CAD doesn’t make you money, but 3D Direct Modeling might

I’m in a unique position in the 3D world. My career has focused primarily on the use of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) in industry. For me, CAD has always been that nasty swamp you have to slog through to reach the land of milk, honey, and colorful velocity contours.

Now that I’m (loosely) in the CAD industry, I’m paying more attention to what traditional CAD vendors preach to the masses. They often focus on reduced click counts, process time savings, and improved data management benefits.

Customers of these companies live and die
by the following equation:

Profit = Revenue – Costs

It is interesting that so much of CAD propaganda is heavily weighted towards factors in the “Costs” section.

There are occasional arguments about the value of moving faster, and therefore winning more business (revenue)… but that’s not the main battle line when SolidWorks goes for the kill at a Pro/Engineer account.

While traditional CAD is focused on reducing costs, it rarely plays a significant role in the sales (revenue) trenches. Why? Because, CAD is much too rigorous, constraint-filled, and time-consuming to fit into most sales processes. See my previous article on the topic for more details:

Push 3D into your RFP process to win more business

3D Direct Modeling offers a real competitive edge in the sales process. Sales teams can quickly cobble together conceptual 3D models to include in client sales meetings and proposals. This can happen without getting bogged down in complicated PDM/PLM systems, or derailing the CAD design department from active projects.

Winging it
Amazingly, many sales teams simply wing it today. At most, they do Powerpoint and Photoshop pre-sales Engineering. More often, there is little more than a napkin or whiteboard sketch. And, after taking a rough swag at costs and timing, their bid is full of guesses and text.

Problem is, winging it is dangerous in the bid process. Guesstimate your offer too high, and you won’t win the business. Guesstimate too low, and you will lose money on the deal.

Ways to not wing it
I’m super excited about our approach to 3D Direct Modeling with SpaceClaim. The tool was built from the ground up for non-CAD-gurus. The other players in the 3D Direct Modeling game have either evolved from or been bolted onto traditional CAD tools… so, it’s tough (or in a few cases impossible) to shed that legacy.

I’m totally biased (my paycheck comes every two weeks from SpaceClaim Corporation), but I just don’t see many other Direct Modelers that would be appropriate for use by sales teams. AutoDesk Labs’ Fusion technology testbed looks to hold real promise on this front… but we’ll have to wait and see how the technology gets productized.

If Fusion could be developed as a free-standing product, it might prove quite useful in this sales “bid modeling” arena. But, might be a long-shot…

I suspect there will be more corporate pressure to bolt the technology onto AutoDesk’s flagship Inventor product. That seems the inevitable path out of the AutoDesk labs for Fusion. Just guessing based on the fact that “Inventor” is in the name, the product is heavily focused on marrying history-based (traditional CAD) and Direct Modeling, and… hmm… Inventor needs a marketing response to Siemens’ Synchronous Technology to keep up with the arms race on the battlefield of traditional CAD.

What do you think? Anyone out there having success with either traditional CAD (Pro/Engineer, SolidEdge, Inventor, NX, CATIA, SolidWorks, etc) or other, new concept-focused 3D Direct Modelers? Please comment below.

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8 comments

  1. Hi Jeff

    Guess i could comment, but already done a brief review of Inventor fusion and Siemens synchronous Technology seem on good path….

    http://soliddna.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/autocad-revisit/

  2. Hi Jeff

    Guess i could comment, but already done a brief review of Inventor fusion and Siemens synchronous Technology seem on good path….

    http://soliddna.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/autocad-revisit/

  3. Hi Jeff,

    Well, it is obvious that you are passionate about the company you work for and I think that’s really great!

    Working on the CFD/reaction modeling side I do not know much about the CAD. This post revealed some interesting new info to me. For example it was a revelation that CAD industry marketing is mostly focused on cutting costs as opposed to increasing profits.

    Keep up on witting!

    1. Thanks Masha, great to have you commenting here!

      Rest assured, there are plenty of CAD salespeople and execs out there who totally disagree with my assessment 🙂

      And, who knows… maybe I’ve been looking at the wrong statistical sampling 😉

  4. Hi Jeff,

    Well, it is obvious that you are passionate about the company you work for and I think that’s really great!

    Working on the CFD/reaction modeling side I do not know much about the CAD. This post revealed some interesting new info to me. For example it was a revelation that CAD industry marketing is mostly focused on cutting costs as opposed to increasing profits.

    Keep up on witting!

    1. Thanks Masha, great to have you commenting here!

      Rest assured, there are plenty of CAD salespeople and execs out there who totally disagree with my assessment 🙂

      And, who knows… maybe I’ve been looking at the wrong statistical sampling 😉

  5. Another thought provoking post Jeff….

    I share the bias with Spaceclaim because it has become one of those things for me that you wonder how you ever lived without it…

    I think the humorous thing about sales teams that I’ve actually encountered for different projects is that the CAD process is so long and involved on traditional cad packages that it simply doesn’t justify the cost and time to CAD up something for the purpose of pro-active sales… something which Spaceclaim excels at.

    I have to agree with Masha’s comment with regard to cost cutting as opposed to increased profit… direct 3D modeling in my view assists in the creative process to produce what -should be- the important factor which is better design… something I would hope would increase profits on its own.

  6. Another thought provoking post Jeff….

    I share the bias with Spaceclaim because it has become one of those things for me that you wonder how you ever lived without it…

    I think the humorous thing about sales teams that I’ve actually encountered for different projects is that the CAD process is so long and involved on traditional cad packages that it simply doesn’t justify the cost and time to CAD up something for the purpose of pro-active sales… something which Spaceclaim excels at.

    I have to agree with Masha’s comment with regard to cost cutting as opposed to increased profit… direct 3D modeling in my view assists in the creative process to produce what -should be- the important factor which is better design… something I would hope would increase profits on its own.