The software industry isn't ready just yet to change the acronym CAD to consultant-aided design, but increasingly vendors are offering to help engineers in product development by doing more than just providing the software.
Pleasonton, CA-based think3 (www.think3.com) is the most recent CAD company to launch a new professional-services organization to help engineers overcome product-development challenges. And, potential customers don't even have to use think3's CAD software.
"Our goal is to enable better communication and coordination of design," says Marc Cannon, think3's vice president of consulting services. The service, Cannon says, will help mid-size ($50 million to $1 billion in sales) companies tie CAD and product data management together.
With its announcement, think3 joins several other software vendors now offering consulting services.
ANSYS (www.ansys.com), offer consults in software implementation, education, and integration, among other activities. MSC.Software's (www.mscsoftware.com) Expert Solutions Group provides analysis services and advice, including failure analysis of critical components. SolidWorks (www.solidworks.com) provides consulting services for its COSMOS finite-element-analysis product. And CAD developer Alibre (www.alibre.com) has a service called Alibre Assistant, a support center that engineers can call with questions about modeling.
Despite that competition, think3 CEO Joe Costello thinks there is a big unmet need for consulting services—especially in that mid-size-company range. He has a track record of making good hunches: He built Cadence software into a major player in the electronics CAD field.
Erik Buell, chief technical officer for Buell Motorcycle Company, is a believer. He says he thinks think3's consulting services will be important to his company's design efforts.
But, not all engineers agree that consulting services are for them. Borg Warner Automotive Staff Engineer Paris Altidis says consulting services can help engineers who don't have the time to learn software. For his part, he says, he would rather invest time in learning new software and use it himself.
Still, think3CEO Costello is bullish. "We think our products and services will help link engineering to the rest of the business", he says.