Vuuch is aiming to give
traditional product development systems a social networking makeover with the
newest release of what it dubs an "enterprise social system" for manufacturing.
Now in its third iteration, Vuuch 3.0 adds a social
networking layer to traditional CAD, PLM and desktop tools like Microsoft Word
and Excel. The idea is to give an extended product development team along with
others in the enterprise a way to collaborate and share product-related
materials and communication in a manner that is akin to how they collaborate in
popular consumer-oriented social networks like Facebook. Using familiar social
networking concepts like "friends" and "status updates," project participants
can dynamically organize and share product content across a diverse team
without the constraints of more structured PLM platforms and without having to
learn any new kind of tool, Vuuch officials explain.
"Social technology can revolutionize how things are
designed, built and manufactured, but that can only happen if the social
technology is built specifically for business and is industry-domain specific,"
says Alex Neihaus, Vuuch's "chief propagandist." Existing product-development
platforms like CAD or PLM don't solve the broader collaboration and
data-sharing needs of development teams, Neihaus contends, because they don't
fundamentally change the way people work and they only automate parts of the
process, leaving manufacturers facing the same problems. "People are still
making lists and are still buried under mounds of e-mail," he says. "Technology
vendors have tried to solve the issue with point collaborative solutions that
work around (Microsoft) SharePoint, ... but a collaboration system built on PLM
is hard for someone in finance or outside of the company to use. Vuuch embraces
the messiness of team collaboration - it connects to everything that already
exists and has a basic understanding of what a product or part is."
Vuuch 3.0, available as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS),
represents projects and related materials as a Web page, allowing users to
track design issues, assign tasks, host discussions and share any and all
project-related materials and concerns directly from their preferred working
environment - for example, a CAD tool or any of the standard Office
productivity packages. Vuuch 3.0 delivers a new "Product" page type, which contains
a hierarchy of other Vuuch pages serving as a design-intent-based Bill of
Materials (BOM). This new kind of BOM contains accumulated deliverables and
discussions and decisions relating to the product - not just parts and assembly
hierarchies. With this model, for example, purchasing could flag and manage
cost issues with specific parts or suppliers, engineering could work with
manufacturing on production issues, and vendors and suppliers will have
real-time awareness of issues. Vuuch product pages, like other Vuuch pages, can
be related to other pages and support dynamic access control.
Vuuch also borrows now-familiar social networking concepts,
but modifies them with an enterprise approach. Take the concept of "friending,"
for instance. In Vuuch, users create connections to others via content and
become "friends" with a page, not an individual as a whole. "The notion of
simple friend to make a connection doesn't work in business -you have to take
it one step further," says Chris Williams, Vuuch CEO. "In our case, â€˜vuuching'
is the act of creating a shared Web page, and any one you invite can
Other features of Vuuch 3.0 include the ability to directly
import project tracking spreadsheets created in Excel in addition to Web user
interface enhancements. Specifically, Vuuch 3.0 offers a new homepage that lets
users create new pages and activities more quickly along with a "Pages &
Activities" tab for organizing Vuuch pages. For pages that track a CAD file,
the software now displays an image of that CAD part or assembly for easy
Vuuch is available on an annual subscription basis;
currently, the firm is offering a special introductory price of $250 a year.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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