From the category archives:

Technologies

controlled-collaboration

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 social software. One of the main attribute of every social software (Facebook, G+, twitter and others) is so called “activity stream” or “news feed”. The trend was strong and produced lots of copycats. The successful and lucky ones got acquired. Many of less successful died.

The idea of activity stream is very powerful. It allows you easy share and consume information. However, here is a thing – it is not protected from “noise vs. signal” problem. The more people you follow – more information will flow into your activity stream(s). You end up with messy stream of information you cannot keep up with. It is probably okay for public news or even for executives in a company interested to keep up with what is going on. However, it is probably not a good experience for engineers that need to work together on the same design or discuss next engineering or manufacturing change request. Also, it is probably not a very useful as a tool  to communicate between departments and suppliers. And… this is absolutely wrong model to use for process management.

All problems I mentioned above is actually making the adoption os social system for collaboration questionable. I can see many confirmations to that. CMSWire article  The Problem With Yammer? People Don’t Use It speaks exactly about the problem. Here is key passage:

But what if the problem is not about difficulty or learning curves but about culture? What if the problem with Yammer has nothing to do with the product itself and nothing to with usability, but rather with the fact that enterprise workers are holding onto email for dear life and are not prepared to give it up? Microsoft itself appears to be aware of this. The addition of complimentary Yammer for the new Office 365 plans appears to speak to that. However, if Microsoft’s updated offerings are a step in the right direction, they won’t solve the problem of social and collaboration in the enterprise.

Another interesting example – Facebook. Clearly the king of social networks recently introduced simple and very effective feature to get out of noise of your information stream – Save. It can quickly remind you old and well-known list of favorites. Navigate to TNW article – Facebook introduces Save, a new bookmarking feature to help tame your News Feed. Sounds like a simple feature, but it allows you to keep specific post out of noisy channel and focus on them later in a more controlled way.

These and many other examples made me think about what is needed to provide a better way to collaborate. My hunch is that “controlled list of topics” can better serve the need of engineers and other people to work together. How to make it? This is probably more tricky question. I can see it as the next logical step from email that still one of the most favorited tools to communicate. It also reminded me my post Why PLM shouldn’t miss next email move earlier this week.

What is my conclusion? Activity stream is a good way to present flow of information. However, the type of experience it creates is way too open and subject to be affected by information noise. I believe engineering tools should provide more tight way to communicate, exchange information and share data for collaboration purposes. This is main reason people are holding onto email as a best tool. New ways to collaborate is not here… yet. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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data-silos-architecture

Data is an essential part of every PLM implementation. It all starts from data – design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, support, etc. Enterprise systems are fragmented and representing individual silos of enterprise organization. To manage product data located in multiple enterprise data silos is a challenge for every PLM implementation.

To “demolish enterprise data silos” is a popular topic in PLM strategies and deployments. The idea of having one single point of truth is always in mind of PLM developers. Some of my latest notes about that here – PLM One Big Silo.

MCADCafe article – Developing Better Products is a “Piece of Cake” by Scott Reedy also speaks about how PLM implementation can help to aggregate all product development information scattered in multiple places into single PLM system. The  picture from the article presents the problem:

product-data-silos

The following passage is the most important, in my view:

Without a PLM system, companies often end up with disconnected silos of information. These silos inhibit the ability to control the entire product record and employees waste unnecessary time searching for the correct revision of the product design. As companies outsource design or manufacturing, it becomes even harder to ensure the right configuration of the product is leveraged by external partners.

Whether your company makes medical devices, industrial equipment, laptops, cell phones or other consumer products – PLM provides a secure, centralized database to manage the entire product record into a “Single Record of the Truth”… With a centralized product record, it is easy to propose and submit changes to the product design, track quality issues and collaborate with your internal teams and supply-chain partners.

The strategy of “single record of truth” is a centerpiece of each PLM implementation. However, here is the thing… if you look on the picture above you can certainly see some key enterprise  systems – ERP, CRM, MES, Project and program management, etc. PLM system can contain scattered data about product design, CAD files,  Part data, ECO records, Bill of Materials. However, some of the data will still remain in other systems. Some of the data gets duplicated. This is what happens in real world.

It made me think about 3 important data architecture aspects of every PLM implementation: data management, data reporting and data consistency.

Data management layer is focusing on what system is controlling data and providing master source of information.  Data cannot be mastered in multiple places. Implementation needs to organize logical split of information as well as ability to control “data truth”. This is the most fundamental part of data architecture.

Data reporting is focusing how PLM can get data extracted from multiple sources and presented in seamless way to end user. Imagine, you need to provide an “open ECO” report. The information can reside in PLM, ERP and maybe some other sources. To get right data in a right moment of time, can be another problem to resolve.

Last, but not least - data consistency. When data located in multiple places system will rely on so-called “eventual consistency” of information. The system of events and related transactions is keeping data in sync. This is not a trivial process, but many systems are operating in such way. What is important is to have a coordinated data flow between systems supporting eventual consistency and data management and reporting tools.

What is my conclusion? To demolish silos and manage single point of truth is a very good and important strategic message. However, when it comes to nuts and bolts of implementation, an appropriate data architecture must be in place to insure you will have right data at right time. Many PLM implementations are underestimating the complexity of data architecture. It leaves them with marketing slogans, burned budgets and wrong data. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

picture credit MCADCafe article

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cloud-pdm-checkin-out-need-1

Management of CAD files (PDM) is heavily associated with desktop workflows. Lots of CAD files live on engineering desktops and shared company network drives. Originally, one of the main PDM functionality was to vault CAD data and manage CAD files revisions. One of the most widely used scenario to support this functionality is so-called Check-in / Check-out process. CAD files are checked-in from working folders (working space) into secured File vaults located on PDM servers. In case engineers want to make a change, you need to check-out file. The same mechanism can insure released CAD files won’t be changed without approval and prior check-out.  The implementation of PDM check-in/check-out process is not simple because of CAD data complexity. File relationships and dependencies need to be taken into account if you want to make an update CAD 3D design and drawings.

Cloud is changing existing working habits. For long time, engineers were tightly connected to their desks. CAD, engineering analysis, Excel spreadsheets… this is only a short list of tools that live on engineering desks.  Not anymore. These days our workflows are heavily impacted by cloud software. Web email, cloud file sharing, cloud and mobile applications. We don’t need to be at our desk to do a job in many situations. Cloud is providing new complementary workflows. However, in some cases, we can see a total replacement of existing workflows.

I’ve been discussing how cloud technologies are changing CAD file sharing, CAD data management and PDM. Navigate to my previous post – What makes cloud a good alternative for PDM system?. One of the most widely debated questions is related to the ability of cloud system to handle large size of CAD files. The capacity of public cloud systems to handle large data scale is well known. Cloud storage cost is getting down. The speed of changes is significant and the numbers from my 2 years old post – Cloud PDM and 10GB emails can make me smile today.

At the same time, a very important and critical aspect of cloud technologies is synchronization of data between cloud and desktop / local networks. Web giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others are working to improve sync technologies. In few of my posts, I covered some specific examples about how companies like Box, Dropbox are providing specific techniques to improve data and file sync. But CAD data is different. Not like photos, office files and even videos. To solve the same problem for highly dependent and intertwined CAD data can be a big deal. When it done, it can be a significant leapfrog for any company in the market of cloud PDM solution.

Future CAD file management trajectories can take us from the original idea to check-in/check-out files between secured PDM vault and local working folders towards different workflows. Cloud file systems can support a new way to manage CAD files and provide access to them for design tools and other services. Long term goal can be a future without CAD files. The potential file storage transformation can raise lots of question about how CAD systems will operate without local storage? All these questions are relevant for both private and public cloud solutions.

What is my conclusion? Cloud will change PDM. I can see a potential transformation in fundamental CAD/PDM scenarios – check-in/check-out. Modern cloud PDM can take an approach of seamless and transparent data synchronization and simplify PDM. New workflows can potentially exclude engineers from time consuming and complicated file retrieval between desktops and servers. New way of work will be more simple and focus on design release and approval only. I can see this approach well aligned with future cloud design systems eliminating local file storage completely. So, future cloud PDM without check-in/check-out? What do you think? These are just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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Why PLM shouldn’t miss next email move?

July 18, 2014

Email is a king of communication in every company. Many companies are literally run by email. People are using it for different purposes -notification, collaboration and very often even record management. You can hear many discussions about how companies can replace or integrate email with enterprise and social collaboration tools. I captured some of them […]

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Why cloud engineering collaboration tools are slow to ramp up

July 15, 2014

Few weeks ago I attended Boston Tech Jam and learn new buzzword – YAPSA. Which stands for Yet Another Photo Sharing Application. The amount of cloud files and data sharing applications is skyrocketing these days. It inspired many developers to re-think how to share and collaborate with engineering data.  Cloud technologies made people to bring back […]

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The complexity of Part Management in PDM

July 11, 2014

How to manage Parts? It sounds like a trivial and simple question. Every manufacturing companies and engineering organization is facing this problem. However, it is not as simple as you might think so. The information about Parts (aka Items) is often scattered between CAD drawings, multiple Excel files, PDM and ERP systems. One of the […]

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Dassault is going to support all PLM cloud options by 2015+

July 10, 2014

For the last few years, I’m following cloud strategies of main PLM vendors – Aras, Arena, Autodesk, Dassault, Siemens PLM, PTC and few others. You can find some of my early notes here – PLM vendors, IT and cloud strategies. The variety of cloud options made statement “Cloud PLM” practically useless. I had a chance […]

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PDM weakest link

July 8, 2014

You’re only as strong as your weakest link. The article Are You Still Using FTP for CAD File Transfer? on Engineering.com by Scott Wertel caught my attention few days ago. The article compares FTP, cloud file sharing and cloud based PDM. Read the article and draw your opinion. I found something  common between all these approaches […]

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What PLM Architects and Developers Need to Know about NoSQL?

July 7, 2014

People keep asking me questions about NoSQL. The buzzword “NoSQL” isn’t new. However, I found it still confusing, especially for developers mostly focusing on enterprise and business applications. For the last decade, database technology went from single decision to much higher level of diversity. Back in 1990s, the decision of PDM/PLM developers was more or […]

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CAD companies and cloud storage strategy

July 6, 2014

Cloud storage is changing fast these days. From relatively small portion of our life limited mostly by online email, cloud storage is growing into space where majority of our activities are happening these days. Email, photo storage, online documents, calendars, shopping – this is only a short list. Changes are coming to corporate world as […]

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