How PLM let go of the banana?

January 14, 2014


How do you trap a big monkey in a small cage the size of a banana? Easy! You place a banana inside the cage and leave an opening large enough for the monkey’s hand, but not for the banana. As soon as the monkey grabs the banana, it’s trapped. The monkey can set itself free if it lets go of the banana, but it won’t! By not giving up what it has in its hand, it locks itself just outside the tiny cage.

PLM story is very similar. For a long period of time, PLM is trapped into “engineering cage” deeply connected with CAD roots. If you look on what PLM industry and top PLM players are producing, you can find a lot of similarities. Marketing messages, product names, functionality are similar, which can challenge customer decision process as well as business differentiation for vendors. At the same time, a potential span of solutions, purposes, business objectives, experience is huge as well as purpose of PLM – to help people design and manufacture “things”.

So, how PLM industry can be unhooked and develop new different approaches in beyond traditional PLM way to think and behave? While I don’t have an out of the box recipe, I wanted to mention few examples of companies and approaches that to looks like a change from a traditional mindset. There is no order and priority in this list. I picked up two smaller companies and two established vendors to create some parity in the story.

1- Aras. For the last five years, I’ve been looking on Aras Enterprise Open Source model for PLM. Don’t try to find a “pure open source model”. Aras is different from Linux. It provide a mix of openness approach, different business model and company state of mind that looks different and drives interest from many people in PLM industry. Aras is distributing their product free and making business from subscriptions. You can get more details about how Aras is doing that by navigating on this link.

2- GrabCAD. Started as website to upload 3D CAD files few years ago, GrabCAD is transforming into cloud platform and marketplace to sell product and services. It includes some interesting activities called “GrabCAD challenges” that drives crowdsourcing in design and manufacturing. In addition to that, GrabCAD Workbench provides a place for engineers to collaborate or just simply store their 3D CAD models. Al Dean of Develop3D just published a very interesting article talking about GrabCAD differentiations here.

3- Autodesk Cloud. PLM360 was announced 2 years ago as “cloud PLM alternative”. It goes together with massive cloud shift that Autodesk makes in all product development. Autodesk 360 and related set of “360 family” of products is a change in a mindset of how products and services can be sold, deployed and used. If you want to learn more about Autodesk PLM360, navigate here.

4- PTC IoT. This is one of the last news in PLM world. By acquisition of ThingWorx, PTC announced their interest in so called “Internet of Things” world. The IoT trend is interesting and clear different from what traditional “PLM banana” might looks like. Together with SLM (Service Lifecycle Management) strategies from PTC it introduces an interesting PLM shift. If you want to read more about PTC ThingWorx acquisition, navigate here.

What is my conclusion? Changes are coming. Established PLM vendors and startups are slowly freeing their hands from the cage with “PLM as we know” banana and moving forward. The new industrial revolution is coming. In coming years, we are going to see lots of new approaches in how to make things and do manufacturing differently. It will include new business models, new people, new products and new environments. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

The End of PLM Communism?

December 10, 2012

central-vs-decentral.pngIt is hard to find somebody in PLM industry not familiar with the idea of "single point of truth". I discussed the latest modification of that idea called "the whole truth" here earlier this year. I’ve been thinking about PLM implementations over the weekend and some perspective on PLM concepts. In addition to that, I had some healthy debates over the weekend with my friends online about ideas of centralization and decentralization. All together made me think about potential roots and future paths in PLM projects.

PLM was started as an idea to provide a central point for data about the product and the lifecycle. It was heavily influence by two factors: 1- protectiveness of CAD business to IP and CAD file formats; 2- ideas and successes of centralized ERP implementations. In CAD and PLM space the discussion was always presented as "best of breed vs. integrated", but in fact, PLM vendors tried to apply their influence to implement centralized data management role in PLM. Attempt to copy ERP businesses was another factor pushing PLM towards centralization.

PDM was another influencing factors in future PLM implementation. The idea of PDM was centralization. It is a great model to centralized all document records, drawings, revisions, etc. PDM was never designed to be decentralized. Even more, all trials to implement decentralized PDM systems in the past failed. The challenge of organizations was to grow beyond a single point of data storage, data model and data organization. Later in time, companies started to experiment with "virtual layers" beyond multiple systems and product data domains. Virtual layers were sort of bastardization of centralized PDM idea. PDM systems worked well with a central repository of data, but failed massively to support distributed and decentralized process management. Virtual layer was complicated, costly and didn’t work well.

The challenge is that number of companies brought to centralized PLM concept is large these days. They are continuing to spend money and resources trying to implement centralized data and processes. Eventually, they might discover at the end (after spending a lot of money), centralized idea of data and processes cannot support what they want to implement and cannot work in a distributed environment.

What is my conclusion? PLM implementations (or how some people calls it "PLM Journey") reminded me "5 years plans" in former Soviet Union. They came originally from the same place – centralization and control. The old formation of PLM systems cannot work in distributed organization environment and support distributed processes. New formation of PLM systems need to focus on network, data connectivity and processes to connect data. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Think Tank Top 5 – December and 2011

January 16, 2012

Silicon Valley is well known by the high concentration of web start-up companies. My recent conclusion about PLM Highway (Rt. 128) in Greater Boston was picked up by Boston Globe article – Carmakers flock to Massachusetts for digital design help. Navigate to the following link to read this article online. I noticed an increase in my live communication (compared to virtual blogging activities) during last time. The most notable were – Dassault ribbon cut for their new office in Waltham, MA; PTC HQ visit last week. Later, this week, I will be visiting Aras Corp. during new office launch (shh… don’t tell anybody). I’d like to thank all for the invitation and hope it will inspire me for future blogging.

Now, let’s turn to my traditional Top 5. This time, I’d like to give it in a bit extended way and to summarize top 5 topics for 2011 too. The following blogs were most readable over the past 12 months. I’m not pretending for sharp statistic, but it can give you some idea about what was on the list of interest. Of course, it provides some impression about how readers are picking up articles (in my view, this is what happened for my Aras, Dassault, PTC, Siemens post).

2011 Top 5

Aras PLM lines up against Windchill, Enovia and TeamCenter

Aras is definitely moving towards crossing paths with PLM like Windchill, Enovia, TeamCenter. Is it possible to displace large PLM system with Aras today? My answer – it depends. The PLM implementation scope is varied, and every implementation can be different. Therefore, I specially liked the community oriented approach of development. This is something that can make a difference. On the side of platforms and integrations – time will show if Aras will find a balance between throwing resources and effective delivery. This is a big challenge.

SolidWorks n!Fuze: The cloud re-make of PLM collaboration?

The collaboration topic in PLM is still a place where we will see lots of innovations. The attempt to remake some old concepts to a new reality is a good sign in my view. I can see “cloud” concepts, focus on usability and introducing of social elements as right steps toward converting n!Fuze into something useful. However, I have to note that some functionality of n!Fuze will create an overlap with existing Enterprise PDM features. Users have a tendency to push the limits of product can do from the functional standpoint, and I can see people can use n!Fuze as a basic PDM on the cloud.

PDM vs. PLM: A data perspective

The ugly truth of enterprise software – it is all about data and the control over the data. It appears in every solution. It is all about what data you manage, how do you keep your customers accessing and processing this data?. PLM is the attempt to manage data in the much broader scope than PDM. It creates lots of benefits from the standpoint of data completeness and, at the same time, created many overlaps in data management solutions in enterprise organizations.

Autodesk PLM: Fast Second?

People want to have a better way to manage their data and processes. According to Autodesk, most of PLM implementations today are about data management. Existing PLM vendors are doing mostly data management. Autodesk is doing an excellent job in data management using Autodesk Vault. So, the goal to fix processes and workflow sounds like a reasonable one. Autodesk is getting a huge advantage to research all available PLM implementations. The second-mover opportunity is on the Autodesk side. However, Autodesk will have to come with something radically different to prove their approach is better. Last, but not least – processes are tightly connected to the data in organizations. Autodesk will have to implement an efficient access to product and company data from the cloud to successfully deploy their new cloud-based process management software. Here is a challenge and a potential danger in process-oriented cloud strategy.

PLM, BOM, Excel: How to make it right?

This post was injected by Arena Solution blog giving away some BOM templates. I think, MS Excel is a big deal for PLM companies. Customers are voting for Excels. PLM vendors may understand that their previous “Export To Excel” strategy was wrong, and they need to change it now. The competition with Excel will be growing as much as PLM vendors will be trying to expand their solutions to be used by more people in companies. So, give away some Excel templates can be a very good idea.

December Top 5

PLM Highway and New Dassault Waltham Campus

Dassault new campus is interesting. You can definitely enjoy some pictures, as well as the one and the only map of PLM highway in Boston.

How to streamline PLM?

PLM was born many years to solve the problem of product development in complex defense and aerospace companies. Since that time, software vendors passed a long way developing new functionality. However, I don’t think it made solutions better. It is very hard to remove functionality for existing software. At the same time, I don’t see any alternative to that in the future.

Autodesk PLM Nexus: First Hands-on demo

Nexus PLM has nice and slick web user experience. Without practicall hands-on it is hard to say something about ease of navigation and the estimate the number of clicks you need to do to perform an action (click-per-action). These two things normally drive crazy users in data-oriented web environment. I found very positive the fact Autodesk is thinking about “insane customization”. However, it will be interested to see and experiment with how the complexity of customization will co-exist with cloud-based multi-tenant deployment. It reminds me one of my old posts – Is PLM customization a Data Management Titanic? Another critical aspect that wasn’t covered is data import or integration with existing systems (i.e. Files, Archives, Content Management, PDM, PLM, ERP, etc.). The answer Autodesk provided pointed to some internal development with Autodesk Vault as well as a future work with partners. That would be very interesting to see in the future. Overall, Nexus has a potential to disrupt. I’m looking forward to seeing how Autodesk will realize this potential.

Autodesk, Aras and integrated PDM/PLM story

PDM / PLM integration looks like an interesting trend. We are going to see to see more examples, in my view. What is the fundamental reason behind it? I think many companies are having trouble to drive their IT infrastructure towards unification. It requires longer projects and expanded budgets. If PLM companies find an efficient way to integrate and access data between systems, it can definitely provide a competitive advantage on the market. Last one cannot be guaranteed, but it sounds as an interesting opportunity.

How do you know your PLM project in trouble?

The five symptoms I figured out, probably will be true not only for PLM, but for a broader range of enterprise software. However, as you probably know, in PLM and enterprise, one size doesn’t fit all. You need to have a diversity of knowledge and experience to make thing work.

Have enjoyable and successful 2012!

Best, Oleg


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