For the most part, Siemens PLM Software thrives on desktop programs for design and engineering. In the case of its simulation products (NX CAE offerings), they’re augmented with the option to run on clusters, usually installed onsite, sequestered within an organization’s private cloud. But the launch of IntoSite, an addition to Siemens’ Tecnomatix suite, marks the company’s steps toward a territory it has so far sidestepped — the public cloud.
Tecnomatix IntoSite, according to the company, is “a cloud-based web application that maintains a 3D representation of a production facility, presents it in its geographical context, and allows you to navigate through the facility in the simple and familiar way you navigate Google Earth. IntoSite supports cooperation and collaboration on the shared information in your enterprise, and harnesses the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ by enabling the sharing of best practices, tips and tricks.”
Tali Segall, a senior product manager at Siemens, clarified, “[IntoSite] is deployed in the public cloud; the server is hosted and maintained by Siemens.” The solution is expected to launch in monthly subscriptions at less than $100 per user per month.
Virtual factory and plant designs stemmed from the manufacturers’ move to digitize and simulate every aspect of their workflow, including plant activities. Siemens’ rival Autodesk courts this market with its Factory Design Suite. Siemens seemed to have laid the groundwork for IntoSite when it introduced a Tecnomatix plant simulation solution a year ago. But the latest product, IntoSite, is augmented with location intelligence, made possible with a Google Earth plug-in that displays satellite imagery.
Segall pointed out, “The system allows anyone in the organization to add and contribute material, tips & tricks, best practices, etc. that will immediately be displayed in the appropriate 3D/Geo context.” This social media-inspired feature is expected to offer organizations to harvest the collective wisdom of its staff, possibly even the public.
The product targets facility owners and operators. The ability to maintain an accurate, up-to-date virtual representation of a plant could be of immense value to automotive manufacturers, oil & gas businesses, and energy producers. With such a solution, SaaS deployment makes the most sense, as it’s most effective when field workers can remotely access it from a browser. Segall said the current version of IntoSite has no mobile device support, but “It’s definitely on the road map.”
As a successful deployment of IntoSite, Siemens points to Ford. Allison Stephens, Global Technical Leader in Assembly Ergonomics , Ford Motor Company, said, “The challenges of going global are many. The time zones, the language and the sharing of information in issue resolution and understanding. The IntoSite pilot was created to address the issue of communicating with manufacturing facilities around the world. The pilot has shown that we can create a Google Earth-type approach of all the manufacturing plants around the world. The possibilities are endless. It creates a forum to share files, issue resolution, improved productivity along with reduced travel.
Siemens’ foray into SaaS with IntoSite is preceded by its introduction of a software leasing program, based on its Solid Edge mainstream CAD software from the SMB-friendly Velocity Series.
Though traditionally dominated by desktop software, the design and engineering software market is now witnessing the emergence of SaaS products, ranging from cloud-hosted simulation solutions from Rescale and Ciespace to PLM products from Arena. Once a traditional desktop software developer, Autodesk now bets heavily in cloud-hosted offerings, branded as Autodesk 360. Ultimately, cloud-hosted offerings have the economic advantage. At less than $100 per user per month, they offer a low-risk, no-commitment proposition that’s difficult to ignore.