De-confusing PLM Collaboration

De-confusing PLM Collaboration

What do you think about “Collaboration”? I think, it confusing a bit. We use it too often. Some people like “collaborative” stories and some don’t. My long time collaborator in collaborative discussions, Chris Williams of Vuuch once in the comment to his blog post on Vuuch Voice, challenged me to stop using a word “collaboration” for few weeks. This is his passage:

I challenge you all to stop using the word collaboration. Just try for a few weeks. When you are struck to say/write collaboration stop and try to be more specific.

So, I wanted to come with some thoughts about “collaboration”. Since, I’m trying to stay short in my blog, maybe it will take more than one post.

PLM Collaboration In Wild

I want to come with examples of PLM companies presenting their products in collaborative scenarios. I gathered them from Youtube. I wanted to keep similarity in scenarios and not overkill with long videos. After I made this “collection”, I actually discovered that most of the videos are presenting Pro-E oriented scenarios. Nothing special about Pro-E, my friends from PTC :). However, I have to admit, PTC YouTube channel contains lots of materials about what PTC is up to these days, and it is really good, in my view.

Agile Engineering Collaboration for Pro/Engineer

TeamCenter Express Velocity Collaboration

Windchill ProductPoint Collaboration

PDMLinks 9.2 Overview (Release to community)

Mathcad Engineering Collaboration with SharePoint

Collaboration and Sharing Of Content

Here is my simple view on PLM collaboration. It is all about sharing content. In most of these scenarios, people need to get a product design and engineering content. You can see people are storing and accessing data (drawings, files, ECOs and other information). In my view, it is rarely happening that people will need to access content at the same time. The most valuable scenarios are actually related to situations, when content models proposed by PLM tools help people to manage their communication or processes during different phases of work.

Content and Complexity

What make PLM collaboration complex? My take on this- it is all about content again. Product design and engineering content is extremely complex. Just by trying to figure out how to navigate in the complexity of this content, you can come to very complicated use cases. These use cases multiplied with visual and textual data representation, turbocharged by the diversity of product development processes ends up as a complex net of information – design models, drawings and various documents and other content.

What is my conclusion? PLM collaboration is about how to organize shared space between multiple people accessing common content. People are working together on this content. The high complexity  and diversification of content are two main factors that make PLM collaboration very confusing. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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  • Aleksandr

    I work as an engineer. So after seeing this social trend proposed for CAD/CAM/CAE/PLM I cannot bear anymore and have only one thing to say!

    This is all bullshit and we engineers do not need it!

    Let me explain a of course.

    First of all in a typical environment the only person to whom I want to collaborate is another engineer and I will come to him ,or email, with direct problem or issue to seek advice or help. In most cases he is even sitting in the next room to me

    I do not want to collaborate with all the people in the company, I do not want to collaborate with people who do not understand what is the difference between bolt and nut, and I will not :)! And later constantly get email updates that new answer is posted, this is worse than SPAM!
    I do not want to collaborate with PR, Marketing, Manufacturing etc in an endless thread of useless suggestions about the fastener type, color, button, shape etc. Because all these things should be defined already in specification, if they are not and you still have to ask all that from the people mentioned above, this means that this project will lead to a disaster and will be a huge money drain. Management should act immediately if these things are happening in a company

    And lastly If I am for instance making a plastic part which has to be molded or a metal part which has to be machined I should already know that can be manufactured and what can’t and what technics to use and how. That is why I am an engineer. If I am making some plastic part about which I have no idea how it will be manufactured and later seeking advice from mold manufacturing people by posting a topic in some sort of collaboration tool mentioned above and they are telling me that this whole design is crap and I keep posting and posting revisions to fix my design. This simply means that I am incompetent designer and should be probably fired immediately or at least be sent to training to get the required skills to make such a design correctly.

    And if CAD/PLM vendors have so much money and they do not know how to spend it. Fix the CAD in the first place! Make it work without bugs and crashes at least for a week! Make it so I can open an airplane assembly on an average workstation without any performance issues. And finally come up with an open format so I do not have to constantly convert to STEP and back!

  • Chris

    Let me challenge this by saying collaboration in product development DOES NOT require the file. The File does not matter. Look at some simple cases for a simple part, a bracket where the team has the following issues – a vendor issue, an inventory issue or say the prototype parts showed up manufactured out of specification. In each of these cases multiple people will be involved, so it is safe to say there will be communication, discussion and agreement (ok collaboration)…. As well in each case the file is not needed during any of this. OK to be fair at points people in the team may refer to the file (or some derivative like a drawing) but the majority of back and forth will be done without the file.

    Design collaboration does not require the file. Or to soften this statement, design collaboration does not require the file to be managed.

  • Chris

    Well said. When you have an issue you know who to contact. Adding more email, more comments and more people only adds noise. The only problem that I see is how better organize these communications. Project teams/managers run around trying to update lists… and the moment they are written they are out of date, leaving them to send more email asking for status. Our approach is to connect the email discussion to the part and autmate the generation of the list.

    This I expect you will find effective.

  • beyondplm

    Chris, why it is so important? Why should I care if it requires a file or not? I mean if a file contains some meaningful information- it is important, and if not – we don’t need a file. Is it what you are saying? Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Aleksandr, thank you for your comment and insight! There are few points I want to stress in the context of you mentioned. 1/ you mostly collaborate with a close circle of people involved into the design process together with you and communication with a broad range of people in an organization can be considered as disturbing or SPAM ; 2/ you expect product specification and requirement to be finite already in the beginning of the process. 3/ you do expect to have all knowledge about manufacturing aspects related to a particular design. So, I want to put some thoughts in the context of these points:

    1. Email is still a preferred way to communicate (otherwise you can just talk). However, rest of information (i.e. Requirements, people opinions, etc.) need to be available on demand or, in other words, pulled from somewhere. The situation when information is pushed on you need to be prevented. How do you suggest people to communicate with you? Do you still believe, email is the best option?

    2. All information that you need for your design process (requirement, customer information, opinion, etc.) need to be available, so you can pull it when you need. What if some information can come within a time -i.e. After initial product demonstrated for a potential customer?

    3. How do you expect to communicate with manufacturing people? For example, in case, manufacturing engineers have some ideas and opinion how to optimize the manufacturing process and it requires some design adjustments?

    I hope vendors will read your opinion about CAD system’s bugs. With regards to format, I think this is well known and a long story. I had a chance to write about it on my blog before.

    Best, Oleg

  • Aleksandr

    Actually I have nothing against a centralized place for useful information. The problem I see is that, will there really be useful information? Maybe you have seen this kind of picture

    Communicating with manufacturing is actually not that complex as well. If you are really unsure about manufacturability of your design, please send drawings or CAD to your suppliers and ask for a quotation for the original design and ask for a feedback on what can be changed/fixed to make it cheaper. The information you receive will certainly be considered useful and can be placed in a centralized place :)!

    Probably a million dollar collaboration system is not needed for this…

  • beyondplm

    Aleksandr, Yes, I’m familiar with this picture. Your conclusion means, the cost of systems is not equivalent with the value of systems as you see it. Can you give me an example of the information or valuable use cases? Thanks, Oleg