CAD, Engineers and Online Communities

February 19, 2014

cad-engineers-community

Remember our life before internet? The meaning of community was about social group that shares common values. Actually, the history of communities is longer than history of CAD software :). So called "Community Rules" were mentioned in one of the first scrolls found in Qumran Cave. Community word often explains common geography or environment. However, in human communities it is usually comes down to needs, belief, intent, risks, etc. Internet expanded borders of social groups and made possible to create virtual communities. The result – massive creation of online communities (social networks). Some of them, such as Facebook, started as a virtual continuation of physical social groups (academic organization). Social networks today represent huge segment of online internet activities.

The success of social business and social networking raised multiple questions among developers of business software. Collaboration still remains one of the biggest problem in organization. Geographical distribution is another reason why companies are looking how to improve communication. Software vendors are coming with the ideas of software to collaborate similar to social networking web sites. In addition to that, community creation is related to customer activities. This is where a potential to link collaboration in an organization and customer activities.

So, what is the secret of successful community creation? I was reading The collision of communities few days ago. Article brings some interesting perspectives on community organizations and some driving factors behind community work. Among them, article speaks about Jelly (Q&A search), Wut and Secret (anonymous status apps). These are communities too. Author compares these communities with communities companies are creating these days. Fundamentally, in order to be successful, communities are sharing the same common behavior and interest. Here is my favorite passage from the article:

Every social startup that launches hope to have a large, organic community organize around their product. They hire community managers and product managers spend a lot of time thinking about how to increase engagement. Jelly, Wut and Secret, each different in application, have at it core, the need to build and cultivate a vibrant community to succeed, and in order to do so, they must remember the first community rule: He shall guide them with knowledge and instruct them in the mysteries of wonder and truth in the midst of the members of the community, so that they shall behave decently with one another in all that has been revealed to them.

Engineering software companies are joining the bandwagon community building. Social CAD, Social PLM, Social Collaboration – for the last few years we’ve heard a lot about how community driven (social) software will change the way we do business. We can only speculate about successes and failures of social software. However, I want to bring two examples of communities related to engineering software – SolidWorks Users and GrabCAD.

SolidWorks has large and successful community. Nobody can argue. The common interests and needs among them is to share knowledge and experience of how to use SolidWorks. In my view, it was extremely important to all participants since it allowed to them (engineers) to get CAD system support. Most of SolidWorks users are working for small firms that had no budget and engineering IT to help them.

GrabCAD is an interesting example. Started few years ago as "Facebook for Engineers", it succeeded to gather about 1 million engineers to share CAD files online. Here is my pure speculation how it was done. Re-use is one of the fundamental engineering behavior. You can save a lot of time by re-using existing design even if you will modify it. Back in my university years, to have an old similar project was a huge time saving factor in every project I did. GrabCAD provided to engineers models to reuse CAD models for the best price – free. In addition to that, it helps engineers to self-promote their work.

Think about these two examples. In both cases, focus on identification of "community rule" was a key to success. It should be something that will drive common interests and benefits of all participants. Wikipedia article about organizational communication can be a good source of learning and additional information. Here are few assumptions I captured:

All we really need to understand communication in organizations is (a) observable and replicable behaviors that can be transformed into variables by some form of measurement, and (b) formally replicable syllogisms that can extend theory from observed data to other groups and settings. Organizations are mechanical things, in which the parts (including employees functioning in defined roles) are interchangeable. What works in one organization will work in another similar organization. Individual differences can be minimized or even eliminated with careful management techniques.

What is my conclusion? Ask two engineers about how to do a project – you will get 3 options. To work with engineers is like herding cats. Nevertheless, the focus should be on identification and capturing of behaviors that can help engineers in their everyday life. Be prepared to discover something different from traditional organizational goals like "improve quality" or "decrease cost". By capturing and replicating engineers’ behaviors you can find a recipe to organize a successful engineering community. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD cloud colalboration from Autodesk, GrabCAD and SolidWorks

February 4, 2014

cad-collab-cloud

Collaboration was always in the focus of engineering software. Started earlier with CAD and product data management, software vendors tried to create an environment where engineers can easy collaborate and share information about design. The boundary of collaboration never been limited to engineering department. You might remember “extended enterprise collaboration” stories back in 2000s. That was probably first attempt to provide an easy way to share information among engineering and other teams. In my view, early collaboration software provided by CAD and PLM vendors had two main diseases – complexity of user interface (or how we call it these days – user experience) and complexity of computer infrastructure needed to be installed and maintained by IT departments.

The situation is going to change these days. User interface is clearly getting in focus of development teams. Most of CAD and PLM companies are recognizing the importance of smooth user experience. The demand of users set by public web giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and not by old-school enterprise software vendors. Cloud technologies are going to simplify IT jobs and provide new generation of IT infrastructure.

So, design collaboration space is getting hot. Established CAD vendors and newcomer start-up companies are trying to innovate by providing new environments and collaboration philosophies. I picked up 3 companies that in my view can provide a good example of the future CAD cloud design collaborative environment – Autodesk, GrabCAD and Solidworks.

Autodesk 360

Autodesk introduced Tech preview of new Autodesk 360 product. Core77 blog article Autodesk 360 Tech preview: it’s like Facebook for designers provides a very good coverage and screen shots. Here is the passage summarized what Autodesk 360 does:

autodesk360

The company has created a Facebook-like interface for projects and design teams; collaborators log on to a cleanly-designed dashboard page containing “all of the data, projects, people, tasks, discussions, activities, issues and alerts that are associated with design or architecture projects that they are working on.” Clicking on a project, for instance, is like clicking on someone’s Facebook wall; you get a linear view of all developments concerning that project, with your fellow collaborators’ updates taking the place of comments. People can upload relevant files as updates, and anyone with access can view any file, regardless of whether it’s an Autodesk format or not. (This includes non-design data, like spreadsheets and such.) And yes, Autodesk 360 can also be used from your phone or tablet, just as with Facebook.

GrabCAD Workbench (Partners Space)

GrabCAD is a newcomer in CAD collaboration space. Started as a space for engineers to collaborate few years ago (funny enough, it was mentioned many times as a “Facebook for engineers”), these days GrabCAD is moving fast to become CAD collaboration solution provider with their GrabCAD Workbench product. GrabCAD blog – Why GrabCAD created a next-generation release process? can give you some insight on GrabCAD strategy and philosophy. Here is what I captured:

gc-collaboration-cad

GrabCAD started as a way for engineers to collaborate on engineering projects. Over time, we engineered the secure system GrabCAD Workbench first for external collaboration, then, with CPD, for PDM-style internal collaboration. Unlike PLM systems, which mostly started as CAD-centric data management tools, we have approached the problem by first understanding the social and business problems our customers need to solve. This unique perspective caused us to partition the private engineering workspace from special “Partner Spaces” that make sharing such data secure and foolproof. While the engineering team is working away, each partner has access to the version released to them. The Partner Space also contains a limited and more appropriate set of tools for external collaboration, so the partner sees only what they need to.

SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (Dashboard)

Last week at SolidWorks World 2014 in San Diego, Dassault SolidWorks made an announcement about new product SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual (SWMC). The product was long awaited and raised lots of discussion and controversy in blogosphere and CAD press. My single best link to follow different opinions about SWMC is SolidSmack’s article – What we found out about SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual and Future of SolidWorks. Another good reference is Graphic Speak article – The business case for SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. What captured my attention in SWMC announcement is introduction of so called – 3DEXPERIENCE 3D Space. Here is how it was explained by Graphic Speak:

3dexperience-3dspace

Mechanical Conceptual introduces a new way of sharing data that’s integral to the 3D Experience Platform. Called the 3D Dashboard, it functions like the Windows Explorer for SolidWorks or any other desktop application. All models are saved to the dashboard in a so-called workspace that can be shared with co-workers or customers. The dashboard is accessible by a Web browser. Clients who don’t have Mechanical Conceptual can simply log in to view models

What is my conclusion? Customers have huge demand to improve collaboration. People are expecting collaboration should be as easy as sharing your photos on Facebook. However, complexity of design environment is much higher than sharing photos. This is a clear challenge for all vendors regardless on their status and experience. The simplicity is the hardest thing to deliver. However, it is not all about future of collaboration. In my view, cost will become the next important challenge. Who will be able to provide the best combination of features, user experience and cost will probably lead future CAD collaboration space in the cloud. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


CAD-PDM Integration, Transparency and Cloud Pain Killer

January 28, 2014

cloud-pdm-integration

CAD/PDM integration is a very important topic. It is a piece of software that helps to establish a connection between core engineering world using CAD systems and rest of the world using design data. It was a place where lots of data management innovation happened in the past. It is also one of the most frequently debated topic, especially when it comes to how manage connectivity between CAD and PDM/PLM system. It created lot of successes to companies introducing data management to engineering departments and probably created as many failures to companies that didn’t do it well or messed up with management of PDM and CAD releases.

In my view, it remains hot topic these days. Cloud brings new stream of innovation into CAD-PDM space. Cloud and CAD files management is heavily debated among different communities these days. Navigate to read my What end of local storage means for CAD? and catch up on CAD, PLM and Future Cloud File Systems. One of my active opponents in the discussion about how to introduce cloud to CAD data management is GrabCAD’s Hardi Meybaum – Debunking the cons to CAD file sharing tools.

Earlier this week, GrabCAD made an announcement about GrabCAD Workbench availability for SolidWorks. It came aligned with SolidWorks World 2014 that is taking place these days in San Diego, CA. The following two articles provide good coverage of what SolidWorks GrabCAD Workbench integration does – GrabCAD workbench rolls new CAD file management features and Busy Week in the Cloud: GrabCAD and Autodesk 360 . Here is an interesting passage

…GrabCAD Workbench provides a cost-effective and easy-to-implement PDM/PLM alternative for small- to mid-sizes businesses. GrabCAD Workbench now also offers a SolidWorks add-in and neutral file translator, opening up even more options in file types for users. Workbench users can now upload and download files as well as resolve conflicts from within SolidWorks…

SolidWorks user community is hot PDM opportunity for the cloud. I remember my post two years ago SolidWorks, Cloud and Product Data Management speaking about potential cloud infusion of PDM in SolidWorks eco-system.

The interesting part of GrabCAD Workbench / SolidWorks plugin is the way it was integrated in SolidWorks. Below I put few screenshots of different PDM systems providing integration to SolidWorks. All of them are integrating PDM plug-in immersively into CAD (SolidWorks) environment to simplify user experience:

GrabCAD:

GrabCAD-SolidWorks-Add-in-copy

SolidWorks EPDM (formerly Conisio)

pdmworks_enterprise1_lg

SmarTeam:

solidworks-smarteam

Siemens TeamCenter:

Teamcenter-Integration-for-SolidWorks

It made me think about the way cloud is probably going to be introduced to engineering community of CAD users – painless plug-in connecting CAD system you are familiar with to the cloud infrastructure, servers and eco-system. The beauty of the approach is that it helps to hide from engineer "cloud nature of the system". CAD user experience remains the same – familiar to engineers for many years. The potential danger is plug-in behavior in case of network low speed and cloud connectivity outage.

What is my conclusion? Data management transparency is a key for success. To serve users with familiar user experience and to sneak cloud servers into CAD system is a very nice approach that can provide a lot of potential. It holds the same risk old PDMs have – failure of servers or disruption / slowdown of CAD user experience. If it happens, user will boot out PDM system of CAD environment doesn’t matter of future cloud potential. It happened in the past with old PDM systems and won’t be different these days. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


The Future Unbundling Strategies in CAD/PLM

November 6, 2013

unbundle-cad-plm

Engineering software has a long history of aggregation and disaggregation. In CAD, it was long time about new features vendors added to CAD tools. Ultimately, it was a long run towards new features. Later in the history, CAD industry came to the idea of integrating of various add-on systems into CAD environment. So, we got simulation, CAM and many other features and systems. In addition to that, data management tools (PDM) drove their own road – first independent from CAD and later on more integrated. Later on, PLM ideas came and provide an additional set of tools, features and systems. The latest history of design and PLM tools development introduced even more "integrated product lines" with CAD, PLM and many other systems. These days leading vendors are providing product suites with huge number of tools and subsystems bound together.

I was reading Unbundling: AOL, Facebook and LinkedIn article and reviewed a very fascinating diagram about Craiglist. Here is an interesting quote:

There are a swarm of services, often mobile first or mobile only, trying to peel off parts of the Craigslist offer, or do things Craigslist should have been doing. AirBnB is only the most obvious. Chris Dixon has a good note about this here, and Andrew Parker produced this great graphic back in 2010.

craiglist-unbundled-services

Major CAD/PLM vendors are selling big product suites, which can be considered similar to Craiglist. CAD / PLM product suites are providing lots of functionality. However, each function or service is probably not "best in class". PLM analysts and duelists Jim Brown and Chad Jackson discussed it in their video blog – CAD: Granularity vs. Integrated Suites.

Another interesting interesting perspective was presented by Adam O’Hern in his blog – Why I will pay $1372 for a fillet tool? Adam is writing about tools diversification and CAD subscriptions value prop. Adam is bringing the example of Autodesk Fusion 360 as cost effective tool that can be used as a substitute for some of features of SolidWorks. Here is an interesting passage about CAD tool diversification:

I use whatever combination of tools offers me the best cost-benefit ratio for whatever task I’m trying to achieve. In my various corporate jobs I’ve used CATIA, UGNX, Rhino, and Alias for design work, and each has its own advantages. For the last five years or so I’ve found that a combination of SolidWorks and MODO–along with various plugins, scripts, and sidecar tools–has provided the best price:utility ratio for my specific 3D design needs.

The unbundling article made me think about what will happen if we will follow similar strategy for CAD and PLM. Here is my top 3 assertion:

1. CAD and PLM is too big to sustain as a one big aggregated solution provided by a single vendor. This is a polystate diversified space that needs to be covered by multiple solutions, features and vendors.

2. Vendors are never good enough to see what exact problem customers want to solve. Especially when it comes to large manufacturing companies and complicated supply chain eco-systems. That’s way armies of consulting services as well as diversified products must be applied to provide a final solution.

3. Customers often don’t know what problem to solve. For most of the situations product development is a complex problem. It requires the team of people to work on. In addition to that, large organizations are involved into politics and confrontation related to usage of different enterprise software and tools.

What is my conclusion? If my assertion is correct, future unbunlding of features and services from CAD/PLM product suites can provide a potential opportunity to diversify market and solution options available for manufacturing companies. Cloud and SaaS models will be very helpful in this process. It is much easy to use unbundled cloud services compared to old set of CAD/PLM tools. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


What Cloud CAD-PDM Hybrid Means for PLM?

February 10, 2013

To predict future is tough. Not many people are trying to do so. Especially in tech. Companies are juggling with buzzwords, powerpoints and software. At the same time, analysts are trying to swim into the social information stream of provocations, facts and opinions. There are two terms in manufacturing and product development software that created most of confusion for the last decade – PDM and PLM. Navigate to the following link to find lots of publications about the topic. To my taste, the topic PDM vs. PLM became boring. I’d even suggest to add it to the list of boring PLM topics introduced by Jos Voskuil.

However, here is some news. My blogging buddy and analyst Chad Jackson is predicting PDM revolution. Navigate your browser to read about future PDM Revolution. Chad’s take on PDM revolution smells cloud and two new cloud design systems – Fusion 360 and SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual. This is my favorite passage that summarizes Chad’s crystal ball prediction of Hands-Free PDM:

If you take a look at Fusion 360 and Solidworks Mechanical Conceptual, at least in my exposure to it, there’s no step where you explicitly save your design or model. It’s done automatically in the background. When you close your model? The latest version will be there when you return. What happens when you create variations on a design that amounts to branching? Look at the model history and you’ll see those various branches tracked for you. So if you think about it, it is essentially hands-free. It does the brunt of the work automatically and practically invisibly for you.

Sounds like revolution to you? I think yes. However, here is a deal. It impose a significant threat to the future implementations of PLM. The mess of data in your local CAD-PDM now moves to the next step of the product development. Until now, companies implementing PDM took an advantages of their PLM solutions from the same vendors to manage BOM and ECO processes integrated with CAD data. Cloud CAD systems are not there yet and probably will not be there. Integration becomes an imperative to make hands-free PDM successful.

What is my conclusion? Cloud CAD and hands-free PDM is a signal to think about BOM management. In a different way. They key words are "single" and "integrated". Without that, we will enter into the messy world of structure mapping and synchronizations. If you are vendor, you need to think about openness and web APIs. If you are a potential customer of a cloud CAD/PDM hybrid, ask vendors how flexible and granular is "save" function that turns your work into stream of information stored in database. The ugly truth is that until now, file structure was doing integration job for you. Not any more. It is gone. Forever. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Cloud CAD and what does it mean for PLM?

November 30, 2012

The topic of CAD (or 3D CAD) in the cloud is getting more traction. The first “CAD in the Cloud” announcement happened almost 2 years ago when SolidWorks introduced their technological work during SWW 2010. Read SolidWorks takes off to the cloud to refresh your memories. Back that days it raised lots of conversations, disputes and controversy. Here are few historical posts – The Death of SolidWorks? by Develop3D, If you wonder how SolidWorks Cloud will look like… by WorldCAD Access, Bertrand Sicot reinforces SolidWorks cloud plans by Deelip.com. One of the last publications by SolidSmack – SolidWorks 2013 and the promise of SolidWorks V6 can give you a good update of where SolidWorks stands now. Below is a picture of SolidWorks cloud prototype as it was captured by Deelip Menezes at SWW 2010. According to his post SolidWorks V6 is due in 2013.

In the meantime, we can see the idea of how to use cloud technologies for design and collaboration became more popular with new products and companies at the horizon. Here are few names you better pay attention to. GrabCAD is transforming from “Facebook for engineers” concept into a set of online collaboration tools. You can see a video of GrabCAD for Teams below.

Sunglass.io is another startup company, which is trying to use cloud and in-browser technology to introduce a fresh approach of collaboration and design on the web.

One more startup – TinkerCAD is approaching 3D online design and 3D printing combined as a new experience to work for engineers and designers on the cloud.

Moving from startups to large behemoths, earlier this week at AU2012, Autodesk just announced new product in Autodesk 360 product line called Fusion 360 – 3D CAD in the cloud.

3D CAD: Unix, Windows, Cloud

I can see a clear technological platform shift in the CAD industry. 3D CAD is moving from Windows (as a mainstream 3D CAD platform today) to the cloud. It happened in the past when 3D CAD moved from variety of UNIX workstations to Windows/PC platform. Similar shift is happening now.

3D CAD and PLM

What 3D CAD platform shift means for PDM / PLM? The significant portion of PDM and PLM business is tightly related to CAD systems. The connection between CAD and PDM/PLM was always “love and hate” relationships. Engineers are clearly hated PDM systems as something that interfered with their work. Seamless (embedded) PDM integrations were supposed to solve that problem, but faced technological complexity of implementation. CAD vendors’ competition made CAD-PDM/PLM relationships even more complicated. I can see 3 main trends that may happen to PDM/PLM with 3D CAD gearing up to the cloud.

1. Reduce complexity. Since communication between CAD and PDM/ PLM will move to the cloud servers, it will reduce the complexity that in many cases was a result of desktop to server communication.

2- Simplify user experience. Reducing of complexity will result in a streamline of user interface. No more awkward files, folders, lockups, and many other things that complicate user process.

3- Focus on business processes. I believe cloud CAD will reduce lots of data-management tasks that require use attention. It will result in the ability of user to focus on business process improvement.

What is my conclusion? Traditionally, CAD was heavy focused on desktop and file management. It included file management. All together create a complicated technological and user interface problem. Moving of CAD to the cloud can positively impact the ability to improve user experience and hide some complicated data-management activities from users. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PDM, Collaboration and Google Apps

June 6, 2012

Data management and collaboration are not new topics. I think, the majority of industry experts agree that proper data management can improve collaboration and people performance. However, not much happened beyond this statement for the last decade. The deployment of data-management systems remains complicated, and the majority of end users see data management as a devil that needs to be addressed by IT and/or upper management.

Google Apps and Document management collaboration

I’ve been reading Forbes article Google Apps by numbers by Gil Zimmermann of CloudLock sharing some interesting number of anonymous survey CloudLock made of their mid-market and enterprise clients. The following passage caught my attention:

The Exponential Growth of the Cloud. The projected average growth in Docs/Sites year-over-year is 10X for mid-market companies and 4X for enterprises.These growth rates indicate that the average mid-market company will have 35,000 more Docs/Sites in 2013 than they had in 2012; enterprises will have close to 750,000. Much has been made about companies’ reluctance to embrace the cloud. However, this data shows that once businesses make the decision to go to the cloud they jump in with both feet.

It made me think about the potential of cloud based document management to simplify the adoption of data-management tools by making it seamless and less complicated.

PDM and Cloud

I can see some initial movement in the process of cloud system introduction to the market. Autodesk 360, AutoCAD WS,SolidWorks n!Fuze are examples of how CAD/PLM vendors are trying to mimic Google Apps. I see these examples as something very positive. I’m looking forward to the Siemens PLM announcement of a new version of SolidEdge Insight XT and the possibility of Insight XT to work with SharePoint on the cloud.

What is my conclusion? I think, we are coming to the point when next disruption can happen in PDM space. For the last 10 years, most of CAD/PLM vendors were focused on how to improve the bundle of CAD/PDM. However, cloud can give some new tools and capability to improve PDM. My hunch that releasing users from data-management pain and complexity by leveraging cloud apps can be interesting opportunity. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PDM ROI: Myths or Reality?

May 24, 2012

In personal life, the justification of your buying decision is simple. You want to have the next cool device, period. In business, it is different. The magic acronym ROI (Return on Investment) will be the first question you need to answer. Cost is real thing. Benefits must be real too. Last year, I posted about PDM ROI Calculator for SolidWorks. It generated interesting discussion about how possible to create a calculator to measure investment in PDM.

Few days ago, I bumped into another SolidWorks article – Top Five Return on Investment Areas for EPDM. According to Eric van Essen is a Product Group Manager atJavelin Technologies, the areas include – productivity, error reduction, team growth management and training, sales and distribution. The picture from the article is convincing that cumulative benefits of CAD 1.5M after 3 years.

One of the key areas of saving according to PDM ROI calculator is risk reduction saving. I assume it translates into error reduction described by article. The following passage presents 4 questions that can lead us to the right measurement of error reduction.

1. How often do we accidentally manufacture to the incorrect revision?

2. What is the potential cost if we do manufacture to the wrong revision?

3. How many change orders are created a year and how many of them could have been avoided if proper collaboration processes were in place?

4. What is the cost of processing a change order?

The questions represent problems in a very clear way. To have answers to the question is the key. To spot industry numbers providing answers on the question above can be an interesting exercise.

What is my conclusion? The question of ROI and PDM is fascinating. It is well-know fact that 60-70% of MCAD seats in the industry is not managed by PDM and use files or alternative solutions (excel, etc.) to manage data. If ROI is obvious as we can see from examples, why 60-70% of MCAD customers are still not running to buy PDM solutions. Just my thoughts. YMMV.

Best, Oleg


First Look of 3DS SolidWorks e-Drawings for iPad

May 1, 2012

For the last couple of years, I’ve been following iPad application appearance in the space of engineering and manufacturing. I expected this application to come much earlier. So, I wanted to say the same word Ricky Jordan said in his blog. Finally! SolidWorks (or how it is named now 3DS SolidWorks) just made a release of e-Drawing iPAD application. It is available on the App Store. I installed it on my iPad just few hours ago. It looks very nice. Email integration is supported. In addition, it is capable of viewing other formats (you may note licensing terms going to TechSoft3D, Open Design Alliance and few others) in about section.

Home screen, menus, controls – everything looks familiar to somebody who is using iPad. Side bar is nice and allows you to navigate inside of assembly. I didn’t find support for views, measurement, and other useful functions. I believe SolidWorks keeps it for future versions.

Below you can see a video SolidWorks released with a short demo.

How to buy?

The price is $1.99. The Apple iTunes policy is complicated when it comes to corporate purchasing. Does e-Drawing iPad app worth $1.99? My answer is yes. Will engineers buy e-Drawing iPad for $1.99? A good question. I’d be very interested to see the number of uploads within few weeks and months.

What is my conclusion? Later is better than never. I think, many of SolidWorks users will appreciate e-Drawing iPad app. I’m going to experiment how easy to use e-Drawing as a viewer on my iPad in addition to other mobile apps I already have from Autodesk and other vendors. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


SolidWorks, Cloud and Product Data Management

February 15, 2012

Cloud is one of my favorite topics. Back, two years ago, on SWW 2010, SolidWorks made a broad statement about the future of SolidWorks on the cloud and SolidWorks technological experiments in that space. I can see lots of changes happened since that time. Cloud computing is clearly going mainstream. It takes companies to understand what and how they should behave on the cloud. I wanted to put some thoughts about SolidWorks, cloud computing, and product data management. Until now, SolidWorks didn’t make any new announcement related to "cloud products".

SolidWorks Users and PDM

As I mentioned yesterday in my post, SolidWorks keeps the status quo in PDM. Enterprise PDM remains the mainstream PDM story for SolidWorks and as I can hear from many people at the conference, the adoption of EPDM is growing. At the same time, the overall PDM adoption in SolidWorks community is relatively low. My very conservative assessment is that about 70-80% of SolidWorks customers today have no product data management solution. The problem of these customers to adopt PDM solution mainly related to two major factors: complexity and IT resources.

SolidWorks n!Fuze

SolidWorks introduced first (and for the moment, only one) cloud data management product – SolidWorks n!Fuze. The initial kickoff of this product wasn’t very successful. Some mistakes were made in terms of product usability as well as pricing. It was mentioned during the Q&A session with SolidWorks VP R&D Gian Paolo Bassi. I’ve heard the same opinion from others’ people, including SolidWorks product managers and R&D people. Version 2 of n!Fuse is expected to come later this year. I’m expecting to see improvements in user experience. Maybe some changes in pricing will be done as well.

Cloud and SolidWorks opportunity

Back in SWW 2010, cloud topic raised lots of debates. However, if I analyze them in a detailed way, most of criticism was about taking SolidWorks CAD to the cloud. At the same time, I was able to hear that use of cloud to improve data-sharing capabilities and collaboration can be a very interesting option. Today, it is even clearer to me. The opportunity to improve product data access and data management using cloud technology is huge, in my view. Two major showstoppers for EPDM adoption – complexity and IT resources can be removed by cloud. Even very small teams and individual engineers will be able to access CAD models, drawings and other product data inside the company and beyond using mobile devices.

What SolidWorks competitors are doing?

In my view, the opportunity is well understood by competitors and the community. Few years ago, PTC introducedWindchill Product Point. PTC tried to leverage SharePoint to address problem of complexity and IT resources. In my view, it didn’t work and PTC retired ProductPoint. Autodesk is clearly coming after the opportunity by focusing on smaller manufacturing companies. At the same time, it is not clear how Autodesk Nexus PLM will address the need of "PDM-less customers". Autodesk announcements clearly stated a combination of Autodesk Vault on premises and Autodesk Nexus PLM on the cloud as two main components of the solution. From my conversation with Autodesk people, I understood that they are aware about the potential of PDM-less customers and thinking how to address that. I can see potential forAutodesk Cloud (introduced few months ago), but in my view, it suffers from similar problems you can see in SolidWorks n!Fuze.

What is my conclusion? Cloud is a game changer. The ability of cloud products to solve the problem of complexity of deployment and IT resources with a combination of low-cost and availability cannot be missed. The opportunity is well understood by both SolidWorks and Autodesk selling products to smaller manufacturing companies. I can see everything that was done, until now, as "trials". It will be interesting to see next steps. The simplicity is hard to address, and we all know that. I will be heading to SolidWorks 3rd day general session in few hours, which is traditionally focused on product announcements. Maybe some news will be coming from there. Stay tuned…

Best, Oleg


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