Written by John Heller

No Better Time Than Now to Reevaluate Your Processes to Achieve Low Time to Value

The pandemic in which we find ourselves has turned many business practices on their side. Gone is the handshake that starts and ends a deal—as well as all manner of physical interactions in between. Gone is the conference room filled for a design review. Gone is the travel associated with meetings.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, says John Heller, Product Marketing Manager at Vertex Software.

“I can remember packing a hardware prototype in a Pelican case and flying over to Europe and then carting that prototype around for two weeks,” says Heller. He is speaking of the large and heavy waterproof form fit cases that have become synonymous with rugged containers.

Hauling a Pelican case around the world may sound archaic to some at more advanced companies but my feeling is a lot of companies are still struggling to find ways to adequately convey product data to customers.

John joined engineering.com to give us his thoughts on digital twins (“we have them right now”) and to offer some hope: that despite being apart, we can still work together. What follows is in John’s words.

Companies can find their passing gear, and kick it into the next level and accelerate their growth when other companies may be struggling to find their way.

This pandemic provides a good opportunity for us to take a step back and evaluate our processes and workflows and maybe challenge the status quo. After nearly 18 years in manufacturing, I know going this can be its own challenge. But our status quo has already been disrupted. Now is a great time to reevaluate the processes you have in place and look for what can help us get through the crisis and take us to the next level. We have an opportunity to improve long, convoluted and tedious processes. For example, how about letting everyone see a new design from wherever they might be, even in lockdown, all at the same time?

Consider the process you probably use to share data and models with other teams who don’t have the hardware, software or the skills to access 3D product data. It’s not their fault. It’s not in their job description. Many project stakeholders may have an interest in the 3D model of the next product but don’t have mobile workstations or a license for the CAD or PLM software you used. A company-issued laptop for marketing will not be able to navigate a large dataset efficiently, as I know all too well from my time spent in product marketing. In those days, it would take upwards of 30 minutes to open a model. Not being trained on the CAD program, I had to fumble through, not easily navigating around the model to get the information that I needed.

Then the question was: how do I share this to the customer? I would export to a neutral file format and upload to an FTP site. I’d also send emails with screenshots and put screenshots in PowerPoint presentations.

How efficient does that sound?

A Long Time to Value

The process described above was hardly efficient. And with today’s uncertain conditions, it’s best to be agile and react quickly, while still not cutting corners on quality. This is where considering time to value comes in.

The most important things about product development are need and speed. Companies are constantly looking for what the market needs. Their engineers may have prototypes of something that addresses a need. But how will it be received with current and potential customers? Does the company have the speed to get into new market areas and open up new channels? The length of time it will take between the idea and value in the marketplace is called time to value (TtV). If each major product update takes traveling for multiple weeks with a Pelican case to get customer feedback, that will delay time to value. Plus let’s remember, traveling is not even an option these days.

The Importance of Time to Value with Downstream Teams

Time to Value is of utmost importance with downstream teams who need to know of changes as soon as possible. However, companies struggle to get 3D product information out to internal and external stakeholders because of file formats, file size and other issues. In addition, companies have developed design for manufacture (DFM) and design for assembly (DFA) guidelines that also need to be conveyed. A lot relies on information from engineering and the 3D model.

Of course, we wish everyone could provide input and give agreement. The ability to do that becomes challenging when people are separated by distance and are using disparate tools, different file formats or have hardware limitations.

And when we do manage to optimize time to value, we reap other benefits such as increasing your value to customers and providing a better purchasing experience. A lot of companies have sharply cut back on travel for the safety of their employees, making the face-to-face meeting an event heading for extinction.

Achieve Optimal Time to Value: How Vertex Enables Secure, Fast, and Streamlined Collaboration Using the Digital Twin

As companies consider different solutions and processes that enable optimal TtV to address some of the challenges mentioned in the previous section, you should look for ways to streamline your path to value. And to do so in a way that maintains quality, safety, and connections with downstream teams.

With the Vertex platform, companies can quickly achieve a low time to value by getting started quickly by unlocking 3D product information and sharing digital information throughout your enterprise and the ability to connect to existing business systems. And you can do so on any device with any number of users, and with literally limitless size of model.

No Limits. Not the Size of the Model. Not the Size of the Computer

Vertex is a 100 percent cloud-based solution. Companies with even the most massive models can still share and interact with 3D product data on mobile and tablets. You do not need a super powerful workstation. You don’t need GPUs. This is not screen-sharing. This platform provides a way for organizations to quickly load data without having to do time consuming data transformations and fret over what kind of file format will be usable by all.

Having the application and the model data in the cloud not only frees you from having a GPU-equipped workstation, but you can also feel secure about your IP because no data is being actually delivered to the client.

Screenshot of the Application

Security: Your Models Have Never Been Safer

Most companies still have major concerns about sharing 3D models on the cloud. The company’s IP must be protected.

The Vertex platform enables engineers to seamlessly communicate with other departments by “freeing the data” so that it is usable by upstream and downstream users, including potential customers, with security at the forefront.

We have not only eliminated the need for data transformation, we have also eliminated the concerns about IP risks—all while providing an ability to maximize your current investments in CAD and PLM. Vertex is not a CAD or a PLM replacement, but rather a way for you to further realize the value and the investments that you've made in CAD and PLM and providing a way to get that information to downstream users.

Vertex is the only solution on the market today to stream images rather than stream data, which means your valued IP will never be exposed or stored on a client device. The Vertex model provides a very fast user experience and a way for companies to scale up without limits for the size of the model because we're able to scale parallel servers in the cloud. But the parallel servers provide an inherent security benefit in that each piece of the large model is encrypted. Data is never stored as a single file and if anyone hacks into the server farm or walks out with a server, they'll only get an encrypted part of the whole. It will be like trying to put a document together after it has gone through a paper shredder. Good luck.

Uses in Manufacturing Organizations

When considering different use cases for achieving a short TtV, Vertex is well-suited for several manufacturing operations. We see the benefits when it comes to quality, efficiency, and connecting with suppliers, customers and other functional areas within our organization. Its main benefit is, of course, being able to interact with 3D product information for a variety of different uses:

  • Maintenance, repair and ordering. Getting the product information and visuals to the service department so that they can make sure they are ordering the right parts and assembling the right service kits. This can give the organization the ability to respond quickly to a machine being down, for example.
  • Setting up a process, manufacturing flows and optimizing efficiencies to get tooling and fixtures in place.
  • Service training. Many organizations still want to provide world-class service to their customers. They want to be able to quickly diagnose an issue and add some visual context to what they're hearing from the field. Or perhaps a field rep is not able to travel out to a site to view a machine or to be able to view an asset.
  • Preventative maintenance, perhaps on manufacturing assets within the factory.
  • Managing those assets and being able to adequately have a decent picture of what's happening on the factory floor—perhaps without even having a physical individual out on the floor.

To see a demo of Vertex in action, see John Heller’s complete presentation here.