Yes you still have offline users in your PLM environnements ! Help them !

Posted on October 23, 2013

Following a discussion with a PLM manager at one of our largest french Defense & Security companies, I remembered discussions we had about the full-online or online/offline necessary sync that would lead the future of software and webapps a few years ago with friends. These friends were entrepreneurs working on a pretty cool iphone app called meetmytunes. Now one of them is working at Evernote and it’s clearly related to his position at the moment we had the discussion. It was the time (3 to 4 years ago) when the web was constantly growing in terms of coverage in France, 3G was already there and so the discussion was about. Are we going full-web or do we still need to care about the moments you may not be connected to the web?

Disconnection use-case

The use case can be multiple. One of the latest I’ve heard of was when people were sent on the field to test systems like automatic speed detector on roads. They check all data and enter these results in systems that are not necessarily connected to any web network. So most of the time the answer is Excel or Access. The problem is that these solutions are not controlled enough to avoid data retyping and cleaning once the person is back in the company. More recently we’ve been discussing with some companies maintaining systems on boats. I don’t think that the Wifi password is written when you get in your room on a military ship (I could be wrong though).

Sync apps or just delayed-import

This problem of being sometimes disconnected has been answered by some software with a synchronization strategy. Many solutions are available to synchronize files like dropbox, owncloud,… and some others are used to synchronize content like Evernote for example.

If not synchronized automatically the old method is just to import the data once back at the company. This doesn’t have to be a complicated task it can be just an import button to click which would be somehow pretty much the same process after all.

Problem of data-structure update

The problem there is: what happens if the data structure changes in the company. How do you make sure you still enter data in the right  format for the system they will get imported in? It might not be a big issue but you need to make sure that any evolution on the company hosted system should have an impact on these offline tools that are being developed. But the data modeling is an interesting topic in this case, we are willing to synchronize different type of information which can be composed of meta-data but also of files. And these elements may have different handling rules once back in PLM.

I’ve discussed this topic with various consultant working with some of the big editors and most of them told me “yeah we’ve done that for this customer, our software can do it”. But I haven’t had the same feedback from PLM consumers. So I’m not giving any direction to take for now. We know we work on it at Minerva to provide a standard solution still flexible to be used by any industry. How is your experience with Offline data management and its synchronization back to your PLM instance?



Yoann Maingon

Yoann Maingon is an Entrepreneur and a PLM enthousiast. He is our main blogger at Minerva as he has been publishing articles about General PLM concepts and Aras Innovator for more than three years.

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  • Menk Slot

    Yoann, My opinion is that you can have 2 solutions:
    Offline can change data
    Offline can only read data.

    In the first case the data need to be checked out and other users can not change the data.
    The second case the data can only be changed Online.

    So for both cases you need to have an export function


    Menk Slot

    • Thanks for your comment ! I understand your vision which is quite close to casual PLM IT. But now, with Dropbox, evernotes, Firebase, and all the sync technology we may want to watch the problem differently !!!

  • Checkout is pretty much the only mechanism given current systems… but it is a shortcoming. It’s admission that the systems cannot handle multiple changes of one thing from multiple sources. I.e. the equivalent of a merge in the software world. Instead with re-importing changed data you’re left with too choices: keep the old or overwrite. Hence the checkout.

    But I don’t think it’s an impossible feat. That’s a technology worth working on. It’s high time someone started attacking this problem because it has many more applications than just offline changes.

    • Hi Ed ! And you’re exactly right. It is time to do it! I was talking at a conference a few month ago where there were a lot of big companies only talking with big editors where the innovation is not a key sales point! And in my presentation I was presenting some technologies like Basex and Neo4J for the database and I talked about firebase ( ). I think the issue is that large companies are apparently willing to spend money on PLM with companies that have at least 10 years of age!
      I hope this is going to be soon a reality !

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