Distributed PLM takes to the web

Dassault’s Enovia-branded PLM products are being increasingly integrated, packaged for vertical markets and graphically equipped for web collaboration. Tom Shelley reports

The offerings now include a whole range of tools. Enovia CEO Joel Lemke told us, “It has many bricks underneath”, including “Data extraction, data management and change control”.

In data extraction, he said, “We provide a single version of the truth as you search for intellectual property”, although there are “Accelerator” packages that are tuned for specific industries. There are now apparently 18 of these, covering industries as diverse as: Aerospace, automotive, life sciences, high technology, apparel and CPG, which stands for Consumer Packaged Goods.

The occasion was the Enovia Customer Conference in Munich in June, which was the first major European promotion of Enovia V6, where the various applications and collaboration are accessed through the same 3D Live virtual compass, with different parts of a design represented as models that can be clicked on, on a virtual turntable.

We were shown a demonstration of using this to undertake collaborative design modifications with users at different locations, with text messages exchanged using a “Message board”. The model icons can be colour coded, to show key performance indicators. These might be design maturity, so the user can at once see what parts have been released, what ones are being worked on and those that have not even been started, but it is also possible to extract other information from company systems such as: standard component usage, weight ratios, material compliance, availability of parts, cost, lead times, inventory and validity.

While the demonstrations looked easy, testimony from users about what they had achieved and were trying to achieve, and a comment by director industry strategy Richard Semmes, on organising data showed that there was often much work to be done to get things to work smoothly. For example, Semmes told us that data that was worked on mainly at one location could be stored there, to reduce data transfer needs, but there still had to be a means to ensure there was only one version of a model in a company by updating and all of it had to be backed up and protected. As he said, “Its complicated”.

David Lawrence, global IS manager PLM solutions for ABB Power described his PLM project as “Connecting the dots”, with a goal to “Connect everyone” involved in all aspects of designing medium voltage switchgear inside SmarTeam, which is one of the acquired packages now within the Enovia brand. He said the programme involved 22 sites across the world with local vault files and 7 sites with regional metadata. The company had standardised its CAD on SolidWorks. However, he went on to say that, “The challenges are still great”. He said they had 75 users at present, but planned to “Bring in two more locations” and expand to 150 users by the end of the year. The project is also apparently to be extended to ABB Power Systems, which uses MatrixOne, which was acquired and brought into the Enovia branding in 2006. This meant that he is now, “Building a connection between SmarTeam and MatrixOne”.

Stefan Bernhardt, head of department of MAN Nutzfahrzeuge, which makes all the big MAN trucks, buses and engines, went further, saying that, “We underestimated the complexity” of the task. In his case, he said his goal had been to “Harmonise process” based on Catia V5 and Enovia LCA for general data management. They currently have 300 users, and wanted, “Less complexity” and to “Remove the limitation of the current PDM capabilities”. He described moving to a, “Centralised PDM concept” with “Enovia LCA at each location” but working in a, “Single Enovia environment with CAD data stored locally”, using data exchange, “With a replication concept”. However, he too wanted to go further. The current system is restricted to sites in Europe, but he said that, “The biggest challenge is globalisation”, and he showed maps about how the company wanted to expand its design and build operations into Turkey, South Africa, Russia, Asia Pacific, and India. But as he said, because some of the Internet connections to and within these area are not as good as within Western Europe, “This is not a simple task and spoke about, “Working with Dassault” to achieve their goal.

As well as traditional engineering applications, there was much emphasis on the company taking its PLM strategies into new areas, particularly consumer products and apparel. Joel Lemke made the pointed that whereas the “Cycle time of an engineering change in aerospace can be up to 12 months, and is perhaps typically 30 days”, 30 days to implement changes in design in the fashion industry would lose them, “The entire season”. Mike Feliton, VP of IT Systems Development at Warnaco, which owns Calvin Klein and Speedo among other brands, talked a little about his particular implementation, which they undertook to, “Improve forecasting, planning and logistics”, and which they rolled out across the entire company in a year. John Planalp, associate director of Procter and Gamble, which is a $76.5 billion consumer product company with brands familiar to all, faced even bigger challenges. Planalp explained how the company originally started because Messrs Procter and Gamble, who were brothers in law, saw the opportunity to reduce their costs by jointly purchasing tallow, with which one made soap and the other made candles. Today, now that the company has “Hundreds of plants” across the world and 20 technical centres, it found that, “It couldn’t purchase globally” or satisfactorily manage its, “Quality, regulatory and disposal and sustainability issues”.

He said that, “Our PLM we have written ourselves, but Dassault is helping us along our journey”. He made no pretence that they had yet arrived, or come anywhere near.

Bernard Charlès, Dassault’s CEO said that, “We are smarter when we work in a team but collaboration is very complex. He insisted that the scope of what he was directing the business towards was something he called, “PLM 2.0” but that this was “Really a vision”, “What we have now is just a beginning”.


* Enovia is a branding of a whole host of PLM products, not a single product in itself

* Work is under way to integrate them more closely together and access all data through a common visual interface

* “Accelerator” solutions have now been developed tailored to the needs of particular industries

Tom Shelley

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