Will Autodesk PLM360 make a difference for SME?

August 31, 2015


SME was always a different nut to crack for PLM vendors. My last year article “Why PLM vendors stuck to provide solution for SME” shares some of my ideas why it happened. PLM vendors attacked smaller manufacturing companies with flexible platforms and out-of-the-box solutions. But it was though. Many implementations failed. Even more went completely out of budget. The PLM implementation project usually is the most complicated part.

It seems to me, cloud is the last refuge of PLM vendors to increase an adoption of PLM by SME companies. Autodesk was one of the first large vendors that took cloud technologies as a central part of their strategy. Among variety of cloud products Autodesk developed for the last few years, Autodesk PLM360 is the one that offer new type of PLM solution – SaaS application available via subscription from public cloud.

Over the weekend, my attention caught by Engineering.com article Is PLM an Option for SME’s? by Verdi Ogewell gives an good check mark on what is happening with Autodesk PLM 360. It brings a perspective from analysts (CIMdata and Gartner) as well as testimonial from one of the long time PLM360 customers (Roulunds Braking) originally started to use PLM 360 when it was Datastay (company and product that provided core technology for what is current called PLM 360).

Cloud is clearly solving the problem to ramp up PLM system quickly. Stan Przybylinski of CIMdata explains why is that:

“For the small and medium sized enterprises (SME) targeted by Autodesk with PLM 360, the Cloud is an easy, low cost way to get started on PLM. There are really no services required, which is a stark contrast with the legacy on-premises leaders.”

Integration is remaining a very painful thing in PLM implementations. Which confirms some of my thoughts that future of manufacturing will depend on solving old PLM-ERP integration problems. The following passage can give you some idea how and why it is hard for manufacturing companies to decide about PLM-ERP integrations:

The connections to the ERP-system are often surrounded by manual work involving spreadsheets.How did Roulunds solve this problem? Mark Lawrence tells me that they have been pushing this issue during the last three years. “But these things take time, and it’s still on the table. The whole idea that I’ve raised is to integrate it with SAP via SAP’s own integration software. There are no connections right now, but that’s what we’re looking to do in the future. When we update information in Autodesk it would update SAP automatically, and if we update SAP it would update Autodesk,Then the system will track which information was updated and at what time, whether it goes through an approval process in the meantime or if it is fully automated. These things have to be decided.”

But, it is wrong to think that cloud is a silver bullet that will change PLM world for SME companies overnight. Autodesk is growing PLM 360 use base and revenues. Engineering.com gives a data point for $72M revenues for Autodesk cPDM, but didn’t provide a product breakdown Autodesk is selling in cPDM segment. One of the conclusions that SME customers are still remaining a tricky problem to solve even for Autodesk.

But nothing comes easy in the world of PLM for product realization processes among SMB companies. “Even cloud-based software comes with investments and necessary planning. For example, it is vital to plan for migrating data, organizing content within the application, and structuring the user environment for easy content access and change management,” Gartner’s Halpern concludes.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is an important element to change PLM from heavy weight on-premise projects into agile and lean solutions. PLM360 provides a very interesting solution that done a lot things to create modern browser based user experience and leverage public cloud infrastructure for PLM projects and implementations. Still PLM implementations and integrations are remaining though problem for PLM. Will PLM360 found a magic formula how to crack SME segment? This is a good question to ask. I’m coming to Accelerate 2015Autodesk PLM360 conference in Boston this week and hope to learn more and share it with you. Stay tuned…

Note: you can register to Accelearte 2015 keynote presentation streaming online here.

Best, Oleg

Why “collaborative change” can challenge PLM platforms?

August 27, 2015


The only permanent thing in life is change. The same is very true for engineering projects. We are changing things all the time. New products are introduced as a modifications of existing ones. Customers are demanding improvements. Mistakes can happen. There are many situations when change is required.

Teamcenter blog introduced an interesting classification of changes in the article – The Future of Change Management. One of the issues mentioned in this classification caught my special attention and it is related to concurrent or collaboration. Here is the passage explaining specific "collaborative change":

Since products can have many interdependencies, it is not always good to stay isolated. Engineers must be able to coordinate their changes. Change systems will support several types of collaboration. If changes are tightly coupled, they will have the ability to work on the same branch, always seeing the latest working versions of content in that branch.

In other cases, more ad-hoc collaboration is needed. An engineer is working on a change when the system identifies that some reference content (maybe a connected component) has an open change. The engineer will be able to pull the contents of that change into the current working context to ensure there are no conflicts.

There is also need to share working content among several changes. Engineers will be able ‘promote’ their working content into a sharable space, where other users may access all shared content. This can be used for virtual reviews, where the latest working content of the product or a system must be integrated.

Collaboration is such an interesting word. We apply it to some many situations and it comes in so many flavors. The technologies for collaboration developed intensively for the last few years and it was driven by multiple factors. One of them is the demand for more connected application behavior – our life is getting more connected. We are applying modern web and social network behavior in our business scenarios. At the same time engineering and manufacturing business is demanding better collaboration between silos – engineering, manufacturing and supply chain to improve product cost and quality.

It made me think about some potential challenges for PLM platform in supporting highly demanded collaborative scenarios. A traditional data management approach assumed data locking that prevented data from being changed by more than one users. It is an efficient technique, but it potentially can result in not very pleasant user experience or limitation on how people can address changes collaboratively. Many applications in such situations are ending up with brutal "synchronization" buttons or similar behaviors.

Another complexity aspect is related to notifications. We like to be notified about changes. Notification is a challenge for many PLM developers trying to make it user friendly. However, in a highly collaborative environment, notifications can become a nightmare of users. Who wants to get thousands of notifications every day?

What is my conclusion? Business environment is demanding higher level of collaboration and coordination. It can improve business workflows, product quality and lower product cost. At the same time, it can create new challenges to PLM platforms that historically designed to work in a transactional way and can be not ready to support new collaborative application nature. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

BOM and global manufacturing options

August 10, 2015


Everything becomes global these days. The same applies to manufacturing. It comes in variety of forms. To compete in a global market, manufacturing companies are looking how to leverage global locations for low cost labor, bringing manufacturing closer to customers across the globe and many others. These and many other things are creating demand for engineering and manufacturing software to support engineering, manufacturing and supply chain processes in a distributed global environment. Some of my earlier thoughts about that are in earlier posts – Product Lifecycle, Supply Chain and Data Networks; PLM and manufacturing in networked world.

Over the weekend, my attention was caught by CIMdata commentaries publication – Collaborative Manufacturing: Critical for Success in Today’s Complex Heavy Equipment World. It speaks about complexity of manufacturing products in global environment using multiple plants. To solve this problem better collaboration between engineering, product planning and manufacturing is required.

Article brings examples of Siemens PLM solution to solve the problem of engineering and manufacturing collaboration. One of the key elements is so called – Global Manufacturing BOM. The following passage can give you short description of what is that:

Global Manufacturing BOM supports the ability to automatically author an MBOM from an Engineering BOM (EBOM) based on sourcing information. A plant-specific MBOM can be created from the EBOM or another existing plant-specific MBOM. The product configuration is automatically ported to the manufacturing structure during creation, with each plant getting a unique manufacturing structure. The solution maintains a link between the manufacturing structure and the product structure. This also enables the ability to automatically track and apply design changes over time. Siemens PLM Software’s Teamcenter solution provides the capability to automatically create a manufacturing structure for each plant based on the product structure and the advised fabrication and supply strategy (e.g., supporting make/buy decisions).

Global Manufacturing BOM supports deviations for individual plants so that companies can leverage local low cost sourcing opportunities. It also helps companies reduce unique manufacturing part numbers per plant, which leads to simplified inventory. Using this tool to review and compare MBOMs from different plants helps companies derive and use global and local MBOM best practices, which supports continuous improvement to their manufacturing processes.

Although, the example of global manufacturing BOM was made in the context of multiple plant production, it can be used to find optimal production environment. Global manufacturing BOM can help to identify manufacturing options not only between production plants of the same factory, but get across supply chain networks and contractors. It made me think about potential challenges such implementation can create for many existing environments:

1- Global identifications system of parts, which allows to identify parts made by multiple manufacturers, provided by multiple suppliers.

2- Additional level of BOM complexity – configuration of Bill of Materials to support multiple MBOMs in addition to product variants and configurations.

3- Combined network model of manufacturing including multiple plants, contract manufacturers and supply chain that can support process of manufacturing optimization in a global environment.

What is my conclusion? Multiple plants is an option often used by global manufacturing companies. PLM solution that can support multiple plants and integration between engineering and manufacturing environments was demanded long time by multiple customers I had a chance to meet. These days I can see even bigger challenges especially for new type of manufacturing facing multiple manufacturing choices – manufacturing in house, establishing multiple manufacturing locations or working with contract manufacturers. To manage product data lifecycle in such environment as well as to find optimal manufacturing solution is not a simple task. It brings additional requirements for global manufacturing BOM to be supported in PLM environments. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The programming language to hack next PLM system

July 31, 2015


Have you heard about hackathons? According to wikipedia, hackathon or “hack days” is an event where software engineers including designers, project managers and everyone else collaborate actively on a project. It is also a term that used for more organized innovative effort. Hackaton organizations goes back to roots of open source software. I can see a growing interest in hackatons as an organization of a specific effort to create a new software or make a significant progress in a project collaboratively.

TechCrunch article Which programming languages get used most a hackathons? gives you an interesting outline of tools and services people are using these days to hack future systems and products. Navigate to the following link to get a full research list. Among platforms, programming languages, databases and communication frameworks I was a bit surprised to see Autodesk services (Well done Autodesk!). None of other providers of platforms, APIs and services from engineering world wasn’t mentioned. You can also see a growing number of hardware platforms, which gives you an indication of large number of hardware development.

The section related to APIs caught my special attention.I’ve been talking about Web APIs yesterday in my blog – PLM and spreadsheetware. Take a look on the picture below

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.25.06 AM

Communication APIs, social APIs, payment APIs, Geo APIs. This is where web programming environment is heading these days. Web APIs and RESTFul services. Combined with agile development methods it gives you a good foundation how to develop open systems. Do you remember my old post – Is PLM customization a data management titanic? For the last five years, CAD and PLM industry moved forward with development of SaaS applications and services. It is a time to turn SaaS applications into consumable web APIs and services that can be re-used to hack a better PLM experience.

What is my conclusion? The time when companies developed system for 2-3 years to bring them to the market is probably over. The idea of hackatons and agile development is compelling. It can be used for new product development and hacking of service based products to solve a specific problem. Manufacturing is going into networking future and no-stack software era. To provide a set of consumable open services can become extremely important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM and Manufacturing in Networked World

July 21, 2015


Our dependence on networks in our life is growing every day. Look around you and you see networks everywhere. Just cut network cable in your house – chances are you are loosing most of your communication channels. But, our network dependencies are not limited to communication. Networks have more transformative influence on how we live, work and do business. It comes in a way of building network-related dependencies. I’ve been talking about some of them in my COFES 2015 presentation – Product Lifecycle, Supply Chain and Data Networks.

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman published a great article about future of driving in network age. The article is a bit long, but I recommend you to have a read. With examples of car and driving eco-system, the article shows the magnitude of changes network transformation can bring in the industry – improving highway throughput, reduce collisions, optimize parking process. The follow passage is my favorite:

Already, the car as network node is what drives apps like Waze, which uses smartphone GPS capabilities to crowd-source real-time traffic levels, road conditions, and even gas prices. But Waze still depends on humans to apprehend the information it generates. Autonomous vehicles, in contrast, will be able to generate, analyze, and act on information without human bottlenecks. And when thousands and then even millions of cars are connected in this way, new capabilities are going to emerge. The rate of innovation will accelerate – just as it did when we made the shift from standalone PCs to networked PCs.

…technologies that allow cars to talk to each other, through Wi-Fi-like networks that use dedicated short-range communications frequencies, exist too. In these vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) networks, cars share information with each other and other smart infrastructure elements – traffic signals, sensor-embedded roads, roadside cameras, eye-in-the-sky traffic drones, etc.

The same networking paradigm will apply to other industry segments as well. For the last few decades, manufacturing became global with companies leveraging market, design, engineering and manufacturing facilities located around the globe. The growing specialization in specific manufacturing verticals created industry of contract manufacturers and suppliers. Many of them are acting like independent vehicles on the road today – following rules, infrastructure limitations and trying to optimize their own local path towards the goal. While cost are still top manufacturing concern, similar to single car on the road, to optimization is highly unpredictable. It happens to manufacturing companies acting independently as well as divisions of large manufacturing giants separated by siloed organization and software.

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies are going to have a lesson of networked world. It will be impossible to optimize the performance of single manufacturing entity without relevant network information. It will not happen overnight. Companies will try to gain more information about networked world around them similarly to how GPS developers gathered information from other cars. Intelligent PLM software with network mind can provide a competitive power to future manufacturing. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How manufacturing companies can open source PLM innovation?

June 5, 2015


Whatever you can hear about complexity of PLM, there are lot of manufacturing companies that created outstanding PLM implementations. These implementations are helping them to optimize product design, speed up engineering to manufacturing process and do many other innovative things making their engineering and manufacturing uniquely competitive. From my experience, these implementations never came as a result of single PLM platform deployed in a company. It is usually a bunch of projects that are using several PDM / PLM products combined together with code and some homegrown stuff. In some situations these combinations are uniquely representing companies’ needs and ideas. I found it a gold mine of PLM implementations. But, very often, these implementations end up with a single company using it for their internal purposes only.

I think, this is a time for manufacturing industry to learn what other innovative companies are doing in such situations. Airbnb, the company helping people to rent apartments around the globe just made an announcement about open sourcing some portion of Airbnb data management infrastructure. Navigate to the following readwrite article to lean more – Airbnb Opens Data, Machine Learning Code. I found the following passage specially interesting

For Airbnb, which makes money by operating a marketplace for unconventional lodging in people’s homes and apartments, not by selling software, releasing its in-house software projects as open source serves to bolster its image as a technical innovator. There was a lot of talk about the company’s “engineering brand” at OpenAir. Allowing others to examine and use its code should, in theory, help the company recruit engineers and retain its current technical employees by publicizing their coding feats.

If you interested to learn more, navigate to airbnb.io – the destination of all Airbnb open source projects. If you are technical, you can find some very interesting things to experiment over the weekend. My special attention caught Airflow. I guess lot of my PLM friends can be interested by DAG-driven workflow scheduler.

Use Airflow to author workflows as directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) of tasks. The Airflow scheduler executes your tasks on an array of workers while following the specified dependencies. Rich command lines utilities makes performing complex surgeries on DAGs a snap. The rich user interface makes it easy to visualize pipelines running in production, monitor progress and troubleshoot issues when needed.

So, what about Open Source PLM you may ask? In the past Open Source PLM was a hot topic. Aras Corp. was the most active company after open source PLM innovation. Aras called it Enterprise Open Source. I don’t think the trend took off, actually. A subset of Aras solutions is available as an open source, but I’m not sure if these solutions can be used with another PLM backbone (which can be an interesting idea, btw).

The Airbnb example made me think about growing trend – innovative web companies are solving their data management problems without specific “enterprise software” vendors. My hunch we need to look more after what companies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Uber, Tesla, Local MotorsI etc. are doing and how they are innovating with data.

What if some manufacturing companies will decide to open source their PLM implementations? Would it be something other manufacturing companies can leverage? Recently Tesla open source their patents to be used by other car companies. Maybe PLM implementation can follow the same path too?

What is my conclusion? PLM industry should find a way to innovate beyond the trajectory of large enterprise PLM vendors. The complexity of existing PLM platforms makes it dominant in the market and hard to compete with for smaller players. At the same time, manufacturing companies are suffering with slow ROI and complexity of solutions. Manufacturing companies can open source some of their implementations and create a dent in current big “top three” PLM dominance. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


3 reasons why big data is a big challenge for PLM

June 2, 2015


Data was always a core part of what manufacturing does. Manufacturing companies have lots of data. According to Joanna Schloss of Dell Software, manufacturers are literally sitting on big data dynamite of potential revenues and opportunities driven by data initiatives. Joanna Schloss is subject matter expert on business intelligence and analytics; data warehousing, & big data analytics. Her recent article – On the cusp of a Big Data boom caught my attention this morning. According to her, there are several reasons that manufacturers can become a primary beneficiary of big data boom. The following passage can give you an idea why manufacturing can leverage big data:

Relative to other vertical markets, manufacturers enjoy three primary advantages that leave them uniquely positioned to benefit from big data. First and foremost, every industry and individual is touched by manufacturing in some way. You’re either doing business directly with a manufacturer, or purchasing something that at some point or another emanated from one.

In addition, because manufacturers were among the first to make widespread data collection a standard practice, they can quickly and easily scale their data collection efforts. Put more simply, a manufacturing company can track virtually everything much faster than most other companies can.

Lastly, manufacturers typically don’t face the data collection barriers that many other companies encounter. Whether they know it or not, many consumers readily provide valuable data to manufacturers on a daily basis.

The opportunity driven by big data can include improving product quality, help to discover new design for existing products and find new product opportunities. I agree with author – big data sounds like a gold mine for manufacturing companies.

It made me think how to bring these opportunity into reality. Do you think PLM vendors and platforms are in the position to make a play around big data opportunities? Manufacturing companies are sitting on piles of data. Existing business intelligence software was able to get this data, but wasn’t able to crank it until new big data technologies became available. I touched big data opportunity several times on my blog earlier – Will PLM vendors dig into big data? How PLM can ride big data trend in 2015; PLM… wait, Big data 2.0 is coming.

Big data solutions are quite unique in the way companies are implementing them. In my past publications, I was looking for examples of Big Data usage in product design, engineering and manufacturing. One of them was company True & Co that is using customer data to improve product design – PLM and big data driven design. Another example, I captured last month, is related to Siemens PLM big data projects based on Omneo platform. Read more about it here – Siemens PLM: cloud services and big data.

I’ve been thinking about the potential of CAD and PLM companies to leverage big data trend. My conclusion is that most of big data use cases are representing a big challenge for existing CAD/PLM vendors. Here is the summary of my thoughts. I can identify 3 main reasons for that.

1- Existing CAD / PLM systems are built on top of 15-20 years old RDBMS technologies. These platforms are providing limited capabilities to capture the amount and diversity of new data insight. Modern web and big data platforms are leveraging polyglot persistence principle that allows to use different database models to solve complex problems.

2- PLM platforms are built around the concept of closed world assumption (opposite to open world assumption) where all data models are predefined by a platform. Under open world assumption the data and statements about knowledge that are not included in or inferred from the knowledge explicitly recorded in the system may be considered unknown, rather than wrong or false. Existing PLM platforms have a big challenge to handle "unknown data" and be flexible enough to discover new data patterns.

3- The openness of PLM platforms are improving these days. A good example of that is Codex of PLM Openness focusing on how to establish data transparency between vendors, customers and services providers. Unfortunately, for most of PLM vendors, openness is reflected as an ability to export data from PLM system via predefined APIs. At the same time, it is hard to make design and PLM systems to be driven by the data coming from an outside world.

What is my conclusion? I think, big data is a big challenge for PLM vendors. Most of big data solutions are using platforms that are different and disconnected from existing PLM platforms built on older RDBMS technologies. Existing PLM platforms are suffering from limited ability to manage meaningful connections with big data platforms and are not capable to provide a platform to leverage big data insight and analysis. PLM vendors should discover how to apply modern data management principles to improve their ability to leverage piles of data and transform their solution from traditional data recording into data driven discovery and decision. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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