Product data management and CAD/CAM software firm SDRC, currently being acquired by UGS’ parent EDS, has launched a suite of collaborative product lifecycle management software that it clams is the first to be CAD-neutral. The firm says it will reduce engineering change orders, and accelerate time-to-market by releasing product information formerly captive in disparate systems. Dubbed TeamCenter, and previewed at SDRC’s Orlando user conference in Orlando, it enables virtual enterprises – remote companies, departments and individuals around the world if need be – to collaborate, sharing and managing product data, virtual prototypes and assembles, despite using different systems. Geoff Sutcliffe, SDRC’s UK business development manager, says: “It’s Metaphase [PDM] and Accelis [SDRC’s application interoperability framework] technology reused but re-architected for the web environment to cover the whole collaborative product lifecycle.” And that means everything from describing product requirements, to design, configuration, document management all via the web. It’s built on Sun Microsystems’ Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), and the SDRC line talks of “unprecedented value, allowing global manufacturers to bring new products to market faster, with higher quality at reduced cost.” Bill Weyand, SDRC’s chairman and CEO says: “TeamCenter is a revolutionary step forward for SDRC. We believe [it] provides manufacturers [with] exactly what is needed to stay competitively viable in today’s product development environment – a new, web-native collaboration environment to bind together disparate systems into one integrated source of data and knowledge that is aligned with product lifecycle business processes.” In fact, SDRC provides adapters to connect TeamCenter with everything from product data management (PDM), to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, component and supplier management (CSM) systems, maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) systems, mainframe applications and legacy databases. In brief detail, TeamCenter is based on SDRC’s ‘Collaboration Foundation’, which provides the web infrastructure that controls and manages distributed product information through a number of modules. First is ‘TeamCenter Project Collaboration’ provides the real-time workspace. Next is ‘TeamCenter Requirements Collaboration’’ (not available till the fourth quarter) handles the product requirements side including customer and regulatory compliance dictats. Then there’s ‘Product Collaboration’ looking after product knowledge sharing and management; ‘Design Collaboration’ (also not yet released) synchronising visualisation and mock-up with product structure browsing across several geometry sources; and ‘Enterprise Collaboration’ dealing with data presentation. Consultants are impressed: Ed Miller, president of independent PDM consultancy CIMdata, says: “The TeamCenter [software] components approach allows for unparalleled openness by allowing customers to not only use SDRC’s components, but also their own components, components from other products, and components developed by third parties.” Meanwhile, SDRC is also set to extend web-based collaborative product lifecycle management into the world of public and private exchanges, with all their security ramifications. The firm is currently working on integrating TeamCenter with e-business platform provider Asera’s web application connection suite, following strategic partnerships with Asera and supply chain and e-business leader i2 also announced at its Orlando event. First up will be connectors for Accelis into Asera’s e-business operating system, and that’s due out this summer. Other packages, like I-Deas for mechanical design automation and the Metaphase PDM system, will then follow, according to Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe: “It means the capability to get into exchanges: supply chain service and support – gets us into products like Siebel [CRM] and i2 [supply chain management] – extending collaborative commerce across the broad, multi-company enterprise.” Again, commentators are impressed. Analyst AMR Research’s consultant Eugene Kang says: “This is exactly what the emerging PLM market needs… For users and prospects of SDRC, this partnership could deliver far more collaborative power to new product development (NPD) teams by tying vital product data to the increasingly distributed decision support systems that touch the process. “By integrating to procurement, product costing and market forecasting, NPD can perform better in time-to-market, component and platform reuse and other key performance measures.” But he warns: “Such potential benefits however, will take quite a while to hit the bottom line; they are dependent on not just technology milestones, but also process change. Look first for demonstration of Accelis’ integration to the Asera platform and what standard enterprise applications this combination can access.”