Social Media Aided CAD

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  The file lock, unlock and out-of-date pop-up notifications (MS Office style) seem like they can be extremely useful.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:

12 thoughts on “Social Media Aided CAD

  1. You probably need someone from PTC to say for sure but It looks like they are just using Microsoft’s communicator for chat. Its not a new chat program.

    It is some interesting integration.

    Mark

  2. Nice write up on the use of social computing for product development! As it relates to enabling social media technology for product development, PTC is actually taking a much broader view and embedding social computing tools inside all of its applications. However, this is being done in the context of a company’s overall enterprise collaboration software, such as, SharePoint. This is powerful because it will leverage your profile that already exists at the enterprise level (benefit: you only need 1 social profile – not one for your PLM, one for ERP, MRP, etc, etc.) Also, the product knowledge captured in wikis, blogs, etc. become searchable content across the enterprise to really enable reuse, knowledge sharing, etc. This same approach is also being taken with instant messaging inside of the product development environment. The PTC applications are not creating yet another IM system, they are simply leveraging the Office Communications Server that is already deployed across a company’s enterprise. Look for more social product development software coming from PTC very soon.

  3. “Collaboration” has been this elusive holy grail for the past 10 or 15 years. Windchill is a great example of a CAD company losing focus on what it does, and chasing the phantom grail. Where is Pro/E as a product now? Pretty much fallen off the map. It’s not helpful to users when the CAD company loses its focus like that. If I want an IM, I can get one of those for free, I don’t have to spend thousands of dollars per user to get it. Same with email. If people valued the functionality in 3D Instant Website, they would be using it rather than ignoring it.

    I understand the value of engineering communication and in larger projects of preserving that communication to document the design process, but I don’t need my geometry creation tool to become so focussed on communication and meta data (which are secondary mission at best) that they forget their primary mission. Geometry creation is not a “solved problem”.

    I also guess I don’t get why it seems necessary to take an existing product like PD/LM and rebrand it with trendy words like “social”, it is the same old software, and honestly, Facebook doesn’t improve my designs. Social is just the drop in buzzword of the moment replacement for collaboration. Equally empty, equally pointless.

    I think I’m better able to communicate with separate tools that I can choose based on how they work. Why would I choose a CAD tool based on how that company does communication? or vice versa? Lumping all this functionality together doesn’t make sense, because you just wind up with fewer options rather than a suite of tools each chosen based on merit and functionality.

  4. Matt,

    I was leary of some of this too. However, within the context of an engineering department, I’m finding that requests for this sort of social media based communication are coming from various sources. The ability to have more than one person editing a single model as the same time is another feature I hope to comment on in the future.

  5. Stan,

    I plan on covering more details about the use of Social Media in engineering over time. This is just a first shot. I hope to have something on Evonia V6’s solutions within a couple of months.

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