost-management" solutions, but it is not so easy to build one. Back last year, I’ve been posting about the product cost – CAD, PLM and Product Cost. I’ve been reading an article by Jim Brown, my blogging and twitting friend, about product costing – Product Cost Management as a link between enterprise systems. Navigate to the following link to read more. Jim is providing very interesting insight on cost management following the acquisition of Perfect Costing Solution by Siemens PLM. Jim provides his definition of cost:

Product Cost Management– An agreed, coherent, and publicized system of culture/goals, processes, people, and tools following the product lifecycle, that ensures the product meets its profit (or cost) target on the day that it launches to the customer.

Jim defines "product cost solutions" as financial bridges. Here is an interesting war-map between enterprise software vendors (domains) from Jim’s blog. Take a look below. Here is an important passage in my view:

Who will occupy the physical to financial bridges? Siemens has made the first move to acquire one of the bridges (Tsetinis). My educated guess is that a PLM company will be the next acquirer as well. However, there are eight or nine of the Product Cost Management bridges of varying width that link to the different stages of the engineering product life cycle. Given this variety, it is not unthinkable that one or more of the scenarios outlined above will occur simultaneously.

Jim’s war-map made me think about 3 main factors that in my view, prevents enterprise, engineering and manufacturing software vendors to build a good cost management solution. Here they are -

1. Information about cost is located in multiple systems. It is not easy to software companies in the enterprise world to give up on data ownership. So, despite multiple discussions and conversations about standards, I found still a lot of protectiveness to share data openly.

2. Design and engineering user experience is not cost-driven. Design and engineering activities provide a significant influence on cost. 60-70% of product cost is defined during the early design time. However, engineers and designers are not dollar-driven. Cost is more a "check-mark" for them and not a natural way to design and build products.

3. There are lots of cost-influence factors not captured by any system. Last, but not least. The information about what influence cost is very often not captured by any system and located in people’s head. The fact somebody (or few people) know something that can significantly impact cost, can make software useless and effort to create this software a joke.

What is my conclusion? It is hard to find a person who will tell you "cost is not important". However, nobody wants to take a responsibility for cost. In the world of enterprise software, vendors are protecting their islands and fortresses. As we know, to build bridges is not the best strategy to protect yourself. So, why PLM, ERP, SCM and any other TLAs in the enterprise software world will be interested to build a good bridge? At the same time, product cost is huge and very important issue. The pressure from customers will force PLM and other enterprise software vendors to solve a problem and build solutions. One of the possibilities to improve cost management is to make software more open to facilitate data exchange and data access. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Cost War Map picture courtesy of Tech-Clarity blog.

PLM Edutainment and Brushing Teeth with Wasabi Paste

September 20, 2012

Don’t you think enterprise software and PLM are boring stuff? I certainly agree. Take a look for all CAD, Simulation, 3D Printing and other goodies. It all looks very cool. When I’m attending trade shows and other live events, these booths usually drive most attention. Data management, PDM, PLM stuff is boring. Who wants to talk about check-in, check-out, release, workflows, processes, etc. Engineers are relying on IT and managers? On the other side, managers and IT are not interested and hope engineers will do their jobs anyway. Engineers and designers are doing cool stuff. Most of them hardly believe PDM/PLM is something they really need.

My good friends and blogging buddies Jim Brown and Chad Jackson decided to bring some controversy into PDM/PLM conversation. So they started Tech4PD show. Navigate to this link to read more about it. Here is the important passage about what is Tech4PD:

Seriously though, there are a lot of outstanding issues related to technology in product development. There are lots of executives and users out there trying to make the right decision with respect to technology, but its a very confusing place right now. We believe that the most valid points regarding a topic are the ones that stand up to scrutiny.

And here is a first episode of Tech4PD about granularity and integration.

PLM edutainment?

Edutaining is a term that was coined back in 1948 by Walt Disney Corporation. Since then it used by many organizations to present various topics such as health and teenager education. Navigate to Wikipedia link to read more. Here is the definition:

Educational entertainment is any entertainment content that is designed to educate as well as to amuse. Content with a high degree of both educational and entertainment value is known as edutainment. There also exists content that is primarily educational but has incidental entertainment value. Finally, there is content that is mostly entertaining but can be seen to have some educational value.

I can see a growing interest of software vendors in this topic. If you follow approaches like "for dummies", "in plain english" and some others, you can see some similarity here. There are lots of innovations in this place, and I’m sure we are going to see more.

What is my conclusion? Engineers like cool stuff and reject everything that bore them. In many cases, I see executives’ behavior similar to kids (seriously :)). So, we need to innovate in how to bring a message to both communities. Tech4PD edutaining approach makes sense to me. I don’t know how many people will immediately join the conversation about granularity and integration. However, I will come for sure to see how Jim (or Chad) will brush their teeth with wasabi paste. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Will Social PLM Work Only for Execs?

August 8, 2012

Social. New buzz. You can hear it in many places. After the tremendous success of social networking and web, many companies are trying to apply it in different domains. So, PLM does. I’ve been watching the activity of big companies and small startups in the intersection of social and PLM space – Social Product development by PTC, 3DSwYm Social Innovation by Dassault Systems, VuuchEnterprise Social Software, Nuage Social Business Collaboration – this is only a short list of products and companies chasing PLM social horizons.

Jim Brown, well-known industry analyst and my PLM blogging buddy, raised the question on twitter – Is Social Computing in Product Development Still Growing? You can navigate to the following link to read what is Jim’s opinion about the “social” topic.

Jim is running a survey on social product innovation and product development here. I recommend you to read blog and article written by Jim about social computing in product development. My favorite passage from Jim’s blog post is this:

My (Jim Brown) Belief. I am on the record saying I believe the use of social computing techniques in product development is inevitable. To me, there is an obvious benefit of pairing the “team sports” of innovation and product development with technology that helps teams better share information (within the team, with other experts, and with customers).

However, Jim doesn’t have a crystal ball. So, who has a different opinion? Navigate here to read Mashable article- 45% of Executives Think Social Media Has a Positive Impact on the Workplace. This article is quite interesting in the context of social product development. And here is a reason why. When 45% of execs are confident “social” has a positive impact, only 27% of employees agree. Here is a snippet of Mashable publication:

Executives think social media has a positive impact because it allows managers to be more transparent (38%), helps build and maintain relationships among colleagues (46%), helps build company culture (41%), and fosters a feeling of connection to the company and its leadership (37%)… However, employees disagree with their workplace superiors. Only 33% saying compensation and 24% saying financial performance have effects on company culture. Employees rank regular and candid communications (50%), employee recognition (49%) and access to management and leadership (47%) as having the largest impact.

What is my conclusion? I think vendors need to separate technology from marketing buzz. I can see cases when technologies and social media can create many opportunities for PLM vendors and companies. The examples are communication with customers, big data and others. However, I believe many of these values are not connected directly to all employees, which creates a concern from their side. In addition to that, I can see also how vendors are trying to wrap existing technologies into “social envelope” and hope for good. It is not gonna work. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

COFES 2012: Social Software and Gen-Z

April 18, 2012

One of the roundtables I attended during last week COFES 2012 was about social software and cloud. The session was moderated by Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity. “Social topic” was much less in focus of COFES 2012 compared to 2010 and 2011. I’ve been intrigued by the combination of social and cloud under the same hood.

How are the Cloud and Social Computing Changing Business for the Next Generation? The Cloud and Social Computing have already begun to change the way business works and poses many new challenges. It has also opened the door to entirely new business models and opportunities. The first waves of digital natives hit the shores of businesses about 10 years ago and are rising up the corporate ladder. What happens when the next wave—cloud and social computing natives—start impacting business. How is your business likely to evolve?

The core of the discussion (and I unfortunately had to leave a bit before the conclusion) was mostly about usage of different social tools in the business. Below, you can see few twitter messages that were flying around this discussion.

College age perspective on social media for business – LinkedIn is an application with no emotion. Interesting perspective. #COFES2012

— Jim Brown (@jim_techclarity) April 14, 2012

RT @jim_techclarity Led #COFES2012 session on when social comp/cloud-native gen takes over. Avg age in room 103 — Randall S. Newton (@GfxSpeakRSN) April 14, 2012

#COFES2012 when social meets business disc @vuuch points out business twitter is better organized around deliverables / interests

— Marc Lind (@MarcL_) April 14, 2012

“Engineers are not naturally open to sharing & collaboration” – baffled by lack of acceptance of social media in business context #COFES2012 — Christian DE NEEF (@cdn) April 14, 2012

The age of people in the room made a clear reflection in their opinions. In that context, the interesting message was made on twitter about average age of attendees – 103. It is clearly a joke, but what stroke me is a huge difference in response and level of acceptance of social tools among different generations. Boomers and Gen-X are very concerned about security. Gen-Y and later are considering tools like Twitter and Facebook as a natural part of their environment. Below you can see few pictures from this roundtable.

Gen-Z and social software

Social is now at the place where email was 20 years ago. It was a time when email messages were type-written by special assistant. Today, it sounds ridiculous. The same is about social networking and communication tools. The new-generation type – Gen-Z is coming. Navigate to the following link in wikipedia to read more. Here is my favorite passage:

Generation Z is highly connected, as many of this generation have had lifelong use of communications and media technologies such as the World Wide Web, instant messaging,text messaging, MP3 players, smartphone, Tablet Computer technologies, Social networking,[25][26] earning them the nickname “digital natives”.[27] No longer limited to the home computer, access to the Internet is now increasingly carried in their pockets on mobile Internet devices such as mobile phones.

What is my conclusion? In my view, social software is unstoppable. The same was true for all great inventions of the previous century. The most interesting will happen when Gen-Y and later Gen-Z will come to work places. They will bring a new culture and a different way to communicate. Vendors must take a note. The 5-year implementation cycle of enterprise software tradition is going to be dismissed faster than we can think about that. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Innovation On The PLM-ERP Edge

January 30, 2010

This post was born as a consequence of on-going conversation with Jim Brown of TechClarity. Jim and I have a long history of discussions on different topics offline, and we are in agreement on many of them. However, in spirit of what Jim called “healthy debates”, I’d like to open our conversation online. I’m sure it will be beneficial for us, and I hope you will find it interesting and practical in the context of thinking about strategy for PLM and ERP implementation planning.

If you haven’t seen our previous posts, I’d recommend you to go and read them first in order to have a taste of context:

PLM vs. ERP – Don’t Manage Innovation!

Mythbusting PLM/ERP Integration

PDM/PLM and ERP are two topics and domains that continue to magnetize huge amount of the attention. In my view, it was true for the last 20 years, and it continues to be true these days too. In the spirit of getting away from three letter acronyms (TLA), I’d like to put below one of the best references on the way to present discrete (or manufacturing) concurrent engineering positioning from the David Ullman’s book: The Mechanical Design Process.

What I like in this process is that it clearly presents the level of the connections in manufacturing enterprise, including logical dependencies between three major domains – Design, Production and Business.

ERP and PLM Domain
In my view, PLM was born in the middle of the Design domain, in the beginning as a system to manage Product Form (CAD) and lately by systems and modules to manage materials (BOMs), functions and facilitate connection with outside domains. The best example I can bring here is the ability of PM to connect market requirements with business needs. If you will ever have a chance to see a successful integration between business/market models (i.e. Sales Configrator) and PLM, you can see how it can be beneficial. So, within the time PLM outgrows Design domain and spread out into some functions related to production and business. In parallel ERP, was “an accounting child”, born to calculate, forecast and provide clear answers on how health your business can operate. Started from Sales, Finance, Prices, Costs and Risk, followed by successful development of MRP and MRP-II topics and, finally, becomes ERP as we know it today.

Roles of PLM and ERP
As every healthy business systems, both ERP and PLM are trying to grow and Production Domain is an obvious common target for both PLM and ERP. Since PLM came from managing the form and materials in product design, the ability to manage product and work-in-process data are much better compared to ERP. At the same time, ERP holds very strong on the ability to mange operational environment. In the very competitive business environment, both domains failed to collaborate successfully and, instead of taking route to manage openness and process transparency moved to the “marketing excellence” by starting to invent slogans like innovation and execution. But, unfortunately, devil is in details and after agreeing about “roles” and “focuses”, you will get back to bits and bytes of design data, EBOMs, MBOMs and processes that span across the organization.

ERP Business in PLM
With the clear competition state of mind, ERP vendors are trying to push technical limits of ERP foundation to manage product design and work-in-progress design information. As much as they come to the business having fewer design roots design roots, the chances to successfully stretch ERP data models and infrastructures are more successful. When you almost cannot see automotive OEM or supplier that decides to manage design product configuration in SAP PLM, you probably will be more lucky to see high tech and telecom companies managing product engineering and manufacturing BOM in ERP. Also, companies tried to reduce the cost of “process management” by concentrating it inside ERP process infrastructure.

Border Between PLM and ERP
I think, to define the right border between PLM and ERP is a very complicated task. I’m almost sure, the results will be very different for various companies even in the same domain. There are lots of factors such as existing systems, implementation, history, legacy stuff, new projects. You can find companies pushing towards implementing CAD/PDM bundles and move process oriented environment towards ERP. You may see companies that put PLM as a global product development environment worldwide, while ERP is local and specific for business in the specific countries. So, I’m sure there are some patterns we can discover. However, try to establish this boarder will be heavily overused by marketing and competitive efforts and in the end will be disruptive for industry. I think PLM and ERP need to establish some common infrastructure and maybe be even open initiatives that can simplify the exchange of the information and process flowing between systems in the organization.

What is my conclusion today? PLM and ERP are a very complicated topic. There are multiple levels of influence starting from completely technical, moving to IT-related  and ending up with very emotional aspects. I hope Jim and I helped you to navigate and find your path in your future PLM/ERP projects.

Getting back to Jim’s post, there is one topic left- innovation. I want to touch it in separate discussion. I will call it my “Golden Eggs Innovation Strategy”. Stay tuned :)…

Best, Oleg


It was good to see the same day Joe Barkai (twitter @joebarkai) from IDC Insight joined our discussion with Jim on twitter and IDC blog: ERP vs. PLM: Debating The Wrong Question?

…So now we are debating PLM vs. ERP.  Some of these discussions have a very strong, and, in my opinion, incorrect undertone of IT architecture debate: who owns what data repository, where are the boundaries, what are the integration points, and so forth.  One blog discussion attempts to separate ERP as the “execution engine” from PLM, which is “innovation focused.”…



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