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Trends

Who will make PLM sexier?

by Oleg on July 24, 2014 · 0 comments

sexier-plm

Cool factor is trending in software these days. The time when software was ugly is probably in the past. Everyone wants to have a “cool app” – on the picture above you can clearly see the trend. Does it apply to enterprise software and PLM? It is a good question. Back in 2012, I asked it in my post – PLM: Ugly vs. Cool. While nobody specifically focused on how to develop cool PLM software, I can see an increased interest for improved user experience from PLM vendors.

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UX magazine article Is there Room for Sexy in Enterprise Design? caught my attention few days ago. I found the discussion about emotional factor interesting and important. I especially liked the following passage:

The question enterprise technology companies need to ask themselves is “what does sexy mean to your enterprise customer?” Put another way, how do your customers want to feel when using your products?Every product, whether we realize it or not, produces an emotional reaction. As Donald Norman articulated in his seminal book Emotional Design, customers find aesthetically pleasing products more effective. Customers even “love” these products. Norman identified the commercial value in evoking some passion towards products, such as Gucci bags and Rolex watches. MailChimp’s Director of User Experince, Aarron Walter, took this one step further with his book, Designing for Emotion. He posits that the goal of emotional design is to connect with users and evoke positive emotions, which will make your users want to continue interacting with your product.

Article speaks about EchoUser research of emotions with enterprise customers. The following emotions are make sense to enterprise crowd – powerful, trust, flexible, calm, pride, accomplished. Cool and sexy are not in the list. So, is there a place for “cool and sexy” in PLM?  For long time PLM was associated with “complex” and “expensive”. At the same time, most of PLM commercial videos are cool and sexy. Sport cars, luxury airplanes, fashion shows, mobile devices. You rarely can see PLM video without such type of product examples.

I think, many PLM professionals these days are still trying to keep the association of PLM with complexity. My hunch, they are trying to justify expenses. Customers might think complex solution requires more budget, longer consultancy and service project. However, the other side of complexity is to feel absence of reliability and trust. This is not a simple decision for PLM consultants and software vendors.

What is my conclusion? People don’t like cumbersome software these days. There is no place for complex user experience even in enterprise software. What emotions should drive CAD and PLM software? How engineers should feel about software? I’d like to connect the results of engineering and manufacturing process with PLM tools. You cannot make good products with wrong tools. So, something should happen with PLM software. Complex PLM software is a wrong tool to build future cool products. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

photo credit MidoriShoes

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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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hardware-mfg-startup

Selling PLM for SME was always a very controversial topic among PLM vendors. No consensus here. I wrote about it few months ago in my Why PLM stuck to provide solution for SME post and got  interesting follow up conversations with few industry pundits.

Every PLM vendor has some special product offering ready for SME market segment. But did it work well to anybody? My hunch, most of “successful PLM SME” implementations are focusing on basic CAD/PDM features. Very few SME organizations successfully implemented a complete PLM system including BOM, change management, configurations, manufacturing integration, requirement management and more. If you got a chance to see one, it is typically result of huge effort of people in the organization itself committed to make it work.

One of the most typical reasons for PLM vendors to sale to SME was high cost of implementation and sales multiplied by absence of IT people ready to handle PLM implementation. In my view, PLM vendors have a great hope to make it easier with modern cloud based PLM offering, but jury is still out to watch results.

Meantime, manufacturing landscape is getting even more interesting. Hardware is the new software. Nest, GoPro, Beats, Jawbone, Oculus… You’re welcome in the world of manufacturing startups. I touched it in my earlier post – Why Kickstarter projects need PLM? Yesterday, my attention was caught by TechCrunch article – Hardware Case Study: Why Lockitron Has Taken So Long To Ship. Read the article – I found it very interesting. The following passage explains basically that from “limited assembly”, manufacturing startups are moving towards full manufacturing cycle:

In our initial RFQs (“request for quote”) we leaned heavily towards manufacturing entirely in the United States. Our impetus for this was largely around logistics; if we could make everything domestically, we wouldn’t have to travel far and wide to ensure the quality we expected. It quickly became apparent that manufacturing domestically would cost far beyond what we had budgeted for. Given the number of parts, required touch time (the amount of time it takes someone to assemble a product), various materials and processes used, building entirely in the U.S. wasn’t viable. Potential domestic suppliers still looked East for most of the components we needed, albeit with longer lead times.

However, even more interesting quote is the following one explaining the level of challenges during the development processes.

We spent the next few months redesigning our gearbox to reduce noise while increasing power to deal with sticky or hard-to-close locks. While the choice was the right one to make, it cost us valuable time; a few parts had to be retooled and there were cascading effects on our electronics and supplier choices. We selected an ultra-efficient, powerful motor to place at the lock’s heart, but this also impacted our timeline. Most challenging, however, was the meshing of electronic and mechanical worlds. An initial circuit board design proved overly complex and underpowered.

As you noted the complexity of product including mechanical and electronic parts is very high. In addition to that, even it wasn’t stated explicitly by the article, I can see a growing complexity of integration between electromechanical and software components.

What is my conclusion? The complexity of manufacturing startups is growing. To scale product development and manufacturing is a very challenging job. And all must be done in a craziest timeline – the reality of every startup. Manufacturing startups is an interesting niche that clearly different from typical SME organizations we’ve seen before.  The challenge of PLM with a typical manufacturing SME is to compete with a status quo of existing processes and tools. Manufacturing startups are different – absence of processes, startup culture and an absolutely need to get job done in a very short timeframe. It would be interesting to see a growing demand for PLM tools as well as growing complexity of product development and supply chain in these organizations. What PLM tools will provide an answer? Good question for PLM strategists these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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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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Who will make PLM for eXtreme Manufacturing?

July 3, 2014

I’m sure most of you are familiar with XP (Extreme Programming) – software development methodology, which intent to improve software quality and responsiveness to changing customer requirements. The history of XP goes back in the end of 90s. Despite very short history XP is very popular and it is hard to find a respectful software […]

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Future CAD file management trajectories

June 30, 2014

CAD data is a core and one of the most fundamental parts of every manufacturing design. It all starts and dies from how your product looks and feels. In the past, 3D CAD was most focused on mechanical elements of design. Today, CAD systems are meshing into a complex conglomerate of data about shape, assembly, […]

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Drawing Callouts and Future Google PLM Design

June 27, 2014

For me, Google is one of the symbols of simple software design. Therefore, Google developers event is always a good place to get inspired with ideas and new technologies. Google I/O was this week in San Francisco. I had now chance to attend the event, but was able to watch video streaming of keynote and […]

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PLM for Small Teams – Autonomous Alignment

June 19, 2014

This week is very fruitful for PLM events. PTC Live 2014, Siemens PLM connection, GrabCAD media event. Twitter and other social networks can help you catch up with multiple events at the same time with minimum time. So, in 1-2 hours, you can get up to speed with news and updates. Chad Jackson’s and Allan […]

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How PLM IoT will support RTF?

May 29, 2014

IoT (Internet of things) is trending these days. Connected houses, cars, sensors, thermostats, LED lamps, etc. On the recent COFES 2014 in Arizona, IoT was one of the most most discussed topics. Clearly, there are some very interesting things PLM can do with IoT even tomorrow. However, the question of privacy and information transparency is […]

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PLM users won’t move to the cloud because of cost

May 13, 2014

ERP is a long time PLM rival for dominance in manufacturing enterprise organizations. I’m sure you are familiar with the the following discussion topics - what are roles of ERP and PLM in product development process, BOM ownership,  enterprise data management, visibility to CIO, etc.  However, here is a new one – cloud. It looks like […]

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