From the category archives:

Vendors

slack-image

Communication is an important element of our work. We live in an extremely connected world. To communicate with people you work on the same team and between teams can be a critical factor to make project successful. I’ve been learning Slack for the last few weeks. Slack is online communication platform that is catching lot of attention for the last time. It is a startup with more than $1B valuation. Take a look on it over the weekend. It is polished and provides very slick UI.

My experience with Slack made me think about collaboration in engineering teams. It has some connection to old discussions about “social PLM”. However, social PLM idea was doomed. I can mention few reasons why it happened – it provided bad experience for communication, it wasn’t open and didn’t provide an easy way to publish data.

slack-integrations

Things changed for the last few years, Engineering software is getting better in terms of user experience, but openness and integration are two things that not changing much. Look over collaboration tools provided by PLM vendors and you will see limited number of integration capabilities. It is still very closed world, it is hard to push data in and out. Moreover, it is very difficult to integrate with tools engineers are using these days.

Opposite to that Slack impressed me with the number of integrations and openness. If you think about online digital environment, it basically integrates with everything. Navigate to the following link and take a look on a number of integrations. However, community-built integrations list is every more impressive. It is basically integrates to any language, framework or too.

What is my conclusion? There is a clear need for engineers to communicate. However, think how many social platforms do we need? My hunch- we don’t need many. But we need one… a good one. We need one for engineers to communicate between themselves and outside world. So, the competition for this single communication tool will be tough. In my view, integration will be one of the most critical elements. Imagine great communication and collaboration platform that hard to integrate with. It will fail exactly in the same way as previous “social PLM” initiatives failed. So, there is a chance engineers will like Slack. This is a lesson to learn for PLM vendors. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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cloud-data-management

 

Document management is hard if you do it manually. To manage versions of documents requires you to follow some rules or naming conventions. I remember one of my first lessons in configuration management many years ago. It was about how to use file names in versions. Simple rule for starters – never ever use words “last” or “final” in names, otherwise (guess what) all you versions will be “last” of “final”.

To manage versions of CAD files is harder than manage Word documents.  For many engineering organizations, it was the main reasons to bring PDM tool. I can tell you endless stories about people spending days of work because overwriting the deleted version or companies losing weeks of work trying to restore project baseline in their communication with subcontractors.

Unfortunately, to manage CAD files using PDM is a hard job too. CAD projects are combining multiple files. These files are interconnected and it is hard sometimes to resolve the complexity of these connections together with management of proper versions. The main reason for that was related to the need to keep multiple files in some location on your computer (usually called workspace) and switch between these files in order to get a desired version of your project  with right parts and sub-assemblies.

Here are some good news, in my view. Cloud and more specifically cloud CAD systems can finally solve hardest PDM problem. The main reason for that – cloud CAD system should build a solid data management foundation to manage CAD data in the cloud. So, it will fix a broken link between CAD files saved on your computer and PDM storage.

The main outcome of cloud CAD data management is the ability to manage versions and merge branches design. In my view, this is a functionality CAD / PDM users dreamed for years. I remember many requests to support the ability of branching revisions and applying changes done by two engineers together.

In the past I speculated about future of CAD / PDM data management and how cloud can simplify management of design versions. You can read my old posts from 2010 - PDM and management of CAD files and Future CAD and Assembly version management. The technologies are getting mature and we can see some interesting results these days. I captured two recently published videos from Autodesk Fusion 360 and Onshape demonstrating how you can branch design, collaborate and merge results using cloud data management tools.

Autodesk Fusion 360

Onshape

What is my conclusion? Back in 2010, I was dreaming and speculating about “invisible CAD data management”. Fast forward in 2015 – it is a time to see changes in new products. Cloud technologies are reshaping traditional boundaries of engineering tools. For many years, CAD and PDM tools were separate. Integration between CAD and PDM was complex and painful. Cloud allows us to focus on user experience and hide data management form users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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plm-implementations-and-change

The thing you can often hear about PLM implementations – it is about change. PLM will change the way you do business and manage product development processes. This topic is widely discussed by PLM industry insiders, advisers and customers. Jos Voskuil (virtualdutchman.com) put a nice article about complexity of PLM and change management – PLM and blockers, which took me into John Dyer’s article – What Motivates Blockers to Resist Change? Here is my favorite passage about the change and PLM:

The combination of business change and the existence of blockers are one of the biggest risks for companies to go through a business transformation. By the way, this is not only related to PLM, it is related to any required change in business.

According to another article written by Jos, the core of the problem is even bigger. It is actually our brain. Read the following article - Our brain blocks PLM acceptance. Jos brings an example of Nokia and their failure to manage the change:

Nokia was famous for they ways they were able to transform their business in the past. How come they did not see the smartphone and touch screens upcoming ? Apparently based on several articles presented recently, it was Nokia´s internal culture and superior feeling that they were dominating the market, that made it impossible to switch. The technology was known, the concepts were there, however the (middle) management was full of blockers.

In such case you can think about “culture of blockers” in a company. The situation is actually much worst that you can think. Few days ago, my attention was caught by GrabCAD article written by Joe Barkai – Culture eats strategy AND technology for breakfast. Joe paraphrases famous quote – “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. The origin of the quote actually appears to be Ford Motor Company’s CEO Mark Fields who mistakenly attributed it to Peter Drucker. I like the following passage speaking about acceptance of collaboration tools by engineers:

Obviously, engineers need to see the value in collaboration. They need to agree that spending extra time creating and sharing information, and then applying it downstream, for example, in manufacturing and service operation, is worthwhile. They also need to see value in reusing known concepts, existing designs and available inventory parts. Sadly, many such collaboration and reuse opportunities go fallow. We see design teams ignoring manufacturability constraints and serviceability considerations. We see engineers designing new parts rather than using an existing design, or, better yet, modify a design to allow the use of a part already in inventory or available from an approved supplier.

So, change is really hard for engineers and companies. In my yesterday blog about how to rethink PLM, I put a suggestion to take PLM sales and implementations away from corporate process alignment. There are no perfect companies (although some of my friends from manufacturing companies may disagree). Every company is messy in their own way. We should disconnect PLM implementations from solving corporate politics and internal conflicts. Easy to say, but hard to implement. In my view, focus on providing useful tools that company can leverage fast can be helpful. It can change the way people are implementing PLM.

PLM today is strongly associated with change. The value proposition of PLM was built on company transformation and improvement. What if we can twist it and separate PLM tools and change processes. By doing that, PLM software vendors will supply platforms and tools that can be used by companies. These tools will be smart enough to provide an agile product development environment that can be used by companies. Companies (actually people in companies) will have to work on how to manage changes by themselves and improve product development processes. It is non-stop work. Companies need to perform it in order to improve their processes. Like agile development process. It never stops. You just go between sprints. The positive outcome is to improve the adoption of PLM tools. The negative scenario – it will take PLM tools back into the era of expensive data management toolkits. To prevent that, PLM software vendors will have to innovate by making their products more flexible, smarter and adaptable to data and processes. This is an opportunity for technological competition. Which PLM tool company will like more to manage their agile PLM process development?

What is my conclusion? Change is hard. We should re-think the way we implement PLM and exclude process alignment from PLM implementation. Stop changing people and stop forcing people to take complicated decisions during PLM sales process. Future PLM products will become a foundation for agile change management that will be done by companies. Engineering IT departments will have to change their focus and bring people that can manage change. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of chanpipat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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How CAD vendors “murdered” PDM business

March 23, 2015

Here is the passage I captured during my weekend reading – We only sleep at night because Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Elon Musk don’t want our businesses. Yet. It came from the Warren Ellis’ article The New Tech Disruption: Murdering Businesses and Haunting Their Corpses. The article is a very nice summary of […]

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Autodesk and Onshape disagree about cloud technology and focus

March 18, 2015

For the last few years cloud became such a fuzzy buzzword, that to say about some software “cloud application” is basically means nothing. All companies are shifting towards cloud. So, to understand “how” actual product is leveraging cloud technology is absolutely important to make a comparison. I’ve been discussing the topic of “how to” with […]

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PLM and Apple Watch: uncharted territory?

March 11, 2015

It looks like CAD industry was too busy with Onshape for the last two days and forgot about Apple Watch event that actually happened almost at the same day and time. It took me some time to get up to speed with all publications about Apple Watch. Full disclosure – I didn’t buy Apple Watch […]

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Offline cloud and why CAD / PLM industry discussion is important

March 10, 2015

Yesterday was a very busy day for online community of people involved in engineering and manufacturing software. Onshape, the new cloud CAD ventured founded by Jon Hirschtick and the team announced about availability of public beta. It was hard to miss that announcement in the spike of publications about Onshape. Tons of opinions, initial experience, […]

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PLM Thoughts After Onshape Public Beta

March 9, 2015

This morning Onshape went from stealth mode into public beta release. I’ve been using Onshape for the last few weeks. Today, I finally have an opportunity to share some of my thoughts about how I think Onshape and other cloud design systems will influence PLM implementations. The scope of PLM I’m thinking about is related to […]

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Is public cloud reshaping PLM landscape? Time to re-check…

March 6, 2015

The question how to implement PLM cloud is one of the most confusing when it comes to the decision about choosing one of available PLM solutions on the market today. The time when PLM vendors used “cloud” as a differentiation is over. Most of PLM vendors are comfortable with “cloud” word and the number of companies […]

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Rethinking PLM ROI in cloud era

March 5, 2015

To measure ROI is important part of PLM implementation decision. These days companies are less interested in 3-5 years implementation roadmaps. Therefore, discussion about PLM ROI can be very painful. It is better to get prepared upfront. PLM ROI is not a simplest thing to get into.  I put some of my thoughts why hard […]

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