The race towards future engineering platforms

The race towards future engineering platforms


Back in 1990s, I was developing applications for AutoCAD. It was before Windows became popular. I was working for a company selling Autodesk products and specialized in application development. It was a time before Solidworks was born and most of mechanical engineers I knew were using AutoCAD. Everything started from “acad.exe” command. By running that command, computer switched into the world that was able to serve engineer as a drawing board, library management tool, calculations and many other utilities. In my view, AutoCAD was a “platform” for engineers to design product and for us to develop design applications and other utilities.

Mainstream CAD and engineering app platforms today – Solidworks and Fusion360

Fast forward 20 years. Last week in my blog I shared information about how both Solidworks and Autodesk Fusion360 are transforming to become platforms in the world of engineering applications. Navigate to my blog – CAD, PLM and platform litmus test.

Solidworks is de-facto standard as a mainstream tool mechanical engineers today. Dassault Systems Solidworks is building applications leveraging 3DExperience technology – the same one used by Catia. So, although Solidworks CEO, Bassi called Solidworks platform, product offering seems like a combination of existing Solidworks and set of new tools.

Autodesk Fusion360 is relatively new application in a world of mechanical design and engineering application. Based on reports from Autodesk annual conference – AU2015, it seems to me Autodesk is re-positioning Fusion360 to be a centerpiece of engineering and manufacturing applications. Fusion360 is using Autodesk A360 as data management and collaboration platform.

Special CAD and PLM platforms

Top 3 PLM platforms (Enovia, Teamcenter and Windchill) are build around and tightly integrated with special CAD tools – Catia, NX and Creo (aka Pro-E). The grand plan for all PLM initiatives for the last 10-15 years was to serve a whole company as a platform to manage product information and lifecycle. It supposed to include engineering as well as upstream and downstream applications (think about requirement management, engineering analysis, BoM, change management, manufacturing processes, etc.)

Although it was never announced that way, the dream was to become a platform to compete with the dominance of ERP in a company boardroom. For the last 10 years, was a vision for success presented by many PLM vendors. In fact it never happened. The complexity of PLM created negative perception for many users. Engineers didn’t like them. I can quote some of engineers saying – “nothing can slow us better than PLM (you can put name of your favorite PLM software here) system. It just put us in a dead stop when we are trying to get product out”.

Onshape – full cloud engineering application platform alternative

Onshape, a company developing full-cloud CAD application made some waves in the eco-system of engineering application by announcing the next steps in the development of its product – Onshape release commercial product. But together with moving from beta into official production, Onshape announced private beta for Onshape App Store.

Few interesting facts – Onshape will support cloud-integrated, cloud connected and desktop connected applications. Onshape’s vision for App Store seems to be compatible with what we can see today in App store supported by Apple, Google and others.

Slack – New Collaboration platforms?

A lot of engineering work is not only about design. Collaboration and communication is equally important. Slack is one of the application that is taking enterprise companies by storm these days. So, I wanted to bring an interesting announcement – Slack Is Launching A New Way To Download Third-Party Apps. Initially just a channel for communication among teams, third-party apps would give Slack the ability to publicize and highlight the top use cases for Slack within tools that sit on top of the service.

Slack’s move into application can open a way to bring different design ad engineering applications as well as any other services while Slack serves as a platform for collaboration.

What is my conclusion? I can see a lot of turbulence in a world of engineering application these days. While old tools are still powerful, the demand is to improve efficiency in a new world of global and connected engineering and manufacturing. Manufacturing is truly distributed these days and people are looking how to optimize design, connect engineering to manufacturing as well as provide a tool for globally distributed engineering workforce. I think, software vendors should remember that innovation is like bankruptcy – first happens gradually and then suddenly. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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