Sunday, February 27, 2011

End-to-end OOTB vs. open, standards-based PLM

As commented several times, I agree that product data is the main asset of a company as PLM applications come and go over time. But I would like dig into another trade-off that PLM customers are facing when trying to act on this: the choice between cost-efficient, end-to-end solutions deployed “out of the box” (OOTB) from one vendor versus a multi-vendor PLM architecture based on open standards.

Product data is the main asset
Protecting this asset e.g. by knowing your logical and physical data model and by constantly monitoring the data quality is essential. An open, standards-based solution in this field basically means STEP for most of the meta-data model, potentially complemented by JT for geometry and newer incarnations of STEP such as PLM Services. Most PLM platform vendors have not adopted STEP as a major component of their product architecture – for reasons such as maturity of the standard and the need to differentiate the offering from the competition. You might find STEP interfaces for import and export, but as long as the internal core data (and services) models of the PLM applications are not STEP-based, the interfaces are rather weak links and create a lot of overhead for data mapping and data exchange. Integrating complex PLM architectures with hundreds of applications on this basis is still a bold venture that not many companies go into.

End-to-end PLM solutions OOTB
Sounds too good to be true, right? And I think it is. Even if one vendor had a good offering, the risk of committing your product data into a black box governed by one vendor is not very promising. In the current case of Dassault V6, I would distinguish two cases:
  • MCAD-PDM: CATIA V6 with integrated Enovia team data manager
  • Full PLM: the complete Dassault V6 vision of mechatronics PLM (RFLP)

I tend to think that the benefits of an end-to-end CAD-PDM solution could outweigh the risk (if you can still control your product data...), but I would think twice for my full PLM architecture.

What do you think?

Note: this view is driven by working with rather large, OEM-type companies in automotive and aerospace. Small and medium businesses might have different priorities.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

iEverywhere – or challenges in open innovation

Just when I was working on two big i’s in open innovation – incentives and intellectual property - BMW launched it’s new sub-brand BMW i . 

I specifically noticed the founding of BMW i Ventures, a venture capital company in New York City. The objective is to substantially increase the offering of mobility services for BMW. They are looking for “promising services that fit to the BMW i brand and improve personal mobility in urban areas and deliver extra comfort or smart advantages (intermodal travel, smart parking, recommendations, communication etc).” You are asked to upload a business plan (management summary – up to 20 MB :-))  BMW will then review this plan and might eventually invest – the VC is backed by $100 million.
Incentives – money or fame
Now that is one sort of incentive, and there are other innovation challenges that offer monetary rewards in the range from a few $ up to millions. I recently blogged on the Airbus Fly Your Ideas challenge, awarding 30.000 EUR to the winning team.
Another motivation might come from the desire to get a specific product, service or feature. Or just to get a bug fixed in a piece of software. But even here – people begin asking for money before submitting a bug with a detailed documentation for reproduction and potentially some analysis.
It seems as if the classic, altruistic reasons for participating in open innovation such as fun, recognition or curiosity gradually fade away.

Intellectual property
When it comes to copyright, patents and trademarks, the open innovation model faces another challenge. One problem with IP is that it can only be asserted in court – and the jurisdiction differs from country to country. This certainly doesn’t help when you want to collaborate with a global community of unknown people.
So it’s important to establish clear rules regarding IP at the beginning of an open innovation project. There are many different IP models, e.g. the negotiation of IP rights between solvers and seekers as in InnoCentive, open source based on copyright such as in Eclipse or the transfer of all rights such as in Airbus FYI.
What do you think about incentives and IP as challenges for open innovation?

Oh, and by the way: Apple does not have a copyright, a patent or a trademark on the letter i – although they have a pretty impressive list of trademarks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Social Product Development: Hype or Chance?

I would like to thank my fellow PLM Consultant Christian Neumann for the contribution of the following guest post:
With the definition of social product development and first business examples of already realized concepts with innovative web 2.0 based software, one question is yet not answered. By using social product development tools and methods, why should this concept speed up your product development and in which stage of your product development process is this concept actually helpful or needed? Is there a conceptual focus on consumer products only, or is it even possible to have  customers develop vehicles?
Idea generation:
Sharing of ideas by company-organized web communities is a very popular application using web 2.0 technologies. Some examples of companies, especially for consumer products, using web based generation methods (e.g. BMW: Customer Innovation Lab) are well known. The obvious motivation for this is to think of the company as innovative (as a marketing effect) instead of getting radically new ideas.
Idea evaluation:
To evaluate already created ideas according to strategic and business ambitions (e.g. strategic product platforms, strategic patents) is a tough task for companies. Quirky is using the web community to evaluate ideas as a first step according to customer benefits and acceptance. As a result of early stage evaluation by customers, the business economic value of these ideas will be more visible. This approach by Quirky reduces investments and effort in proof of concept or the creation of product prototypes.
Pilot application, prototype development and testing:
Investments in prototypes are mostly necessary to check or pilot the application before the production process can start. Windchill SocialLink by PTC already uses functionality of social product development to communicate via web in real-time, sharing of development related informations or chat via instant messaging with worldwide distributed internal development departments. The connection of external development service companies or customers with development skills (using CAD software as freeware) in the prototype development process can be the next evolution to speed up the development process.
In summary, as a very short analysis, social product development as a PLM method has found a way into departments of product development. Social product development is a method to detect market trends, business opportunities and customer needs in the early stages of the product development process. The customer is reflecting his personal needs himself and is proud to have created and developed his own product.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fly your ideas – Open innovation the Airbus way

In my search for real-world manufacturing companies using social product development concepts, I found the Airbus Fly Your Ideas challenge. Let's analyze how this works:

Basic Approach
“Airbus Fly Your Ideas is a contest that challenges students worldwide to develop new ideas to deliver a greener aviation industry.” Students from around the world are asked to form teams and submit ideas on a pre-defined theme. In 2011, this theme is the “Environmental Life Cycle Approach”, i.e. an environment management system from design until end-of-life. The ideas are evaluated and filtered over 3 rounds before a final presentation at the Le Bourget Air Show in Paris in June 2011. This video introduces FYI 2001.

Social Product Development methods employed
Although the FYI challenge is accompanied by a Facebook page, this seems to be a rather traditional approach to open innovation. The ideas are submitted as a project proposal via an online form in round 1. A video about the team and the submission is to be uploaded in round 2. But the evaluation of the ideas is done by Airbus mentors and a jury, i.e. there is no open rating / ranking. This is probably due to the fact that the terms & conditions clearly state that Airbus owns the intellectual property on all ideas submitted.

Incentives for participants
The 5 finalist teams will be brought to the Le Bourget Air Show with a chance to win 30.000 EUR, 15.000 EUR for the runners up team. The FAQ lists the following additional incentives for the participants:
  • Interaction with and coaching from Airbus employees
  • The chance to develop their teamwork skills
  • The opportunity to enhance creativity and innovation skills
  • The chance to improve their project development & presentation skills
  • Working with other nationalities
  • Learning more about Airbus and the aviation industry
  • Feedback on their ideas from industry experts

Benefits for the company
For FYI 2011, over 2.600 students from 75 countries have registered, i.e. over 300 teams completed round 1. The FYI 2009 resulted into similar impressive numbers.
  • Innovation: Airbus owns the intellectual property and is actively seeking for diverse teams with technical and business backgrounds.
  • Positioning: by providing a theme, Airbus focuses the results around topics such as environment, eco-efficiency and sustainability – and positions itself in the center of these topics.
  • Recruiting: the FYI challenge is open to students – and only to students. Despite the FAQ saying “it is not part of the company’s recruitment process or a vehicle to recruitment”, Rachel Schroeder as the head of Airbus employment marketing sees it as an opportunity to connect with students and to get them involved.
To me, this looks like a very successful example of open innovation – with more focus on innovation then on open. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Social product development. real world examples

In the last post Social Product Development defined, I planned to focus on real world examples of companies using social product development.Well, I just happened to read an excellent article from Jim Brown from Tech-Clarity pointing to the SPIKE awards.This award has been initiated in 2010 by Kalypso, pdma, Tech-Clarity and Lifecycle Insights. It recognizes the best use of social computing to improve product innovation.

Winners of the SPIKE award 2010 were chosen from the categories life sciences, consumer products, manufacturing and technology. My focus being PLM in the manufacturing industry, I was eager to find out about the manufacturing winner Quirky.This is certainly a nice example for open innovation and a creative business model. The actual manufacturing of physical products is just a small part of the overall solution that Quirky sells.

So; I'm continuing to watch out for the application of social product development in more traditional manufacturing companies.