Companies like Saleforce.com are changing the very nature of business communications by embedding social media technology within their products (Chatter). There are engineering software companies that also understand the value of this new media and how to use it within CAD and PDM applications. Communication between collaborating engineers doesn’t have to be limited to face-to-face or phone conversations, as these methods are not always practical.
Though seemingly not as developed as solutions from Salesforce.com, PTC (maker of Pro Engineer and Windchill) is offering a “repackage” of social-networking features as part of a product development system, termed Social Product Development. This takes several forms under the ProductPoint label. Included in their set of solutions is a wiki style design log and a chat application which may increase communication between engineering collaborators.
The model-wiki function offered by PTC in ProductPoint is a critical idea. At first glance, there doesn’t seem like much of a difference between it and SolidWorks’ Design Journal. However, the ability to access the model-wiki from the PLM environment is a big bonus that takes design collaboration to new levels that are becoming increasing important in the engineering environment. There can still be drawbacks to this approach. Seriously, to have true wiki functionality would require a lot of crazy coding within the wiki. The PTC model-wiki strikes a good next-step to improve design collaboration.
The instant message functionality seems a bit redundant. There are hundreds of chat programs now available. I’m left wondering if yet another one is necessary and if it is really all that useful to have it embedded inside of my CAD application.
Even still, there is something else compelling about bringing social product development into product design. The file lock, unlock and out-of-date pop-up notifications (MS Office style) seem like they can be extremely useful. Another impressive development is the collaboration workspace. The PTC promotional video is worth a look to get a sense of how they’ve implemented these concepts within the design process: