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Q-AYou may be aware that CIMdata has been hosting a series of educational webinars. We have seen record attendance and many of the past webinars are available for replay from the CIMdata on-Demand page of our website. I recently hosted a webinar on COVID-19 which generated lots of questions that we did not have time to answer live, here are some of the questions and their answers. For those of you who were unable to join the webinar, you can watch it here.

Hopefully, the questions, and the responses will lead to further discussion.

Best wishes,


Is anyone really using Cloud PLM?

Adoption to date has been slow. In some respects, it has been a chicken and egg problem. Overall, the leading on-premise data and process management solution providers have been slow to market with cloud offerings. Many mostly sell managed services, hosting their on-premise versions on public cloud infrastructure. There are some cloud-native providers like Arena PLM and Propel PLM, and recent entrants like OpenBOM, that are enabling some of the use cases that the on-premise solutions have long supported. As I said during the session, the COVID-19 crisis might encourage industrial firms to take a more serious look.

You said on-premise to cloud transformation will pick up the pace now. How do you see the role of PLM system integrators changing?

CIMdata has spoken about this for several years. There will be at least two kinds of changes. The first has to do with integration. It used to be point-to-point integration between on-premise solutions. Today the underlying technologies and standards are more supportive of other types of integration or linking in the case of the evolving OSLC standards. Also, there are more types of systems that need to be connected. On-premise to cloud. Cloud to cloud. These require different skills than were needed ten years ago.

The second change is in the customization of solutions. There was a co-dependent relationship between the solution providers, the system integrators, and the industrial clients. Industrial firms wanted their solution their way. The solution providers were more than happy to offer solutions that could be customized, and the system integrators were delighted to be paid time and materials rates to do it.

Today most cloud solutions can only be tailored in ways conceived by those who created them. This changes the type of work that systems integrators will be called upon to do. Standing up an instance of a data and process management solution will be easier with cloud provisioning. But there is still a lot of work in getting that system ready to work for the company that some people ignore in a world where consumerization of IT is commonplace. Many think that you buy some licenses and are ready to go. That is not the case. Security models still have to be defined and populated with users. Business processes must be captured and “taught” to the system. Organizational change management and communications are still essential to support adoption. The bottom line is that services will always be needed, but their composition will change.

Will cloud-based PLM solutions especially solutions on public clouds (e.g., Onshape), be a winner in the crisis?

People will undoubtedly look more closely at cloud-based offerings. Whether that will extend to a new CAD system is a bigger question. That is as much a function of a comparison of the needed functionality as the way it is delivered.

What is true is that companies have their employees working remotely. Some companies have always embraced it, but many have had it forced upon them. The point in the Webinar is that if companies see that their employees can be productive working remotely, it might change their opinion on remote work in general. That could open the floodgate to cloud trials and, eventually, adoption.

In a recent CIMdata survey on cloud-based PLM, we asked about major concerns that respondents had about adopting cloud-based solutions. Not surprisingly, security was high on the list, second to cloud-to-on-premise integration. Further down the list was an item that is not often discussed: continued solution availability. Say you have an on-premise CAD system and data management on the cloud. You work on your design but might not be able to save it to the system if your cloud access is down. That is a problem, sure, but you can always save it locally. But if your authoring tool is cloud-based and your cloud access is down, you cannot work. Yes, you say, but my service level agreement states that it will be available 99.9% of the time. Yes, that is true, but that is the application. Does every link between your desk and that application in the cloud have the same degree of availability? If your company network goes down, you cannot work. If your ISP goes down, you cannot work. You can only be as good as the weakest link in the chain. This is why that was included in that multiple-choice question, and its lower ranking shows that people are not necessarily thinking about that eventuality.

Would a potential new normal of PERSONAL DISTANCING slow down the adoption of ride-sharing and more importantly automotive investments in mobility solutions for the long run? Or would it be more of a blip?

Personal ownership of a vehicle has been trending downwards for some years. Some of that decrease in demand has been balanced by vehicles used for ride-sharing services. Based on personal experience, many vehicles used for ride-sharing are not new, particularly for the lower tiers of the ride-sharing experience.

The ride-sharing services themselves are looking to eliminate drivers, which would reduce the chance of being exposed to the driver or the recent passengers. They could include systems to sanitize the passenger compartment between rides and negative airflow to suck out the pathogens. Will that increase the design complexity and require more tools?

It is too early to tell. Here I think the chart the I included on vehicle sales is more relevant. A lot of purchasing power is being taken out of the economy. That will kill sales in the short to medium term, depending on how long it takes people to get back to work. A blip. What you are asking about is more the long term trend.

My apologies, I may have missed it. What industry potentially will experience growth? For example, Auto Flat, Aero down but Medical, Pharma, Perhaps.

This was not explicitly covered in the Webinar and will be more strongly considered as we flesh out our complete forecasts for the PLM market. But what you said makes sense. Medical devices and pharma will thrive in this environment. Auto and aero are tough to figure. There will likely not be people hired to “sit” in new seats. But you need to design a safe, stylish, efficient car if you sell 10,000 units or 500,000. The same for airplanes. You might not need as many design seats, but you could need more simulation.

Did you take into account the joint effects of COVID and other crises such as climate change?

No, that is beyond the scope of our forecasting process. But you could argue that climate change has already driven PLM investment in many segments. Higher mileage requirements mean more design and simulation. Energy requirements in appliances could be seen as having a similar effect.

It will take some time for climate change to eliminate entire segments where PLM investment has been high. Mobility is transforming, but it is still focused on personal vehicles (or vehicles sized that way). Will personal vehicles be replaced by smaller autonomous trams that take us the last mile from newly imagined transportation hubs? We are still building airplanes. Will hyperloops replace them? It is those types of changes that will change the PLM Economy.

What are the major restraints in the market to adopt Cloud-based PLM?

As was stated in a previous answer, some of it is the availability of attractive cloud offerings from the traditional market leaders. But, in CIMdata’s opinion, most of the restraints are psychological. Every time there is a publicly-known security breach, cloud PLM takes a small step backward even though credit card numbers have little to do with PLM use cases. Most large companies are pushing their IT to the cloud. Small companies like the cloud because of its flexibility. The shift is likely inevitable. What we are lacking are the case studies of large companies successfully making a move. And it is those types of stories that CIMdata has long told.

Which industries do you think will look to adopt PLM solutions more over others?

One of the constraints on cloud-based PLM is the transmission of large files to and from the cloud. The industries that don’t have large files or are just doing business process collaboration are more likely to move. One good example is retail, footwear, and apparel. It is more about business process collaboration and speed. Cloud is a good fit. Document-centric industries work well, like pharma or CPG. We see more adoption in the traditional high-investment PLM industries like automotive and aerospace, but for them, it is as much inertia holding them back.

Will the focus on Robotics increase manufacturing in addition to the need for increased transportation resulting from more of online retail businesses than people movement?

There has been some work on picking and placing robots in a retail environment that could be used in existing retail configurations. If this becomes a long-term trend, then I would expect grocery supply warehouses designed for robotics to emerge as they did for Amazon.

Is CAD or CAM in the cloud going to be widely adopted? Or is it ever going to be adopted given security concerns?

CAD and CAM adoption is another chicken and egg proposition. To paraphrase the Field of Dreams, if you build it will they come? Onshape built it, and people came, in big enough numbers to get a huge valuation from PTC who bought them for $470 million. Some estimated that it was about 47 times revenues.

In some respects, the virtualization of on-premise CAD addresses some of the concerns that are raised about CAD in the cloud. The data is created and remains in the cloud. There is no movement up and down to worry about bandwidth. CAM could be done the same way. There needs to be a compelling reason to move, one that includes no reduction in functionality. Onshape was moving in that direction when they were acquired. There has been no such innovation in the CAM segment to date.

Do you think COVID will provide opportunities for CPG manufacturers – specifically, will number 3, 4, 5 brands be able to move up in their category as number 1 and 2 are not available on the retail shelves?

People that understand the retail business know that most 3, 4, and 5 brands are the same product under the covers. Consumers will undoubtedly be exposed to lower-ranked products because of supply chain constraints presented by the current crisis. Will they change their buying behavior? Perhaps, if those products maintain their cost competitiveness in a curbside pickup or delivery future.

Is there a technology limitation for visualization and interaction with solid models?

A big problem in visualization has been visualizing very complex models, an issue that solution providers have attacked over the last twenty years. The compute power available in the cloud has helped some recent entrants address this problem more elegantly and efficiently.

Visualization emerged, in part, to allow for collaboration on geometry outside of the native CAD system. But any collaboration you do has to be captured and changes made to the native geometry.

Can we say PLM data will be secure on Cloud (both public and private cloud)?

It should be if done using the same types of security measures done on-premise, i.e., strong passwords, encryption, etc. It is much easier to physically breach an on-premise system because its physical security may be lax. Conversely, you do not know where your cloud-based software is actually hosted. If it is multi-tenant, it may be a set of tables in a much larger database.

I don’t know if there will be more or less regulations in future, probably there will be more and drivers. How does the PLM industry consider this?

The PLM Economy has always had to deal with regulations. Historically, PLM investments have been the largest in mobility and aerospace and defense, both heavily regulated industries, often with competing regulations in different segments or geographies/countries. If you have a set of regulations, you can define a set of processes and verification and validation procedures to ensure you meet those requirements. It is thinking like this that led, in part, to the system engineering “vee” approach to development.

The important thing is if the regulations can adapt to the changes in technology or not. It took many years for the automotive industry, and their regulators, to accept that virtual crash testing could replace physical testing to a great extent. The same in aerospace. On the other hand, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was slow to adapt to the applications of digital technology to product development in the industries they regulated. This will be the big issue. With crises like COVID-19 making speed critical, can things be done fast enough while still satisfying the regulators? As we have seen early in this crisis, the answer today is no.


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