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Archive for February, 2012

Autodesk PLM 360 — Social PLM For Everyone?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

This morning, Autodesk presented and launched Autodesk PLM 360 (fomerly known as code name Nexus at Autodesk University).

Participating in today’s presentation and launch were:
Brenda Discher, Vice President, Manufacturing Strategy & Industry Marketing
Buzz Kross, Senior Vice President, Design, Lifecycle & Simulation (new title?)
Steve Bodnar, Vice President, Data Management

The underlying themes for the presentation were “PLM for Everyone” and “Always On.” The presenters consistently stressed that Autodesk PLM 360 is more than just file sharing. It was made clear that PDM (on premise with Autodesk Vault) is for the design department, whereas PLM (PLM 360 and the cloud) is for the enterprise by providing crowdsource capabilities for sharing data and supporting business processes. It was made clear, though, that you do not need vault to use PLM 360 — it will work with any PDM system.

The phrase that kept coming up throughout the presentation was that Autodesk PLM 360 is, “Insanely Configurable.” That borrows pretty heavily from the late Steve Jobs’s product introductions at Apple, and I’m not so sure that PLM 360 is in that league, but time will tell. The fact that it is customer configurable, however, is noteworthy in and of itself. It was also said that no beta user took more than three days to get PLM 360 up and running. No details here, but that’s easy to follow-up on and confirm.

Autodesk claims that its PLM 360 will completely change the PLM landscape, primarily because it costs a fraction (10%) of legacy systems, and requires no special hardware, consultants, or programmers for implementation. Of course, this needs to be proven, but those are pretty heady claims when compared with the competition.

Even though it admits it’s entering the PLM market late, Autodesk is hoping to take advantage of current PLM customers who are dissatisfied with what they have. The company also is claiming that, “The cloud is the perfect technology for PLM” and “If you can use a browser, you can use Autodesk PLM 360.”

As far as pricing goes for PLM 360, the first 3 users are free for all access, and this will resonate well with really small businesses. Additional regular users are $75/month/user. What Autodesk calls participants (casual users) are $25/month/user — although it’s a little unclear what distinguishes a participant over a regular user.

Regardless of price, security has historically been one of the biggest barriers to wider PLM acceptance. Autodesk assured us that that piece has been thoroughly addressed, as well as data backup, and disaster recovery. All good things.

Autodesk PLM 360 is available now and cocnsists of ~140 apps (modules for specific functions?). According to Autodesk, it spent a lot of time and effort maximizing the user experience and minimizing the learning curve. Kross said, “The user experience is key, because the UI for most software [including PLM] has not really progressed since 2000.” I’ll agree there.

When asked what distinguishes Autodesk PLM 360 and other competitive cloud offerings, Kross responded, “Ours is real and we are in the market.”

So, will Autodesk PLM 360 fulfill the promise of “PLM for everyone?” Will it be where business apps meet social apps for social PLM? That’s hard to say at this early stage, but it seems like Autodesk has a lot of the pieces in place. I’ll reserve judgement, though, until I actually experience PLM 360 hands-on myself.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

For More Information: www.autodeskplm360.com

Moving Lean Manufacturing Beyond The Factory Floor – Part 2

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Last time we discussed lean manufacturing and applying it to factory floor processes. This time we’ll discuss applying it to other parts and processes of a manufacturing entity.

The primary goal for any business is making a profit. The factory floor and processes which are huge portions of manufacturing companies, however, are not profit centers, they are cost centers. This cost is a variable that may but probably does not carry over to all aspects of a company. To work on an enterprise level, mechanisms must evolve that foster lean principles. But, because a factory floor and a business as a whole have different problems, different requirements, different ways of thinking, just having the mechanisms in place for lean principles isn’t enough. Also in many cases what works on the factory floor may not necessarily translate and work in other parts of a company. Buy in by all parts of an enterprise is an absolute necessity for lean principles to work.

For applying lean principles throughout a company, it helps to think of an office as analogous to a factory, only the main product it creates is paperwork or digital information. Like raw materials that are transformed to a finished product, paper and information also go through a series of process steps, but end up spending the majority of its life waiting for someone in the chain to act on it. One of the most applicable areas of lean principles in paperwork and digital information is rework where the wrong data has been entered or is missing – error proofing.

Acceptance of lean principles is not always universal, but resistance is often a matter of misunderstanding. For example, there is a perception by some that all lean principles do is reduce inventory and employment levels. Actually that is a misperception because ideally, lean principles can unlock workers’ hidden talent and increase their capabilities to improve the overall business.

The place where it all began, Toyota, has been hard at work to extend its TPS to other parts of its business beyond the factory floor. However, it’s proving to be a challenge dealing with non-physical inputs and outputs, and protracted time frames with multi-year product development cycles. Indications are, though, that the company is making progress in its Japanese and North American facilities.

The biggest challenge for any manufacturer trying to adopt lean principles is to deploy it beyond the factory floor. While an increasing number of manufacturers are succeeding in applying lean principles on the factory floor, applying them to the balance of the organization still has a long way to go.

Moving Lean Manufacturing Beyond The Factory Floor – Part 1

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

We’ve all heard now for many, many years that lean manufacturing is one of the keys to remaining competitive if you want to stay in manufacturing. However, can some of the principles of lean manufacturing be applied to other parts of a business beyond manufacturing? That is a question that a growing number of companies are attempting to answer, especially in today’s super-competitive marketplace.

The phrase “lean manufacturing” is an English invention that was coined by James Womack and used to summarize Japanese manufacturing techniques, specifically, the Toyota Production System (TPS). The phrase is used to describe Toyota’s approach for expanding peoples thinking beyond basic tools and tasks.

Since I learned about lean manufacturing (or production) a long time ago, a comprehensive definition has evolved in my mind over the years. Lean manufacturing is one of those things that can defy definition.

Ask 10 people what it is and you’re likely to get 10 at least slightly different answers. Basically, lean manufacturing is a combined philosophy, initiative, and method for continually reducing waste in all areas and forms to improve the quality and efficiency of a manufacturing process. An even simpler way to define lean manufacturing is a method for producing products using less of everything (material, time, energy, etc.) compared to mass production.

Lean manufacturing isn’t just as simple as doing more with less. It is a very complex methodology with many dependencies. It is a comprehensive methodology that seeks to minimize the resources required for creating and manufacturing a product. Although lean principles strive to make things simpler, these principles actually add a layer or level of complexity to processes.

I think that to this point, and somewhat ironically, lean manufacturing concepts have tended to focus strictly on the processes occurring only on the factory floor. Ironic, because to truly exploit all that lean processes have to offer can and should be deployed throughout a company — from the factory floor to the top floor. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, and that’s what we’ll discuss next time in the MCADCafe Blog.




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