Cloud storage “race to zero” will help to create new type of CAD & PLM solutions

October 8, 2015


Did you pay attention what happened to cloud storage? I’m sure you did. The cost is racing to zero. You can get basically any storage size you want today. Even more, cloud giants like Google and Apple are promoting additional services with unlimited storage capacities.

Cloud giants are building their businesses on top of free cloud storage businesses. The following article by TechCrunch can give you a short explanation about that – The race to zero is awesome. Here is my favorite passage:

In cloud storage, the large players are working to build apps on top of their storage stack, so that they can have a unique value proposition when the price of storage itself finally reaches nil. In cloud computing, it could be that the value add that the large players will use to compete will be their app environment. If you build for, say, Google’s app ecosystem, your cloud compute might be free. If Google’s app ecosystem is the best, you’ll want to work over there, but you wouldn’t if Google didn’t offer competitively priced cloud computing; smaller players could use that to their advantage, and potentially hem in on Google’s business. So compute prices would be pretty uniform across the industry, falling in near unison. That is, of course, precisely what we have seen with cloud storage prices.

You may ask how does it connect to CAD and PLM? Here is the thing- I think there is a disruptive play in creating applications and business models. It will result in changing of fundamental functional and business behaviors. Free storage is convenient – many of us are using free storage to keep our information. It is accessible and reliable. It is getting better in terms of security.

In my earlier article last week, I’ve been talking about "unicorns" – startup companies valued by private investors for $1B and more. Engineering community got its own unicorn – Onshape. The interesting aspect of Onshape is a new business model – you can use Onshape for free if you agree to limit the number of projects to ten (as I’m writing this article, but the original number when Onshape just released their beta was five). Another important aspect of Onshape functionality is product data management. Onshape keeps the history of all updates and allows you to back to any point in a history of your CAD models. In my view, this is an example of how to combine a desired business functionality with free storage.

I can see a direct correlation between cost and new technologies. The scale and ability to grow elastically can be a game changer for CAD and PLM technologies to grow faster and cost less than before. Another place where we can see a significant growth these days is IoT and hardware development. The cost of hardware components is going down. The cost of prototyping using 3D printing and other online services is going down tool. The result – a growing number of hardware companies and manufacturing services. It will demand new type of software tools – cloud, agile and cost-effective.

What is my conclusion? Storage is an essential component in business. In my view, Onshape is just first example in a row of CAD / PLM companies building solutions on top of cloud platforms. Two PLM examples – Autodesk PLM360 and Arena solutions. Both products are only available as cloud SaaS services which allows to optimize it for cloud infrastructure. Free cloud storage can become disruptive platform to build cloud solutions that can grow and adapt elastically to the demand of users. It brings huge potential to develop new solutions we never seen before. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of arztsamui at

PLM workflows are dead. “Interactive” user experience is coming

October 7, 2015


Most of product lifecycle management implementations are about two things – getting control over product data and setting up processes around it. The last one is about workflows and PLM workflows are hard to implement. Although the idea of "workflow" is pretty natural, it ends up with many clicks, messy reality of notifications and complex user experience. After all, PLM business process applications is a glorified envelope around workflow engine, which can give short productivity gain, but mostly leads to complex implementation challenges and slow ROI.

There are some bad news for PLM vendors – new generation of customers ("millennials") has a completely different demand for how to use technology and what use experience should be. It all about "interactive" experience.

My attention was caught by Wired article How millennials require us to design the technology of tomorrow. Read the article, put aside your Blackberry and corporate laptop. Things are changing as we speak. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

What does the millennial generation mean for technology makers? In a nutshell, it means that interactive technologies, from smartphones to websites to mobile apps to SaaS apps, need to provide the most usable, self-guided, hiccup-free, efficient user experiences in history. Contrary to the belief that millennials can make anything work, their expectations for slick user experiences are the highest ever. Although millennials can often figure out how to use an app or site that is a clunker, they probably won’t take the time to do so. They are experts at finding alternatives and they simply won’t put up with bad user experiences that get in the way of accomplishing their tasks NOW.

"Interactive" technologies made me think about PLM implementations and workflows. Most of them are "process driven". It seems to me different from how most of user experience in a modern collaborative applications. People are actually working together despite different location, devices and environment.

What is my conclusion? I can see a difference between user experience and user interface. The first cohort of PLM innovators was mostly about how to make UI looks pretty. It was a nice change from old-fashion-ugly-enterprise-software-screens. But, we need more. New collaborative user experience is about how to change the way people communicate and doing work. Although processes are absolutely important, the switch to "interactive" experience is what millennials will demand. PLM architects and user experience designers can take a note. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

PLM: configuration v customization. Let’s sort it out..

October 6, 2015


Enterprise software customizations are painful. Remember my old post – Is PLM customization a data management Titanic? Nobody likes to customize PLM software, but all companies are doing that during implementations to some degree. You can catch up on my previous articles about that – How to eliminate PLM customization problem and How to de-customize PLM. The demand to eliminate the need to customize systems, but how is that feasible?

My earlier conclusion is that PLM vendors need to think how to make implementation cost effective and to support flexibility of PLM products and tools. It is especially important in the era of cloud computing and growing number of cloud deployments. PLM vendors will have to invest in technologies and methods to simplify deployment, flexibility and speed of implementations.

Jim Brown and Stan Przybylinski, both well known analysts in PLM industry, just released a funny video and serious interview on PLM customization. Navigate here to read more. Watch the video:

It brings up a topic of a difference between customization vs. configuration. It might be confusing. Where is the border between customizations and configuration? So, I thought, it will be useful to clarify things a bit and put it in a perspective of modern technological trends and development. Both configuration and customization are aiming to alter software product behavior. At the same time, there is a difference in two approaches.


In the old days of enterprise software, customization, assuming altering of software code. Customized product was deployed by customer. It took time and was expensive. In addition to that, future releases of the product potentially becoming incompatible with customized version.

For the last 10-15 years, enterprise software (PLM software included) developed ways to customize software using API and data modeling changes. For most of PLM products the trick was to use only approved API and not to hack data model using direct SQL commands injections. That last one was a grey area. Many customers did it, but not everyone will admit that guilt.


The term configuration means that system behavior will be altered using vendor supplied configuration tools. Some systems provided more user friendly UI for administration, which became important, especially for software integrators running PLM implementations for their clients. Configuration tools are provided by vendors and, therefore, vendor is taking care of future compatibility between releases.

So, "configuration" assumes that you don’t need to write "code" to configure the system. But it can be a bit complicated. Especially when it comes to APIs. What if API is provided by vendor?

APIs – the devil is in details

Application Programming Interface (API) became popular for the last two decades. The demand for openness, integration and broader platform development made vendors to invest more in API development. Many of these APIs are used by vendors and partners for application development and… customization.

Here is the thing. APIs are getting more popular and easy to use. For the last decade, development of scripting languages like Java Scripts and others made APIs a very effective way to configure and customize system behavior. A lot of them are used for automation and integration.

Web APIs and cloud technologies

Cloud brings many challenges to enterprise software configuration and customization. Many well known techniques (especially related to SQL and database customization) cannot be used. Databases are hidden behind web and application servers. Multi-tenant cloud systems are bringing even more complexity to support database level customization.

As a result of web and cloud technologies development, there is an increased demand for two things – 1/ Robust configuration tools provided by vendors; 2/ Web based APIs. Together, API and configuration tools need to support the demand for PLM system flexibility.

What is my conclusion? It is important to understand what is behind "configuration vs. customization" semantics. Even more, it is important to align customer requirements with the level of flexibility PLM product and technology can support. The demand to provide open, flexible and configurable systems that can configured using tools and wide range of APIs. All these options should be supported by a vendor. The development of web APIs and cloud based automation tools makes both (configuration tools and APIs) important for successful PLM implementations. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of blackzheep at

Sweet Dreams about Product Innovation Platforms

October 5, 2015


Everyone likes innovation. It gives you good feeling and brings the whole power of imagination into your brain. If you Google “innovation”, you can find so many interesting things. For example, famous quotes from Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford and others about innovation. Navigate here to read more. My favorite quote is the following one:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [A. Einstein]

Switch gears into engineering, manufacturing, product lifecycle management and… product innovation platforms. I found the last one emerged as a new buzzword of trend in PLM visionary marketing.

Few months ago, posted a TV report by Verdi Ogewell –Product Innovation Platform: Plug’n’play in next generation PLM – TV-report. It brings voice from PLM analysts from Gartner, CIMdata and others about the need to adopt a new thinking and new type of IT platforms – “Product Innovation Platforms”. The new platform vision supposed to break company data silos and based on system design and holistic governance. The following picture of Innovation Platform was captured by from Gartner presentation


I found Gartner’s Marc Halpern presentation about “Product Innovation Platform”. According to the presentation, Product Innovation Platforms is more than today’s design and PLM software.


Here you can see list of candidates to become such a platform (according to Gartner)


The adoption of “product innovation platform” marketing is growing. Below you can see few pictures I captured during past conferences and websites. It is a clear indication – marketing is up to the speed with adoption of “product innovation platforms”.

Autodesk PLM vision.


Dassault Systems SolidWorks


Siemens PLM


What is my conclusion? I found “Product Innovation Platform” buzz misleading. I can see a point of innovation. Show me somebody who doesn’t want to innovate. However, things such as community, discovery, reuse, accessibility and others are more desired characteristics of products rather than something that can be combined into a single “platform”. While dreams about product innovation are sweet, the actual definition about future product development platform remains open. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How hardware changes will impact CAD and PLM software

October 2, 2015


The world is changing. The power of manufacturing industries in the past was predicted by money, manufacturing facilities, assembly lines with workers and expensive equipment combined with advantages of mass production manufacturing model.

Now take a deep breath, close Facebook app on your smartphone – things are going to change. 3D printers, new electronic, cloud technologies and data platforms are going to change the world of manufacturing forever.

My attention caught by the article – Why Hardware Startup Matter. The following passage is my favorite. It quotes John Bruner, O’Reilly’s IoT and Hardware Director keynote from recent Solid Conference. John explains how new hardware development is becoming agile discipline and how is it different from traditional manufacturing.

…new hardware movement and IoT, claiming hardware is becoming agile. He went on to say that this “practically makes it applicable to a lot of problems.” The impact of the new hardware movement goes well beyond electronics and touches any industry that produces physical goods.

It works twofold: it’s cheap and accessible. Hardware components prices have dropped by 35%. Moreover, they can be produced via platforms such as Shapeways, 3D Hubs, and Fictiv. Purchasing parts online is not only inexpensive, but also highly flexible since all these 3D-printing platforms allow for great customization. So, costs of prototyping are going low thanks to new tools and materials. And so are costs of marketing and distribution.

You don’t need reseller like the local electronics store anymore, given there are platforms such as Amazon and Etsy, or why not even your own website as a primary point for pre-orders and sales. Not no mention crowdfunding: the perfect marriage of funding, sales, and marketing. You can reach people in Asia, in the States as easily as you could people in your own country.


It made me think how the changes in hardware development can impact development of engineering and manufacturing tools. CAD and PLM are two most fundamental category of tools used for design, engineering and manufacturing planning. The complexity of these tools is skyrocketing. It is like embedded programming in the past – only highly skilled engineers were able to do so. Today, you can program embedded devices using Java Script. Here is just one example how to do so – Node.js for embedded software. I can see similar changes making impact on CAD and PLM tools. The software will be more web friendly, won’t require complex installation and implementation cycle. New tools will protect users from unnecessarily complication related to upgrades and maintenance.

I can see a beginning of this trend in the last development of CAD and PLM tool. I can bring few examples. In CAD domain – Autodesk Fusion360 (integrated cloud enabled environment for CAD, CAM, simulation and more), Onshape (full cloud CAD in a browser), Upverter (electronic and hardware design platform). The trend towards removing complexity and upgrades is clear for PLM tools as well – Aras (upgrades are included in subscription), Arena Solutions (the oldest SaaS PLM), Autodesk PLM360 (cloud only PLM system).

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing is changing. It will demand new tools that can fit a new eco-system of hardware manufacturers, component suppliers, contractors and individual makers. The systems that need 20 months to get installed and implementation is not an option anymore. This is where things can go big. Engineering and manufacturing software will have to learn from the experience of social network, online payment and on-demand transportation application to become agile in a new world of manufacturing networks. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

It takes XX months to implement PLM. Can we fix it?

October 1, 2015


I was attending Aras Innovator Software-as-a-Service – a new PLM cloud offering of T-Systems webinar yesterday. If you are in Europe, Aras / T-Systems can be an alternative to installing PLM servers in your organization. I captured the following data point – it takes ~1 day to get Aras cloud instance up and running when you’re implementing PLM. I believed the number is a bit on a high side (compared to many other SaaS services in our consumer and business life). However, I’ve got the following comment from my long time blogging buddy – Jos Voskui @josvoskuil: and it takes xx months to adapt the business processes and motivate the people ?


That comment reminded me the article I posted one year ago – What cloud PLM cannot do for you?. Actually, Jos is spot on – implementation is the hardest part of the overall process to introduce PLM to the any organization. It made me think again about PLM implementation and organizational challenges.

PLM today is strongly associated with change. The value proposition of PLM was built on company transformation and improvement. Change is really hard for companies and it is not always possible. Company legacy data, established processes, existing technologies, politics – this is a reality of every PLM implementation.

Is there a better way to implement PLM? Very often, it comes to the point of discussion about company business processes as a competitive advantages to win a market.

One of the reasons companies stay in business in the competitive environment is because they built processes, that provide them with competitive advantage or differentiation. Usually companies have business processes that can be optimized or made more efficient by available technologies, but that is different from complete process re-engineering. At the same time, technologies can offer some approaches that would change company business processes business processes in a fundamental way.

Is it possible to capture business processes used by organization instead of introducing an organization change? For a long period of time, it was considered by many companies as the most complicated task. Usually it wasn’t about technology and products, but was mostly about sales strategy and technological partnership between industrial companies and PLM vendors. But such approach cannot scale – hence we are here with a complexity of PLM adoption by many organization.

Flexibility is one of the most demanded technological advantages that can help to adapt PLM products during to implementation and capture existing business processes. Usually, it is presented by PLM vendors as a differentiation. In the example below you can see how Aras does it – Aras adapts to your business, not other way around.


While I agree completely with Aras’ message, I’d love to see more examples how Aras Innovator can be adapted to existing business processes.

What is my conclusion? The change is hard for every organization. Current PLM implementation approach makes implementation as hard as every change. That’s why implementation can take XX months and fail. Is there a better way? For the last few months I’ve heard about several approaches to make implementation easier. The traditional approach is to provide PLM system with predefined characteristics tailored for specific industry and segment – so called OOTB (out of the box). Cloud PLM / SaaS approach is a combination of cloud advantages with better administration and configuration user experience (I’ve heard about it from Autodesk PLM360 team). Super flexible PLM platforms adapting to company business processes can be another way (Aras message above). Is there another way? Who knows… What is clear to me is that PLM implementation is one of the major inhibitors for a broader PLM adoption. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of iosphere at


Hardware Startup – the importance of product records to estimate cost

September 30, 2015


I started a series of article explaining how hardware startup can establish product lifecycle management strategy and why it can be beneficial already early in their product development cycle. You can catch up on these blog posts here – PLM 101: Product Lifecycle for Hardware Startups and 5 Elements of PLM for Hardware Startup.

There are two top priorities when you run manufacturing company of any size: quality and cost.

Today I want to focus on product cost and how it is related to product lifecycle records. While I explained you about importance of setting product records, managing documents, parts, bill of materials and change tracking, I didn’t manage the last important thing ­ product cost. Everything starts and ends with product cost. If you cannot predict and manage it, the odds are your product will go bankrupt even before you manufacture it.

How to get cost assessment done

Establishing methods and tools to manage product records is your way to get cost assessment under control. It is well known fact that 70­-90% of product cost is influenced by 20-­30% of parts. So, the ability use PDM/PLM tool to deconstruct product data into right groups is essential. However, this is just a beginning of managing your product lifecycle.

Components you are buying from suppliers are representing only part of your product cost assessment. You should take into account discounts at volume and other aspects of cost management in variety of supply chain scenarios.

Another aspect of cost assessment is manufacturability. Cost of manufacturing tools, assembly process, quality and testing processes are all elements in your product cost assessment. Good data management and PLM tools can help you to manage that aspects of product development cost in a right way.

Finally, one of the very often missed element of product data record is packaging and spare / maintenance part. To include that information into product data lifecycle is essential too.

Net­-net, to have an ability to manage a full structure of information influencing product cost is a very important even during early stages of product development and transfer to manufacturing.

The anatomy of bill of material breakdown

Bill of Material is an essential part of product record and lifecycle. Therefore, it is important to manage a diversity of information coming to bill of material in the right way. Most of product manufactured today are not simple collection of mechanical parts as it was decades ago.

Modern products such as smart phones, electronic gadgets and other small devices are combined of mechanical parts, plastics, PCBs and software.

The diversity of multidisciplinary data creates a high level of data management complexity. In case you are managing product data using spreadsheets, you need to establish an appropriate sections for different BOM elements. PDM / PLM tools can help you to establish product data records in a better way and manage change processes.

In addition to managing parts, it is essential to include absolutely EVERYTHING you can think about influencing your product cost. It is packaging, service components, transportation services, etc. Missed part in bill of materials can cost you a fortune, when your won’t be able to ship it to your customers.

What is my conclusion? To establish product lifecycle foundation including product record and related data management functions early in product design and prototyping phase is very important. It can help to set up basic data records and make product cost assessment early in the process. Overall, it will increase changes to meet projected product cost and delivery dates. Hardware developers should consider using data management tools to perform structuring of product components and assemblies. Solid data foundation can also help establishing product database to manage full lifecycle of the product ­ prototype, contract manufacturing, RFQ and later on quality processes. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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