CAD Education And Future PLM SaaS Mass Market

CAD Education And Future PLM SaaS Mass Market

How to approach a large mass market? Many companies in the software business asked this question when building their products, sales, and marketing strategy. Every time it happened in the past, it was a combination of technology and business creating these unique conditions to grow. Autodesk and Solidworks are undoubtedly the two greatest examples of engineering software products that developed the mass market presence.

The story of companies that developed the mass market was always a story of focusing on something really ugly and finding technologies and business models to disrupt it. Navigate to Autodesk files written by John Walker, the Autodesk co-founder.

In the beginning CAD systems were overpriced, hulking boxes of hardware with the original name plate pried off and the name of some slimy greedhead stuck on. Then came AutoCAD, a program that did all the same things on a PC for 5% of the cost. Things got better. As they got better, we got richer.

The following paragraph will tell you the story of Sales and Marketing (). My favorite passage below and speaks besides many other things about the role of education.

In keeping with Autodesk’s overall strategy of delivering the benefits of CAD to a mass market, Autodesk’s marketing strategy is to apply the time proven techniques of mass marketing to a product traditionally sold directly at high prices.

This strategy, unique in the CAD market, complements the technical benefits of AutoCAD. Its application allowed Autodesk to obtain its large market share in a short time. In addition to applying mass marketing techniques itself, Autodesk mobilises the sales forces of computer manufacturers, graphics peripheral manufacturers, and computer dealers through cooperative advertising, promotion, and appearance in numerous trade shows. Autodesk has a variety of innovative programs involving training, advertising credits, joint appearances at trade shows, and other incentives which encourage dealers and manufacturers to jointly market Autodesk products.

Autodesk supports its advertising with an aggressive public relations effort, combined with an ongoing program of seeking and arranging for the publication of articles in the trade press describing applications of AutoCAD in various industries. Autodesk makes a major ongoing effort to communicate with industry analysts and key decision makers, seeking to demonstrate the benefits of AutoCAD versus larger systems. Autodesk supports the development of tutorial materials and books based on AutoCAD. Finally, Autodesk has a major commitment to the educational market, offering support and incentives to institutions wishing to teach CAD, and encouraging the adoption of AutoCAD in their curricula.

Another CAD mass market success was Solidworks. Read the story of Solidworks on the blog For Entrepreneurs written by David Skok. Here is the passage:

SolidWorks was started back in 1993 with the vision of bringing solid modeling for mechanical design to the masses. Before SolidWorks entered the market, solid modeling was only available from PTC at $20,000 per seat, on expensive Unix workstations. Jon Hirschtick, the founder, set out to change all of that by offering a fully featured product at a fraction of the price.

One of the most interesting and untold stories related to Solidworks was the development of the Solidworks VAR channel. It was started by Vic Leventhal and later continued by Jon Hisrichtick, John McEleney and Jeff Ray. My favorite part of the story was the decision related to education of VARs instead of just adding the number of VARs.

Jeff chose to address the problem in a far more innovative way by looking at their existing VAR channel as an un-optimized resource, and figuring out what steps would need to be taken to further develop the business skills of that channel.

The result was something extraordinary: a program where SolidWorks provided their VARs with a full education on every aspect of running a business, equivalent to a mini-MBA program. Jeff and his team became business mentors to the VARs, educating them on all aspects of how to run a great company. This included not only sales and marketing, but also finance, HR, recruiting, business planning, etc. Their efforts paid back in spades, as SolidWorks quadrupled sales and grew their profit margins to double the industry norms.

These two examples made me think about the current development of CAD and PLM businesses, the opportunity, and the role of education in these businesses.

Earlier this month, Dassault Systemes announced the availability of 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for makers and students market. Navigate to the following link ( to read the press release.

3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS for Students helps prepare students for employability in a highly competitive job market by developing the engineering, collaboration, project management and data intelligence skills that are highly sought after by industry today. The offer, which can be used from anywhere, features 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Student, 3D Designer Student and Collaborative Business and Industry Innovator applications, access to a global online community of peers and experts on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, and two industry-recognized certifications.

For only 60$, students will be able to use SOLIDWORKS 3DEXPERIENCE.

PTC Onshape is another interesting example of how SaaS companies are turning into the education market to build a foundation of the business. Onshape is offering free educational licenses and Education Enterprise edition. According to Onshape

Onshape is a professional-grade, cloud-based CAD platform that students and educators can access for FREE on any device, anywhere, anytime.  Here is the recent announcement from PTC speaking about Onshape exceeding 1 million educational users globally written by Kathleen Mitford.

PTC recently exceeded one million users for Onshape’s free Education plans. Hear directly from the head of PTC’s Global Academic Programs to learn how Onshape can improve the classroom or remote learning experience from middle school through graduate school.

Not every Onshape plan in education is free. Onshape is also offering Onshape Educational Enterprise. The price plan is not published, but assume it must be inexpensive similar to DS for education.

Onshape and Soldiworks are not only vendors focusing on educational markets. You can find educational applications for Autodesk Fusion 360, Siemens Solid Edge and others.

Free educational programs can also be found in PLM software. Running a PLM system is not a simple thing. Most of them require specialized training people and hardware to support it. But there are other ways. Let me bring two examples here – Aras and OpenBOM.

Aras is a company that allows users to download software for free. It solves many problems of educators. Aras educational program speaks about Aras availability, benefits for educators and students.

Unlimited access to flexible, scalable and upgradable PLM software. Access to the Aras. Community for project collaboration and custom curriculum. Hands-on exposure to PLM so students can transition to the professional workforce. It provides Instructional aid for teaching PLM, product development & model-based SOA programming concepts, Development of add-ons, enhancements, new solutions & projects with the Aras Community. Use Aras PLM to streamline your institution’s document management and other internal business processes.

Another example is OpenBOM (disclaimer – I’m co-founder and CEO). OpenBOM is true SaaS and, therefore, it is providing free educational and non-commercial usage of OpenBOM professional subscriptions.

You can get all features of the OpenBOM Professional User Subscription for free. OpenBOM is available for free personal use for individuals who are doing education, home-based, non-commercial design, manufacturing, and fabrication projects. Individuals must be learning for personal use. This usage must be outside of a company environment, commercial training, and outside of their primary employment. We also support individuals engaged in hobby businesses, retired professionals, or creating social media content, videos, blogs, or other web content.

What is my conclusion?

Using software in the educational process puts a strong foundation in the businesses of companies. The most interesting part of modern software for education is its SaaS nature. This is a great opportunity for PLM vendors to come and provide solutions for classrooms and self-learning online. In the modern environment, the last one is a key. The days when you needed an expensive workstation to run the CAD program as over. AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS did it in the past. PLM legacy systems cannot be used by a broad group of people for education. Modern multi-tenant SaaS systems can do it. Now, it is time to find a new SaaSy way for PLM systems to get into education to create a foundation for future PLM business growth. 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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