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Archive for 2012

PLM 2012 Part I – Will Vendors Pull It Together to Fulfill the Prophesy?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Like many of the ingredients in a manufacturing organization’s computer technology alphabet soup, such as ERP, SCM, CRM, not to mention CAD, CAM, and CAE, product lifecycle management (PLM) for years has been touted as being the “next big thing” and the the final frontier for integrating all manufacturing IT functions.  Honestly, though, can it truly provide all that the various vendors are promising? I have asked myself that question for several years now — is PLM a great hope or just another great hype?

It seems that every vendor defines PLM in a manner that best suits their respective existing product lines and business practices, and not always necessarily the processes of the customers they are trying to serve. Therein lies a big part of the PLM problem. PLM should address processes and not just products – neither the vendors’ nor their customers’ – and too few vendors to this point have stressed the processes they are claiming to improve over the products and services they are trying to sell.

It also seems like everybody (yes, now including just about every CAD vendor big and small) is at least trying to get into the PLM act, regardless of whether they should or should not based on their development and integration capabilities or the needs of their customers. Even database giant, Oracle, says it wants to be a major PLM player, although the company has eluded that it doesn’t want to dirty its hands with traditional CAD/CAM stuff — it wants to look at the bigger picture, although it doesn’t elaborate what that picture is.

Although they are quite different in requirements, approach, implementation, and task load, I continue to see PLM and PDM (product data management) regarded practically as equals in vendors’ conference presentations and promotional advertising. Using these acronyms interchangeably only adds to the confusion that already exists in the PLM marketplace. However,  it does give more vendors more opportunities to say that they “do PLM.” By definition, PDM handles only data and is a subset of PLM; whereas PLM, to many peoples’ thinking, should interface and interact with every other IT system within an organization, including ERP, CRM, etc. at a similar level as a peer system.

So,  is PLM fulfilling the prophesy that the vendors have promised? That’s the question we’ll tackle in the next MCADCafe Blog.

 

PLM – Can Vendors Pull It Together?

Like many of the recent past ingredients of a manufacturing organization’s computer technology alphabet soup, such as ERP, SCM, CRM, not to mention CAD, CAM, and CAE, product lifecycle management (PLM) is without a doubt this year’s biggest buzzword and a technology that is touted as being the “next big thing.” But in all honesty, can it truly provide all that the various vendors are promising? I keep asking myself, is PLM a great hope or just another great hype?

 

It seems that every vendor defines PLM in a manner that best suits their respective product lines and business practices, and not necessarily the processes of the customers they are trying to serve, and therein lies a big part of the PLM problem. PLM should address processes and not just products – neither the vendors’ nor their customers’ – and too few vendors to this point have stressed process over product.

 

It also seems like everybody (yes, including just about every CAD vendor big and small) is trying to get into the PLM act, regardless of whether they honestly should or should not. Even database giant, Oracle, wants to be a major player, although the company has as much said that it doesn’t want to dirty its hands with traditional CAD/CAM stuff, it wants to look after the bigger picture, although it doesn’t elaborate even vaguely what that picture is.

 

Although they are quite different in approach and task load, I’ve even seen PLM and PDM (product data management) regarded practically as equals in conference presentations and promotional advertising literature. Using these acronyms interchangeably only adds to the confusion that already exists in the marketplace, but it does give more vendors more opportunities to say that they “do PLM.” By definition, PDM handles only data and is a subset of PLM; whereas PLM, to many peoples’ thinking, should interface and interact with every other IT system within an organization, including ERP, CRM, etc. at a similar level as a peer system.

Offshoring – Anger or Fear?

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Whenever the topic of outsourcing manufacturing to overseas companies or facilities is brought up these days, a fact of business life called offshoring, you usually get one of two reactions anger or fear. Sometimes you get a little of both. Is North American manufacturing headed down the road to oblivion with little ability to stem or reverse the descent? We need to view all of this from an historical perspective.

What is happening to North American manufacturing today in terms of gross numbers of employees is hardly unprecedented. Historically, probably the best analogy to what is taking place in manufacturing today with regard to reduced numbers and overall effect is agricultural farming. In the U.S, between the years 1890 and 1960, the percentage of the job market that was directly tied to the farming sector dropped from about 45 percent to less than two percent. Automation on the farm did not just make the jobs flee to other countries; it made them completely disappear. Even with much lower employment numbers, the farming sector thrived in terms of productivity. Automation helped make farming more productive than it ever was when it was strictly the province of human hands and manual labor and today we enjoy surpluses that allow us to usually export huge amounts of farm goods. When jobs vanished on the farm, people turned to the emerging industrial sector for employment and a new way of life in cities.

Just as industrial manufacturing replaced farming, today in the world economy, services are replacing manufacturing.

There are major differences, however, between how offshoring has affected and will continue to affect both manufacturing and service jobs. Offshoring of manufacturing jobs affects primarily blue-collar jobs in certain industries, whereas offshoring of services affects primarily white-collar jobs across potentially all industries.

Luckily, not all manufacturing or service jobs can be outsourced or offshored because several criteria must be met, including:

  • Little face to face customer contact
  • Information is a major component of the product
  • Work can be done via remote communications
  • Low set-up barriers
  • High wage differentials

So, while some consider offshoring a necessary evil to North American manufacturing and service workers, their employers are discovering that an the opposite force, known as reshoring, is an essential component of helping their businesses not only thrive, but in many cases, survive.

Because it is such an important emerging movement, reshoring will be the topic of an MCADCafe blog post in the very near future.

PTC’s Creo 1.0 — An Update

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Last year we witnessed the launch of PTC’s Creo with great interest.  At that time, PTC claimed Creo was a reinvention and rebranding of several of its venerable mechatronics design products that included Pro/ENGINEER and CoCreate. The launch, however, left a lot of unanswered questions. Since then, we have realized that Creo really is something evolutionary and new, and not just a repackaging of the monolithic Pro/ENGINEER, CoCreate, and ProductView lines. Functionality for Creo was pulled out of those former products as role-based apps that provide what PTC termed “any mode modeling.”

We wondered to what degree does Creo Parametric (formerly Pro/ENGINEER) possess direct modeling capabilities and to what degree does Creo Direct (formerly CoCreate) possess parametric capabilities? We discovered that there’s an extension for Creo Parametric, called the Creo Flexible Modeling Extension (FMX) that offers “direct modeling like” capabilities. This is suited for users of Creo Parametric who want to stay in that same environment and edit their model in ways similar to direct modeling. In other words, it enables users to directly edit parametric models, but with the simplicity and flexibility found in Creo Direct.

Creo Elements/Direct is exclusively designed for direct modeling. It serves as the core product development tool, supporting engineering teams in developing complete products from art-to-part using the direct modeling approach. There’s an extension called Advanced Design, that enables users to add relations and constraints to models.

Creo Parametric has what we have consider flexible modeling inside of it for a more dedicated user who needs parametrics. On the other hand, Creo Direct, which contains no parametric capabilities, is targeted at a more casual type of user.

We also wondered if, ultimately, would Creo Parametric and Creo Direct become one app? That gets back to old monolithic PTC product philosophy, and having direct and parametric modeling capabilities in one package can be a good thing. However, there are no plans for Creo Parametric and Creo Direct to become one app. They will continue to be developed as seperate apps, focused on different user roles, and modeling approaches, leveraging a common data model. In Creo 1.0, there are two 3D modes people can work in, direct modeling and parametric modeling. For parametric modeling, Creo Parametric is the app for that.

As direct modeling addresses a number of different needs, it’s available in a number of ways. As mentioned earlier, there’s an extension for Creo Parametric, called Creo Flexible Modeling Extension (FMX). This is ideal for users of Creo Parametric who want to stay in that same environment and edit their model in ways similar to direct modeling. It enables users to directly edit parametric models, but with the simplicity and flexibility found in Creo Direct.

Sometime in the near future, in MCADCafe Weekly, we hope to review and compare Creo Parametric and Direct, and their respective features and benefits.

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