The Future Unbundling Strategies in CAD/PLM

The Future Unbundling Strategies in 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.


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


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