Rounding Out Product Design Early

New Parametric and MatrixOne middleware gets customer feedback into the production process.

A pair of product lifecycle management developers are bolstering their products with new middleware that lets users add customer feedback to the production process.

Parametric Technology Corp. and MatrixOne Inc. are adding middleware to their respective platforms that enables companies to develop products to include customer feedback, which results in getting in design changes earlier in the product process, thus lowering costs and decreasing time to market.

PTC next week will announce that it will integrate Tibco Software Inc.s namesake application integration middleware with the PTC Windchill PLM technology. The resulting technology, expected within six months, will allow Windchill users to integrate PLM data, such as an engineering BOM (bill of materials) or CAD files, into all the major enterprise resource planning systems. Eventually, the technology also will provide a link with CRM (customer relationship management) systems and supply chain management software, according to PTC officials in Needham, Mass.

The Tibco deal builds on an alliance that PTC made last month to integrate Siebel Systems Inc.s eBusiness CRM applications. That will enable Siebel software users to view product hierarchy, product attributes, CAD files, manufacturing instructions, test procedures and market literature that reside in PTCs software. It will also enable companies to pull customer preferences into PTCs product development process for better decision making and product innovation.

In the same vein, MatrixOne last month said it will combine its Collaborative Product Commerce PLM software with IBM servers and WebSphere MQ middleware. The first applications to come from this partnership, for example, will allow IT managers in pharmaceutical companies to more easily manage clinical trial data among various systems. They might also let IT departments in consumer goods manufacturing move product-related information from consumers back into the development process, said officials at MatrixOne, of Westford, Mass.

Seamlessly connecting all the data concerning a product from concept to customer feedback can save a lot of money. Seventy-five percent of product costs are in the design phase, according to AMR Research Inc. The Boston-based market research company predicts that PLM software sales will grow to $8 billion annually by 2005 from $1.7 billion last year.

"The real key to going fast in the automotive industry is the ability to share the BOM between engineering and production," said John Waraniak, executive director of e-business speed at Johnson Controls Inc., an automotive interior manufacturer that uses MatrixOne PLM software.

"Engineering has its own system, and production has its own. ... The point is to get those to talk to each other," added Waraniak, in Plymouth, Mich. "Thats key. Not only to go fast but to make us more profitable because we present [engineering] changes that way."