Newton, MA—The economic climate in 2001 is forcing engineering software companies to merge, acquire, and recreate themselves at a frantic pace. In May alone, we learned that Dassault Systemes is buying SRAC and partnering with MSC, and EDS is buying SDRC and the rest of UGS (see www.designnews.comDN Today, 5/25/01).
Hey, as long as this reduces the number of acronyms we have to learn, it's OK with us. But we were apprehensive when Alventive said that it wanted to talk.
The company was originally founded in 1990 as Visionary Design Systems (VDS), which acquired a firm called 3D/EYE Inc. in 1997 and soon released IronCAD, a mechanical solid modeling application. In April 2000, VDS renamed itself Alventive (Santa Clara, CA). And in March 2001, it spun off its CAD application into an independent company called IronCAD LLC (Atlanta, GA).
Where does this leave Alventive? On May 30, it released Alventive 3.0, which features improvements to their Collaborative Design Solutions suite, a B2B Web portal that allows people throughout the supply chain to contribute to a product's design in the earliest stages. A function called Project Navigator includes three tools: Quick Collaboration, PreSourcing Collaboration, and Design Process Collaboration. In release 3.0, these tools will now boast features such as collaboration monitoring, expanded document translation, and better 2D viewing.
"We hand off to SCM, ERP, PDM, or BOM-management once you hit the product definition stage," says John Bruggeman, Alventive's executive VP of marketing. Instead of the usual business model where an OEM will outsource its project to the supply chain after it's fully defined, Alventive allows its users to make those changes up front, where the cost is originally committed, so changes are cheaper.
In Bruggeman's words, this makes Alventive "collaborative design for the supply chain," as opposed to "collaborative design for design engineers." Thus it is designed to be applied upstream of traditional DFM (design for manufacturing) tools.
This strategy presents Alventive with its own niche, but also a unique challenge—since the OEM, tier-one, and tier-n companies all must participate to make this work, Alventive's product had better be intuitive, since there's no time for training in this equation.
"We don't have six months to train," Bruggeman says. "This has to be pushed quickly into the supply chain."
And indeed, he says Alventive has achieved a short implementation with its packaged Project Navigator, so it's easy to use. Of course this makes it less customizable, though more configurable. They also streamlined the tool by making it a mere 200kB plug-in to the client browser. Finally, Alventive uses proprietary streaming and viewing technologies, compressing any CAD file into a format called SSG.
In a demo, the new user interface was simple and intuitive, displaying only the amount of information needed for each step. In implementation, the browser can be branded with the user's company information, then simply linked to an existing extranet. And its threaded e-mail and message boards allow managers to easily track "design drift," identifying where time is lost or plans are changed.
For more information about software from Alventive: Enter 539