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CAD/PDM integration is a very important topic. It is a piece of software that helps to establish a connection between core engineering world using CAD systems and rest of the world using design data. It was a place where lots of data management innovation happened in the past. It is also one of the most frequently debated topic, especially when it comes to how manage connectivity between CAD and PDM/PLM system. It created lot of successes to companies introducing data management to engineering departments and probably created as many failures to companies that didn’t do it well or messed up with management of PDM and CAD releases.

In my view, it remains hot topic these days. Cloud brings new stream of innovation into CAD-PDM space. Cloud and CAD files management is heavily debated among different communities these days. Navigate to read my What end of local storage means for CAD? and catch up on CAD, PLM and Future Cloud File Systems. One of my active opponents in the discussion about how to introduce cloud to CAD data management is GrabCAD’s Hardi Meybaum – Debunking the cons to CAD file sharing tools.

Earlier this week, GrabCAD made an announcement about GrabCAD Workbench availability for SolidWorks. It came aligned with SolidWorks World 2014 that is taking place these days in San Diego, CA. The following two articles provide good coverage of what SolidWorks GrabCAD Workbench integration does – GrabCAD workbench rolls new CAD file management features and Busy Week in the Cloud: GrabCAD and Autodesk 360 . Here is an interesting passage

…GrabCAD Workbench provides a cost-effective and easy-to-implement PDM/PLM alternative for small- to mid-sizes businesses. GrabCAD Workbench now also offers a SolidWorks add-in and neutral file translator, opening up even more options in file types for users. Workbench users can now upload and download files as well as resolve conflicts from within SolidWorks…

SolidWorks user community is hot PDM opportunity for the cloud. I remember my post two years ago SolidWorks, Cloud and Product Data Management speaking about potential cloud infusion of PDM in SolidWorks eco-system.

The interesting part of GrabCAD Workbench / SolidWorks plugin is the way it was integrated in SolidWorks. Below I put few screenshots of different PDM systems providing integration to SolidWorks. All of them are integrating PDM plug-in immersively into CAD (SolidWorks) environment to simplify user experience:



SolidWorks EPDM (formerly Conisio)




Siemens TeamCenter:


It made me think about the way cloud is probably going to be introduced to engineering community of CAD users – painless plug-in connecting CAD system you are familiar with to the cloud infrastructure, servers and eco-system. The beauty of the approach is that it helps to hide from engineer “cloud nature of the system”. CAD user experience remains the same – familiar to engineers for many years. The potential danger is plug-in behavior in case of network low speed and cloud connectivity outage.

What is my conclusion? Data management transparency is a key for success. To serve users with familiar user experience and to sneak cloud servers into CAD system is a very nice approach that can provide a lot of potential. It holds the same risk old PDMs have – failure of servers or disruption / slowdown of CAD user experience. If it happens, user will boot out PDM system of CAD environment doesn’t matter of future cloud potential. It happened in the past with old PDM systems and won’t be different these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



Web and DIY Future of PLM Integrations

by Oleg on September 16, 2013 · 2 comments

Application integrations is a complicated topic. Especially when it comes to enterprise. I can confirm decades of different attempts to simplify integration tools and create an easy way build integrations. If you are long enough in enterprise software domain, you can probably remember the variety of buzzwords like EAI (Enterprise Application Integration), ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) and many others.

There are three main components in every integration solution – data retrieval (often called connectors), integration infrastructure (middleware) and specific business code to support your integration scenario. It is complicated and can fail in many ways. Navigate to one of my historic posts to read more – PLM integration failures.

There is a chance things are going to change these days. We are getting web-like more and more every day. Which means the technology we use (also in the enterprise) is getting more similar to technologies used to build regular web sites and applications. The amount of data on the web is skyrocketing. To have technologies that can help you to deal with this data (also for integration purposes) is important. The technologies can be applied in enterprise space as well and change they way we do integrations. I want to bring few examples of tools today to explain what I mean.

Import.IO. Few days ago, I learned about interesting company Import.IO. Navigate to the following link to read more – Turns Web Pages Into Spreadsheets For Getting Out The Data That Matters Most. Spreadsheets is a good thing. Since most of enterprise organizations are overflowing by spreadsheets, the ability to convert your data into spreadsheet is good. However, the most interesting past of Import.IO is an easy way to scrap data out of web pages. Imagine if you can scrap data from your enterprise web applications. That would be cool thing to do.

Import.IO is not alone in the game of scrapping and re-purposing data on the web. There are two other products that came to my mind when I was listening and thinking about the problem Import.IO is trying to solve.

Yahoo Pipes. According to Yahoo website, Pipes is a powerful composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web. The idea of pipes is coming from Unix operation system. Yahoo developed quite interesting and nice infrastructure how to create pipes for scrapping and integrating data.

Google Fusion Tables. Another interesting piece of data re-purposing tools – Fusion Tables. This is an experimental tools created by Google Research. Navigate here to learn more. Fusion tables provides you another way to scrap, import, mix and re-shape data.

What is my conclusion? DIY integration tools is an interesting category. For the past decade, all DIY integration efforts in enterprise and manufacturing failed. Very few manufacturing companies embarked into integration development. Most of companies used services and integration providers that dedicated to develop integration solutions (with high $$ value behind the effort). Cloud technologies and web applications are open new era in both requirements and needs for integration. Native web tools can get some advantage. There is a possibility to open a new page in DIY integrations. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg



PLM and the Evolution of Integration

by Oleg on January 10, 2012 · 9 comments

Integration is an important topic in PLM. Few days ago, I was reading Aras’ blog – Understanding of integration and federation with Aras. This blog caught my attention by review of different PLM integration patterns – integration and federation. Despite the fact, it is a very self-promotional message, I found the following passage in the post interesting -

As an open architecture, Aras has a number of obvious advantages… open APIs, a published data dictionary, an openly available data model… but that’s really only half the story. From a technological perspective we’re using a more modern approach, a pure Web services approach, that’s designed from the ground up with technology agnostic interoperability in mind. Aras can be “connected to”, “integrated with” and “wrapped around” anything you’ve got whether its based on IBM, Oracle, SAP, Linux, Unix, Microsoft or even Progress… or “all of the above”. We even include a Web services wizard in our Solution Studio out-of-the-box. We understand that global companies need to combine data from numerous existing systems in order to manage products across the lifecycle, and we recognize that a highly robust, scalable and secure Federated approach is the right way to do this; both from a technical and a business perspective.

PLM and Integration

Aras blog made me think about various aspects of PLM integrations. Integration is an important topic in every manufacturing organization. It is almost obvious. You have multiple departments, organizations, subcontractors, offshore manufacturing, supply chain and many other things. In order to run your product development and business processes, companies are implementing multiple systems – engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, etc. I believe, the time when people believe to satisfy everybody’s need with a single system is over. It is costly and not efficient. So, you have CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP, SCM, CRM and zillions of other applications in your company that need to work together somehow.

Historically, Product Lifecycle management story is tightly related to integration. PLM system sort of “sits in the middle”. Regardless on what PLM vendor you plan to rely, the question of how to integrate you PLM system (aka data in PLM system and processes) with the rest of the world in your organization will come. The priority might be different – supply chain system, design subcontractors or ERP/MRP integration. Nevertheless, no matter what – you will have to solve your “integration problems”.

Integration Maturity Levels

Integration in PLM has a long history of development, started from highly tailored solutions to various attempts to deliver integration solutions relied on different types of integration infrastructure / middleware.

Level 1: Data Exchange

At this level, the focus of integration is to deliver a solution that can take data from one system and place it in another system. The typical example is batch data exchange between PDM and ERP systems. The scenario, which is probably most widely implemented is to transfer bill of material from PDM to ERP. There are few more scenarios in this area. In my view, the majority of integrations in the industry today are focused on the delivery of data exchange. Vendors are offering some standard capabilities. However, most of the solutions are customized and tailored to a need of a specific customer. The main advantage of this type of integration is simplicity (import/export). The disadvantage of this type of integration is related to the limitation of processes beyond importing and exporting data.

Level 2: Application Integration

I can define two major types of application integration – point-to-point and middleware based integration. Companies started to approach this level of integration in order to deliver an additional logic into integration rather than just import / export data. Technological foundation for integration is delivered by the level of API available for each system. API can vary and depends on application and system architecture. During the past few years, I can clearly see a tendency to converge towards various flavors of web technologies. Point-to-point solutions are focusing on creating an integration logic between two applications. Middleware-based integration was focusing on leveraging integration platforms (i.e. BizTalk, WebSphere, etc.) to connect applications. The cost of middleware integration is higher, but eliminates the complexity of multiple application integration. Today, most of the application integration can be delivered by service providers and IT departments of big customers.

Level 3: Data Federation

One of the biggest problems in application integration is high level of dependencies on the actual systems, system architecture and versions. The tight link between application and data is not allowing to re-use data beyond application version, increase the complexity to establish cross application and cross-department processes. In my view, data federation is the level of integration maturity where data will become self-descriptive and potentially encapsulated from application logic and application versions. This is where the future will take us. I will elaborate on this later in my blog.

What is my conclusion? I think, integration will become even more important soon. There are two main reasons for that. 1- companies are looking how to deliver business solutions faster. To create three years integration project is not an option anymore. Information availability for decision making or cross-department optimization  becomes a top priority for IT. 2- cloud. Many companies are checking how to deliver hybrid on-premise/cloud solutions. To take data exchange to cloud won’t an option any more. Future data federation will introduce new web technologies to PLM integration space. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image by Salvatore Vuono /



PLM Integration Failures

January 12, 2011

There is one topic that always raises lots of controversy, in my view. I’m talking about integrations or even more specifically about PLM-oriented integration. I want to point on the following two articles I posted previously about PLM integrations: PLM Integration Gotchas PLM and Enterprise Integraton Game I read Reasons Why PLM Integration Fails?” article […]

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PDM vs. PLM: An Integration Perspective

August 30, 2010

I’m continuing discussions about PDM vs. PLM differences. I’d encourage you to take a look on my previous two posts related to this topic: PDM vs. PLM: A Data Perspective and PDM vs. PLM: A Process Perspective. My next PDM vs. PLM comparison perspective is related to integration of PDM or PLM systems with other […]

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CAD-BOM Missing Links

August 19, 2010

One of the interesting trends in PLM is growing amount of vertical integrations between components of PLM portfolio. The following Razorleaf blog cough my attention earlier this week- Dassault Published V6R2011. Here is the quote from Razorleaf blog pointing on the specific feature that, in my view, requires additional discussion: Generative Drafting Associative EBOM – […]

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