How IoT can eclipse and outcompete PLM platforms

September 1, 2015

plm-iot-eclipse

IoT is one of the biggest buzzword these days. IoT technologies and tools are promising to connect physical products and delivery new type of software services leveraging product data and analytic. In the past few months, I’ve got many questions about IoT and its impact on PLM. It made me think about different aspects of how IoT and PLM trajectories can intertwined. No doubt, IoT will impact engineering and manufacturing industry. And the result can be surprising, in my view.

Competition might have different faces. Long time ago when visited a company manufacturing luxury yachts, I asked them who is their direct competitor. The answer was “Ferrari cars”. There is a simple reason for that. A person who will buy Ferrari has lower chance to buy a yacht at the same year. Earlier last week, my attention was caught by an interesting article – Dropbox: the first dead decacorn. It gives you another angle on competition between companies. Here is my favorite passage:

If you’re worth a billion dollars, you’re probably doing enough things well that your direct competitors can’t take you to the cleaners overnight. Instead, your nightmares shift to a fate even scarier than being outcompeted: being eclipsed. Specifically, being eclipsed by someone at one level of the stack above or below you.

What does this look like in practice? It’s what Microsoft did to the PC manufacturers, and then what the web browser did to Microsoft. It’s what Android/iOS did to the handset makers, and what Facebook is trying to do to them in turn. To those being eclipsed, it’s terrifying because the change happens so gradually and then so suddenly: Compaq was one of the best PC makers around until all of a sudden Windows was what mattered, not the machine it ran on. Then a bit later on, Windows ruled the world and Microsoft was King- but all the interesting stuff started happening inside the web browser. My point being: Compaq didn’t get creamed because somebody else came along and made a better desktop PC. They lost because all of a sudden Windows was what was important- and other PC Manufacturers like Dell were better suited to thrive in the new reality of modular commodity.

Both examples can helps to think about competition in a different form of its existence. In PLM world, if company decided to implement ERP, it usually lower chances to make a decision about PLM the same year. Historically PLM vs ERP competition postponed PLM implementations because companies had no time, focus and budget to deal with PLM implementation when they made investment and focus on ERP side. In many situations, PLM vs ERP competition was a competition for vision. If a company has PLM vision and put a focus on product innovation and product development processes, the priority will be to define PLM strategy. In that case PLM vision outcompetes ERP manufacturing strategy.

Few days ago, Autodesk announced the acquisition of SeeControl – Califronia based software outfit developing enterprise IoT Cloud Service helps manufacturers and systems integrators create virtual product experiences and new service revenue. It organizes and makes sense of data from the Internet of Things with no coding skills required. The press release is here. The following quote by Amar Hanspal, Autodesk SVP for Information modeling and platform products is confirming the fact Autodesk joined “IoT vision club”.

“A new future of making things is emerging, where any built object, product or environment can be embedded with sensors that can feed information back into the design process. The acquisition of SeeControl is the first step on Autodesk’s ongoing efforts to develop new technologies and solutions that will help our customers leverage the Internet of Things, starting by enabling them to capture, analyze, and utilize data from their products. We welcome the SeeControl team and ecosystem to Autodesk,”

The following short video can give you a good perspective of what SeeControl can do.

Among many things, I captured few interesting characteristics of SeeControl solutions that sounds very complementary to PLM infrastructure – product data models, workflow services, on the fly reporting and dashboards. Combined with the architecture that has cloud scale, it is an interesting combination of elements that can raise many questions about how does it can be aligned with a typical PLM implementation.

From some conversations online, I’ve got a sense that SeeControl will become part of the same group as PLM 360. Which can make a perfect sense if Autodesk is planning to create a larger scale cloud platform to cover wider scope of services for manufacturers and building industry. I hope to learn more about it later today at Autodesk PLM360 conference in Boston – the keynote by Scott Reese, Autodesk VP of Cloud platform might give us few data points about future PLM360 and SeeControl trajectories.

What is my conclusion? PLM and IoT trajectories are going to be intertwined and it might take some interesting forms. IoT platforms can out-competed and eclipsed by IoT platforms on the level of stack above or below PLM – the most scary perspective for PLM vendors. Autodesk joined IoT PLM competition race after PTC, which made few strong steps towards arming itself with IoT platforms and tools. Future few years will show an interesting development in the development of both PLM and IoT platforms for manufacturing. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Will Autodesk PLM360 make a difference for SME?

August 31, 2015

accelearate-2015-plm-360

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg


Salesforce platform and cloud PLM differentiators

August 28, 2015

cloud-plm-differentiator

Almost two years ago, I asked if Salesforce.com platform is ready for PLM. You can navigate to my old article to get up to speed my thoughts here. Some Youtube videos disappeared since then. The basic set of Saleforce.com platform functionality is mature and Salesforce is investing in additional development. Saleforce Lightning Design System I mentioned few days ago in the context of PLM toolkit post is another confirmation about that. Few ERP companies launched for the last few years on top of Saleforce platform and I’ve been following them. You can check – Kenandy, Rootstock and few more ERP on AppExchange.

It appears that I’m not alone with my conclusions about leveraging Salesforce as a platform for a new cloud PLM. The new website of Propel PLM software caught my attention yesterday. What I’ve learned from the website is that Propel PLM is based on Salesforce.com and it provides what you can imagine as a typical PLM functions – item, parts, bill of materials. The industry focus is spread between high-tech, manufacturing, life sciences, communication and automotive.

propel-plm-saleforce

According to website, Propel PLM contains three modules – Salesforce platform, Product Record and Process Lifecycle. Few additional facts I captured – it looks like capable to manage software lifecycle (in some sense). This is my hunch based on the notion of “software releases”. Also, Propel is capable to manage service data. Propel founders Ray Hein, Brian Sohmers and Ron Hess are coming with significant PLM and industry background with roots in Agile PLM, Oracle and Kenandy. It looks like they also have significant experience with Salesforce.

I didn’t find much information about the product, except of few screenshots. It looks like Propel is planning to bring more info closer to their launch at Dreamforce 2015 in few weeks. I will have an opportunity to speak to them and bring more information later.

The news about Propel PLM made me think about cloud PLM landscape. My earlier assessment of cloud PLM services and vendor differentiation led me to the conclusion that differentiation might be a tricky problem for cloud PLM vendors in the next few years. Each PLM vendor these days is offering some sort of cloud PLM solution. However, the devil is in details. Not each cloud is the same and business models can vary too.

What is my conclusion? Cloud PLM vendors will be searching how to differentiate themselves in the competitive market of cloud engineering and manufacturing solutions. Established vendors will search for a balance between existing platform technologies and advantages of cloud architectures. Newcomers will have more flexibility to innovate and build their own differentiation. Propel is coming first on top of Salesforce. Will Salesforce.com platform and technology will make a good deal for cloud PLM such as Propel to success? This is a good question to ask. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit Propel PLM

 

 


Why “collaborative change” can challenge PLM platforms?

August 27, 2015

collaboration-plm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Will PLM vendors rethink toolkit approach?

August 26, 2015

plm-toolkit

Business models and technologies can come together and create significant and painful problems. The last few years, created lot of changes and new dynamics in engineering and manufacturing domain. 3D printing, cloud software, mobile – this is only a short list of examples. Product lifecycle management software is facing few interesting challenges and opportunities related to new demands of customers for faster ROI and lean implementations. Navigate to read more about it here – New manufacturing business models will influence PLM software.

Despite all changes, PLM still has some sort of “uncomfortable” price for many customers. It leads to future innovation in this space. One of the examples in this space is related to a new business formula from Aras that includes software upgrades into Aras Innovator subscription. More about it here – Aras and search for new business models. Aras subscription model is leveraging Aras enterprise open source model.

Open source is probably doesn’t sound as loud these days as it was few years ago. At the same time, open source innovation is fueling many new solutions and business models. My attention was caught by Techcrunch article – Custom Analytics Company Keen IO Goes Open Source With Its Data Explorer. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

But the Data Explorer, which launched earlier this year, isn’t just for programmers. Instead, businesses can use it to explore and visualize their data through a friendlier interface. In Wild’s words, it lets you “point-and-click your way to analyze data.” By open-sourcing the tool, Wild said Keen IO is allowing customers to embed the interface into their own internal websites and apps, customize the interface and potentially improve it and contribute back. Wild noted that Keen IO already open-sourced its dashboard templates and he said the company plans to make more available in the future.

I found it interesting because it emphases the importance of solving core fundamental data management and collaboration problems using open source approach. In a broad sense, PLM software is the same “data management toolkit” wrapped with layers of applications, configurations and customers. Here is the thing – none of PLM vendors didn’t think about converting core platform into open source and allowing to customers to develop their applications. Aras is probably half-way exclusion.

At the same time, 10-15 years ago, PDM / PLM platforms were actually advanced data management toolkits used by large implementation services team to develop highly customizable PLM applications for aerospace and automotive industry.

What if one of the existing core PLM platforms will turn into open source toolkit? It will allow to community of developers to build solutions on top of it and sell it to customers. Actually core developers of PLM platforms will turn their focus into providing of tools and technologies to support a consistent application experience. Salesforce can be a good example of providing UX experience that can be reused by developers. Take a look at Lightning Design System allowing to 3rd party developers to design applications with the same look and feel.

What is my conclusion? The next innovation turn might require rethinking multiple aspects of PLM software – business and technical. In the past, toolkit approach proved to be successful to sell complex PDM / PLM solutions to large companies. Today, a combination of open source and toolkit approach can fuel next step of innovation in product lifecycle management. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


August 25, 2015

ibm-computer-graphic-matrix-printer

The technology around us is changing very fast. Even if you are 17 year old, you can already find your first computer equipment or electronic toy in a museum. Last weekend, I had a chance to visit Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. If you are checking around San Francisco and Silicon Valley, try to get there. There are some great pieces of electronic equipment there such as fully functioned  DEC PDP-1 from DEC Restoration Project or Honeywell 316 Kitchen computer from 1965 that was never sold to anybody.

Usually we are concerned about the speed of technology adoption. But, visiting CHM made me think about about an opposite side of technology adoption – computers and hardware that are still in use. Engineering and manufacturing industry is one of those industry that is using technologies and products for a long period of time. There are multiple reasons for that – manufacturing programs with very long lifecycle, product that requires maintenance usually requiring to keep using the same or compatible software, some regulation requirements and others.

Among many articles about history of CAD, PDM and PLM software, my favorite is David Weisberg’s The Engineering Design Revolution. If you never seen that, take it as a weekend reading, I’m sure you will have fun. I captured few interesting examples of engineering software related equipment in Computer History Museum. The work of Ivan Sutherland at MIT is well represented there. But, I never seen the following example of mapping of Sutherland’s Volkswagen in Ca 1977.

Sutherlands-volkswagen-ca-1977

Gerber Scientific plotter advertising from 1965 as part of mini-computer promotion (btw, with attractive price of $28,500)

Gerber-scientific-plotter

Summagraphics tablet from 1980 with AutoCAD menu and samples of AutoCAD software from 1984.

Autocad-tablet-chm

What is my conclusion? The life of software sometimes is longer that we think. Still, I believe, there are few pieces of software running COBOL and FORTRAN. It made me think about some old CAD and PLM software that is probably still in use in some companies. And maybe there are are few CAD, PDM and PLM systems that running for 15-20 years without changes? It would be interesting to learn about these examples. If you know some of these, please share in comments.

Best, Oleg


PLM and enterprise silos in networked age

August 24, 2015

plm-and-linkedin-rolodex

Our everyday business life is changing. Remember sales people with rolodexes that helped you to find right contacts? I’m sure some of my friends in sales are still using them. But, be honest, how many times for the last week you checked LinkedIn to get information about company or person? According to published statistics, LinkedIn has 107 million users in United States and 97 million unique visitors every month. LinkedIn is a great source of information to find right people.

Here is an interesting news – LinkedIn Built Its New App to Replace Your Office Directory. I found it interesting. Until now office directories were part of IT stack in every company. It usually stuck between email service and abbreviation like LDAP. It was mixed and messed up with you contact lists on your multiple devices and never worked properly (at least for me).

The following passage from the article explains the problem.

“Most companies have some crappy directory service that either they’ve created themselves or they’re [paying for],” said Ankit Gupta, project lead for Lookup. “People don’t really update their internal profiles. People don’t even add a photo. So they’re actually turning to LinkedIn [already].”

You could already do this sort of searching within the main LinkedIn app, but it required a little more strategy with filters and search terms. Gupta says that people check out their colleagues’ profiles more than you’d think — when searching for people on LinkedIn, users click on a colleague’s profile about 30 percent of the time. This app is intended to simplify that search and keep it company-specific, he added.

There are a lot of tools already out there that serve a similar purpose, including Slack, which is benefiting from Silicon Valley’s propensity for sky-high valuations. Facebook is testing a business offering, too. Gupta says he doesn’t see this product as a competitor to those because Lookup is more of a directory than a communication service. (My guess is that LinkedIn may one day change its mind.)

It made me think about how companies developing social networking, communication and collaboration software are getting to the point where their functions will become operation critical for every company. Think about directory of suppliers and contract manufacturers. You may think about it as a bunch of business card in a rolodex of your “supply chain” manager. You can also think about it as a list of vendors in your ERP system. But, at the same time, you can think about it as a list of companies with contact information on LinkedIn. This is where things can get interesting, because it will have a potential to redefine boundaries of enterprise software functions.

LinkedIn might not be a software to manage contract manufacturers tomorrow. But it provides a valuable set of information that can be used and “linked” to other applications. Remember my “PLM: from sync to link” article last year? Here is the thing. In a networked era, we can stop thinking about how to get all information in our own proprietary system. We can start using existing systems and rely on other sources of information – a real paradigm shift in the way we operate.

What is my conclusion? Traditional enterprise software created silos of information. For years, vendors tried to protect the information in each and every silo- it gave them a protection from competitors tried to eat a bigger slice of enterprise software pie. The real change is coming with systems that are operating globally as a network. LinkedIn is a good example. People and companies are connected using LinkedIn. This information is valuable and can be linked and reused by other systems. Are we ready for such a significant change? I’m not sure, but it feels like the direction business will take tomorrow. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit [Re/code] article.


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