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Data Exchange

Data. Conversion. Interoperability. Translation. The discussion about these topics is endless in CAD/PLM world. Customers are looking for interoperability between different product versions, competitive products, data models, data formats, databases and geometrical kernels. Customers were always first impacted by problems of interoperability. The lifecycle of engineering and manufacturing work is longer than typical lifecycle of product version or even engineering IT solution. Technically, data interoperability is a complex problem. It is not easy to solve, even if you are want to do so. Evan Yares recently posted an interesting article about interoperability – CAD Interoperability today. Interoperability plays an important role in product lifecycle applications in large OEMs and Supply Chain.

Until now, the perception was that customers are most impacted from data interoperability problems. It was true until very recently. However, I can see some new trends and changes in this space . Consumerization, BYOD and cloud trends are introducing new elements and aspects in product development roadmaps. CAD/PLM vendors are forced to think about cloud and mobile development as well as potential disruptive competition coming from newcomers  and other vendors. New design applications become more granular and focusing on a specific functionality or target customers. Two examples of recent announcements are Autodesk Fusion 360, SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. These application were born to co-exist with old products. Existing products won’t retire tomorrow. The ability to re-use data with existing product lines such as Inventor (for Autodesk) and SolidWorks (for Dassault) and other CAD packages will be vital for success of new products. I’ve been reading GraphicSpeak – SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual introduced but not delivered article earlier today. Randall Newton is talking about the product SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (SWMC) announced by SolidWorks during SolidWorks World 2013 in Orlando last week. SWMC is build on top of Dassault 3DEXPERIENCE platform. I found the following passage interesting:

Reading between the lines, so to speak, of what was said at SolidWorks World, it seems two critical challenges remain before SWMC will be a selling product. It must prove to be fully and seamlessly interoperable with SolidWorks, and it must be more cloud-based. Interoperability has always been a significant challenge in the 3D CAD industry. 3D kernels are complicated. Dassault’s 3D Experience platform uses the CGM 3D kernel; SolidWorks uses the Parasolid 3D kernel from Dassault’s rival Siemens PLM. Completely accurate automated moving of files from Catia V5 and V6 is not commonly possible, and they share the same 3D kernel. Most of us can only imagine the complexity of moving between CGM and Parasolid.

Granularity is one of the most trending topic these days. Everybody are thinking about Apps. Company are moving away from developing heavy and complex product suites towards granular applications. Al Dean of Develop3D wrote an interesting article about granularity few years ago – Why granularity is going to rock your future… This is my favorite passage:

There are two things that might influence this and push us into further levels of explicit detail and granularity. The first is the ‘cloud’ (yes, I broke my own rules). When you’re working on a system that’s remotely located on a server, whether that’s over your internal network or across the wider web, you’ll need to manage and exchange finite packets of information, features, sketch entities and such. To do that, you need to manage and keep track of those individual parcels of data and oackets of change. That’s going to require a level of granularity that’s way beyond what most data management systems are currently capable of. Consider what would happen when you start to work on today’s products, in a highly collaborative environment, where data is being passed globally, between teams, between languages, between professional disciplines. And you still need to track data down to this type of level. And when you’re working on a product that looks like X-Ray image.

What is my conclusion? I agree with Al Dean. We will see more granularity in data and new applications. Interoperability becomes a very important factor in a future success of new apps. New level of data compatibility is required. Vendors will be forced to improve the level of interoperability of their existing products as well as new apps. Interesting time and change happens these days. Vendors need take a note. Important. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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The story of standards is always fascinating. I love these stories on my blog and spent quite a lot of time talking to people about standards. Do you know what is common between standards and toothbrushes? Here, you go -“standards and toothbrushes -everyone needs to use them, but nobody wants to use someone else’s”. So, I was reading Arena Solutions blog yesterday – Why you should be using the PDX File Standard.

For the sake of truth, I had a chance to speak to Arena PLM folks few weeks ago. Here are some of my thoughts about PDXViewer.

PDXViewer. The need is here.

The idea of sharing information using free tools isn’t new. The story, in a nutshell, is simple. Your company will keep PLM system (actually any enterprise system controlling information is good for this story) and it will control the information you need in your company. However, as Arena’s blog is stating, your problem will be to share the information with people outside of your company.

The point of purchasing a PLM or PDM system is to simplify and centralize your BOMs and other product data. But once your BOMs, Items, AMLs and associated content exist in a structured format, you are faced with a new problem—how do you share your data with vendors and internal players who aren’t plugged into your PLM or PDM system?

You can ask how do you deal with the problem now. The madness of sharing data is here. The following quote brings you the top stories about possible (and impossible) ways company use to share data.

Without PDX files, preparing a build package for delivery is a mixture of black magic, blood, sweat and data from a business system. In some companies, one person is hired or trained to access the system for the sole purpose of sending data to suppliers once or twice a year. At other companies, data is pulled manually out of the PLM system by the design engineers, who put the data into an Excel spreadsheet and send it to suppliers in binders or zip files.

Why to use PDXViewer

You may find the “PDXViewer” way quite powerful. Pull data out of your PLM system, publish or send it in PDX format. Use free tool. I think many people will find it useful. I found user experience of PDXViewer nice. What you practically do is to export subset of your data and access it with a limited set of functionality. Another benefit – the level of encapsulation file gives you – you don’t need to go in multiple places to search for the information you need.

What concern do I have

My main concern is “file”. This is my usual suspect for problems. Don’t take me wrong – files are good and mankind is using files for the last 40+ years with various computer systems. However, when I move my thoughts towards the cloud and the internet, files become actually my concern. How do you manage files? What is the right (or last) revision of your file? Another significant problem is related to the changes. In case you allow to make changes to data outside of your system you burned to support multiple data synchornization, which is very painful for all people involved into this process.

What is my conclusion? I found two absolute advantages of PDXViewer – it is free, and you can enjoy a simple user interface. It definitely solves the problem of people accessing information outside of the company firewall and serves IT concerns about non-company users accessing information inside of the company. At the same time, I have a concern about files. In other words, I think there is a “better way” to organize people’s access to the information. Sending files can be a good solution, but it can get complicated within the time.  Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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