PLM Downstream Battle Beyond CAD Design

PLM Downstream Battle Beyond CAD Design

The world is more connected these days than ever before. Since COVID19 is in charge of digital transformation, millions of people were literally forced to work remotely and learn how to connect in the virtual environment and keep their works and goals. Engineers and manufacturing companies were part of this forceful transformation, which gave a big push toward the adoption of different SaaS solutions and innovation.

One of the biggest challenges for many years of working with CAD and data management systems was how to manage data and organize the downstream process beyond the actual design activity. The companies were working on these problems, inventing various data management solutions, PLM processes, and a variety of derivative formats to send data from the CAD environment downstream, but overall the success in this direction was questionable.

While PDM systems adoption was growing, in most cases, it was forced by management rather than adopted by engineers. Despite almost a decade of Cloud / SaaS system’s existence in one or another form, the adoption of these systems is still at the beginning.

In my article today, I can bring multiple approaches and examples of the systems that can help you to better manage the design and organize and streamline the downstream process. The solutions are different and can show you the trend in the development of data management systems beyond the CAD design environment.

Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage

Autodesk has probably one of the most mature cloud platforms in the market, with the development that has started back in the early 2010s. Autodesk was in the process of transitioning to the cloud for the last decade. A former CEO of Autodesk Carl Bass kicked the cloud strategy and Autodesk continuously developed multiple tools and the cloud platform – Autodesk Forge. Autodesk Fusion360 is a hybrid design tool that runs on the desktop, can be multi-platform, but is connected to Autodesk Forge backend to manage data. Recent enhancements of Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage is a step towards transforming Autodesk PLM efforts and connecting the former Fusion Lifecycle (PLM360) system to Autodesk Fusion 360. The system provides better data management and most importantly, the tools to share design data downstream and to share design information with the rest of the organization beyond designers.

Check the article – 5 Benefits of Cloud Collaboration for Remote Engineers, which will give you an idea about Autodesk vision, and also watch the following video by Jeremy Lambert, Director of Product Management, presenting Autodesk Fusion 360 Manage. Autodesk Fusion 360 must be installed and Fusion 360 Manage can be activated on top of the Fusion 360 design tool via cloud licensing.

Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS Works

From a completely opposite direction, you can see what happens with the leading desktop mechanical CAD system – SOLIDWORKS. The current strategy of Dassault Systemes is to bring everyone “on the same platform”, which is 3DEXPERIENCE. You can see how DS is pulling the data from SOLIDWORKS CAD and aligns everyone to switch to start sharing the data via the platform. Watch the webinar, which presents DS PLM expert Lisa Costa explains 3DEXPERIENCE Works speaking about how to start thinking about Products beyond CAD. I like the topic and the way 3DX is augmenting SOLIDWORKS files and focus on the data streamline beyond the design.

3DEXPERIENCE Works is a set of tools dedicated to providing a variety of methods to manage SOLIDWORKS data in the cloud and also to streamline the process and share the information. DS provides 3DEXPERIENCE Works in different packaging options via a public and private cloud.

OpenBOM (disclosing, I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM)

Another dimension of how to approach CAD design data management downstream can be found at OpenBOM. While OpenBOM doesn’t provide design features, it integrates practically with every CAD system and provides a way to seamlessly extract the information and also to manage files and file revisions using OpenBOM Cloud Data Management platforms. Combined with real-time collaboration and instant data sharing, OpenBOM gives you a few very interesting features such as management of multi-disciplinary BOM (by connecting to multiple design environments) as well as business-oriented solutions for production planning, procurement, and others. The data sharing function at OpenBOM, combined with role-based access organized using Team Views is the way to share Bill of Materials and related information downstream. Check the video where Steve Hess, director of the user experience at OpenBOM demonstrates how OpenBOM can get the data from the CAD system and share it downstream.

OpenBOM is a pure SaaS tool and you register and start work instantly. Once data is uploaded to the cloud, OpenBOM provides a patented BOM collaboration function allowing instantly to share and work with the data in multiple locations with multiple users.

PTC Onshape

Here is another perspective and approach on how to solve the problem of data management and sharing the data downstream. Check PTC Onshape. The approach Onshape took is to develop a system, which runs completely in the browser. No file, no data management that requires holding files. From the very early days of their existence, Onshape was laser-focused on how to develop a new experience, and data management completely focused on file-less architecture.

Such an approach eliminates many problems and allows managing data (without files) in a completely different approach from everything you have probably seen before. Join Gideon Paul in the demonstration of how Onshape manages the data and shares the information downstream. Onshape is pure SaaS, you register and start using the system online.

What is my conclusion?

There is a huge demand for the tools that help engineers and manufacturing companies to work remotely and connected with other team members. In addition to that, companies want to figure out how to leverage a huge amount of data that is currently stored in multiple databases, Excel files, and legacy applications. While all cloud solutions might look the same, in fact, they are very much different in the way they manage data, organize files, and allows companies and users to access the information. The demand to work in a data-oriented approach and to streamline data sharing and data collaboration is growing these days. COVID19 was one of those accelerating factors that pushed the industry into a single possible direction – adopting SaaS tools and technologies and understanding how to get rid of inefficient files and email collaboration, switch to sharing data, and organizing information online. You can see multiple approaches and how leading companies are solving these problems. Which one will be winning is a good question to ask. Google was not the first search engine and Facebook was not the first social media network. CAD and PLM companies have a decade under their belt working on cloud solutions, but I can feel it is only the beginning of the digital transformation. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networksMy opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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