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Measure CAD's usefulness by its effect on competitiveness

Measure CAD's usefulness by its effect on competitiveness


Russell E. Planitzer, Chairman and CEO
Computervision Corp., Bedford, MA

Chairman since 1989 and CEO since 1993, Planitzer has over 20 years of high-technology management experience. A mechanical engineering graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, he received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and worked at Electronic Data Systems, Inc., Prime Computer, and a venture capital firm before coming to Computervision. Research firm D.H. Brown Associates named him Executive of the Year in 1995 for his leadership at Computervision. No other turnaround in the technology sector came close to matching that of Computervision in such a short period, the firm says.

When companies are considering CAD, they should look not at just optimizing a work group but at how they can make the whole company competitive, says Planitzer.

Design News: How will the design process change in the next five years?

Planitzer: Design of complicated products today can cost $0.5 to $1.5 billion. So, manufacturers are looking for new and revolutionary ways to reduce the risk and the cost associated with new product developments. To reduce risk, there is an on-going trend towards outsourcing. A typical OEM might outsource about half of the design of a complicated product A larger percentage of a designer's work becomes managing design. By the year 2000, we expect three-fourths of design will be outsourced by big companies. In terms of reducing development costs, outsourcing goes hand in hand with a trend towards enterprise integration of the product development process. We call this EPD (Electronic Product Definition). EPD captures all the information associated with a development in electronic form. The information is captured and leveraged throughout the life cycle of a product. Departmental solutions focus on the long-term competitive advantage of products in the marketplace. Finally, companies are moving quickly toward the era of electronic prototypes. By the turn of the century, for example, Mercedes will have 80% of its prototypes in digital form. This is an important element of an EPD strategy.

Q: What are the implications of those changes for CAD?

A: Many CAD packages are hard to learn and use, and require a lot of training. But, engineers are not necessarily computer specialists, so the software they use will have to get easier to learn and use. Also, the software will have to link geometry with data attributes and product behavior. Today, there is too often no relationship between geometry and the data associated with the geometry. That must change. The geometry must be intelligent. If the material of choice in the design changes, the design should change automatically, rather than forcing the engineer to start from the beginning. This level of intelligence and ease of use is only possible with an object-oriented architecture. Object-oriented systems are the next generation of solutions.

Q: How should users measure the effectiveness and value of CAD?

A: They should consider whether their CAD system helps them make the whole company competitive. They should look at their whole process, understand their critical success factors, and figure out what they have to do to win. CAD can help. It's at the heart of product development. But, too often CAD decisions are made at the work group level, where the emphasis is on optimizing the work group, not the organization. There is a lack of senior management involvement in tool selection, and that must change.

Q: What effect does the emergence of 64-bit architecture have on manufacturers and their CAD vendors?

A: Addressibility at the feature level is the advantage of 64-bit architecture. There are also speed advantages. Actually, we can already build entities of almost any size at the component level with 32-bit architecture. But, with our Pelorus object-oriented architecture, we are going from a component-level to a feature level, and the 64-bit architecture offers advantages for that.

Q: How much of a factor will virtual reality be in CAD?

A: Linking geometry to behavior is an intelligent system. If you define virtual reality as such an intelligent system, we'll have that intelligence in the short term. Our work with Mercedes will result in an intelligent product by 1997. In terms of the ability virtual reality offers to walk around a product, we do it today on the computer screen, just not in a fancy way. One of our competitive advantages is our ability to create and navigate through products electronically. For example, for Rolls, we substituted an electronic prototype for three wooden prototypes of the Trent engine that cost about $10 million each. Virtual reality really addresses the visual aspect rather than the underlying electronic asset we create. Yet, if developers could make it af- fordable, many of our customers would use it.

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