How to connect dots and what will turn CAD data into future manufacturing intelligence?

How to connect dots and what will turn CAD data into future manufacturing intelligence?

The data is a new oil. This is a mantra of modern business, products, and technologies. Big tech companies built enormous businesses by developing technologies by acquiring information about what we do, what we like, where we go, and, by doing so, discovering what is our future behavioral intent – in a simple way – what do we want to buy. This intent was combined with the advertising model. The rest is the history. The companies improve the way they capture the importance and intent – first with Google Page Rank, then with a variety of other technologies and tools.

Acquiring data was a fundamental element in the building of these technologies and creating intelligence. Crawling websites were free, later social networks figured out how to make people disclose information about themselves in the way of social media, likes, and capturing information from what you do online and on your mobile phone. Going 20-30 years ago, nobody would agree to keep the device that will capture what you do all the time. Today, we do it by ourselves by taking our mobile phones with us and this computer is much more powerful than the first computer that navigated the first spaceships.

What can we learn from this? Data has power. If we will check around in engineering, construction, and manufacturing, the data is dying in the CAD files. This data is consumed mainly by engineers who create the drawings and this information is used by others downstream exactly in the way paper drawings were used 100 years ago. How to make the data captured and used to produce better results?

The technology for this transformation is now more accessible, yet companies still do very little to use this technology and to transform the data into intelligence.

My attention was captured by an interesting video interview – Ron Close, VP Marketing of Shapr3d was interviewing one of the CAD industry legends – Mike Payne, VP R&D at PTC, EVP R&D at Solidworks, CEO of Spatial, and CEO of Kenesto.

Some of Mike’s comments are extremely important to hear. I was fortunate to hear it directly from Mike Payne in the past, but the video gives you exactly what you need. Here is me capturing the 3 important takeaways.

1- Capturing what people do and translating it into the intent  is extremely powerful. That was the way parametric design was born. Even tho dimensions are not the design intent, this is how it was captured.

2- Technologies can change the trajectory of tools. This is how AutoCAD, PTC, Solidworks did it in the past. The new examples are still to be found, but the applications of technology’s careful user adoption model, which leads to the next..

3- Business models need to follow and provide support to technologies. Business models were supporting popularization of some technologies and making them available to customers.

Watch the video and draw your conclusion.

My favorite comment from Mike was about design intent and future intelligence in the CAD business. Although Mike doesn’t bring the recipe for how to do it, he is convinced that intelligence will bring a big role in future engineering software development.

This brings me back to the topic of CAD data acquiring, connecting to other processes, and translating it into intelligence that can be used for future decision support. Here are a few examples from modern companies, tech, and tools. CAD vendors understand the value of the data and plan to acquire the data by providing tools to upload CAD files to the vertical platforms. Dassault Systemes 3DX platform does it. Read more here – Freedom to Compete. While creating vertical platforms is a powerful play, there is a danger of isolation and, most importantly, lack of connecting pieces of information to create intelligence. Cloud CAD such as Onshape and Autodesk Fusion 360 providers create a way to natively build design models with the information stored in the cloud, yet we still need to see their play in transforming this information into intelligence that can be used for decision making. Siemens is capturing intelligence of user operations to improve UX, but it doesn’t do anything with design intent yet. In my company, OpenBOM, we provide a way to extract design and connect it with the purchasing decisions and ability to buy components or hire subcontractors to do the work. OpenBOM connects multiple companies using multi-tenant network data platforms. Multi-tenant data models allow us to connect dots and create intelligence.

What is my conclusion?

The fundamental product development activity follows the change design-production-procurement-usage. Connecting this chain together using data can provide enormous power and the ability to make processes much more efficient. It is equally important for manufacturing and construction, Manufacturing may be a bit more advanced than construction in efficiency, but still, both industries lack the tools that are capable of connecting design, manufacturing, and users intent to make it more efficient. The next few years can be pivotal in applying technologies capable of capturing the data and turning it into future intelligence. This is CAD and PLM industry “Google moment”. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networksMy opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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