Solid Edge: Meeting Customers Where They Live

References Cited

Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD), Product Data Management (PDM), Siemens PLM

Studies Cited

The Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Study

Findings Cited

Managing Engineering Data: Few Dedicated to Enterprise Systems

The News and Capabilities

At the PLM World event in Orlando, Siemens PLM announced a new data management approach for users of Solid Edge. Here’s the breakdown.

  • The solution is based on cloud sharing services including Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and Microsoft’s OneDrive. It is the mechanism that will synch files between different desktops upon which Solid Edge will run.
  • A Solid Edge user’s personal settings and access to licenses can travel with them from desktop to desktop via files in a designated cloud shared folder. This reminds me a little bit of how 1Password accomplishes the same. Files on Desktops are synched through the cloud. The application, Solid Edge or 1Password, simply look at those files. Viola: you have personalization that travels with you.
  • Solid Edge now comes with embedded data management capabilities, including search, file-locking, generating document numbers, avoiding file name duplication and where-used reports.
  • All this capability is file-based, which is a dramatic departure from most data management approaches. PDM systems traditionally extract all sorts of information from CAD files and then store that metadata in database. This works against the files directly, although I am sure they are indexing some information for fast search and the like.

Meeting Customers Where They Live

So why is this a big deal? There’s a few answers to this question.

First off, take a look at this finding from the PLM Study. You can find a more complete analysis of it here.

The point here is that 74% of small manufacturers manage their engineering data on desktops, laptops and shared drives. The thing that strikes me about the approach Siemens PLM is taking with this solution is that they are meeting customers where they live. By that, I mean most of their target users are living in a file-based world today. To leverage this new data management approach, they have to change very little. It stands in stark contrast to Solid Edge Insight, a Siemens PLM data management solution based on Microsoft SharePoint or a scaled back version of Teamcenter. With this approach, there is practically no need for IT support, managing a database or setting up any kind of enterprise system.

Small Businesses Have Struggled with Scaled Back PDM Offerings

To make a broader point here, software providers have been throwing scaled back PDM offerings at small and mid-sized businesses for a decade now. And today, per the finding from our study, only 25% are using any kind of enterprise system for data management. A mere 10% use them in any kind of dedicated fashion. I think there is a strong message in that finding for anyone that wants to provide a PDM solution for this space.

This Runs Counter to the File-less Movement

Another thing that strikes me here is how this runs counter to the file-less movement. Autodesk’s Fusion360 has data management capabilities embedded within the cloud-based CAD application. Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE solutions are also file-less. Theoretically, this approach offers intriguing capabilities, like allowing two users geographically dispersed to simultaneously change geometry and material properties at the same time. It is the Google Docs concept applied to design. This approach has a sound basis in logic.

So Who Wins?

Here’s the deal. Everyone’s solutions is good… in concept. Software providers rarely pursue development efforts that are fundamentally flawed. Rarely.

Solid Edge file-based approach is more accessible and familiar to existing users. Autodesk’s and Dassault Systèmes’ database approach offers more capability in terms of collaboration. One is more conservative. One is more speculative. Who wins between these two? We won’t know that for a while.

However, I think we have gained clarity on PDM solutions. After decades of pushing scaled down, database, on-premise PDM solutions on small manufacturers, I think its clear that it isn’t ‘sticking.’ And I think there is value in learning that.

Chad Jackson is an Industry Analyst at Lifecycle Insights and publisher of the engineering-matters blog. With more than 15 years of industry experience, Chad covers career, managerial and technology topics in engineering. For more details, visit his profile.