In June 2012 we were fortunate to bring together a diverse group of industry experts and independent analysts at our Solid Edge University event in Nashville. We invited a few of these to form an “expert panel” and discuss key issues around data management for manufacturing organizations. The first question I asked each of the panelists was what was currently at the front of their minds in this area? It was interesting to see the different perspectives that these experts have.
Bill McClure, Director of Product Development for Mainstream Engineering at Siemens PLM Software, said his thoughts were around the increasing demand he is seeing for data management solutions, even for smaller companies. “We are seeing an explosion in demand for data management solutions and I think that is driven by two things. One is that the volume of data has exploded - on the CAD side we make it much easier to generate data, and then we’ve got to manage that data. The other thing that I’ve noticed in the past five to ten years is the dispersion of the engineering work team. Fifteen years ago you didn’t need data management because the engineers were all in one room and if somebody screwed up a release you could go over and hit them on the head! Now even the smallest companies, 10 engineers total, 5 of them may be here, but 3 are in Europe and 2 are in India. The instant you go to dispersed locations, then you need some type of data management and I think the key has been trying to do that in a way that doesn’t require a lot of deployment resources.”
Jim Brown from industry analyst Tech-Clarity sees that “The key thing from the data management perspective right now is integrating all the information about a product with processes and people, and bringing that into one place so you have one view.” Jim added what I think is a valuable observation “...and doing that in a way that works not just for the enterprise but also works for individual engineers.” Jim also commented on the impact of successful data management practices: “What we’ve been able to show through a lot of the research is that this drives some pretty significant business value, allowing companies to bring products to market faster, with more innovativion, at lower cost, and at a lower product development cost.” Examples of research that we did in collaboration with Jim can be found in my earlier blog post "No time to implement PDM?"
Simon Floyd, Director of Manufacturing Solutions for Microsoft, was also on the panel and with most of us using Microsoft products for a significant part our daily work, gave an interesting perspective that emphasized collaboration. “For me it’s about collaboration, a more modern word for that is Social, I think it’s an intriguing way of thinking about data management. I like this approach because it links very well to crowd sourcing, and it can be something very small like trying to resolve a particular design or engineering problem. Are other people’s minds as good as yours? Put them together and we’ll do it better. For me Social is about building a collective brain around something and helping each other get work done.”
Street Crane Company - improving collaboration for overhead crane design
I think a great example of this is our customer Street Crane who is using Solid Edge and Microsoft Sharepoint to share data more effectively both internally and with their suppliers, distributors and customers - we have an excellent video case study from this customer.
For Ken Amann, an Executive Consultant from CIMdata, although manufacturing companies of different sizes face similar challenges, ensuring that the solution fits the needs of the specific customer is at the front of his mind. “If you look at the challenges facing companies of different sizes, guess what, they’re all similar. They’ve all got to be fast, they’ve all got to be more inventive, they’ve all got to cut costs and deal with competitive markets, they’ve all got to deal with increasing regulations. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a $20bn enterprise or a 5 person shop, essentially these problems exist for you.” Ken also describes CIMdata’s approach to these challenges “What we need to do is to better package the data management capabilities to match the requirements that different organizations have, everybody doesn’t need the same solution. You have to pay more and more attention to what do they really need to be successful. You’ve really got to be able to target capabilities they can absorb in bitable steps to solve quantifiable business challenges for them, and they can move forward from that platform.”
I think it is interesting to hear the different perspectives of these industry experts. Do any of these viewpoints resonate with your experience in the area of data management? We are targeting all of these issues with our new Solid Edge SP software that is being released this month. For example Solid Edge SP is based on Microsoft SharePoint which is already being used by many manufacturing organizations to provide a more "social" approach to managing engineering data; and Solid Edge SP is preconfigured for rapid deployment to quickly address everyday challenges that engineers experience with retrieving data and completing everyday tasks.