The Practical PLM Newsletter - Issue 3, February 2016


  • Upcoming Webinar - Create a PLM “Beachhead” that Drives Immediate Value
  • The Economy and PLM - Kicking Off 2016 Has Been An Economic Cage-Rattler
  • Business - Laird Selects Aras to Streamline Global Product Development
  • Best Practices - The Science and Business of Engineering
  • What Would We Do - How Do You Get Senior Management Buy-in
  • Tech-Tips - Extend Aras Innovator to CAD Workgroups
  • Learning - Webinars, Conferences, Training, and More
  • Events - ACE 2016


Creating a “PLM Beachhead” That Drives Immediate Value

Drives 80% of the Value with 20% of the Effort

Industry analysts and pundits continue to propose that PLM is entering a “Golden Age.” When one considers the factors at play such as globalization, platformization, the IOT, interdependent supply chains, the digitization of data, cross-functional business automation, regulatory pressure and the increasingly impatient consumer, to just name a few, it does seem to be a perfect storm for PLM. The need for competitiveness and innovation (that is sustainable) has never been greater. However, if the value is so great and the pundits are right, why is PLM underutilized by most organizations? Put simply, the promise of PLM is intimidating and people don’t know where to start.

Just because PLM can do everything, doesn’t mean is should… especially when starting out. Far too many consultants and service providers are happy to help you find the end of the PLM rainbow when in reality 80% of the value is driven by 20% of a solution’s functional scope. How can this “20%” be found before time and money are wasted.  Join Martin van der Roest at next week’s webinar and learn how to equip yourself with proven strategies that emphasize the importance data cohesion and process automation (figure 1) as foundational pieces of a PLM solution.   Using this approach will help identify the “20%” and produce a solutions that scales and extends value throughout the enterprise.

What will I learn in this webinar?

  • Quantitatively diagnose my organization’s strengths and weaknesses as it relates to PLM

  • Identify where to create my “PLM beachhead” with multi-variable PLM value matrices

  • How to apply the Pareto Principle to PLM evaluations and implementations

  • How to incrementally build on small “wins” to create a foundation for enterprise-wide value

Register for the webinar here


Kicking Off 2016 Has Been an Economic Cage-Rattler

Doing more-for-less has taken on a new sense of urgency

January 2016 has gotten off to a rough start for the global markets.  Manufacturers already face the pressures of competition, innovation, compliance, liability, distributed supply chains and more.  But, this year’s start has thrown in uncertainty with a dash of volatility.

No doubt this has prompted internal discussions for many businesses about what all this may mean for the coming year and how best to respond.

A tried and true response is “doing more for less.”  The stark reality is that a majority of the product-related data and processes across enterprises are still using manual steps, paper, email, Excel, Lotus Notes, DropBox, FTP and homegrown systems.  Do they work?  Of course, but at the downstream costs of corrective actions that are not contributing to the do-more-for-less mantra.  In fact, the cost of these intercessions exceeds the cost of making changes that drive lasting efficiencies.

We talk to 10s of companies every month.  We hear the confessionals.  Comments along the lines of …

  • “Our manual change process needs help.”

  • “Our profits are wiped out because installation efforts take longer, drive up the cost of scrap and rework and extend receivables.”

  • “We don’t have the visibility we need” (Code words for “things are out of control.”)

That’s what we are tackling in this issue… practical steps to “doing more for less.”

We are also introducing a new section called “What would we do?”  This would be a great place to chime in if you have some thoughts and/or experiences to share.

The “promise of PLM” has never taken on a more relevant tone.  And part of that promise is simply “doing more for less.” 


Laird Selects Aras to Streamline Global Product Development

Based on Press Release of October 7, 2015

Laird, a manufacturer of complex RF Systems, announced that they have chosen Aras Innovator PLM to standardize their product development processes across seven (7) business units.

This sounds like a “process” synchronization initiative which parallels a couple of opportunities we are working on where organizations want all of their business units “singing off the same song sheet”.  This reinforces that once a process is shown to work, it needs to be replicated.  In other words, PLM is very much about facilitating design, engineering and manufacturing processes.

The Aras Innovator platform will be used to streamline Laird’s global product development and improve product visibility.  Processes to be supported include product development, change management, and project management across seven business units worldwide.  Applications to be integrated will be NX, Solidworks, Altium ECAD, and Laird’s ERP system. 

For more information, the press release can be read here

The Science & Business of Engineering

Keeping an eye on what ultimately drives the business

Peter Schroer, the Aras CEO and Founder, recently penned a compelling article that contrasts the irony that exists for many manufacturers today. He notes that sophisticated design technologies are used for 3D CAD, analysis and simulation, and DMU (digital mock-up) work. Yet, to manage the resulting data, manual steps, paper, email, Excel, Lotus Notes, DropBox, FTP, and homegrown systems are used.

He refers to these design technologies as the "science of engineering." He further states, "Leaving other critical processes, including software, electronics, requirements, process planning, technical publications and quality – the "business of engineering" –  is disconnected and underserved." It's the contrast between the "science of engineering and the "business of engineering."

Moreover, the business of engineering is creating profitable products. Product lifecycle management (PLM) is about the business of engineering. Still, other roles and tasks are required to produce profitable products: requirements management, configuration and change management, manufacturing, quality, supply chain, packaging, logistics, and field support.

In the last issue of the Practical PLM Newsletter, we talked about the value of PLM. Our contention is that ultimately this value shows up on the company's P&L. Peter reinforces the theme by cutting to the chase and stressing the importance of producing profitable products. And, that's where PLM comes in.

He closes out the article with the thought that it's imperative for manufacturers to rethink their PLM strategy and consider how to impact the business of engineering. As he emphasized, “We need to replace all the chaos with a platform that efficiently supports the new business requirements."

Imagine what could be done if the same level of effort and attention that has been applied to the science of engineering, would be directed to the business of engineering.


How Do You Get Senior Management Buy-in

Top down support is vital to driving a PLM strategy

We recently talked to an individual in a mid-management position who is seeing the inefficiencies caused by inadequate document management and change controls.  He’s on the hook for a portion of these processes, but relies on others to participate, and that is not happening.

He asked, “Can PLM help us solve these issues?” 

The short answer is “yes and no.”  Yes, PLM is the vehicle to establish repeatable processes.  Still, senior management support is critical.  Without executive sponsorship, a PLM strategy is unlikely to succeed.

PLM inherently touches multiple departments and areas of responsibility.  It can start at sales, but at a minimum will involve engineering, planning, production and segments of manufacturing.  If your responsibilities are in engineering, then getting other departments to buy-in can be challenging.  Executive sponsorship cuts across these boundaries.

So, the real question is “how do I get the bosses to buy-in?”  The short answer is, in part, by identifying the business values at the P&L level.

PLM values can be tied to one or all of three areas on the P&L: revenues, cost of goods sold (CoGs) and overhead.  Thus, doing more for less will most likely be found in CoGs and overhead.

So, identifying inefficiencies in these two profit centers is the place to start.  The value proposition might be as simple as stating, “a repeatable change control process will cut CoGs by 3% in the first year.” 

We would love to hear from you – and to share with others – the successful approaches you may have taken that broke the logjam.


Extend Aras Innovator to CAD Workgroups

Connect various CAD applications and support workgroup operations

As much as we like to talk about all the wonderful things you can do with Aras Innovator as a PLM solution, it can easily be used as a product data management (PDM) platform to manage CAD data.

Recognizing this need, Aras developed best-in-class PDM functionality inside Aras Innovator.  You can effectively manage all your CAD data and share this across the business.

To support this, Aras offers an open, CAD-neutral environment for developing packaged and custom integrations.  It is used by various CAD Connector partners as the basis of their Connector products and can be used by customers or partners to develop custom PDM solutions.

Below are highlights of the important components of the CAD Integration Platform.

CAD Document ItemType

It all starts with the CAD Document, an ItemType designed to manage CAD data in the most efficient way possible.  Since I've never met a CAD engineer who thought their PDM system was fast enough, I know efficiency matters.  CAD Documents are quite different from regular Documents.  Key elements of the CAD Document ItemType are the following.

  • CAD Structure - Because CAD Documents are used to manage CAD assemblies, they need to have the ability to form structures. The CAD Structure relationship works much like the Part BOM, with one critical difference - defined as "Hard Fixed" rather than "Float." The reason for this is to retain the history of how the model was stored from CAD and, if subordinate levels float, that history is lost. The floated structure can still be extracted when needed using our Structure Extraction Methods - see below.
  • File Management - Because CAD Documents are primarily used through automation with CAD Connectors Aras chose to implement file handling in a specific way, using Properties of type Item (with File as the ItemType), rather than a generic CAD File relationship. By default, we have "native_file" and "viewable_file," but this can be extended to add other file properties like exchange files. Handling files as properties simplifies file manipulation, improves performance and allows the files to be directly visible on relationships in the web client.
  • Part CAD Relationship - CAD Connectors offer the ability to assign CAD Documents to Parts (which can drive numbering behavior), and to automate the update of the Part BOM based on CAD Document structure. Aras added special logic to the Part CAD relationship to support overall version-independent assignment between a CAD Document and a Part, in addition to version-specific links.
  • Change Affected Item - While often used in conjunction with Parts, CAD Documents need also to be able to stand-alone to support true PDM. Unlike some Aras competitors, a CAD Document is revisable either manually or on a change order, on an equal basis with Parts. So, you can implement a purely CAD-based change process, or one that involves both CAD and Parts.

Structure Extraction Methods

Since CAD document structures get large and complex, it's critical for good PDM performance to be able to extract quickly information from these structures.  There are three AML-based method calls that are purpose-built for this task, and optimized for large CAD structures.

  • PE_GetResolvedStructure - Returns all CAD documents within the structure of a given CAD document, based on three resolutions: As Saved (default fixed structure), Latest Released, or Current (commonly used to retrieve the latest work-in-progress structure).
  • PE_GetResolvedParents - Returns the where-used parent CAD documents of a given CAD document, again based on the three resolutions.
  • PE_GetRelatedParts - Returns all Part items related to the given CAD document, either version-specific or using our special version-independent assignment logic.

File Management APIs

PDM requires high-performance file management, both regarding file quantity and file size.  Aras has developed two excellent APIs within IOM for managing CAD file transmission on both upload and download from the file server.

  • CheckinManager - Provides multi-threaded file upload to the Aras file vault, in either synchronous or asynchronous mode. Includes conflict detection to determine the ability for the user to lock the necessary items that will contain the files being uploaded.
  • CheckoutManager - Provides multi-threaded file download from the Aras file vault, in either synchronous or asynchronous mode.

These API calls work seamlessly with Aras distributed file vaults to provide the best possible file performance for CAD data management on both LAN and WAN.

Aras subscribers can get more in the Aras KnowledgeBase (Aras KB) located in the Subscriber Portal at


Upcoming Webinar

Creating a “PLM Beachhead” That Drives 80% of the Value with 20% of the Effort Business

February 19th, 2016 at 11:30 am PST – Register Here

Industry analysts and pundits continue to propose that PLM is entering a “Golden Age.”  When one considers the factors at play such as globalization, platformization, IoT, interdependent supply chains, the digitization of data, cross-functional business automation, regulatory pressure and the increasingly impatient consumer, just to name a few, it does seem to be a perfect convergence for PLM.

The need for competitiveness and innovation (that is sustainable) has never been greater. But, if the value of PLM is so great and the pundits are right, why is PLM underutilized by most organizations?  Simply put, the promise of PLM can be intimidating and getting started is half the battle.

Just because PLM can do everything, doesn’t mean is should … especially when starting out.  Far too many consultants and service providers are happy to help you find the end of the PLM rainbow when in reality 80% of the value is created by implementing 20% of a solution’s functional elements.

How can this 20% be found for corrective action before time and money are wasted?  Join Martin van der Roest to equip yourself to be strategic and intentional about where you create your company’s “PLM beachhead” while establishing a foundation that will extend value throughout the enterprise.

Join us … register here.

ACE 2016

Aras Customer Event, Detroit, MI - March 15 - 17, 2016

Join the Aras community on March 15 - 17 for ACE 2016 at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center.  ACE 2016 is a great place to network with Aras users and partners, hear about next generation PLM strategies, see the latest solutions and find out what Aras has in store for the future.  For more information, check it out here.

End of Newsletter
Thank You for Reading

This Practical PLM newsletter is authored and edited by The vdR Group, Inc. (vdR) along with contributions from selected partners.  It is scheduled to be published the second Tuesday of every month.  Delivery dates may vary depending on holidays.

Your editors are Martin van der Roest and Dick Bourke.  Your comments/questions are welcome and can be directed to or  If applicable, we will respond in a following newsletter. 

Our mission is to help engineering/manufacturing companies achieve the promise of product lifecycle management (PLM).  We do this by exploring practical action steps that drive business value and that yield measurable revenue contributions and reduced expenses.

PLM is a combination of business strategies, best practices and technology.  Hence, this monthly newsletter looks at business drivers, processes, along with considerations for various technologies.

The Aras PLM platform is a cornerstone of this trifecta.  Aras is the fast growing PLM vendor today.  The vdR Group is a full-service partner of Aras.

Copyright © 2016 The vdR Group, Inc., All rights reserved.

All trademarks belong to their respective holders.  Content, responses and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Aras.

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