Design Tool Sector Soars

Manufacturers boosted their investments in design tools in 2010 as the PLM sector returned back to growth. That's according to the latest CIMdata 2011 PLM Industry Review Trends Report.

Following the global economic crisis in 2009, CIMdata downgraded its forecasts, predicting that it would take two to three years for companies' investments in product lifecycle management (PLM) tools to return to the peak levels seen in 2008.

The research firm's latest report shows that rebound happened in 2010, with the overall PLM market growing a healthy 9.7 percent over 2009 to $25.8 billion. Of that total, 64 percent ($16.3 billion) reflects investments in tools like CAD and CAE, while 34 percent ($8.7 billion) reflects investments in collaborative PDM. PDM is what CIMdata refers to as CPDm, comprising collaboration, content and document management, and visualization offerings. If you do the math, CIMdata says sales of "Tools" were up 9.7 percent from 2009 to 2010, while cPDm investments grew 10.1 percent during the same timeframe.

Looking into its crystal ball, CIMdata is predicting more of the same, despite the lackluster tenor of the broader, global economic climate. In its forecasts, CIMdata projects that the overall PLM market (what it dubs the comprehensive PLM market) will grow slightly slower at 8 percent in 2011 but then continue at a compound annual growth rate of 9.7 percent to reach $41.3 billion by 2015.

What's the driver for CIMdata's bullish take? Director of Research Stan Przybylinski cites a number of factors, the most broad-reaching being that many companies see innovation as the primary way to fuel growth, and PLM tools and strategies are central to that cause. Expansion into non-traditional industry sectors like retail and apparel, food and beverage, and financial and investment services is helping to keep those numbers afloat, Przybylinski says, as will platform migrations and upgrades by long-time customers in key sectors like aerospace and automotive, which are now actively looking at refreshing aging PLM platforms.

In another surprise finding, the mechanical CAD space is showing new signs of life. Long considered the dead spot in overall design tools growth, new advancements around direct modeling and new paradigms like PTC's new Creo line, which advances the idea of "right-sized" apps, have users energized, Przybylinski says.

Other major trends CIMdata predicts will be a primary focus of discussion and PLM product advancement and growth these next few years:

  1. Designing the complete product. (Otherwise, the mechatronics take on product design.) We've been writing a lot about the rise of the interdisciplinary engineer, and CIMdata (and, to be fair, all of the major vendors and PLM analysts) believes this will be a key area of focus and enhancement for design tools and PLM platforms over the next few years.

  2. Environmental compliance. Long a hot button, compliance, CIMdata believes, may be the "tipping point for PLM strategies, since green is a lifecycle issue, perhaps like none other," Przybylinski says. "I don't think companies can effectively do compliance without PLM -- there's so much data required across so many functions."

  3. Mobile. With the consumer market crazed over apps and mobility, PLM and design tools vendors have taken note. We've seen mobile-app releases that test the waters, but Przybylinski expects to see a lot more activity on this front. And it won't just be traditional tools tweaked to run in the small-screen real estate of tablets or smartphones: Companies will rethink how engineers work with design tools and create new paradigms.

  4. The cloud. It's another area where CAD and PLM vendors are testing the waters, but Dassault Systemes' announcement last month of a multi-pronged cloud strategy around its Version 6.0 platform shows that the players mean business. Przybylinski says PLM is a somewhat trickier area for the cloud, since companies always have ongoing concerns around the security of their design IP. But as they find a better comfort level, the cloud will definitely influence where PLM is going.

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