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Combining technologies can lead to solutions - Conference expands on EDMS and PDM

Several things impressed us at Kalthoff Spring '98. First, we liked the continuing emphasis by solutions providers that engineering document management systems (EDMS) and product document management (PDM), if properly leveraged toward knowledge management, can be more than a technological solution. Second, we saw the growing numbers of users with successful EDMS and PDM implementations as an indication of increasingly stable product offerings with all the associated increased benefits of a maturing solution. And, third, we found that, even for those of us who long for more robust products and who sometimes accuse developers of moving too slowly, announcements occasionally excite us because of their potential impact on the market.

Those who "get it"

Throughout the conference, whether in educational sessions or when meeting with solution providers or users, we heard a resounding theme: that perhaps the most profound opportunity offered by these implementations is in the potential to integrate technological, process, and even cultural improvement within the organization. We wondered, "Do these people understand the message of knowledge management?"

Upon post-conference review, the answer is, "Not yet!" The user groups understand KM somewhat better than the solution providers do. It appears that users are applying more effort prior to and during implementation to adapt the structure, processes and relationships of the organization to maximize the benefit of the technology.

Other items of interest

In the PDM world, the trend is integrating PDM into enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.

Even today, most of the PDM packages approach information management from the engineering point of view and "present" critical information in a format that MRP or ERP systems can utilize. Traditionally there has been little, if any, bi-directional communication between the systems.

We spotted three ERP/PDM integrations that possibly reveal a vision of the future

Baan (www.baan.com) has incorporated Baan PDM as a module in its Baan IV and BaanSeries ERP systems. Baan recently acquired Bain as its PDM software business unit. The two groups have an excellent approach of developing a "best-of-both worlds" product. The PDM module can now seamlessly exchange data with the other Baan modules, such as manufacturing and materials.

In February, MatrixOne (www.matrix-one.com) announced the integration of Matrix, its product information management system, with SAP's (www.sap.com) R/3 ERP system. The two-way sharing of BOM and item master data reduces redundant data entry and streamlines product and material release control throughout the enterprise.

Agile Software (www.agilesoft.com), in conjunction with JAS Systems, has introduced Version 2.0 of the off-the-shelf software that integrates Agile Workplace PDM software into CA-MANMAN/HP ERP system. Consistent with the Agile philosophy, the new Import/Validation Agent (IVA) provides fast, easy, low-cost implementation.

Probably the greatest continuing evolution in the PDM environment is the explosion of applications featuring Web-based communication methods. Two companies that impressed us were Wilbanks Technologies (www.wilbankstech.com) and Parametric Technologies Corporation (PTC, www.ptc.com).

Wilbanks' Activate Family software suite integrates Open Text (www.opentext.com) Livelink and Cimmetry Systems' (www.cimmetry.com) AutoVue Professional to provide a wider array of capabilities. Thanks to the integration with Open Text, more of the features and functionality are available via URL linkage using a standard Web browser.

PTC, of Pro/Engineer fame, pre-announced the release of its Windchill product at the Kalthoff Show. Windchill provides a Web-centric technology platform that allows companies to respond to the evolving application needs of their business environment while achieving the full potential of the Internet technologies. Internal IT professionals will now use the same development tool sets as external applications developers to rapidly customize their solutions as information needs change.

The Windchill product is intended to provide the extended user community with 100% Java, Web-native applications and tools to rapidly build business management solutions that deploy with the ease and scalability of the Web itself.

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