PLM Software Eases Sharing Data Across Disparate Systems - InformationWeek

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PLM Software Eases Sharing Data Across Disparate Systems

CoCreate also now offers its PLM software on a subscription licensing basis.

CoCreate Software GmbH, which recently announced the latest version of its OneSpace.net 2005 software, also now has announced plans to make the software available via a subscription license. Subscriptions start at $438.

Among its capabilities, the latest version of the software leverages XML Web services and Microsoft's InfoPath information-gathering and -management software to link project-relevant data from a source in any enterprise system via the OneSpace.net 2005 workspace. The software also lets team members access the most up-to-date version of project data through Web folders, access team projects through Windows Explorer, and open and save files directly from applications such as Microsoft Office Suite that support Web folders.

Fisher Controls International LLC, a division of Emerson Process Management that delivers control valves, regulators, instrumentation, and performance services to the process-control industry, has been a user of CoCreate's OneSpace.net platform to improve its global communication and to better manage its projects for years.

Fisher has engineering centers in North America, Europe, Japan, China, Singapore, and India, as well as manufacturing plants in North America, South America, Europe, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, China, and Japan. More than half of the company's business is conducted outside the U.S.

"The big challenge for us is being connected to all our global locations and communicating information across time zones and language barriers," says Danny Nelson, director of global technology at the Fisher Valve Division. For Fisher, having an effective product-life-cycle-management (PLM) system is essential for achieving global connectivity. The Web-based platform supports all of Fisher's manufacturing and engineering documents and team project data, as well as 3-D graphics and CAD files. Using this online project data-management and team-collaboration software, Fisher's engineers, suppliers, customers, and experts can share, revise, and approve product designs in real time.

Nelson says all Fisher manufacturing plants and engineering centers use the same engineering standards, drafting practices, and documentation practices, which are loaded into OneSpace.net's work manager environment and linked for global availability. In the past, Fisher used net-meeting tools to work on product development, but communicating via E-mail, through screen shots, teleconferences, and sharing large files and high-fidelity images, often presented problems for Fisher. "Net meetings worked when sharing PowerPoint and Word documents, but it limited us in sharing CAD information," says Nelson. "OneSpace.net has allowed us to share CAD information globally and to collaborate with suppliers overseas on product design."

PLM software lets businesses intelligently share information from disparate tools in the different silos within a company and across companies, says analyst Ken Versprille of Collaborative Product Development Associates LLC, an independent technology research and consulting firm. "One of the biggest struggles of teaming is sharing data across different groups within a company," says Versprille. "Previous technology was weak in providing those kinds of data-sharing tools, but vendors like CoCreate have recognized this and are trying to supply technical capabilities to ease the pain that these end users are feeling."

OneSpace.net's ability to synchronize with enterprise systems is an important PLM capability, Versprille says. According to Nelson, OneSpace.net has been successfully integrated with Fisher's document-distribution systems, which allows the company's manufacturing locations to access engineering documentation online. In addition, Fisher is now embarking on an Oracle implementation and is looking to couple the information from OneSpace.net with the Oracle suite, he says.

ARC Advisory Group Analyst John Moore says the PLM market revenue is projected to be $5.8 billion for 2004, and is expected to grow to more than $9 billion by 2008. "What's interesting about CoCreate is that they're offering a Web-based, hosted solution at a fairly low price point," he says. "It allows companies to get into this collaboration at fairly low risk to themselves as compared to some of the more advanced solutions on the market today, which can be pretty expensive."

Moore says CoCreate is serving a unique need in the PLM market by offering a platform that's designed to allow collaboration across different groups of people by taking advantage of Microsoft technology. Moore notes that this isn't a common feature among the PLM systems available today.

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