EXALEAD OnePart: More than Just Search
In the past two decades, many enterprise systems have sought to address part reuse. We’ve had supplier management systems. We’ve had part categorization systems. We’ve had shape-based search. Yet the problem seems to still persist. Engineers, pressed for time, create new CAD models and release them as part of new design projects. Part numbers proliferate. Opportunities for part number reduction sail by. Opportunities for larger volume discounts with suppliers slip away. The enterprise groans.
When I saw the launch of the EXALEAD OnePart solution launched by Dassault Systèmes, I was equal parts hopeful and reticent. Would this be a real solution or just another failed solution? In the end, I was surprised at the breadth of the solution. I was also interested to see it might solve another problem too. Now, let’s get started.
EXALEAD OnePart: Capabilities Provided
This is actually an important place to start. EXALEAD OnePart isn’t just a search engine. Dassault Systèmes has incorporated other technologies into this solution. The first, and probably most important step, is that OnePart connects to all of the enterprise systems that might have any information about parts in it.
The key here is that, once connected to all of these other enterprise systems, the OnePart system has access to all of the right information across the company. And that’s a critical first step.
The next important step, of course, is how readily can users find part relevant information. Let’s look at that.
Obviously text-based search is part of this solution. As well it should be. However, the scope here is what becomes relevant. Your search now is done across all of the enterprise systems at one time. That could include ERP and PLM as mentioned before, but also other systems like purchasing systems, service logs systems and much more. Each might have a hint or clue that could be key to finding that part you know is there, but has traditionally eluded you.
Here is where it gets interesting. Dassault Systèmes hasn’t just dumped their shape search capabilities into a PDM or PLM system. They’ve made it part of this system so it can be used more broadly. That means once you connect OnePart to the many different data management solutions across your company… ahem, you know who you are… then that shape search can index those designs as well.
Finding the right information, however, is only part of the activity. Being able to take action is also critically important.
The Traditional Value: Increasing the Reuse of Existing Parts
Of course, the traditional value lies in reusing existing parts. This helps the business from the perspective of lowering the cost of developing new products. However, what I found compelling lies in the implications for engineers.
The core of this point comes from a newly released Lifecycle Insight’s resource titled The Increasing Volatility of Engineering Work. Here’s the key takeaway.
Product issues that proceed past design release turn into full-blown problems downstream. Then they return to engineering as fire drills and design rework. This affects the morale of the organization. It also affects the quality of new design work. Engineering leaders must find a way to minimize disruptive design rework.
This solution helps in this regard by allowing engineers to reuse more existing parts than creating new ones. Why does that decrease the volatility of their work? Existing parts often don’t need to be tested or simulated. They have often already been sourced or made in a production environments. Essentially, they are a known quantity that reduces the risk associated with new development.
The Non-Traditional Value: The Engineering Mashup
That’s not all I see in this solution. Way back in 2011, I wrote a post titled What is the Killer App for the Modern Engineer? In it, I outlined what was then an unsolved problem.
Another extremely challenging aspect of an engineer’s job is dealing with all of the enterprise systems across a product’s lifecycle. Most likely, design artifacts are managed within PDM or PLM. Released product records exist in Enterprise Resource and Planning (ERP) systems. Individual supplier and supply chain network information is captured in Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) and Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems. Customer data resides in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The list could go on and on. The important point though is that the engineer needs to access information in any and all of these systems to lead the day-to-day company wide effort to resolve product issues. The frequent means to doing that is to go find someone with access or have the engineer maintain 10 different login identities, which is unreasonable.
Mashup technologies, as it was described then, seemed like a reasonable solution.
Essentially, a mashup could provide an engineer the capability to access, control and change data and information within all of these systems as appropriate and necessary. But while this type of technology seems to offer some real promise, it has been available for some time but hasn’t yet been adopted at high rates.
And that’s another place where I see OnePart offering some value. Because it is connected to all of these other systems and because it can easily find and present such information, engineers could use it to make critical decisions in the product development process. That goes far beyond part reuse.