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20 Oct 2011

Autodesk believes that PLM is something that in minds of many people

Detlev Reicheneder isicad.net: One of the key persons of the recent Autodesk Forum in Moscow (see ďAutodesk turns to PLM and demonstrates its leadership in cloud/mobile technologiesĒ) was Detlev Reicheneder, a very experienced guy, who kindly agreed to sit together with Dmitry Ushakov and explain him the evolution of the Autodeskís vision of PLM industry and outlined what we can expect from the companyís portfolio of products for design and manufacturing industry. Below our readers can find a condensed overview of the 45-minutes long conversation.
Could you please present yourself and describe the areas of your responsibility in Autodesk?
My name is Detlev Reicheneder. I'm 8 years with Autodesk. As a senior industry manager I'm responsible for the aerospace industry. In parallel I'm responsible for market development activities of some of our Inventor products. And I've got an assignment to work with emerging countries like Russia. Because I'm based in Munich I'm closer to Russia than people from US Ė not only in geographical sense, but most probably in a cultural sense as well. Before taking my current position, I was a senior manager of market development so I launched some new products to the market like Autodesk Factory Suite, Inventor Publisher. And before that I led a consulting team in EMEA. We delivered the projects to large enterprises. Actually we had a few engagements back in that time in Russia and Ukraine. Before Autodesk I worked for one of the large resellers in Germany. I was responsible for the engineering part. I'm actually a graduated engineer in micromechanics and semiconductor technology.
I remember just a few years ago Carl Bass ironically referred PLM as a bad word of 3 letters. But now Gartner and CIMdata are ranking Autodesk as a PLM vendor, and I was quite surprised to see a PLM roundtable in the program of the Autodesk Forum in Moscow. What has been changed in your mind that you started to position yourself as a PLM vendor? And what is your approach to PLM?
Yes, you are right, a couple of years back I was at this famous event, where Carl Bass said his Anti-PLM rap. And actually I would say, back in that time he was most probably right. In the mean time technologies are evolved, many customers made it work. So there are many customers out there they have successfully implemented PLM. But PLM is an idea. PLM is not something you can buy out of the box. It's not one single product. There are some customers out there, who have got the real benefits from the idea of PLM. So we reconsider this statement we had back then. We basically said: ęOK, technology evolved, it's time to think about it and change our positionĽ. It would be bad if a company would not change direction if conditions changes and customers require certain strategies.
So what is our perspective and our picture of PLM? For us, PLM is product lifecycle management, which is really from requirement management down to production and even the recycling of a product. It includes engineering, because every product regardless if it is a building or a table or this iPad or a car, or industrial machine needs to be designed and engineered. Engineering is an essential part of PLM, and a lot of engineering is done with our tools for engineering and design like Inventor. I would say engineering is the core. We fill a big space in the whole PLM picture. As you know, with our PDM products we already take care of engineering data management.
We believe that PLM is something that is now in the mind of many people. Over the last years they have seen it working. They see now the benefits. Therefore we are going to invest in the PLM area, which is beyond PDM. Our PDM solution will stay, but we believe actually that there are different roles in the company. The engineer is mainly interested in engineering. His main task is developing a products and bring those products into production. He certainly needs a lot of information about the overall process. But his main task is engineering the product.
The majority of PLM workflows involve completely other people, completely other roles in the company.
If we talk about Bill of Material (BOM) management, then an engineer provides the engineering BOM in his best way, but he doesn't know exactly in every detail how his product is manufactured, what the structure is for maintenance and for logistical purposes. There are other specialists out there taking care about that.
With that, there is an important message ó whatever we introduce as PLM doesn't replace our PDM solution. PLM is an extension to our PDM.
The challenge is I cannot talk about what we do for PLM in detail, because this is still confidential. In a few weeks you will get more information. We run Autodesk University, where we unveil it, where you can see, you can touch it, you can get customers there, and you can see how it really looks like.
So at Autodesk University you will show something related to PLM?
Yeah. We will. What you have heard, what Carl Bass told in his first announcement that we want to have a completely new technology here. Obviously we are investing a lot in new technologies like cloud, which enables customers to reduce IT investments, the cost of implementation complex solutions is typically huge. It involves thousands of users with different hardware, and we want to connect them with our PDM solution and PLM backbone. So this is the way how we see PLM and how it works.
Detlev Reicheneder at Autodesk Forum in Moscow
Letís now speak about your PDM solution. What industries are addressed with Autodesk Vault? Does it have some limitations, for example on the maximal number of users or on the complexity of the product, which data can be stored and managed with Vault? I wonder if Vault a good scalable solution to build real PLM on top of it?
Yes, because we have great and large customers. First of all, Vault is able to collaborate on a worldwide level. Particularly if you have large customers then mostly those customers are not sitting at the same location. They are distributed all over the world. So we have some clients like Bosch, who implemented Vault as a global application, distributed in several locations in Europe and worldwide, including China.
We have customers who manage without any problem then thousands of parts in Vault. And they actually tell us that without Vault it would be hard to manage this amount of data, because of the complexity. I believe Vault is a good scalable solution because it has the ability to collaborate. Letís say we have several distributed departments in the company. With Vault, you donít need one single database; you can collaborate with multiple departments, locations, etc., which make life much easier.
Thatís why we think that Vault is very capable and scalable solution from a workgroup up to the level of a global company managing engineering data. And PLM is something beyond Vault, not necessary build on Vault.
What about the integration facilities of Vault? What products have been already integrated with it? When an enterprise builds a PDM solution, it usually involves management of different kind of data.
We have actually 6 or 7 products where we have Vault integrated. We have our AutoCAD-based products, AutoCAD Electrical, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD Architectural and obviously Inventor. We support the features of the products very deep, so we make sure that with Vault integration we never limit the user flexibility and productivity. With Vault we take care that everything is managed: Inventor, Revit, Civil 3D, Navisworks, Autodesk Simulation, etc.
Do you plan to integrate products of other vendors or to allow them to do it on their side?
To answer your question: yes, we have a few connectors and we are going to extend those connectors for cases when it makes sense. But in the same time we want to make a PLM solution as open as possible that in a Multi-CAD environment you can even integrate other PDM solutions, because the other PDM solutions can always manage CAD files and CAD related information much better than we can do. In both ways we try to keep the highest flexibility.
Can you compare the possibilities of product data management, workflow management, collaboration facilities of Vault with ones of Teamcenter, Enovia or Windchill?
Letís speak about Teamcenter and Windchill. They are close to each other, but Enovia is slightly different. With Vault we donít have capabilities of Teamcenter or Windchill. And actually itís on purpose. We take care about engineering workflow and about data used by engineers in the engineering process, including non-CAD data like office documents. As an example we have the integration with Outlook because it is a communication part of the engineerís work process. We can manage office files, PDF files and all this kind of communication stuff you need during the development process. But we donít include things like requirement management, quality management in our PDM. As soon as we touch workflows outside of engineers we donít support it with Vault. This we will support with our PLM system. There is still a difference between a PDM system and a PLM system and with hat between PLM and the Vault.
It might be interesting for a customer to get some of the PLM functionalities from the PLM solution and with that great extensions of Vault for more complex workflows. Even if he still uses the typical workflow as an engineer, it doesnít mean that PLM is something he could not leverage. In this way, he can use PLM functionalities beyond Vault / PLM. The main difference between Vault and PLM products, like Windchill and Teamcenter, is that Vault is the system which is highly integrated into our CAD tools Ė Inventor, AutoCAD, AutoCAD Mechanical etc. And it has 100% depth integration. If you actually look at some of our competitors, Teamcenter does good job in managing NX data. Ií m not 100% sure about Solid Edge. How good it is supported down to the level of everything that Solid Edge can do. Itís pretty much the same with Windchill. IĎve seen customers struggles actually with the depth of Windchill CAD integration into Pro/Engineer. Itís not up to me to decide or to judge this. But we are focusing with Vault pretty much to provide the engineer a productivity tool. Nothing should get in the way of doing his job.
Other systems like Teamcenter, Enovia and Windchill came from the idea of a full PLM system, which does PDM as well. And we are saying that PDM is PDM and it is focused on helping the engineer to solve his problems. Thatís the difference.
OK, your view on PDM and PLM is quite clear for me. Now letís speak about CAD. I heard two different points of view on the competition of Inventor with other CAD systems. One point consists of the fact that Inventor competes with SolidWorks and Solid Edge. Other point is that Inventor competes with CATIA and NX. What is right?
Both. They are both right. Since I am responsible worldwide I have a good picture on that. So we compete really against SolidWorks and Solid Edge as well as against CATIA, NX and Pro/Engineer. The reason why many people still see this different is in the past when there was a differentiation between mid-range CAD systems and high-end CAD systems. And now we discuss in CIMdata (the analyst company) terms of design-focused CAD and multi-discipline CAD. In my opinion, this differentiation is less and less transparent. Analysts like CIMdata have a hard time to differentiate between the two. Itís not such a big difference anymore. If you look at Inventor, why would somebody say itís a mid-range system? Is it a pure 3D CAD system? Doesnít it have things like simulation or tooling? Oh, it does. We have FEM, Dynamic Simulation, Frame Analysis, Plastic part simulation, Frame Generator, sheet metal, tooling and many other functionality. So we are equal if not better in some areas compared to the traditional ďhigh endĒ systems.
And letís say against whom we are competing heavily depending on industry, and heavily depending on the task. So letís say if you talk about industrial machinery we see a lot of SolidWorks and Pro/Engineer, a bit NX, not so much CATIA. If you talk about supply chain of automotive we see CATIA and NX. We donít see much SolidWorks, because Dassault donít want SolidWorks getting in and compete against Catia. So the situation who is our competitor is depending on the industry and the engineered products. Actually we see all of them as reasonable good competitors.
Youíve already started to answer my next question: what industries are addressed with Inventor. Please name the most complex product designed with Inventor.
I thought a lot about it. The most complex product most probably is a paper machine. One of our customers is Voith Paper. There are two or three companies in the world designing and building whole paper machines, and Voith is one of them. Voith always claimed that every third sheet of paper is coming from a Voith paper machine.
Their machines, and you can look it up on their web site, are several football fields wide: from 120 up to 200 meters and more. They design machines in Inventor and this is probably the most complex design we do. They are heavily using methodologies like level of detail, top down design, etc. They have PLM integration into their SAP backbone. We did work together quite closely over several years to achieve this. Because they dreamt of the idea that that all the process data is managed within SAP and they want to make sure that machines gets efficiently designed and build across continents. Today they have the concept of center of excellence. So letís say in Germany certain sections of the entire machine get build all the time, in Brazil certain sections get build, in US another section is build. And then at the customerís site the machine comes together and it fits right away. This is almost impossible if you design in 2D. You would always have to do some fixes and adjustments. So this is only possible with 3D and good data management concepts. So they can focus on optimizing the product and the production rather than fixing design problems.
Detlev Reicheneder at Autodesk Forum in Moscow
What about Inventor Fusion technology? Do you think it addresses the needs of manufacturers?
First of all you said it right Ė the technology. You might have seen some of the aspects of this technology making it into the Inventor product or into other CAD products. So we use different platforms to test this technology. And yes it is a great benefit for manufacturing customers. So as an example many customers struggle with the idea of fast changes of data they donít know.
Letís say I get a data set from a vendor using another CAD system. I need to do a fast change. it obviously doesn't have parametric, it doesn't have history. So we need to have direct modeling capabilities. And if we need to do a fast change from a parametric model, even if it's done in Inventor, it doesn't need that you understand the logic behind the modelís creation to change the model, and then you can come back and even get these changes back into the parametric model if you want. And technically it allows customers really to perform some very special tasks within Inventor.
You know with Inventor we always had base editing capabilities. This is replaced with Fusion. If you click on the base editing, which was pulling/pushing the face you are jumping into Fusion, you do your job in Fusion in a much more powerful way and then you get back to Inventor. We start to see many customers using Fusion in solving all those tiny but very ugly problems.
It can be very ugly if you need to change something and you have no way to do it. Fusion is solving this tremendous problem.
And maybe you noted that we don't separate the world in a parametric or non-parametetric CAD approach. We see it in the same way like we always said about 2D and 3D. It's not 2D or 3D Ė itís AND, you need both. Same with parametric or non-parametric. You need both. For some areas parametric is just great, in other areas it's not a good idea. So it is the customer who decides, which principle to use: you can mix them, you can start with one, finish with the other, go back to the first one. That's the way how we see the product.
My next question is about Autodesk Simulation. Can you compare with competitors solutions, for example with ANSYS or SIMULIA by Dassault?
Autodesk Simulation addresses several areas from FEM to multiphysics and CFD (computational fluid dynamics). It addresses two typical use cases: the need of an engineer as well as the need of an expert. And here we see the difference. Because existing products, particularly like ANSYS or SIMULIA, mainly address the need of an expert. And the engineer has to go to the simulation specialist and ask him to run simulations. And what we want to do is to encourage the engineer to do upfront simulation. That's why the products are built in a way where you have MoldFlow Advisor and MoldFlow Insight. Insight is more for an expert and the Advisor is more for an engineer - upfront validation, upfront tests the same for Autodesk Simulation.
So we position CFD mainly in the upfront simulation space. Why upfront? If you look at the design process of product then there is a rule that earlier processes define more of the costs. And 70% of costs are defined in engineering. Changing designs earlier keeps the total cost of the product low. If you want to enable customers to take informed decisions much earlier then you need to give the engineer tools to do his job in a better way. Most engineers would say: ďOh, it's not my responsibilityĒ. And yes they are right, it's not their responsibility to really secure calculate the product. But it's their responsibility to come up with a good design and finally with a good performing product. We want to give them a tool to decide whether this product is performing well or not.
And actually if you look at our Factory Suite Ė we did the same with the optimization. We don't compete with the optimization tools like Tecnomatix or Delmia. What we want do is to give engineers a tool that floats all his jobs through the factory and tells him if his layout is a good or bad layout. He can optimize the layout based on that information. He can move assets around and get the feedback if it gets better or worse. It's not a hundred percent precision, it's more like a rule of thumb and gives the feedback if it is good or bad. It helps a lot to identify issues much earlier in the process.
You mention Delmia and you said that you don't want to compete. But what about CAM? Now you don't have any CAM system in your portfolio. Do you plan to extend into this market?
I cannot give you a yes or no. We always look into it. It's a very specialized market. We have very strong partners out there. And as you know we don't want compete with our own partners. As an example even here at the Forum we have a couple of vendors from Russia who bring their own PDM systems.
Yes, today I visited one of this presentations made by ADEM Technology! (Next day after the interview there were presentations by SDI Solutions, Soyuz PLM, APPIUS, and Top Systems.)
And to be honest I don't see them as competitors. If they manage our CAD systems I see them as partners. And it's the same with CAM systems. We have very strong vendors out there. So we look very carefully at this market. Strong vendors, very fragmented, from broad technology down to very special technology. So bottom line Ė you can take it as no statement. I cannot give you a very precise answer.
But we look into this market very carefully. Very good and skilled vendors out there, we don't want to compete with these vendors. At the moment, with introduction of suites some third-party vendors get a completely different interest. Some of the CAM partners started to integrate deeper into our CAD systems. We have a couple of preferred partners, and we recommend them all the time.
Long answer. Make it short: no comment :)
Let me keep part of your explanation, since you have told very interesting sentences. And please answer my last question. You have probably heard that Dassault speculated on the future version of SolidWorks, which will have the common geometric kernel with CATIA and which will be placed on the clouds. And I'd like to ask you: do you plan similar steps with Inventor and other your products for manufacturing? Will you run them on the clouds? Do you consider that probably in the future desktop solutions will be replaced completely with cloud-based especially for manufacturing area?
Well, actually, if you look into the details then we have those technologies already. If you look at Autodesk Labs, you can test a lot of our products in the cloud. They are not running on your desktop, they run on the cloud. They save a file on your desktop, may be. This is a technology we already have. This is nothing completely new.
We believe that the PDM part of the PLM that manages engineering files should be behind a firewall of a company (at least for the time being). There are many good reasons for that Ė IP protection, compliance, cultural reasons. Customers still have some concerns about the cloud in general. Not just in PLM. They would be highly concerned to send all their files somewhere to save or calculate in an unknown environment. So as of today it is not a common behavior that customers accept clouds like today Internet. But that will change rapidly.
But as long as this is not changing we are very careful with putting everything in the cloud. Actually the strategy technology of Dassault is even going beyond that, because they have a server-based calculation where you don't have anymore really a file. It's all in the database, which makes managing this information within a firewall difficult unless you have your own cloud. But thatís a different story.
So we see it as an extremely interesting concept. We have Cloud technology; we offer Cloud services and invest in this area. If you look at Labs you can use several of our products in the cloud. We introduced recently cloud storage and visualization services, as part of our subscription offerings. We already have optimization in the cloud. You will see more coming regarding the cloud.
But as long as the majority of our customers like in industrial machinery want to have their IP within the firewall, we need to have the alternative on the desktop. It's certainly an extremely interesting concept for the future and we are investing a lot in the cloud. If the customer acceptance is there, we will be ready to have an answer.
It's an opened secret that our PLM solution has something to do with the cloud because we believe it would reduce dramatically IT costs: installation, implementation, and this overhead is a big burden for implementing a PLM project.
Thank you very much for so detailed explanation! Looking forward to seeing your PLM solution at Autodesk Unversity in November!

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