I take a look back at Beyond PLM articles that proved to be most popular among readers in 2016 and what made them so great. I found few surprises! There is no significance in the order of articles below. I tried to classify them as much as I can . Here are 5 categories: 1/ Strategic thinking about PLM and implementations; 2/ Cloud CAD/PLM development, related vendors and software; 3/ Competition; 4/ Bill of Materials related articles; 5/ New trends and technologies.
Strategic thinking about PLM and implementation
The article speaks about building for result – product design trend that eliminating specific functions from users’ horizons. This difference in approach — building for features versus building for result — can be seen in numerous products today, both digital and physical. The main reason why some products are great is that they take the load off of users and assist them in making decisions. If you observed these products from the outside, you’d think that their manufacturers do not want people to use them; on closer inspection, people do use them but in a seamless manner, still reaping all of their benefits. Simplicity was a dominant product management theme everywhere for the last few years. At the same time, PLM vendors are still building more capabilities, more functions, more, more, more… Looking back, winners tend to be incredible skilled at keeping things very simple. The focus should not be on features and attractiveness, but on simplicity.
Workflow is a reflection of the real process. The ideal workflow is a good starting point, but you need to get your hands dirty with workflow details. This is a reality and a problem of analog PLM paradigm – your tools are as good as the process and customization you do. Workflows are easy to start. Especially using graphic diagramming tools. But you can quickly run into complexity of the implementation and the reality of your organization. People are running product development and manufacturing process. Customers likely to dump your workflow implementation if it will add an additional level of complexity to organizational process management.
When you sell PLM, try to focus on the problem and potential outcome / result. It doesn’t mean your company shouldn’t sell a vision too. However, focusing on a specific result produced by PLM products will help you to improve overall process and demonstrate value. It is different from “managing product lifecycle process” – message written on many PLM marketing brochures today. Remember that no one gives a shit about PLM software product. Company care about their work and about solving their problems.
Cloud development and related software vendors and development
Existing CAD file management and PDM paradigm is old and has many problems. It is a time to change it. The new cloud and databases technologies are available and can support to make a change. Technology might be an issue, but vendors will solve it. In my view, people are the most problematic part of the equations. Will CAD / PDM existing paradigm stuck with files similar to QWERTY keyboard on iPads? It is a good question to ask CAD and PLM architects and sales people.
It was an article to review Solidworks cloud development based on the materials published at Solidworks World 2016. It is hard to jump from desktop file-driven to cloud-based environment. My hunch, we are going to see many examples of companies and technologies going through this transformation process in the next few years. Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE and Solidworks Xdesign are examples of newer platform(s) that experience challenges of transformation. Will Dassault Systemes connect dots between existing Solidworks customers, browser-based Xdesign experience and 3DEXPERIENCE platform powered by MatrixOne platform is a good question to ask.
This is my take on Solidworks cloud development. SOLIDWORKS is moving forward to deliver cloud based products. It is a mix of old and new technologies. Existing SOLIDWORKS can run on virtualized desktop and use 3DEXPERIENCE Xdrive to synchronize data. Files are still in the middle of data management paradigm for these applications. At the same time, new native browser applications, according to announcement can run “on any device, at any place, at any time”. This is a slogan I’ve heard previously from Onshape. It is not clear to me how browser based SOLIDWORKS XDrive will manage data. Also, a good question to ask how SOLIDWORKS Xdesign PDM features will match or outperform Onshape capabilities for simultaneous editing, revision management and branch merging. What is clear – SOLIDWORKS is joined the race to deliver CAD in a browser and will compete with Autodesk and Onshape.
Onshape is an interesting cloud platform, which combines element of mechanical design, application development, cloud data management and open source ideas. It looks like something pretty unique if I compare it to everything else on the market. Engineering software is a very conservative domain – it takes sometimes many years to get a specific technology adopted by manufacturing companies. It will be interesting to see the adoption speed of Onshape among different groups of engineers and manufacturing companies. Internet and cloud technologies are changing the way engineering software applications are developed, distributed and used. So, we might be surprised by the results. It is very interesting to see how such platform as Onshape will play into open engineering communities like Local Motors, 1B as well as wide range of open source hardware projects. Onshape is clearly one of the things to watch very closely these days.
Technologies and business models are transforming competition. CAD and PLM vendors are moving towards cloud platforms and subscriptions. In the land of ubiquitous information access, new platforms should have a possibility to provide an easier access to the information. These systems cannot rely on a file-converter business providing solution to customers to transform one CAD file to another. In my view, the current move will have a positive impact on state of data openness in engineering and manufacturing software. At the same time, it will raise more questions about infrastructure integration and cross platform service re-use.
The core of A380 problem – multiple versions of CAD software and synchronization between data. The problem can be potentially solved by new cloud software architecture and instant collaboration between people. New software architecture can overcome the problem of data synchronization, data inconsistencies and mistakes that can be caused by synchronization of files and usage of multiple CAD / PLM software versions. While projects such as A380 are unique in terms of requirements and complexity, new technologies can bring significant improvement in data management and coordination between engineers for smaller projects as well. Manufacturing is becoming even more distributed than ever. New cloud data management technologies will play a significant role in the future of manufacturing networks.
Competition, vendor analysis and comparison
The landscape of PDM solutions for Solidworks is large. History is mixed with the future. All together multiplied by Dassault Systemes strategy in zero-file management and 3DEXPERIENCE platform. My hunch, Dassault Systems is also looking how to compete with cloud based CAD solutions like Fusion360 and Onshape. In my view, Dassault Systems will have to rationalize the number of PDM systems. But this is not a simple task today- there are live customers behind each of these systems.
One of the most interesting characteristic PLM vendors landscape is the number of vendors. It is small. In most of the cases, you will be selecting from 3 large PLM vendor and 2-3 additional suppliers. So, to get down to the list of 2 candidates is relatively easy. But then, you have to do some self-identification work to clean you requirements. To match your needs with a potential vendor is critical element of the decision process. This is how current PLM paradigm works. As you done with that, the selection of PLM vendor will be purely economical and personal relationships exercise.
The market for PLM is not moving fast and 15-20 years old companies are just coming to the level of maturity helping them to crawl forward and to sell solution for large manufacturing companies. I wanted to mention “single the most significant strength” that applies to both – company and product. Every specific case can bring additional aspects that can highlight variety of characteristics and product parameters. 2016 doesn’t bring much difference in PLM SWOT analysis. The devil is still in the details of match between what PLM product can do, specific PLM vendors characteristics and most important customer needs.
A combination of deterministic factors combined with luck, skills and mostly important timing can make a difference. To make all these factors work together is not simple and a different decision happened to be taken by Dassault Systemes, Solidworks or another CAD vendor back in 1997, we would had seen a different picture of CAD market than what we have today. We better learn from history. Although, as George Bernard Shaw said – we learn from history that we learn nothing from history :). Is it a time to think about CAD market in 2035?
New hardware companies are bringing new challenges to manufacturing. New design tools, business practices, manufacturing technologies. We still have a ways to go before hardware development will be truly accessible to everyone. There are missing tools. Existing software and business practices can working well for large manufacturing firms, but facing challenges with hardware startups. New hardware companies might redefine industry landscape and market share of software vendors.
End of CAD formats cold war will move competition between CAD vendors in a different segment. PLM has a potential to be the one to show differentiation and help to out-compete in the future. Cloud technology can add an additional flavor into future trajectories of PLM competition. In the case Autodesk PLM360 will be able to increase the maturity and breath of PLM functions, it might challenge Teamcenter with agile PLM implementations in the growing segment of small to medium manufacturing businesses. The next few years will be interesting in PLM business.
Bill of Materials related articles
In a traditional engineering, “over the wall” approach is a reflection of sequential operations – marketing, design, manufacturing, testing and production. Each stage of development process is carried out separately. As you done with one stage, you can move the the next one. Historical divide between EBOM and MBOM leads to inefficiency in engineering and manufacturing. Future development of PLM and ERP systems will eliminate the divide by introducing new integration technologies and unbundling services helping to manage information in a more efficient and connected ways.
Organizational data is usually messy and it applies to bill of materials and related information. You cannot organize the data in a single step. It is a multi-staged process. Therefore, single BOM is a not a product that can be automatically applied. It is a journey. Single BOM is a set of products and technologies that can help to rationalize the date and help people to follow the process or sharing BOM across the organization and eliminating massive data synchronization.
Terminology is a complex thing in engineering and manufacturing. You ask 2 engineers the same question and end up with 3 answers. So, here is my take on multi-level BOM and product structure now. Multi-level BOM and product structure are related, but this is not the same. Muti-level BOM can represent processes in multiple areas of product development – engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, support, etc. I can be used to create product configuration modules, assembly instructions as well as to structure supplier collaboration. Product structure is a representation of part-child relationships in the way assembly and components are coming together in a product. It can represent design or physical product.
Some PLM pundits are saying “engineering BOM is a problem that was created by 3D CAD systems”. Because before that, engineering BOM was the first one to be created based on 2D drawings. In my view, 3D CAD added an additional information level that before was only captured in engineers’ minds. The old 2D process was a source for many mistakes and problems that were resolved by 3D CAD systems. However, to manage Engineering BOM is still a challenge in manufacturing organization, which can be resolved by careful alignment between design and engineering processes.
New trends, technologies and vendors
It was a blog to review what’ve seen at PTC #ThingEvent in Boston. PTC has a big vision about IoT and how AR can transform service industry. The potential is huge and it can transform businesses operating in both industrial and consumer domain. According to the information I captured in twitter stream PTC is invested ~ $700 million over 2 years to leverage heritage in physical products for connectivity and AR. The scenarios and demonstration are fascinating and indicating a huge potential. The remaining two questions that I’m still looking answer for are (1) What is the level of openness of PTC products and technologies that will allow to use it with product data developed by other PLM vendors; (2) How fast service industry will be transforming into a new reality of tablet devices and AR glasses.
IoT is hyping and it brings many entrepreneurs to this space. IoT startups are unique type of manufacturing companies operating with highest level uncertainty and very limited amount of capital. They need to battle variety of problems, but one of them is related to management of product information and its lifecycle at very early stage of product development – starting from prototype to early production. A very interesting problem to solve.
Manufacturing companies are looking for alternatives to expensive PLM solutions. This is a main driving force behind supporting open source PLM projects. At the same time, all manufacturing companies are highly sensitive to potential risks related to vendors without solid financial base and unproven business models. It can potentially drive their decisions against open source PLM projects and vendors with unproven business models.
CAD and PDM industry is in the transition to eliminate CAD files and traditional PDM systems. The replacement is data-driven cloud systems providing single point of truth for both application and data. However, the transition will not happen overnight. Existing product licenses, legacy data, habits and many other factors will influence the speed of industry transition. However, the only way to eliminate PDM nightmare is to remove CAD files from the equation of engineering data management.
What is my conclusion? At Beyond PLM, I’m trying to provide you with a daily portion of my thoughts influenced by reading, events I attend, news and just random thoughts. I acknowledge my selection of news, vendors and topic is completely biased by my interest in Product lifecycle management and my business. Thank you for coming to my blog in 2016. I hope you found it useful. Thank you for comments and questions! Thank you for sharing my articles. I look forward to more articles and discussions in 2017.
Best, Oleg @ beyond PLM.
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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased