A Review of My Aras Innovator Training Experience

By Martin van der Roest

We have been an Aras PLM Software Partner for several years.  During the last year we have taken a more active role in business development and sales activities.  This is one of the key areas that I have been involved in.

I am very familiar with PLM solutions and relational data base management systems (RDBS).  RDBS’ have been basis for much of our work since the company got underway 30 years ago.  And over those years we have been involved with Autodesk’s Work Center, Motiva, SmarTeam, MatrixOne, Autodesk Vault, and through integrations touched numerous other PLM and even ERP type of solutions. 

During the first several years of the company, I actually developed software solutions using a Pick System derivative called Revelation.  That was during the DOS days.  Since then, I have not seen a similar architecture.  It was a very holistically designed solution.  If you can imagine, the basic building blocks were used to build themselves and that in turn was used to build extended capabilities.  It was a clean and organic platform that made designing and configuring solutions enjoyable. 

Although I have migrated out of the development role, I have not seen anything close to that with the exception of perhaps MatrixOne about fifteen years ago.  It has confounded me a bit to think that someone has not stepped up to that kind of an organic design concept.  As we were getting started with Aras several years ago I began to hear from the developers that Aras seemed to be different and had parallels to this idea of an atomic level capability.

Because of my role, I decided that it is probably time for me to jump in a bit deeper.  In fact, I wouldn’t mind being able to demonstrate the solution as needed.   So I signed up for Aras’s one week training.  I just returned from taking the class in Detroit last week (January 11th thru the 15th).

As a side bar note, Bob Ellis did the training class.  Bob has been in the industry for a couple of decades and has been doing curriculum and training development.  He did a fantastic job.  Not only did he do a great job of conducting the class but the materials and resources he developed and provided were excellent. 

The class started with the whole premise that everything in Aras Innovator is what’s called an “item.”  Wow, this seemed to resonate with my earlier experiences of the so called “data dictionary” in the Pick environment.  The rest of the class was only a reaffirmation of that concept, and completely reinforced the flexibility and customizing capabilities of the Aras Innovator solution.

I have always felt that a well-designed platform could be applied to many other applications and industries … not just PLM.  In fact, we did that earlier on with the Pick solution.  We used it for our original drawing management solution as well as for a CRM application and royalty management for the film industry to name a few.  In-fact a little known secret is that the Pick platform was estimated to be used by more people than any other platform in the software application market.  Admittedly, this statistic is probably a decade old, but none the less speaks to its flexibility and power.

Well that’s what I saw coming out of training.  Frankly it got me stoked about the opportunities and possibilities with the solution.  Yes, there are several things that are out of the box and ready to go, specifically for product engineering and project management type of applications.  This includes things like the bill of materials, change control and configuration management.  Those modules represent what I would call significant “solution accelerators.” 

As we all know, manufacturers each have their own nuances, cultural influences, uniqueness of industry segment, etc.  And so flexibility and the ability to adapt to the needs of the business are critical.  Beyond that, once you get things into place, the business demands, competition, market conditions etc., drive change.  Change is inevitable and further demands that anything being used needs to be flexible enough beyond the original installation and setup. 

And that’s what I think makes the Aras Innovator Platform the most exciting data/process oriented solution on the market today!  I know that’s a bold statement, but it’s all been evidenced by the growing adoption of Aras and the fact that is has displaced traditional players.  These companies have done their due diligence, invested and have stood up capabilities that they haven’t been able to do before.  I am just a late comer to getting behind the megaphone.

I have been in enough sales presentations to know that when I hear someone say, “yes, it can be done, it is all possible”, my “over-promise” alert goes off.  Of course it can probably be done, if you have the time and money to support the science project you about to get into.  Well, there’s the significant difference I see with the Aras Innovator Platform.  You can in fact be able to say “yes” with confidence because of its architecture.  Much can be done by throwing switches in the solutions which do not require a line of code.  And of course, code can easily be folded into the solution which has an XML language construct. 

So how to share the good news?  Well, I think in today’s climate there are a lot of people from “Missouri”.  Meaning people want to see and experience the solution for themselves.  I think getting relevant contextualized demonstrations and even functionality videos in front of folks will be important and part of the story.  The good news is Aras has done that very well. 

So my key take away is that I’m as confident as ever, that an organization can’t go wrong with the platform.  They will be able to pursue what we’ve been calling the promise of PLM in an economic and efficient manner.  I am excited about being armed with this deeper level of understanding and sharing the vision with others.