CAD Central

31 Mar, 2005 By: Michael Bordenaro,Sara Ferris

Analysis of industry news and trends.

Citing a recent NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) survey estimating that almost $16 billion is wasted annually in the AEC industry due to lack of interoperability among software tools, Bentley Systems places blame for $1 billion of that on Autodesk policies for hindering software interoperability and therefore overall industry productivity.

As the AEC industry slowly moves toward intelligent modeling (commonly known as BIM—building information modeling), interoperability among programs becomes even more crucial.

 3Dconnexion Unveils Smart, Programmable Input Device
3Dconnexion Unveils Smart, Programmable Input Device

In BE Magazine, Bentley's user publication, Bentley's chief marketing officer, Tony Flynn, listed specific ways he believes Autodesk contributes to the interoperability problem .

Autodesk declined to comment on Bentley's claims at this time, citing a need to examine Bentley's assertions. Industry observers say Bentley is not totally out of line in its claims. However, they don't think name-calling is the best approach to the issue.

"With all of the vendors, standards bodies and other interests who aren't working well together, there is a lot of blame to go around, so it's probably unfair to point fingers," says Ric Jackson, director of FIATECH (, a consortium of software companies, standards bodies, end users and other interested parties devoted to promoting technology use in the AEC industry.

Bentleys Broadside
Bentleys Broadside

"The point here is we have problems and we need some leadership to solve them," says Jackson, who encouraged NIST to conduct the survey to spark discussion on ways to promote interoperability.

Jackson notes that while companies may publicly comment on competitors' practices, he knows that they are privately taking steps to work together to address industry issues. Both Autodesk and Bentley are members of FIATECH, whose goals include encouraging the development of software that is more interoperable.

Similarly, Evan Yares of the Open Design Alliance ( ) says that Autodesk is taking its most serious steps in considering joining the seven-year-old alliance. Yares is an outspoken critic of many Autodesk practices, although he also compliments the company on positive moves, such as AutoCAD 2006's ability to work with with previous versions.

"Is Bentley's position self-serving? Clearly it is," Yares says. "But despite it being self-serving, it is right and serves the interests of users. Even though Tony is a marketing executive, his comments were on point."

However, he adds, "From an interoperability standpoint, there are no companies without sin. Yet I believe Bentley has the strongest standing from which to make these comments, because their house is more in order."

 BIM BOOSTERS form educational foundation
BIM BOOSTERS form educational foundation

Nevertheless, Yares feels that within the overall CAD industry, Dassault Systèmes has even more ability to influence interoperability than Autodesk.

"Dassault, as the main supplier of engineering software to companies such as Boeing, Toyota and Mercedes, sets the de facto industry standard for business policy. A number of top executives from major CAD companies, including Autodesk, have told me that if Dassault comes to the table on interoperability, they'll follow suit."

Kimon Onuma, AIA, an experienced user of BIM software, is astonished by the lack of recognition of what is capable at this point.

"There are comments from some CAD vendors that the industry is not ready for BIM," says Onuma. "I think that the CAD vendors and their clients that do not want to see this shift happen are trying to slow it down so they can catch up."

Onuma is a founding member of The BIM Construct, a recently formed organization whose goal is to educate the industry about what is possible with intelligent modeling software at this time .

"Encouraging open standards and interoperability through the educational process of The BIM Construct will help to make this more of a reality," he says.

The attitude of working together toward common goals is a step in the right direction. Once the dust settles, we'll see how well industry leaders are playing (interoperating) together. ?

Michael Bordenaro is a Chicago-based writer who focuses on architectural technology.

Ten Manufacturing Trends for 2005

Technology and processes must change together to meet the coming challenges to manufacturers in 2005, according to analysts at Manufacturing Insights (, part of research firm IDC. Basing its predictions on user-focused research and quantitative models, Manufacturing Insights' Bob Parker took the opportunity at National Manufacturing Week to present ten predictions for manufacturing in 2005:

1. The CIO must become a change agent. No longer just the custodian of IT assets, the CIO is now the logical choice to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and also to implement enterprise-wide process changes. CIOs will face increased pressure to demonstrate the value of past investments.

2. Productivity should be a supply-chain priority. Manufacturing Insights estimates that savings here can amount to 10%-15% of revenue. At some point, internal productivity gains outstrip market growth, creating excess capacity.

3. Demand information management will increase emphasis on attracting, selling and servicing customers. Most manufacturers today still plan and push products.

4. Companies must do more with less in new product development. Spending on R&D remains flat while the number of new products in development increases. Design for x (x being quality, manufacturing, supply and so forth) will evolve into what Manufacturing Insights calls design for excellence, which incorporates all of the various considerations. Analysts are also optimistic that PLM will get a boost as companies assign product lifecycle responsibilities to a single person. At the moment, PLM is a market without a corporate buying title.

5. RFID hype will implode. Technical issues will dampen enthusiasm and force retailers and suppliers to adopt a more realistic implementation timetable.

6. China will refuse to overheat. Manufacturers will remain eager to both take advantage of lower direct labor costs and seek ways to serve the China market. Also look for Chinese manufacturers to start selling their products directly in the U.S. and Europe.

7. The burden of compliance will increase. Smart companies will look for cost-management and quality-control opportunities to capitalize on the work they're doing to meet regulatory requirements.

8. Continuous-improvement programs such as Six Sigma and lean manufacturing will expand to encompass more processes. Waste exists beyond the factory floor—in the supply chain, back office, sales and marketing. Firms will also look for ways to overcome the inability of such programs to help set project priorities.

9. T spending shifts to the business function. Spending will focus less on reducing costs and integrating different systems and more on improving a company's business processes.

10. Vendors will redefine their offerings and vie for the role of trusted advisor to manufacturing firms. Expect each one to present a different version of the future.

Sara Ferris is Cadalyst's editor-in-chief, Michael Bordenaro is a Chicago-based writer who focuses on architectural technology.

About the Author: Michael Bordenaro

About the Author: Sara Ferris

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