What CAD & PLM products are ready for disruption?

What CAD & PLM products are ready for disruption?


Disruption is the hallmark of modern technology world. We are thinking and talking about it all the time. One of the key questions people are asking: “If we’re so aware of potential disruption, then why do successful products keep getting disrupted?”. So, central question to disruption is whether it is inevitable or preventable.

I shared my thoughts about disruption in PLM earlier this year in my article – Disruption, Innovation and Large PLM vendors. My earlier assumption was that large CAD and PLM vendors are mostly competing with themselves and status quo. Disruption and innovation are pretty words. To have a strategy to capture the market is an essential factor. This is a starting point. In addition to that, part of the innovation is to build a strategy that cannot be copied or borrowed by larger companies. Big companies are paying attention to small companies and copy or acquire them as soon as technology or products show them the way.’

Are we going to see changes in this pattern? It made me think about CAD and PLM products potential candidate to disrupt and be disrupted:

Teamcenter PLM

For many years, Teamcenter remains one of the largest community of PLM users. SDRC, UGS and lately Siemens PLM did everything to keep users committed to Teamcenter software. However, we can see a potential disruptor to Teamcenter community – Aras Corp.


Aras press release – PLM industry veteran Tony Affuso joins Aras Corp board of directors  informed about such surprising move. Here is a passage I captured:

“I was attracted to Aras because of their disruptive technology, open-source customer engagement model, and the fact that their technology has recently been selected over that of their competitors by several of the world’s leading engineering and manufacturing companies,” said Affuso. He also added that he was impressed by Aras’s “customer-first mentality.”

Dassault Systemes Solidworks

One of the largest community of MCAD users with roots back to 1990s seems to be very stable. Solidworks is a default choice for most of mechanical engineers in the world. Speak to any college mechanical engineering graduate in the world and chances are the person is using Solidworks.


A group of Solidworks co-founders created Onshape – new cloud based MCAD system. Onshape plans  to disrupt what traditionally has been a Solidworks market. The idea of full cloud software is a foundation of Onshape similar how Windows platform was a foundation of Solidworks. Onshape is following SMAC trend (social, mobile, analytics, cloud) to build MCAD on a new foundation.

Jon Hirschtick, co-founder of Onshape and co-founder of Solidworks explained in his earlier blog article – Why we started from scratch again in CAD business:

There’s no problem in CAD that’s been completely solved yet. CAD systems still aren’t fast enough, they’re not easy enough, they’re not robust enough or reliable enough. All of the core issues in CAD are still there – and I think as an industry, maybe we’re halfway done.

What other products are ready for disruption? 

Are you looking for large established product to disrupt in CAD, PLM and engineering software. Here are few examples of successful products and why I think these products can be disrupted.

AutoCAD – Autodesk just celebrated its 35th anniversary and so AutoCAD – Iconic 2D drafting package. Despite multiple attempts to be disrupted by clones and alternative packages, AutoCAD is still up and running. But you can keep trying.

Autodesk Revit has shorter history compared to AutoCAD. Revit is robust architecture design and documentation package. Revit specifically designed to support BIM workflows. Although Autodesk is developing new products as part of the their cloud platform, Revit remains unchanged monolithic software.

PTC Windchill.  Originally developed by Windchill Technology Inc., which was co-founded by Jim Heppelmann, the current President and CEO of PTC. Windchill is currently being used by over 1.1 million users worldwide. Windchill is successful and established package with very infrequent release schedule [see my notes 6-Apr-2017 below]. Combined with strong focus of PTC on new technologies such as IoT and VR is a good candidate for disruption.

What is my conclusion? Timing is everything. We choose disruptive moments based on product availability and readiness to disrupt. In real life, products require time to maturity, iterate and execute. Different companies will work at different pace. Aras was founded almost 20 years ago and just coming to maturity now. Onshape is almost 5 years old. There are many examples of disruption paths in technology. There is no guarantee that new products will disrupt incumbents. Product leaders look to pattern and model their own choice and effort to create a new path. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[Update 6-Apr-2017] PTC team reached me out to give an update about Windchill development. I learned that Windchill team made several releases developing new product – Kinex Navigate, which has very frequent production releases. I captured the following screenshot from Kinex Navigate website – next generation PLM.


Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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