Social PDM via Google Drive Activity?

January 15, 2014


The word “social” is getting into many places these days. However, very often, it is overloaded and misunderstood by people coming from different domains. It is easy when you are in social networks open world. Social meaning is clearly associated with Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. However, when you get into business software and enterprise, the purpose is not so obvious. Big enterprise vendors are betting on their social future by acquiring social platforms and software. However, the way social experience can be applied for business purposes is not clear for many of them.

Some interesting things are happening in the intersection of office software and social features. Google Apps is an interesting place to watch. The process of merging Google+ and Google App platform is probably going to happen in a longer future. Meanwhile, Google just added an interesting feature that caught my attention earlier today – Google Drive Activity Stream.

Activity stream clearly has social notion and, therefore, very interesting in terms how business software can intersect with social features. Tracking changes of shared docs on Google Drive is much more easy with activity streams. It also helps to collaborate with other participants.

If you have Google account you can experience new feature now. However, if you are not on Google, Navigate to the following blog article – A new activity stream in Drive shows you what’s changed to read more and see few screenshots.


Google activity streams made me think about future intersection of PDM and social trends. I’ve made some manipulations by uploading few engineering files to my Google account and trying to play with them. I see Google drive with Activity stream can provide an ideal cloud social PDM user experience. You can clearly imaging few absent features – viewer and change commands. On the picture below, you can a small mockup.


What is my conclusion? We can speculate about Google play into PDM / PLM domain. I’d not bet my future on this. At the same time, customers are looking for well-understood user experience from their everyday life. Google can provide some of them. Google Drive Activity Stream is a good example of social features adapted to business software. A good note to PDM/PLM product managers and user experience designers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM, CMMS and BOM Hot Potato

January 8, 2014


There is no person in manufacturing universe that can underestimate the importance of right Bill of Material information. However, I can see people responsible for material management in a special league for the context of material management and BOM.

Doug Wallace of Life Cycle Engineering ( speaks exactly about that in his article The importance of an equipment BOM. I found this writeup quite interesting. Here is the passage that defines the importance of BOM:

The main purpose of the materials management organization is to provide the "right parts in the right quantities at the right time." But where do those material requirements come from? Whether or not demand is predictable, whether the materials are for production or maintenance, the requirements are usually generated from a bill of material (BOM). Without a complete and accurate BOM, decisions regarding material planning and replenishment are often made in a vacuum, resulting in excess inventory, stockouts, expediting charges and expensive downtime.

At the same time, I can see a question here – where is that material requirements and BOM information is coming from? Where is this accurate Bill of Material is located? PLM system is one potential candidate alongside with more traditional MRP/ERP system. I debated this topic last year in my article – Will PLM management enterprise BOM? Shaun Snapp of smfocus has an interesting perspective of separate system taking care of all Bill of Materials management aspects. He debates it on his BOM blog here.

Doug’s article made me think about confusion in the way different systems represents and required data related to Bill of Material management. For example, article provides a detailed information about what information should be on (E)BOM – Part Number, Description, Quantity, UoM, Manufacturer, MPN, Supplier related information including Supplier’s Part Number.

This information can be managed by PLM/BOM solution as well as PDM solution combined with design system. I’m sure Excel spreadsheet from engineering department can provide it as well. Since the context of discussion is maintenance and CMMS, the information can come from ERP/MRP system. In my view, the confusion comes even in the name – EBOM. Some people can think about (Engineering)BOM, another group can think about (Equipment)BOM as it was presented in the article. I’m sure some computer geeks can think about (Electronic)BOM too :). Article summary provides some hints on the engineering roots for the BOM as well as importance of collaboration beyond silos:

As a rule, the RE is primarily responsible for providing initial EBOM information and all engineering-driven changes. The planner is responsible for ensuring EBOM accuracy. But the key to overall EBOM effectiveness is to recognize that data creation and maintenance is a collaborative process that requires teamwork and communication.

What is my conclusion? In my view, there is a confusion around BOM ownership and responsibilities of providing a correct BOM information. The level of fragmentation of BOM information is too high. Organization is often handle BOM as a "hot potato" changing hands of different organizations and finally thrown over the manufacturing wall. It introduces a problem that future lead to higher product product cost, expensive maintenance and operation. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How to Decustomize PLM?

December 24, 2013


Customization is one of the most favorite topics in PLM. Back 20-30 years ago, product data management (PDM) was born as a toolkit. Earlier PDM implementations took months and required deep changes in PDM system code and behaviors. It was leading to a growing complexity of implementation, highly sophisticated implementation skills and time. What is even more important and dangerous it was a reason many PDM/PLM implementations stuck in the back and failed to upgrade to newer versions of PLM software. I expressed it in one of my old articles – Is PLM Customization a Data Management Titanic? My guess back in 2010 was that future flexibility of data management technologies should make future customization and updates easier.

Customization problem exists in other domains of enterprise software. I found an interesting example of how extensive customization can damage enterprise software deployment and implementations. CMSWire article 6 Predictions for SharePoint, Office 365 in 2014 speaks about adoption of SharePoint 2013. One of the prediction speaks about SharePoint customization or actually… decustomization. I found this passage interesting:

We’ve heard Microsoft strongly suggest not to customize SharePoint, that branding doesn’t improve user experience or make processes better. That migration to new versions is easier without a lot of customization. The new SharePoint 2013 app model is also a strong pointer from Microsoft to keep SharePoint as out of the box as possible and focus on using Apps for additional customizations.

I think this is a good thing. Many of the challenges we see with migration projects are the result of branding and customizations — some of which may not have been necessary. Part of the reason SharePoint has been customized in the past is that developers are learning to use the platform and trying new things. The new App model reduces much of this, putting the testing and learning outside of SharePoint directly.

It made me think again about PLM implementation and customization projects. For the last decade, PLM vendors put a lot of efforts in developing of out-of-the-box offerings and strategies. Marketing used different names for this activity – from "express solutions" to "industry offerings". In my view, the result was somewhat mixed – it simplified PDM implementations and some smaller PLM deployment. At the same time, many even relatively smaller PLM implementations are still far from go simple way. In my view, the best confirmation to that is growing interest in acquiring service and consulting companies by PLM vendors. The last one was Siemens PLM acquiring TESIS PLMWare focuses on PLM integrations.

What is my conclusion? Decustomization of PLM will be one of the most important elements in the future PLM infrastructure improvements. To make implementation cost effective and to support future cloud deployments, PLM vendors will have to invest in technologies and methods to simplify deployment, flexibility and speed of implementations. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

From CAD file versions comparison to cloud PDM

December 21, 2013


A trend towards moving design related work to the cloud is growing. Despite a chorus of security, speed and connectivity concerned people, we can see how companies are growing their cloud data management solution towards supporting more robust features online. Few months ago, I was posting about Github moving towards the support of 3D models – GitHub PDM: is it for real? The ability of GitHub to work with 3D models together with core SCM functionality created an interesting tool for a specific market niche. Data management for individual designers, 3D printing offices and small teams.

Yesterday, my attention was caught by TechCrunch article – GitHub Adds 3D Modeling Features That Make It A Printer-Agnostic Choice For Object Sharing. Article speaks about GitHub adding a very specific 3D feature – ability to compare and finding difference in models. The following passage explains how it works.

…basically it takes each version and then overlays over the next using some nice transitions. Not unlike code diffs – the processes of comparing two iterations of a piece of software – this gives you far more control over the design process and lets you see where someone screwed up (or did something amazing).

Picture below shows how it looks like in the user interface:


Interesting enough, this feature reminded me another solution – GrabCAD CPD. GrabCAD recently introduced Workbench as part of their collaborative product development (CPD) suite. You can read my blog from last month – GrabCAD CPD wants to disrupt CAD file management. One of the GrabCAD Workbench features – visualization and comparison of versions.


Both GrabCAD and GitHub features made me think about new trend in cloud PDM development going bottom up and starting from very simple storage, file manipulation and sharing. Now it comes to revision comparison. Opposite to PDM dinosaurs trying to establish full top down file control and data management, these online tools are trying to find a right “feature” that will give them wide customer adoption.

What is my conclusion? Cloud provides an interesting opportunity to develop old solutions differently. GitHub and GrabCAD are not selling PDM first, but provide platforms for share data and compare revisions. Between these two, GrabCAD is probably looks more like a traditional PDM. GItHub popularity among software developers and SCM feature set can create an interesting perspective for different people in organization – software engineers, mechanical engineers, etc. to share the same platform. It means broader adoption – PDM industry was looking for these last 2 decades. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Messaging and WhatsApp Moment

December 20, 2013


Communication and collaboration is an important part of every PLM solutions. To maintain an efficient way to communicate is not less important than the ability to manage CAD or BOM data. At the same time, email still remains the main system to run communication in every company and extended enterprise communication between OEM, suppliers and other parties. For the last decade or even more, the answer of PLM vendors on email challenge was to create an integration of PLM-process communication into Lotus, Outlook and similar email systems.

Recently, social collaboration became another way vendors are using to shake a status quo of communication problems and collaboration challenges. I’ve been observing modern trends and interesting cases around improvements that can be done in communication. Navigate to one of my previous posts – DIY PLM and zero email policy to read about trends in social networking and collaboration. Another interesting use case was the way Google email support integration of other systems for actionable input – PLM Workflow and Google actionable emails.

Here is a new thing I captured. Have you heard about growing popularity of Messaging applications? We can see new entrants (WeChat, WhatsApp) as well as establishing vendors play (Facebook, Skype, Twitter). Pay attention on the following slide deck – Messenger Wars: How Facebook lost its lead. In my view, it brings some interesting information and statistics about growing dominance of specialized messaging applications. If you don’t have time, take a look below – I put few slides that caught my special attention below:



Messaging Apps winning over Facebook made me think about how dominance of one application can be challenged. I can see a potential opportunity to come and change a communication status of email in the company. Messaging apps are proposed address book and social graph integration. PLM messaging apps can suggest a better content and enterprise identity interaction in the organization.

What is my conclusion? I can see clear demand to make communication and collaboration more efficient. Consumerization and BYOD trends are introducing new challenges in front of PLM vendors. This is especially for new generation of users – digital natives. I think, some innovation can happen at this place. Email integration proposed by all PLM vendors is “so ’95“. I can see Messaging apps as a good example how to propose a new way to communicate and challenge existing ways to collaborate and run processes. The key elements are content integration and communication on multiple devices can provide clear differentiation compared to existing solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

The future of invisible PLM is here – Google Location History

December 19, 2013


The technology can make a difference. What technological approach can make a difference in the future of PLM? This is a question many of us are asking these days. Ease of adoption is a problem for PDM and PLM from the early beginning. Existing technology created a levle of disruption engineers and other people involved into the process are not able to tolerate. Think about designer or engineer working on CAD model. The last thing engineer is interested in is how to check-in and check-out the design in order to keep the history of changes. Let’s think future about engineering processes. It is very inefficient to ask engineering and manufacturing people manually track every change to capture ECO and other processes related to changes of product structure and follow up decisions / actions. So, data management and process management shouldn’t be a burden on top of existing product development activities. Hidden data management, invisible PDM… these are thing that compelling as a future values of PLM technologies nowadays.

Techcrunch article this morning was a mind shake for me. Google’s Location History Browser Is A Minute-By-Minute Map Of Your Life. The article speaks about Goole ability to track you location in an absolutely transparent way using smartphone and your Google account. For those of your who remember Google Latitude, the fact Google can track your location shouldn’t be a big surprise. What was impressive is the level of transparency Google captured data.

I looked over my account and found quite precise history of my locations for the last weeks in variety places. Take a look on few screenshots I made.


The next picture shows my movement inside of Las Vegas Autodesk University venue.


What is my conclusion? The future of invisible PLM will be driven by the ability to capture information and processes in a transparent way. The transparency will allow to PDM and PLM technology to be adopted in a painless way to capture business processes and engineering changes. Context usage will play another important role in the future transparency of enterprise systems. Location context is just a beginning. Future context will include, people, department, calendar, product data and many others. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Not an evil PDM can save engineer’s memory

December 15, 2013


PDM is not a new domain in enterprise, engineering and manufacturing software. It might sounds like PDM functions are clearly defined. Navigate to Tech-clarity blog – PDM buyer’s guide and you will have a good "shopping list" for PDM system and functions. Unfortunately, engineers are not appreciating PDM. Even more, if you ask engineers, the majority of them will tell you that PDM is actually in many aspects makes their lives more complicated and slow working process. Most of PDM values and functions are more appreciated by managers rather than by engineers and designers. These days, industry and technology around PDM are quite disruptive. It comes from different dimensions – cloud file storage (like Google drive and Dropbox), immersive file sharing services and social networks.

Earlier during weekend, I was reading New York Times article – An App That Will Never Forget a File. The article speaks about Evernote – application you might be using already in your everyday life. The interesting spin NYT article takes is by presenting Evernote as a lifesaver for people in their everyday work with files and other contents (e.g. photos, notes and many others). Here is an interesting passage I captured:

Evernote provides a comprehensive single archive of your digital life, giving you one location to store and find practically everything saved on a computer or phone. And the files are automatically backed up on Evernote’s servers. It even makes sharing things with others far easier than emailing attachments around — but it will do that, too.

At first, Evernote may seem redundant to existing tools like email and iCloud, but the service is hard to give up after a week’s use. You won’t want to return to a life of running from device to device for your files. If you start to use the program frequently, you’ll probably find that the premium upgrade makes a lot of sense. With the upgrade, you will have a hard time reaching the storage limit unless you are saving a lot of video. Second, it allows you to search within documents, which can come in incredibly handy. Third, it will let you store copies of important items on your computer or phone, an inevitable lifesaver for anyone who travels without reliable Internet access.

Article about Evernote made me think about how to spin off future PDM capabilities to make PDM appreciated by engineers. Let think about engineer’s memory. To remember what are you doing during design iteration is very complicated. When it happens in collaborative environment with many engineers involved, it can be next to impossible. However, if you will think about possible merge of design iteration, people can think you are dreamer. Now, let’s make another steps towards the future and imagine this functionality will come to engineers with no extra effort (similar to Evernote and Google Docs revisions support). That’s can make a clear difference with today’s PDM environment.

What is my conclusion? Shakeout is needed in PDM. To keep developing similar functions we did for the last 10-15 years won’t create a difference for engineers and designers. We need to have "not an evil PDM concept". The new generation of PDM will capture engineer’s activity seamlessly from multiple devices and in any place (think about Evernote strategy). It will allow to engineers to free their memory and focus on design and innovation. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Thoughts about PDM/PLM jumbos and PLM glue

December 10, 2013


PDM v. PLM. This topic is usually raising lots of questions. Still is… People are getting confused by names and functions. Few years ago, I wrote 3 posts comparing PDM and PLM from different aspects – data, process and integration. Recently, Chad Jackson made me think about PLM and PDM topic again by his write up of Enovia capabilities. You might read my PDMish, PLMish and other CADPDLM bundles following Chad’s post.

Aras blog is bringing PDM v PLM topic again. Navigate to PDM or PLM? Yes. story by Peter Schroer – CEO and President of Aras. Peter draws a clear functional line between PDM and PLM. The following passage put all "dots" in comparison between D and L in product development.

PDM doesn’t provide product configuration management (effectivity) or enterprise process management. It doesn’t keep the design in synch with product workflows or requirements management, it doesn’t manage non-CAD and non-file based data very well, and it doesn’t track where that part or assembly fits in to the entire system lifecycle process. While PDM is useful, it doesn’t help make supply chains more efficient, it doesn’t improve quality or customer satisfaction, and it doesn’t help increase revenue.

The recipe I captured in Aras’ blog is suggesting PLM to play the role of glue that connect PDM (engineering) and extended enterprise (rest of the company).

PLM, or product lifecycle management, is the glue between PDM and the extended enterprise. PLM takes product data and puts it in the correct context for each user. For some users the CAD file is the center of their universe, but for many others CAD-based data is just a small subset of the entire set of product information they work with.

The last things about "glue" made me think about future integration strategies in PDM/PLM world. It was a time when everybody had a dream of a single PLM system used by everybody in the company providing a holistic set of functions. However, nowadays the number of "single PLM" believers are going down.

So, what comes next? Few weeks ago, I’ve been discussing the idea of Future unbundling strategies in PLM. Thinking more, I can see future separation of giant systems into small services as something more feasible. I can see how small features and functions are getting traction in a company to fulfill a specific need – change management, configurations, engineering BOM, etc.

What is my conclusion? I can see more tools and service diversity in the future. It is very hard to provide ready to go out-of-the-box set of functions. Compared to that, I can see set of services to make product development, collaboration, data management and communication more efficient. Some of tools can be cloud- and some of them – on-premise based. Social platforms will play a role of one-big-system-glue. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PDMish, PLMish and other CADPDLM bundles…

November 20, 2013


Engineering and manufacturing software is full of interesting TLAs that companies continuing to invent even these days. Only yesterday GrabCAD introduced Workbench enhancement under somewhat that can be considered as a very traditional name – Collaborative Product Development (CPD) Platform.

Chad Jackson, my long time blogging buddy published an article with fascinating title – ENOVIA Data Management: Less PDM-ish, More PLM-ish. Chad made a review of Enovia data management capabilities from Dassault System briefing. Read the article with multiple embedded tweet-quotes. Besides playing PDM vs. PLM naming game, article brings an important perspective of where Enovia data management architecture is going. Here is an interesting passage I captured:

CAD models have never been simple files. Lots of stuff have been, and continue to be, jammed into them. They contain far more than just geometry. They contain part numbers, so drawing BOMs populate automatically. They contain material properties, such that mass properties can be calculated. Over time, as more and more enterprise considerations needed to be taken into account, more non-geometry stuff has been jammed into CAD files. The problem with all this stuff in CAD files was that, unlike many other types of files, operating systems couldn’t understand the structure of information in CAD files.

So, what Enovia is doing differently? According to Chad’s comments -

Dassault Systèmes are trying to liberate all that stuff jammed into the CAD file. Here are some notes from my briefing with them. In short, they are taking non-geometric items in CAD files an turning them into meta-data that lives in ENOVIA. They are being turned into individual pieces of information that can be modified separately and independently from every other piece of information and the geometry. Of course, this meta-data is related and will live as a database item right alongside the file that contains the geometry.


It made me think about future trajectories of CAD/PDM/PLM integrations. I’ve been describing possible options in one of the posts last year – Multi-CAD PDM integrations: yesterday, today and tomorrow. The idea of CAD/PDM bundle I expressed there is in my view a reflection of what CATIA/Enovia is doing in data management. As I mentioned there, it solves the problem of version compatibility as well as provide a significant advantages in terms of functional richness. This is exactly what Chad demonstrated with CATIA/Enovia examples.

What is my conclusion? Integration remains a place where lots of innovation is happening. CAD, PDM and PLM integrations is a very challenging space. Customers have a huge demand to have vertically integrated product providing sufficient amount of features and what is mostly important a completely new level of user experience. It sounds like we can see more investment in this space coming from traditional vendors. CAD/PLM companies will try to integrate existing products into vertical suites connecting data and providing support for integrated product scenarios. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

GrabCAD CPD wants to disrupt CAD file management

November 19, 2013


Three years ago I sat together with Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD is one of Starbucks coffee shops near Brookline, Mass. We’ve been talking about GrabCAD social networks, communities, openness, engineers and CAD libraries. You can find some of my thoughts after this conversation here – Marketplaces and Engineering Software. Since that time, I’ve been following GrabCAD trajectories closely and had a chance to meet with Hardi many times. You can probably remember some of my previous posts – Manufacturing Crowdsourcing and Cloud PLM opportunity, GrabCAD, Collaboration and Dropbox, GrabCAD and Open Engineering Source: Dream or Reality?

However, GrabCAD trajectory recently started to show some changes. From open CAD library and “Facebook for engineers”, GrabCAD is moving towards maybe more traditional space – design and collaboration. GrabCAD introduced Workbench – the product that supposed to help engineers collaborate during the design phase. You see my first GrabCAD Workbench experiments here. All around GrabCAD Workbench started to look and smell document and product data management – PDM: reinvent the wheel or innovate?

Lately, Hardi and I had a very active discussion about different aspects of CAD file sharing, collaboration and integration – CAD File Sharing and Integration Challenges, Top 3 pros and cons to have a special CAD file sharing tools.

And here is finally come. Early today, GrabCAD published a press release announcing future GrabCAD PDM solution – GrabCAD Workbench brings CAD file management into 21st century. Navigate here () to read press release. So, the name of the game is CPD (Collaborative Product Development) and here is how it explained in GrabCAD press release:

Today GrabCAD announced that it has expanded the capabilities of the cloud­ based Workbench solution to a complete platform for Collaborative Product Development (CPD), enabling users to manage, share and view CAD models with zero IT investment. More than ten thousand users have already signed up to use Workbench to share CAD models with suppliers, customers and partners. With the expansion of file management capabilities, these users will be able to automatically sync their desktop files to cloud projects, track file dependencies, visualize version differences and resolve conflicts. With these additions, Workbench is now the ideal tool to help small to mid-­size companies manage CAD files.

It all comes to the advantages of the cloud – to get service without installation, configuration, maintenance and other related hassle. Here is another passage I captured.

As a cloud­ based service, Workbench requires no dedicated server, no configuration, no maintenance, and no IT hardware or support. While legacy PDM/PLM solutions take weeks or months to install and configure, Workbench users are up and running in minutes.

Few screenshots below can give some additional impression about what GrabCAD Workbench CPD is supposed to provide. According to GrabCAD, service will become available first as a beta for everybody and later will become available for flat fee of 25$ or 45$ per month depends on the plan.


On of the very interesting features of GrabCAD CPD and Workbench is Viewer Diff functionality that is able to visualize and show difference between CAD file versions.



What is my conclusion? Technology and people. These are two components of future changes in almost every place. I’m always saying – technology is much easier than people. In engineering and manufacturing business it is probably specially true. Engineers are main consumers of CAD and PDM products and it is very hard to change their behaviors. PDM has probably one of the worst records in enterprise software, especially among small companies and individuals. Engineers recognized PDM as something that hurts them and doesn’t help. It would be interesting to see if new cloud services such as GrabCAD CPD will change the trend. The name (CPD) isn’t new, so hope to product itself will deliver the difference. I’m looking forward to join the service as a beta and test it. So, stay tuned for future posts.

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: GrabCAD didn’t pay me to write this post and in no way influence my opinion about what GrabCAD Workbench CPD can do.


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