Posted By Christine Longwell

I finally had a chance to spend some quality, one-on-one time with the Infinite Z this past week.  Not the first time I got my hands on the stereoscopic glasses or the 3D stylus, but I notice a distinctly better user experience each time.

While it's fun to see grown men giggling like schoolgirls the first time they see the 3D images and interact with the objects, the question is always "but how can you use it?"  It's a classic chicken or the egg scenario where the technology requires the development of specific applications, but the applications rely on the technology to create value.  To a lesser extent, the same questions were asked about the iPad when it came out.  "Sure, you can touch it, and that's cool.  But, what does it do that is revolutionary?"

My opinion is that time will tell.  The technology is available, and it is up to the application developers to make use of it.  The Apple Ap store didn't fill up until the iPhone had been released for some time, and until then the iPhone had only limited value. 

Ironically, the person least impressed by the technology was my 8 year old friend at work.  He picked up the glasses, took the stylus, and interacted  as if objects were actually on the desktop.  No coaching needed.  It was natural.  On the other hand, several of the older design professionals took some time to realize that this is more than a digital drawing board, and they needed to adjust to the concept of depth and rotation.

The Z

Personally, if I ever lose my sanity again and decide to build a custom house I would hope that this type of technology would be available to me as a review feature.  It would have seriously helped to avoid a few costly mistakes.   

I could also see the application in a high end retail environment.  The level of realism is so great that I could see retailers reducing their physical inventory by augmenting a showroom with a digital catalogue. 

So, aside from being wicked cool, virtual reality is a technology that is ready for an application.  I hope to see more in San Diego in a few weeks.



Posted By Christine Longwell

“Rise and shine, everybody. Huh? Zak? Marshall?
Bertie? Uncle Fungus?
Where is everybody? Come on, guys, we're gonna miss the migration.”



- Syd the Sloth from Ice Age


Have you ever noticed that when it actually comes time to migrate your CAD data, you wake up one morning all alone? On one hand, it’s your data. You made it. You allowed it to grow organically into the amorphous amoeba, or set of amoebas, it has become. The structure, integrity, and complexity of the data set is a direct result of a company’s historical design process. This is always the wildcard in the time, complexity, and cost if a successful integration. Realistically, asking a PLM vendor to tell you if your data is a mess is like asking a hospital photographer if your baby is ugly. Unfortunately it is their place to point out inconsistencies, poor practices, and lapses in data discipline. These data disciplines may not have even made strategic sense until you have gone to the precipice of “implementing a system”.

A realistic data migration plan requires a team effort. It needs experts in the actual data as well as independent data experts that know how this type of information is handled in the target system. Given a certain number of records, and qualifying and quantifying those errors will lead to a realistic action plan for sterilizing the data before it is fed to your new system. No matter how sweet that mountain stream looks, it’s still a good idea to use a trusted filtration system... 
A good, lightweight version of one of these audits can be found from Razorleaf…

On the other hand, even with the best migration plan, you will never realize exactly what you have stepped into until you’re knee deep. This is where pilot projects, development environments, and staged deployments are crucial. As a general rule, product development cannot stop to accommodate data cleaning and, this is a great opportunity to leverage vendors. 

A few ideas I have to continue this thought in the future are:
·         Fix it up front, or just load the crap?
·         Who is going to use this stuff anyway?
·         Establishing a Realistic Data Migration Plan
·         What’s in a name? “Files” vs. “Items”
·         Data structures… “one of these things is not like the other one”
Posted By Christine Longwell
With the start of affordable 3D CAD applications on the desktop there was a lot of talk about using digital information at end use manufacturing. It was exciting. The term “the paperless shop floor” was coined and the benefits were naively touted despite the fact that the technology wasn’t quite there.
While it was true that the documents could be viewed digitally, and even in some cases marked up, but there wasn’t a comprehensive deployment plan in place to do everything that paper provides now. So I guess the question is: Why do we love paper? 
Over the years I have worked with top notch manufacturing associates, and I asked a few of them what the love affair with paper is all about. At a start up, high tech manufacturing facility, these folks represent a dynamic new type of workforce. While it’s natural for people to resist change, this group is quick to adopt new methods, incessantly looks for process improvements, and is committed to develop the highest quality manufacturing solution. Here are a few allegorical scenarios about paper on the floor.
Posted By Christine Longwell
·        Ease of Mark-up: I believe in Daniel Pink’s assertation that today’s workforce is driven by providing a quality output. As such, manufacturing operators often go out of their way to make notations about the most successful way to perform operations and propagate those ideas. Relying on strictly digital sources limits the manufacturing operator’s capacity to pass on lessons they have learned and mitigates their essential contribution to the process.
·        Portability: You can’t take a computer terminal with you. Computers are limited in many shops, and in most cases they are stationary. Printed paper drawings allow users to take the information with them to perform tasks in areas that are inconvenient to the grid.  
·        Availability: A shop may have one computer to many technicians, and a resource allocation issue is always eminent. Clear direction for each individual needs to be addressed for every shift in order for digital deployment to be successful. A desirable workforce that WANTS to work is hesitant to wait around for documentation, and will proceed with information that was provided previously.  
·        The “Check off” factor: Frankly, it can be hard to make impromptu marks on digital documents. In the scenario of an electronics technician manually terminating an electrical harness, he will naturally want to check off the leads as he addresses them. The same idea applies to torque specifications, and incoming quality documentation. 
Posted By Christine Longwell
It is my pragmatic opinion that a digital shop floor is an all-or-nothing proposition. If you provide digital documentation, you must provide an avenue for input from the manufacturing personnel. If you provide an input from manufacturing personnel, you must then provide a status update on the input. At the end of the day, engineers would have to spend more time on the floor to anticipate operator’s needs and realign their output to match it. 
Mobile PLM is certainly a stepping stone towards a digital shop floor. Compared to laptop computers, mobile devices have superior battery life, and are extremely portable, affordable, and robust.   However, there are issues left to be considered by vendors. Some technologies focus on the BOM and the items, and others focus on the digital rendering. None that I have seen have an avenue for feedback.
It seems that the digital shop may be looming, but there continues to be a tangible disconnect. To close this gap, Engineering and Manufacturing will have to develop their process in synchronicity and information will have to flow freely in both directions. Now that the technology is in view, it may be time to look at the cultural inhibitors. 



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Christine Lo...
Greenville SC


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