There is no shortage of software platforms targeting CAE, CAD and CAM applications and with a plethora of options, comes a plethora of opinions about which programs are better. But the resounding leaders in our 2003 Automotive Industries Online Software Survey were IBM’s CATIA and Autodesk’s AutoCAD.
Both platforms received the highest responses when it came to participants naming the CAE tools used, CAD packages used and CAE tools they would like to use, but are not using now.
AutoCAD and CATIA are certainly not new names to CAE. AutoCAD recently sold its 6 millionth copy since its first introduction in 1983; and IBM boasts that 49 percent of the cars today have been designed with CATIA, which first hit the market in 1981. While both packages have been on the market more than two decades, each company has been successful in increasing its market share by evolving its programs to keep them relevant to the rapidly changing needs of automotive engineers.
“We’ve got a pretty big focus on customer satisfaction and direct customer research on trying to find out where our customers want our product to go,” says Shawn Gilmour, product line manager for Autodesk. “We are not sitting in a back room making up what we think people will want to buy. We are at customers’ sites talking to them about the problems they are having and working with them to try and solve them.”
“We are constantly working on the future,” says Jean Marc Deshays, worldwide automotive strategy executive, IBM Product Lifecycle Management. “Our goal is to define the next solutions that we need to deliver to our customers in order to help them face the challenges that will come.”
Each company offers a successful product lineup targeting the CAE, CAD and CAM needs of a variety of industries and neither is showing any signs of complacency.
|AutoCAD 2004 introduces new features like productivity tools and presentation graphics for creating data more quickly; CAD standards tools and electronic documentation using Design Web Format; as well as new software licensing tools for more efficient data management.|
Design Web Format (DWF) is an open, plot-ready file format developed by Autodesk for the secure transfer of drawings over networks, including the internet. The DWF enables designers, engineers, developers and their colleagues to communicate design information and intent to anyone needing to view, review or print the data.
“In developing AutoCAD 2004, we concentrated on features in the areas of performance, to make the product perform faster,” says Gilmour. “We also concentrated on a number of ease of use features in the drafting area.”
AutoCAD 2004 can be used for 2D drafting, detailing, design documentation or introductory 3D design. Engineers can personalize or program the software to meet specific design needs or add an industryspecific application built to work with AutoCAD.
“The use of AutoCAD within the automotive industries is varied,” says Gilmour. “A lot of the larger manufacturers like GM and Ford use AutoCAD when it comes to the point of doing assembly line layout, plant layout, tool and die design – the things actually help the plant to run and build the components for the cars.
“What I found in the smaller manufacturers, the parts suppliers for example,” says Gilmour, “is that AutoCAD is used in the small component design. It might be brackets for the alternator and mounting different hardware on the motor, for example. I’ve even seen it being used for routing for the exhaust system designs.”
IBM introduced CATIA V5R12 in September and is already at work on CATIA V5R13, which will be unveiled in first quarter 2004.
|IBM introduced CATIA V5R12 in September and plans to unveil CATIA V5R13 first quarter 2004. The CATIA V5 architecture enables the user to ‘copy’ previously validated engineering rules and tooling definitions to automatically create new designs or modifications in less time than is traditionally taken.|
According to IBM, the CATIA V5 architecture enables the user to ‘copy’ previously validated engineering rules and tooling definitions to automatically create new designs or modifications in less time than is traditionally taken. Templates based on full 3D CAD geometry can be generated as standard master designs and provide the links to simulation and manufacturing, all within one integrated set of applications.
As a specific tool targeting the automotive industry, IBM and Dassault Systems introduced the Generative Car solution this fall. Utilizing CATIA V5 software, the Generative Car solution is a comprehensive offering that applies to all facets of the automotive development process, including body, interior and exterior trim, chassis, powertrain, electrical and vehicle synthesis and assembly.
“Generative Car is our newest strategy and is a global solution in order to support the different automotive processes,” says Deshays. The Generative Car solution consists of a set of integrated products from CATIA, ENOVIA and DELMIA, combined with a set of IBM Best Practices and DS Product Lifecycle Management practices developed for the automotive industry. According to IBM, it enables auto manufacturers and suppliers to leverage valuable corporate knowledge in order to meet market demands for an ever-increasing number of vehicles.
Computer models in the Generative Car solution incorporate component and knowledge rules that reflect design practice and past experience. These models automatically adapt to new products or their corresponding manufacturing processes and evolve dynamically as those requirements change. “This solution could be used by the OEM or by the supplier in order to completely, automatically design jigs and fixtures using a template,” says Deshays. “By building all of this into CATIA software, all of the data and great knowledge than an engineer processes will be kept inside the program. That way, a new engineer to a project isn’t reinventing the wheel.”
CAE Investments in 2004
Forecasters are predicting that new-unit car sales in 2004 will run 2 to 3 percent higher than 2003. Analysts are optimistic that the DOW will again reach 10,000 and U.S. payrolls grew for the third straight month in October, which was also the biggest month for job growth since January. While experts are careful to use the term “turn around,” most are optimistic that the economy is beginning to strengthen and that the economic outlook will continue to improve into 2004.
In the realm of CAE, the outlook seems to follow the trend. Our survey showed that more than half of the participants were planning on growing their investment in CAE in 2004.
According to our survey, additional hardware investments had to be made by most of the respondents, some to the tune of more than $250,000, but most within the $0 to $25,000 range.
With positive anticipation of further CAE investment in 2004, additional hardware investments are expected.
IBM’s Deshays sees investments in CAE as a wise move for companies looking to improve their bottom line.
“We have been working with many OEMs and suppliers to build software solutions,” says Deshays. “Our Generative Car solution is now completely defined and we have a lot of customers we are trying to change from the traditional way of design, often in 2D, to the new way of design in 3D. In most cases, it is less expensive and more productive than 2D.
“It is easy to identify the benefits,” adds Deshays. “We have witnessed financial savings between 20 and 40 percent and often far more. This is a huge breakthrough in design. One OEM told us that financial savings could be around several million dollars per car program using Generative Car.”
Biggest Challenges in the Use of Technology in Product Development Environment
When it comes to the biggest challenges in the use of technology in product development, survey participants were clear: training, training, training.
Time to market is crucial in product development. Unfortunately, time to market effects development time and the time allowed for employee training and the learning curve for engineers applying software to new product design are often neglected.
“It is easy to see where the frustrations arise when it comes to training engineers,” says Gilmour. “Often times, there is one person responsible for training a team of individuals and depending on the size of the company, they often don’t budget for training when a new product is rolled out.” Both companies have made training and support for its programs a priority. Autodesk begins with a money back guarantee for all of its products, something Gilmour says is “kind of interesting in the software business.
“One of the things we do is back our product with allowing people to get their money back if for some reason they are not happy. From there, we also offer a number of services, both through our dealer channels and directly through our subscription program.
“For example we have what we call Autodesk Training Channels,” says Gilmour. “Those are educational institutions and private companies that we work with to get them trained and authorized to train our product. They offer courses in all of our products.
“All of our retailers that actually sell our products to the end users are trained in our products as a requirement, so in order to sell our product they have to take training.
“We also have a subscription program which customers can subscribe to. It has a number of value points. One of the key points is technical support. We offer e-mail and phone-based technical support based on the level they want to get to with guaranteed response times in those areas. We also offer what we call e-learning exercises, which are things that people can download off of our subscription website that are basically online type exercises that would teach the user about a new feature or a particular feature of a product.”
An everchanging auto industry and shorter development time only adds to the ongoing struggle for adequate CAE training. “The entire automobile industry has evolved,” says Deshays. “Cars are perceived more and more as fashion items to the consumer. Consequently, that means that OEMs have to build smaller volume in terms of production to remain in line with changing consumer trends.
“The auto industry now requires standardization of parts, more process automation and reuse of knowledge, development tools and facilities. The development time is greatly reduced. That’s where a product like our Generative Car comes in.
“Engineers need a tool in order to quickly develop vehicles and components based on previous development. This is what we are doing. We have specific solutions on body design, chassis, powertrain and so on.”
“We realize that the designs that are built from our product may start in the design department but they are used throughout the customer’s process,” says Gilmour. “Not just the designing but also the manufacturing and the maintaining and even the depleting of those resources afterwards. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our products to help share those designs throughout the cycles that people will actually use the information for.