Aras just announced an open source PLM solution for SharePoint, so I caught up with Peter Schroer (our CEO) to find out more about it, how it works and who should be excited about it. Here’s what Peter had to say…
Jen: What exactly is the SharePoint Collaborative Product Develop (CPD) solution?
Peter: The short answer is it’s PLM inside SharePoint. Microsoft spearheaded the development because a lot of global companies have standardized on SharePoint and were asking if they could use SharePoint as their PLM system. At the time, the answer was no. So Microsoft got together with a number of partners, including Aras, to show that SharePoint could be used for global PLM processes. The goal was to enable users across the enterprise and supply chain to securely access PLM data and act upon it with PLM functionality via SharePoint.
Jen: How’d you do it?
Peter: We literally took SharePoint and merged Aras and Actify into the infrastructure, leveraging what SharePoint does best, the usability, collaboration, business intelligence, and giving it the ability to handle complex BOM structures and configuration management, sophisticated business process management workflows for engineering change, 3D visualization and the other things needed for PLM.
And together with Microsoft we did this as open source so that the SharePoint code, Web parts, data model, templates, business rules and other items are freely available for everyone. This solution can be implemented, used, customized and extended as needed. The solution project is called SharePoint PLM and it’s on Microsoft’s Codeplex open source site at http://www.codeplex.com/plm
Jen: So the collaboration was a success?
Peter: Absolutely. Actually, I don’t think Microsoft is giving themselves enough credit for what’s been accomplished. Not only has SharePoint been enabled as a PLM portal with a Silverlight 3D CAD viewer, they’ve shown that with the inclusion of Aras tables, relationships, lifecycle & workflow engine, web services, and configuration business rules SharePoint can be a full enterprise-scale PLM system for complex PLM processes. It’s the first time this has been possible.
Jen: Why would a company want to use SharePoint for PLM?
Peter: Nearly every large company has invested in PLM and/or PDM. Most actively use a variety of products and they’ve got even more data stored in legacy and discontinued systems. For reasons such as licensing costs and the complexities of customization, they can’t get the functionality of these PDM / PLM products to the users across the enterprise and supply chain who need access to the data stored inside them. Many of these companies have standardized on SharePoint for a lot of applications in the company and those 10,000+ users already use it every day. Including PLM / PDM in SharePoint is a logical approach and, as I said, we’ve achieved this and a lot more.
It also gives you the ability to pick off strategic processes where lots of people need to use PLM without having to start from scratch or go through a long rip and replace project. For example, you can use SharePoint for just the enterprise-wide engineering change where people need to edit, review and approve products. Everyone gets the simple SharePoint screens and 3D visualization while the executives get visibility, status, costing and more with dashboards and scorecards. And the company saves a bundle on PLM licenses in the process.
Jen: What kind of company would want to check out SharePoint PLM?
Peter: It’s ideal for large global enterprises that have a company-wide SharePoint initiative and want to incorporate PLM into it. The capabilities and processes apply across industries like aerospace, automotive, high tech, pharmaceutical and government and the value proposition skyrockets when you get into large user counts.
Jen: Does it matter if the company already has a PLM or PDM system?
Peter: Nope. The SharePoint solution will work with whatever they’ve got and if they don’t have a PLM system already or are looking to consolidate this can be their PLM solution, replacing their legacy PLM systems company-wide.
In fact, as I pointed out before, it doesn’t have to be an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. There’s a long standing PLM approach called Promote and Control that can be an ideal way for large enterprises with multiple different PLM / PDM systems. The idea is that you don’t have to have one big monolithic PLM / PDM system. By design you leave in place the existing workgroup level PDM systems which every company has because they tend to be CAD specific. So, your electrical engineers have one, each mechanical tool has their own PDM file manager, etc. All of those PDMs are used for the daily work before files and EBOMs are released, and then information is ‘promoted’ to a single PLM backbone for control.
In this case, Aras is the PLM backbone inside SharePoint. We call it Promote & Control because data is literally passed in real-time from the local PLM/PDM to the enterprise PLM backbone where SharePoint takes over, and now tens of thousands of users use that data in PLM process with full functionality. And, the financial benefit of this approach is that you don’t need to buy PLM licenses for every single person in the company to do it. This approach can reduce your enterprise PLM budget by over 60%.
Jen: What else should potential users know?
Peter: I should probably make it clear that just because the SharePoint PLM solution is freely available open source, there are still infrastructure products that are needed to operate the system. It’s an enterprise software system that uses a database in a server environment, in this case Microsoft SQL with Windows Server and SharePoint of course along with Aras and Actify. Since most global enterprises already have what’s called an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft which is an “all you can eat” contract, they probably already own everything they need and since Aras is also open source there’s no licenses to buy from us either. And like any enterprise software initiative, your IT people will be the ones to implement it. Large companies have Microsoft skilled staffs to do this and if you need help you can contact Razorleaf which is the systems integration partner that worked on the project.
To learn more or to download the solution visit www.codeplex.com/plm
Tue, Sep 28 2010 7:05 AM