GrabCAD: From Facebook for Engineers to PLM?

GrabCAD: From Facebook for Engineers to PLM?

I hope I’ve got your attention with this blog title. So far, GrabCAD was known, until now, as a company that focusing on creation of community of engineers and crowdsourcing in engineering. If you still thinking so, make a refresh – not any more. GrabCAD is focusing now on how to solve the problem of design collaboration. Navigate to Boston Business Journal article today – GrabCAD to launch a new service for engineers and hire exec team to read more about it. According to Hardi Meybaum, GrabCAD co-founder and CEO:

…the company now plans to launch what could become the focal point of its business: a service that aims to change the way engineers and their customers collaborate on designs… The latter will be necessary as GrabCAD looks to roll out its new collaboration service within months, he said. Currently, most collaborating between engineers and their customers is done by emailing designs back and forth and discussing them over the phone, Meybaum said. What GrabCAD has developed is a “more visual way to collaborate,” he said. The service, which began in beta last week, allows engineers to post 3D versions of their designs on a private section of GrabCAD. Customers can then view the design – rotating around it to see all sides – and put a pin in an area of the design where they’d like to leave a comment.

In addition to that GrabCAD is planning to hire three vice-presidents to expand existing executive team: The company also plans to soon hire three vice presidents for its executive team, in engineering, product and marketing, Meybaum said.

This is not a first time I’m posting about GrabCAD. If you want to refresh your memory, navigate to few of my previous posts – The Future of Engineering Communities and GrabCAD, Collaboration and DropBox. The second one (including video) can give you hints of “changing course” of GrabCAD towards solving problems of collaboration. The confirm it is not a mistake or last minute thoughts, navigate to the 2-years-old GrabCAD presentation on slideshare – CAD Future and GrabCAD. You can learn from there that GrabCAD vision already in 2010 was to provide a solution for collaboration.

GrabCAD business model

When you speak about online community, the question of the business model is usually raises many questions. How to monetize thousands of engineers using GrabCAD to upload/download CADmodels? Meybaum answered on this question in the BizJournal article:

GrabCAD has been earning some revenue from corporate design challenges that launched on the site last fall; past examples have included a deck vent for luxury yachts builder Saare Yachts and an interior for a Shelby car. But the new service is expected to become the main revenue source for the company after it launches, Meybaum said.

Design Collaboration and PLM

Collaboration is not a new problem. Thinking about buzzwords, to solve a problem of design collaboration is one of the fundamental objectives of any CAD/PLM vendors. Solutions like Dassault 3DLive and others were focused how to get it done in a most efficient way. It was on the list of PDM/PLM for the last 10-15 years. Does it mean GrabCAD is about to compete with mainstream collaborative design solutions coming from Dassault, Siemens PLM, PTC and other vendors? I’m not sure yet… GrabCAD will be trying to monetize a significant amount of engineers (about 187,000 according to the publication) with a new service.

Design Collaboration and Email problem

Many companies these days are run by email. Email is the problem and the solution at the same time. Many of design collaboration, PDM and PLM solutions today on the market are trying to solve a problem of the mess email can create in the company. Just to point to few “newcomers” – Kenesto and Vuuch. According to Kenesto website, the solution provided by Kenesto is “nothing to instal, as easy to use as email, but better”. According to the problem definition on Vuuch websiteswamped by email? No matter the deliverable or the people involved, tracking details, staying on schedule and keeping everyone up to date, is an age-old problem that is getting worse due to the proliferation of email and distributed teams. Nuage is introducing something they call – Social Business Collaboration – Generation Y, today’s workforce entrants, are dependent on social media to communicate [I assume social media communication is opposite to email].

GrabCAD is targeting to solve the problem of email communication too. Take a look on the following passage from BizJournal article – Currently, most collaborating between engineers and their customers is done by emailing designs back and forth and discussing them over the phone, Meybaum said.

What is my conclusion? As you know, all roads lead to Rome. Can I say today all roads in engineering lead to PLM? Maybe… It still too early to say what type of collaboration service GrabCAD will provide. Taking into account few known snippets of data such as – 3D Viewer, collaborative design, to avoid an email problem, I can expect GrabCAD to provide cloud applications helping people to “work together”. Take a look on one of my previous posts – How to reinvent PLM collaboration? to grab some ideas about what other companies are doing today. Will GrabCAD grab something different? Time will show. I just want to restate my yesterday note about PLM collaboration – PLM is a fun place to be again. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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