There’s a lot of talk about the cloud in engineering circles and these discussions often split into a couple of different categories. There’s the movement of our design tools into a more cloud-based environment. Whether that’s using a desktop client and synchronizing automatically to a remote server or whether it’s a browser-based geometry wrangling tool that does the same. Whichever the approach, it’s still early days for this type of technology, there’s many different approaches and technologies available to support it and it’s going to take some time to settle and find its way.
Then there’s the world of data management and this is perhaps a more immediately applicable challenge to many of us. After all, if you look at the primary goal of data management, it has a near perfect match for a cloud-based implementation.
The core principles for data management are pretty consistent, however way it’s actually implemented. The centralization of data in a place where it’s available to everyone that needs it is a key driver. Revision and Version management control and enabling engagement in workflows and sign off processes is also essential. Reducing rework or duplication of effort by making the finding of data more easy also makes projects more efficient.
The problem is that to achieve these three has traditionally been a costly exercise, particularly if you look to extend the role of that data management solution from pure design and engineering data and into the greater lifecycle of a product.
There’s some heavy demands in terms of building the infrastructure on which to deploy it, consultancy is an ever present factor as well (in both the adaptation of the system to use your needs and on your balance sheet) and I’m sure we’ve all heard stories of 100,000s if not millions being spent on PLM implementations that have been less than successful.
But if you consider moving that process to the cloud, it starts to make more sense. By it’s very nature, you have centralized data that’s accessible from anywhere (rather than working out how to get on your internal network via VPN over a hotel wifi signal) and you reduce the set-up costs because all of the infrastructure has been put in place already.
Also, if it’s a good cloud-based solution, it should come with some pre-configured workflows and templates out of the box, so even the smaller companies can use it, without those inevitable consultants needed to tweak workflows to your own company’s needs.
But alongside this, there are also requirements in terms of connectivity to that resource. We did some digging into how much time designers and engineers spend out of the office in an average week.
The answer was surprising – only 20% of designers and engineers are in the office all day, everyday. Everyone else is out for a few days (50%), a week or so (18%) or indeed, most of the month. And while they’re doing that, they need to be able to access their design and process data – whether that’s in an airport, a coffee shop (14% of them) at other sites within their own organization, at a client or customers, at a suppliers or indeed, at home.
Ed – A couple weeks ago, PTC—developer of PTC Windchill, a PLM system used by more than 1 million people worldwide—introduced a PLM solution for the cloud, called the PTC PLM Cloud, watch the short demo below: