The future of PLM apps

April 27, 2015

enterprise-apps

PLM technologies and products went through many changes for the last two decades. If you long timer in PLM industry, you might remember initial PDM / PLM products. In my view, most of them provided some sort of toolbox solutions used by large companies and IT service organization. You had to spend time to tailor a solution that can be used by a manufacturing company. The last decade of PLM development was featured by an invasion of Out-of-the-box PLM solutions. While flexibility was an ultimate requirements by all manufacturing companies, Out-of-the-box (OOTB) strategy used to lower implementation cost and demonstrating capabilities of PLM products for specific industries and needs.

The new trend came in 2010s. Apps and App stores. Everybody got an “app virus” in their strategies. To develop apps is a new way and we are getting infected by this trend. If you cut the marketing buzz, the idea of app development has some strong grounds. Think how to deliver a specific tailored solution for customers.

Who is developing PLM apps?

Apps is a language that used by several PLM providers in the past.

Aras PLM community solutions (projects). Aras enterprise open source model is allowing to partners to develop variety of solutions to cover specific customer needs. The openness of Aras and zero cost of platform (if you don’t want to pay for subscription) made Aras a good choice for partners and companies developing PLM solutions. You can learn more by navigating to the following link.

Autodesk PLM 360. Autodesk PLM360 flexibility and cloud delivery was presented a one of key differentiations. Navigate to PLM360 app store to learn about solutions (apps) available on top of PLM 360. Navigate to the following link to see available apps. The following Autodesk blog post by Mike Watkins make a demonstration how to build a new app using PLM360.

Dassault 3DExprience platform. DS is speaking about apps on top of 3DEXPERIENCE platform, but I didn’t find signs of these apps online. Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insight put a good review of apps strategy on his blog, which indicated flexibility and apps as part of DS strategy.

GrabCAD Engineering apps. This is probably a history, but one day GrabCAD had a strategy to build an app store together with Autodesk. Navigate to this blog from 2013 to read more. After GrabCAD acquisition I never heard about GrabCAD building app store.

Siemens PLM apps and platform. Siemens PLM is also thinking how to come with PLM apps. Navigate to the following link to learn more about platform extensibility. Lifecycle insight article about separating platform and apps can give you an additional insight on that.

How to develop apps

To develop app is actually a challenge that requires many steps to be done. Every PLM implementation is a bit different. So, how to make an app store that can be used by multiple customers. To support these apps can be also a challenging factor.

What happens outside of PLM world? Salesforce1 is probably one of the best examples of a platform that used to develop enterprise apps. More to come. You can find publications of companies speaking about how to enable application building app stores or focusing on development of mobile apps. One the most notable was Apple / IBM partnership from very large companies (Apple and IBM). Box Dev edition is another interesting example. I posted about it last week here. I stumble on another interesting example coming from startup world – Fliplet – a platform to develop mobile apps, which reminded me some sort of “WordPress for mobile apps”.

What is my conclusion? How to develop, deliver and support enterprise apps is an interesting challenge software vendors are facing these days. It is especially painful problem in PLM world where each PLM implementation is a bit different. So, do you think PLM apps is a future? How to deliver PLM apps platform that will eliminate the need for painful and expensive PLM implementations? Do you think one of existing PLM platforms can be robust and open enough to provide PaaS for future PLM apps? What is your take? I don’t think we have an answer today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Who will build PLM startup on top of Box platform?

April 24, 2015

box-platform

Few months ago, I speculated if Box can become a platform for PLM. Navigate to my previous article to read more details. In a nutshell, it was about aligning Box industry strategies with the opportunity to use Box cloud storage for engineering data.

Business insider article yesterday Box and VCs have created a $40 million fund for startups building on Box’s platform made me think again about the potential opportunity for Box to be a platform for engineering applications. The article is stressing the point of use storage for business applications. Here is the passage from article explaining why Box is looking for startups.

If Box wants to rule the business software market, it needs a lot of people using it. To get a lot of people using it, it needs apps that use it as the storage service on the backend. To get apps that use the service, it needs more startups willing to do it.

So, how to start? Navigate to the following TechCrunch article to learn more about Box development edition. The cost of storage is decreasing and companies like Box are looking how to create future business differentiations.

Box has recognized for some time that cloud storage is a commodity. Knowing that and noting it on stage, the company pressed its various services that it has built on top of storage, like permissions, access statistics and content management. Box Developer Edition is a bet that developers want to integrate storage and file management into their apps, but don’t want to bother with all the hassling details, something that Box has spent significant time and resources figuring out.

More details about Box development edition is here. On the following picture, you can see a possible template for enterprise application on top of Box platform.

box-enterprise-app-pattern-2

Take a look on many enterprise PLM applications and you can recognize similar pattern – groups, folders, content, permissions, collaboration.

What is my conclusion? I like the idea of turning Box towards a platform to build enterprise applications. The barrier to get in the market of enterprise applications is high. Enterprises’ preference to work with large trusted companies is well known in the market. And most of startups are dying because they cannot reach customers. Having investors and neutral horizontal service like Box as a foundation can be an interesting start for new PLM company. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


The role of Bill of Materials (BOM) in PLM competition

April 21, 2015

trucks-scania-man-vw

It is hard to overestimate the value of bill of materials (BOM) in product design, engineering and manufacturing. It is everywhere – product design and configuration, engineering, manufacturing, operation, etc. BOM is equally important and complex. In my earlier articles, I touched multiple dimensions of BOM complexity – disciplines, product lifecycle, changes. PLM vendors are focusing on high level of integration of product information into development process. Few months ago in my article When BOM is not BOM, I touched some of aspects of BOM complexity and how it related to BOM ownership, BOM errors and future battle for MBOM ownership between PLM and ERP.

Actually, the battle between PLM vendors for superior BOM solution can be even more interesting. Engineering.com article – Volkswagen’s Epic Challenge to synchronize PLM for its Truck Brands brings a very interesting story about German automotive giant trying to unify PLM solution across its commercial vehicle brands. Take some of your lunch or evening time and read the article.

The example of Scania brings up the value of well integrated PLM solution to support vehicle configuration and manufacturing.

The secret to Scania’s success is a sales model where product development and modular manufacturing processes are interwoven with sales into a holistic system. The company is known for its tailor-made vehicles. Scania’s PLM plays a big role in its business model. Scania uses Dassault’s (DS) CATIA V5 while ENOVIA V5 serves as the CAD vault. PDM functionality is handled via Scania’s proprietary OAS platform which defines the rules for how the components can be assembled. The OAS works as a product database, configuration and structural control solution. CAD geometries are downloaded from the ENOVIA CAD vault in accordance with the configurations delivered by OAS. In terms of the eBOM and the mBOM, it’s once again about OAS and its couplings to ENOVIA. The company’s manufacturing solutions can’t handle many variations; you have to prepare one at a time and make them individually for each truck.

For some your it might be a big surprise, but according to the article, Excel is a key element of PLM solution used by another vehicle manufacturer. MAN is using Excel based technology to work with EBOM and MBOM.

MAN uses both Dassault’s CATIA V5 and PTC’s ProEngineer/CREO. After a succesful pilot last year that considered product development (ie, not production), the company chose PTC’s PDMLink (part of Windchill) for their CAD vault and PDM system. Configuration and structural control is principally handled via an Excel Integration with PDM Link. The eBOM (engineering BOM) and the mBOM (manufacturing BOM) are produced by PDM Link via the Excel integration, picking up the parts from the CAD vault. The implementation of PDM Link is under way but at a low speed in anticipation of a final PLM decision.

The story of MAN and Scania made me think about importance of BOM management in complex product configurations and vertical integration with manufacturing. Build to order or engineering to order environments are extremely complex and require fine tuned integration between engineering bills, configuration parameters (features) and ability to translate it into manufacturing and as-built environment.

Here is my favorite passage from engineering.com article which put nail in the head of BOM importance.

BOM management issues will be the most crucial and will determine the direction the company takes. Regardless of what VAG decides to do, the gains that can be made through sharp, highly automated BOM creation and MDM (Master Data Management) solutions is significant. The advanatge of an MDM solution is that it connects the PLM, MES and ERP systems into seamlessly functioning IT units for the shop floor and manufacturing.

What is my conclusion? Platformization is one of the trends in modern PLM according to CIMdata. The example of VW shows an importance of BOM management in order to provide robust and scalable PLM solution for complex automotive manufacturing. My hunch BOM will become one of the most important weapons PLM vendors will be using to differentiate future PLM platforms. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


COFES 2015: PLM and the cloud briefing

April 20, 2015

plm-cloud-adoption

Last week at COFES 2015, I shared my thoughts and opinion about what happens between PLM and the cloud for the last few years. That was a teaser of my COFES session in the agenda:

As recently as three years ago, the cloud was viewed as a differentiator for some PLM vendors. The PLM world was divided between those who viewed the cloud as “the future” and those who viewed it as a fad. Today, most PLM vendors touch the cloud or engage with it in some way. But… what has really changed? Where do we stand with the big questions/challenges with PLM? Can the cloud still be the source of a competitive differentiator for PLM vendors?

Cloud is an outcome of web technological revolution of 2000s. Consumer web applications and social networks provided great user experience, open source technology and taste of new business models. In many situations, we experienced better performance, usability and robustness of consumer applications compared to our business solutions. Which basically set all enterprise CIOs on fire from 2010 to deliver new enterprise solutions.

But cloud is not only about technologies. It is also about transformation in business models. We can see a shift towards SaaS applications with subscription models and variety of innovation in different business models – pay for storage, pay for use, references, etc.

Manufacturing companies are looking for new PLM business models, which can allow them to have sustainable licensing mechanism to grow, remove upfront cost and deliver “less expensive PLM” to existing and new users.

Enterprise software discovered SaaS applications and cloud too. Salesforce.com was pioneering so called “no software” paradigm from early 2000s. In manufacturing and enterprise, Netsuite is another example of software vendor using cloud as a strategy. Bom.com (later transformed into Arena Solutions) was a first on-demand application providing PLM related functionality. Windchill and Agile PLM software are also examples of PLM products experimenting with hosting and on-demand delivery.

plm-cloud-history-2015

The revolutionary step was done by Autodesk PLM360 in 2012. Autodesk was not engaged with PLM activity until that time. It was even famous for anti-PLM rants. However, in 2012, Autodesk introduced PLM 360 (built on top of Datastay acquisition), which became a game changing trigger for PLM industry. Since 2012, we can see an increased trend among PLM vendors to adopt cloud strategy.

Below is a slide deck summarizing my PLM and the cloud briefing. It provides few more details, so take a look.

Cofes 2015 plm and the cloud briefing (public) from Oleg Shilovitsky

What is my conclusion? Few things are clear today about PLM and the cloud. It is obvious that cloud is not fad and it removes significant IT headache to install, configure and maintain PLM. With cloud option, you can start PLM development almost instantaneously. However, PLM implementations are still hard. What is not clear is the future cloud PLM adoption trajectory. Manufacturing companies made significant investments in existing PLM installations and implementations. What ROI can trigger their decision to move into cloud PLM? There is an opportunity for companies that never engaged in PLM, to start with cloud PLM as a more efficient and easy way to adopt PLM. However, the implementation phase is still painful for many customers. Therefore the main question for me is what can bend future a curve of cloud PLM adoption. Just my thought…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Pixomar at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


COFES 2015: Product Lifecycle, Supply Chain and Data Networks

April 17, 2015

complexity-product-data-supply-chain

I had a chance to share my thoughts about complexity of product lifecycle in supply chain at COFES 2015 Design and Sustainability symposium. Manufacturing companies and software vendors are facing new enterprise reality these days – distributed environment, connected work and cloud software. On the other side we have skyrocketing complexity of products. Each product is a system these days. Think about simple activity tracking device. It is a combination of hardware, mobile application, cloud data services, big data analytics and API to work with partners. The complexity of modern luxury car is 100M line of software code. Think about product information changes in the system which is combined from engineering, customer, field support and connected devices working together.

Product data complexity is introducing new level of challenge in front of software vendors. I think it is a time for software vendors to think how to break limits of existing PLM architecture to support a level of complexity demanded by manufacturing environment and complexity of products.

So, what to do if a single database approach is dead? Federated architecture was one of the approaches PLM vendors used in the past (Actually, I think, this is probably the only one that works in production for very large enterprises). But this approach is expensive in implementation and requires too much “data pumping” between silos. Opposite to that, an experience of some companies with network based data architectures shows some promising results.

COFES 2015: Product lifecycle, supply chain and data networks from Oleg Shilovitsky

What is my conclusion? The growing complexity of manufacturing environment and products creates the demand for new product lifecycle architectures. These architectures will be able to support management of multidisciplinary product data (mechanical, electronic, software) and will operate as a global distributed data network. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Can we see CAD-PLM unicorns on a horizon?

April 16, 2015

3d-unicorn

I’m on my way to COFES 2015 – annual gathering of people discussing a future of engineering software in Scottsdale, Arizona. It made me think about an intersection of startup and engineering software world. Last year I shared my thoughts about a potential surge of CAD / PLM startups driven by new cloud technologies, web, open source and multiplied by large amount of unsolved problems in engineering software such as globalization, slow ROI, complexity and cost. So I want to continue a startup theme today.

My attention was caught by article by Dave McClure – Bubble, My Ass: Some Unicorns Might Be Overvalued, But All Dinosaurs Gonna Die. Article speaks about Unicorns – an unofficial term used to call a startup with valuation greater than $1B. According to recent WSJ article, there are 82 startup companies in the world with such valuation. You can see companies from consumer and enterprise space there. The following picture (from 2013 TechCrunch article) can show you the split:

2013-unicorns

My favorite part in Dave McClure’s article is actually related to a great summary of reasons why Dinosaurs companies are going to die – 1/ Dinosaur companies don’t innovate; 2/ Dinosaur Companies have a tough time recruiting & retaining top technical talent; 3/ Dinosaur Companies don’t get how critical internet marketing is becoming. The following passage is my favorite:

Fundamental to all of the above is the following observation: most public companies have not taken to heart how absolutely mission-critical software technology & internet marketing have become to business competitiveness. Thus, almost every Dinosaur Company is extremely vulnerable to a Startup Unicorn eating their lunch (stated so eloquently this past week by none other than JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon).

You cannot spot engineering and manufacturing software companies in these lists. However, we can see few companies that can be associated with enterprise software business and used by manufacturing companies – Dropbox, Box, Tableu, Workday, Palantir. The largest valuation of CAD / PLM startup that was mentioned recently was $295M for Onshape – here is the Fortune article mentioning that:

Onshape, a Cambridge computer-aided design (CAD) software startup, has raised a total of $64 million in funding from New Enterprise Associates, North Bridge Venture Partners, and Commonwealth Capital. The funding values the company, which has operated stealthily for the past three years, at $295 million, including the funding.

Here is a question to think about. Can engineering and manufacturing software industry create a unicorn startup in the next decade? As a reference you can take a look on available information about market capitalization of some CAD / PLM companies – Dassault Systemes ($16.1B), Autodesk ($14B), PTC ($4.26B). But these are public companies with 20+ years of lifetime. At the same time, I’m not aware about any startup company in engineering software domain that has revenue close to $100M. According to latest CIMdata analytical researches, PLM market (which includes CAD business too) grew up 6.8% to $37.2B in 2014. Onshape is probably the only company on a horizon that (based on funding and buzz it created) can think to be a unicorn in the future. However, Onshape is still very early in the lifecycle and it is hard to predict its future trajectory.

What is my conclusion? From traditional engineering software viewpoint, it is hard to see how CAD / PLM industry can bring a new company that will be valued with $1B in coming 5-10 years. However, here is the thing…. Look on companies in the list of unicorns. Many of them made a transformation in the traditional industry landscape (transportation, hospitality, communication). That was the main reason for their premium ($B) valuation. Until now, CAD companies made CAD and PLM companies made PLM in the way we knew that for the last 15-20 years. The future might be different. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image credit GrabCAD


Personal SWOT for PLM professionals

April 15, 2015

plm-professional-swot

Engineering and manufacturing software industry is well known by very high barrier to entry. It is related to specific professional manufacturing knowledge as well as experience with software products – CAD, PDM, PLM, etc. It is not easy to make a decision about what tools to learn and what job to accept.

I’m getting requests from people asking for advise about their professional carrier in PLM industry. The range of questions are from how get more knowledgeable about PLM and going down to more specific issues related to people, companies, opportunities, etc.

So, how to take a right decision about your path in PLM? Don’t do it spontaneous. I think some methodology can help to make a better decision. In software, we often use SWOT analysis to compare different software packages. You probably had a chance to read my blog post – Top PLM Vendors. Let’s face it – every vendor has its strength… My key takeaway – there is no good or bad PLM system. A lot of things are depending on a specific customer, problems, tools, technologies. It is a combination of things that can make a difference in PLM projects. And it requires a specific set of professional skills to make it successful.

BA Guru Matt Adams is taking the idea of SWOT to a personal level. Read his article – Personal SWOT Analysis – Where to really focus your efforts – Business Analyst Guru. This is an unusual leverage of SWOT approach. You can make your own SWOT analysis of knowledge related to engineering disciplines, best practices, engineering software. It will help you with a future PLM carrier decisions.

Below I can give you some ideas about specific PLM skills and topics you can think about when developing your personal PLM SWOT

1- Strength. Think about CAD, PDM or PLM tools you are familiar with. If you did PLM implementations, remember what you did and how did you achieve results. Summarize them in some sort of “process briefing”. List of companies you’ve been working with as an employee, consulting. List people you met in the past connected to PLM implementations and projects.

2- Weakness. Think about projects you hated. What went wrong. What was the reason for failure. Try to remember feedback you’ve got from your customers and managers. Think about bad experience with CAD and PLM software. Imagine how it can fail you in the future.

3- Opportunities. Think about how to leverage what you own in order to get into specific business, position or project. If you familiar with a specific methodology or tool, think how this knowledge or IP can be used to create a value for organization or product you can work on.

4- Threats. We are leaving in dynamic world. Things are changing fast. New methodology, software, technologies, regulations, etc. You need to keep up and learn. Think about potentially bad projects and organizations you can get involved into.

What is my conclusion? Think about your carrier as a lifecycle of your knowledge, skills and experience. You personal PLM SWOT is a summary of information about what you can do and how you can realize your skills with a future projects and opportunities. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


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