Keytech Brings PLM within Reach of SMBs

21 Apr, 2010 By: Jeffrey Rowe

Scalable, modular solution goes beyond document management, extending the value of CAD data across small and midsized engineering organizations.

Product life cycle management (PLM) is a system for managing and disseminating product data throughout an enterprise, from concept to end of life, according to research firm CIMdata. PLM technologies have been around for a number of years and the concept seems straightforward, but in fact it means different things to different types and sizes of organizations. What makes sense for a large enterprise in terms of functionality and associated cost is usually beyond the comprehension — and means — of most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

CAD data is at the heart of any PLM system, but only a fraction of today’s engineering organizations have implemented PLM. Reasons include the cost, learning curve, implementation pain, and challenge of establishing the company-wide standards associated with implementation. But the truth is, virtually every organization could benefit from implementing a PLM system that, at a minimum, connects the engineering department to procurement to the factory floor. There's no longer a good reason for not having a PLM system in place, even for SMBs. This is where keytech PLM fits in.

Keytech PLM centrally manages and controls all the information associated with a product throughout its life cycle. The process of creating, changing, and maintaining all data and files is supported, controlled, and documented in a secure environment. Keytech PLM can store and manage a wide variety of 2D or 3D drawings and models and their associated structures, bills of materials (BOMs), and Microsoft Office documents, as well as all associated metadata.

Keytech PLM v12 is different from some other PLM systems because it functions in the context of data life cycle management and enterprise content management (ECM); it can capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to an organization’s processes, not just product. In other words, keytech PLM v12 is all about product and enterprise data management, not just document management, and this is an important differentiator.

I discovered that keytech PLM v12 is not just a plugin, but rather a solution that is deeply integrated into the CAD system. For this review, I ran it with SolidWorks; it also fits into a multi-CAD environment, supporting CATIA, Pro/ENGINEER, AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, SpaceClaim, Solid Edge, and several other 2D and 3D CAD products via optional add-on modules. This is a real plus for any multi-CAD organization.

A hydraulic cylinder assembly drawing (top) and associated BOM displayed in keytech PLM v12. (Details shown; click images for full screenshots.)

Multi-Dimensional Scalability

Another key feature of keytech PLM is its ability to scale according to an organization's size and ongoing needs. Keytech describes the software's scalability in three dimensions:

  • Vertical scalability ensures that individual users have the functionality they need, as opposed to some competing systems that require you to buy a new product to handle increased data management needs. For example, if you are an engineer using keytech's CAD integration functionality and you later discover that you also must manage BOMs in the PLM system, you simply obtain that permission from the system administrator.
  • Horizontal scalability enables employees across an organization to gain access to the data they need to perform their jobs, whether they need to view data and product designs or manage purchasing information and BOMs.
  • Global scalability. Keytech PLM supports global networks. Organizations of any size can benefit from its ability to manage data in either distributed file servers (DFS) or federated (FED) databases.

Concurrent licensing also allows for scalability and cost control.

Flexible Options

Keytech PLM offers a set of mobile productivity tools that allows customers to access their PLM system without being tethered to their desktops. Keytech offers mail archiving, a web interface, and smart phone access to the PLM system.

Keytech PLM also integrates with Microsoft Outlook, enhancing its mail archiving capabilities and bringing PLM functionality to the user's most commonly used tool: e-mail. Users can send mail directly to keytech PLM (for instance, to a specific project folder) and request and grant status changes for a drawing via e-mail. Keytech claims to be the only PLM system that is able to receive and process e-mail. In effect, the Outlook interface provides a keytech PLM desktop for engineers.

A viewer is included in the keytech PLM interface for non–CAD users. Keytech PLM also facilitates more detailed viewing of some CAD files using other CAD viewer tools, such as eDrawings from SolidWorks.

Keytech PLM's flexible architecture provides for customizable workflows that allow the solution to fit into any organization's processes, and searching can be performed on any number of parameters while preserving product and document structure. Finally, it provides multi-purpose BOM management for engineering BOMs, manufacturing BOMs, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) BOMs. It also has several levels of security for protecting IP.

Keytech PLM offers a variety of optional modules such as classification, project management, and ERP integrations such as SAP, Oracle, BAAN, INFOR ERP, and MS Dynamics AX. This modular approach adds to keytech PLM's flexibility and scalability. In short, keytech PLM offers much more than what is available out of the box.

Pricing and Final Thoughts

Pricing for keytech PLM starts at $950 for the base module, and the SolidWorks integration is $540. Most organizations will want to add the BOM management module as well, for an additional $540. So, for $2,030 per seat, you get a fully functional PLM system. You will also need server application for supported databases (Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle), which costs approximately $3,800 for an unlimited number of clients.

Keytech PLM v12 tracks a product's entire life cycle via a unique workflow approach. It is focused on comprehensive data management, not just document management. Its process orientation, as well as its scalability, help make it a PLM approach that could find wider market acceptance than many of its competitors have found to date. With its capabilities and reasonable price point, keytech PLM is well-suited for SMBs, as well as many larger companies.

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