New Expectations Drive Development of PDM Collaboration Features5 Mar, 2015 By: Randall S. Newton
Product data management software is evolving with the incorporation of on-demand cloud, analytics, mobile, and social elements.
3D Systems TeamPlatform
3D printer manufacturer 3D Systems has been on an aggressive acquisition path for the past five years, acquiring various products and services to assemble a complete design ecosystem. When it acquired TeamPlatform in 2013, 3D Systems added collaboration services to the CAD tools it had previously acquired from Geomagic, Alibre, and Rapidform.
GrabCAD is designed for sole entrepreneurs and small teams; TeamPlatform, in contrast, is tailored to larger teams. It allows product design, engineering services, and manufacturing companies to manage hundreds of small or large projects with masses of data being shared and used concurrently. It provides task management tools, project metadata structuring capabilities, and reusable workspace templates for collaboration.
TeamPlatform runs as a cloud-based service using the Amazon platform. The service is a private platform; users can brand the collaboration space with their own information. It handles spreadsheets, drawings, 3D models, and other documents, and supports a wide variety of CAD standards.
TeamPlatform supports a variety of CAD standards.
Kenesto is a cloud-based collaborative engineering data management platform with an unusual pedigree. It is the brainchild of legendary CAD developer Michael Payne, who was a cofounder or early significant contributor to PTC ProEngineer (now called Creo), SolidWorks, and SpaceClaim. Soon after he left SpaceClaim, he told this reporter “all the interesting work” in CAD had been done, but there were still “interesting possibilities” to solve in data management.
Payne’s previous projects challenged existing assumptions (CAD couldn’t be 3D; it couldn’t run on Windows; it couldn’t blend parametrics with direct modeling). This time Payne is challenging enterprise data management solutions that require custom installation on in-house servers that can only be managed or tweaked by specialists. Kenesto, in contrast, is designed to make it easy for anyone in the organization to create a business process workflow operation. It is aimed at manufacturing companies that want to capture, document, and automate loosely coupled product-centric processes. Thus it is one part PDM, one part product lifecycle management (PLM), and one part business process management (BPM). Kenesto can capture processes as they are executed, allowing a user to teach the software the process.
Kenesto is completely 3D-aware, using TechSoft 3D technology for CAD file access. “This whole cloud thing opens up 3D for more people,” says Payne. Compared with the other solutions mentioned here, Kenesto is more focused on providing engineering data access to consumers, rather than creators.
Process workflow design in Kenesto. Image courtesy of Kenesto.
Taming the Technology Frontier
For many years, the concept of engineering data collaboration was the new frontier for software. Today the frontier is being settled. Early adopters are claiming significant reduction in review cycles, greater reuse of parts due to easier access, faster time to market, and improved control over documents. The collaboration is not as originally envisioned in the era of server-based enterprise software; today’s collaboration tools come in a form more recognizable to users of Facebook, Flickr, and Yammer.
The key is the on-demand nature of the four CAMS technologies. Every bit of information about a product can become sharable at any state in the production cycle—and anything less is now seen as an annoying barrier to productivity. Going forward, the “on-demand” nature of collaborative PDM services will likely become more deeply integrated into a company’s product development culture, as CAD vendors incorporate PDM function directly into their products, and as demand increases for a work style based on greater use of tightly focused mobile apps.