Why and when to re-think PDM?

March 10, 2014


PDM (Product Data Management) isn’t a new discipline. Nevertheless, I think, PDM is going through the time of disruption and renaissance. Cloud, social and mobile technologies are changing the way we’ve been working in the past. From that side, I can see companies that trying to re-invent PDM with a new meaning and technologies. I’ve been discussing it few weeks ago in my post -Do we need a new TLA for PDM? On the other side, analysts and established CAD and PLM vendors are trying to restate the values of PDM solutions.

One of PDM value proposition "restates" just came across my reading list over the weekend. PTC Creo article PDM Capabilities: The Right Fit for Small Organizations written by Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insight. Chad separates PDM into 3 distinct sets of data management capabilities: CAD Data Management, Engineering Data Management and Enterprise Data Management. I captured the following passage about CAD data management.

If a team is working simultaneously on a single design, CAD data management provides a means to control the chaos. Oftentimes, one design is dependent on another design, which can fall under the responsibility of two different designers or engineers. Without some means of tracking and controlling that change, individuals can quickly lose track of what their peers are doing.

However, I specially liked the recap:

CAD data management is a no-brainer for organizations of any size. Engineering data management is a natural fit for small organization as a means to organize the chaos of engineering. Enterprise data management, while beneficial to some organizations, is not worth the effort for smaller companies. The cost is not worth the return.

The article made me think again about current state of PDM. The challenging part of PDM for the last 20 years was to justify the cost of implementation and use of PDM combined with complex engineering workflow. Engineers don’t like data management. I was talking about it many times. For most of engineers, PDM is a software that slow their work and make their life complicated. Think about an engineer waiting until updated files is synchronized from the server in the morning or release of new 3D models is taking next 15-20 minutes. To put it gently, these examples are not very rare in CAD data management eco-system. Nevertheless, I’ve seen several PDM systems in the past 15 years that succeeded to find a decent balance of value vs. disturbance to engineers. Another aspect of PDM implementation is cost. For many (especially small) organizations, the cost of most existing PDM implementation is too high. Therefore, we still can see lots of organizations managing CAD files using shared network folders and excel spreadsheets.

I want to come to questions from the title of this post – why and when companies may decide to re-think their existing PDM strategies? I’d like to separate all options in the three groups: 1-we don’t need PDM; 2-we need PDM, but it is too costly; 3-PDM is part of larger PLM/Data management strategy.

1- We don’t need PDM.

This is a typical situation in very small engineering firms or micro-engineering departments in large companies. The status quo is okay for them. They are busy with everyday tasks and don’t want to look on new tech. What can make them to re-think PDM? In my view, it will come with the influence of external factors. Web, globalization, speed of changes and other factors can turn these companies to think about PDM values.

2- We need PDM, but it is too costly.

I can see many medium-size companies in this category. Usually, they outgrew their network/file sharing capabilities and have a pressure to make some order in data management. However, for some reasons budget restrictions and value/cost justification make them feel wrong about current PDM solutions. One possible solution for these companies is to buy PDM systems bundled with CAD system they use. It will be probably the most cost effective. For many of these companies CAD-PDM bundle will be a decent solution to solve their problems. However, another option is "to re-think" and bring new PDM solution with lower TCO and improved workflow for engineers.

3- PDM is part of larger PLM/Data management strategy.

Mostly large companies are coming into this category. For them, PDM is a part in the overall solution puzzle. These companies are looking about overall business processes, connectivity, multiple systems and global IT cost. These companies can be good partners to work for the future. Some of them can be good thinker how to re-invent PDM. However, don’t expect fast decisions here. To establish right strategy for them is an ultimate priority.

What is my conclusion? In my view, PDM is going to change. However, the speed of changes in engineering and manufacturing industry is very slow. Therefore, don’t expect everything to change tomorrow. Existing systems will keep serving us for coming years. At the same, time new systems potentially can make engineers’ life easier. The focus on improvements of engineering workflow and longevity of solutions is something you should consider when analyzing opportunity to bring new or change your existing PDMs. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg

The future of PLM vendors differentiation?

January 26, 2014


Differentiation. Competitive advantage. Value sales. I’m sure you’ve heard these buzzwords many times. Competition is part of everyday business life. Usually, I don’t speak about competition. I searched across my blog and founded only one reference to competition related writing – PLM Competition Toolbox. But I want to look in my crystal ball today. Here is the article that made me do so. Over the weekend, I’ve been reading Joe Barkai’s blog post – How To Win Without Differentiation. Article speaks about how to develop differentiation strategies and what to do when differentiation is not coming easy. I liked the following passage:

When value differentiation is too vague and difficult to demonstrate, price competitiveness does not work. Potential buyers seek other ways to drive their decisions, and, as Vermeulen points out, they rely on other factors, such as the seller’s brand, status in industry, and prior relationships. In other words, the buyer switches from assessing and comparing features and costs to differentiate based on the brand’s credibility and trustworthiness.

The article made me think about PLM vendors competition and differentiation. PLM industry is dominated by small number of large vendors (namely alphabetically – Autodesk, Dassault, Oracle, PTC, SAP and Siemens PLM). There are some specific competitive niches each of these companies were developed for the last 10-20 years. However, looking on websites and public marketing materials about PLM solutions, I can see less visible difference. These companies are targeting similar businesses and within time it is not simple to get value differentiation between brands.

Enterprise software is an interesting business. One of the characteristics of software for engineering and manufacturing is lifetime customers and legacy software. The lifecycle of customers in this domain is relatively long. It goes from extremely long in defense, aerospace programs to long in automotive and others. To get familiar with engineering software (such as CAD and PLM) takes time and effort. You need to cross educational barriers. So, when you already “in”, the entrance barrier for competitor is getting bigger. Overall investment and significant amount of customization play another role. This business is different from selling smartphones. After spending few millions of $$$ on a specific solution, it is very hard to justify the replacement of this solution with a competitor.

So, what will differentiate PLM vendors in coming 10 years? What will become future competitive advantage? Technology will obviously play some role, but I mostly agree with Joe – “Don’t oversell technical wizardry. Buyers of enterprise software and services consider your product roadmap and long-term commitment to the space as much as they do to your product features and engineering skills. So, it is very hard to create sustainable technological advantages in this market. Very few companies succeeded to do it in the past and kept it for a long time.

However, there is one thing that getting more and more value points. I call it “vertical experience”. Sometimes vendors call it “industry practices”. However, it can go much more beyond what vendors are doing today in this space. I can see specific vertical solutions focused on design patterns, bill of material management, change management, services, suppliers related to particular segment or industry. The niche can be big enough to serve business of service providers as well as provide an impact on overall vendor business. This is a place where PLM vendors will be able to show big value to customers and fast implementation ROI. It is not simple and it takes time and dedication.

What is my conclusion? Vertical (or industry) specialization can become a future goldmine for PLM vendors and solution providers. To develop deeply integrated solution including specific behaviors in data and process management is not a simple task. Customer experience is something that very hard to gain. However, once achieved it can be leveraged for a long time. Industry verticals can become a future differentiation factor for large vendors and startup PLM companies. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

How to Combine Engineering and Software BOMs?

January 24, 2014


I remember a conversation that happened to me a decade ago with fellow engineer from one of leading telecom companies. The question I asked him was – how do you know what version of software to load into device? The answer was- "Hm… actually we don’t know much about it. It happens magically". I have to say this company is not doing very well these days. No surprise.

The importance of software lifecycle management is growing enormously. Modern manufacturing products contain mechanical, electronic and software components. To manage data lifecycle for all types of components is getting more and more important.

There are quite many software packages these days to manage software lifecycle. Some of them belongs to respectful software companies and some of them are open source packages. The software category called ALM (Application Lifecycle Management). Navigate to the following wikipedia link if you want to learn more. Here is the definition I captured there:

Application lifecycle management (ALM) is the product lifecycle management (governance, development, and maintenance) of application software. It encompasses requirements management, software architecture, computer programming, software testing, software maintenance, change management, project management, and release management.[1][2]

Recently PLM companies started to be more interested in how to manage software lifecycle too. I can track back PTC MKS acquisition. Also, I was able to Google multiple links about TeamCenter and ALM tools integration. I don’t want to endorse any specific package, so I won’t provide links here. However, you can easy Google them too. I didn’t find any that officially supported by Siemens PLM.

I want to go down from formal ALM marketing buzzwords and speak about Bill of Materials. How software BOM is different from Engineering BOM? Can we use similar tools? Can we share the same set of BOM management practices when it comes to software compared to components? How we can present overall product lifecycle? Browsing various forums, I found an interesting passage on Jboss forum about how to use bom with Maven:

A bom is a so called bill of materials – it bundles several dependencies to assure that the versions will work together. JBoss has boms for many of it’s projects, including Arquillian and the JBoss AS itself.

The statement made me think how actually engineering BOM can be different from software BOM in terms of product lifecycle management as well as how both software components can (or should) appear in unified bill of materials and, even broadly, should we have unified BOM containing mechanical and software components?

My attention caught The Manufacturer article Silos changing: PLM and ALM for Smart Products. Article speaks about how to merge together both application lifecycle and "traditional product lifecyce". The following passage seems to be interesting:

Until now, software engineers have tended to use their own design management tools such as Rational DOORS for requirements management; Rational ClearCase for Software Configuration Management and HP Quality Center for Testing. These tools are often bundled together as the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) category. Physical product design teams for the other disciplines have used Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tools for design management.

We can confidently say that no single vendor provides every design management and design development tool needed in a single suite. That means there will have to be a best of breed approach. There are several issues to consider. Where is the master of the product requirements maintained? Should the change management of software and physical artefacts be combined in a single system? How will derived requirements such as signals and dependencies between software and hardware components be managed? How will product variants be handled?

PTC’s purchase of MKS and its Integrity product line provides, for the first time, a single vendor PLM and ALM solution.

The following link leads to PTC Integrity software white paper (formerly acquired MKS). I downloaded ebook for free. It doesn’t contain any word about software bill of materials (BOM). There are bunch of quite useful information about value proposition behind ALM. I was looking for something that can hint how we can have unified product lifecycle and representaiton of information between Product Link and Integrity. Here is what I found.

PTC Integrity has an open architecture that integrates disparate tools into a streamlined engineering process, allowing orchestration of engineering change and collaboration across the technology supply chain. With PTC Integrity, engineering teams improve productivity and quality, streamline compliance, and gain complete product visibility, which ultimately drive more innovative products into the market.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t say much about combined BOM usage.

What is my conclusion? I wonder if manufacturers are interested to have unified product lifecycle management for both (more traditional) mechanical and electro-mechanical parts combined together with software bill of material. From traceability and completeness standpoint it sounds reasonable and logical to me. However, open publications didn’t bring much examples of such usage. Just my thoughts. I’m looking forward to discuss it online.

Best, Oleg

7 rules for selecting PLM software in 2014

January 17, 2014


Enterprise software choice is a complex decision process. The time when you was able to buy a software from trusted XYZ vendor and sleep safe is over. These days IT and other software decision makers are facing challenges related to technological and business options related to new business models, cloud technologies, specific vendors, user experience and many others. You need to swim in a sea of changes in enterprise market in order to decide what software to choose.

Very often you can hear debates about what is Product Lifecycle Management – vision, business strategy or software. Whatever PLM means, companies and people responsible for PLM strategy and software need to make their buying decisions related to PLM software, vendor and implementation.

Last year I posted about how you can select PDM software in 5 simple steps. The last step was open ended and assumed that you need to make strategic PLM decision. Here is a quote from last year article:

"If you company is looking how to manage product development processes beyond controlling and sharing CAD (product) data, you need to evaluate PLM system. Don’t make a PDM choice without making your PLM decision first".

Today, I want to propose few rules that can help you in the decision process related to PLM software and vendor selection. It is not about how to build your overall PLM strategy – I will mostly focus on software and vendor choices.

1. Find real PLM use cases compatible with your requirements. Use trusted advisers that will help you to navigate to examples of PLM software usage. PLM software market place is opaque. There are lot of online information, analyzes, comparison and testimonials about PLM software. To make real financial, technological and product assessment of vendor is tricky. However, you should remember to buy a software that can perform according to your need.

2. Analyze your company engineering software (CAD and PDM) and enterprise environment (ERP). Regardless on grand PLM vision, you have to integrate PLM software with environment, which includes connection to CAD/PDM, interoperability with ERP system(s) as well as many other design, engineering and manufacturing system coming from other vendors including homegrown software developed by IT department and contractors.

3. Don’t buy immediate technological advantages. For most of PLM systems, technologies doesn’t change much for the last 10-15 years. Even if PLM software vendor claims some technological uniqueness today, it will be adjusted in 2-3 years by new development, another new technologies and technological acquisitions PLM vendors are making. If you want to make some tech-driven decision, do it ‘test based’ for a specific use case and/or process in your company.

4. Cloud PLM is first about software eco-system and IT strategy. Cloud can bring lots of advantages. However, if your company is still on premise and IT is conservative, think carefully before pushing into cloud PLM race. You can burn time and resource on convincing your company and solving "general cloud software obstacles" before getting PLM value pay off.

5. PLM usability is relative. Everybody wants (and claims) to be easy to use like Google these days. However, devil is in details and enterprise software is different from consumer web. Also, what looks simple for you will be different for your colleague. Test by yourself, but don’t underestimate software evaluation by people outside of IT ecosystem. There are few books and online resources for UX (user experience) passionate people – try them out. Start from Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think – it will help you to build a sense of simplicity and own guidance.

6. Don’t buy PLM vendor roadmaps. Most of roadmaps are aspirational. You must look on available software releases and community of users. Community will give you an indication of how careful vendor is following their roadmaps, promises and (mostly important) long term software compatibilities.

7. Open source software isn’t much different from functional and technological standpoint. Open source software is not cheaper and simpler – it is just a different business model. There are variety of open-source flavors and you need to read all legal provisions. Involve your legal advisers to help you to go through language and meaning.

What is my conclusion? In my view, PLM software domain will be turbulent in 2014. New companies, technologies and business models are coming to disrupt and change existing industry landscape. However, your PLM software buying decision will probably stay with you more than 1-2 years. So, my recommendation is to review available software, make trials, experiment and build use cases. These days software vendors are open to convert customers into their trusted advisers. Don’t afraid to be a part of the PLM vendors’ development process and decision making. In most of cases, it is fun and you will love it. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM IoT and bed performance testing

January 9, 2014


Do you remember my PLM and Internet of Things article back in 2009? Four years ago it was a dream. However, everything changed now. Internet of Things (IoT) buzz is in a full swing these days. It gets real and bring lots of attention and real examples these days. CES 2014 brought some very interesting examples of IoT and data points. According to Washington Post article and CISCO CEO, IoT will bring $19 trillion business opportunity.

My attention was caught yesterday by the following Engadget article Sleep Number’s x12 smart bed monitors your sleeping habits. Are you ready for internet connected bed? Here is an interesting passage:

Sleep Number just announced the x12, which packs a variety of sensors to monitor your sleeping habits, movement, heart rate and breathing rate. In particular, the bed has two sections, each of which are independently adjustable, so that once the bed knows your sleeping patterns, it can suggest ways you might want to change, say, the head incline. Additionally — and this is perhaps our favorite feature — a Partner Snore feature allows you raise your partner’s headrest to help ease snoring.

Here is my crazy idea. Can we capture bed performance parameters "as you sleep" and transmit to manufacturing servers in order to monitor and improve the quality of your bed? Think about Windows or Chrome browser that can transmit problems and crashes. Your bed will do exactly the same! Of course, bed will ask for your approval to transmit the data to satisfy all security concerns.

It looks like among PLM vendors, PTC is trying to take a leadership position in IoT by making ThingWorx acquisition just before New Year. If you haven’t had a chance to read PTC press release, it is here. The following PR snippet provides a short description of PTC IoT strategy:

For manufacturers today, it is clear to us that improved service strategies and service delivery is the near-term ‘killer app’ for the Internet of Things and this opportunity has guided our strategy for some time. With this acquisition, PTC now possesses an innovation platform that will allow us to accelerate how we help our customers capitalize on the market opportunity that the IoT presents."

Actually, I found a very good writeup about PLM and IoT by Schnitger Corp – Your dishwasher talkes to the IoT; now what? It provides some interesting business cases.

The IoT isn’t just about consumer “things”. An oil and gas producer can use the IoT to analyze sensor data from the North Sea in the comfort of an office far, far away. Utilities can better monitor their transmission networks. The IoT could connect the SCADA system on a factory floor with demand and supply information to truly optimize production.

What is my conclusion? What was a dream few years ago, becomes a reality now. We are getting into the story of "connected products" very fast. IoT can be a good technological approach to monitor and see product performance "live". Think about Google ability to capture your location and project it to PLM industry. Which can bring us to the next level of customer support. It will be interesting to see other PLM vendors reaction. Is it a time to start another IoT company now? Kidding… As usual, just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Will PLM Benefit From “SharePoint Death”?

September 23, 2013

PLM has love and hate relationships with SharePoint. For the last 5-8 years, SharePoint becomes a symbol of mainstream corporate portals, basic document and content management and set of collaboration tools well integrated with Microsoft Office platform. Microsoft used very sneaky freemium strategy of integrating SharePoint basic version into Windows Server license, so everybody who is buying it, was able to use basic level of SharePoint. The result – growing market share, ecosystem of partners and service providers. SharePoint business became popular.

SharePoint developed an interesting position in CAD/PLM ecosystem. The original attempt of SharePoint, to be used as a platform for PDM/PLM systems failed. After 10 years, only one company (Siemens PLM) is using SharePoint as a platform for their products – SolidEdge Insight XT (recently renamed into SolidEdge SP to emphasize tight connection with SharePoint). After big marketing campaign, PTC discontinued Windchill ProductPoint. Common PLM vendors strategy with regards to SharePoint is to report availability of the integration with SharePoint tools. Usually, it provided to confirm compliancy with IT/SharePoint strategy and to acknowledge significance of SharePoint install base.

However, the morning sun never lasts a day. SharePoint is lately going through the lifecycle and changes. I’ve been reading CMS Wire article – Reports of SharePoint’s Death are Greatly Exaggerated. Read the article and make an opinion. The article speaks about transformation of SharePoint ecosystem, growing dominance of Office brand and evolving of SharePoint into invisible collaborative service platform. Here is an interesting passage:

The concept of “SharePoint for end users” will go away, because end users will interface with SharePoint via Office (365 or no) or mobile apps as much as they do via browser. And speaking of the browser, what you see there can be heavily customized and made responsive. Microsoft itself has made this easier than ever in 2013, and things like device channels and variations barely scratch the surface of what’s possible. If SharePoint provides the services to all those devices … well, it’s basically a platform (again) for admins to maintain and developers to improve, but decidedly not a product aimed at end-user consumers.

Office is a well-known brand name and Microsoft clearly trying to fix problems of SharePoint in usability and amount services needed to make SharePoint work for customers. Interesting enough, I can see this problem is one of the fundamental problem behind the failure of SharePoint – PLM partnerships alliances. PLM resellers and services organizations were in competition with SharePoint and other IT service organizations.

Microsoft strategy is to fix SharePoint usability with Office 365 user experience. In parallel, by shifting towards Office from "SharePoint for users", Microsoft demonstrates some weakness and decreased SharePoint value proposition. The following passage can give you a glimpse of what it looks like. It speaks about huge amount of SharePoint business built around problems with usability and tailoring SharePoint to specific customer-oriented scenarios:

Look, it’s great that there’s so much help out there for end users struggling with SharePoint usability. Large and thriving websites, communities and consultancies have been built around this problem. But does anyone really believe that Microsoft enjoys or appreciates the fact that a billion-dollar business has inspired so much thought and activity around its weaknesses? If they can get people to happily use SharePoint (and more importantly, purchase licenses) without ever consuming it in its native environment, you’d better believe they will.

Similar problem exists in PLM eco-system as well. Problems with usability, huge amount of customization and services – these are attributes of aged mainstream PLM platforms and not only. PLM sales people can confirm they are competing with SharePoint based offering and services in many situations.

My hunch is that changes in SharePoint eco-system can work well for PLM business. The trend to converge SharePoint into invisible collaborative platform with Office365 facade can remove SharePoint sales focus from enterprise content management and document management. Microsoft will become more focused on collaboration and share of information for Office tools.

What is my conclusion? PLM struggled to compete with broad and extensive SharePoint presence. It created significant competition between vendors and confusion among customers. Very often SharePoint sales confused manufacturing companies with functionality SharePoint can provide to manage engineering data. Switching focus on Office365 and usage of SharePoint as a Office collaboration platform will bring clearness and improve potential competitiveness of PLM tools. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Cloud Switch and PTC Final Click?

September 11, 2013

Few weeks ago, I posted Dassault IFWE and PLM Cloud Switch. It was a time for Dassault System to announce their cloud product strategy and intent to deliver the entire portfolio of products via cloud. Back that time, PTC was the only company from "CAD/PLM big 4" formally denying cloud option. My hunch, it was a result of PTC conservative strategy multiplied by past bittersweet experience with IBM Windchill hosting… who knows?

BAM, BAM…Here is new development on PLM cloud horizon. Earlier today, PTC announced about acquisition of their long time partner – NetIDEAS. NetIDEAS was working with PTC over the decade by providing hosting and consulting. You can navigate to NetIDEAS website to get an idea of what was offered to customers – Windchill on Demand. NetIDEAS is working with SunGard Data Systems (NSYE:SDS) for hosting in order to provide SAS70 and other required hosting certifications.

GraphicSpeak published a short writeup about PTC-NetIDEAS acquisition. Article mentioned that NetIDEAS is specializing in remote hosting as well as speculated about purchase price "cloud have been as high as $63M" based on 5% of PTC revenues (since prices wasn’t announced). Here is an interesting passage from the article:

NetIdeas is a remote hosting specialist, the older brother of cloud deployment. Bringing NetIdeas inside PTC gives the company a better foundation to offer multiple deployment options, including cloud deployment. In April PTC CEO James Heppelmann told Wall Street analysts it is finding a “wait and see” attitude toward cloud deployment of PLM from its largest customers. Whether the slow uptake is based on reduced spending or a reluctance to deploy new technology, the move into cloud computing is an unstoppable platform transition and PTC must be a fully equipped player.

What is my conclusion? Cloud era is coming and PTC better to equip themselves with some cloud specialists at home. We have now all big four CAD/PLM providers committed to the cloud. However, strategies are different. Yesterday, I’ve been writing about Siemens cloud IaaS option. PTC hosting is a different strategy out of four possible options – public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud and collocation. All options are valid. My hunch is that evaluation of "cloud option and technologies" will become a standard step in every PLM purchase pretty soon. So, senior PLM consultants can take a note and learn few cloud buzzwords asap :). Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Cloud or Virtualization Alternative?

June 24, 2013

The two terms "cloud computing" and "virtualization" have many things in common. From a specific technological standpoint, we can even call both of these terms identical. The ability to virtualize computing power and provide them with easy and painless way was one of the roots behind what is known today as Amazon Elastic Cloud (EC2). However, it is not the same when it comes to technological marketing.

For many years, cloud was a tabu word for many PLM companies. BOM.COM and later one Arena was a pioneering ideas of SaaS and On-Demand software delivery. Agile Advantage module is going trough many transformations after the acquisition by Oracle. Autodesk – the first large CAD vendor announced Autodesk PLM360 last year. Bernad Charles of Dassault System announced $2B investment in creating of one of the most advanced cloud platforms – Enovia V6. Siemens PLM announced that TeamCenter will support cloud via IaaS deployment using Amazon and other IaaS providers. Aras made very similar steps by announcing Aras cloud strategy.

PTC was long time standing aside of mainstream cloud roads. Probably PTC learned their lessons by hosting PDMLink via IBM. However, two weeks ago, during PTCLive 2013 event, PTC announced their Creo products to support "virtualization". Read the following article by Graphic Speak – PTC joins the ranks of companies enabling virtualization. Here is the news in a nutshell:

At PTC’s worldwide conference this year, PTC Live 2013, the company announced an agreement between IBM, Nvidia, and Citrix to enable PTC customers to take advantage of virtualization. The capability is available for Creo Parametric, Creo Direct, Creo Layout, Creo Options Modeler, Creo Simulate. These products represent the start of PTC’s effort to enable virtualization and remote computing throughout their product line. Mike Campbell, EVP CAD segment at PTC told press and analysts these products were announced, because “they’re what we had ready.” Though obviously, these are also the core PTC products that people would want to use in a virtualization mode.

You may ask me – what about Windchill? The same article provide a glimpse of what PTC is planning with regards to Windchill and cloud / virtualization. Here is the passage I specially liked:

PTC says that one of the benefits of virtualization is more efficient integration between the company’s Windchill line of PLM products and its Creo design tools. Also, virtualization gives IT the ability to keep data and programs on the server, meaning company IP is safer than it is in a world full of Dropboxes and thumb drives. Virualization also gives IT better control over software installations. Depending on the configuration, whole groups of people can be served by updating a single server .

What is my conclusion? It is hard to ignore "cloud" word these days. Formally, PTC didn’t announce the cloud availability of their products. At the same time, who will prevent Creo and Windchill to run via Amazon Web Services? Will it become a single cloud PLM platform from Windchill? Good question to ask. It is interesting to see PTC approach to cloud and virtualization. I’m sure next option will come soon and Creo will become available from AWS servers. Pure speculation and only my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclosure: I’m responsible for PLM and Data Management product development at Autodesk.

PLM: Rightsizing vs. Wrongsizing Debates?

March 1, 2013

What is the right PLM size? This question is continuously debated and discussed by PLM vendors. This topic remains active for the last 10-15 years. The history is going back to the origins of PLM and work that CAD/PLM companies did with very large aero, automotive and defense companies. That was the place where concepts of PLM were developed – outcome of configuration management, BOM management and change management. From time to time, PLM companies are coming with the idea of developing of right size PLM for smaller companies. If you watch this industry long enough time you can even see waves of "PLM for SMB" development.

Last week, PTC announced the new "rightsized" version of PLM for SMB called PTC Windchill Essentials. Navigate here to read the press release. You can read more in the following DE article – PTC’s Windchill Essentials is Made for SMBs. The following passage stood out:

Enter PTC, the latest of the large PLM vendors to take a stab at what they call “rightsizing” PLM for the SMB market. PTC has taken the core product data management capabilities of its Windchill enterprise PLM platform and packaged it up as PTC Windchill PDM Essentials, specifically tuned to the needs of SMBs. The focus of the new release is to simplify the installation process and user interface so there are less choices and companies can get started right away, according to Michael Distler, Windchill product marketing director at PTC. “With very little effort, companies can get the system up and running,” he explains. “It’s really intended for smaller companies that may not have dedicated IT people.”

Interesting enough, a year ago (2012), PTC retired their previous attempt to address the needs of smaller size manufacturing companies – Product Point. The original idea was to use Microsoft SharePoint as a platform for PLM product closing gaps of Windchill for SMB market.

At the same time, another large PLM provider – Siemens PLM actually is coming opposite course and last year introduced a new product SolidEdge Insight XT based on SharePoint and… again focusing on the needs of SolidEdge customers and SMB manufacturing companies.

The dance around SMB manufacturing companies is interesting. While the vast majority of large manufacturing companies and trying to improve the existing PLM implementation or maybe even to replace old technologies and products, the huge amount of SMBs are using file management and Microsoft Excel to solve their PLM problems. DE’s Stackpole articulates it very well. Here is the passage:

While large enterprises have had their fair share of well-publicized bouts trying to tame the PLM beast, small and mid-sized companies (SMBs) have mostly shied away, reluctant to take on a technology many larger companies couldn’t swallow. At the same time, however, smaller manufacturers face a lot of the same product development and engineering challenges as their bigger brethren. Time-to-market pressures, increasingly dispersed and sometimes global engineering teams, and the need for more cost-effective and repeatable design processes have many SMBs hungry for a solution that can help them better coordinate product development strategies, optimize design cycles, and institute better planning.

However, large manufacturing companies are also suffering from poor PLM implementations. Below you can see the photo I made 2 weeks ago during PI Congress in Berlin. In the following slide, presented by Boeing, we can see how Boeing PLM implementation is suffering from poor usability at the time when the amount of features introduced by PLM vendors is skyrocketing (together with cost of ownership).

What is my conclusion? Less is more. PLM companies need to focus on usability and how to make cost of ownership low. In my view, it is true for companies of any size. It prevents small and medium size manufacturing companies from implementing existing PLM systems and raises many questions to IT of largest OEMs. The fact companies like PTC and Siemens PLM are focusing on SMB-tailored solutions is important since it reflects customer demands. New Gen-Y of workers are expecting zero installation effort and will be probably asking for URL rather than for simplified installation packages sooner than later. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

PLM Wrappers and Motor City 1970s

November 21, 2012

Are you familiar with PLM platform diagrams? You can see lots of them in presentations, marketing materials, websites and conferences. Last year, during one of my presentations about PLM technological alternatives, I pulled bunch of these diagrams together. You can see them on the slide below. Usually, vendors call them “PLM platform” or “PLM architecture” diagrams.

One of the observations, I’ve made is that all these diagrams are using similar words and categories to explain what it does. Different colors, styles, pictures, growing number of boxes, but these platforms are essentially repeating themselves from year to year. Interesting enough, if you remove identity of companies, you can hardly lose the orientation – most of the diagrams are in indistinguishable.

I call this effect PLM wrappers. It reflects the interest of vendors to develop and package different vertical solutions and add-ins. Recent Dassault conference introduced a new name – “experience”. Read the following post by Jim Brown providing a good summary of what “experience” is. This is my favorite passage:

You will hear the new term floating “3D Experiences” around a lot from Dassault. Actually their are two more terms you may hear, “Social Industry Experiences” and “Engineered Business Experiences” but I took away that they are effectively different names for the same thing. Dassault teams are looking at specific business processes across their product lines (or “Brands” as DS likes to call them) to focus on what their customers in specific vertical markets need to do in order to get a job done. The best definition I heard came via twitter from Monica Schnitger quoting DS VP Stéphane Declée:

It made me think about American car manufacturers assembly lines back in 1970s. Remember how car manufacturers produced different car options? To change production line was too complex. The cost of changing assembly lines was too high. Ford, GM and other companies operated them “as is”. The difference between car models came in a form of body panels, chrome parts and options. Under all these options, the cars were essentially the same old vehicle.

What is my conclusion? The cost of re-engineering of PLM platforms is too high. PLM vendors are playing “catch-up” strategies by trying to achieve a completeness of their solutions and platforms. The number of boxes on PLM diagrams is growing. Will it make PLM solutions better? I doubt. The key question about flexibility and cost of change remains not answered. Automotive manufacturing history is well know. You can learn about it from Wikipedia. What will happen with PLM City in 10 years? A good question to ask. Detroit is not my favorite place on the planet these days. YMMV (your mileage may vary) is the standard disclaimers used by car manufacturers in Motor City. Just my thoughts and opinion…

Best, Oleg


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