MatrixOne (Cadalyst Labs Review)31 May, 2007 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth
Take a product from initial concept through to disposal.
MatrixOne software isn't something that end users run out and buy for themselves. It's not that it isn't neat software or doesn't do cool stuff, but it's aimed at the large, diversified company with global locations and collaborative needs. This software is meant for the enterprise-wide approach to product management—and it's big!
In today's environment, much of a product's design goes well beyond its engineering function. Myriad people must interact with and manipulate the design for any number of reasons (figure 1). Say you specify a particular material. Someone else (maybe in purchasing) might be able to find a generic or similar material that costs less and will work as well. Or perhaps manufacturing has a process that will be far more economical than the one for which you designed. Changes can come from anywhere in a company—even from an outside vendor. PLM (product lifecycle management) is all about managing a product from initial concept through manufacturing and distribution to disposal. It affects everything. Every company that produces a product must pay attention to it—even if they don't call it PLM. MatrixOne is all about PLM. If your company needs to implement a means to monitor and control what it's doing across a wide array of locations, MatrixOne just might be for you.
Figure 1. There are many phases to a product's life. MatrixOne facilitates the easy flow of information between them all.
What Does It Do?
In a nutshell, MatrixOne makes engineering data (and more) available to an entire enterprise. It can bring together documents and files from vastly different programs and make them work together to fully define every aspect of a design. MatrixOne can read and store any number of CAD formats, so it can handle just about everything. It will allow users to examine what they're doing to their designs and then identify who else will be affected by any change—at any level. It can provide feedback so users can examine processes and optimize their product stream. It can also identify things such as how many parts are produced each shift. If one shift underperforms, a negative productivity spike will occur. MatrixOne can identify spikes in performance so users can deal with them. Users can set the software to classify information so different groups can view what is important to them instead of wading through everything.
Because it's aimed at big companies, MatrixOne is scal-able to tens of thousands of users. It's Internet-based, so users can access their data anywhere they're authorized to do so. All of those things sound big and complicated, and in some other systems they are. Problems can occur with software components interacting with each other, but not with MatrixOne. It was built almost completely organically (not through corporate acquisitions). The entire system is built on a single technology so everything is seamlessly compatible. That also means dependable.
Tools, Tools, Tools
MatrixOne assumes that it doesn't know what's best for individual users, so it provides baseline capability and add-on tools for customization and expandability. Many add-on tools are available:
- 1. Designer Central can manage multiple CAD tools from multiple locations so users can access the data they need. The software will notify when work is in progress to an accessible part, so users know when a change is being made. It can even schedule design team meetings.
- 2. Engineering Central pulls everything into an enterprise-level BOM (bill of materials), even when using multiple CAD formats. It will help select and qualify outside vendors and purchased parts needed for designs to help reduce costs. It even can track changes over time and record the reasons as to why they were needed.
- 3. Library Central uses product catalogs to present user-specific viewing of data. By classifying data, users can streamline searches, which helps them find parts they may want to reuse in different products.
- 4. Material Compliance Central helps users manage their design and fill out declarations for any regulatory bodies with which they need to comply (figure 2). Because of its single-system integration, it acts like a real-time audit.
Figure 2. You can keep track of the properties of your products' constituent components.
- 1. Product Central helps management create portfolios of products, features and configurations based on customer and marketing requirements. Think of it as a live design-input document template. It can even manage a project timeline.
- 2. Program Central is the execution environment. It can create templates that duplicate a Six Sigma process. It can link to deliverables, monitor when they are done and notify the appropriate people when milestones are passed.
- 3. Sourcing Central creates bidirectional communication between suppliers and engineering to assure each has the most up-to-date information (figure 3). By having one source for all your purchasing, everyone will be following the same information—no more hodgepodge approach to finding and working with vendors! Because vendors have access to the design chain, they can notify users when changes are made. (Have you ever had a product come to a screeching halt because a vendor discontinued one little part? It's not pretty!)
Figure 3. You can generate reports that can track all sorts of information about every part in your design. It will even tell you what kind of regulatory hurdles a part has passed.
- 1. Supplier Central helps users qualify a supplier's readiness to be a selected vendor and identifies what hoops they must jump through for that qualification.
- 2. Specification Central manages specification-document information and makes it searchable. By having just one way of creating specifications, users will find it easier—and quicker—to get the job done!
- 3. Team Central is all about secure collaboration. It encourages people to capture data as soon as possible by creating shared work spaces where entire teams can have real-time access to any number of documents and make changes on the fly.
- 4. Synchronicity is for semiconductor ECAD (electronic CAD). It's more logic based than mechanically based.
Each of the aforementioned tools provides some great capabilities for users, but how do you adapt them for your industry? The automotive industry doesn't have the same needs as the medical industry. Industry accelerators sit on top of base capability and customize MatrixOne for particular industries. An Aerospace & Defense Accelerator ensures compliance with government and military specifications; an Apparel Accelerator maintains seasonal product definition and design; an Automotive Accelerator tracks AQPQ (advanced product quality planning) progress and interdependencies; a Medical Device Accelerator monitors FDA compliance throughout a product's lifecycle; and a Semiconductor Accelerator helps manage global IC design processes (figure 4).
Figure 4. MatrixOne keeps every part of your design in one database, so keeping up with changes is very easy.
The Bottom Line
MatrixOne is powerful software. It will help a large company increase efficiency, reliability and quality—which in turn increase profitability. Because of the customization and the industry-specific standardization, pricing is a difficult thing to ballpark, but it's not going to come cheap.
If all this sounds like too much for your company but you still need some of what it offers, you might want to look at SmarTeam. It's aimed at small-to medium-sized business. To learn more about MatrixOne, visit www.matrixone.com. Highly Recommended.
Mike Hudspeth, IDSA, is an industrial designer, artist and author based in St. Louis, Missouri.