Design News recently talked with Robert Kross, vice president of Autodesk's Manufacturing Solutions Division, on the trends he sees in CAD--and what attendees at National Manufacturing Week should look for. Here are his comments. DN: What are some of the trends driving the development of your software?Kross: In the customer environment, we're seeing more competition than ever before, especially in the U.S. There are two key trends. The first is offshoring, with worldwide operations, worldwide competition and worldwide markets. No one sells all their output to a customer that sits next door.
The other big trend is mass customization. Looking back five years, there were plenty of warehouse manufacturers, who made very large quantities of the same product. Now, everyone is trying to reduce inventory costs, looking at just in time manufacturing, which makes it much simpler to make customized products.
Q: How does this impact development
A: One major change is the use of collaboration as a management tool, partly because when you go offshore, you have to share data. You can't do it by wrapping up prints and shipping them to China. Collaboration is a word everybody's using, so it's lost its strength. But customers are starting to use it more and more.
It's not a separate business, it's a part of our design tools. It's a very big challenge to build in ways to tie in other people. Traditionally, our tools are for technical people who are full time users. Collaboration means we have to tie in other people, financial people and others who aren't doing design every day. That adds to the challenge, but it's a necessary component for today's business.
Q: What other changes are occurring with products
and their usage?
A: Now we're seeing massive adoption of 3D modeling, which is something we in the CAD business have been talking about forever. We're also seeing solid modelers really accelerate.
3D is taking off because of the state of the industry, it has caught up and now people can really get high performance with common platforms. In the past, only about 20 % of the people were able to use 3D to its full benefits.
Q: Are there any links between 3D and collaborative
A: There's a need for 3d in the global market, people want to share 3D files. Blueprints and some other types of drawings take a lot of expertise to understand, while 3D is a lot easier to understand. We even see some of our customers using 3D as a marketing tool, which is quite a change from its conventional use as a development tool.
Q: What's your take on the direction of your
A: In the market, things have been really flat. What we've seen in the last two quarters is a lot of ramping up. We see the market very much on the rebound, with very good acceleration.