future-engineering-ref-books

I remember one of my birthdays back many years ago. My dad pushed me towards a bookshelf with kids encyclopedia and encourage me to study most of it for the next year. I found reference to these books on wikipedia now.  According to the information on wikipedia, it contained only ~6000-10000 pages. It was huge amount of information back that days. Also, I remember my first introduction into library of engineering codes and standards. I remember first day I had an access to Encyclopedia Britannica. The old way accessing information…

Everything changed since then. We are not looking for books when we need to get an information about anything. We “google it”… The voice recognition technologies is getting better, so since last month I can try to ask my Android wear device for information. It doesn’t work for everything, but it is getting better.

The fundamental change happened with encyclopedia business. It  became completely horizontal. Time ago a small team of people worked to create an encyclopedia that was consumed by millions of people for a long time. Now it is different – wikipedia changed the way we create knowledge and consume knowledge. The knowledge is crowdsourced by millions of people and consumed at the same time.

digital-revolution-phases-encyclopedia

The way we present knowledge is also changed. Reference books with plain text pages are thing in the past. Today, knowledge represented as a intertwined linked data set with references and rich media – videos, photos, maps and even 3D reconstructed objects. Here is an interesting example of how 3D and information technology can change museum business – Smithsonian X 3d.

New technologies in the field of knowledge capturing and representation combined with new approaches in data management and 3D scanning can change the way we work with information. I’ve been reading Kalypso article – Reference Books and Libraries – So “Yesterday”, which speaks exactly about that:

Let’s face it; libraries, reference books and dictionaries are losing their luster. Exploration and learning today are more likely done through online resources like Google, online research and scholarly journals, Wikis and blogs. So what does this mean for innovation and product development research processes?

Today, three ring binders and file cabinets still clutter the offices of marketers and market researchers at Fortune 500 companies that are considered leaders in innovation. Most of these companies probably have sophisticated enterprise information systems that contain sales information, financials, product data records, inventory and even employee time‐tracking.

Surprisingly, these companies may still track their historical ideation, concept, and project information in three ring binders or manila folders stacked in closets or stored in the basements of a research facility.

Earlier this week I learned about interesting project – LODLAM (Linked Open Data in Libraries Archives and Museums). If you have few minutes free, navigate to that website and take a look. It also brought me back to the ideas of usefulness of Knowledge Graph for PLM. I found a very good capture of current status of how LODLAM approach used to develop new type of information application is the presentation from SemTechBiz 2014. Take a look on the slides here.

lodlam-example

All together, it made me think about engineering standards and reference books. It is so old and not efficient. In many cases, engineers are relying on memories because access to the libraries, codes and information is too complicated. Like encyclopedia Britannica existing engineering references look are outdated and complicated to use.

The more I thought about that, more questions came to my mind. How to find relevant engineering codes and standards online? The diversity of engineering disciplines is very high. There are lots of specific industry oriented codes as well as country specific standards and references. How large companies are working with that? Who is curating this information for large industry leaders as well as for millions of small manufacturers and individual makers.

What is my conclusion? The way engineering standards and references are represented today is outdated. The best engineering libraries I found on the web are bunch of university libraries. The data is poorly organized and search mechanism  is far from perfect. How to organize engineering references and provide a better access to engineers. Do you think software vendors looking for that? Will future engineering information and design systems provide an access to reference information as part of design and manufacturing processes? Too many questions today :) . I have some answers, but I’m looking for some crowdinformation today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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How much cost to build PLM software?

by Oleg on August 21, 2014 · 2 comments

plm-startup-cost

The new normal – we need less money to build software these days. My attention caught Andreessen Horowitz article The Happy Demise of the 10X Engineer. In a nutshell, we live in the era when infrastructure cost is going down and the cost of software engineers is going up. The following passage is important:

As the leverage of the individual software engineer increases, the barriers to becoming a code creator are falling fast. The same software foundation (open source software, development tools like Github, infrastructure as a service provided by the likes of Digital Ocean, and more) that allowed Whatsapp and Imgur to scale, means that experience and skill writing software become less important. An individual can now scale a web app to millions of users with Digital Ocean, Heroku and AWS (perhaps coordinated by Mesosphere). It no longer requires a sophisticated understanding of MySQL parameters to scale a database on Google App Engine, just as it no longer requires a knowledge of the CPU chip it’s all chugging away on.

Nowadays, the open source software foundation, Amazon (AWS) and web distribution allows you to build software and ship it initially without significant upfront expense. Another article by ReadWriteWeb – You Don’t Need To Be An Engineering Genius To Start A Billion-Dollar Company compares the cost of hardware and storage with the cost of engineers between 1998 and 2013.

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In 1985, storage was a key expense, running $100,000 per gigabyte, while a developer could expect to get paid $28,000 per year. By 2013, things had changed considerably. Now storage is cheap, costing $0.05 per GB. Developers, on the other hand, are expensive $90,000 per year.

Both articles made me think about what is the cost of building PDM and PLM software today. Does new normal rule of building web and mobile startups apply to the world of engineering and manufacturing software? The world of enterprise software is probably different from web and mobile. At the same time, changes I mentioned above in development eco-system and infrastructure cost apply to PLM world as well. So, the answer is far from yes or no. Here is more structured answer related to building of PDM/PLM software.

1. Foundation and Development Infrastructure

Web and open source eco-system created a huge software foundation stack. As a new company, you have a huge opportunity for re-use. This stack wasn’t available 10 years ago. In the past, enterprise companies didn’t tolerate open source software. The situation is completely different today. From that standpoint you can build new software with near to zero development infrastructure cost.

2. Private vs. public cloud

Public cloud is the best world for web startups. Most of them can run in production on AWS or similar public cloud hosting services and scale as usage will increasing. However, many manufacturing companies are still sitting on the fence of private vs. public cloud decision. So, you need to choose. You can either cut your potential customer audience or will be required to incur an additional cost of private cloud configurations, data centers and infrastructure.

3. Domain expertise

You need to get your hands dirty into engineering and manufacturing business. It is different from web photo sharing, messaging and mobile games. There are less people available in this field, which will obviously bump your cost up compared to some other industries.

4. Distribution and sales

To go viral is one of the most desired way to distribute web and mobile software. You go viral or die. The applicability of “viral model” for PLM is questionable. Speak to enterprise sales people and they will explain you the difference between software that needs to be sold vs. software that can be bought. Sales and marketing expenses in enterprise space can be huge.

What is my conclusion? It is easy to build technology and product. However, it is very hard to build business. The technology is getting cheaper. The best part of this trend – it allows you to experiment without significant investment to find product-market fit. PLM industry has its own domain ecosystem and specific rules. Engineers need to be familiar with use cases, existing software, tools and environment to succeed. The last one can push engineering cost of building PLM software even higher than average. The last and the most critical part is distribution and sales. Be prepared to pay huge cost for that. The good news – you don’t need to do it upfront. Enterprise software space is changing dramatically these days. So, I’d agree with Excite founder Joe Kraus and his 2005 article - “There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur because it’s never been cheaper to be one”. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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The debates about small vs. large PLM implementations are probably as old as PLM software. Joe Barkai recently came with several very controversial blog series – Is PLM Software Only for Big Guys? One of these posts – Do PLM Vendors Think SMBs are Just Like Large Enterprises, Only Smaller? Note the following passage:

In my market research in PLM, PDM and related fields, and consulting work with engineering organizations, I often find that SMBs don’t think of themselves as being just like the “big guys”, only smaller. They believe they possess different culture, work habits and operational models, and perceive PLM as a tool ideally suited for large organizations with sizable engineering teams designing complex highly engineered products.

Another Joe’s post is questioning – Can PLM software benefit small company?

Looking at the profile and size of engineering companies using PDM software, especially those showcased by mainstream PDM and PLM vendors, one might easily reach the conclusion that these systems are, indeed, designed with the “big guys” in mind. This perception may be reinforced by PLM and ERP vendors that have announced products designed for the SMB market and abandoned them a few years later, when rosy revenue expectations weren’t achieved. Remember, for example, PTC’s ProductPoint and SAP’s Business By Design? Small engineering teams have come to think of PLM software as unnecessarily complex and limiting operational flexibility, not to mention the high cost of the software, IT overhead, and the pain of keeping the software up to date.

It is true, that historically of CAD and PDM systems came from large defense and aerospace industry. Since then, lots of innovation in PDM and later in PLM domains was about how to simplify complex and expensive solutions and make it simple, more usable and affordable. 80% of functionality for 20% of price… It worked for some CAD guys in the past. Is it possible in PLM? PLM system fallen into the trap of the simplification many times. As soon as new affordable solution came out for SME companies, it was demanded by large enterprises as well. You can hear an opinion that price was a key factor and PLM vendors didn’t find a way how to sell both enterprise and SME solution with right packaging and price differentiation. Not sure it is true, but to shutdown SME focused PLM solution is not very uncommon in PLM industry.

I shared some of my thoughts about why PLM vendors failed to provide solutions for SME. One of my conclusions was that cost and efficiency are key elements that can help PLM vendors to develop a solution for this challenging market segment.

However, Joe’s posts made me think one more time about “small vs. large” PLM challenge. I want to share with you my 3 hypothesis why size won’t matter for the future PLM solutions.

1. Horizontal integration

Large monolithic businesses with strong vertical integration are displaced by granular and sometimes independent business units with diverse sets of horizontal relationships. Businesses are looking how to optimize cost in everything – development, supply chain, manufacturing, operation. I imagine these businesses will demand a new type of PLM solution that can be used by network of suppliers and business partners rather than by single vertically integrated organization.

2. Technological transformation

In the past, many PDM and PLM vendors assumed SME solution as something that shouldn’t scale much, can run on a cheaper hardware and low cost technology and IT infrastructure. Cloud, web and open source technological trends changed the landscape completely. While most of existing PLM solutions are still running on the infrastructure developed 10-15 years ago, I can see them looking for new architectures and technologies that with no question can scale to cover a diverse set of customers – small and large.

3. Business dynamics

Business environment is changing. Businesses are more dynamic. New requirements are coming often and the demand to deliver a new solution or changes went down from years to months. In such environment, I can hardly imagine monolithic PLM solution deployment that can sustain for a decade as it was before. I would expect PLM vendors to think about new type of platforms and set of agile applications serving variety of business needs.

What is my conclusion? Business, technological and organization changes will affect future landscape of PLM platforms and applications. Small is new big. New technological platforms will be able to scale to support a diverse set of customers. Vendors will be moving from shipping CDs to provide services out of public and private clouds. As a result of that, the difference between PLM for SME and Enterprise PLM will disappear. Future PLM solutions will come as platforms with diverse set of agile applications. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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PLM upgrades, release cycles and legacy software

August 19, 2014

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 […]

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Apple iPhone 6 and and cross product families BOM planning

August 18, 2014

To manage Parts and Bill of Materials is not a simple tasks. I shared some of aspects related to the complexity of Part Numbering last week in my post – Existing data prevents companies to improve Part Numbers. The discussion in comments took me towards the complexity of Part Numbers in supply chain. Here is […]

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How long will take GrabCAD to develop full-blown PLM solution?

August 18, 2014

Time is running fast. It has been two years since I posted GrabCAD: from Facebook for engineers to PLM. If you are in the engineering community, the chances you will come to PLM are very high. Like in the past all roads lead to Rome, I guess all future development roads for PDM solution lead […]

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Existing data prevents companies to improve Part Numbers?

August 15, 2014

Part Numbers is a fascinating topic. I’m coming back to blog about what is the best approach to manage Part Numbers. My last post about it was – Part Numbers are hard. How to think about data first? was just few weeks ago. In that article, I outlined few principles how to keep PN separate from […]

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Why now is the right time to reinvent PDM?

August 15, 2014

Product Data Management (PDM) isn’t a new domain. The first PDM systems were invented 20-30 years ago with a simple objective – to manage product data. The scope of PDM was heavily debated and included design, engineering BOMs, ECO and even supply chain. However, the most widely accepted role of PDM is to manage CAD […]

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How to visualize future PLM data?

August 12, 2014

I have a special passion for data and data visualization. We do it every day in our life. Simple data, complex data, fast data, contextual data… These days, we are surrounded by data as never before. Think about typical engineer 50-60 years ago. Blueprints, some physical models… Not much information. Nowadays the situation is completely […]

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PLM: Tools, Bundles and Platforms

August 11, 2014

I like online debates. The opportunity to have good online debates is rare in our space. Therefore, I want to thank Chad Jackson for his openness to have one. I don’t think Chad Jackson needs any introduction – I’m sure you had a chance to watch one of his Tech4PD video debates with Jim Brown of […]

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