December 21, 2009
Engineering With Social Media
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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IFS North America is releasing the results of a study that shows that manufacturers want to see more integration between social networking tools and their enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems – and more social network-like, enterprise 2.0 functionality.
The study, conducted for IFS by a third-party research organization, found that while 40 percent of survey respondents said that ERP and social networking integration was extremely or very important, the vast majority indicated that they wanted their ERP system to help them perform functions typically associated with social networks and other Web-based collaboration tools. A full 62 percent of respondents said they wanted their ERP system to “capture and record the knowledge of senior experienced engineers and professionals so that it becomes part of your corporate knowledge base.” Among manufacturers with more than $1 billion in revenue, 72 percent said they wanted this
“Enterprise 2.0 and social media tools are designed to draw information out of people, to get them to talk,” IFS North America Chief Technical Officer Rick Veague said. “This will become more of a business critical issue as the current generation of senior manufacturing operations and maintenance professionals prepare for retirement, only to be replaced by a smaller, less experienced but more technologically sophisticated generation. Wikis, threaded discussion boards and other features of social media will become common fixtures in enterprise software—including IFS Applications.”
According to IFS AB Chief Technology Officer Dan Matthews, IFS is taking seriously the challenges presented by the aging and shrinking workforce, and is introducing functionality to address these needs. IFS has already evolved IFS Applications in this direction with its new usability-enhanced interface, IFS Enterprise Explorer, which includes embedded search tools and innovative knowledge capture devices including “sticky notes,” which allow users to informally add and edit comments to any record.
“We have been told that IFS is fairly unique in that we operate a Web 2.0 community for our users,” Matthews said. “We are planning to integrate this community directly with the applications so that our customers can access the wisdom of users outside of their organization as they learn the finer points and more advanced features of IFS Applications. We are also working to structure our embedded help information not as static documentation, but in the format of wikis, so that our customers can document their business processes and indeed, capture the knowledge of senior people in a format that has lasting enterprise value.”
The study was based on a survey of more than 260 manufacturing software decision makers. An in-depth report of the findings will be available from IFS North America later this month.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
We thought we’d close out the year with a topic that seems to have about as many opinions as possibilities – social media (also known in some circles as social networking) in the MCAD world.
Things in this fast-evolving social media sphere are constantly changing, as are the technologies for authoring and publishing. Just as the telephone and fax machine superseded postal mail, computers and email superseded the fax, and today social media are superseding everything previous, and can be delivered from and to cell phones.
While some are obnoxious based on their sometimes insipid, self-serving content, most of my favorite social media feeds come from customers and users. While some are obviously biased, just as many are brutally frank about the trials, travails, and warts present in the software applications and hardware they are struggling with. On the other hand, though, people love transparent biases .Social media “spam” is as pervasive as it is for email, but is easier to deal with by just turning off a Twitterer or “unfriending” a Facebooker.
With the continuing trend of collaboration for design and engineering, social media is a natural fit and enabler. However, I have to admit, it’s probably gainer wider acceptance among younger engineers (below 40?). With all of the NDAs and non-compete agreements I’ve had to sign in my lives as a design engineer and technical writer, this openness is sometimes a bit unnerving, although I’m getting more comfortable with it all the time.
Even though blogs have been around for several years, adoption in the technical/engineering community was relatively slow going at first. Twitter, really a micro-blogger, seemed to have even a slower rate of early adoption in engineering. That’s all changing, though.
On another level, consider vendor-as-publisher, a trend that’s picking up steam. All of the major MCAD vendors are attempting to understand and leverage social media. In fact, a few of the vendors have managers and directors of social media efforts, groups, and departments. Twitter and Facebook (one vendor’s spokesperson repeatedly, mistakenly, and annoyingly referred to it as “Spacebook,” and this person is highly regarded in the industry) are becoming the norm with just about all software and hardware vendors.
I like some of the vendor outlets for the forums, message boards, and discussion groups that they provide. Also, I like the ability to ask a technical question and usually get it answered promptly and correctly by a fellow user or users. I’ve experienced that social media provide a more open and interactive platform for online user communities where you can participate as a known entity or anonymously – both of which can be handy at certain times.
I like to keep my social networking on a professional level (LinkedIn, Plaxo, and a bit of Twitter) – I’m really not into the personal level and making it part of my “digital lifestyle.” I spend too much time in front of the computer as it is with writing, photography, and design projects to let it further intrude in my life. To be honest, I perform probably 90%+ of my professional social media interaction with my cell phone. It’s there when I want it and not when I don’t. Social media has really expanded my horizons in terms of contacts and knowledge sources. It has also changed the type and level of relationships I have with other people, evn
though I haven’t and may never meet them face to face.
A final word of caution: Although more specific to your particular interests, social media should be regarded exactly the same as information found elsewhere through other online sources. In other words, just because it’s on the Web doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. That’s OK, though, because most engineers are skeptical by nature anyway.
How successful social media will be in the engineering community has yet to be determined; it really depends on how much the engineering community puts into it. It is, however, definitely making an impact and introducing a new way of communicating thoughts and ideas. I think social media is changing and improving the way we do things in product development, engineering, and business as we move into a new year.
2010 MCADCafe Monthly Topics
Below are the MCAD-related topics we are planning on covering in 2010. It will be a very interesting year. If there is a particular MCAD-related topic you would like to see covered, contact us and we’ll give it consideration. We want to provide what you want.
January – Cloud Computing with MCAD Applications
February – CAE Trends – analysis/simulation – FEA, CFD
Show Coverage – SolidWorks World 2010
March – Product Data Management (PDM) for SMBs
April – Robotics
Show Coverage – FIRST Robotics Competiton (Nationwide)
May – Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing
Show Coverage – SME RP/RM/RE
June – Parametric Mathematical Modeling
Show Coverage – PTC Pro/USER
July – Open Source CAD/CAM/CAE Software
Show Coverage – Open Source
Show Coverage – SIGGRAPH
August – Industrial Design – practice and trends
Show Coverage – IDSA International Conference
September – CAM Trends
Show Coverage – IMTS
Show Coverage – Midwest Design and Mfg.
October – Mechatronics – The merging and integration of MCAD/ECAD/EDA
November –Reverse Engineering/Inspection
December – 2010 Year In Review and What’s Ahead
Show Coverage – Autodesk University 2010
The Week’s Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
Aras announced its Aras Innovator suite of PLM software solutions enabled on Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Windows 7 providing greater security, as well as new user interface features and reliability improvements. Taking advantage of the latest Microsoft platform technology advancements, Aras claims it is delivering the most scalable, reliable, and secure enterprise PLM software solution available on the market today. “Aras is excited to be both the first enterprise PLM software suite and the first open source solution enabled on Microsoft’s new operating system platforms,” said Peter Schroer, President of Aras. “Making our application
compatible with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft Windows 7 helps us offer our customers compelling benefits including full support for multi-core processing, improved security and reliability features, sophisticated management functionality, and advanced data center virtualization with Hyper-V.”
Anark Corp. announced it has joined the JT Open Program and now supports the native JT data format in Anark Core Platform version 3. The JT Open Program is an industry initiative sponsored by Siemens PLM Software, and created to help members leverage the benefits of open collaboration across the extended enterprise through the adoption of the JT data format. JT is the most widely used lightweight data format for sharing product information --including detailed 3D product geometry. Anark's membership in the JT Open Program and support within Anark Core for both import and export of B-rep and mesh-based data in the JT format will create new opportunities for extracting value from 3D
CAD. Combined with the ability to import CAD models from MCAD design environments like CATIA, Inventor, NX, Pro/ENGINEER, Solid Edge, and SolidWorks, Anark Core's ability to read and write 3D CAD models in the JT format provides a bridge to a broad array of manufacturing automation, data exchange, collaboration, and visualization applications enabled with JT.
ANSYS Inc. announced its Ansoft Designer 5.0 and Nexxim 5.0 products. This engineering simulation platform and integrated technology supports Simulation-Driven Product Development of electronic products. Links with ANSYS DesignXplorer software enable design of experiments, sensitivity studies, and six-sigma design. Additionally, a distributed-solve high-performance computing (HPC) capability has been added that lets engineers analyze process variations within a full signal integrity analysis across a network of computers. For RF and microwave design, Ansoft Designer 5.0 with Nexxim 5.0 feature a new system simulation engine that allows engineers to simulate entire wireless systems
while linking to highly accurate transistor and electromagnetic models. The DesignerSI package includes the Ansoft Designer integrated schematic capture and layout GUI, 2D quasi-static field solver and the Nexxim circuit simulation technology (transient, fast convolution, statistical, and IBIS-AMI). DesignerRF includes the Ansoft Designer desktop, 3-D planar electromagnetic field solver, RF system simulation tool, design synthesis tools, circuit simulation, powered by Nexxim (linear and nonlinear frequency domain). Both packages include a design management front end for the Ansoft electromagnetic field simulation technologies HFSS, Q3D Extractor, and SIwave software.
As a provider of design and engineering software tools to millions of architects, designers and engineers around the world, Autodesk develops software that enables its customers to make more sustainable design decisions. But when the company needed to better measure and manage its own carbon footprint it quickly realized the tools it had been using were not up to the task. To provide a strong foundation for sustainability efforts both now and in the future, Autodesk chose the SAP Carbon Impact on-demand solution from SAP AG. SAP Carbon Impact will help Autodesk more clearly measure, mitigate and monetize greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts across its internal
operations and supply chain. Autodesk is not only working to improve its own corporate sustainability practices, it is also using its design software to equip customers with the tools they need to make the best sustainable design decisions. To help customers keep up with ever-changing regulations and advancements, the Web-based SAP Carbon Impact on-demand solution is updated regularly with new functionality and reference content, such as emission factors, financial models for reduction projects and support for carbon reporting protocols.
PTC announced that China Railway Siyuan Survey and Design Group Co., Ltd. (Siyuan), one of the largest design organizations in China, has deployed Mathcad, PTC’s engineering calculation software, as its standard platform for bridge design. With the deployment, Siyuan has improved its design efficiency and engineering calculation collaboration. With the shortening of overall railway design cycles, railway construction has entered a new phase where bridge construction accounts for a higher proportion of time than railway bed construction. As a result, new railway bridge structures with higher quality requirements create more complex engineering design demands for engineers. In
order to manage structural analysis challenges and sophisticated drawing tasks, the Bridge Department of Siyuan has developed and introduced different kinds of calculation software and CAD systems. To further enhance its design capabilities, Siyuan needed a solution that would provide automated calculation capabilities, as well as flexibility. After a thorough research and technology cost comparison, Siyuan selected Mathcad to perform bridge design calculations.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.