GitHub PDM: Is It For Real?

September 19, 2013

GitHub is a well known social network for programmers. According to Wikipedia article, GitHub is a web-based hosting service for software development projects that use the Git revision control system. GitHub offers both paid plans for private repositories, and free accounts for open source projects. As of May 2011, GitHub was the most popular code repository site for open source projects. If you in a development space these days, it is hard to believe you are not aware about GitHub. The statistic of GitHub usage is amazing – On 16 January 2013, GitHub announced it had passed the 3 million users mark and was then hosting more than 5 million repositories.

GitHub made an initial 3D entrance earlier this year by providing support for 3D. You might notice my article – 3D printing, GitHub and PDM erosion. However, if you are mechanical engineer, GitHub is probably new territory for you. However, the question I want to task today – for how long? Navigate your browser to the following TechCrunch article – GitHub Adds 3D Modeling Features That Make It A Printer-Agnostic Choice For Object Sharing. In a nutshell, it means you can use GitHub to manage your STL files. The new feature allows you to compare geometry and by doing that, create sort of 3D revision management functionality on top of GitHub. Here is how this functionality explained by GitHub folks:

How does this work? We take both versions of the model, and using binary space partitioning, we compute the added, removed, and unchanged parts. This is done using csgtool, a C library paired with a Ruby gem via FFI. These pieces are cached and displayed by the 3D viewer we already have, though we color them differently and play with their transparency to help illustrate the changes.

The new functionality announced by GitHub made me think again about the potential opportunity GitHub can discover in manufacturing space. The first time, I shared it in my post exactly one year ago – What is behind GitHub for CAD marketing buzz? That story wasn’t specifically about GitHub. I mentioned few companies that actively using "GitHub" buzz to market their new approach in PDM/PLM space – GrabCAD, Sunglass.io. I can confirm that all companies made some progress towards delivery of new online work paradigm. It obviously includes new PDM paradigms as well. One of them is GrabCAD Workbench. The ideas how to convert close engineering CAD/PDM world into open and dynamic environment is widely discussed among vendors and industry pundits. The idea of viewing of 3D models on GitHub is getting traction too.

PDM + SCM = ?

Traditionally, Product Data Management (PDM) was focused on the world of mechanical engineers. EDM, TDM, PDM… these are systems that originally were born to manage mechanical CAD documents. Opposite to that, software configuration management (SCM) was established as a separate domain to provide source and revision control for software projects. Will these two worlds continue to be distinct and manage data in a separate way? When the number of software code is skyrocketing in every manufacturing product, I can easy see how PDM and SCM domains will converge in a new software discipline sooner than later.

What is my conclusion? The idea of innovation in PDM space is getting some traction. Even, an old fashion PDM systems are still "safe harbor" for most of manufacturing companies and engineers these days, I can clearly see new trends and interest from engineers how to manage data in a different way. CAD/PDM vendors need to take note before they will find mechanical engineers using GitHub repositories to manage CAD data. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud CAD and what does it mean for PLM?

November 30, 2012

The topic of CAD (or 3D CAD) in the cloud is getting more traction. The first “CAD in the Cloud” announcement happened almost 2 years ago when SolidWorks introduced their technological work during SWW 2010. Read SolidWorks takes off to the cloud to refresh your memories. Back that days it raised lots of conversations, disputes and controversy. Here are few historical posts – The Death of SolidWorks? by Develop3D, If you wonder how SolidWorks Cloud will look like… by WorldCAD Access, Bertrand Sicot reinforces SolidWorks cloud plans by Deelip.com. One of the last publications by SolidSmack – SolidWorks 2013 and the promise of SolidWorks V6 can give you a good update of where SolidWorks stands now. Below is a picture of SolidWorks cloud prototype as it was captured by Deelip Menezes at SWW 2010. According to his post SolidWorks V6 is due in 2013.

In the meantime, we can see the idea of how to use cloud technologies for design and collaboration became more popular with new products and companies at the horizon. Here are few names you better pay attention to. GrabCAD is transforming from “Facebook for engineers” concept into a set of online collaboration tools. You can see a video of GrabCAD for Teams below.

Sunglass.io is another startup company, which is trying to use cloud and in-browser technology to introduce a fresh approach of collaboration and design on the web.

One more startup – TinkerCAD is approaching 3D online design and 3D printing combined as a new experience to work for engineers and designers on the cloud.

Moving from startups to large behemoths, earlier this week at AU2012, Autodesk just announced new product in Autodesk 360 product line called Fusion 360 – 3D CAD in the cloud.

3D CAD: Unix, Windows, Cloud

I can see a clear technological platform shift in the CAD industry. 3D CAD is moving from Windows (as a mainstream 3D CAD platform today) to the cloud. It happened in the past when 3D CAD moved from variety of UNIX workstations to Windows/PC platform. Similar shift is happening now.

3D CAD and PLM

What 3D CAD platform shift means for PDM / PLM? The significant portion of PDM and PLM business is tightly related to CAD systems. The connection between CAD and PDM/PLM was always “love and hate” relationships. Engineers are clearly hated PDM systems as something that interfered with their work. Seamless (embedded) PDM integrations were supposed to solve that problem, but faced technological complexity of implementation. CAD vendors’ competition made CAD-PDM/PLM relationships even more complicated. I can see 3 main trends that may happen to PDM/PLM with 3D CAD gearing up to the cloud.

1. Reduce complexity. Since communication between CAD and PDM/ PLM will move to the cloud servers, it will reduce the complexity that in many cases was a result of desktop to server communication.

2- Simplify user experience. Reducing of complexity will result in a streamline of user interface. No more awkward files, folders, lockups, and many other things that complicate user process.

3- Focus on business processes. I believe cloud CAD will reduce lots of data-management tasks that require use attention. It will result in the ability of user to focus on business process improvement.

What is my conclusion? Traditionally, CAD was heavy focused on desktop and file management. It included file management. All together create a complicated technological and user interface problem. Moving of CAD to the cloud can positively impact the ability to improve user experience and hide some complicated data-management activities from users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


What is behind “GitHub for CAD” marketing buzz?

October 16, 2012

PLM and marketing are not good friends. Marketing did a poor job for the last 10 years for PLM. For many years, PLM was advertised as something that can do everything… and even coffee. At the same time, marketing is indeed very important. Especially, it is critical for a new startup company. Between two risks (technical and marketing), marketing risk is usually more costly and painful to fix.

Gen-Yers are coming to 3D, CAD and PLM

The following two press releases drove my attention during last two weeks. One of them came from Sunglass.io, which came out of beta stage announcing – the following – Sunglass Launches Web-Based Platform Out of Beta, Effectively Creating a ‘GitHub for 3D Design’. Press and bloggers cover this announcement pretty well. My favorite SolidSmack posted – Breaking: Sunglass.io blast out of beta, snags "GitHub for 3D design’ title. Here is how Josh describes Sunglass.io:

Sunglass wants to be the go to place for all things 3D+collaboration, even to the extent of adding plugin into the most common 3D software and combining cloud services such as rendering and simulation. They’ve added support for all the popular formats and plugins for SolidWorks, Inventor and Sketchup, with CATIA, Rhino and Processing plugins coming.

Sunglass.io press release outlines the following functionality of Sunglass.io: version browser, integrated plug-ins, share spaces, collaborative assembly for concurrent work, rich media annotation.

One more announcement came yesterday from another startup company – GrabCAD. Navigate to the following link to read TechCrunch article – GrabCAD Raises $8.15M From Charles River Ventures, Yammer Co-Founder & Others For Its ‘GitHub For Mechanical Engineers’. Here is my favorite passage from this announcement – GrabCAD says it will use the new capital to accelerate the company’s growth as it builds new collaborative tools to improve the design and communication processes in the “creation of physical products”.

I’ve been posting about GrabCAD several times. Take a look on one of the last posts – GrabCAD: From Facebook for Engineers to PLM? GrabCAD recently switched the strategy from "community for engineers" to "building collaboration tools to help design and build products". I recommend you the following read about GrabCAD on WIRED magazine – GrabCAD Is Building Community in 3-D. Here is an interesting part how Hardi Meybaum explains the problem GrabCAD supposed to solve:

The problem, he says, is that engineers create CAD files with offline desktop software and haven’t traditionally shared what they’ve made. Meybaum thinks that attitude is shifting. “The old way of thinking was that ‘products are my own and I don’t want to share them.’ But we’ve found that people want that to change because there are so many benefits in sharing and collaborating.” Those benefits include getting help fixing a mechanical problem, getting suggestions on how to improve a design, and learning tips from more experienced engineers when you’re just trying to get your start.

GitHub for CAD/PLM?

If you are building software these days, you should know GitHub providing free public repositories, collaborator management, issue tracking, wikis, downloads, code review, graphs and much more. Here is how Wikipedia defines GitHub -

GitHub is a web-based hosting service for software development projects that use the Git revision control system. GitHub offers both paid plans for private repositories, and free accounts for open source projects. As of May 2011, GitHub was the most popular open source code repository site.[3] The site provides social networking functionality such as feeds, followers and the network graph to display how developers work on their versions of a repository. GitHub also operates a pastebin-style site called Gist,[8] wikis for individual repositories, and web pages that can be edited through a Git repository.

So, why I think GitHub is a good association for new CAD/PLM? It represents a new modern web-based way to collaborate. It also includes community and project orientation . If you think about PLM marketing, you won’t find any new buzzwords here. Web based, collaborate, projects… All these words have been used by marketing wizards before. There is an imporant difference, in my view. GitHub serves the needs of a specific community of software developers. It heavily relies on paradigms of open source development and web. From that specific point, it combines two worlds – open-source software development and web-based work behaviors. Open-source software development has strong web roots. Because of this connection, things worked so successfully together.

What is my conclusion? GitHub for 3D. GitHub for Engineers. GitHub for Design. I think, what is behind "GitHub" buzzword is a try to change the way how people work together. Open vs. Close. Keep information vs. Share Information. You can continue this list. Technology is easy, but people are hard. Some of them, will see an increased demand for openness and share as IP problem (you can read about it here). On the opposite side (read here), you can see it as a big part of the future of the whole tech ecosystem. Today, Gen-Yers are trying to change the world by applying methods of work developed for the last decade in a public web. I don’t see significant technical risks in this process. Web-based collaboration technology is proven by many web applications. However, there is a market risk related to how manufacturing companies and engineers will adopt new methods of work. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Picture credit the carrierrocketter.


PLM Think Tank – July Top 5

July 29, 2012

Usually, we expect some relaxation during summer time. Even we are still in end of July, this summer already provided lots of events, news and surprises. Last week was dominated by news about financial activities of Dassault Systems and PTC. Week before was marked by Autodesk acquiring SocialCam for 60 million dollars. I can see lots of activity and innovation happen in engineering and manufacturing software. One of these innovations is introduction of modern browser techniques to the space of CAD and Viewer collaborations. Companies like Sunglass.io and GrabCADannounced their viewing capabilities available. I will continue to monitor the industry from "beyond PLM" viewpoint and share this news with you. Now, let me move to the traditional top 5 stories.

What is the future of PLM databases?

Database technology is a fundamental part of everything in enterprise software. However, after 25 years I can see some changes demanded. The complexity of product lifecycle problems brings the need of new concepts in data modeling and data management. One of the main questions – how to break the boundary of a single database? This is a key question, in my view. It will solve the problem of logical scalability and provide a platform for future information discovery.

Why Engineers don’t like company private social networks?

In my view, Facebook IPO put some cold water on some ‘social heads’. I think, PLM companies are missing some points in the space of social networking for enterprise. Here is my list of suspects – complicated user experience created by social PLM pioneers, anti-social engineering nature, engineer’s focus on “cool stuff” and ignorance of corporate oriented tools.
Co-browsing and future of CAD design collaboration

Collaboration in design is endless topic for innovation. I think the idea of collaborative browsing can “hold the water”. How many times you worked with shared screen on your computer? I did it many times. To have multiple engineers working on the same design can be an interesting option in your future CAD application in the browser.

"Alte-Zachen" PLM and new business models

In my previous life, ‘Alte Zachen’ person was taking old stuff away. I never knew what happens to this stuff after. The same about “second hand” PLM software. What will be the value of re-selling and buying existing licenses? I can some interesting work for lawyers to be done in this space. The main personage of “Pretty Woman” movie was buying companies having financial troubles and sell them apart for a significant profit. Will future PLM innovators buy existing PLM alte zachen for their future profit? A good question to ask… Just my thoughts.

PLM Dress Code Factoids

The dress code of PLM events is different from CAD and consumer events. Few people in PLM industry are still dreaming about how to follow ERP success. PLM companies and event organizers are dreaming about how to bring more executives to their events. They are key players in PLM strategic decision making. Dress code is part of the agenda to make PLM event comfortable for execs. I guess CIOs and other corporate execs feel wrong sitting next to engineers in blue jeans. I also believe some country and location specifics can be considered too. I rarely see suits and ties during events in Israel and California. At the same time, it looks quite appropriate in Germany and some other places in Europe.

Best, Oleg

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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