Product innovation: Keeping good ideas on the fast track

It seems only fitting that product lifecycle management (PLM) software vendors are producing some of the most ingenious applications used by manufacturing companies these days. These vendors specialize in making it easier for manufacturers to nurture the ideas that eventually become new products, as well as simplifying processes for building and servicing those products.



Product innovation

It seems only fitting that product lifecycle management (PLM) software vendors are producing some of the most ingenious applications used by manufacturing companies these days.

These vendors specialize in making it easier for manufacturers to nurture the ideas that eventually become new products, as well as simplifying processes for building and servicing those products.

For the past few years, the PLM sector has focused on giving manufacturers the ability to share product related data with broader groups of stakeholders. Allowing personnel from different functional groups—manufacturing, marketing, sales, service, etc.—to discuss new products early in the design phase helps manufacturers boost profitability by making sure the company is building products that customers actually want. It also improves product quality, further ensuring customer satisfaction.

This emphasis on collaborative product development also is evident in the solutions being released by the companies in the Product Innovation category of the 2009 Manufacturing Business Technology Emerging 40 Software Vendors list.

This group includes companies like Lattice Technology, which developed a method of compressing large engineering files to a size small enough to make them accessible to virtually anyone within a manufacturing enterprise, and SpaceClaim, supplier of a 3D modeling tool that can handle information from a wide variety of CAD systems.

When it comes to intra-enterprise collaboration, Imaginatik offers a Web-based platform called Idea Central on which manufacturers can manage large-scale collaborative projects. Xerox used this platform to replace a two-day, 40-person product planning meeting with a 400-person online activity that turned out 10 times the number of products, with no travel costs or downtime.

An application called Goldfire from Invention Machine is helping manufacturers get new products to market much faster, by devising ways of reusing information generated during the development of previous successful products.

The cardiovascular division of Boston Scientific views Goldfire as one of its most strategic software solutions. Using Goldfire, Boston Scientific engineers can determine within minutes whether any past designs can be reused in new products. The company estimates that 10 to 15 percent of the patents filed by its cardiovascular division are now generated with the help of Goldfire. It has also helped engineering productivity increase 30 percent since the solution was adopted, allowing engineers to focus on high-quality, revenue-generating projects.

Companies like, Knovel, and NineSigma take the collaborative approach a step further, offering online platforms that provide product engineers with a whole new universe of potential resources and partners.

The Industrial Interface solution lets engineers post information about product designs anonymously, in hopes of finding suppliers who can help in completing the design. Suppliers with experience with similar projects pay Industrial Interface to contact the engineer.

Knovel provides a similar service for engineers looking specific technical information.

Procter & Gamble is among the 1,000 plus companies that have used the “open innovation” platform developed by NineSigma to find solutions to some of its toughest product development problems.

NineSigma executives say their platform is doubly valuable to manufacturers because it allows them to find solutions in places they would never have thought to look before. A prime example is P&G finding a compound to stop oil spots from developing on detergent boxes. It came from a small U.K. company that previously specialized in agricultural concentrates such as pesticides and herbicides.

Read the following pages for more on how these emerging PLM software vendors are helping manufacturers keep their best ideas on the fast track.

Product innovation emerging software vendors list

Imaginatik ,

Flagship product : Idea Central, a Web-based platform for managing collaborative projects.

Most recent upgrade : Idea Central Version 9, improved capabilities for large-scale project.

Major business problems addressed : Strategic support for the creation of large scale collective intelligence/innovation management projects.

Factors driving growth : Awareness for Imaginatik has grown due to some high profile accounts including Chubb, Xerox, Boeing, CSC, Whirlpool, Cargill and Pfizer.

Specific customer benefits : Xerox used Idea Central to replace a 2-day, 40-person product planning meeting with a 400-person online activity that turned out 10 times the number of products, with no travel costs or downtime.

Invention Machine ,

Flagship product : Goldfire

Most recent upgrade : Goldfire 5.5 contains a new knowledge navigator capability that fosters innovation collaboration by accurately reconstructing a user’s past thinking and research process.

Major business problems addressed : Helping companies can sustain the innovation process, fuel the product pipeline, and deliver the right products the first time.

Factors driving growth : Product innovation has become critical corporate survival and Invention Machine Goldfire makes innovation a repeatable and sustainable process.

Specific customer benefits : The cardiovascular division of Boston Scientific boosted engineering productivity has increased 30 percent after adopting Goldfire, allowing engineers to focus on quality, revenue-generating projects. ,

Flagship product :, a platform for engineers to locate suppliers to help complete product designs.

Most recent upgrade : launched in November 2009.

Major business problems addressed : Helping product designers find quick cost-effective solutions to engineering problems.

Factors driving growth : The need to get products to market quickly and cost-effectively.

Knovel ,

Flagship product : Knovel, an online resource that helps engineers find reliable technical information faster.

Most recent upgrade : My Knovel, allows engineers to digitally accumulate knowledge anywhere they have a web connection, making this content more portable and resulting in increased productivity. Users can organize and manage saved content of all types.

Major business problems addressed : The need for quick access to technical information that can assist in new product development.

Factors driving growth : Companies’ need to get new products to market quickly.

Specific customer benefits : Engineers and scientists at PQ Corp., a leading producer of soluble silicates, zeolites, silica gels, and other performance materials, rely on Knovel to not only find information quickly, but also to extract information in an easy-to-use form. One scientist was able to export data from Knovel to construct a spreadsheet that calculates the concentration of sulfuric acid based on density and temperature—data that helped tune operations in two PQ plants.

Lattice Technology ,

Flagship product : XVL Studio, authoring tool for making 3D design data into 3D manufacturing data, enabling digital manufacturing across an enterprise.

Most recent upgrade : XVL Converter Plug-in for Autodesk Inventor allows 3D data created in Autodesk Inventor 2010 to be compressed to an average 0.5 percent of its original size with no loss of accuracy.

Major business problems addressed : The need for sharing data from multiple CAD systems both within engineering groups and throughout the enterprise and supply chain.

Factors driving growth : The need to develop new products quickly and collaborate with users of multiple CAD systems.

Specific customer benefits : KVAL, a manufacturer of door and jamb machining equipment, used the Lattice solution to make 3D CAD data available to personnel throughout enterprise—including the manufacturing, marketing, and product areas.

New Generation Computing ,

Flagship product : The Global Enterprise System, a suite of solutions or PLM, Global Sourcing, ERP, Shop Floor Control, Factory Labeling & Packing, CPSIA & Business Intelligence Tools.

Most recent upgrade : CPSIA Compliance Software, helps manufacturers and retailers manage the process of requesting, tracking, approving and sending the complex documentation mandated by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

Major business problems addressed : Helping companies save time and money. NGC’s PLM and global sourcing software, for example, enables a high degree of collaboration and visibility at every step of the product lifecycle, allowing companies to get their product from design concept to the retail floor in the shortest possible time.

Factors driving growth : An integrated solution embracing seven major application areas (PLM, Global Sourcing, ERP, Shop Floor Control, Factory Labeling & Packing, CPSIA and Business Intelligence) with over 50 configurable modules.

Specific customer benefits : Jerry Leigh, design-driven apparel company, implemented NGC’s e-SPS global sourcing software to streamline production and improve communications with customers and trading partners around the world.

NineSigma ,

Flagship product : Open Innovation Network, a platform for connecting product designers seeking to solve engineering problems with solution providers.

Most recent upgrade : Linked Innovation” initiative, designed to bring together both competing and non-competing companies and institutions to solve cross-industry innovation and sustainability challenges.

Major business problems addressed : The need for getting innovative products to market quickly.

Factors driving growth : The desire for companies to find partners that can quickly solve product development problems

Specific customer benefits : Procter & Gamble used the NineSigma Open Innovation Network to find a company that makes a compound that could stop oil spots from developing at the bottom of detergent boxes.

SpaceClaim ,

Flagship product : SpaceClaim, a 3D direct modeling and analysis platform.

Most recent upgrade : SpaceClaim 2009, support Windows 7 and Multi-Touch for 3D direct modeling; makes it easier to prepare models preparing models for simulation.

Major business problems addressed : Helps conceptual engineers create new designs, or modify existing designs; also allows intense engineering analysis to take place in the SpaceClaim tool.

Factors driving growth : Companies’ desire to streamline product development processes.

Specific customer benefits : “SpaceClaim has reduced our time consumption on CAD-related tasks significantly and focus has been moved from heavy-drawing, technical problems toward developing an optimal product.” Lars Feldager Hansen, CEO M.Sc. Tech, 4C Technologies, a business consulting and software engineering firm specializing in IT-based business innovation, application development and application integration.

Sustainable Minds ,

Flagship product : Sustainable Minds, Lifecycle assessment (LCA) software that enables product development teams to model the potential lifecycle environmental impacts early in the concept design phase

Most recent upgrade : Sustainable Minds 1.0 launched October 2009

Major business problems addressed : Helps product teams create a repeatable, consistent method to evaluate the environmental impact of a product

Factors driving growth : The growing demand for manufacturers to produce environmentally sustainable products

Specific customer benefits : Celestica, one of the world’s top outsourced electronics manufacturing companies, is using Sustainable Minds to help it customers design products that use less energy, last longer in the field, and are easy to disassemble and recycle at the end of their useful life.

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