Active Workspace: The transformation of search user experience

May 21, 2015

To access product information is one of the most important roles of PLM system. Time ago, organizing data in folders was good enough solution. Not anymore. Google changed the way we think about accessing information. Searching engineering and manufacturing software is tricky. There are many things that influencing the way you search for information – access rights, context, dependencies. The following picture summarizes top obstacles in finding information according to the Enterprise Search and Findability Survey 2013 published by FINDWISE.

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I wrote few posts about search in PLM in the past. Navigate to one of them to read more – PLM search and findability. For the last few years, PLM vendors put significant focus on improvements of user experience and search functions. There are examples of search driven user interfaces in Aras PLM, Autodesk PLM360, Dassault / EXALEAD and others.

Earlier this week at Siemens PLM connection in Dallas, I had a chance to watch newest updates Teamcenter team made around Active Workspace. The first time product was presented back in 2011. Here is my original post about that- Siemens Active Workspace: PLM next big thing. Since that time, product evolved into rich user experience focusing on providing role-based, information search and navigation client. Siemens PLM Active Workspace is available in a browser and provides a way to search, filter and visualize information. In the example below, you can see an interesting combination of search, filtering and bar-chart visualization.

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Product information is usually intertwined with many dependencies. The following example shows the ability to navigate between interconnected pieces of information.

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The same UI is providing an access to the viewer.

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One of the new functions I found is an access to the information such as Bill of Material in a spreadsheet-like way with the ability dynamically select column, filter and sort.

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And finally you can annotate and comment on the pieces of information together with other people. It can give you some sort of social experience

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Search became the most important element of UI when it comes to access of complex information. Search is playing a significant role in the transformation of PLM user experience towards more simple and intuitive UI. Many users will appreciate a better search driven navigation. PLM vendors are paying more attention to search and you can find search functions in other PLM systems too. At the same time, Active Workspace is probably the latest example of search-driven UI in PLM.

What is my conclusion? I found interesting the evolution of Active Workspace for the last 4 years since it was originally presented. The UI became completely webish, many new functions were added. However, the core function of search-driven user experience is there and it provides differentiation to traditional folder-based navigation and browsing interfaces. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Bill of Materials (BOM) and product lifecycle open loops

May 19, 2015

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It is hard overestimate the importance of Bill of Materials for product development. In my keynote at ProSTEP iViP symposium in Stuttgart earlier this month I’ve been sharing my thoughts why developing of single BOM across multiple disciplines in critical for organization. I wanted to bring few examples that can demonstrate why having a single BOM strategy can bring benefits to product development and manufacturing organization.

Earlier today, at Siemens PLM connection event in Dallas, I captured the following slide demonstrating an integrated approach in design, manufacturing, planning and production. What is really interesting is how as-design, as-planned and as-build views in PLM are integrated with design, manufacturing, planning and production.

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Few days ago, I the following article by 3D CAD World article caught my attention – Progress in closing the product lifecycle’s loops  by Peter Bilello, president of CIMdata. The article speaks about the importance of collaboration across diverse enterprise groups.

For many years, the PLM industry has greatly benefited from a steady stream of improvements in collaboration among ever more diverse enterprise groups—in data interoperability, for example, and in the transparency of workflows and processes. The development, manufacture and support of globally competitive new products are, however, still hamstrung by the remaining open loops new and old.

Later in the article it came to the topic I was looking for – Bill of Materials. According to article, BOM is a biggest remaining challenge to make integration running smooth. Here is the passage, which explains that.

Between engineering, manufacturing and finance, a big remaining challenge is the bill of materials (BOM) in its many forms—the as-designed BOM, the as-engineered BOM, the as-manufactured BOM, and so on. Generated and managed with PLM and often executed by enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, BOMs themselves are loop closers. PLM-ERP connectivity and interoperability are steadily improving, but some open-loop issues are resolved only after time consuming face-to-face meetings.

What is my conclusion? Single BOM could be a great thing if vendors will figure out how to implement that. As you can learn from Biello’s article, PLM-ERP has open-loop issue and BOM is a tool to close that. However, companies are concerned about bringing single BOM strategy since it can raise lot of organizational challenges for them. At the same time, the demand for better integration and collaboration can put companies in front of decision to bring single BOM to close open loops between engineering, manufacturing and production anyway. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


May 19, 2015

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Siemens PLM connection 2015 is taking place in Dallas this week. Thanks for Siemens PLM inviting me, I had a chance to attend the conference this week. More posts and thoughts will come, but today, I want to give you some of my notes from the opening day of the conference with keynote from Chuck Grindstaff and several other presentations made by Siemens PLM folks and customers.

First, about the community of PLM connection. Combined from customer and managed by separate board, it represents multiple industries. However, as you can see it from the picture below, the dominant 70% is covered by three main industries – aerospace & defense, automotive and industrial machinery. No surprise here…. if you think about established PLM customer community – these are industries are mostly engaged in PLM use and implementations. The interesting news is to see reps from other industries too.

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The main message I captured from Chuck Grindstaff’s keynote is about smart products and how it will impact the manufacturing. In my view, the main point is that we are not separating products into large and small anymore. What we called in the past small and simple products are not simple. Any product today is a combination of multi-disciplinary technologies: advanced materials, electronic and software.

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Separate note about cloud. Siemens PLM was long time silent about cloud technologies. Not anymore. Cloud messages were sent during keynote and other sessions. Initial Siemens PLM cloud strategy was IaaS and Amazon. I covered it in my earlier posts. The thing I captured yesterday is the work Microsoft and Siemens PLM is doing to certify Teamcenter and other products to be used on Azure cloud. I guess more to watch here in the coming months.

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Another interesting topic I picked up was about cloud services and big data. These days product data is getting more in focus. I lives everywhere – in design, manufacturing records, sensors and many other places. To bring data together, connect it semantically and make available via search-like interface is an opportunity many companies are pursuing these days.

Siemens PLM new cloud services organization is up to the goal. I’ve been listening to Steve Bashada’s  presentation speaking about the work they do following the acquisition of Omneo, which come to Siemens PLM as part of Camstar acquisition. The following pictures can give you an idea of what Siemens is planning and I’m sure will follow this up in my future posts. They are currently working with Dell and few other companies on the solution covering engineering and manufacturing product data intelligence cases.

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I was super excited to listen to Jay Rogers, CEO and co-founder of Local Motors. Not aware about Local Motors? You should close your knowledge gap asap. Why? Because Local Motors is on the mission towards next industrial revolution. Imagine you have an idea for product, push a button and…. yes, you engage in the community of people designing, engineering and manufacturing it. It comes as a smart network of people involved into design, manufacturing and distribution of the product. New materials, new manufacturing processes- agile, collaborative and what is most important – quick and efficient. Local Motors can deliver products with 5x less time and 100x less cost.

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Siemens PLM discussion about Manufacturing Operation Management gave me an addition perspective on how to make more efficient production. It is about connecting engineering and manufacturing together. In a nutshell, unified manufacturing backbone connects production, quality, logistic and maintenance. It is all impossible without tight connection with PLM backbone and integrating product views – multiple bill of materials, bill of process, electronic and software related information.

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The final presentation I was watching was by Craig Brown, leading PLM at General Motors. The main topic is how to deliver connected, contextual experience among all products involved into design, productions and maintenance of GM cars.

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My special attention was caught by the work GM is doing integrating multiple tools including TeamCenter using LinkedData technologies. The most resonating message – use web technology for data management and integration into enterprise.

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What is my conclusion? We are getting in the era of smart products, which will create even more data management challenges for manufacturing companies and PLM vendors. It will come from diverse sides – community based design and collaboration, agile engineering to manufacturing processes, smart manufacturing and production. Existing tools will not be replaced overnight, therefore an ability to co-exist will be demanded by PLM vendors and their customers. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


How much does it cost to manage CAD data?

May 14, 2015

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CAD files. Everyone who is dealing with design and engineering is familiar with this type of data. Large files, many dependencies, hard to store, share, change. That was the place where originally Product Data Management – PDM was born (if you long enough in this industry you might remember EDM or TDM acronyms too). Until very recently, PDM tools were hard to install, configure and use. Engineers didn’t like them and tried to avoid it as much as possible.

There are some good news on the horizon. CAD and PLM vendors are recognizing the need to release engineers from PDM pain and focusing on how to improve it from both user experience and license cost. If you recall one of my earlier blogs this year, I was talking about some interesting changes in PDM licensing from GrabCAD and SolidWorks – The future of free PDM.

Recent announcement from Autodesk about changes in Fusion360 packaging is not directly related to PDM. In a nutshell, it was about moving bunch of premium Fusion360 features into standard package with subscription price $25/month. At the same time, Fusion360 is providing PDM functionality and it is part of the subscription license which cost you 25$/month. Navigate here to learn more.

Another my post “Onshape quietly developed Google Drive for CAD” will give you a perspective from another cloud CAD disruptor – Onshape. A set of CAD data management (PDM) functionality is part of Onshape product. The subscription has free option as well as $100/month option. Navigate here to learn more.

It made me think about how much are we going to pay to manage and share CAD files in a near future?

The more “traditional” CAD / PDM approach is bundling CAD data management and integration functions into PDM/ PLM products. It forms a group of relatively expensive CAD data management tools. Navigate the following links to see examples – Aras CAD data management, Autodesk Vault, ENOVIA CAD data management, SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, SolidEdge SP, Siemens TeamCenter PDM, Windchill PDM Link. The license cost and TCO is not always obvious and transparent (not very different from many examples of on premise enterprise software). At the same time, the functionality of these packages are often goes much beyond just managing revisions and sharing CAD files.

Another group of vendors and products are formed by new “cloud products” that can give you an option to manage and share CAD data. All of them are subscription based. For some of them, PDM is an integral part of a bigger product. There are products with free subscription option under some conditions. Here is the list of vendors – Autodesk Fusion360, Autodesk A360, GrabCAD Workbench, Onshape, Kenesto Drive, Team Platform. I’m sure missed some of new cloud outfits, so please let me know about new cool names to be added.

What is my conclusion? I can see a strong trend for making CAD data management ubiquitous and near free is a reality we might face very soon. Cloud CAD vendors will lead this trend because PDM is an fundamental part of cloud CAD delivery mechanism. It will take trajectory of cost for CAD data management and collaboration to zero. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


The future of PLM apps

April 27, 2015

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

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

Who is developing PLM apps?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to develop apps

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

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

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

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Is public cloud reshaping PLM landscape? Time to re-check…

March 6, 2015

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The question how to implement PLM cloud is one of the most confusing when it comes to the decision about choosing one of available PLM solutions on the market today. The time when PLM vendors used "cloud" as a differentiation is over. Most of PLM vendors are comfortable with "cloud" word and the number of companies considering cloud as part of their PLM strategy is growing. How to decide what is the right cloud strategy for you? The dilemma of public vs private cloud is one of the most challenging for many companies.

My attention was caught by ReadWrite web article – You Think Private Clouds Are More Stable And Agile Than Public? Think Again. The article provides a set of good arguments for public cloud option. Here is my favorite passage:

Of course, your CIO’s job is only truly threatened by the public cloud if she chooses to fight it, or mindlessly continues to believe she can build a better cloud than Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. For 99.999% of enterprises, building your own cloud or data center may be a comforting way to stick with old habits, but it’s generally going to be the wrong decision. While there are certainly workloads that will perform better or need to be secured within the four walls of your firewall, the reality is that most infrastructure belongs in the cloud.

No, You Can’t. It’s a convenient fiction that public cloud is unreliable compared to private IT. But let’s be clear: it’s fiction, not fact. Here’s the reality on public cloud up-time: last year Amazon Web Services managed 99.9974% uptime despite hefty growth and unparalleled pressure on its infrastructure. Google was even better at 99.999% uptime. (Microsoft Azure performed a bit worse, though still quite well, according to the Cloud Harmony data.)

In lights of this article, I decided to make a check and see what cloud options are supported by different PLM vendors. Here is a short summary of my discovery (alphabetical order of vendors).

1- Aras PLM is supporting Azure public cloud and, in addition to that saying that Aras is capable to run on any cloud infrastructure (public and private). Here is the link to Aras website.

2- Arena Solutions is cloud solutions. There is no specific information on the website about public vs. private options. My assumption, Arena is public cloud.

3- Autodesk PLM360 is cloud only solution. There is no specific public vs. private information on PLM360 website. My assumption PLM360 is public cloud.

4- Dassault Systems announced to support all cloud options by 2015. See my blog about it. I cannot find a link to a specific cloud configuration available for the moment. The following link presents a list of ENOVIA on the cloud products.

5- Oracle Agile PLM is available via hosted environment. The link with more information is here via Oracle partners. I wasn’t able to find specific information about public vs. private cloud options. More information is here.

6- PTC PLM cloud is supporting both private and public cloud options as you can see it from PTC website. Here is the link, which presents PTC cloud portfolio stating private instance for both premium and enterprise cloud options.

7- SAP cloud applications website is not providing any link to PLM solutions. At the same time, SAP PLM website has zero references to cloud solutions.

8- Siemens PLM is supporting IaaS based cloud deployment. According to the information on the following link, TeamCenter is compatible with Amazon Web services and future support is planned for IBM and Microsoft clouds.

What is my conclusion? Most of PLM vendors are supporting public cloud. It is a real change and it just happened over the past 2-3 years. However, devil is in details. A specific architecture of cloud solution can make a difference. In the past, I put several articles discussing details of cloud technologies. The following link can be a good starting point to discuss definition of true cloud PLM solution. In a nutshell it comes to 4 things – available on demand, hosted, elastic, global access. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


When BOM is not BOM

December 17, 2014

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Bill of Materials (BOM) is a central part of everything in product development. Sometimes, people call it product structure. Manufacturers are using BOM to define list of raw materials, parts and sub-assemblies with corresponded quantities need to manufacture a product. This is over simplistic definition. As usual, devil is details and BOM story is getting quite complex. Depends to whom are you talking, people see a different aspects of bill of materials – sales options, design hierarchy, product configurations, manufacturing process, service parts. Many systems are defining BOM differently. It depends on their roles and functions in overall product lifecycle.

In one of my recent articles – Thoughts about BOM ownership, I discussed some ideas about how BOM can be shared among organizations and enterprise software tools. That was my attempt to think about how to resolve a conflict between two major BOM stakeholder – Product Lifecycle Management and ERP systems. The BOM management landscape in the organization is complex. In my view, companies are not ready for a single BOM management tools – it was my observation 2 years ago.

At the time a major BOM master ownership dispute is between PLM and ERP vendors, I can see an interesting trend which can put some lights on how PLM companies are articulating their BOM strategies.

Dassault Systems ENOVIA is coming with their "zero BOM error" strategy. I posted about it earlier – PLM and Zero BOM errors: the devil is in details. In a nutshell, ENOVIA is trying to improve process of Bill of Material generation by direct connection between CATIA design and product structure. In my view, it might lead to potential formal elimination of EBOM, which will be replaced by a bundle of design and engineering information. Practically, product structure in CATIA/ENOVIA will represent everything that happens on engineering level. According to ENOVIA strategy, it will eliminate errors between design and engineering.

In parallel, I’m observing the way BOM is positioned by Siemens PLM. Teamcenter blog – Introducing BOM management speaks about BOM information as a vital part of many processes supported by PLM. I found interesting how "BOM management" term was replaced by "Product definition". Here is the passage:

I just noticed that as I am writing this I am using the words “bill of materials” less and “product definition” more. I would go back and correct – I wanted to keep it a surprise! But I think it’s ok – it helps me get to this next part. To us, it has become abundantly clear that one of the problems that come up when you talk about bill of materials (BOM) management is that the scope of what people might mean is so broad. To call all those things listed above “BOM Management” is not sufficient. We’ve collected these capabilities into an umbrella we call the Integrated Product Definition. This is an area where we have been leaders, and it continues as a high priority for us – we have the breadth and depth to address these issues like nobody else can.

In both situations, I can see a strategy by PLM vendors to redefine BOM and bring up the extended value PLM environment for customers. This is a very important transformation in my view, since it helps to streamline processes. The problem of synchronization between design and engineering environment is well-known and not solved in many companies. Teamcenter is connecting BOM management into varietly of topics such as part management, master data management, configuration management, coordinate change and variability and others. It helps to create a solid platform to manage product data.

However, the biggest fight over the BOM is between PLM and ERP environments. Engineering.com outlined it in their article – The next big boom in PLM is a battle over MBOM ownership. Muris Capital Advisors outlined the sam conflict in the blog post – The Battle for BOM Control. According to Bruce Boes of Muris Capital, service integrators will play a leading role in making alignment between PLM and ERP and forming BOM master model. Here is an interesting passage:

We predict that System Integrators have a unique opportunity and from our recent experience, the desire to bridge the gap and add value during integration with the BOM as a key point of integration. In doing so they open the market for process consulting and integration services surrounding the master model concept.

The last one make sense. In many PLM implementation projects, SI teams are actually leading development of PLM-ERP integration on site or using different middleware or integration toolkits. Unfortunately, the cost of these implementation is high and overall process is very complex.

What is my conclusion? PLM vendors redefining BOM by tight integrating of product information into development processes. From what I can see, both Teamcenter and ENOVIA are trying to redefine Bill of Material (BOM) as a wider topic. This is an interesting strategy to fight over MBOM ownership. Integrated "product definition" can help to streamline processes between engineering and manufacturing. However, the end game should be total BOM experience including all manufacturing aspects – manufacturing process planning, cost and orders. The last one brings PLM-ERP integration topic back on the table. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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