From the category archives:

Technologies

legacy-software

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 are throwing in the towel and switching these days”.

marc-lind-legacy-plm-tweet

The part of statement about “legacy software” is really interesting. Last week, I wasn’t able to update a game on my son’s iPad. After few minutes, I discovered that Apple is not supporting the original iPad hardware manufactured 4 years ago. Does it mean iOS software run on that iPad is a legacy? Good question. At the same time, what about properly functioning ERP software that company runs already for the last 10 years without any plans to upgrade? Is that a legacy software?

Wikipedia gives me the following definition of legacy system:

In computing a legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program,”of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system.”[1] A more recent definition says that “a legacy system is any corporate computer system that isn’t Internet-dependent.”[2]… The first use of the term legacy to describe computer systems probably occurred in the 1970s. By the 1980s it was commonly used to refer to existing computer systems to distinguish them from the design and implementation of new systems. Legacy was often heard during a conversion process, for example, when moving data from the legacy system to a new database.

Software upgrades is an important topic in engineering and manufacturing. Very often, systems can be in use very long time because of product lifecycle and the need to maintain existing data. It happens a lot in defense, aero and some other “regulated” industries. Also, because of significant investment, the ROI from upgrade can be questionable, which leads companies to keep existing outdated systems in operation. I’ve been posted about problems of PLM customization and upgrades before – How to eliminate PLM customization problems and Cloud PLM and future of upgrades.

PLM vendors are aware about the issue of upgrades and difficulties of software migrations . For long time, industry recognized it as something unavoidable. However, in today’s dynamic business environment, the issue of software upgrades cannot be ignored. Customers demanding flexible and agile software that can be deployed and updated fast. At the same time, changes of business models towards services and subscriptions pushed the problem of upgrades back to vendors.

Earlier this year, my attention was caught by CIMdata publication – Aras Innovator: Redefining Customization & Upgrades. Aras enterprise open source model is predominantly subscription oriented. Which provides lots of incentives for Aras  engineers to solve the issue of upgrades and new versions deployment. Here is the passage from the article confirming that:

For several years, the Aras Corporation (Aras) has included no-cost version-to-version upgrades in their enterprise subscriptions, independent of how the solution has been customized and implemented. This is a rather bold guarantee given the historic challenges the industry has experienced with upgrading highly customized PLM deployments. With more than 300 upgrades behind it, CIMdata felt it appropriate to find out how Aras’ guarantee was playing out, and discovered that there was much more to the story than just a contractual guarantee. Fundamentally, Aras Innovator is engineered to be highly configurable—even customizable—without resulting in expensive and complex version-to-version upgrades and re-implementations.

One of PLM software leaders, Siemens PLM is also thinking about What is the best release cycle. The article speaks about SolidEdge release cycle.

A few years ago we moved from an irregular release cycle for Solid Edge, maybe 9 months in one cycle to 15 months in the next, to a regular cycle of annual releases (of course there are also maintenance packs delivered in the interim). I believe our customers much prefer this, they can plan ahead knowing that there will be a significant Solid Edge release available to them in August each year.

At the same time, the article confirms that CAD/PLM vendors are looking how to solve the problem of upgrades. As I mentioned earlier, cloud software model is one of the most promising technical ways to solve the issue of upgrades. It is true, but can be tricky in case both desktop and cloud software are involved. Here is the passage from the same Siemens PLM blog:

Working in the PLM area we try really hard to provide our customers with a good upgrade experience. PLM software is itself dependent on both the operating system and database software, and it has to work with specific releases of CAD software  (sometimes with more than one CAD solution for our multi-CAD customers) and with office software as well! Moving PLM software to the cloud could potentially take some of the upgrade issues away from the end user, but PLM software does not work in isolation from your data files, or your other software and systems so I believe there is much work still to be done before the cloud really impacts the upgrade situation for real-world customers.

What is my conclusion? From customer perspective, the best option is to make release cycle completely transparent.  In my view, this is really high bar for PLM vendors. Customer data migration, customization and sometimes absence of backward compatibility make release transparency questionable. However, since industry moves towards cloud software and service business model the demand for agile release management and absence of upgrades will be growing. So, my hunch, in the future we will not see “legacy software” anymore. New type of enterprise software will manage upgrades and migrations without customers paying attention. Sound like a dream? I don’t think so. For most of web and consumer software it is a reality already today. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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ipad-bom-assy

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 the passage (comments) made by Joe Barkai

…multiple BOMs with inconsistent numbering schema often hide a bigger problem: inconsistent attributes and metadata. I [Joe Barkai] worked with a global automotive OEM on issues surrounding architectural complexity reduction and global quality management. I discovered that each product line was using different part numbers. This was obviously difficult to manage from a supply chain perspective. But, not less importantly, other metadata and data attributes such as failure modes, labor operation codes and other important information were codified differently, rendering cross product line reporting and analysis difficult and potentially lacking, if not erroneous

Product lines and multiple configurations is a reality of modern manufacturing. The customization level is growing. On the other side to manage parts and BOM globally becomes one of the most important and challenging tasks. I found another example of that in today’s news . This is an example of a potential impact on Apple from management of bill of material  across multiple product lines and supply chain. Navigate to Seeking Alpha post – Apple iPhone 6 Will Pick Up iPad Sales Slack. Here is the passage I captured:

Apple still generates the majority of profits in mobile, despite the slight declines in market share. Last November, research firm IHS estimated  $274 in bill of materials and manufacturing costs for the 16GB iPad Air with Wi-Fi connectivity that retails for $499. Going forward, Tim Cook, operations man, will likely leverage Apple’s immense buying power to further drive down costs for component parts shared between the iPhone 6 and eventual iPad upgrade.

I have no information about PLM system used by Apple to manage bill of materials across product lines. However, I guess, re-use of components among different product lines is a very typical approach used by many manufacturing companies.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of bill of materials management across product lines and supply chain are skyrocketing these days. To manage part numbers, bill of materials, cost and multiple product lines can become a critical part of PLM solution to support manufacturing profitability. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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historical-part-numbers

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 surrounding data focusing on different aspects of parts – description, classification, configurations, suppliers, etc.

Yesterday, my attention  was caught by ThomasNet article – Are Part Numbers Too Smart for Their Own Good? The article nailed down a key issue why companies are still having difficulties with management of Part Numbers. Nothing works from scratch in engineering companies. Complexity of characteristics and history of existing Part Numbers and products are making real difficulties to adopt new PN management concepts. The following passage explains the problem:

Another problem with descriptive numbering is that the description can become out of date and irrelevant over time. Individual parts can have their own life cycles; if a part has been identified according to the product, what happens if that product is discontinued but the part continues to be used in a newer product? Or what if a manufacturer changes vendors and the part number contains the name of the vendor that originally provided the piece?

Gilhooley admits that some Ultra Consultants clients have decided that switching from descriptive to auto-generated numbering would require too much organizational change. Some companies stick with old systems, and some opt for hybrid systems that perhaps retain descriptive numbers for existing parts but use auto-generated numbers for new parts.

It looks like there is no single solution or best practice to solve the problem. The “traditional” engineering approach to keep options to manage a diverse set company configuration looks like the only possible way to solve this problem in existing PLM/ERP systems.

What is my conclusion? History keeps customers from moving forward. There are two aspects of complexity in Part Numbers: 1/ complexity of definition and data classification; 2/ historical records of PN in every company including catalogs and existing products. Together, they create a block to make any changes in existing PN schema and prevent companies from migration towards new approaches. New data modeling technologies must be invented to handle existing data as well as supporting customers to migrate into modern PLM and ERP solutions. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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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The end of single PLM database architecture is coming

August 5, 2014

The complexity of PLM implementations is growing. We have more data to manage. We need to process information faster. In addition to that, cloud solutions are changing the underlining technological landscape. PLM vendors are not building software to be distributed on CD-ROMs and installed by IT on corporate servers anymore. Vendors are moving towards different […]

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Importance of data curation for PLM implementations

August 4, 2014

The speed of data creation is amazing these days. According to the last IBM research, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. I’m not sure if IBM counting all enterprise data, but it doesn’t change much- we have lots of data. In manufacturing company data […]

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PLM, Excel Spreadsheets, Pain Killers and Vitamins

July 29, 2014

We like to compare stuff. Gadgets, cars, hotels, software. We can compare iPhone to Samsung, Canon to Nikon, Honda to Toyota. Software is a special category. When it comes to enterprise software it gets even more complicated. However, marketing comparison is a fascinating type of writing. Arena PLM blog posted a marketing writing – Using […]

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Part Numbers are hard. How to think about data first?

July 28, 2014

One of the topics that usually raises a lot of debates is Part Numbers. One of my first takes on the complexity of Part Numbers was here – PDM, Part Numbers and the Future of Identification. Ed Lopategui reminded me about that topic in his GrabCAD post – Intelligent Numbering: What’s the Great Part Number […]

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How to re-think activity streams for enterprise?

July 23, 2014

These days manufacturing businesses are more connected than ever before. Every manufacturing company (even smallest startup) has a tremendous need for collaboration – help multiple engineers to get involved into the design process, communication with suppliers, plan manufacturing processes, etc.  Social networks and open web inspired many companies to develop collaboration software that mimic consumer […]

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