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Collaboration is Key

Collaboration is Key

What's the most important software issue with design engineers? It's the stability of the software they are using as well as the stability and accuracy of the results. Because the results must be available for all the downstream operations that will be applied to the product, including manufacturing, packaging, and quality control, the accuracy, stability, and quality of the results are a major factor for design software users.

Have engineers bought into the concept of collaboration? In engineering it is natural to communicate and to cooperate. So collaboration was always there. Today we are in a global market, and engineers that were at one time sitting in the same building are now dispersed by time zone, culture, and language.

How are they managing to collaborate with design partners who may be in other countries? Today, we have tools that allow people to work together, and we have the Internet. Everybody can have access. It provides the ability to securely transfer the necessary data. The challenge that I really see coming is the protection of intellectual property. Because the same engineering supplier is used by competitors, the question is how to protect your intellectual property and keep it from moving through your supplier to your competitor. As providers of design software, we need to help meet this challenge. To solve this problem, the OEM must share only the information that is needed by the supplier, nothing more, nothing less. And this is not supported by general collaboration tools like NetMeeting.

How is the Internet improving engineers' ability to design products? Tremendously. It provides access to a lot of information. Before the Internet, it was hard work to get the information needed to design better products. Today, the Internet makes it much easier and much faster. I call it the third Industrial Revolution. The first was machinery and the second was the computer. By the way, the fourth, I think, will be nanotechnology.

What impedes collaboration? I think it is a mindset as opposed to the education of the people. People tend to resist change. This is the most important impediment to collaboration and it's the same across all manufacturing industries.

Has CAD software become a commodity? It depends on how you define a commodity. Products become commodities if you don't innovate. Is a car a commodity? But if you consider the Toyota hybrid car, it is not a commodity. Before parametric design, CAD almost became a commodity. But when the parametric revolution began, it was definitely not a commodity. An evolution of the same tool can create new value for the user.

What's really new in CAD software? Functional modeling is the new evolution of CAD, where CAD is headed toward artificial intelligence. CAD systems were focused on the creation of geometry. But we as engineers think in terms of function, not geometry. We need to let the engineers think as engineers and not as CAD jockeys. Let the system create the supporting geometry to meet the functional needs. Functional modeling is also the basis for collaboration where we share only what is necessary. We don't share geometry, but instead share functions.

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