Siemens PLM Software’s Active Workspace mines product data

18 April 2012: For a long time I have been less than an enthusiastic advocate of PLM based systems as a vehicle for managing development processes. Sure, the storage of data is an important way of gathering product development data. Yet, viewing and using the associated data was always difficult. I found that, coming from a CAD background, which provides glorious views of 3D products, scrolling through page after page of data tables quickly becomes mind-numbingly tedious. Often one needs to view different datasets in different ways to attain a glimmer of data needed for decision-making.

Siemens announcement recently of Active Workspace (AWS) for their HD-PLM environment is their latest, and best attempt to present data graphically to the user, making the system perform the work of visually integrating the vast amount of integrated product data.

Last Fall, while attending a Siemens analyst conference, the company rolled out some preliminary information about Active Workspace. I was excited then about the long-term possibilities of revising the ways users can extract and make use of vast amounts of data. This announcement provides a very useful beginning for this project.

Exactly what is HD PLM? It’s not a product, but an architectural framework. HD-PLM, announced two years ago, provides a technology foundation enabling Siemens product development team to produce a common set of integrated software tools that will identify, capture and collate the massive amount of information available in manufacturing enterprises, and apply meaning to that data using an intuitive visual environment.

Two weeks ago, on 3 April 2012 Siemens announced Active Workspace Version 1, the first product to achieve the beginning of that vision. Grindstaff noted that “Active Workspace creates an intuitive and personalized 3D graphic interface that significantly enhances the ability of our PLM suite of offerings to deliver knowledge instantly to the right people, at the right place and in the right context to support rapid and intelligent decision making.”

To find out more I sought out some details from Siemens and had a conference call with two product managers for AWS: Bill Lewis and John Whetstone. They described AWS as having the following capabilities:

  • Find information fast
  • Visualize and navigate
  • Compare and report
  • Collaborate
  • Configure and share control

Lewis described AWS as a tool to help the vision of semantic data understanding enabling users to make smarter decisions using HD PLM. Indeed products are getting more and more complex. HD PLM is looking to solve this. He sees this as a tool for all PLM users; not just professional users, but casual users as well.

The slide below shows the products supported by AWS.

Products supported by Active Workspace V1

An example of AWS in action

Whetstone performed a live demo for a sample company. We start by searching for all objects in the database for the company. The search yields the following 130581 results:

Searching for all objects

Data was taken from Teamcenter and indexed to achieve the speedy result, which took only a few seconds. Note the object filter types at the top of the screen.

Selecting the type – Physical Design Model Elements – resulted in this:

Revealing Physical Design Model Objects

These are the physical mechanical model elements of the company, each designated with a different part number.

Shown below are the types of objects from which we can choose as a high level selection. This data is already in the Teamcenter data which we extract. The data extraction methods and rates are user determined.

The types of object filters offer ready access

Drilling down to the hard drive we get only 61 objects:

View of model elements in one sub-assembly

This is the tile view, showing access to other data associated with each object, such as: revision, owning user, type, and other data. Along the right side are icons that can launch applications, such as shape search and visual navigator, where used, and more info.

Visualizing the top level hard drive and using the JT object formats, here is the result:

Visual navigator display for the hard drive sub-assembly

Note the pan, zoom, and rotate options at the top of the image above. Drilling down to the drive heads shows this:

Displaying a sub-assembly within the hard drive

The “more info” icon reveals attached documents such as FEA results.

Revealing additional information associated with the drive heads

AWS requires the user to have a license of Teamcenter (TC). It is a companion product to TC.

My impression:

This is a big deal for Siemens and their users. It basically allows data mining of related, or as Siemens refers to it – the semantics of the data. Semantics, or the problem of understanding, allows one to make sense of the miasma of data relations associated to products. What is the product, what functions does it do, where does it fit, what were the specifications and were they met, what tests were performed, and so on. This data is stored within Teamcenter. Making sense of the data stored in different databases is difficult.

AWS seems aimed at the largest users. Early adopters include GM, Ford, JPL, and Rolls Royce.

While I was turned on by the AWS capability, this release seems to have an awkward and incomplete UI. Also, the reporting and rollup capabilities need to be extended. For instance, cost rollups and product status do not seem to be available yet, but are on the drawing board. Searches are limited to single attributes.

AWS V1 is available now. Maintenance releases are scheduled for July 2012 and Nov 2012. While the next major release is not due until the end of 2013, there is plenty in this release to keep users busy.

Pricing seems modest. $750 per named user. But, for large installations this could add up quickly. I expect there are volume discounts.

As far as competition, only Dassault Systemes with their V6 Enovia 3D Live offering is even in the same ballpark.

More info can be found at www.siemens.com/plm.

Mars Science Lab: Rover Tether Landing

3 Dec 2011: In my blog reviewing the Siemens NX CAE Meeting I mentioned a conversation I had with Kendra Short of JPL about how the rover will land on Mars. Today I found this picture simulating how this will be accomplished. I thought you night appreciate the engineering embodied in the MSL to accomplish this.

MSL Landing; Courtesy of NASA/JPL/Caltech via AP

The platform holding the rover is called a Sky Crane. It first will need to separate from the spacecraft after it reaches Mars orbit. We will know more in about 8 months from now, when the landing is scheduled.

You can learn more at http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

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Siemens NX CAE Symposium: Users show their love

27 Nov 2011: The week before last I attended an invitation only event in Charlotte, NC, as a guest of Siemens at their first NX CAE Symposium. Designed as a way for users to get together to exchange ideas about how they use NX CAE software, some 80 customers attended the symposium, held at the Joe Gibbs Racing Facility just outside Charlotte.

The overall consensus of the presenters and the attendees I spoke with was satisfaction with the NX CAE suite. Many complimented the breadth of the CAE software, some of which I summarize below. Overall users were most satisfied because of the inherent associativity of CAE models with design models.

Several users told stories about how, in the past, they were asked by the design team to evaluate designs and get back to them. Even with an integrated system, the CAE analysts often spend substantial amounts of time simplifying models, insuring that the mesh is adequate for an accurate design, performing a series of analyses, and making recommendations to the design team, only to find that the design team has moved way beyond the design they were working on. Thus their work had to be scrapped. NX’s CAE and design integrations allow analysts to work on the design model, thus having a better ability to stay synchronized with the design team.

Also, NX seems to play well with external solvers, often integrating them tightly into the design stream workflow. Among these were Ansys solvers as well as specialized fluids solvers, such as those from MAYA.

My reactions:
Siemens PLM Software has a well-focused and wide breadth of solutions for heavy-duty CAE experts. Jon Heidorn, Siemens PLM Software (SPLMS) Vice President welcomed the attendees, stressing that simulation is one of their fastest growing markets, encompassing integrated modeling and solutions, system level modeling, multi-discipline simulation and optimization, and the intensely complex simulation data and process management. Beyond 2010 Heidorn predicted software would be available that would perform topology optimization. SPLMS also announced that their partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing was extended to 2016.

Mark Bringle and Nelson Cosgrove of Joe Gibbs Racing discussed their facility and their focus on engineering. Building their cars from scratch, and their engines almost from scratch, but carefully following NASCAR rules for each car, provides an impetus to carefully hone each major subsystem for optimal performance. Fascinatingly, their design cycle during racing season is one week! The three main groups include chassis and vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, and powertrain. The latest version of NX allows for full chassis FEA modeling. With NASCAR demanding similar car frames and engine performance, their engineers carefully analyze every part to improve weight and aero performance so they can achieve even small advantages over their competition.

Jim Rusk of Siemens PLM Software discussed the latest trends in product development with NX CAE Simulation. He highlighted a few concepts they are working on sand delivering to make it easier than ever. Among these are Synchronous Technology for the CA analyst which makes for easier simplification, workflows for the advanced analyst, continuing improvements in multi-discipline analysis, motion analysis for flexible bodies like springs, multi-solver support, topology optimizations, and HD3D requirements management and validation.

ATK Aerospace, MDA of Canada, and JPL, Proctor and Gamble, and Solar Technologies spoke about their analyses ranging from rocket design to cryo engineering of spacecraft to making 1 million paper diapers to designing complex solar collectors.

Hendrick Motorsports’, Charles Macdonald, discussed detailed part analysis and the tradeoffs they make for lighter, yet strong and most of all highly serviceable parts of a suspension.

Kendra Short, of JPL and the mechanical manager of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), successfully launched just two days ago, spoke eloquently about how having a sophisticated analysis system working directly on the design model enable them to perform many more complex analyses than would have been possible without simulation done directly on the design models. Without the ability to service the MSL (it’s a long trip to Mars), Ms. Short chatted about the enormous planning that goes into having multiple alternatives in the event of a failure. I found fascinating during a break discussion about how the MSL is to be deployed to the surface using a tether. No backup here, just reliable explosive bolts.

One of the symposiums objectives was to have users exchange ideas about how they use simulation. This seemed to be more than fulfilled. If you have a chance to attend the next symposium, don’t miss it.

Disclosure: Siemens paid for my travel expenses to attend the event.

The Cloud Lives!

18 Nov 2011: Ralph Grabowski proposed his opinion that the cloud is dead. He couldn’t be more wrong. Consider users at the Siemens NX CAE Symposium that ended last week. Virtually all of the eight users at a panel noted that cloud computing would definitely be part of their plans. Assuming that some minor issues such as security, cost, and application software licensing could be solved, all seem to have or want it in their future plans.

Several customers represented companies that already have with HPC clusters. While this ideal “local cloud” met their expectations, the cost of such a cluster is very high and not a solution for smaller companies.

I agree that the use of cloud computing for interactive applications is a bad idea. However, the vast computing power, parallel processing, and expected low costs make it a very appealing idea for tasks that require modest bandwidth and have high computational needs. Autodesk’s CEO, Carl Bass, clearly has the right idea. Autodesk, over the past two years has introduced several applications that span the range of interactive hardware and relying on the cloud to ramp up compute speeds. At AU last year I had the chance to listen to Bass and speak with him about his ideas for best utilizing the cloud. As I wrote in that article, Autodesk’s concept is to “Don’t replicate desktop solutions on the cloud. Instead make maximum use of desktop and mobile systems, utilizing the cloud where it makes sense.” Still makes sense today. Here is a link to that article http://wp.me/pvn8U-3e.

Oddly enough, with the possible exception of DS, Autodesk’s competitors don’t seem to get the concept. For example, while I interpreted from Siemens customers that they were excited about potential use of the cloud, Siemens PLM Software, except for licensing issues, seems to have no plans to enable them. The same goes for PTC.

Let me know what you think.
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Notes from Siemens PLM Connection 2011

A few weeks ago I attended the Siemens PLM Connection 2011 conference in Las Vegas. Since returning I have been busy with all kinds of matters, but I wanted to get some of my thoughts on the conference to you, my readers. Siemens promised me copies of the slide presentations, which I have recently received. As any of you who have attended similar conferences, the slides go by so fast that there is little time to write the key points down.

Arriving at the hotel on Sunday, May 1st, the event started with a small cocktail party of the media with some Siemens executives. I had a chance to meet with a briefly speak with some executives before going to my room exhausted from traveling and standing on my feet for three hours. Among the execs I had a chance to speak with were Eric Sterling, Dave Shook, Kris Kasprzak, Tony Affuso, and Dan Staples. The mood was decidedly upbeat and all were excited about their performance the previous year and so far in 2011. I was unable to get specific details, as is Siemens’ custom.

At the kickoff keynote the next morning Dave Shook, Sr. VP Americas, opened the session and introduced keynote speakers from Microsoft and IBM. These were the usual pitches from cooperating vendors. Instead both companies discussed interesting technology challenges; Microsoft discussing how unstructured data can be managed, and IBM discussing the challenge of hyper digitization and the need to close an innovation gap with the velocity of change accelerating.

Tony Affuso, Chairman of Siemens PLM followed with highlights of the company’s year. Basically Siemens PLM is on track after five quarters of growth, now with 68,500 customers, 7.2 million seats, and double-digit license revenue growth. This compares to Dassault Systemes (DS) real growth last year of 7%, less the temporary revenue bump from the IBM PLM acquisition. The company has a good backlog and is executing across the board and winning substantial accounts. Following Tony was Claus Oesterschulze, describing Siemens extensive effort to internalize the use of their own software (NX, Teamcenter, and associated apps). No easy task, as in most customers, organizational changes are required along with process changes. Convinced that “IT is a big lever for business” Siemens is aggressively moving ahead and focusing on how to manage complexity. Below are a few slide from the Oesterschulze presentation.

 

Later in the morning Chuck Grindstaff, President and CTO of Siemens PLM Software presented his “technology vision.” He viewed where they are today in fully integrating Teamcenter across an enterprise to fulfill its PLM needs: view models fully and anywhere, check a model against its requirements and be able to trace these on the products; review and initiate simulations against specs directly in the CAD environment and to ask highly complex questions; ability to optimize the design for performance including cost and sustainability; using Tecnomatix to insure that manufacturing has correct models, processes and allowable variations thus enabling what-if manufacturing studies. Thus his focus on a fully integrated system, much of which is already in place today, with more coming shortly, as evidenced by the NX, Teamcenter, and Tecnomatix presentation we saw later in the week. Grindstaff feels they are far ahead of their competitors and that customers can now see that. A strong point in his direction is the ability to implement continuous changes in the product rather that the discontinuous changes that the competition [Dassault Systemes] makes. An interesting point about his thinking was his comment that “If we [Siemens PLM] can formulate the value proposition correctly then customers will listen.” His key investment areas are in intelligently integrated information, continuing their future proof architecture using SOA and XML that isolates and allows ready integration of new software, expanding their TC HD experience, systems engineering expansion, integration of domains such as MCAD, ECAD, software, plants, etc. and continued openness.

Joan Hirsch, VP of NX Products, and Paul brown, et al reviewed their thinking about the future of NX. Some of their goals include: building an effortless UI, improving complex product visibility by allowing viewing of multiple data sources and using HD3D visual reporting, integrating multiple design disciplines together, allowing front loading of best practices and knowledge, and requirements management and validation. The chart below summaries much of what they discussed.

What I found most impressive was their emphasis on non-disruptive improvements and Siemens focus on using making HD3D easy to use to “bring to life” the enormous reserves of data stored within TC. This is their 4th release of synchronous technology (ST) within NX and strides continue to be made in its use, some of which I hope to explore in more detail in an upcoming report.

Later Steve Bashada, VP of Teamcenter Products and Bill Boswell, Director, gave a Teamcenter update. New versions are due next February, with a “more visionary” version due next September 2012. Bashada viewed their key investment areas as the following: systems engineering, corporate social networks, cacheless search, massive model viewing, HD-PLM extensions, and thin client access. A Teamcenter mobility app for the iPad was announced. I downloaded it, but have yet to try it out, because I need to sign into their TC central demo app and database. I may report on this later. Think it’s complicated? Take a look at their portfolio list below.

Getting tired from furiously scribbling notes, I then attended a Velocity business update starring Karsten Newbury, SVP and GM of the unit. Newbury discussed their business momentum, noting that in 2010, their growth in licenses was 30%, with Solid Edge (SE) accounting for 50% of that. He is investing in an expanded presence by adding resources [people], channel enablement [his words], and a focus on community for a bigger academic presence and mode direct feedback events. ST3 was well received due to its ability to support both ordered and synchronous approaches.

Mario Joyal, of Matritech, a small company in Quebec, described his results using SE with ST3. A recent design took 50% less time and other users found it easy to use. Kris Kasprzak, product manager for SE, described ST4 which is due to release on June 15. We are allowed to discuss some info about the upcoming release of ST4. New tools and functions coming include those for: advanced machine design, expanded collaboration, simulation for sheet metal, and improvements to their already impressive drafting.

After a delightful dinner and cocktails for the press and analysts Monday evening on the top floor of the Rio hotel, we finally ended the day.

On Tuesday we heard a digital manufacturing (DM) strategy update from Ziyon Amran, VP of digital manufacturing software, followed by an amazing presentation by Gene Coffman of how Ford performs virtual manufacturing. Siemens still leads the industry in revenue by a wide margin, as shown in this chart.

Key manufacturing technology domains include assembly planning and validation, robotics and automation planning, part manufacturing, and plant design and optimization. Amran discussed many of the new capabilities in each of these areas. Amran summarized what Tecnomatix offers their customers

  1. Breadth and depth of offering addressing all DM functional Areas
  2. Focused industry and domain Solutions
  3. Integrated Knowledge Management through single source of Product & Manufacturing data as part of the Teamcenter PLM platform
  4. Advanced technologies for Machining, Robotics and Human Simulation and for Enterprise Process Authoring

Coffman’s presentation focused on how Ford makes virtual manufacturing work at Ford (it isn’t easy) and how it contributes to Ford’s profitability and design to manufacturing cycle reduction. Here is one example of the continuing benefits shown by Coffman.

And finally, to wrap things up I met with Al Hufstetler, VP Quality Planning and Validation, who took me to task on a comment I made in my blog about the DS acquisition of Intercim. I stated that “In shop floor analytics DS now has the edge.” Hufstetler pointed out that Intercim’s solution uses analytics to isolate issues, whereas, Siemens solution uses a better solution, a feedback system that not only can detect quality issues, but can actively correct them. For more details on this, contact Siemens PLM Software.

www.siemens.com/PLM

Disclosure: Siemens paid for my hotel and conference admission. TechniCom paid my other travel expenses.

Siemens PLM Software wins CAD business at Daimler Benz

Late last week Siemens PLM Software announced that they had won the complete CAD/PLM business at Daimler Benz.

By now we have had a chance to hear from other industry pundits and also spoke with Eric Sterling, SR VP of Marketing at Siemens PLM. It was interesting to get Sterling’s perspective on why they won and to get a potential size of the business. Of course we have all been exposed to the domino theory of large account and industry marketing. The idea being that winning a major account in a significant industry, especially one where there are only a few very large players, will drive additional business from their competitors and suppliers. This is certainly true of the automotive business as well as in aerospace.

While Siemens has some major positions in the automotive industry, namely GM, Nissan, and Renault, to name a few, this looked at first glance to be one where Siemens made major inroads against Dassault Systemes. In fact, Daimler Benz is one of DS’s premier accounts.

The announcement by Siemens was a surprise (at least to me) and the follow up press release by DS was a bit strange.

Basically Siemens won the entire CAD/PLM business at Daimler, displacing CATIA, a notoriously tough thing to do. It really seems like Siemens strategy was one of “death by a thousand bites.” Siemens had already won the PLM side, with it’s Teamcenter software, the factory side with Tecnomatix, and the analysis side with it’s Nastran offering.

Apparently Daimler was examining NX for almost a year before make the final decision. Yet, DS claimed no knowledge of the evaluation. Where were their sales people? Is that a natural outcome of eliminating IBM from the sales cycle?

Sterling, as is Siemens custom, was less than forthcoming about the size of the business. My rough estimate is 2000 to 3000 CAD seats at Daimler, 2 to 3 times this size at the their suppliers, and possibly 7-8K PLM seats, certainly a sizable piece of business.

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Siemens uses game design tools to enable top down design

Wow, driving back and forth from Boston to NJ really did me in. 500 miles in a few days, packed with several traffic jams from accidents, plus sitting in conferences for 2 days! So this blog may come to you a bit late. In the way of openness, Siemens paid for my travel expenses to and from the meeting as well as two nights at the hotel.

Anyhow, on Day 2 of the conference (22 Sep), I had the opportunity to view Siemens already released (last week) Mechatronics Concept Designer (MCD) software – a terrific idea, and aptly suited for designers of complex machine tools, especially those machines or groups of machines with lots of parts in motion. Later in the day, Dan Staples, Solid Edge’s head of development, and original architect of ST, described what’s coming in their upcoming release of Synchronous Technology 3 (ST3).

Built as a stand-alone solution, Paul Brown of Siemens, Senior Marketing Director, stated that the Price was about $20K, had no software prerequisites, and includes a copy of NX to assist in the design detailing.

Shown in the image above is an example of a machine designed with MCD. Designed to work with NX and Teamcenter the idea is to map out a block diagram of the prospective machine, use a library of functional parts that can be re-used or designed, add requisite motions, and prove out the design concept. Then the concept design is passed on to the appropriate engineering disciplines to continue to add detail to the design. I really liked the concept, but there is too much detail to describe here. You can see more at http://www.plm.automation.siemens.com/en_us/about_us/press_kit/mechatronics-concept-designer.shtml.

What is really appealing is that design concepts like this could only have been done before manually, and because of the complex interactions of 3D and motion, would have been very difficult to design and extremely error prone. One could easily imagine this technique used for other design projects.

On the ST3 upcoming launch, due in mid-October, Solid Edge (SE), part of Siemens’ Velocity business unit, and headed up by Karsten Newbury (see my blog dated 22 July), continues to press the envelope by extending ST into assembly design, and allowing a mixture of history based design and ST unordered design. Incorporating some 2000 customer enhancements, ST3 should be an extraordinary release. The ST3 modeling advances also allow all of SE’ other apps, such as piping and wiring to use ST technology and auto update as changes are made.

Got to get some sleep now.

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