PDM's powerful move to the web

DN Staff

September 18, 2000

5 Min Read
PDM's powerful move to the web

As the core technology for Internet implementation of data management, streamlined design, inventory control, design and component reuse and international collaboration, the future of PDM looks very bright. Today's PDM software systems handle massive amounts of data that can be accessed easily over the Internet, and tie together the most far-flung international enterprises, their subcontractors, and indeed their whole supply chain.

Alan Mendel, director of North American business for CIMdata, a consulting and market research firm focusing on the PDM market-explains the growing popularity of PDM and associated technologies: "Fears about Y2K made people solve their ERP problems. Now industry needs to learn to manage innovation across the extended enterprise, to be able to migrate data quickly to increase productivity, add innovation and avoid repeating what's already been done."

One glitch needs to be fixed: reliable communication among commercial PDM systems and with the many written-in-house PDM systems to be found in small to mid-sized companies. But if fears of data loss in Y2K fueled development this far, perhaps one of the greatest long-term benefits of the Internet will be better control of product design and innovation worldwide-with PDM as a lead technology. Here's a look at some of the newest PDM offerings available today.

Don Mazur, vice president of marketing for Windchill, explains that Windchill is an Internet system, written in Java and designed to allow users to implement CPC (collaborative product commerce) over their own websites. "It has several different levels of implementation, including an Internet-accelerated business driver for faster product design and delivery-particularly as related to mass customization of products; information sharing, both within and outside the organization; and CPC offering collaboration across all participants whether internal or external."

Rather than building individual products and manufacturing them in large quantities, it's becoming increasingly common for product developers to customize their basic designs for individual large customers. This change in development and manufacturing focus led to a need, Mazur says, "for a new model based on customer interaction with the design organization in real time. CPC looks at the conjunction with the customer and the supply chain for fast manufacturing.

Windchill assists with resource allocation, because you can't tie up the whole organization in customization. Windchill lets companies focus on new innovative aspects and outsourcing of standard parts."

Windchill offers 32 applications, along with many CPC tools, in four current application tiers: a flexible platform for collaborative product design; manufacturing collaboration tools, focused on MRP and scheduling synchronization; customer collaboration with back and forth exchange of information-along with tools to help users configure their own collaborative web sites; and collaboration with critical component suppliers. A new tier will be available soon, Mazur says. "Windchill will soon address the aftermarket-and maintenance throughout the field life of the product, using customized diagnostics and self-monitoring information."

In April, SDRC announced an e-strategy intended to leverage its dominant position in PDM by offering value-added applications for CPC. Those applications include a number of collaborative web-building tools and a new Internet connectivity tool called Accelis.

Company literature describes Accelis as a "standards-based collaborative product commerce" system. Unraveling the terminology, Alan Weatherall, senior product manager for the company, says, "Accelis offers a conduit for data from multiple systems. It facilitates responses to queries to multiple sources, such as CAD, PDM, MRP (material resource planning), and ERP (enterprise resource planning). It can work with aggregate objects and search multiple systems, while to the user it looks as if all the information came from a single source."

Accelis addresses the issue of multiple log-ons that drive e-business users crazy. Weatherall says, "Most of the time, logging on to different solutions requires the use of multiple user names and passwords, and people want to use as few of these as possible, often skipping essential steps. Accelis offers a single point of user authentication working with intranets and extranets."

Like Windchill, iMAN from UGS aims for a niche in the world of CPC.

UGS points out that iMAN offered the "first Java portal to manage product content." The current iMAN portal looks and feels very much like Microsoft Outlook. UGS CPC Director Ted McFadden says that it offers "a single point of access for all product data, aimed at delivering enterprise connectivity and driving intellectual capital." iMAN provides a variety of workflow management tools along with such visualization tools as view, markup and edit, digital mock-up, document management, component management and configuration management."

The company recently introduced in-KEY, a "c-commerce" set of tools that work with iMAN to speed up collaborative design and information management.

Dr. Uri Klement, president of SmarTeam, says that PDM is central to manufacturing companies' implementation of activities started in engineering, "because engineering generates data. Product data embodies the knowledge in a company, the ingredients of innovation and the knowledge necessary to stop engineers from reinventing the wheel."

Recently acquired by Dassault Systemes, SmarTeam historically offered a "robust, open technology focused on front-end CAD integration," Klement says. "We're currently working on interconnected, Internet-based solutions such as SmartWeb and SmartERP. We like XML as a data exchange tool for data transfer, especially via the Internet. It's useful to exchange data among our own modules and back and forth with ERP systems." SmarTeam has a different focus from Enovia, Dassault's high-end PDM system. "Enovia is meant for very large implementations, while we focus on mid-size companies and work to provide them with fast implementation tools so that they can move data into workflow for larger enterprises."

SmarTeam will soon release a new Internet product called My SmarTeam. Klement describes it as "using XML for a Windows briefcase that will help users gather information they will send to others, such as subcontractors, who need access to the information. My SmarTeam is a Web product for sharing product information within and among companies."

Though nowhere near as big as CAD, PDM software is off to a fast start. The two top-selling systems, SDRC-Metaphase and PTC's Windchill, generated $284 million and $115 million respectively in sales in 1999. PTC, in fact, realized $80 million in Windchill sales in the four quarters following the product's launch-only $3 million short of the revenue generated by Pro/ENGINEER in its first four years. Unigraphics Solutions is trying to catch up with the PDM leaders quickly. Its package, iMAN, earned $61.4 in 1999; the company recently signed a $139 million contract with General Motors for Unigraphics maintenance and new seats of iMAN over a two-year period.

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