Social Design and PLM

Social networks and social activities is drawing more and more focus in our life. Crowdsourcing has become very popular in many areas involving decisions about people. 

Do you think crowdsourcing can really come to the PLM space? Despite the fact that PLM and Product Development is very often associated with Proprietary Process and Intellectual Property, I think that Social Design may have a very good chance of being involved in PLM-related development. 

Think about product design. Of course, I’m not referring to jet engines, air strikers and nuclear power plants. But, if products you manufacture and design will touch the social space and have end users, you may consider aspects of social elements in your decision process. The core ideas are your customer’s wish lists. I’m sure your company is concentrating on getting feedback about products manufactured and designed. But if you start this feedback earlier in the product development process, you can actually involve your customers early in the design – letting them give their input about forms, colors, styles, geometry, materials, and priorities. Sounds like a good idea? – But how can make you make this happen in the short-term? 

In order to do this, you need to have two basic components: (1) people you can involve in the decision process, (2) make your content development process more human-oriented. Communities of people and existing social networks are excellent places to ramp-up your design decisions and receive feedback. I recently wrote a post about Facebook polls – this is only one example of how to involve potential customers and get their feedback on what you create before it actually exists. The second component of the social design process is related to content. You need to make you content ‘social’ – otherwise you will not be able to communicate your ideas to the potential customers. This is a very complex piece of work for PLM companies in my view. Most of the product development tools are anti-social and do not allow their users to communicate easily their intentions, preliminary design options or choices. Organizing such activities and linking PLM tools to social networks and creating easily accessible PLM content should be priorities in today’s design tools in order to enable social design.

 I recently discovered some nice examples of such tools – Dassault Systèmes 3DVIA and SolidWorks ZoomIn can be used to make PLM content social.

Future enhancement of social platforms and other social tools by manufacturing companies can connect communities of consumers much more easily. Blogs and Wikis created by companies and product evangelists can create additional communities. Social networks enablement as part of Enterprise 2.0 might create an additional ramp-up point/leveraging point for PLM Social Design.


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  • especially as the younger generations (that are more and more 3D & immersive technology friendly) rise up, i’d expect social design to really soar. from packaging to product features and design interface, the possibilities are endless.

  • Hey Oleg. excellent. It’s happening already, huh. Great example of this is the Bug Labs/IDEO relationship

    It’s kinda funny too. I put up a post today that takes a bicycle design created in Rhino and asks everyone for input as it’s redeisgned in SolidWorks. That could very easily be turned into a site that opens the development process and social atmosphere around product that in turn helps builds a brand.

  • Hi Josh. Thanks about comment link. It’s funny. I found company-social site doing exactly what you wrote – re-design.

    Take care!

  • Oleg the fact PLM has not embraced this means they are behind, not that it isn’t being done. has even released this functionality and don’t forget the age old suggestion box. Look at what Dell has done using the SF platform and look at what Starbucks has done
    It wouldn’t take much to combine the platform with 3DVIA and make something useful and more aligned to the product. For instance what if the idea could be tagged to a location in the 3D Model? What if the idea could be further enhanced with additional data like a new model? What if after someone created and idea R&D could add a link to implementation concepts that people could further vote on? This would be a more realistic view of community or crowd sourcing then a fly telephone.

  • Chris, I see multiple points in what you said: 1/idea management connection with crowd-sourcing; 2/connection between content (3D model) and other aspects of design, collaboration, implementation; 3/idea to future design process. I have to admit – I tried to be simple and said: there is huge benefit to involve social network of consumers into process of design. This is “flying phone” :)… As soon as we will link it with 1-2-3 points I mentioned above, he will stop flying and will be linked to overall process… Does it make sense for you?

  • I’m not completely familiar with it, but from what I’ve seen, CatiaV6 is addressing a lot of this collaborative design, social centric process to some degree. I imagine it will seep into other Dassault products before long.

  • Josh, I don’t see it seep into design tools (like CATIA and SolidWorks). This is about to have option to collaborate with big community (and the important in my view – consumers) about design, style etc. Key for this is to enable content / model /etc. to be shareable with community. So, this is specific collaboration and, yes, it starts to be addressed by 3DVIA…
    Regards. Oleg