PLM Excels And The Ugly Truth About iPad

If you ask me, who is the biggest competitor of PLM apps, my constant answer is simple – Excel. I think Excel plays a huge role in the engineering and manufacturing life. An amount of information that engineers load and management with Excel is enormous. I’ve been writing quite many time about Excel. If you had no chance to see it before, you can take a look on some of the following posts.

PLM Excel Spreadsheets: From Odes to Woes
Why Do I Like My PLM Excel Spreadsheet?
Do We Need Chief Excel Officer To Manage BOM?

However, today, my post is not about Excel. I wanted to touch Apple Numbers for iPad. Since iPad was released few weeks ago, there are lots of discussions and conversation about if this new device will find his pathway into enterprise organizations. Yesterday, I had a very interesting discussion with my friends working for one of the manufacturing companies. There are two polar opinions were stated – 1/ iPad is a useless device; 2/ iPad is a very slick device. The second was mentioned by their manager. The point was made very clear, in my view. If we can make an interesting and useful apps on iPad to satisfy needs of manufacturing communities, the situation with  iPad in organizations in few years can be similar to iPhone. I decided to dig a little to find what can be attractive out-of-the-box in iPad and found a very cool demo of iPad Numbers.

Now, think about these two things together. Excel as the king of PLM universe and iPad Numbers. Sounds as a perfect match to win hearts of managers. I’m almost sure your Bill of Material will look very slick on such device, and you will like the idea to show it this way to your boss. In my view, this is the “ugly truth” about how iPad is going to win in the organizations.

I’m interesting to hear your voices? Have you had chance to play around Numbers on iPad? Would you like to have Your BOM on Your iPad?

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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  • This is one I haven’t broken down and bought yet. But the more I hear about it I want to check it out. you know me and how I feel about the overuse of spreadsheets. However, if there is practical uses that apply to benefits between engineering and manufacturing I think they can be helpful.

  • Christine Longwell

    I so want one. I don’t know why, but I just do.

    Of course, the biggest question is where is the data stored? It looks like you can email it, send it to the Apple server, or export as a .pdf. It certainly looks cool, but envisioning the potential glut of uncontrolled documents makes my head hurt. I guess if you’re willing to accept the almighty Apple server as your chosen repository, it could have value, but otherwise there are some real process questions to answer.

  • Those two points are not opposite. The second does not devalue the first. It is a very slick useless device. Dont get me wrong, it is cool and would be fun to have one and it will change our view of devices. But it requires you to carry a third device. And it requires a computer to be useful.

    I used one today and really is a great experience. But i will still have a laptop and a phone. So at the end it is a very cool toy or fashion device, like a nice pair of manaolo blahniks.

  • Vladimir Malukh

    Well, Oleg, I’d rather bet on HP slate, running original Excel as well as plenty of graphics software like SpaceClaim, SketchUp, Rhino or may be even cloudy SolidWorks 🙂

    To me iPad is too short of really useful applications and lacks some hady pieces of hardware like USB.

  • Douglas


    Generally I am not given too much to gadgets. But I can imagine the following applications for iPad like devices:
    – In (large) Plant maintenance, a combination of (a very accurate) GPS, a camera, wireless network, recognition software (in the background)could give you instant PLM data of a piece of machinery
    – In quality control, a camera, wireless network, feature recognition software, direct access to a PLM backoffice, could give you all the required dimensions and tolerances of a manufactured part
    – Same for Non Conformity reporting: a picture linked to feature recognition and PLM data will considerably speed up the definition of the non-conformity
    – and so on….


  • There is a good review at cnet;contentBody.

    The bottom line: The ideas presented in this device will change our view of devices. OH and the economy must be at least ok since these things are flying off the shelves. Maybe Obama will give us all one for free since Steve has made so much money???

    GOOD: In an act of aggressive tech convergence, Apple has consolidated your Netbook, e-reader, gaming device, photo frame, and iPod into an elegant, affordable supergadget. Features such as Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi, movie rentals, 10 hours of battery life, optional 3G wireless, and the most-celebrated App Store on the planet have us pretty worked up.

    BAD: The iPad’s large size is as much a hindrance as it is an advantage. As a jack-of-all-trades and a master of few, the iPad can’t entirely mimic many of the specialized products it seeks to replace. The iPad’s limited multitasking capabilities and lack of integrated video camera, Flash support, and HD video output already have us pining for next year’s model.

  • Josh, Thanks for commenting! In my view, there is nothing wrong in spreadsheets from the standpoint of “user experience”. Which means, tables are a very natural way to present data. My problems with spreadsheets starts when data becomes a mess, and you need to search for a single copy of the right excel file… Best, Oleg

  • Christine, Your comment just confirms my idea that people are always buying two things – free and cool :)… Uncontrolled documents is not a good thing. However, this is really not related on iPad. You already have them uncontrolled on your laptop. In my view, the trend will take us towards “cloud” oriented storages (whatever “public”, “private”, “mixed”…). Things like “dropbox” really help. Thank you for your comments! Best, Oleg

  • Chris, I agree, for people like you and me, iPad will be a third device. Apple carefully put this device between Macbook and iPhone without significant overlaps. However , depends on Apps you’ll get there, the %% of laptop usage will be different. My point today is that with an existence of good apps, the usage of iPad-like devices can grow. Best, Oleg

  • Vladimir, thanks for your comment! As you mentioned HP is trying to catch the market via existing software compatibility. iPad is on the opposite side from my standpoint by introducing a device everybody wants to build apps for (like iPhone). However, iPad demands a very good Wifi/3G connectivity. With last option, you don’t really need USB. New cameras will transmit pictures directly to your “camera-drop-box-account”… Sweet dreams :)… Best, Oleg

  • Douglas, Thanks for comments and ideas! I agree, slick device will generate an interest of people to develop new apps. Exactly, how it happens with iPhone. Your idea of data access is a very good one – reports, data access, etc. Handy device will help people in the organization to improve their mobility. Best, Oleg

  • Chris, thanks for cnet link. This is a good review. iPad is a nice super-gadget. You’ll enjoy using one during your working day and stop taking your laptop to business meetings, etc. Getting to your previous note about 3 devices, it looks like cannibalizing some of laptop’s usages. The biggest losers may be slim laptops with high price range. Best, Oleg

  • Cam Bickel

    “Apple has consolidated your Netbook, e-reader, gaming device, photo frame, and iPod into an elegant, affordable supergadget.”

    This is great news, since I don’t own any of those devices, I can now conveniently not own them as a single consolidated device.

    Spreadsheets are useful for analysis on the side, however the data should resided in an actual database for integrity.

  • Cam, Thanks for your comment! Despite the fact, you are not having them today, the same supergadget can be used to consume online data resided in your databases. I’m talking here about slick user experience that makes sense. This iPad discussion reminded me 2 years old discussions about iPhone vs. BlackBerry. IPhone was considered as a toy and BlackBerry as a serious working horse. I think we learned something since 2008 and people inside in companies are buying cool stuff. Best, Oleg

  • Dave

    I must say the iPad is the best product I have purchased in a long time. It reminds me of when I got my first computer. Thanks steve for helping me feel like a kid again. My productivity has taken. Major up turn due to increased efficiency in my work day (I have a viable and highly usuable mobile device with me at all times). The nay sayers don’t get it yet, but they will, and these discussions will be null in a few years as tablets start to encroach the laptop space more and more. The people who want it to be based on windows have the wrong metaphor, it’s not mouse it’s multi touch, multi tasking is too complex, keep it simple, keep it elegant, windowing is just too clumsy on a smaller screen. No USB? Who cares … The last thing I want to do is carrying 10000 gadgets around with me. That removes the simple portable value of it. No flash? You won’t care flash was built for a past era. The web is available in other video formats. HTML 5 is open and flash is done.

    As for PLM it’s a very natural fit. A big problem with PLM is getting users to find time to view and enter data on time. With the right tools this problem could ease quite a bit. A front end interface on the iPad to viewing boms, changes and more extensive lifecycle processes is very appealing to me. A camera or RFID scanner would be a good addition.

  • Dave, Thank you for commenting. I have to say that my last 4 days experience with iPad just confirmed my preliminary thoughts about what will be the iPad path in the organization. The need to integrated iPad into IT and practical apps. It was simpler for iPhone in the past, since it was all about email. I think it will be able to see a very interesting development around iPad… Best, Oleg

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  • phil

    iPad+DropBox meets PLM – then we will be talking….
    iPad+Dropbox is incredibly effective. Combine that with a future DropBox-like PLM interface and then you really have accessible data.

  • Phil, Agree with you. I’m enjoying my iPad/Dropbox combination. This can be a good first step to make existing docs available…. Best, Oleg

  • “people are always buying two things – free and cool”
    But companies are different, just the example of autocad or SAP, is it cool? is it free? it just does what you need and it’s powerful.
    sorry for the late comment !
    let’s get back to beyondplm 🙂

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  • What’s up, its nice piece of writing about media print,
    we all know media is a great source of data.