Viewing 2.0

I’ve been involved in the CAD/CAM/PLM industry since the late 70s, these days definitely classed as an industry veteran. One question I’m often asked by people in manufacturing organizations is why PLM has never delivered on its promises. For many years people have spoken about enterprise wide PLM as being the Nirvana to control and make available all the information around the product being manufactured. But if you search high and low, you will not find anyone that has a true enterprise wide deployment. Even organizations that may claim to have enterprise wide deployments have really only partially managed to reach this utopian end state.

As a rough rule of thumb, 80% of a manufacturing company’s employees need access to product information at some point. And I know of no company where PLM has extended to 80% of an organization. 80% is a large number, a recent research from MIT suggests that the percentage of people within a manufacturing organization that actually needed full PLM capabilities was 4%. And I think this is one of the reasons why enterprise wide PLM has never really succeeded. The product has been designed with these 4% of power users in mind. The other 76% of an organization that need access really do not want to be encumbered by the complexity of the software required by the power user.

The other major element is of course cost. As an executive, why would I pay for a license of a complicated piece of software that somebody will only use once every couple of weeks? The complexity issue is twofold, in that it is not only complex for the casual user, but often the infrastructure required to support PLM systems is nontrivial. The other key element in why PLM systems have not been adopted at the enterprise level is that to be truly successful, all of the information associated with the product being manufactured needs to be under the control of the PLM system. I find this a very difficult concept to accept. There will always be specialized niche applications that are going to reside outside of the PLM umbrella. It would not make economic sense to completely encapsulate all of the niche applications.

So now we have several reasons why PLM systems have not proliferated outside of engineering: cost, administration complexity, and the unfriendly interfaces for the casual user.

Even if the first two issues are resolved, the last one is fundamental for any true enterprise wide piece of software in its quest to be adopted.

As products become more and more sophisticated and complex, the need to share and collaborate engineering information becomes more critical to an organization’s success.

But I now strongly believe that PLM is not the solution. I feel that I can speak from a position of strength having been intimately involved in the delivery of two of the more successful PLM products in TeamCenter Engineering and SmarTeam.

It is true my view on this subject has changed over the years. When I was writing the first draft technical specifications for PSI manager as it was called before it morphed into IMan and then subsequently TeamCenter Engineering, I fundamentally believed that having a solution to manage and control and expose all of the information associated with the product was the right thing to do.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The reasons above are why Actify started to develop solutions and concepts relating to Viewing 2.0.

The vast majority of people within an organization do not need access to sophisticated solutions like PLM or ERP; they simply need to view the information that resides within these systems. And if you can view the information in association with the 3D CAD information, you have a solution, because of its ease-of-use, and low cost of deployment that solves the problem that people have been trying to resolve for the last three decades.  Viewing 2.0 is this, and so much more! I won’t even begin to cover being able to search based on 3D geometry or what we’re seeing as far as 3D mash-ups. I’ll save that for another post.

I’m looking forward to hearing what you all think.

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