Mason, who is an engineer, founded Adra Systems in July 1983. Previously, he was a vice president of Applicon, Inc. and served on its board of directors before its acquisition by Schlumberger. Prior to Applicon, he spent ten years with General Electric in engineering and manufacturing management positions in a variety of industrial sectors. He has a Masters of Business Administration.
There is no technical revolution in CAD on the horizon, but because of the need to control data and engineering tools, product data management (CPDM) is the next trend, says Mason.
Design News: What else can we expect?
Mason: There are several. Knowledge-based engineering was a trend a few years ago. Today, there is a lot of talk about solid modeling, and, in fact, it seems solid modeling has been a trend for a long time. Yet, despite the talk and apparent trend, engineers still do most of their work in 2-D. We also hear a great deal these days about assembly modeling and all its advantages. If it ever becomes a reality, it could be a real breakthrough. The fact is, there are a lot of tools for engineers to use, and trends seem to take a long time to become established parts of the engineering process. Controlling and managing all those tools at engineers' disposal is critical if we are to streamline the design process and develop better products faster.
Q: What will be the next major technological breakthrough in CAD?
A: There will be no major revolution in CAD itself. But, because of that critical need to control and manage other tools, product data management will be the next trend. It's an outgrowth of concurrent engineering, and ties in to the idea of team development, virtual co-location, and the general belief that if we can get everyone on line we'll be better off. For example, our product, Matrix, allows real-time integration of engineering with other parts of the organization, while addressing the fact that engineers spend about 30% of their time looking up data. Matrix will cut that time and let them spend more of their time designing. We think of it as "Intellectual Asset Management."
Q: How does product data management change the engineering process?
A: It lets engineers do more engineering and less sitting in meetings. Matrix gives them better access to other tools they can use because they'll all be encapsulated within Matrix. PDM in general will also speed up design by enabling analysis on the fly. It will tie engineers into other departments so they can give data to and get data from such groups as purchasing, marketing, and manufacturing.
Q: What major challenges do engineers face as they try to use software in design?
A: Ease of use is critical. When software is easy to use, engineers can more quickly use it to get products to market faster. Ease-of-use issues often result in engineers using so-called high-end CAD products for conceptual work and 2-D packages such as ours for their actual work. In fact, we frequently hear stories from customers that confirm that fact.
The challenges facing users of product data management often boil down to finding the manpower to adapt traditional PDM to the engineering process. PDM involves re-engineering the organization.
Q: How is Adra Systems addressing those challenges?
A: We have always been a major proponent of ease of use, and vowed from day one that our products would be the easiest to use of any on the market. Regarding product data management, our Matrix product is totally object-oriented. Users can navigate the system and find what they're looking for faster. The visualization on the screen is stimulating and offers more opportunities for control. Also, we don't force users to administer the system enterprise-wide immediately. They can start out using it only for design and merge with other disciplines when they are ready.
Q: Will Matrix sales overtake sales of Cadra?
A: Yes. CAD in general is maturing. Our Cadra product itself may grow 20-40% a year, but Matrix will have explosive growth, maybe hundreds of percentage points a year. We believe Matrix will revolutionize PDM as much as Pro/ENGINEER revolutionized CAD.
Q: Which area of the world holds the most potential for engineering software sales?
A: I believe the biggest growth in software sales will come from the Pacific Rim. That growth will be about 30-50% a year. And that growth will go to U.S. software companies such as Adra Systems. We haven't seen much foreign competition worldwide.