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Vuuch 3.0 Brings Social Networking Capabilities to PLM

Vuuch 3.0 Brings Social Networking Capabilities to PLM

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, a euro ~vuuching' is the act of creating a shared Web page, and any one you invite can participate."

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 identification.

Vuuch is available on an annual subscription basis; currently, the firm is offering a special introductory price of $250 a year.

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