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Thursday, 4 March 2011

2D Drafting is not a marketing tool

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Lukas Suma ( and Maciej Stanislawski ( talk with Isabelle Pellerey Velocity Series EMEA Marketing Director at Siemens PLM Software

Written by: Maciej Stanisławski

We talked with Isabelle Pellerey during official premiere of Solid Edge ST3 in Warsaw. Earlier this day, I had the opportunity to talk with Tomasz Jęczarek – just minutes before his presentation...

Isabelle Pellerey (Siemens PLM Software): Did you manage to get information about five strongest advantages of Solid Edge ST3?

Maciej Stanislawski ( Yes, it looks like I did. Technical information received directly from Tomasz Jęczarek, will undoubtedly be interesting and useful to our readers. But, this is not everything I wanted to find out; therefore I tried to prepare a couple of questions, which I don’t think will be answered during official presentations. Please, if you would give me a minute to find them on my computer.

Lukasz Suma ( And I’d like to ask about the impact, which introducing synchronous technology had on the market. Local market as well.

Isabelle Pellerey: Answering this question won’t be easy. Especially, since we are not giving out exact numbers per market or product. Of course we notice increased interest in our products, many people invest in specialistic solutions, that use synchronous technology. Overall, our customers can now design in 3D without pre-planning, execute ECO (engineering change orders) much faster, better reuse imported 2D and 3D data. 2D users can now move to 3D without having to learn complicated history-based methds. And while moving to Solid Edge, existing layouts can be utilized directly in 3D. 3D users can eliminate many known deficiencies with history based, and while moving to ST can retain drawings and 3D designs.

However, a lot of them still work using traditional modelling, sometimes backed by advantages derived from synchronous technology. Especially, because at first many users of CAD systems were very sceptical towards synchronous technology. With the continuous development of synchronous technology we make sure that our products offer interesting and useful solutions for our customers. For example a simulation module, implementation of Femap possibilities to Solid Edge environment, allowing each user to run adequate tests and analysis of a designing detail.

MS: Yes, that could be especially interesting, but not for those, who already have knowledge about analysis in finite-element method and have worked directly in CAE programs, such as mentioned Femap.

IP: Of course, but we are talking about slightly different consumers, different profile of users.

MS: That’s true. That was also mentioned during today’s presentations...

IP: At the same time Femap is only available in the English version, which also creates a barrier for many potential users. Using a simulation module in Solid Edge ST3 doesn’t involve such barriers.

LS: Another business question: almost everyone says, that times of a crisis are not good for introducing new systems, new programs and also – for investing in them. Did you - as a company operating on the computer engineering systems market – in any way felt affected by this crisis?

IP: Yes, in some countries people did start to pay more attention to prices, costs of software. They pay more attention to relation of actual costs to benefits that will come from investment.If investments help them to make their business more profitable, they continue to invest... more carefully than in good economical times of course. .

LS: And in Poland?

IP: People still invest in IT solutions. But as I mentioned, some countries notice decrease in investments in general, also in the area in which we operate.

MS: And what is your opinion on our market? In comparison to other countries from the region, of course. From the point of view of someone responsible for Velocity portfolio?

IP: As someone from the outside (not directly involved in the Polish market) I can say, that thanks to our Polish partners we are selling all the products that make up Velocity portfolio. In some other countries we focus our attention for example on CAM solutions, but here we have CAMdivision, the best of our partners, to whom we owe, that this area of our interests is not left without our solutions. We get specific, exact feedback from partners, through them we also gain knowledge of the market, which allows us to better prepare future strategy. This makes Poland a really good example of a country, where we sell all our products and systems which are part of the Velocity Series portfolio. I don’t know everything about Polish market, but I do realize, that there are many industrial plants here, many manufacturers, many companies, that want to invest. And all the time new ones emerge, while in other countries such progress is not there.

LS: So now maybe on another note. There are over 1000 new functionalities in ST3.

IP: Yes, actually it’s almost 2000 new functionalities, new system capabilities.

LS: This is why I wanted to ask: how do you receive feedback, information about need for new functionalities and – how many such voices did you receive before this edition.

IP: We received around 2000 requests. For example around 900 people asked for new functionalities regarding user interface. Many requests concerned changes and improvements in the SheetMetal area. However, I’m not able to give you exact data how many requests regarding each functionality. As usual, there were really lots of them, we look at each request and formulate a plan to implement, At times we compile many requests into a single piece of functionalithy so many customers can get better served..

LS: In reference to free 2D – I think this was a way to convince and attract users to Solid Edge.

IP: There was a need for free 2D as well, there were also such requests from users. Especially, as there wasn’t a free 2D program on the market... Not only is our solution free, but it include parametric sketching and a unique “Goal Seek” tool that let’s users solve complex engineering problems with simple 2D free-body diagrams.

MS: That’s true. At the moment of Solid Edge’s 2D Drafting debut, it was the only free professional CAD 2D solution.

LS: Nice move: Dear users, here we give you good free software. If you like it, you can buy our 3D solution... Do you really think it was a good idea?

IP: It definitely was a major investment on our part! (laughs) And more importantly any 2D data that is created in Solid Edge 2D Drafting can be used in Solid Edge 3D.

MS: Actually, I don’t think it was such a huge investment. I mean, after all 2D Drafting is only an assigned part of a completely functional version of Solid Edge ST, in some way – it’s a part of its code. There was no need to engage experts and create this solution from scratch.

IP: In some ways I agree with you. When it comes to development and implementation of this solution, there was no need for bigger expenses. However, making this free CAD 2D solution available on the market - this required many investments and of course involved certain costs. Even just collecting information about users, registration process...

MS: ...overseeing and providing access to free licences, yes I can see now that is true.

IP: But that’s not everything. People, who register and download free 2D Drafting gain access to many network materials, that are intended only for registered users. What is more, we provide them with technical support, just like we do for users with paid versions of our software. This is why, as I said before, investments regarding free 2D wasn’t so much about research and development area, as for servicing new users. That was a necessity, which is shown even by the fact, that many previous users of e.g. AutoCAD install our free solution.

LS: Do you happen to know how many new clients you gain in this way – how many users of 2D version decide to buy a full version?

IP: Thanks to 2D? Well, let’s start by saying, that a CAD 2D market still is one of the biggest out there. This is why all the time there’s a visible movement of users from 2D to 3D solutions. CAD systems market hasn’t satiated in 3D solutions yet. In comparison to Asia and Pacific markets – European market is small, but free 2D tools everywhere notice growing interest. The fact still remains though, that not everyone who downloaded free 2D will buy 3D solutions in the nearest future. But after all our free 2D Drafting is not only a marketing tool!

LS: And I think it’s one of the best!

MS: Banner on my page, which redirects to registration and downloading of this free tool, is – according to Google statistics – one of the most clicked on from all that are placed on my pages.

LS: It allows you to download a free tool for commercial use...

MS: That’s right. As I said before, there was a time, when this was the only available for free branded solution, at the same time intended for a commercial use. I might take a risk and say, that even now it still is the only verified solution of this kind – competitive programs with similar capabilities that are available for free, either didn’t leave the beta stage or have very limited functionalities.

IP: Well, our free 2D is indeed part of a proven 3D solution, which is why such problems usually don’t occur.

LS: Do you expect significant competition in this area?

IP: As this is a free solution, it’s hard to talk about competition.

MS: I would say it could be a problem only for Autodesk...

IP: (laughs)

LS: This brings me to my next question: who does Siemens PLM Software consider as its main competitor?

MS: But do you mean other companies’ solutions – in the context of synchronous technology – like Creo, Fusion Technology, or...

LS: Yes, which one from competitors’ solutions may pose a threat to ST’s position?

IP: Well, I must say, that in terms of synchronous technology we feel rather safe and comfortable, at least for now (laughs). That’s for ST3. At the same time we have excellently integrated PLM environments. Obviously, we look towards the future and are positioning ourselves to meet expectations of the market, thinking well in advance.We know the players on the market, but we feel solid and confident with ST3.

MS: So it’s a little like looking from above at competitors’ moves?

LS: Hey, hey, friends, where are you? (laughs)

IP: (laughs) I guess so. We implement ST in all our solutions, not just Solid Edge or NX. We own the Parasolid kernel...

MS: That was a brilliant move.

IP: That’s right. So we will observe the tendencies, also in the PLM area and react adequately.

LS: And what do you think about such new ideas like cloud computing? They are getting more and more popular...

IP: This is something, that we are letting others talk about. Of course we are interested in this subject to some extent... For transactional based computing (banking for example), cloud computing makes sense. It’s not proven for CAD that happens to be processor and memory intensive. For every user, you need a processor and 1 processor can’t really keep up with multiple users. Multiple processor support tends to be an impossible propostion for CAD applications because of the ordered approach used (this can’t compute until that is done. Also the main performance bottleneck in CAD computing is getting data in and out of memory (and the disk). We are just not sure the cloud will fix these or make them worse.

MS: But there have already been Siemens PLM Software applications, smaller apps and solutions, that work on mobile devices, from the PDM area. In my opinion, maybe it would be sensible to prepare systems in two versions – traditional and using cloud computing capabilities.

IP: Yes, but right now it is too early to say, whether we are or aren’t going in that direction. We’re keeping an eye on cloud computing, but all evidence indicates it’s not for CAD.

LS: As for me, this would be all for now. Maciej, do you have any more questions?

MS: Of course I do. I’d like to go back almost to... the start.

IP: (laughs)

LS: And by the way one more question about... dates. Solid Edge ST1 was announced, if I remember correctly, in May?

IP: Yes, there is some delay in releasing another versions of synchronous technology. ST2 was available in October of last year.

LS: So what is the „waiting time”, time period between two consecutive versions? Can we assume that it’s around a year and a half?

IP: The factor that has significant impact on dates of releasing new versions is also cooperation. Close cooperation and coordination of work with a team responsible for NX solutions. Generally our releases are around 1 year apart.

MS: And in part this answer is the introduction to my next question: why did Solid Edge, and not NX, became the main element of Velocity Series?

IP: Because of the simplicity of usage and rather small level of complexity – in the meaning of working with a system, clarity of code, simplicity of implementing new functionalities, etc, but not its capabilities. The decision to include precisely Solid Edge into the Velocity portfolio came from purely technical reasons, and not... political. And Solid Edge is better suited for smaller companies with less complicated products or processes to manage.

MS: When did the idea to create Velocity Series came about? And from whom did it emerge? The idea to provide the market with a comprehensive solution, integrated programs, and not just single systems?

IP: I think that we started working on that back in 2003, and the first official premiere took place in October 2005. We saw a need that smaller companies need to manage the complete product life cycle in the same manner as larger companies, but without large company staff, budge, and implementation time.The idea of course emerged from the team responsible for Solid Edge. We had to liaise on various issues with people responsible for Teamcenter, for Femap... It wasn’t a big team, but it was a productive one, and other people were eager to participate in the work and help. And the final product is one of my favourite ones! (laughs)

MS: Since we’re on the subject of small teams, small groups of people, I would mention what I think is the smallest firm providing software for 3D modelling. If I remember correctly, Deelip Menezes was one of the first ones to write about „Moment of Inspiration” – an application, which comes from this exact company, and whose creator was Michael Gibson, earlier responsible for Rhinoceros code. My question is: Does Siemens PLM Software think about e.g. expanding Velocity Series portfolio with this kind of solution – simple CAD 3D system for free modelling. System, which could be sort of a basic element preparing user for working with more advanced applications. A step between?

IP: This is exactly why we have 2D Drafting in our offer, which is supposed to be such a step towards a full system, like Solid Edge ST3. As for a simple 3D modeller – we didn’t receive any requests for such program, and we’re in contact with many people involved in branches close to engineering – designers, architects, for whom such a tool could really be useful. But we’re not saying that it’s not an option for the future.

MS: Of course, there are independent solutions of this kind available on the market. For example SolidThinking, which cooperates extremely well with different „solid” CAD 3D programs. But I must point out, that the latter is more expensive than Solid Edge ST3, and in Poland – unavailable. So investing in buying it doesn’t really seem reasonable.

LS: But there are also cheaper programs, not to even mention Google SketchUp...

MS: ...or „Moment of Inspiration”, yes.

LS: But aren’t you thinking about new, additional modules, for example something connected with „green engineering”

IP: We are engaged in work on this kind of solutions and I guess, that in some time there will be official statements on that subject. As for now, we’re concentrating on improvements in the mechanical design area. And with good results. The key to a productive system that can be use for production work is completeness. Modeling is one aspect, but automated drawing production is a big part. Having these tools also requires depth from standards coverage, to command set, etc. Small “cheaper” CAD systems just don’t have the breadth and depth—that takes years of development, large costs, and consistent focus on customer needs.

MS: As for me, I think this would be all for now. Thank you for the interview.

Warsaw, 23.11.2010

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