OpenLM Server v4.7 Released – What’s New?

On January 31st, 2020, OpenLM Server v4.7.3 was released. This release brings a host of bug fixes as well as several enhancements and features such as:

  • The Feature Usage Per Group/User reports now include a Table view (in addition to Chart view)
  • An “Idle period” column has been added to the “Group by” tab in the License Activity report
  • Enhanced Options file management: the Options Files Management window can now be expanded and a search bar has been added for quick file search
  • The Alerts widget window now has a filter panel with 2 types of filtering available: “New Alerts” and “All Alerts”
  • Software managed by OpenLM Applications Manager is now displayed under its own table in the Audit Report (previously, it was listed as a standard vendor)
  • The OpenLM Server installer is now provided as a stand-alone file, separate from OpenLM Broker. Users can still install Broker by following a link in the installer or downloading it from our website.

The release notes can be found here.

A full-featured, 30-day trial version of the new release is available for download on the OpenLM website. Existing OpenLM users with a valid maintenance agreement can upgrade for free.

Download here:

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OpenLM CEO Annual Webinar: Leading Innovation

Dear friends,

In today’s world, every organization must adapt, transform, and innovate. So how do you drive the type of organizational transformation that shifts leadership behaviors and culture? How do you create a steady environment that ensures the needs of your end-users?

In this webinar, Oren Gabay OpenLM CEO, will share insights from his research and consulting with customers, and future trends. He will reveal OpenLM new solutions and services that will help you overcome the barriers and to lead innovation in your company.

Oren welcomes you to send questions or topics you would like to discuss with him and he will conduct a QA session at the end of the webinar.

The webinar will be conducted 2 times on different days and hours, thus please join the one that best suits your availability.

First session:   January 15th, 17:00 pm CET (Europe) 07:00 (US PDT)
Second session: January 22nd, 20:00 pm CET (Europe) 10:00 ( US PDT)

Join Webinar

Noa Yitzhak
VP Marketing, OpenLM

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When Worlds Collide – Engineering Goes to the Movies

One does not normally associate engineering software with the media and entertainment industry; images of airplanes, buildings, oil rigs and automobiles are far more likely to spring to mind. In fact, scientists and engineers owe a huge debt to the gaming and movie industries for pioneering software that answers one of the major challenges of Industry 4.0; the merging of the virtual and physical worlds. Architects, automobile manufacturers and biotechnology engineers all use rendering software to breathe life into their concepts and designs, in the same way that FX specialists bring characters to life on screen. The outputs may be very different, but they can be created using the same toolsets.

Computer gaming has also had a dramatic impact on the engineering and scientific worlds, because the graphics cards originally designed to support computer and video games have now become indispensable for their parallel processing power. Nvidia and AMD GPUs (graphic processing units) are essential when performing simulations, cutting processing time that previously took days and weeks.

Software vendors were quick to realise the potential of programs like Arnold, Maya and 3DS Max, all of which were acquired by Autodesk, who wanted to corner the market in rendering software for the entertainment and media industries. Movies such as the Avengers, Men in Black 3 and Gravity all used SolidAngle’s Arnold to create the effects we saw in those shows. 3DS Max is also very popular with architects and engineers; companies such as Arup have seen the possibilities of merging art and science. Autodesk has ensured that most of their rendering products interface with their engineering tools, notably Revit. 

Other vendors have also recognised the intersection between science and art. PTC acquired the augmented reality company Vuforia, and Volvo made good use of the product to optimize its supply chain of trucks, which offer thousands of customizable options to prospective customers. Dassault’s 3D modelling has been used in movie making by directors like Luc Besson in the “5th Element”. When we admire the grace and dazzling spectacle of Cirque du Soleil, it is startling to discover that the various props used in the acts have been crafted using SOLIDWORKS, from the Dassault stable. The designer is Eric Spendlove, who started as a stagehand and has progressed to the stage where he runs his own company and has an expertise in the software that many engineers would envy. While Eric taught himself to design with tools like AutoCAD and Solidworks, there are many opportunities for engineers in entertainment.


Career Opportunities for Engineers

While technologies and techniques such as 3D modelling and augmented reality have been adopted fairly recently in the engineering industry, the entertainment industry has always had a place for engineers in its ranks, long before design software was available. Walt Disney pioneered his company of “imagineers” nearly 70 years ago, to ideate and create the built environment for Disneyland. Theme parks are a fertile ground for engineers; attractions such as roller-coasters require some ingenious structural engineering, coupled with robust safety in design. Wave and surf parks require intensive understanding of how waves work naturally in order to create artificial surf that keeps surfers happy riding continuous waves and have given rise to specialist companies, such as Spain’s Wavegarden, who are experts in computation fluid dynamics (CFD) and design and build wave parks around the world. Engineers who have specialized in marine and ocean engineering are not limited to careers in shipbuilding and oil and gas, they can apply their knowledge to creating the perfect wave, and even the perfect surfboard, which also benefits from CFD simulation.

There are many other engineering opportunities provided in the world of entertainment, from design and construction of casinos, racetracks, sports stadia and golf courses, to building better sports and gambling equipment. . Academia has recognised this, and although the selection is small at present, there are universities that offer degrees in entertainment engineering. Unsurprisingly, the University of Nevada, in Las Vegas is one of these, but the University of Derby in the UK also offers a similar degree.

However, there is nothing to match the movies when it comes to job creation for engineering and designers of all types. Just watch the credits roll at the end of any Star Wars Episode; pages and pages of people who worked in the CGI, animatronics, sound effects and other special effects are listed. No self-respecting rock concert or could be put together without a squad of engineers. While this work may seem trivial to someone designing the built environment, maybe those alternate realities we see on the screen can accelerate development in the real world. In 2002, Steven Spielberg called together a panel of futurists and experts to workshop what technology would be freely available in 2054, for the movie “Minority Report”, based on Philip K. Dick’s novella. Many of those predictions have already happened, and some, like additive manufacturing/3D printing are commonplace. 

There will always be a job for aerospace, mechanical and health and safety engineers, it might just not be in the industry you expected.


What Role does OpenLM Play?

When you consider the extraordinary budgets involved in entertainment projects, from the virtual world of the movie to the physical world of a theme park, it is not surprising to find that organizations in this field keep a close watch on their engineering licenses. Those hundreds of people mentioned in the movie credits are using 3D software from Autodesk or Dassault. Ansys and MSC Software are only two of the software companies offering CFD simulation software, essential for those wave parks. OpenLM monitors all those applications, and is happy to have partnered with companies in the entertainment and gaming spheres, minimising the effort required to manage their Avid, Maya or Arnold licenses while maximizing productivity. We also monitor Nvidia GPUs in response to a request from a research organization, which is a boon to all our customers performing simulations across all industries. If you are a player in the entertainment industry or engaged in any form of engineering or scientific endeavor, why don’t you download a trial version of our software and see how it can fit seamlessly into you organization and save you substantial costs?

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The Seven Wastes of License Management

Manufacturers are extremely aware of inefficiencies in their production processes and assembly line and apply principles and techniques such as Lean to optimize throughput and quality. However, in our interactions with manufacturing customers, we often find that these same principles are not applied in a critical aspect of the business, namely management of the software assets that support the flow of production. While organizations purchase software licenses and strive to comply with their license agreements, there is often a great deal of waste in software license management, which contributes to overall costs. This is due to a number of factors:-

  • There was a time when software had a physical attribute, it was delivered on a packaged CD and had a printed license number, so it was pretty easy to keep control of software assets. Now software is generally downloaded and the license number, too is intangible (dongle-based licenses are easier to account for, but losing the dongle is another pain-point – you need insurance for that). 
  • The license management software that usually accompanies your application was written for the vendor to keep track of how their software was being used, not for your benefit, and generally does not give a clear view of how licenses are actually being used.
  • Most companies have a software policy, but the policy does not explore the depths of how applications are procured and how they are used once acquired, nor how the purchasing decision is made and by whom.
  • Mergers and acquisitions bring two or more software portfolios together and the audit and rationalizing of the software is often overlooked while attention is focused on merging the companies. This applies to the software policies too. Internal company reorganizations can have a similar outcome, because the software needs are not reviewed at the time.
  • When specialized software, such as that used in engineering or life sciences is acquired, general management, and even IT management in some cases, do not understand the complexity of the many different license models and how injudicious purchase and usage can drastically affect the software budget. The role of license management and its importance is greatly underestimated when trying to control these costs.
  • The misapprehension that renting software in the cloud is cheap, controlled and not subject to software audits is currently a big issue on most CIO’s desks. In 2018, Rightscale, which was later acquired by Flexera, estimated wasted spend of 35% on cloud technology, above the 30% waste estimated by respondents. For 2020, not much has changed, except that respondents believe their overspend is about 12%, while research places the figure at about 30%.


The Perfect Software Portfolio

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect software portfolio, but one can work towards it by eliminating waste. We have listed the main factors that can create waste; below is a list of “7 wastes” we have drawn up for you to start working on today. There may be other unwanted contributors to costs, but a focus on what is listed here will considerably reduce the licensing component in your IT budget.

  • Lack of Control
  • Lack of Visibility
  • Wasted Effort
  • Inventory

– shelfware
– outdated versions
– named licenses

  • Too many Features
  • Idle Licenses- waiting
  • Pay per use – chargebacks


1. Lack of Control 

Centralized command and control may be old-fashioned, but in the case of license management it works well. It is not always possible, especially for multinationals; a global license can be very costly, and some vendors require you to get licenses from their local office or partner for foreign branches. Most organizations tend to accumulate software and licenses over the years, especially in project-driven environments, where it is often expedient to buy a whole set of new licenses for Autodesk to fire up the project. Finding all the software agreements in force can be a very tough exercise, but is the start to weeding out surplus licenses.


A watertight software policy

Is your software policy explicit about matters such as public and private cloud, virtual machines, BYOS (bring your own software), idle licenses (checked out, but not being used), who is entitled to procure new and additional licenses and who qualifies for a named license? Are the roles and responsibilities for license management and administration explicitly defined? Are there documented processes and procedures? If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, you are in a minority of 18% of organizations. Having the right framework within which you can operate is a prerequisite to starting waste elimination.


2. Lack of Visibility

You may be confident that your asset register ties back to the sum of licenses across all your license agreements, but you are frustrated by your inability to see the true usage of these licenses. Relying on the license manager (LM) software provided by the vendor does not give you visibility into your usage; that is not what it was designed for; it is there to ensure you do not infringe your license agreement in any way. What is more, every vendor provides an LM that monitors only their products. You do not have an overall view of your software licenses. This is why you need your own license manager; to gain transparency.


3. Wasted Effort

Working without an independent license manager creates further waste in the amount of effort required to monitor and manage licenses, extract usage data and provide meaningful reports to management on why the software license budget is so high and what you plan to do about it. Onboarding new recruits and transfers from one department to another are painful tasks when it comes to granting entitlements and access for all the software tools they will need, while HR may have forgotten to inform you of employees who are leaving, where access must be removed (time to revisit your process flows). A license manager that is vendor-agnostic reduces and removes much of this effort by providing visibility and automating tedious activities. This is what we at OpenLM have spent years refining, based on your needs, not those of your vendor.


4. Inventory

It may seem that this waste should be at the top of the list. The problem is that without proper controls and processes, transparency and minimizing manual effort, tailoring your inventory to what you really need is a lost cause. Once you have put these in place, you can focus on removing the bloat from your software asset inventory. This is not an overnight job – you will first have to identify redundant licenses and then see if you need to wait till renewal time to discontinue them or can negotiate with the vendor in the interim. Here are the prime suspects in license redundancy:-

  • Shelfware. Licenses that were purchased for an initiative that has now completed or moved past the stage where the licenses can be put to good use. The licenses should have moved back into the general pool, but are just sitting there and if you don’t take care, they will be renewed.
  • Outdated Versions. Legacy software and older versions often still co-exist alongside the current version. You can now trace these, as well as software that is due to be retired
  • Named Licenses. There is nothing wrong with having named licenses as part of your software mix; for very specialized software, this may be the cheapest and most effective solution. Problems crop up where named licenses are hardly used, and the user could rather be checking out a license from the pool when needed.

With comprehensive usage reports, you can quickly weed out software that is surplus to requirements and trim down your inventory. Once that is completed, you can ensure that the licenses available are fit for purpose.


5. Overkill – too many features

The tendency of vendors to bundle a whole set of applications together under a single license, or to provide additional features that are rarely, if ever, used, can pad license costs considerably. Again, usage reports drilling down to feature level can highlight unnecessary features. There may be a few users who do need these special features; this is where the costs and benefits of a named license for those users can be evaluated.


6. Idle Licenses – Waiting

The last two wastes relate to human behaviour. The first is common in concurrent user environments; the user checks out the software he wants to use before he actually needs it, for instance, when he goes home, so that it is available in the morning. He could also book out the software, work on it, and then go to a meeting without checking it back into the pool. The ability to identify these “idle” licenses and check them back into the pool is a powerful aid in ensuring that the minimum of licenses need to be purchased to satisfy the maximum number of users. The time lapse when a license is determined to be idle (e.g. 15 minutes) should be clearly indicated in the software policy.


7. Pay per Use – Chargebacks

It is ironic that licensing costs of software, such as Solidworks or ArcGIS are often placed squarely in the IT budget, when the main users are not in IT. Without a software tool that can identify actual usage by an individual, group or business unit, it is virtually impossible to extract accurate chargebacks. The ability to charge back usage costs to a business units with documented proof is a powerful tool in reducing software costs, because it is now part of that manager’s budget, and he will take care to ensure there is no abuse of license usage.


OpenLM for a Lean Organization

All of the wastes (or muda, in Japanese) identified above can be mitigated or removed by implementing OpenLM. Even in organizations that use basic software, such as Microsoft Office, license overspend per head is calculated to be $295 on average. In industries that use specialized engineering and software, that per capita excess is much higher, if you consider the cost of a single Catia or Siemens NX license. OpenLM is specifically designed to manage licenses across most of the engineering landscape, which is why we have customers in every field from upstream oil and gas to medical devices using our products to optimize their software usage. Our license managers and administrators are confident that they are getting the best mileage out of their license portfolios, with reports and extracts that prove both economy and efficiency.


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‘Save and Close’ for Kingdom, Harmony and Petra

OpenLM version 4.6 introduces a new extension that enables the ‘Save and Close’ functionality for three oil industry applications – Kingdom, Harmony and Petra. 

“Save and Close” is one of several features that OpenLM offers organizations to better manage and utilize their licenses. Basically, it works by retrieving idle licenses and returning them to their pool where they can be used by other users. As the name implies, the project is automatically saved before the application is closed and the license is released. 

The mechanism of action is simple – OpenLM tracks the application on the user’s machine through the lightweight OpenLM Agent component. Once OpenLM registers that an application has been idle for a predefined amount of time, administrators have the option to either manually or automatically close the application. 

Previously, the “Save and Close” functionality was only available for applications that had an open SDK, such as MATLAB and ArcGIS. 

Recently, one of our customers shared with us a wish. They wanted to see the same functionality implemented for the Kingdom, Harmony and Petra platforms. 

After an introductory meeting with the customer, we were able to better understand their needs and the specific applications they wanted us to handle.

Although we offer an alternative remote close functionality called “Suspend and Resume”, we understood that it was not optimal for the customer. They needed a sure-fire way to release the licenses back to the pool and they needed to fully automate the process, while also being able to save the current work of the user. 

As it was clear that we had to extend the “Save and Close” functionality to other platforms, we gathered our development team and had a brainstorming session. After a few ideas came up, we finally decided on the specific technology set to be used, while assembling a quick POC. 

We knew we could do it, but we also needed the customer’s assistance for us to test the solution. 

Luckily, the customer was more than cooperative! They prepared a special environment for us where we could connect remotely and run numerous on-site tests (of course, before this we agreed to sign a metric ton of security and clearance paperwork :-)). The customer taught us how to use their applications to pull licenses which we could test-drive during development.

We were able to develop a specific extension for each application, implementing our new technology. 

This required a very deep “drilling” and analysis of the structure of each application. After we mapped out all the required components, we knew exactly what it would take to develop a precise solution. 

We had several cycles of development. After each cycle, we deployed the extensions to the customer machines for testing. 

Today, our customer is more than satisfied: he can use the ‘Save and Close’ feature for his Kingdom, Harmony and Petra applications automatically, without lifting a finger. His wish has come true. 

Are you in need of this extension for your own organization? Or perhaps you have a special wish of your own you’d like to see fulfilled? 

Contact us and let us know. We would be more than happy to turn your license management dreams into reality.

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OpenLM v4.6 new features

On October 29th 2019, OpenLM version 4.6 was released and is now available for download.
The full-featured version of the new release can be downloaded from the OpenLM website for a 30-day trial. Existing OpenLM users with a valid maintenance agreement can upgrade for free.
Download here

The enhancements are listed briefly below:

  • Two new license managers are supported: the ESPRIT Floating License Server and Sparx Systems Keystore Service. Please note that for this initial release, we currently monitor license usage info without license denials.
  • OpenLM Broker now reads the Windows certificate store by default, thus eliminating the need for converting certificates into JKS format and also allowing organizations to make use of their own self-signed certificates.
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Managing Office 365: Engineers Get It!

The Internet is bursting with articles about how moving Office into the cloud can result in some unexpected and unwelcome results, primarily when it comes to costs. Companies are reporting that costs are as much as two to three times what was budgeted and signed for. Various recommendations are made, such as:-

  • Understand what your on-premise Office commitment is and try and consolidate where you can
  • Classify users according to roles and groups and identify which Office 365 offering is appropriate for their needs
  • Watch out for idle licenses
  • Check you are not running multiple versions and instances
  • Limit access to licenses out of hours unless really needed.
  • Purchase software to manage the licenses, because Microsoft does not help you in this regard.

These tips are big news to the normal purchasers of Microsoft Office, who are in IT Procurement or Finance. For CAD managers and license administrators of engineering and scientific software, they have already been down this road with much more expensive software, like Autodesk and Bentley products, both on-premise and in the cloud. They are familiar with all of the tactics and pitfalls may arise, such as:-

  • increasing the price and/or sunsetting the on-premise alternative to push customers to moving to subscription – Autodesk does this and Microsoft raised the price of Office 2019 by 6% late last year with the same intention.
  • Role-based solutions – if you are an Abaqus or Ansys customer you are familiar with product differentiation by role, such as product designers, and of course, all engineering software is bundled differently based in industry requirements.
  • Identifying idle licenses and harvesting them according to policy is one of the biggest cost-savers for many of our customers. When a single license costs thousands of dollars, you don’t let it just sit there consuming dollars, especially with time-based software like Autodesk TokenFlex.
  • Engineering license administrators are quick to pick up on multiple instances of licenses running, especially where more than one version is on campus simultaneously, a common problem with Autodesk.
  • Multinationals that have “follow the sun” requirements often tailor license availability based on location. License use often needs to be prioritised as well, to give preference to critical projects or key users.
  • Engineering companies know that the license manager provided by the vendor is not your friend; it is there to protect the vendor’s interests, not help you optimize your resources, that is why most companies have invested in software that does the job of balancing the concurrent license pool against peak user demand.

This list does not even include other unnecessary costs, like those incurred when using Bentley software, which allows users to access licenses even when there are no concurrent licenses available according to the license agreement, providing some unexpected costs at month-end.

Software Spend that is Easily Overlooked

Although Office 365 licenses are very cheap in comparison to, say, Autodesk Cloud licenses, everyone in the business uses them, and over-purchasing and underutilization costs can be formidable for large and even mid-sized businesses. In many companies, the discretion for purchasing Microsoft Office licenses falls to the CFO, who is not wise to the cost complexities of software licensing. Even the CIO may decide to migrate from earlier on-premise licensing of Office to Office 365 by a simple one-for-one license swap, because everyone in the company needs a license and the pricing seems acceptable. 

Extract from Microsoft pricing comparison:


They may even decide to procure P5 licenses for everyone in the company, while it is doubtful that more than 10% of users actually need premium licenses. This is how the costs spiral. The difference between a P5 and a P3 license is $180 per annum; between a P5 and a ProPlus license is $276; multiply that by the number of users who do not need the premium subscription and you can see why taking the Office 365 route can be an expensive journey. There is no guarantee that these packages will not change in both content and pricing over time, which makes the future even more unpredictable. One also has to consider whether all the applications included are needed, such as Skype for business, when Webex or Zoom is already freely used in the company. The days of putting all one’s software eggs in one basket are long gone; the benefits of only having to rely on one vendor are outweighed by the risks of being locked in to their products.

Another aspect to be considered is that, although the overall management of Microsoft Office licenses is the responsibility of the CFO or CIO, the CAD manager and engineering license administrator has stewardship over the Office licenses needed by their users. The costs of these licenses may be charged back to the engineering business units, and it makes sense to double-check what is being charged out by central admin.

Timing also can be a factor in increasing the cost burden for large organizations. The rollout of the new product in a large organization can take months; meanwhile all the licenses purchased, but not yet implemented, are sitting on the shelf, chewing up dollars every month. It could be advisable to migrate in two phases, so as to minimise this wastage.

Why we Now Support Office 365 License monitoring

So engineering and scientific companies are wise to all the sneaky things that vendors do to improve their revenue streams. This is why our customers requested us to add monitoring of some key cloud software to our list that is not normally part of our software portfolio.

We applied our minds to what we provided for cloud software in the engineering space, such as ArcGIS Online, and applied the same principles to Office 365. While we were working on this, we also added Adobe Cloud software to the list, because, again, everyone uses Document Cloud and/or Creative Cloud for design or content management.

License administrators who now want to manage Office 365 or Adobe Cloud software can do it through our Easyadmin dashboard, without having to use the Applications Manager to define the business rules for these products. We hope this has made life that little bit easier for our present and future customers. This functionality is available from release 4.5 onwards, which may require an upgrade, but there are other enhancements as well that make it worthwhile.


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Giving Graduates a Competitive Advantage with PLM

Universities globally are being tasked with attracting students into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines to provide the workforce needed for this century. In order to become competent professionals in their field, undergraduates and graduates need to acquire skills in the software applications they will use in their careers, such as CAD and GIS software or simulation suites that perform finite element analysis (FEA) or computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Vendors of these software products know that the students of today are their customers of the future and are happy to partner with universities or provide their software at academic rates. A working knowledge of AutoCAD and/or Solidworks are definite enhancements to any résumé. However, this only partially equips the graduate for life in the business world. He or she will learn how their skills acquired at university will integrate into the organization once they start working there, but they could have the edge on other applicants if they already had this knowledge. This is where training in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is so important – it provides a holistic understanding of product development from cradle to grave. 

Currently, only a few universities offer specialization in PLM, but there is a growing trend to incorporate it into relevant curricula. The trailblazer in PLM education is Purdue University, who opened the Product Lifecycle Management Center of Excellence in 2002, which was renamed the Digital Enterprise Center. The focus of the Center is on enabling organizations to make the transition to digital enterprises. Undergraduate, graduate and professional courses and certifications are offered in all aspects of Product Lifecycle Management.

Other universities are following suit, such as Clemson University in South Carolina and Oakland University in Michigan. Such initiatives are collaborative, supported by industry leaders who need an institution that can upskill their existing workforce in PLM, as well as provide future employees from their alumni. 

Leslie Miller, general manager for GE Power and Water, which is based in North Carolina, is quoted on Clemson’s website as to why PLM is an important inclusion for any university or technical institute:-

Product Lifecycle Management software and processes revolutionize how our industry designs, manufactures, services and operates our products. We are creating a digital thread that unites product configuration, analytical results and operational data. A university program that can research PLM processes and applications, and educate PLM-proficient new engineers, is critical for General Electric’s continued innovation.

Leslie Miller – GE Power and Water




One of the main hurdles in the inclusion of PLM in a University’s portfolio is that its precepts cut across different faculties, and it is STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics ), not just STEM. For a start, Lean Manufacturing is a readily available subject but is mainly taught at business schools. Product management involves marketing, which is already straddling an uneasy path between arts and sciences, with the growth of Martech. Graphics designers are part of the equation, using rendering tools like Keyshot to produce a vision of the finished product. To conceptualize a product, design and build it, bring it to market, service and maintain it and eventually to retire it, requires many different skillsets and roles. To understand how it all fits together and the processes that support the value chain are the answers that enrolling in a PLM degree or course needs to provide, as well as a familiarity with the tools and platforms used to interact with the data, processes and artifacts. PLM has also been subject to a major disruption, the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). 


The Internet of Things and Digital Twins

IoT is reshaping business across a wide spectrum of industries. The ability to record real-time data in the field via sensors and other devices is creating huge volumes of data wherever they are placed. Among the myriads of benefits that can be realized by judicious extraction and analysis of data, whether by human or artificial intelligence, understanding how products actually work in the live environment can be collected and collated. This has changed the approach to design and simulation, with the increasing use of “digital twins”, prototypes that are fed the live data to test, understand and improve design. Crash test dummies and driving cars into brick walls is obsolete, when the same results can be achieved with a virtual simulation. The ability to build digital twins and collect and interpret IoT data is an essential adjunct to any PLM infrastructure.

Which Software Vendor?

 The institution offering PLM must decide which PLM vendor will be appropriate for the software they acquire. Fortunately, the number of vendors in this space is limited in this space, although the choice is growing. There are three main contenders and a few alternatives. The choice is simplified via two reports produced by Forrester at the end of 2017 and Quadrant at the end of 2018, which can both be downloaded from the PTC website.


Vendors- the Usual Suspects

The three vendors below are used extensively by traditional PLM industries, namely automotive, aerospace, and industrial and high tech equipment. Their foundation is in engineering software, which gives the advantage over contenders such as SAP and Oracle.


Dassault’s software was developed to support its aerospatial engineering. The company’s 3DEXPERIENCE is the most widely used digital platform and sufficiently scalable that Singapore is using it to build the city’s digital twin. As the leader in this field according to both Forrester and Quadrant, selecting Dassault offers graduates good opportunities in finding work. Dassault do provide their own education, but it is product-related.


PTC was the forerunner in PLM and has an extensive customer base. Recognizing that the future of PLM and IoT are intertwined, PTC acquired IoT platform Thingworx as an offering that integrates with their PLM Windchill solution. Adding to their highly rated technological solutions is their integration of augmented reality (AR) with Vuforia. Forrester identifies them as the market leader, while Quadrant places them as a technology leader, running second to Dassault on customer experience. Again, with PTC experience, a graduate will be able to pick and choose work opportunities across a wide band of industries.


Siemens PLM and Teamcenter also have an established customer base and are used at Purdue and Clemson. Interestingly Forrester placed them 4th in their report, although Quadrant has them hot on the heels of PTC and Dassault. While Siemens were early entrants in the PLM field, they have been a bit slow in innovation, but their platforms are open and easy to integrate.


Other Vendors in the Wings

Aras – Aras is Forrester’s surprise third-ranked PLM vendor. They are open-source and new and while it may be premature to consider them because their market penetration is currently small, they should be watched. They have their own Aras University for PLM learning.

AutoDesk – It may be surprising to find Autodesk outside the leaders, when one considers how pervasive AutoCAD is in both industry and academe. Despite their strong presence as an engineering software vendor, it seems that they have some way to go before their PLM offering can match up to the rest of the market. They declined to participate in the Forrester research.

IFS – UK-based IFS Systems won an award for PLM software of the year awarded by Construction Computing Awards recently. Forrester did not consider them, probably because of their UK rather than the US presence. Like SAP, IFS is more of an ERP than an engineering solution.

Oracle – Oracle became a PLM provider by acquiring Agile, who had a ready-made PLM offering, to be integrated with Oracle’s ERP. Agile had customers in industries such as life sciences. Oracle is trying to move existing customers to their PLM Cloud offering.

SAP – This ERP heavyweight has PLM functionality, but based on their ERP offering, rather than an engineering base. The investment in SAP is very high for any manufacturer, which probably forces company


In Closing

Industry 4.0 is disruptive, but some of the disruptions is not obvious. The need to work collaboratively and the blending of science and the arts are all part of this new wave. Academic institutions have to provide alumni who can function in digital enterprises, and PLM education is necessary for meeting this demand. Obviously there are engineering faculties which have an education path that takes their students into a specific industry, such as oil and gas, but according to Quadrant, industries that were formerly not regarded as customers for PLM, such as consumer goods and retail, are turning to the PLM business model to bring efficiencies to their business. This market is predicted to grow and they will be looking for candidates who understand and can work in a PLM environment.

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OpenLM – the most essential, non-essential software you could ever need

The reliance of engineers and scientists on software applications grows and progresses year by year. We have evolved over the last 60 or so years from the days when a few pioneers started purchasing very expensive computer hardware to run the early CAD software that was available, to the point where CAE software vendors like Solidworks have created “Apps for kids” which children as young as 4 can access on a mobile phone. Today, no industry that requires engineering skills can function without a full range of software tools, whether designing electronics or drilling oil and gas reservoirs. The engineering software market is huge, and while there are major players that offer every conceivable toolset, even mid-size businesses will have different vendors supplying the tools they need to design and compete. 

The right to use such software requires the customer to pay for licenses. Licensing started off as a very simple process where software was sold on a per-user basis, and has gradually evolved through network and site licensing, where an agreed number of licenses are purchased by a company to be shared by its employees on-site, to subscriptions in the cloud. The engineering software portfolio of most companies today will be subject to a variety of license models, some of which are extremely complex. Each vendor usually provides a license manager tool that is used to control license usage and ensure that companies are compliant with the terms of their agreement.

The Evolution of License Management Software

If software is issued by the vendor to manage licenses, why should anyone purchase an application that is vendor-independent to measure and monitor license use and activity? It seems pretty pointless to purchase yet another software tool that duplicates work already being done by free vendor software. What’s more, why purchase a product that focuses mainly on engineering software? Well, there are some compelling reasons, which is why engineering companies, from SMEs through to global enterprises, public and government bodies, and academic institutions have invested in OpenLM. 

  • your vendor’s license manager is not your license manager
  • the administrative overhead puts a strain on your budget
  • you probably have bought too many licenses
  • you keep buying more licenses to reduce denials
  • the period for ROI in OpenLM is usually 6 months or less.

This list is not exhaustive, but is enough to explain why acquiring OpenLM in a scientific or engineering environment is essential. 

Your Vendor’s License Manager is not your Friend

We thought long and hard about the role a vendor-supplied license manager plays in your organization and came up with a parole officer. We are perfectly sure that you have never been in a situation where you needed such a person, but now you have this watchdog in your environment. Like a parole officer, the application:-

  • helps you find work – no license manager, no licenses
  • monitors your behavior – ensures you are keeping to the straight and narrow of your licensing agreement
  • reports on any infringement of your licensing conditions, which could cost you

As if that were not bad enough, you have a whole bunch of them, at least one for every supplier, and more where you have several agreements, as happens when you have branches globally, or a hybrid of on-premise and cloud licenses. You have to manage all these relationships.

It’s a Costly Exercise

While most software vendors purchase their license management from a specialized software vendor, like Flexera or Reprise, there are custom versions as well. Handling all these products becomes an administrative nightmare, especially when it comes to managing entitlements and access to software. So, whether you are on-boarding a new employee, terminating employment or merely moving someone from one business unit to another, you have to go and update each license manager for each piece of software required. Not only is this laborious, it is also error-prone. 

The next problem is in reporting to management. You have reports with different formats and no common look-and-feel, unless you rework each of the outputs into a common format. You also don’t necessarily have the right data to estimate what license numbers you really need when it comes to renewal time, or when a new project is starting. 

This is where OpenLM makes your life so much easier; you can manage everything through a single, easy-to-use interface instead of hopping in and out of a whole slew of license managers. You also can report on one or all of your applications with a comprehensive set of reports that are tailored to supporting renewal and purchasing decisions, as well as overspend and sub-optimal productivity. From our interactions with customers, we are pretty sure you have more licenses than you need, and this could apply to several products. Our reports will help you rectify this situation.

You Bought More Licenses than You Need

This is a very common problem and probably the best reason for purchasing OpenLM, as you can save a lot of money cutting down on unnecessary licenses. Needless to say, your vendor-supplied software is not going to help you here; it is not in the vendor’s interests to have you operating as economically as possible.

Potential savings include:-

  • identifying and getting rid of “shelfware”, software purchased but not being used.
  • high-end licenses purchased when a basic license is all that is needed
  • named user licenses where a concurrent license is all that is needed.

Surprisingly, this is a big problem with subscription licensing. Based on market surveys, the disparity between budgeted and actual costs for SaaS software is generally double to treble the original estimate. So the expectation that “Pay-as-you-go” licensing eliminates the need for license management is unfortunately not true. 

Your Productivity Levels could be Better

Denials are a common problem in any networked license environment. Every company experiences peaks and troughs in license demand and the knee-jerk reaction is to purchase more licenses to keep your users happy. None of the proprietary license managers will show you why you are getting denials and if they are “true” denials (i.e. repeated denials over a period of time) or just a single denial that was resolved thirty seconds later. You also cannot see if the licenses booked out are actually being used or are lying idle. Even where you can identify licenses lying idle, you lack a toolset that can automatically harvest idle licenses according to your in-house software policy. OpenLM lets you tailor an automatic harvesting regime that suits your business and reduces the risk of denials, because only licenses that are actually being used are checked out.

You Achieve ROI in No Time

Engineering software licenses don’t come cheap. Eliminating just one license usually pays for your OpenLM purchase, and some of our clients do precisely that to justify their spend. On average our customers save 15% in their first year of using OpenLM, with year-on-year savings through optimizing their software portfolio. The ability of OpenLM to analyse usage right down to feature level, as well as additional features, such as reporting on custom software and detecting unnecessary spend on time-based licenses make our totally ono-essential software a critical component in your software toolkit.

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Benefiting from PLM in the Pharmaceutical Industry

A recent report by Quadrant Knowledge Solutions, a Massachusetts-based consulting and research firm, on the market outlook for Product Lifecycle Maintenance (PLM), revealed some interesting statistics about industries adopting PLM. While around 80% of the market is still centred around the aerospace, automotive, high-tech and industrial equipment industries, other industries, such as retail and consumer goods, can see the benefit in adopting a lifecycle approach to their product management. The healthcare sector is steadily recognizing the benefits that PLM can bring, both in regulatory compliance and in product development. Quadrant reports on this sector as comprising 3.1% of the overall market, and it is expected to grow by about 7% annually. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies in particular are seeing dramatic improvements in time to market where they have adopted PLM.

Challenges for the Pharmaceutical Industry

Organizations that develop pharmaceutical solutions for both chronic and acute diseases find themselves between a rock and a hard place – the urgent demand from patients and their physicians and the regulatory constraints of bodies like the FDA. Research conducted by the Tufts Center for Drug Development and last updated in 2016, revealed the following statistics:-

  • Costs to bring a new drug to market averages $2,6 billion
  • This excludes an additional $300 million in further R&D when the drug is available
  • The time taken from discovery to launch is 10-12 years
  • Only 12% of new drugs make it through the clinical trials

Although this research was conducted on a sample of drugs developed between 1995 and 2007, the risks and costs incurred in bringing a new drug to market have probably increased rather than decreased. Earlier research in 2003 had a success rate double the 12% of the later findings, and considerably lower costs.

One of the main contributors to the lead time and costs associated with getting a new product to market is the pharmaceutical process and the regulatory constraints built into the process. The process has not changed significantly since the 1980s and has not taken advantage of the changes in technology, although the drug development itself is at the cutting edge of science and technology.

This is where PLM comes in.

How PLM Disrupts the Old Way of Doing Things

What the pharmaceutical industry needs to embrace is something that the automotive industry latched on to over 20 years ago. Product lifecycle maintenance follows the entire lifecycle of product development from conception to end-of-life, and brings transparency and collaboration to the process. Implementing PLM removes many obstacles from the development path.

Working in Silos

The long lead time in the pharmaceutical lends itself to isolation between the various stakeholders in the process. What is more, during the decade taken to develop the drug, there will be natural turnover of staff and loss of tacit knowledge. Another factor is outsourcing some of the process, where visibility and understanding can be lost. There is a need for all the outputs of the disparate teams and groups to be merged into a comprehensive view. Merck define 3 types of silos :-

  • siloed thinking by people involved in the process
  • siloed processes and workflows
  • siloed technologies – disparate applications that do not integrate

This is where PLM can assist.

Exhaustive Documentation

The need to document every step of drug development is a major constraint imposed by the FDA and other regulatory bodies – it is paper-based and requires up to 100 000 pages of evidence of testing, trials, approvals and every other component associated with the drug being developed. Where participants have been working in silos, the problem of keeping a unified record is exacerbated. Most PLM offerings have  content management features that remove the risk of missing documentation.

But More is Needed

NeoPLM is a specialist vendor, founded by CEO Cathal Strain, who had 30 year’s experience at Pfizer before embarking on this venture. He points out a few pitfalls of most other offerings in the market.

  • PLM is designed around CAD systems, and not batch-based manufacturing, like pharmaceuticals
  • The requirement for documented evidence from the regulatory authorities hampers the ability of companies to streamline their way of working
  • While all PLM suites have maintenance and decommissioning as part of the lifecycle, the ongoing monitoring of drugs once on the market and in use for the lifetime of the drug is far more complex and intensive than for products such as an automobile or a building.


This does not mean that PLM products developed for engineers cannot do the job. Vendors such as Dassault have developed and acquired specialist PLMs that are targeted at the chemical and healthcare industries, especially biotech organizations that manufacture medical devices. What is remarkable, however, is how slow the healthcare industry is to adopt a PLM approach. While leaders such as Sanofi and Merck have taken on the challenge, the majority of industry players are lagging behind. The vendors who offer PLM solutions are all leaders in enterprise, scientific and engineering software and every one of them has healthcare customers and solutions. Whether they choose a specialist pharmaceutical PLM vendor such as NeoPLM or MasterControl, or choose products from vendors such as Oracle, Dassault, Siemens or PTC, implementing PLM will accelerate their drug development process, while reducing costs and risks.

What is certain is that those companies that are slow in adopting a PLM vision of their business will have to adapt as their competitors outperform them. Their shareholders will be reluctant to support them if they cannot keep pace. 

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