Last weekend our 80 year old neighbors were looking for their house keys that they had lost somewhere in their front yard. They soon gave up and drove off. I thought for a minute about what they had told me and pictured their typical movements. I followed the trail from where their car is typically parked to their front door and of course found their keys very quickly.
Proudly telling my wife and daughter of this feat, they reminded me that being able to find things is one of my chief talents. Perhaps one of those talents that reminds you that you are not David Beckham, The Edge or Albert Einstein but still a useful talent to have. My twelve year old daughter immediately remembered Swiper, a soft toy (a mischievous fox from the Dora the Explorer cartoon) that she had dropped somewhere on a dark Halloween evening seven years ago, the trauma of this loss clearly with her to this day. Thankfully I can report that Swiper was found by Dad that same evening with a flash light and a mental picture of which houses we had called at.
Many engineers use this type of visual thinking not just to be the house hero for a few hours, but to solve problems that they come across in their daily work. For example, maybe a customer describes an issue that they are having with a product over the phone, and then while driving home that evening you mentally picture the scenario and come up with a solution to their problem. Unfortunately, for larger and more complex products, holding a mental picture of your designs and all the information that impacted the development process is not always possible. This is where software solutions that provide a visual approach to managing design data can have a big impact.
Watching the HD-PLM video it strikes me that HD-PLM addresses this exact issue, it helps engineers who already employ visual thinking in their daily work to apply this successfully in an environment of complex products and the associated large volumes of design data. These products are not just a collection of physical parts, but are controlled by specific regulations, and typically have software components, supplier specifications and test results that are integral to the success of the design. I am not myself directly employed on the HD-PLM project, but am on a fast learning curve to understand this new vision. Does this interpretation make sense to you?
Another example of a visual approach to managing design data is Solid Edge Insight XT, a Microsoft SharePoint based design management solution for Solid Edge users that is released this month and that has some great tools for presenting complex data structures in simple visual forms. For example the Content Browser enables parts that have multiple revisions and multiple documents associated with them to be clearly displayed and easily navigated. And the Relation Browser enables dynamic navigation around not just large, multi-level product structures but also around the Projects, Engineering Change Requests and Engineering Change Orders that are associated with these products. This video clearly shows how Insight XT supports visual thinkers.
Albert Einstein may not have found Swiper but he is a prime example of a successful “visual thinker”, a person who tends to think in images and visual patterns and create simple solutions to complex problems. Maybe technologies like HD-PLM and Insight XT will enable us all to be a bit more like Einstein!