One of PLM projects I’ve been following for long time is Siemens PLM Active Workspace. It was first introduced 6 years ago as part of TC 9 and it was presented as a search driven tool to reduce complexity of PLM data and user experience. The idea of search technologies was novel back in 2010-2012. Check my old blog about search experience in PLM. You might remember Dassault Exalead acquisition that came around the same time and few other projects I mentioned in my blog.
Here is slide from Teamcenter 9 presentation I captured:
Analyst reviews captured at the same time, confirmed Siemens PLM Active Workspace strategy to target multi-disciplinary data, indexing data from multiple applications and providing right information to the right user at the right time. That was the mantra of search-driven applications.
Here is CIMdata article from 2012 – Siemens’ New Active Workspace: Tool Helps Find Info from Many Applications. I captured the following passage:
The last area of HD-PLM Lewis mentioned is the high definition user experience. This means “taking all this information, all of this powerful PLM information, and giving it to the user in such a way that it looks like it was made for them regardless of what job they do,” he said. This is where Active Workspace comes into the HD-PLM vision.
“Active Workspace is a tool that helps us achieve that vision,” Lewis said. “Active Workspace started its life as a search application to help our customers find the information, but what we’ve found is that there’s a search problem that’s broader than that.” Finding information in a particular PLM solution is not the problem; it’s finding data from many other sources as well Lewis said. “An example I’ve seen is an engineer wanted to release a part and in order for the engineer to do that there were 14 different databases they had to visit to get the information they needed.” Simply because information is stored in so many places, it can be hard to work with it all. “So Active Workspace set out to relieve that finding information problem by aggregating that information, connecting to those other data sources, and bringing them to one user interface that allows the user to find that information in one tool rather than go to all these other tools,” he said.
Randal Newton Graphic Speak article is explaining Active Workspace as an intersection of big data and intelligently connected information.
Intelligently integrated information: A requirements document and a CAD model are two very different repositories of data, but they are both important to the design and manufacturing of a product. At any given time during product development an engineer may need to refer to or create information in both, but it is usually the norm that the data in each place was created by different people. If a requirement changes, the CAD model must change. Active Workspace is designed to track and display the semantics of such relationships and to visualize them.
However, you can see an accent shifted already in Active Workspace 2.0 release in 2013. TEC article by PJ gives you some more information and explains ActiveWorkspace as a client for Teamcetner using Teamcenter data model, SOLR and some other search tech. Navigate here to read more – Siemens’ Active Workspace Handles PLM Data Complexity
Read the following passage.
Instead of doing a gut-wrenching rewrite of the underlying complex Teamcenter architecture and risking losing users with an entirely new architecture that requires time-consuming migrations, Siemens PLM has logically added a general search and data discovery layer. Active Workspace’s simple and intuitive interface makes it easy for all users to participate in and contribute to the product lifecycle processes, without having to be a PLM expert. In fact the solution is oriented more towards casual PLM users throughout the extended enterprise (e.g., executives, managers, buyers, etc.) than hands-down power users (e.g., designers).
Active Workspace was designed to make finding relevant information fast and easy, as information gets delivered in the context of users’ jobs. The solution’s architecture takes into account the user context (i.e., Who is the user and what is the user’s role? What is the user’s state or configuration context?), the data context (i.e., What data are they working with? What is the data’s status? What is selected?), and the Teamcenter context (i.e., What capabilities are configured for the user & data? Which commands and content are available in a given location?)
Active Workspace uses Siemens PLM’s Teamcenter data model and customer’s existing style sheets to adapt to industry and customer preferences. Figure 3 shows Active Workspace’s Web-based filtering and intelligent charts, making it easy for users to find what they need without having to know/understand the underlying PLM data model.
In addition to an HP Autonomy plus Solr-based search engine, Active Workspace has a 3D-shape geometry Geolus search engine that can find relevant info even where naming conventions are not followed, i.e., it will find parts similar to a generically defined geometry (e.g., cylindrical).
Few screenshots from AW 2.0
Fast forward to 2018. My attention was caught by Teamcenter 12 announcement. You can read it on Siemens PLM blog here – Introducing Teamcenter 12: Adaptable, enterprise product lifecycle management (PLM). A significant part of TC12 is Active Workspace functionality. You can see it everywhere – visualization, program planning, BOM and change management, product configurator, system modeling. Here is a very interesting passage:
As we go forward, Active Workspace is the preferred user interface for Teamcenter because it combines web accessibility with ease-of-use. You will see our R&D investment in Active Workspace reflected across the portfolio, with new and enhanced solutions optimized for an easy, intuitive user experience.
Even more interesting to read user’s comment: I like the extended AW functionality (Visualization, Program Planning and System Engineering) as those have been roadblocks to using AW full-time.
Here is a picture from AW 4.0, which looks like much more traditional PLM web user interface.
What is my conclusion? I can applause Siemens PLM focus on developing modern user experience for Teamcenter. Unfortunately, I can AW project is probably deviated from original multi-disciplinary, multi-application goals. While I can see the reason to do so, it shift AW from a role of information silobreaker to a better version of PLM walled garden. PLM applications are missing modern collaborative features allowing people to communicate across silos, teams and organizations. While AW is a much better shape now to address Teamcenter user experience, it is missing modern collaborative functions and can face a competition from other vendors bringing PLM overlay strategy to compete with Teamcenter and other Siemens PLM tools. Just my thoughts…
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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.