CAD Central

28 Feb, 2005 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson,Sara Ferris

Daratech Summit 2005 report, AutoCAD's 2006 lineup, and more

PLM is Here to Stay, So Get Ready

Most manufacturers have heard the buzz about PLM (product lifecycle management). But is PLM for you? If so, then what? Those were the questions on the table at daratechSUMMIT2005 in Boston on February 14-16.

What is PLM?

Vendors often define PLM in terms of the products they offer. True PLM, according to Daratech, addresses product development from conception through end-of-life disposal.

PLM is the glue that binds together all computer-based information used in manufacturing and makes that information available in a useful form everywhere it can add value.

PLM enables collaboration across disciplines, aiming to achieve technological interoperability and optimize processes. John Givens of General Motors told conference attendees, "PLM can't be just the linking of databases. It must be how that data gets used."

Conference presenters continued to chip away at the belief that PLM is only for large companies. Indeed, the success stories shared by representatives of companies such as General Motors supported that assertion; however, both UGS and Dassault Systèmes—major players in the PLM field—report that 40% to 50% of their revenue comes from small- to medium-sized businesses.

Measuring the PLM market
Measuring the PLM market

Keys to Success

What stands in the way of broader PLM implementation are technical, cultural and business process issues.

Interoperability. PLM by its nature requires a variety of technologies that often weren't built to interoperate—a huge obstacle for manufacturers that want to build a PLM system. At daratechSUMMIT2005, one manufacturer after another beseeched PLM vendors to develop open interfaces so technology can fit together in a seamless PLM system.

Richard Riff of Ford Motor Company said, "You will always be in a multivendor environment when you're talking about PLM. The question is: How will you deal with it?" The answer, he said, is open APIs and standards, which requires collaboration and integration among vendors.

UGS seems to be leading the pack in efforts toward interoperability. "We can't be everything to everybody," said Tony Affuso, chairman, president and CEO. "We have to be open." The UGS-led JT Open Program—an initiative to develop the 3D JT data format as the standard for sharing product lifecycle information—now has more than 40 members, including the recently announced Autodesk and Siemens.

Cultural changes. Raymond Gaynor, vice president of business development, MSC.Software, described this problem succinctly: "Part of the process of PLM is it requires people to expand their job descriptions and take on responsibilities they might not otherwise—and that is difficult."

Business process challenges. Vendors and manufacturers alike concurred that successful integration of PLM requires companies to develop a road map describing their business processes and goals and how they hope to use technology to support them. GM's Givens said companies must understand the process of engineering before they can begin to select the tools to support it.

No two manufacturers will have the same road map, and no magic formula exists to develop one. "We recommend an approach based on the 'digital maturity index'," said Affuso of UGS. "Where are they and where do they want to go, at what pace and at what cost?"

Givens added, "The benefit to the company and its customers must be the focus [of PLM integration] and very clear for all parties within the manufacturing company as you implement PLM, because there will be users whose jobs don't change for the better." Upper-management must support PLM integration and be prepared to push implementation forward when obstacles arise.

Finally, think of PLM in business terms. "This is not IT," said Bernard Charles, president and CEO, Dassault Systèmes. "You must see [PLM] in terms of business performance and ROI. Make decisions to migrate based on your business plan and ROI, not on IT cost."


PLM is certainly still in its early stages. Daratech reports it does not know of a single, finished PLM implementation in place today. This means little to those who see PLM as the wave of tomorrow.

"PLM has a bright and exciting future," Daratech CEO Charles Foundyller said. The market will continue to grow, and market leadership will likely change, as it has historically about every 10 years. New technologies are needed to streamline processes, and collaboration will drive cross-discipline integration and change engineering education and specialization.

Based on the give-and-take between Daratech, PLM vendors and manufacturers, PLM is here to stay. Manufacturers that wish to remain competitive, regardless of their size or their market, must begin to view PLM as a not-too-distant goal.

"You're at the leading edge," Foundyller told attendees. "PLM—and what you're doing—will transform manufacturing."

Nancy Spurling Johnson is Cadalyst's Web editor.

Paper Persists in AEC Project Workflows

Paper is still the preferred way of sharing documents on AEC projects, according to a recent survey done by Harris Interactive for Adobe of architects, engineers, construction project managers, owners and others involved in the building process. About 80% of respondents need to distribute documents outside their organization, with architects (82%) more likely to do so than owners (68%). About a third of all documents created are shared with people outside the company. The table at right shows the most common exchange methods used by respondents.
Q450 what are the top 3 means of exchanging documents and other project information with outside organizations working with you on the project?
Q450 what are the top 3 means of exchanging documents and other project information with outside organizations working with you on the project?

AEC projects involve a number of different document types created by a variety of software applications. The most common file formats shared with outside organizations are Word (63%), PDF (53%), Excel (47%), JPEG (28%) and 2D CAD (26%). 2D and 3D CAD represent 42% and 20%, respectively, of files exchanged both internally and externally. CAD files are most commonly reviewed both on paper and electronically. One-third are reviewed electronically only, and 18% are reviewed on paper only.

The majority of respondents see room for improvement in the document exchange process. Top complaints include the number of different file types and formats exchanged, the amount of time needed to search for documents, and the inability to manage document workflow across different disciplines.

Security concerns weigh most heavily on the minds of architects and engineers. Top security measures include restricting the ability to modify documents (48%) and using password protection (38%). A full third of respondents don't currently use any document protection.

Respondents ranked the ability to easily share documents electronically as most important to them (66%), followed by the ability to save multiple document types in one searchable document (41%).

SolidWorks 2006 Debuts

Quality and performance are the focus in SolidWorks 2006, which SolidWorks previewed at SolidWorks World 2005 in January. Among the new features are a spell-checker, drag-and-drop decals, 3D annotation views and a rip feature and closed corners for sheet-metal design. The company also says performance for large assemblies is greatly improved. SolidWorks 2006 is due to ship in the second quarter, and beta testing will begin in early spring.
About the only thing more popular than the preview of SolidWorks 2006 was a brief appearance by the Teutels of American Chopper fame, along with a newly built SolidWorks custom chopper. "There's only so much you can build by hand," said Paul Teutel Jr., explaining why Orange County Choppers adopted SolidWorks.
About the only thing more popular than the preview of SolidWorks 2006 was a brief appearance by the Teutels of American Chopper fame, along with a newly built SolidWorks custom chopper. "There's only so much you can build by hand," said Paul Teutel Jr., explaining why Orange County Choppers adopted SolidWorks.

The company celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year and has shipped 385,000 copies of SolidWorks in that time. COO Jeff Ray said the company plans to increase its research and development spending by 20% and recently hired a new vice president of customer service, Richard Welch.

CEO John McEleney expects a good year ahead, noting that the global economy has stabilized and companies are spending money and committing to projects. He sees two distinct market segments: the process-centric PLM and design-centric mainstream 3D. In the mainstream 3D market, he says, it's a two-horse race between AutoCAD and SolidWorks. Those who don't move to 3D will be left behind by competitors, he added.

SolidWorks also announced that its eDrawings model exchange tool will soon support Macintosh systems as well as the ability to drag and drop into Word documents.

For an expanded report, including new products on display at the show, go to:

Sara Ferris is Cadalyst's editor-in-chief.

Developers Fill Holes Through Acquisitions

Autodesk and Agile Software, a developer of PLM software, both recently announced acquisitions aimed to add missing technology pieces to their product lineups.

Recognizing that product data visualization is critical to successful PLM (product lifecycle management), Agile acquired Cimmetry Systems for about $41.5 million in cash. Cimmetry, a developer of 2D and 3D document viewers, will operate a separate business unit within Agile, and will retain all Cimmetry employees and remain headquartered in Montreal, Canada. Cimmetry has provided viewing technology for many Agile customers as a member of Agile's partner program. Agile says the acquisition will help it better set product direction, improve integration, and enhance functionality and support in that area.

Consulting firm CIMData notes that viewing technology is "a critical component of more and more [PLM] implementations. Like Web technology, which helps to disseminate information more effectively, visualization tools provide a relatively simple, less expensive way of expanding the value of PLM to people in the enterprise who otherwise would probably not have convenient online access to product data."

To jump start its renewed commitment to product data management, Autodesk acquired all assets of COMPASS systems GmbH, a developer of data management solutions used by more than 20,000 users in 1,800 manufacturing companies. Autodesk will continue to offer COMPASS products in key European markets and use COMPASS expertise to develop and expand its Productstream application. Productstream is a workgroup data management tool that builds on the Vault technology built into Autodesk's mechanical design applications.

Autodesk hopes to appeal to small- and midsized manufacturers with an incremental approach to data management by enabling users to add components as they need and can afford them. —SF

Autodesk Unveils Planned Product Upgrades

Autodesk is about to deliver its annual round of product upgrades. AutoCAD users who want to upgrade should benefit from a new Autodesk initiative that aims to ease the transition to new releases, including easier installation and improved instruction about new features, according to AutoCAD product manager Shawn Gilmour.

AutoCAD 2006 will feature a modern, intuitive user interface that downplays the role of the Command line. Dubbed "heads-up" display, it allows users to make changes as they draw in the design area itself, rather than by issuing commands, and design changes will update automatically. Other improvements affect hatches and blocks.

AutoCAD Mechanical 2006 allows users to document Inventor 3D assemblies and features dramatic improvements in usability, reported Buzz Kross, vice president of Autodesk Mechanical Solutions Division. Inventor 10 continues Autodesk's efforts to facilitate design for functionality, although Kross said the company is finding that engineers are having difficulty understanding this concept. The new release embeds Inventor Studio at no extra price, offering state-of-the-art rendering and animation. 3D Grips will allow drag-and-drop editing to speed design change—a first for the 3D design market, Kross said.

On the AEC side, Revit 8 will offer collision detection to identify interferences early in the design process, as well as integrated 3D DWF mark-up and direct publishing to Buzzsaw and IFC files. Architectural Desktop, the greatest revenue generator for Autodesk's Building Solutions Division, will bring dynamic block functionality, heads-up design, drafting enhancements and smoother collaboration capabilities in the 2006 version. —NSJ

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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