PLM Vendors and Tunnel Vision

November 11, 2014

plm-tunnel-vision

I’ve been following Dassault Systems 3DXforum this morning. Thanks for technology improvements these days you can be almost present at the events by combination of live streaming and social media communication. The first presentation by Bill Taylor, Fast Company editor struck me by mentioning of the idea of Tunnel Vision. I took a trip to Fast Company website. Navigate to the following link to read Six Ways to Prevent Corporate Tunnel Vision. In a nutshell, I can see tunnel vision as a sort of decease that keeps company in the eco-system of existing business boundaries. At the same time, business is getting so disruptive these days that focusing on a known boundaries, suppliers, partners and business models will crash you eventually. Here is my favorite passage:

Such upheaval is evident everywhere in the business world today. Did you know that big-box retailer Walmart now competes with Comcast, and Netflix for movie streaming on TVs? Or that a business-to-business network equipment giant Cisco now competes with Kodak and Sony for consumer camcorders? Most market incumbents stick with their current products, business models and industry for their entire existance, such that they don’t see opportunities to move—or the risk of new entrants. Such tunnel vision presents a tremendous opportunity for savvy executives looking outside their current base to grow revenue or maintain leadership.

It made me think about PLM vendors attempts to think out of the box by pushing boundaries and challenging current paradigms. If you had a chance to read my yesterday blog, you can see how Siemens PLM is pushing PLM-ERP boundary with the strategic objective to develop fully digital manufacturing and take over mBOM. The comparison of engineering and manufacturing performance with Google self-driving cars was pretty bold. At the same time, you see how Dassault System is innovating into multiple domains by pushing CAD file paradigms introducing “Zero file” strategy and, as I just learned this morning, very much focusing on experience. PTC is looking how to expand their horizons with IoT strategy and services. The last, but not least – Autodesk is focusing on cloud as a strategic differentiation in PLM.

PLM vendors are clearly coming to push existing PLM boundaries. I’ve been trying to map PLM vendors’ strategy to six ways to prevent tunnel vision – business models, encroachment, simplification, total customer, next wave, distribution. I think there are bits of these ways in everything PLM vendors are doing. However, I want to come back to the one of the slides I captured – Apple Lazarus Strategy.

apple-lazarus-strategy

Apple repeatedly outsmarted competitors by introducing revolutionary products in the domains of other companies by providing new experience, combining services and new design. PLM companies all have their strengths these days. However, in many situations, PLM implementations are all look very similar if go down to nuts and bolts of business.

What is my conclusion? PLM companies are innovating to change traditional boundaries of what we know about PLM. My hunch, we are still in a very beginning of PLM disruption. I want to bring Marc Andreessen’s talk about competition and market -“The common theory is that you want to be first to market, but actually you want to be last to market and close the door [on that industry] so no one can come after you“. So, from that standpoint, it is interesting to see who will become last to PLM market. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit


PLM vendors’ fight over BOM will require to solve data synchronization problems

November 10, 2014

data-links

Engineering.com article by Verdi Ogewell earlier today is introducing a next step of PLM vs. ERP battle for ownership of manufacturing BOM. Navigate to the following link to read a very provoking interview with Siemens PLM CEO Chuck Grinstaff who says – “PLM should take over ownership of the manufacturing BOM too“.

I’ve been writing about the complexity of manufacturing BOM before. You can refresh your memories with the following two articles I wrote earlier this year: Manufacturing future will dependent on solving old PLM-ERP integration problems and Manufacturing BOM is the next cool thing in PLM.

BOM topic is fascinating and incredibly important for PLM companies. It boils down to the ability of PLM to control the complexity of variety of product definitions. The complexity of modern manufacturing environment is skyrocketing. Think about a combination of multiple disciplines involved into the process of design, engineering, manufacturing and support. Mechanical, electronic and software components are tightly integrated to produce modern airplanes, cars and other highly sophisticated products. However, to solve design complexity is just a beginning of the road. The next huge problem is to solve manufacturing problems. It all comes to manufacturing planning, procurement and shopfloor control. After, eventually, you end up with the result, which is represented by “as built” product data, support and maintenance systems.

To demonstrate complexity of BOM transformation I created a diagram below. What you can see below is different views of product data. It usually represented as a different views of Bill of Materials.

plm-bom-data-synchronization

The following quote from Engineering.com article is one of my favorite to describe the importance of product data modeling. According to Chuck Grinstaff of Siemens PLM:

How important is the BOM issue among businesses? ”Incredibly important”, claims Chuck Grindstaff, and it’s not just a matter of semantics, ”The real issue around the Bill of Materials, whether for engineering, for manufacturing, for test or for procurement, is that each of these views of the product are important to the consumer of the BOM. Every view of the ‘bill’ needs to reconcile to other views and must remain accurate within the context of the total product during each stage of development. We believe that each of these viewpoints needs to be configurable from a common definition; from a single source of truth into the context for each of the engineers. For that reason it’s important to get it right. You can call it ”a battle”, yes, but the point still is that a PLM system is the best environment to manage this complexity.”

PLM vendors arguing towards full control of all aspects of BOM by PLM platforms and tools. The main battle is with ERP systems. Historically and traditionally, ERP companies are controlling part of product data starting from manufacturing planning and going future towards procurement and as built representations. It created well-known status of engineering vs. manufacturing balance. However, future demands of deep manufacturing integration brings PLM vendors to think that to take over MBOM (or more specific, manufacturing planning BOM) will deliver better solution for product complexity management.

The desired status for PLM vendors is to push ERP down towards procurement only and manage manufacturing BOM as part of PLM database. Here is another passage from Engineering.com article quoting Peter Billelo of CIMdata explaining why it can be reasonable from PLM vendors’ standpoint:

”ERP solutions generally do not actually optimize or have development tools for defining what the manufacturing BOM is. They just focus on executing a defined Bill of Material. So if I look at what Siemens is doing they are based on developing what that mBOM should be and optimizing that BOM. Quite frankly I don’t see any of the ERP vendors spending much time, if any time, at all at actually doing that. That said it makes sense for Chuck to claim the ownership since they have the tools to make changes, analyze and optimize the BOM.”

Engineering.com article made me think again about complexity of data management and integration in product development. It is certainly complex thing to manage multiple aspects of product data – design, engineering and manufacturing. To ensure data accuracy, both PLM and ERP systems must be well synchronized, which requires multiple very complex data transformation. The “sync” is king of the road on the PLM-ERP highway connecting engineering and manufacturing organizations.

Current enterprise data management paradigm is based on the RDBMS architecture that fundamentally provides a storage for all aspects of product data. TeamCenter is probably one of the best systems to support the complexity of product data representation. By moving manufacturing planning BOM to TeamCenter (or other PLM system), PLM vendors can decrease complexity of data synchronization between two complex views – engineering and manufacturing planning. ERP system role in this situation will be limited to procurement function and management of master production schedule.

However, Siemens PLM is not alone in their desire to take control of complete product structure management and all aspects of BOM. My earlier article – PLM and Zero BOM errors speaks about how Dassault Systems ENOVIA strategy to simplify the complexity of BOM synchronizations between design and engineering environment. This is a bit different aspect, but still represents the desire of PLM companies to solve BOM synchronization problem.

What is my conclusion? The problem of data synchronization between different BOM representations is a real one. The level of complexity is huge. PLM companies are trying to leverage their sophisticated data platform to control the overall product data complexity. The fight is two fold – technical and political. The heart of every CIO is usually with ERP system. PLM companies need to think how to deliver technologies to solve the level of integration complexity. In my view, this is a key to win MBOM battle. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit: elcovs via photopin cc


How PLM vendors will develop next security technologies

September 22, 2014

future-security-tech

The world is a scare place today. Every day we hear about different security problems – very large retail network informed me that their payment system was breached; large organization informes that customer databases with account information leaked, proprietary photos of celebrities available for general public, credit card numbers compromised. You can continue this list…

If you are responsible for IT organization, you should be scary to death. Think about engineering and manufacturing organization. How can you insure the protection of sensitive information assets? The time when a potential solution was just to cut a network cable into engineering working room is probably in the past. Even if you do that, mobile devices, global environment and need for supply chain access will simply put your effort in a trash can. EBNonline published a very interesting infographic called – The iPhone 6 Saga. It presents Apple’s global supply chain. I have no specific information about how Apple support security in their engineering, manufacturing and supply chains systems. What is clear – security is not optional there.

Security is well known topic in PLM community. Manufacturing companies are afraid of IP leaks for their most important intellectual assets. The question about how to protect data is on the top of the list when you evaluate PLM system. Introducing of cloud technologies and cloud PLM systems just raised the sense of urgency towards protecting highly sensible engineering and manufacturing assets.

Security of information in PLM system is multi-dimensional problem.. These days vendors are very vocal about their commitment to insure information is secured. It is easy to find this information available from vendors’ website and published white papers. A very simple Google search for “PLM security” returned a bunch of documents from Aras, Autodesk PLM360, Dassault Systems,  Siemens PLM, Oracle Agile PLM and few others. Take a look on links and draw your opinion.

It made me think, security management is not a topic that can be covered by one vendor. In modern manufacturing world, you hardly can find a company that using engineering, data management and manufacturing software from a single software vendor. The situation won’t be different in a future. It means manufacturing companies will have to insure security of sensitive IP. My hunch, software vendors will have to talk to develop future security technologies and systems together.

My attention caught THEINQUIRER article Google, Dropbox and others launch Simply Secure to ensure open security. Simply Secure is an organization that aims to work on how to solve the problem of security in an open source community.

A collection of firms and internet thinkers have gathered under a Simply Secure banner and promised to make security and privacy tools that protect and serve. Google and Dropbox are players in the Simply Secure support group and are joined by the Open Technology Fund. Together they all hope to address web users’ concerns about their content and connections. “Internet software links us to our friends, allows us to transact across oceans, and forms a digital space for culture and society. Because these technologies provide forums for sensitive discourse and expression, we are all concerned about their security and privacy.

The world of product lifecycle management is very competitive. Vendors are in a constant search how to differentiate their solution. However, security technology is a thing that can benefit a community of customers to adopt technologies and to work together. Modern enterprise software is quickly adopting best technological practices and tools coming from open source and web world. Security best practice can be next place where adopting of some industry and open source standards can be beneficial.

What is my conclusion? Security is a big deal. By developing future security technologies and adopting some well known best practices, PLM vendors can raise the bar for how they can protect customers from security breaches. The world around us is highly connected these days. To solve security problems is not an optional thing. It impacts every company in modern global manufacturing world.

Best, Oleg


CAD, PLM and Top 500 cloud app vendors list

September 5, 2014

top-cloud-apps-cad-plm-500

The cloud is growing. Few years ago, some of us had a concern if cloud is fad and it will over fast. Since that time, we can see many new companies in cloud space as well as many companies turned their development efforts completely towards the cloud eco-system.

If you like research, ranks and comparison of vendors, you may find the following list of vendors interesting. Apps Run The Cloud web site published the list of Cloud Top 500 Applications Vendors. You can see list of companies and detailed information about top 50 vendors for free. More detailed information requires subscription.

I’ve been trying to see what companies from CAD/PLM space made it to the list. Here is the list of companies with rank (assigned by Apps Run The Cloud) and domain (CAD or PLM):

120 – Autodesk (CAD)

158 – Altair Engineering, Inc. (CAD)

291 – Dassault Systems (PLM)

377 – Arena Solutions (PLM)

407 – Siemens PLM software (PLM)

What is my conclusion? Cloud is here to stay. The question is not "why the cloud?", but "how and what cloud vendor to choose?". I’ve been blogged about it before – PDM/PLM: Why the cloud? Wrong question… The growth of cloud software is fascinating. The fact 3 top CAD providers are in the list confirms the commitment of companies to cloud strategies and development. I didn’t find few names from CAD/PLM domain that I expected to see. I hope we will see more analysis and comparison of cloud strategies and cloud platforms in CAD/PLM space.

Best, Oleg


PLM upgrades, release cycles and legacy software

August 20, 2014

legacy-software

Do you know what is legacy software? Earlier today, Marc Lind of Aras Corp. challenged me by his twitter status about companies complaining about legacy PLM systems and upgrading. Here is the original passage from twitter here and here.

"a lot of people complains about legacy PLM and a lot of companies that have legacy PLM are throwing in the towel and switching these days".

marc-lind-legacy-plm-tweet

The part of statement about "legacy software" is really interesting. Last week, I wasn’t able to update a game on my son’s iPad. After few minutes, I discovered that Apple is not supporting the original iPad hardware manufactured 4 years ago. Does it mean iOS software run on that iPad is a legacy? Good question. At the same time, what about properly functioning ERP software that company runs already for the last 10 years without any plans to upgrade? Is that a legacy software?

Wikipedia gives me the following definition of legacy system:

In computing a legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program,"of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system."[1] A more recent definition says that "a legacy system is any corporate computer system that isn’t Internet-dependent."[2]… The first use of the term legacy to describe computer systems probably occurred in the 1970s. By the 1980s it was commonly used to refer to existing computer systems to distinguish them from the design and implementation of new systems. Legacy was often heard during a conversion process, for example, when moving data from the legacy system to a new database.

Software upgrades is an important topic in engineering and manufacturing. Very often, systems can be in use very long time because of product lifecycle and the need to maintain existing data. It happens a lot in defense, aero and some other "regulated" industries. Also, because of significant investment, the ROI from upgrade can be questionable, which leads companies to keep existing outdated systems in operation. I’ve been posted about problems of PLM customization and upgrades before – How to eliminate PLM customization problems and Cloud PLM and future of upgrades.

PLM vendors are aware about the issue of upgrades and difficulties of software migrations . For long time, industry recognized it as something unavoidable. However, in today’s dynamic business environment, the issue of software upgrades cannot be ignored. Customers demanding flexible and agile software that can be deployed and updated fast. At the same time, changes of business models towards services and subscriptions pushed the problem of upgrades back to vendors.

Earlier this year, my attention was caught by CIMdata publication – Aras Innovator: Redefining Customization & Upgrades. Aras enterprise open source model is predominantly subscription oriented. Which provides lots of incentives for Aras engineers to solve the issue of upgrades and new versions deployment. Here is the passage from the article confirming that:

For several years, the Aras Corporation (Aras) has included no-cost version-to-version upgrades in their enterprise subscriptions, independent of how the solution has been customized and implemented. This is a rather bold guarantee given the historic challenges the industry has experienced with upgrading highly customized PLM deployments. With more than 300 upgrades behind it, CIMdata felt it appropriate to find out how Aras’ guarantee was playing out, and discovered that there was much more to the story than just a contractual guarantee. Fundamentally, Aras Innovator is engineered to be highly configurable—even customizable—without resulting in expensive and complex version-to-version upgrades and re-implementations.

One of PLM software leaders, Siemens PLM is also thinking about What is the best release cycle. The article speaks about SolidEdge release cycle.

A few years ago we moved from an irregular release cycle for Solid Edge, maybe 9 months in one cycle to 15 months in the next, to a regular cycle of annual releases (of course there are also maintenance packs delivered in the interim). I believe our customers much prefer this, they can plan ahead knowing that there will be a significant Solid Edge release available to them in August each year.

At the same time, the article confirms that CAD/PLM vendors are looking how to solve the problem of upgrades. As I mentioned earlier, cloud software model is one of the most promising technical ways to solve the issue of upgrades. It is true, but can be tricky in case both desktop and cloud software are involved. Here is the passage from the same Siemens PLM blog:

Working in the PLM area we try really hard to provide our customers with a good upgrade experience. PLM software is itself dependent on both the operating system and database software, and it has to work with specific releases of CAD software (sometimes with more than one CAD solution for our multi-CAD customers) and with office software as well! Moving PLM software to the cloud could potentially take some of the upgrade issues away from the end user, but PLM software does not work in isolation from your data files, or your other software and systems so I believe there is much work still to be done before the cloud really impacts the upgrade situation for real-world customers.

What is my conclusion? From customer perspective, the best option is to make release cycle completely transparent. In my view, this is really high bar for PLM vendors. Customer data migration, customization and sometimes absence of backward compatibility make release transparency questionable. However, since industry moves towards cloud software and service business model the demand for agile release management and absence of upgrades will be growing. So, my hunch, in the future we will not see "legacy software" anymore. New type of enterprise software will manage upgrades and migrations without customers paying attention. Sound like a dream? I don’t think so. For most of web and consumer software it is a reality already today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Here is why CAD in the cloud is more than mainframe terminal

August 1, 2014

CAD-IBM-mainframe-term

Cloud is one of the topics that I’m following on my blog for a long time. I can see lots of changes that happened in CAD / PLM world for the last few years with everything that related to cloud. I’m sure you remember very turbulent announcement about SolidWorks future in the cloud made during SWW 2010. Since then, I was looking how CAD/PLM vendors were taking different cloud approaches based on their customer base, long term vision and strategy. Here are some of my previous posts speaking about vendors and different cloud strategies – Dassault is going to support all PLM cloud options by 2015; PLM cloud switch and PTC final click; Siemens PLM analyst event PLM public cloud strategies; Cloud and IaaS options; PLM/PDM Why Cloud? Wrong question…

I read Siemens PLM blog post – Is it time to revisit CAD in the cloud? by Matt Lombard. The article raised many question and concerns in my head. So, I decided to share them with you to compare our notes about cloud strategies. My attention was caught by the following two statements: 1/ Cloud has nothing to do with CAD. It is IT; 2/ Cloud in the cloud will send us back to manufacturing/terminal arrangement. Here is the passage from the post about that:

The cloud has nothing to do with CAD, really. The cloud is all about how you deliver the software, and/or about how you store the data. It’s IT. There was a time when all CAD software was delivered across a network to individual terminals, and the data was stored centrally. People about my age who remember this sort of thing generally refer to that as the “bad old days”. Working on terminals that had to log in to a mainframe was inconvenient. If the mainframe was down, no one could do anything.

The personal computer (PC) revolution was such a big hit because it gave you more flexibility. Everyone had their own computer. It took us out of the collective, and made us individuals again. In the mid 90s, along with Windows NT, this meant that we could start using our technical engineering applications on PCs, which were far less expensive and restrictive when compared to mainframe setups.

“CAD in The Cloud” promises to send us back to the mainframe/terminal arrangement. Whether it’s a local cloud, on your company’s LAN or a public cloud on Amazon or IBM, or a private cloud you access over the internet, it’s the same idea as the mainframe/terminal. But is it a good thing, or a bad thing?

These two statements made me think again about completely different approach companies can take in terms of cloud adoption. You can consider cloud as "yet another server" located elsewhere and managed by somebody else (not by the IT of your company). From a very narrow point of view, it is true. However, think for the moment about potential elastic computing power. You might rethink your position. The ability to bring brute computing force will allow you to speed up design and analysis. You can compare variants, visualize your design and re-use early projects in a completely different way. It can change design and decision process completely.

Another aspect is related to collaboration and data access. By moving your PDM server into cloud can gain some benefits. It mostly around IT cost and global access. However, you can achieve much more by allowing people to communicate across departments and extended value chain. It opens many opportunities in communication, business optimization and analytics services.

Another interesting point made by Matt is related to desktop tools. Matt comes with the explanation about relationships between SolidEdge and cloud. Here is the passage from the blog:

For all of these reasons, I like the approach that Siemens PLM has when it comes to the cloud. Solid Edge does not appear to have any cloud aspirations at this time, but there are versions of enterprise software that will allow for local cloud set up. Giving the customer the choice and the control without coercing them is the right thing to do.

I like the way Matt put the connection between SolidEdge as a desktop software and so called "enterprise software that will allow for local cloud set up". I reminded me TechCrunch article – The Return Of The Desktop Productivity App. What I like is the role desktop applications play in the triad of desktop-web-mobile. All together, these applications become part of connected cloud platform. Think about Evernote for a moment. You can use desktop version of Evernote and transparently switch to mobile and web version depends on the situation and need. Your notes remain captured and available to view, edit and collaborate. This is a big deal. This is how we will use software tomorrow. Desktop CAD applications will be seamlessly connected to cloud platforms providing backbone for communication, collaboration and storage.

What is my conclusion? Think about web and cloud as a new platform. It will bring a completely new paradigm of design and engineering. As a first step you can think about it as an old "mainframe/terminal" or "yet another server located elsewhere". However, cloud trajectory will take us much further. It will bring new connected platforms that will change the way we communicate and collaborate. Elastic computing platforms will help us to find optimal design solution and intelligently use customer data for analysis. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

The photo courtesy of computerhistory.org


Why Siemens PLM can develop PaaS option

July 16, 2014

cloud-paas

PaaS is a category of cloud computing service providing platform and solution stack. This service model is including not only computing infrastructure (IaaS), but also application design, development, testing, team collaboration, integration features, database integration, scalability, security and others. In addition to that, it might provide service management capabilities such as monitoring, workflow management, etc.

As cloud market becomes mature, IT, customers and application development are looking into complete solutions. All PLM vendors are in full swing into IaaS cloud PLM option. Cloud PLM experience brings the need to dig more into nuts and bolts of cloud business. It includes understanding of cost, scale, service maintenance, application development, partnership. So, fundamental question many vendors and customers have is what is the best way to make cloud PLM efficient? Understanding of PaaS option is an important step. I shared some of my thoughts about PaaS and PLM before- Cloud PLM and PaaS dilemma, Will cloud PLM develop PaaS options?

My blogging buddy and well known PLM analyst Chad Jackson tweetstormed what he learned at Siemens PLM about furure TeamCenter platform development. While I’m still waiting for full blog post on Chad’s Lifecycle Insight, the following filtered tweetstorm can give some idea about Siemens PLM platform strategy:

chad-jackson-siemens-plm-tweetstorm

It resonated with my previous thoughts about cloud PLM and PaaS and made me think why Siemens PLM as well as any other PLM vendor can consider PaaS as a right option for their cloud PLM strategy. Here are my 3 reasons to develop PLM PaaS:

1- Agile development.

Vendors should be able to go fast in the development of applications, ability to customize existing features and supporting new opportunities. Businesses are much more dynamic these days. Everyone wants to be agile. PLM vendors too. So, to get up to speed with business, PLM vendors need to have a stable platform to build on. PLM PaaS can be one.

2- Better upgrade strategies

Let’s take marketing gloves off. Regardless on deployment options (on premise; private cloud; public cloud), you need to deal with upgrades. Databases, services, data model changes- this is only a very short list. PaaS can hide upgrades from customer and application developers by providing a stable platform layer. This layer requires less frequent upgrades.

3- Scaling factor and cost.

Cost is important. Cloud is not cheap as many of us thoughts from the beginning. Customers are demanding new business models and optimized cost. The development and customization cost is another problem. Scaling and keeping cost low is also huge challenge. Utilization of enterprise servers is still relatively low. PaaS can answer on the question how to share resources and scale with low cost.

What is my conclusion? Most of PLM vendors took IaaS option as a starting point to develop cloud business. It is okay and will provide important experience from different perspective – technologies, business, user interface. However, IaaS won’t remove fundamental enterprise PLM issues – implementation complexity, upgrade challenges, high diversity of requirements and business changes. PaaS option can become the next logical step to optimize platform and application for agile delivery. It looks like Siemens is making steps towards this direction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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