11/14/2011 | 4 MINUTE READ

PLM When You Want It

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Want some PLM? Here’s what two major product lifecycle management (PLM) vendors are offering through two very different online stores.


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 What a difference some cache makes

The first version of Teamcenter Mobility from Siemens PLM Software (Siemens.com/plm/mobility) was basically “just” a viewer. The latest release of this PLM app, Mobility 2.0, does more. A lot more. “It’s more of an authoring environment. Not just view Teamcenter data. Not just consume data. But interact with the data,” explains Eric Sterling, senior vice president, marketing.
Specifically, Mobility is a client appli-cation that runs on the Apple iPad. The app gives users instant access to the product information managed by the Siemens Teamcenter PLM, provided WiFi or mobile broadband (e.g., 3G) communications is available. All the standard iPad gestures work within Mobility, including swiping to scroll, pinching to zoom, double tapping to zoom out. 
Casual users can enter data, browse product structures, see revisions and the related information for each revision, change active group or role, and import files directly into Teamcenter. Power users can “subscribe” to information and alerts, perform impact analysis using where-used/where-referenced, and view a change-management dashboard that displays pie charts indicating product issues and that lists tasks for go/no-go decisions. The app’s embedded JT viewer supports basic JT viewing. Tapping the chain-link icon on the screen lets users create relationships between documents and new or existing data. The app supports markup (there’s an app for that), so users can annotate/markup documents within Teamcenter, as well as markup pictures taken with the iPad’s camera. The annotated files, along with attachments, can then be sent through Teamcenter for further disposition. Users can also initiate (and respond to) workflows, such as change request/approval, quick release (closure), requirement signoff, override approval, and time sheet approval.
Sterling says Mobility lets “users more fully participate in their company’s product development process, enhancing their ability to interact with product data and workflows at the right time, in the right place, and in the right context to further enhance the speed and accuracy of decisions made throughout a product’s lifecycle.” However, there’s a “but” to that. Sterling cautions about the “cultural ramp” that comes with using, examining, and authoring valuable corporate data through a wireless network and on a compute device that’s highly portable, moderately fragile (it can be dropped and broken), and subject to being misplaced (i.e., lost)—especially a compute device not easily controlled or even distributed by the same corporate IT department that manages the Teamcenter PLM system. Mitigating these concerns is the security inherent in Mobility and, for that matter, the iPad. As with a conventional (“thin”) Teamcenter client, Mobility requires user authentication (login). The iPad itself also has strong encryption capabilities for wireless communications.
What makes Mobility 2.0 truly shine is its cache. This is not available in conventional Teamcenter clients, including laptop computers with wireless capabilities. Caching lets users grab data from Teamcenter and then sever the wireless connection, retain that data on the iPad, and continue work offline (view 3D visualizations, read documents, review tasks, initiate workflows, and more). The next time the app is connected to the Teamcenter server, Mobility will submit, update, and otherwise bidirectionally synch the changed and newly created data, files, tasks, and workflows with the server. (Compare this to a conventional wireless-supported laptop. People can, and will, copy Teamcenter data to the laptop. But that copied data would be uncontrolled and synching is a problem.)
Mobility is available for $19.95 through the Apple App Store. No separate or additional license is required, just the standard Teamcenter user ID. There is a free version as well, that accesses a sample Teamcenter database, but doesn’t allow data creation, saves, workflow submissions, and other real-use author-ing features; however, one can get a hands-on feel for how Mobility works.

Just-in-time PLM

“Enovia figures into everything,” says Fabien Fedida, senior director of global offer strategy for Dassault Systèmes (Auburn Hills, MI). Enovia is the technology Dassault uses to manage the lifecycle of products designed, analyzed, simulated, and visualized by other Dassault products. Dassault’s Version 6 (V6) platform makes all of these products (including Enovia) accessible online, on the cloud. The cloud infrastructure comes from Amazon Web Services, an Amazon.com company, using the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides discrete compute environments for each customer.
In June 2011, Dassault Systemes announced its 3DStore online (3ds.com/3dstore) that, among other products, offers two PLM subscription services: n!Volve for Catia V6 computer-aided design (CAD) customers and n!Fuze for SolidWorks CAD customers. Both services are based on Enovia V6. n!Volve, says Fedida, includes “product data management (PDM) and virtual product model, which provides concurrent engineering and relational design and all the good collaboration stuff. n!Fuze offers cloud-based design sharing and collaboration with the V6 platform.”
In practice, if an engineering group is already working on a development project using Catia, Delmia, and so on, it will soon get to the point of needing the collaborative aspects of PLM. The workgroup leader need only surf over to 3DStore, start an account, and subscribe to an appropriate number of seats of n!Volve (or n!Fuze). With that, all the workgroup members with Dassault clients can then immediately collaborate on the project after logging in to the cloud-based n!Volve.
An n!Volve subscription costs $300 per user per month (n!Fuse, $70 per user per month), and requires a V6 desktop client (such as Catia). The subscriptions let users work concurrently and collaboratively with users of other Dassault brands, such as Catia, Delmia, and Simulia, regardless of where they are located. The subscription includes a cloud-based V6 environment with dedicated storage and search engines for search-based applications (using Dassault’s Exalead technology). Of course there are collaboration functions for concurrent design management (such as versioning, archive, and replace), and functionality for sharing current designs among project team members (i.e., all project data is controlled and shared). n!Volve also includes several web-based communities for sharing ideas, documents, requirements, and product proposals. Role-based permissions and other security measures are standard.


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