For a variety of reasons Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has been largely the providence of Mechanical CAD industry. This may change with recent actions taken by MatrixOne. During this months' Design Automation Conference MatrixOne announced a definitive agreement to acquire Synchronicity Software, Inc., for approximately $18 million mostly in stock. The acquisition is expected to be completed in early August. Synchronicity is a provider in electronic design management, team collaboration and intellectual property reuse solutions for the global electronics industry. Synchronicity has more than 120 electronics industry customers, including 13 of the top 15 semiconductor companies. The company is private and has raised $31.5 million to date. In addition to venture capital investors Intel Capital, Cadence Design Systems and Synopsys are strategic investors. In its last fiscal year Synchronicity generate $12 million in revenue with a 60/40 split between software licensing and maintenance/service. The user base has around 25,000 seats. The purchase price is 1.5 times revenue but less than the cumulative outside investment.
Mark O'Connell, President and Chief Executive Officer of MatrixOne. said "Our customers come from many industries including automotive, aerospace, consumer, machinery, medical device and hi-tech. They are being confronted with new design, manufacturing and quality challenges as electronics content in their products increase and new product development cycle times compress. To deal with these challenges our customers have asked us to provide an integrated development environment that will enable them to effectively manage not only the mechanical design aspect of their products, but also the electronics and software components.”
Last October MatrixOne and Cadence signed an exclusive agreement. According to this arrangement Cadence will embed MatrixOne technology into advanced PLM solutions that will be marketed and supported directly by Cadence. These new offerings will enable engineering teams to collaborate on the development of PCB designs. These new products will provide PCB design customers with new capabilities to help shorten design cycles, reduce design spins and lower overall design costs. On June 16th Cadence announced the release of the Allegro Design Workbench software suite, a new family of products for the Allegro system interconnect design platform that utilize advanced MatrixOne PLM technology.
The program suite is composed of three products - PCB Workbench, Collaboration Workbench, and Library Workbench.
On May 24th IC Manage, Inc. announced its official company launch. IC Manage is the commercial evolution of cdsp4, a successful Open Source integration developed in 1998 between the Perforce Fast Software Configuration Management (SCM) System and the Cadence Design Framework II tools. IC Manage is currently undergoing beta testing at a major semiconductor company and general availability is scheduled for early summer.
Agile, a MatrixOne competitor, lists Solectron, Flectronix, AMD, Phillips, Altera and Dell among its customers.
Just what is Product Lifecycle Management?
PLM is a combination of CAX (CAD, CAM, CAE, Analysis), product data management, collaboration, product and project management. CIMdata coined the phrase collaborative Product Data Management (cPDm) for the non-CAX portion.
A cPDm system would have a data repository or vault for all the information related to product designs. This would include requirements, CAD models, drawings, schematics, scripts, specifications, analysis and test results and so forth. In general the data would be generated by application programs in the form of one or more files. There would also be metadata or data-about-data. This would include critical dates, ownership, status and so forth. Access rights (read, write, copy, delete) to the data would be based upon a combination of roles and projects. The system would understand the relationship between the files, i.e. this collection of files refers to the same entity, and be aware
of the programs that create and modify them. The system would also understand and manage hierarchical relationships among entities. This would manifest itself in the ability to generate a Bill of Material (BOM) report and its inverse a where-used report. A particular product may have multiple variations or configurations, i.e. same-as-but. This might be due to optional features or add-ons, to the same feature from multiple manufacturers or to different choices of a feature, for example tire size and wheel covers for a specific car model. Further complicating matters individual elements may undergo design changes. Each change results in a new version of the element. This has a possible
rippling effect on assemblies and subassemblies containing that component. Those elements higher in the hierarchy may or may not be updated to include the new version of the component. If they are so updated, then they too will have a new version. The data management system must keep track of this and ensure that no one rewrites history. Only the latest versions can be modified.
In addition to managing the data cPDm systems must also manage the process by which the data is created, modified, archived, retrieved and distributed. A designer or engineer checks-in a newly created component. The same or different person may later check-out the component for edit or for use. If the component is modifed, the designer checks-in the new version. The overall engineering change process is formalized. Someone requests an engineering change which is either rejected or approved. If the request is approved the work is assigned to one or more persons. They check-out whatever components need to be modified, perform the redesign and check-in their work. This is reviewed.
When all the necessary changes have been received and approved, the change is accepted and released. The entire workflow process is managed by the system often piggybacking the in-house email system to communicate assignments and status. The process is event driven using trigger to initiate actions such as notification or retesting. The system needs to maintain the revision history. For some applications there are additional requirements. For example the US Food and Drug Administration's 21CFR Part 11regulation requires an audit trail, electronic signatures and enhanced user and password management.
A further complexity arises when different groups involved in a design employ different authoring tools, e.g. CAD systems, for the same task. One must now translate data between the systems. A similar issue arises when data is moved from task to task, if there is not an integrated system responsible for both tasks. Gateways also need to be provided between applications including non-PLM applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Supply Chain Management (SCM).
The description thus far assumed that there was a single central data repository for a company. For a large global company there may be multiple repositories with varying degrees of data sharing. The firm must decide what portion of the data can be shared and whether and how often to replicate that data rather than providing it on a demand basis.
Initially cPDm systems were designed to run in a LAN environment. With geographically dispersed design teams, with increasing use of outsourcing and with a need to involve the extended enterprise in design decisions these systems now exploit the Internet. Those with appropriate access rights can search the data repository for the desired content, generate reports, check status, perform check-in and check-out functions and so forth as if they were directly connected to the system. When third parties are involved, companies often set up portals with restricted access where they can publish data or receive data from the outside. Information is often sent in compressed formats to minimize communication time.
If a single individual generated the entire design, there would be little need for cPDm systems. A modicum of personal organization would suffice. Even a small collocated team might reasonably operate without such a formal system. One can conceive of establishing multiple directories to represent different stages of a design and libraries and simply moving files from directory to directory as the design progresses. Some firms have adapted and customized commercial and shareware source code control systems (SCCS) from the software development arena for design data management in the hardware world.
However, when the complexity of designs increases in terms of number of components, number of suppliers, the size of the design and manufacturing team and so forth, the desirability and outright need for such a system grows accordingly. When the people involved in the process are geographical dispersed across multiple time zones, the need increases dramatically.