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Aras

plm-key-people

One of the companies I’m following on regular basis is Aras Corp. and its Aras Innovator product. Aras represents an interesting combination of business, marketing and technologies ideas. Back in 2007 Aras came with the strategy of  Enterprise Open Source PLM. Since that time, Aras is consistently raising bar of Aras Innovator solutions. In one of my previous posts back into 2011, I predicted Aras lines up against Windchill, Enovia, and TeamCenter. It is hard to me to make an assessment of how close Aras is to that goal. Nevertheless, my attention caught by Aras press release – Professor Martin Eigner Joins Aras Board of Advisors:

Professor Eigner, an internationally recognized expert in PLM and model-based systems engineering, will work with Aras to build on the company’s track record of growth and global expansion, drive innovation in PLM technology, and foster a mutually beneficial, bi-directional relationship between commercial and university research. On joining the Aras Board of Advisors, Professor Eigner said, “Aras is truly unique among PLM technology providers. Their approach, technology and business model provide enterprises with the advanced capabilities they want and the flexibility they need to take full advantage of emerging business opportunities.

My hunch, Aras is following their goal to compete with big three PLM vendors. Interesting enough, Eigner PLM – the product originally acquired by Agile PLM and then by Oracle is still available today and serving customers. You can see the confirmation of that fact in SchnitgerCorp blog:

Aras announced that Dr. Martin Eigner has joined its Board of Advisors. That’s a big deal — you may recognize the name from Eigner and Partner, a PLM company sold to Agile in the early 2000s. Agile was then acquired by Oracle, but the original Eigner products continue to be supported today. At any rate, Dr. Eigner is a big “get” and Aras said he will help Aras “build on the company’s track record of growth and global expansion.

Interesting enough, Eigner PLM was already on the trajectory of competition with big PLM vendors. Another press release from 2003 speaks about 250 of Eigner PLM customers. Here ist he passage:

The addition of Eigners industry expertise in automotive supply chain, industrial machinery, aerospace and defense to Agiles capabilities in life sciences, consumer products, electronics and high technology, clearly makes the combined company a dominant player across all key discrete manufacturing verticals,” said Frank Azzolino, Eigners CEO, in a statement. The acquisition of Eigner will help Agile better compete against PLM giants Parametric Technology Corp.s Windchill product and Dassault Systemes S.A.s Delmia offering. 

What is my conclusion? Manufacturing companies are very conservative in the way they implement PLM systems. For many of them, the decision and evaluation is taking months and sometimes years. Once put PLM system in place, manufacturing company can run it for decade or even more. Therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact Eigner PLM is still in use 11 years after Agile acquisition. The majority of large manufacturing companies already implemented PLM system at least one time in the past. In that segment of market, PLM vendors are working on systems replacement. Previous experience is an important element to replace existing systems. I agree with Monica Schnitger – it is a big deal for Aras. In my view, Aras just took another steps towards competing with PLM leaders. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer.  Aras didn’t sponsor my publication and didn’t influence in any way the content the blog post.

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plm-customization

I’m following strategic visions of the major PLM vendors 2014+ publication by Jim Brown – well known analyst and my blogging buddy for last few years. It started as a publication covering Autodesk, Dassault, PTC, Siemens (vendors listed alphabetically). Last week, Jim expanded his PLM vision publications by adding Aras Innovator to the list. Navigate here to read about Aras 2014+ vision. Aras is well known by their Enterprise Open Source strategy. One of the interesting differentiation I captured in Jim’s article is related to Aras’ strategy to break rules of PLM customization. Here is the passage:

Aras has decided to break the rules [of PLM customization]. They aim to become the PLM company that defies the conundrum, allowing manufacturers to customize their software and still upgrade to future releases without major disruption. They can do this because customers can update the data schema, business rules, workflows, and forms without jeopardizing the integrity of the system. How does this work? Aras’ XML-based, model-oriented approach coupled with their willingness to provide customers with the business flexibility and tools to make it feasible.  Aras has effectively morphed themselves into a PLM Platform with solid core functionality with a built in ability to be extended by customers and partners. To put this strategy into action, they have told me they are “putting their money where their mouth is.” They now include upgrade services as a part of their subscription service. I haven’t seen that from anyone else anywhere, particularly while encouraging people to enhance and modify the package. This is a clear differentiator and makes Aras unique in the PLM market.

PLM customization is a tricky deal. Honestly, nobody is dreaming to make PLM implementation with zero customization effort. It all starts from flexible data modeling, which imply certain level of data customization. Time ago, I posted – Is PLM customization a data management Titanic?  Earlier this year, I’ve been discussing options and reasons on How to de-customize PLM? The story of PLM customization is tightly related to PLM system flexibility data modeling. Typically, every PLM implementation contains some portion of customization that usually done by service organization and/or internal IT department. Lifecycle rules, data import, workflows, integration with other enterprise systems – this is only a very short list of customizations done during PLM deployment. Another huge aspect of customization is related to system upgrades. That one is actually mentioned by Jim Brown in his Aras’ review.

So, is there a way to solve customization problem? In my view, the answer is – it depends. In my view, you cannot eliminate specific implementation activities. Adding of new features and infrastructure technologies (eg. RDBMS) will require certain upgrade activity to happen. However, if you are selling services, the interest will be to optimize this work. Cloud vendors have similar incentive to optimize infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, otherwise operational cost will go up. So, smart technology can optimize cost and customization efforts.

What is my conclusion? Business and technology are going together. To have good business incentive to optimize technologies is always helpful and can put pressure on development organization to optimize cost of infrastructure upgrades. Service based offering (open source and cloud) are two great examples where business interests of vendors and customers are going at the same direction. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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excel-plm

Excel spreadsheet. What a lovely topic! You can find spreadsheets in every manufacturing and engineering organization. Sometimes, I call it  - #1 PLM software in the world. There are lots of good things in using Excel spreadsheets. Almost five years ago I posted – Why do I like my PLM spreadsheets? I believe, everything I said is valid – Excels are simple, flexible, can absorb any type of data, transferable via email and what is very important – gives me a feeling of physical ownership. I can put them everywhere – my local disc, USB stick. These days, I can easy put Excel spreadsheets in my Google drive and Dropbox and access them everywhere.

At the same time, we all know what level of pain Excel spreadsheets can bring in. Another 5 years old post – Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes and I can confirm that problems are still with us. Excels are getting complicated with the time, you cannot put all data in Excel, especially when it comes to 3D CAD files. The problem called “where is my last Excel” is huge. Actually, with new cloud file sharing capabilities, this problem is getting even worst. As I like to say, if your data and product lifecycle management is built on top of spreadsheets, you need to hire Chief Excel Officer to run your system.

Yesterday, my attention was caught by Wired article – How Many Spreadsheets Does It Take to Run a Fortune 500 Company? The author, Peter Schroer of Aras Corp. speaks about spreadsheets and the way specifically designed PLM system such as Aras Innovator can replace Excel spreadsheets. According to Mr. Schroer, the core problem is static data model, which makes enterprise system inflexible and complicated to match customer data management requirements. Remember the flexibility of Excel model? According to the article, Aras PLM solves the problem. The following passage from the article explains that.

The problem is that we always build enterprise software by starting with a static data model or an object model, and then we’re surprised when the resulting systems are inflexible. What if we took different approach? What if we turned the problem upside down? Instead of a static data model, we build services around a Modeling Engine that is purpose built to change dynamically. This is the approach we used for the Aras Innovator framework. It’s an architecture that combines the real-time flexibility and lean code base of a modeling engine, with massive scalability enabled by highly optimized small SQL transactions. It’s all Web-based, built to D.O.D. security standards, and runs in the data center, the cloud or a hybrid.

Flexibility of data model is an interesting aspect of PLM system. Manufacturing companies are using different ways to manage lifecycle. PLM system should be able to adjust data and change management mechanism to reflect specific customer requirements. So, dynamic data model is certainly important and it can certainly helps to design good PLM experience.

Aras’ publication made me think more about what is needed to replace spreadsheet to manage product lifecycle. So, I’d like to add two more elements to Excel replacement recipe – ease of customization and user experience. The first one is absolutely needed to match the ability of Excel to develop macros and calculation. Many PLM functions requires tuning and adjustment. Very often customers need to include their specific naming mechanism or integrate functionality with other enterprise or cloud system. User experience is the requirement that getting more controversy among enterprise software vendors. In the past, enterprise systems were cumbersome and complicated. These days users are demanding to have enterprise systems with user experience matching modern websites and social networks.

What is my conclusion? Flexible data model, easy customization and excellent user experience. This is a wining recipe for PLM system to replace spreadsheet nightmare. Unfortunately, it is easy to say, but hard to do. The complexity of PLM development and manufacturing companies make every system complicated. This is a place where future innovation will happen – to find balance between simplicity and complex functional needs. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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PLM Open Source Future – Cloud Services?

February 17, 2014

For the last few years, open source was one of the major disruptive factor in tech. Open source powers world’s leading tech companies. Tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and many others would not exist without open source. The success of RedHat put a very optimistic business projection on the future disruption of industry by […]

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7 rules for selecting PLM software in 2014

January 17, 2014

Enterprise software choice is a complex decision process. The time when you was able to buy a software from trusted XYZ vendor and sleep safe is over. These days IT and other software decision makers are facing challenges related to technological and business options related to new business models, cloud technologies, specific vendors, user experience […]

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The future battle for PLM upfront cost

November 4, 2013

Transformation of business models is one of the most important trends that happens today in the industry. Take a deep breath… it doesn’t mean companies don’t want to be compensated for the work they do. These days it is just about how to define the right business model that reflecting the relationships between all participants […]

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Why you still cannot sell PLM without exec support?

August 6, 2013

There are variety definitions of what is PLM. Not much agreement about that among PLM vendors, PLM analysts and manufacturing companies. However, if you want to introduce PLM in manufacturing company, you can find majority of people to agree that implementing PLM takes time and includes some strategy planning, implementation and patience. My PLM industry colleague […]

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Multiple Facets of PLM Search

June 6, 2013

Disclosure: As a co-founder of Inforbix and responsible of PLM 360 and Autodesk Vault product development at at Autodesk, I understand that my opinion about PLM Search can be unintentionally biased. Nevertheless, I believe the topic itself is very important, so I decided to share the information and my opinion anyway. Search is a fascinating […]

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PLM Open Source is Better Without Open Source

January 2, 2013

Open source is one of the PLM trends I covered in the past in my blog. I wanted to come back to this topic again. The title of my blog post was half stolen from the article on opensource.com – Open source software policy is better without open source. Read the article and made your own […]

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PLM Cloud Interest and AAA PLM Players

October 29, 2012

The interest to cloud PLM is growing these days. At the beginning of this year, I discussed future PLM business model during the PLM Innovation conference in Munich. You can navigate to my historical post here. You can see lots of conversations about cloud these days. However, until now, only one from major PLM players […]

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