Among technology practitioners, there is no shortage of pundits offering predictions into the future and where the next big wave is going to hit. The reason for this is that the stakes are high – a correct forecast of future technology trends can literally be worth billions.

So what are the current predictions talking about? Here is a sampling of the current buzz:

  1. Big Data
  2. Social Media
  3. Crowd Sourcing
  4. Social Computing
  5. Mobile Connectivity

So how does this impact PLM? Traditionally PLM is conducted on internal infrastructure in secured environments using traditional devices. For example, an average designer concerned with the creation of a 3D CAD data would be working on a company workstation behind a firewall. Equally, an engineer creating BOM data would be using a secured client installed on his company laptop. The possibility exists that the engineer may take his laptop home and interact with the PLM system via a VPN but this is probably the extent of “mobility.”

Returning to the technology buzz, consider the potential impact of two trends – mobile connectivity and social computing. Consider the following scenarios:

  1. Your newly recruited engineer has transitioned his digital life to his tablet and no longer uses a laptop. (hence the title of this piece)
  2. The VP of Engineering wants to query the status of his product introduction using his mobile phone.
  3. Your company wants immediate access to customer feedback on existing products so that this can be translated into requirements for new or updated designs.

Given the traditional model sketched our earlier, implementing anything close to these scenarios is almost impossible. The infrastructure, mindset, and processes will not support mobile connectivity from alternative devices nor allow general access to a requirements gathering front end. Also, it raises a whole lot of questions around data security, use of private devices, and non-company access. While the technology to achieve these scenarios probably exists, it would require considerable financial and effort investment to make it happen.

This leads to the fundamental risk investment equation. It may be possible to construct a business case that justifies the outlay. At a high level, two possibilities exist:

  1. Traditional PLM infrastructure is good enough for at least the next ten years and can be re-evaluated then.
  2. Changing the way business is conducted is a do or die activity and this includes PLM.

An informal survey of small to medium size companies shows that most participants have not even considered these technology trends. In part, there appears to be no business imperative and in part because there are other more attractive avenues for immediate investment.

So, do you want your engineers to be doing all their engineering work on a tablet anywhere in the world?

In today’s engineering environment, there are a plethora of design tools available. One question I often hear is “Why CATIA?” It’s a question that seems simple enough, but the answer is much more complex. CATIA generally involved a greater initial investment, but in terms of overall design cost, you may be surprised to learn that a CATIA license can be a real bargain.

Ask: “What are we trying to accomplish?”

What type of design work are you doing? Do you require the ability to create complex surfaces? Are you going to create a small number of models and small assemblies or will there be a large number of models and large assemblies? Are you sharing the models with customers or vendors? Do you start every design from scratch or reuse as much data as possible?

The list of questions above is certainly not complete, but you can see by the number of questions already posited, the answer is multifaceted.

Complex Surfacing

Let’s look at the creation of complex surfaces. Many CAD systems can create surfaces of some level, but what if your company needs to create complex shapes? Look at how many CAD systems can create complex surfaces, and the list gets shorter – much shorter. Next, how many systems can modify complex surfaces? One example of this is the actual morphing of a complex surface. One might use this ability to compensate for springback in a metal stamping or counteract warpage in a plastic part. Now the list is much shorter. CATIA can easily handle these operations.


Large Assemblies

Next let’s look at large assemblies – something on the order of 500-1,000+ models. While virtually all systems can create assemblies, what happens when these assemblies get very large? Can the system handle them? How are you going to manage these assemblies? Is the system still able to operate or has its performance degraded to the point that it is virtually unusable? CATIA can handle very large assemblies, entire automobiles, aircraft, ships, etc. With CATIA V6 the management of these models is OOTB. Again the list is short at this point.

Data Reuse

Lastly, let’s look at data reuse. […]

With globalization and distributed product development, adhering to a single CAD tool for the globally dispersed design teams and suppliers has become practically difficult. Business dynamics like mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and flexible supplier selections based on direct material sourcing processes can also present a multi-CAD scenario to companies. In such scenarios, if the PLM tool isn’t capable of supporting multi-CAD, that can limit the overall engineering business flexibility of companies. It can either force them to take up costly, error-prone, risky, and time-consuming CAD platform migrations OR the global teams continue to work in isolation using a variety of different CAD tools, data, and processes. During that period, each design group generates and stores design data independently, lacking mechanisms to work as an integrated whole. Time-consuming and error-prone processes for finding and managing CAD data and assembling release packages cause design decisions to be often based on incorrect/out-of-date information. This results in design delays, as users can’t see each other’s design changes immediately, and inconsistent adherence to changes and approval processes.

Teamcenter, with its ability to manage more than one CAD system on the same platform, helps companies to mitigate both present and future multi-CAD challenges. It has out of the box integration to all major commercial MCAD tools like NX, Solid Edge, CATIA, SolidWorks, ProEngineer/Creo, Inventor and AutoCAD. Teamcenter’s CAD integration and data management capabilities are very rich, including embedded TC ribbon, standalone TC integrated CAD tool launch, advanced search, update/save to TC, update/synchronize data being worked on by others, change impact analysis, initiate changes, and save revisions – all directly from CAD without the need to open the Teamcenter application. Along with these functionalities, Teamcenter’s 4-tier architecture, optimized for high latency environments, multi-site, security and supplier integration solutions, helps global engineering teams to operate and collaborate at different levels of business integration, from a tightly integrated process mode to a loosely coupled on demand mode.multi_cad

In a multi-CAD environment, design groups receive designs from other teams and/or suppliers, created using different CAD tools. They have difficulty in aggregating CAD data from multiple CAD sources to visualize and analyze assemblies. Also, BOM structures aren’t adequately connected to visual content for Digital Mock-Up. This lack of connection undermines the timeliness and quality of decision making, and forces them to spend time and cost to aggregate, review, and validate designs and design changes. So it is key to enable designers to visualize and analyze product data from different CAD systems and conduct design collaboration reviews across geographically distributed sites. Teamcenter, with its industry leading visualization capabilities, provides the ability to visualize multi-CAD in a neutral JT format and then simulate various assembly modes for downstream engineering, manufacturing and service processes.

All of this leads to:

  • Improved productivity: Enable design teams and suppliers to use the tools they are most familiar with and use/reuse component designs created by other teams/suppliers on other MCAD systems
  • Accelerated product development: Find the right design information quickly; structured workflows enable development groups to work together as a single entity irrespective of location.
  • Increased quality: Find the right data and understand the dependencies to intelligently assess the impact of changes
  • Reduced costs: Modify and share component designs created by other teams/suppliers on your preferred CAD systems and incorporate it into multi-CAD assemblies or product design

Do you have any thoughts to add? Questions on how Teamcenter might apply to your design environment? Leave a comment and let’s chat.

You have a PLM system. Fundamental to this system is the concept of a version and a revision. However, this is probably the most misunderstood process in the PLM realm. Also these terms mean a wide variety of things to different people and are often used interchangeably and without consistency.

For the purposes of the rest of this piece, we will use the following definitions:

Version – represents a small incremental change in the design that would be saved in the database. Versions are not necessarily saved permanently beyond a revision.

Revision – represents a significant event in the design process and is saved permanently in the database for reference throughout the design process.

Diagrammatically, the difference is illustrated below:

Version Revision

It is often confusing to talk to about this subject because the terms are used interchangeably. Also, the distinction between a version and a revision is not clearly understood, even to the extent that participants think that they are the same thing. Because of this, it is important that any organization with a PLM system ensure that all the participants clearly understand the definition and what the difference is.

In a collaborative PLM environment, participants are very dependent on viewing or using data generated by other participants. For example, a headlamp engineer needs the position of locating holes in the sheetmetal to be able to design his locating pins (if this is the order of precedence). In this scenario, the headlamp engineer will say “I need the latest sheetmetal to begin my design.” This statement is common in design and engineering teams. However, it is inherently imprecise because it begs the question: Do you need the latest version or latest revision?

Based on the definition given earlier, what is really required is the latest revision. A version is a work in progress and could be incomplete or half-done because the responsible author may be in the middle of a redesign or new concept. For this reason, a version should not be visible to the larger organization; only revisions should be accessible, as they satisfy the definition of “best so far.” This concept is very difficult to get across to a lot of people and represents the conundrum referred to in the title. It takes some courage to work on data that will change sometime in the future, but this is absolutely required in an efficient design process.

The version/revision conundrum also leads to some interesting human psychology. Consider any collaborative design environment where multiple participants have to submit data into a PLM system to progress a large project. It is important in these environments that all participants follow the mantra of “publish early, publish often” or, per the nomenclature of this piece, create many revisions. This is based on the principle that incomplete or slightly inaccurate data is better than no data at all.

However, process managers often put in systems that highlight inaccuracies or incomplete data, effectively punishing early publishers. So data authors hold back and only create revisions when they are certain of accuracy, late in the process. This is counterproductive.

So pay attention to the version/revision conundrum; clear definitions and policies of this simple issue can greatly improve a PLM process.


When I think of the countless customers I have consulted with over the years, it amazes me how many don’t use parameters to control the design and capture design intent! What is a parameter, you ask?  A parameter can be thought of in two ways when it comes to CATIA V5. Parameters are built the moment you start a new part – as you can see in the image below, we already have parameters for the Part Number, Nomenclature, Revision, Product Description, and Definition created automatically. Parameters are being created each time you build any feature.  These types of parameters are known as system parameters.


You can and should build your own parameters to define your design intent. It’s every bit as important during the initial stages of a design to define your intent this way as it is to make sure sketches are constrained properly. In fact, it helps you in your sketch constraints (every constraint is a feature that has parameters associated to it). In this simple example of a piece of standard rectangular tubing shown below, there are constraints defining the height, width, wall thickness, and radii. Even though this is very easy to create, if I am a designer I would want to design it in such a way that I never have to waste any time designing a piece of rectangular tubing again. If I am a design leader, I feel the same and don’t want any of my designers doing this again in any design that involves any piece of rectangular tubing. The use of parameters will get us there!



The parameters I am talking about are user defined parameters. Simple to create but very, very powerful in their functionality.  The simplest way to create a user defined parameter in CATIA V5 is through the fx icon found on the Knowledge toolbar.


You might be thinking, where have I seen that icon before? Oh yeah, in Excel when I need to create a formula for my cell. That is the point we are making here! In Excel, I use this function to compute things for me and make it easy to come up with a desired result.  In CATIA, we will create some parameters and then, when necessary, assign formulas to them to come up with our desired result.  When you click on the icon, you get the Formulas dialog and when you click on the drop down list next to the New Parameter of Type button, you can see you have many, many options.



A Bill of Material (BOM) at its core is a very simple concept: a list of components needed to manufacture a finished product. So if one was making a pair of spectacles, the BOM may look as follows:

Finished Product Spectacles Quantity
Item 1 Right Lens 1
Item 2 Left Lens 1
Item 3 Frame 1
Item 4 Hinge 2

It must be said that understanding how a BOM functions is fundamental to understanding how PLM systems work. This simple list is really at the core of the PLM system. However, simple concepts have a tendency to escalate into very complex subjects. And so it is with a BOM.

One of the complexities associated with a BOM is that an organization usually has a requirement for different types of a BOM in order to define a single product. Most manufacturing companies have at least three types:

  1. EBOM (Engineering BOM) is the list of parts that engineers are responsible for and comprises all the components that require some sort of design input.
  2. MBOM (Manufacturing BOM) is the list of parts that are required to actually make the product. This is typically different from EBOM by components that engineering do not specifically design (glue strips, liquid fills etc.). It may also be plant specific.
  3. XBOM (Service BOM) is an as built list of parts used in a product that actually made it off the factory floor. This may be different from what was originally specified by the MBOM because of crisis during manufacture. It is important from a customer service perspective.

So the question is: how are your three BOMs authored, edited, maintained, and released? Whatever the answer to this question, the outcome is always the same:

  1. No BOM – No product
  2. Wrong BOM – Factory rework or customer dissatisfaction.

An informal survey of small to medium size companies yields surprising results: Excel is the predominant BOM management tool in an engineering environment. Manufacturing BOMs are normally handled by some sort of ERP system and service BOMs are poorly tracked, if at all. This situation is fraught with potential for disaster because of all the manual processes that have to occur before an actual product gets made.

Hence the analogy in the title. BOM management may be a hidden problem that is set to explode in an organization, especially as the products being made become more complex. PLM systems can offer a single organized BOM that represents all the different types in a consistent, controlled manner. Given the potential consequences of the bomb exploding, BOM in PLM should be a priority.

Do you have a BOM management disaster of your own to share? How about a BOM management triumph?

For those companies struggling to create a 3D Digital Factory, the process can be daunting. NOT modeling the entire factory is the key to achieving your goal. Companies are now adopting the use of a hybrid file with both scanned data and vector objects. “Model what you need, leave the rest in the point cloud.” Although not commonplace yet, it is the direction industry is taking.

Hybrid models offer many advantages. Get the plant on your screen in 3D now! Right now the fastest and most economical way is to scan all of it. From there you can model what needs to be in CAD for other analytic solutions such as ergonomics, robot fit & function, process simulation, and material flow.

chemie22Starting with the laser scan provides a “single point of truth.” Improve overall layout processes by creating drawings and models where none previously existed. Engineers can analyze plant designs, check for clashes between existing conditions, and new design elements by evaluating scanned and vector data together.

Most importantly, the hybrid file democratizes the space in a “single point of truth.”

I regularly go on-site to scan facilities for our customers. Need help developing a plan for your hybrid factory? Leave a comment and let me know.

Here is a classic scenario associated with developing medium to large complexity products: A team of people (say, 50 to 100) have to be coordinated. Each member has deliverables and deadlines that must be executed in a specific order. You apply well-known project management techniques.

Now the question is – what technology do you use to support your project management? An informal survey shows that most organizations use a standalone project management tool for this purpose. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it is disconnected from the PLM system supporting the product development.

This leads to the following scenario:

  1. X, the project manager, identifies that Y, a CAD designer has to complete a 3D CAD model by the end of the month.
  2. This is laid out in the gantt chart as a task with start and finish dates by X and sent to Y.
  3. Y starts working on the 3D CAD model but gets distracted by other priorities and starts running late.
  4. X, seeing that the task is due, calls Y and asked him if it is finished. Y, being human and under pressure to perform, misleads X and tells him it is complete.
  5. X updates his gantt chart to show that the CAD is complete and reports this to his upper management.
  6. A week later it emerges that the CAD is not complete, leading to delays, interventions, etc.

So what is the crucial disconnect in this scenario? The PLM system (where the CAD resides) is completely separate from the project management tool (where the gantt chart resides). Imagine the advantages if these two were connected.

Never fear, there is a solution – Teamcenter Program and Project Management tools allow you to do this. A fully integrated PLM solution that is part of the industry-leading Teamcenter platform, it allows complete connection between project management and design deliverables such as 3D CAD. You can manage your projects in one place and with one system, no matter how simple or complex they are.

Here are the features of the solution:

  1. Robust project management capabilities fully integrated in PLM.
  2. Full program and project management capabilities within the platform.
  3. Project tasks and deliverables linked to PLM data.
  4. Automatic task, deliverable, and project status updates as users store and release product data.
  5. Program and project reporting with standard reports, along with easy to configure dashboards.
  6. Tasks can be tied directly to other PLM data such as 3D CAD.
  7. A task can point to all the reference information required for that task. This means that a participant always has complete information to complete the task.
  8. Tasks can be tied to a workflow for more rigorous management of their execution.
  9. Project managers can access and check deliverables directly from the project timeline.
  10. Program and project reporting using standard reports or easy to configure dashboards.
  11. Project status automatically updates as tasks are completed.

Gantt Chart Workflow
Gantt Chart in Teamcenter                             Workflow in Teamcenter
So let’s replay the previous scenario:

  1. X, the project manager, identifies that Y, a CAD designer has to complete a 3D CAD model by the end of the month.
  2. This is laid out in the gantt chart within Teamcenter and a task deliverable is assigned to Y, who gets immediate email notification.
  3. Y starts working on the 3D CAD model but gets distracted by other priorities and starts running late.
  4. X, who has immediate visibility into the deliverable, sees that Y is running late without having to talk with them.
  5. X and Y work together to get back on track and the 3D CAD is completed on time.
  6. The gantt chart is immediately updated and visible to management.
  7. Everybody is happy!

Connecting project management to your product design activities in Teamcenter has huge advantages – what’s holding you back?

There is a phrase among finite element analyst user community. Those who have been in the industry since a while must have heard of it at some point in their career.


It means that if the data being fed into the input deck is not correct or appropriate, the solver is very likely to give incorrect results, and that’s if it does not fail with errors. Many of us believe that getting some sort of result is better than getting fatal errors, which is not correct. Fatal errors give clear diagnostic messages to the user that allow him to correct the input deck. However, getting erroneous results sometimes makes a user feel that the simulation has been successful even though the results may be far from reality. Such situations are hard to predict and correct, as the underlying cause is not clearly visible.

One such situation arises when the user inadvertently chooses an element type that is not capable of capturing the actual physical behavior of the part or assembly with which the element is associated. The incompatibility may lie with respect to element material, element topology, element dimension, or the type of output associated with the element. The objective of this post is to highlight the capabilities and limitations of some lesser known element types available in the Abaqus element library to promote their proper usage.

Planar elements

These elements are further classified as either plane stress (CPS) or plane strain elements (CPE). The plane stress elements are used to model thin structures such as composite plate. These elements must be defined and can deform only in X-Y plane. For these types of elements:

szz = t xz = t yz = 0


The plane strain elements are used to model thick structures such as rubber gaskets. These types of elements must be defined and can deform only in X-Y plane. For these types of elements:

ezz = gxz = gyz = 0


Generalized plane strain elements


Fundamental to any PLM system is the idea of Access Control and data security. Only authorized personnel can access a PLM system and view or manipulate its contents. This is controlled via a login procedure that includes a user password. Personnel are added to the list of authorized users by the PLM administrator after someone has approved of their specific access rights.

Once access has been granted to users, it must then be determined what operations they can carry out on the PLM system. The simplest (and default) security model which allows all users to carry out any operation is very undesirable and could lead to actions that can destroy or leak vital data.

This scenario requires the development of a Security model which determines which user can carry out which operations. Security models are normally based on two concepts:

  1. Roles
  2. Organizations

A role in the database would define what the user who is assigned that role is allowed to do. Typical roles are as follows:

  1. Viewer – this role would be allowed to view data but not make any alterations or modifications
  2. Team Member – this role would be allowed to alter and update a limited subset of the data along with being able to carry out certain operations (e.g. initiate a workflow)
  3. Team Leader – this role would be able to do everything that a Team Member could do along with the ability to operate on a larger subset of data and carry out more operations (e.g. progress a workflow, change ownership)
  4. Approver – this role would be able to approve certain operations on the data (e.g. approve a release of information)
  5. Database Admin – normally limited to a handful of technically qualified people

Once roles in a database have been defined, the organizations are put in place. These normally mirror actual organizational structure, although this is not a necessity. Organizations in a PLM system usually work on specific projects or programs. Once the organization is defined, users are allocated to various organizations and are assigned specific roles.

The final result can be represented in a table as follows:

Within Organization Outside Organization
User Role View Modify Approve View Modify  
John Doe Team Leader Y Y N Y N
Paul Revere Team Member Y Y N N N
David Earp Approver Y N Y Y N

So how is security set up in your PLM system? Are all the security capabilities been used to ensure that no intellectual property is destroyed or leaked?

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