Monday, 22 June 2015

QFC - An Autodesk PLM 360 Customer Story

Last month we visited QFC for a 2 day customer video shoot to capture their Autodesk PLM 360 story so far. We shot on site, in the offices, on the factory floor and even took the sofa's outside to Belton House !! So much fun with the QFC team.

Setting up in the QFC Showroom for the interviews

On the QFC factory floor
Shooting some outside footage !

Ok abit of posing by me, did you expect any less !!
Belton House a beautiful place

A focus on business process excellence has helped QFC to establish a reputation for product design, excellent service and great product quality. This ensured that QFC continued to grow through what has been the deepest recession in living memory. Of course no business stands still, and right now QFC’s energy is focussed on pushing the boundaries to produce a pipeline of great new products to keep customers excited and this is where Autodesk PLM 360 comes in. 

Thanks for viewing...Mike

Friday, 5 June 2015

Autodesk Sketchbook & Tattoo Artists a match made in heaven !

I thought I'd switch gear this week and talk about another Autodesk product, namely Autodesk SketchBook®. This is the ultimate in painting and drawing software. It helps digital artists and illustrators design with professional-grade perspective tools and intuitive user interface. You can sketch, draw, and paint on any platform it's badass ! This blog post happened by pure chance, let me explain...

For those of you that know me well, when I'm not on the road working with our Autodesk PLM 360 customers I like to go and inflict pain on myself in the form of tattooing !. I think I've made quite a good job of it so far !

Last weekend I took a trip to the coast to see a good friend of my Zak Chai, who is the owner of High Tide Tattoo in Whitstable for a day of pleasure (in my mind anyhow!).

When I arrive the kettle goes on and we sit down to discuss what he's going to do on me, chewing the fat as you do. He then reaches over to the desk and picks up his iPad and goes 'So I've done some sketches on this really cool app' !

You can imaging my surprise when he shows me a copy of Autodesk SketchBook® ! 

It turns out that Zak is using this app for all of his clients work. He loves the fact that it saves on paper and sketching time and it's so easy to add layers and remove lines. Being digital it's backed up in the cloud, so he's not hunting through masses of paper trying to find that sketch, for the client who's in the waiting room !

From this he is able to print the line drawing ready to make the stencil that he applies to the skin. (Yes my leg does look good!)

Then he can make any amendments to fit the shape of the body and begin the tattoo, using Autodesk SketchBook®  as the reference to see what the finished tattoo will look like.

The finished Tattoo below !.

This got me thinking so I gave another tattoo friend of mine a call Jason Butcher and asked the same question 'Do you use Sketchbook ?' of which he emailed me this 10 minute lunchtime doodle !! (yes 10 minutes). Amazing !

I really love the fact that Autodesk products are everywhere and that they are being used to help every type of designer from Manufacturing to Architects, Graphic Designers and even Tattoo Artists. 

Thanks for reading.....Mike

Friday, 1 May 2015

Autodesk PLM 360 helping QFC to work smart and produce more

Mike: Morning guys, great to meet you again I'm excited to see how you guys shift 6000 sofas a week ! So tell me about QFC, what are the roots of the company, and what is your secret to success?

QFC: Hi Mike, we were founded in 1993 and have reinvented ourselves several times since then to deal with changing market conditions, most notably 10 years ago when we became the first upholstery manufacturer to offer 7 day lead times. This enabled us to continue to grow our business at a time when the UK upholstery industry was shrinking in the face of fierce competition from China and Eastern Europe. A focus on business process excellence has helped us to establish a reputation for really excellent service and great product quality and this ensured that we continued to grow through what has been the deepest recession in living memory. Of course no business stands still and right now our energy is being directed to ensuring that we focus even more on producing a relentless stream of great new products to keep our customers excited and this is where PLM360 comes in. Our intention is that we will be able to get our ideas to market more quickly, more accurately and more cheaply than ever before and the signs from early prototyping and testing are looking promising.

Mike: So that’s how it done, sounds easy ! Can you tell me about how your products are designed and how you manufacture the sofas and chairs?

QFC: Product design is all done by our awesome in house design team, they work closely with our customers, our design philosophy is all about being product leaders, using great fabrics on great shapes. We manufacture and assemble all of our sofas in-house. Below are the basic steps we follow, I'll focus on the manufacturing process after the NPD has been completed !

Step 1  - Design team creating ideas

Step 2 - Fabrics selected

Step 3 - Product modelled in DC3D

Step 4 - Fabric cut by CAD/CAM and then sewn by skilled seamstresses

Step 5 - Timber kit cut by automated machines as well as bandsaws / crosscuts.

Step 6 - The frames are then assembled by hand in cells

Step 7 - Product upholstered using all materials supplied

Step 8 - Packaged ready for dispatch

Mike: wow..I love the all hands approach, it's amazing to see how quickly your products are manufactured. So how did you find out about Autodesk and Autodesk PLM 360 ?

QFC: We spent a lot of time researching for the right solution for our needs. We have a course of process excellence in QFC, in this journey we recognised that we needed a better solution for NPD activities within the business. We looked at several PLM solutions but none quite fit the bill for our requirements like Autodesk did.

David Bramwell and Paul Middleton smiling about the prospect of the paperless NPD process !

Mike: This is what we are seeing, a big shift in customers focusing outside the CAD department and starting in other areas like NPD. Can you tell me little about how you plan implemented Autodesk PLM 360? 

QFC: We are starting with out NPI process as we really needed a stage gate process in place to track and manage all of our new sofa designs. We will be also managing the BOM and change process in PLM 360 followed by the quality management and all of this will be integrated into our ERP system.
Mike: Excellent, so how’s it going, how quickly are you getting up to speed with Autodesk PLM 360 ?

QFC: The project has progressed really well, we set out a project plan from the start and the ease of use and simplification of the software has enabled us to accelerate and exceed all of our project milestones. We have begun and focused more on building the process within PLM to match our processes within the business, whilst configuring the software we are able to use the features and tools in PLM to find ways of streamlining or automating many functions that are very manual and time consuming today.

The core team building our processes into Autodesk PLM 360

Mike: Excellent this is what I love to hear, what’s your overall impression of Autodesk PLM 360? 

QFC: The software has been a breeze to use, right from our implementation training we were able to get to building right away. We have spent the last 12 weeks working a couple of days a week and even after the first 5 days we are already at the point of going live with certain workspaces and workflows.

Mike: Thanks, really looking forward to working with you over the next few months and a special thanks to the people below and their extended teams for the vision and skills to make this happen at QFC

David Bramwell – Managing Director

Paul Middleton – Operations Director
.James Truswell – Development Manager

Friday, 13 February 2015

Autodesk PLM 360 supports Loowatt while they turn sh*t into money!!

Mike: Morning Chris, I struggled with a title for this blog the schoolboy in me wanted to call it so many things !!! but I went with Virginia's one in the end ! Can tell me about Loowatt, what are the roots of the company and what products are you designing?

Chris: Ha ! yes Mike there could have been many more variations to the blog title! Loowatt was founded in 2009 as the outgrowth of CEO Virginia Gardiner’s industrial design degree project at London’s Royal College of Art. Her thesis addressed a self-assigned brief: “To create a waterless, urban toilet system that turns sh*t into money.” Her project questioned the unethical practice of flushing the toilet with drinking water and examined ways to turn human excrement into a commodity rather than a taboo substance to be flushed and forgotten. Today, we are a creative, energetic team working in both United Kingdom and Madagascar. Our vision is to build safe, sustainable and profitable toilet systems. 

Loowatt has developed a waterless and energy-generating toilet system that is clean and odourless. The Loowatt toilet seals human waste into biodegradable liner for anaerobic digestion to produce energy and fertilizer. Loowatt systems offer a range of environmental and social benefits that include water savings, carbon emissions reduction, improved human health and job creation.

Digesters can be built at any scale, and there are many established methods and configurations. In this example, the biogas drum floats up and down inside the digestate. This means that the pressure is created by gravity – the weight of the floating drum. Small-scale digesters like these are commercially available in India.
Mariona and Chris at Loowatt London Office with Tsiky Toilet
Mike: Thats sounds so cool, can you tell me more, sounds like an amazing thing you guys are doing!

Chris: Loowatt’s patented core technology can fit into toilets of any shape, size or specification. The toilet and system are suited to a broad range of situations that require off-grid toilets, including events, developing cities, construction sites and emergency relief. In Madagascar, we are implementing toilets that provide safe and clean sanitation to households. The system also produces energy and fertilizer, which benefits the local community. In the UK, we are introducing the Loowatt Event System—a mobile luxury loo system designed for events, which will bring a step change in the status quo of festival loos, as it is chemical-free, can run off-grid and offers a premium service.

A bird’s eye view gives an idea of the scale, compared to the size of a Mini Cooper.

The Loo Unit contains our unique technology in a luxury portable unit.

 Loowatt Tsiky Toilet for homes in Madagascar.

Mike: Why did you need PLM, and how did you find out about Autodesk?

Chris: We are going through the exciting transition in our operations from an R&D base to being commercially ready. As a company it is important for us to be prepared for this change, to better organise version control and get feedback on the operational lifecycle. With this in mind, we were actively looking for ways of managing these challenges when we came across Autodesk PLM 360, which provides a great solution to manage data as we scale. Luckily for us, it wasn't just PLM 360 we found; we were also eligible for the Autodesk Cleantech Program, which gives us incredible access to Autodesk products for our design development.

Mike: Which lead us to meet at our Autodesk University conference this year in Las Vegas. Can you share some of your experiences at our conference (you can leave the bad stuff in Vegas!)?

Chris: I can honestly say that I haven't experienced anything like Autodesk University before.  The scale of the event was spectacular—10,000 people converging for 3 days of learning, networking and a lot of design talk. Not only did I improve my skills with the software, including PLM 360, but I also took some great classes that addressed challenges in the design process, sustainability, overseas manufacturing and more. It was both educational and inspiring.

Mike: Can you tell me little about how you plan implement Autodesk PLM 360? 

Chris: We are planning to use the Items & Bill of Materials with Change control and the new product introduction apps. We particularly want to get a handle on version control as we roll more toilets out into the field. In time, I am hoping to bring in reporting functions to better understand the performance characteristics of different components. We will be getting a lot of data from our project in Madagascar and it is a great opportunity to feed back into our design process.

Mike: So how’s it going, how quickly are you getting up to speed with Autodesk PLM 360 and what processes are your starting with?

Chris: At first I thought PLM would be quite an intimidating process. But Autodesk PLM 360 being so flexible allowed me to get going without the need for lots of set-up. At Autodesk University, I took a great class to learn the basic workflows and how to build simple functions. Then when you visited me Mike I was amazed how easily we started importing the Bill of Material's from the most recent production designs. I imagined that it would be a laborious data entry task, but in actual fact we imported all the data directly from Excel, which saved a lot of time.

Mike: Yep thats what we like to hear ! What’s your overall impression of Autodesk and PLM 360? 

Chris: Autodesk designed their products in an intelligent way and figured out how they best integrate with the real world. For example, I really like the way Autodesk is moving to the cloud. It makes a lot of sense to be connected over a range of devices and makes Autodesk PLM 360 user friendly and convenient as well as being a powerful tool.

Thanks Chris and I'll look forward to working with you over the coming months..

GO check out these guys at

Thanks for reading.....Mike

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

AU 2014 The Devil is In the Detail—PDM/PLM: Parker Hannifin's Journey

Dusting off the old keyboard been a while..! Just a quick post to let you know about my class this year at AU2014 

PL5315 The Devil is In the Detail—PDM and PLM: Parker Hannifin Corporation's Journey

In this class you will hear first hand from one of our customers, Parker Hannifin and how they deployed Autodesk Vault software from a small group of 30 users to what is now over 1500 active users. You will also learn how they plan to use Autodesk PLM 360 software to manage the other processes that support engineering, quality, costing, quoting, and supplier management, you will see how this will enable them to use cloud-based PLM collaboration to extend the product data management productivity and increase the time to market of products and services.

I will be joined by Maarten Weers from Parker Hannifin the CAD Manager for IT Core Competency Team in EMEA so you can hear first hand from one of our customers. Maarten started his career as a Mechanical Engineer over 20 years ago, implementing software to support company work flows fascinated him from the first day, where he became the interface between engineering, management and IT, this role continued for 13 years. After six years working for a software company developing CAD tools, Maarten then joined Parker Hannifin, where he initiated and coordinated the implementation of Autodesk Vault for the Sales Companies in Europe which are located in seven different countries. This year his focus is on the use of Autodesk PLM360 for the engineering and quality departments.

A few snippets for you !

  • Manage change correctly include everyone ! 
Image Copyright  - Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

  • People empower technology, technology does not empower people
  • Rubbish in, Rubbish out
  • Invest now, set the standard and prepare for company growth. Cut corners now will hurt you in the end! 

So go 'ave a butcher's and sign up below ! 
Image Copyright  - Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Subscribe to my blog...for more customer stories and case studies

Thanks for reading....Mike

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Octopart and Autodesk PLM 360 Partnership

Octopart is the leading search engine for electronic parts. The Octopart API is used by hundreds of OEMs and EMS providers to streamline quoting, sourcing and purchasing processes. The Octopart app for PLM 360 utilizes the Octopart API to access pricing and availability information for over 20 million electronic components, right within the PLM360 interface. This week I met with the team behind Octopart and had a the chance to dig deeper...

Mike: Morning Guys, great to meet you at last, so can you tell my readers a little bit about Octopart?

Janine: Hi Mike, we started building Octopart in 2007 when the founders -- physics researchers -- decided they were done with flipping through giant part supplier catalogs, and built a tool for themselves to find parts fast.  Turns out lots of other people felt the same pain and wanted to use it.   What started as a small project turned into a mission-driven company when the founders discovered that data in the electronics world is a bit of a mess.   Part data is all over the place, or trapped in proprietary databases, or completely unstructured.   We've spent years working with part manufacturers and suppliers to organize their data so we can make it accessible and useful to engineers and part buyers.  Today we have a database of 30 million parts with pricing and quantity information, technical specs, compliance statements and more.  And we're still working on it.  

Sam in his physics lab at the University of Colorado Boulder pre-Octopart

Mike: Sounds cool! So your have an open API can you share how, and why being open has helped you and your customers use Octopart?

Janine:  Open Data, APIs, and cloud are all very hot buzzwords at the moment, so we thought we'd better jump on that bandwagon. Just kidding!  Our user base has grown up with us over the years, and we're seeing more users ask for more data and more sophisticated tools.  Building out features to accommodate everyone's specific needs is out of the question since we're a small team trying to be lean and laser-focused.  What we're happy to do is open up our database so people can programmatically access our data and use it in exactly the way they want to.   It's a testament to the creativity of our user base that this has translated into Octopart data being used in over a hundred applications in design, sourcing and manufacturing.  Autodesk PLM 360 is one of the applications that really showcases how freeing data from its silos means people can operate more efficiently and effectively with tools they already use. 

Mike: So you have been using PLM360 for a while now can you tell me about your first steps, what are your thoughts on functionality, ease of use etc?

Janine:  As a startup, getting started with PLM 360 was no sweat at all since we're used to working with cloud apps.  For some one like me,  quick setup, access from anywhere and lightning-fast collaboration tools are things I've come to expect.  It has the look and feel of cloud apps in other categories - like Dropbox or SalesforceCRM.   Others on our team have used traditional, on-premise PLM software in other jobs before and I'm told the difference is not to be taken for granted.

Mike: Thats what we like to hear :) So a while ago we collaborated on the Octopart look up App in the PLM360 App Store. Can you explain what it is and how it works?

Janine:  The Octopart Lookup app is a way to get information about specific electronic components directly from PLM 360.  So if you're  in product development or sourcing and you need to submit a change notice because a component in your BOM just EOL-ed, you can lookup a new part for the right price point right inside PLM360. 

The Octopart App in PLM 360

Mike: Excellent!  we're going to look at the app in more detail in abit and how our users get started. But for now tell me something random about Octopart!!…(don’t be shy!) 

Janine:  A chunk of our user base, especially early adopters, are hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts.  Sam, one of the founders, is very much of this breed, and one of his projects that helped get the early word out was a DIY doublet amplifier made out of an empty Altoid tin.   For awhile there, Sam thought he might have a little side business selling these.  He ate lots of Altoids that month!

Altoid Doublet Amplifier

Doublet amplifier project:  

Mike: Thanks Janine, looking forward to working with you on the future Octopart PLM 360 App updates and enhancements

Let now take a look at how you get started in 3 simple steps

How to Install the Octopart Look up App

Step 1: Open the Autodesk PLM 360 App Store

Administration >  App Store 

Step 2: Select the Octopart App and Click Install 

Step 3: Add the Octopart app PLM 360 permissions to your preferred group and that's it!

How to use the App

Step 1: Open the app and create a new record and enter the Octopart number you want to look up

Step 2: Save the record, upon save Autodesk PLM 360 will automatically retrieve the require data from Octopart. Right from with PLM 360 you now have access stocking information, price breaks, lead times, and you can purchase parts with one-click access direct to suppliers.

Stocking information, price breaks, lead times

Purchase parts with one-click access direct to suppliers.

Step 3: you can now approve the Octopart data using the Autodesk PLM 360 workflow.

Autodesk PLM 360 workflow to allow you to select and approve the Octopart components

As you can see 3 simple steps to install and use the Octopart PLM 360 App.

Thanks for Reading ..... Mike

Friday, 6 December 2013

iOS example app for PLM 360 to track GPS and upload photo's

Thought I'd share a few early details of an example of an iOS app that we are working on to show you how you can track GPS locations and upload photo's to PLM 360 using the REST API.  This can also be done for android but for this example I'm using the iOS version. There could be a number of uses for this like field inspections, tracking locations of your product install base or even a basic capture of the locations of your customers.

If you have PLM 360 Enterprise licences you have access to the PLM360 REST API. This will allow you to develop iOS or android apps that work with PLM 360. PLM 360 has a RESTful API. Like most client/server APIs, it consists of a collection of functions that a client application initiates. Structured data is passed back and forth during these function calls.

In the case of REST, a function is represented as a URL and structured data is passed in the body of the HTTP request and response. Basic knowledge of HTTP is helpful when using REST. Concepts like HTTP verbs, query strings, HTTP headers, and MIME types come up when using the API. In addition to the URL, the HTTP verb also indicates the operation to be performed. REST attempts to fit functions into a CRUD model, where operations are either Create, Read, Update, or Delete. The HTTP verb indicates which type of operation is being performed.

So lets take a look, first we click on the app Icon to get started. This app is installed using the Ad Hoc Distribution method. This allows you to try an application without the need to publish to the iTunes App Store. This is how we distribute iPhone applications to beta test.

Home Screen

Step 1.  Login with your Autodesk ID

Step 2. Add tenant name/workspace ID

Step 3. After logging in you will see a success message popup

Step 4. By clicking the search icon the app gets your current GPS location

Step 5. Next by clicking on the + the button we can capture the  photo and GPS location. The Autodesk Soho office xmas tree in this example!

Step 6. Once uploaded you will see a popup message to confirm your image has been uploaded to the PLM 360 tenant that you specified.

Step 7. By clicking on the book icon, this will download all the locations that have been captured and then plot these on the map.

Step 8. You can see on the map that there are 2 locations (red pins) the Autodesk Soho office and my home office.

Step 9.  By clicking on one of the red pins it will display the date and the user who uploaded it.

Step 10. If we then click on the information button this displays the eh!

If we now log into our PLM 360 tenant we can see the information that we just uploaded. In this example I've uploaded the photo to the field Service approvals workspace.

You can see that the workspace contains two records to match the two red location pins from the app. These items have stored the name of the person who uploaded it, the GPS location and embedded Google map.

When we click on the attachments tab, we can see that the photo taken in Step 5 on the iphone has been uploaded to the workspace including a timestamp.

Keep checking back as I'll be adding more examples of PLM 360 apps in the New Year and how you can add value to your existing tenants by adopting these best practice apps. Have a great Christmas !! 

Thanks for reading.....Mike