Gascoigne is a computer scientist with thirty years of experience in information technology. He recently took over the helm at CoCreate, which develops real-time collaboration technology. From 1990 through 2001, he held several executive-management positions at SDRC, most recently that of executive vice president. Prior to that, he was an executive with Applicon, a CAD pioneer that later became Schlumberger Technologies, Ltd. From 1972 through 1979, he worked for Phillips Data Systems and Olivetti Ltd. as regional manager for Scotland and northern England.
On-line collaboration can be better than in-person collaboration, says Gascoigne, especially when it's expensive and time-consuming to travel to design-review meetings. And it efficiently produces better designs by enabling more engineers to share their ideas while looking at a model no matter where they are.
DESIGN NEWS: There is a lot of talk today about collaboration. Why all the buzz? What's really new about it?
Gascoigne: Really, there is nothing new about collaboration as a concept. People have been collaborating from the beginning of time. Most ideas are the result of teamwork. As products become more complex and engineers try to optimize materials and manufacturing, you have more people and teams. Today, there are ad hoc techniques for collaboration, and the Web helps. There is a forum (the Web) for collaborating that's better than face to face, which isn't always possible or even desirable because of the costs and time for travel. If you can have a real-time collaboration session with all the data so you can co-model, you save costs.
Q: How does product lifecycle management differ from collaboration? Are they connected?
A: Product lifecycle management is an environment. It's not something you can buy. Vendors sell the tools and consulting to create the environment. But, the tools come from a broad range of sources. Product data management is a tool within product lifecycle management.
Q: If the Internet is a good collborative forum, what's the best way to collaborate over the Web?
A: The collaboration mode should be CAD independent. Collaboration should include co-viewing a model; and co-modeling, actually sharing minds and intelligence and experience, as well as data. That kind of collaboration allows exchanging ideas as well as data. People lump data and ideas together. It's better to exchange suggestions and ideas at the same time as viewing a CAD model. Engineers from different disciplines see the model differently, and one can tell another if the design is workable. If a collaboration method only allows viewing and mark up of a model, that's not enough.
It doesn't enable engineers to really understand the model or the reasons why changes were or were not made. With CoCreate's OneSpace tool, you can change and annotate on the spot, and everyone understands the rationales.
Q: Where, geographically, is most on-line collaboration taking place and what are the reasons?
A: Our biggest installed base is in Europe, but the U.S. is where engineers take on new ideas the fastest, and it's where the biggest drivers of collaboration are. Those drivers include consolidation and globalization in manufacturing.
The U.S. in time will easily outstrip Europe in terms of collaboration. There are a lot of distributed design teams, and large companies in the U. S. have been working with partners in global programs that require collaboration. In Japan, collaboration is important too. Companies there are striving for innovation and to be first on the market, and they need to collaborate.
Q: What do companies perceive as the biggest impediment to having engineers collaborate on-line?
A: Companies think the infrastructure requirements are heavy. Because of that perception, many collaboration projects that should happen will go nowhere.
Q: What's your niche?
A: We have a large niche. We work with large and small companies that have distributed design teams. CoCreate is a sandbox where engineers on those teams wherever they are can check and play with ideas.