Notes from Siemens PLM Connection 2011

A few weeks ago I attended the Siemens PLM Connection 2011 conference in Las Vegas. Since returning I have been busy with all kinds of matters, but I wanted to get some of my thoughts on the conference to you, my readers. Siemens promised me copies of the slide presentations, which I have recently received. As any of you who have attended similar conferences, the slides go by so fast that there is little time to write the key points down.

Arriving at the hotel on Sunday, May 1st, the event started with a small cocktail party of the media with some Siemens executives. I had a chance to meet with a briefly speak with some executives before going to my room exhausted from traveling and standing on my feet for three hours. Among the execs I had a chance to speak with were Eric Sterling, Dave Shook, Kris Kasprzak, Tony Affuso, and Dan Staples. The mood was decidedly upbeat and all were excited about their performance the previous year and so far in 2011. I was unable to get specific details, as is Siemens’ custom.

At the kickoff keynote the next morning Dave Shook, Sr. VP Americas, opened the session and introduced keynote speakers from Microsoft and IBM. These were the usual pitches from cooperating vendors. Instead both companies discussed interesting technology challenges; Microsoft discussing how unstructured data can be managed, and IBM discussing the challenge of hyper digitization and the need to close an innovation gap with the velocity of change accelerating.

Tony Affuso, Chairman of Siemens PLM followed with highlights of the company’s year. Basically Siemens PLM is on track after five quarters of growth, now with 68,500 customers, 7.2 million seats, and double-digit license revenue growth. This compares to Dassault Systemes (DS) real growth last year of 7%, less the temporary revenue bump from the IBM PLM acquisition. The company has a good backlog and is executing across the board and winning substantial accounts. Following Tony was Claus Oesterschulze, describing Siemens extensive effort to internalize the use of their own software (NX, Teamcenter, and associated apps). No easy task, as in most customers, organizational changes are required along with process changes. Convinced that “IT is a big lever for business” Siemens is aggressively moving ahead and focusing on how to manage complexity. Below are a few slide from the Oesterschulze presentation.


Later in the morning Chuck Grindstaff, President and CTO of Siemens PLM Software presented his “technology vision.” He viewed where they are today in fully integrating Teamcenter across an enterprise to fulfill its PLM needs: view models fully and anywhere, check a model against its requirements and be able to trace these on the products; review and initiate simulations against specs directly in the CAD environment and to ask highly complex questions; ability to optimize the design for performance including cost and sustainability; using Tecnomatix to insure that manufacturing has correct models, processes and allowable variations thus enabling what-if manufacturing studies. Thus his focus on a fully integrated system, much of which is already in place today, with more coming shortly, as evidenced by the NX, Teamcenter, and Tecnomatix presentation we saw later in the week. Grindstaff feels they are far ahead of their competitors and that customers can now see that. A strong point in his direction is the ability to implement continuous changes in the product rather that the discontinuous changes that the competition [Dassault Systemes] makes. An interesting point about his thinking was his comment that “If we [Siemens PLM] can formulate the value proposition correctly then customers will listen.” His key investment areas are in intelligently integrated information, continuing their future proof architecture using SOA and XML that isolates and allows ready integration of new software, expanding their TC HD experience, systems engineering expansion, integration of domains such as MCAD, ECAD, software, plants, etc. and continued openness.

Joan Hirsch, VP of NX Products, and Paul brown, et al reviewed their thinking about the future of NX. Some of their goals include: building an effortless UI, improving complex product visibility by allowing viewing of multiple data sources and using HD3D visual reporting, integrating multiple design disciplines together, allowing front loading of best practices and knowledge, and requirements management and validation. The chart below summaries much of what they discussed.

What I found most impressive was their emphasis on non-disruptive improvements and Siemens focus on using making HD3D easy to use to “bring to life” the enormous reserves of data stored within TC. This is their 4th release of synchronous technology (ST) within NX and strides continue to be made in its use, some of which I hope to explore in more detail in an upcoming report.

Later Steve Bashada, VP of Teamcenter Products and Bill Boswell, Director, gave a Teamcenter update. New versions are due next February, with a “more visionary” version due next September 2012. Bashada viewed their key investment areas as the following: systems engineering, corporate social networks, cacheless search, massive model viewing, HD-PLM extensions, and thin client access. A Teamcenter mobility app for the iPad was announced. I downloaded it, but have yet to try it out, because I need to sign into their TC central demo app and database. I may report on this later. Think it’s complicated? Take a look at their portfolio list below.

Getting tired from furiously scribbling notes, I then attended a Velocity business update starring Karsten Newbury, SVP and GM of the unit. Newbury discussed their business momentum, noting that in 2010, their growth in licenses was 30%, with Solid Edge (SE) accounting for 50% of that. He is investing in an expanded presence by adding resources [people], channel enablement [his words], and a focus on community for a bigger academic presence and mode direct feedback events. ST3 was well received due to its ability to support both ordered and synchronous approaches.

Mario Joyal, of Matritech, a small company in Quebec, described his results using SE with ST3. A recent design took 50% less time and other users found it easy to use. Kris Kasprzak, product manager for SE, described ST4 which is due to release on June 15. We are allowed to discuss some info about the upcoming release of ST4. New tools and functions coming include those for: advanced machine design, expanded collaboration, simulation for sheet metal, and improvements to their already impressive drafting.

After a delightful dinner and cocktails for the press and analysts Monday evening on the top floor of the Rio hotel, we finally ended the day.

On Tuesday we heard a digital manufacturing (DM) strategy update from Ziyon Amran, VP of digital manufacturing software, followed by an amazing presentation by Gene Coffman of how Ford performs virtual manufacturing. Siemens still leads the industry in revenue by a wide margin, as shown in this chart.

Key manufacturing technology domains include assembly planning and validation, robotics and automation planning, part manufacturing, and plant design and optimization. Amran discussed many of the new capabilities in each of these areas. Amran summarized what Tecnomatix offers their customers

  1. Breadth and depth of offering addressing all DM functional Areas
  2. Focused industry and domain Solutions
  3. Integrated Knowledge Management through single source of Product & Manufacturing data as part of the Teamcenter PLM platform
  4. Advanced technologies for Machining, Robotics and Human Simulation and for Enterprise Process Authoring

Coffman’s presentation focused on how Ford makes virtual manufacturing work at Ford (it isn’t easy) and how it contributes to Ford’s profitability and design to manufacturing cycle reduction. Here is one example of the continuing benefits shown by Coffman.

And finally, to wrap things up I met with Al Hufstetler, VP Quality Planning and Validation, who took me to task on a comment I made in my blog about the DS acquisition of Intercim. I stated that “In shop floor analytics DS now has the edge.” Hufstetler pointed out that Intercim’s solution uses analytics to isolate issues, whereas, Siemens solution uses a better solution, a feedback system that not only can detect quality issues, but can actively correct them. For more details on this, contact Siemens PLM Software.

Disclosure: Siemens paid for my hotel and conference admission. TechniCom paid my other travel expenses.

Highlights from the Versata think3 conference call on 19May2011

I listened in to the conference call held by Austin Scee of Versata think3. He was there to discuss Versata and the future of think3 on the conference call. Much of this was covered in his letter posted in my previous blog. Here are some of newest highlights:

  • Scee and his predecessor have spoken to more than 300 customers since last October. Their mission is for customer success.
  • He urged customers, if they are in a quandary as to who to pay for maintenance, to withhold payments until it is clear. Customers can still call Versata for service whether they have paid or not.
  • He further urged customers not to pay for any licenses other than those generated from Versata; otherwise “you are stealing from us.”
  • The company strategy is: Reset, Revitalize, Relaunch.
  • Versata has acquired 20 companies over the last 6 years, most of which were in distress. The first 100 days are the most difficult. [Ed. In this case we are way past the first 100 days!]
  • His strategy for the first 18 months is to focus on existing customers.
  • Scee unequivocally stated that Versata owns the IP and is asserting its rights in Italy and elsewhere. They bought the rights from think3, Inc., the US based company. Versata believes that the Italian court is using improper legal concepts; that an exclusive license (which they evidently purchased) is the same as an IP purchase.
  • An independent auditor was employed by Versata to evaluate the value of think3 before the acquisition. Versata spent millions of Euros on the IP. Versata paid twice what the auditor valued the company.
  • There are 15 global “success managers” to support customers [Ed. What we would call account managers.]
  • They are looking to improve the usability and speed of think3.
  • The company seeks CAD development expertise to “plug into the devFactory.”

Check out devFactory for yourself at It’s pretty obscure what they do and there is nothing that indicates they are part of Versata.

You can check out the website at Oddly, the support site referenced contains nothing on think3. So far — much talk, but little action!

About Autodesk’s Eco Materials Advisor

Eco Materials Advisor (EMA) was announced On March 22, 2011 along with the announcement of Autodesk’s 2012 Manufacturing Software Portfolio. Two days ago I had a chance to meet with Sarah Krasley, the Autodesk Product Manager for EMA in lovely downtown New York.

During the 45 minutes we were together Sarah reviewed what the EMA product does, its cost, and the benefits to its users.

As opposed to SolidWorks Sustainability Xpress, which is oriented towards a more macro like ability, EMA focuses primarily on the materials used in the product and is designed to be used in the early stages of design.

Using Eco Materials Adviser, a designer can quickly generate an eco impact analysis for a product part or assembly within Autodesk Inventor software. An easy-to-read dashboard display shows key indicators such as energy usage, CO2 footprint, water usage, and materials cost. The user can interactively explore the effect of changes in the materials choice or design of their digital prototype. The tool is powered by Granta Design’s ( expert materials database and proven sustainable design methodology. With Eco Materials Adviser, designers and engineers can:

  • Address environmental requirements early in the design process – when changes matter most and cost least
  • Access a practical eco design tool that does not require the user to develop expertise in sustainability, or to hunt for the right eco data
  • Design more sustainable, cost-effective, and durable products
  • Clearly communicate the benefits of enhanced materials selections

This looks like a terrific product and is integrated with all versions of Autodesk Inventor at no extra cost. Any Inventor user can access it via the Environments tab. The Base Version delivers the full Eco Materials Adviser functionality, but uses a starter version of the materials database. So far all of the core Inventor material library has been mapped. The eco impact analysis in the Base Version operates only on the first twenty parts in an assembly. The Full Version will be available for download from the Granta website – release date to be announced in the next few months. This will provide a choice of many more materials and remove the limit on the number of parts in the Inventor model.

An interview with Austin Scee, GM of the think3 division of Versata

Two days ago, on May 10th, I spoke with Austin Scee, General Manager of Versata’s think3 Division. Austin responded to my email messages and was kind enough to call me from Europe, where he was busy engaging with think3 customers. His latest notice to customers can be read at and is entitled “Who is Versata?”

Q. Most importantly, do you own the think3 intellectual property (IP)?

A. Yes, we bought it from the US based organization, think3, Inc. We have the source code, the documentation, and the customer database. Regarding the Bologna bankruptcy court action, we have the best lawyers working on this now and we are confident in our ownership.

Q. Who are you and why did you take this job?

This is my second week on the job and I am excited about the team and the people at Versata. I have a 15 year background in software, ½ on the operational side and ½ on the investment side. I have known the Versata executives for some time and felt this was an exciting opportunity. The former GM, Scott Brighton is still with Versata and is working with me.

Q. Where does Versata’s support for think3 software stand now?

A. Since we bought the IP last October we have released four versions aimed at fixing problems. When we acquired the software there were 1000 reported bugs. Since then we have fixed 300. Most of the customer contacts will be through account managers, some of whom will be employees, but most will be outside contractors.

Q. It is my understanding that you have few, if any think3 former employees working for you. How is it possible that you can do this and enhance the product in the future?

A. Versata uses a concept called the devFactory, which uses an open source type development applied to commercial applications. We have more than 1000 of the best developers in the world as part of devFactory. These developers don’t get paid unless they develop software that meets our design specifications. They are all independent individuals or companies that bid on these development projects. We believe that the typical approach to proprietary software is a thing of the past.

Q. Has Versata been successful with these techniques in the past?

A. Very much so. We often buy troubled companies that have great code and use our common customer focused methods to make the companies successful.

Q. Have you ever made an acquisition like that that did not work?

A. Many of our successes have come from rocky starts like this one.

Q. I am skeptical that you can use this technique for IP protected code and get the technical expertise, particularly for development planning and the intricate mathematical techniques to support your proprietary kernel. Can you explain?

A. Until now we have been focused on the most important issues that don’t require deep domain expertise. We feel we have stabilized the code that was left languishing during think3’s slide into bankruptcy. We are looking for a CTO with deep CAD experience to help us with the development planning. Our short term plan aims to stabilize the code, improve the speed, and make it easier to use. Longer term we want to advance the code base.

[Ed note] I found out from Dave Weisberg that Versata acquired Auto-trol last November. A note below from David Ramsey, a former Auto-trol employee, might explain their take on the acquisition.

Q. What has been the customer reaction so far?

A. Our team has met with 300+ customers and one of the needs customers tell us about is integration with ERP systems. We are not acquiring new customers yet, but focusing on existing customers. We are looking to partner with customers that want to stay with think3 software.

Q. What is your strategy about software licenses?

A. I will be more prepared to discuss this at out webinar on May 19.

We are planning for three levels, standard, gold, and platinum where platinum includes managed upgrades and help with creating extensions.

Q. Can you share any metrics about think3 in terms of numbers of customers, licenses, and such?

A. I cannot divulge that type of information.


David Ramsey note dated Nov 10, 2010:

So this is it, folks

Auto-Trol was bought out by Versata this month. Versata is moving quickly to reshape the company in their own model, which is no employees, all contractors. KONFIG source code is going to be moved to a Versata subsidiary in India, gDev. All development work will be done from there. The future of work here in the US is currently undecided and in doubt. Almost no one here expects to have a job within a few weeks to a few months.

In my discussions with the Versata rep who has been talking to the employees here, he seemed taken aback by the level of customer interaction we do and the amount of services work we do. I reiterated that many large companies work this way, such as SAP, Oracle, and BMC, which is right across town here in Houston. I gave him examples of the extensive workflow customizations we’ve done and that most of our customers not only expect, but demand this level of interaction in order to be satisfied with their purchase. However, Versata’s plans already seem set in stone so I doubt I changed his mind about anything.

Those of you who have already moved on from Auto-Trol to other ventures, know that just about all of us here expect to be joining you soon. What that will do for or to the existing KONFIG customer base, I have no idea, but then again, no one asked me before embarking on this particular voyage.


VX is back and better — as ZW3D!

VX is now part of a Chinese company called ZWCAD Software Co. Ltd. All of the IP and the company were purchased last year.

Yesterday I had the chance for a 45 minute demo of their new software called ZW3D, 2011 version, available in 4 options: ZW3D for $2500 with 2D and 3D modeling and loads of import capability, ZW3D Professional adds mold and die capability, ZW3D Premium adds machining, and a 5 axis machining option. Prices range from $2500 to $12,000.

Bob Fischer, VP of Marketing, ran the demo and answered my numerous questions about the software and their new strategy. He explained that the former VX 20 man team located in what he called Space Coast, FL, was now buttressed by nearly 400 developers in China. The new offering as a result has been greatly enhanced, making it easier to use, using a feature tree based form of direct modeling, incorporating a workflow based machining method that recognizes and machines features (better than using templates), improvements to the mold and die applications, and the ability to manipulate and machine directly from STL or mesh scans.

Here is an example of direct modeling:

Asked about their differentiators, Fischer cited their ability to directly import a great variety of geometry sources, a built-in training system, an all-in-one package that can go from design to machining, and a single support organization that can handle design to machining questions. ZW3D uses the proprietary kernel developed by VX and since enhanced.

My take is that ZW3D is optimal as a point solution for machine and mold and die shops. The usability appears better but seems mired in the last generation, for the most part requiring icon pick from a large variety of icons, many with drop-downs. The exception is in direct modeling where picking directly on the geometry allows instant modifications.

The beta version is available to test at

The think3 story keeps evolving –badly

Just 4 days ago I tweeted that “think3 Italy and Versata are duking it out. Both claim IP ownership. See and Trying to speak with someone.”

Since then I have received a few email messages from Austin Scee, the new General manager of the think3 products Division of Versata, as well as a few messages from Silvano Joly, the prior marketing head of think3 who evidently still works for think3.

Apparently both are now claiming ownership of the intellectual property (IP). Versata claims to have purchased it from think3, Inc. the US parent company; think3 Italy, via the bankruptcy court also claims ownership of the IP and is attempting to restart the company. Joly wrote on 5 May that think3 is working hard on codes and licenses instead of making promises using e-mail. think3 is trying to recover and re-establish think3 and also considering partnerships and M&A alternatives.

Evidently Versata is moving ahead anyway. Here is what the latest missive from Versata received on 6 May says:

think3 and Versata Logo
Dear think3 Customers and Partners,
My name is Austin Scee, and I have recently been appointed as the General Manager of the think3 Products Division of Versata. I’m writing both to introduce myself and provide some clarity on the recent confusing series of events, including the bankruptcy proceeding with the Italian branch of think3.As I write this, I have just landed in Madrid to begin two weeks of on-site meetings with customers all over Europe. I am energized about what I am hearing from customers and about the future of the think3 products.

I look forward to sharing our vision of rebirth for think3 with as many of you as possible over the weeks to come. We will be having a webinar in both English and Italian on May 19 that will share our future vision for the think3 products with you and also provide you with the ability to ask questions. You can register for the English webinar here, and the Italian webinar here.

In the months since Versata acquired the software assets of think3, we have shipped four product releases (more than think3 had shipped in the prior two years), completely rebuilt the support organization around the world, improved support quality from a customer reported rating of 28% “excellent” to 75% “excellent”, and launched two exciting new programs – Platinum WOW Support & The “Stop The Shelfware” Promotion – that have been adopted by hundreds of customers.

Perhaps most exciting is our work on the new Enterprise versions of each of our major product suites – thinkDesign, thinkPLM, and thinkDesign PLM. The Enterprise versions will be a ground-up revamp of the products that will improve performance 10x, vastly enhance usability via new screen designs, improve quality, include native 64-bit support, better leverage the Cloud, and provide a strong foundation for future features that will make the think3 products world class leaders again. We are tentatively planning a first release of the Enterprise Edition as early as this summer.

There has also, unfortunately, been a great deal of confusion surrounding Versata’s acquisition of the think3 intellectual property assets and the recent bankruptcy proceedings of the think3 Italian Branch and subsidiary distribution entity. The truth is relatively straightforward. Versata purchased the software intellectual property assets from think3 Inc., the US-based parent company. Roughly two weeks ago, the Italian branch and subsidiary were placed into bankruptcy by a court in Bologna, Italy. Since being placed in bankruptcy, a local administrator was appointed to run the local Italian Branch and subsidiary distribution entity.

This administrator has since taken a number of steps that we believe to be damaging to think3 customers and which are not consistent with applicable law. He has seized the think3 website (our new website is available at and posted threatening messages. Contrary to what is claimed in these threatening messages, a local Italian administrator does not have the legal authority to “terminate” Versata’s ownership of the think3 products. Versata spent millions of Euros – well above market value according to independent auditors – to legally purchase these assets.

The priority of the administrator clearly is focused on protecting creditors, even at the expense of customers. Conversely, our focus is squarely on customer success – and Versata has the resources, assets, and capabilities to advance the product and support the customer base at levels that think3 could not before and certainly cannot today. We have also begun investing in CAD expertise, including an effort to hire noted industry leaders to join our team. We believe the future for think3 products is extremely bright. We ask you to give us a year to prove it to you.

We expect that the administrator in Italy may persist in issuing confusing or threatening communication. We will work to proactively address every misleading or inaccurate statement. And we promise to be completely authentic – you will hear the complete, unfiltered truth from us – none of the “legal speak” you get from the administrator. We also commit that we will be using every legal means at our disposal to aggressively protect your investment in the think3 technology.

Further – and most importantly – we commit to you that we will put your interests ahead of everything else. Every decision we make will be guided by our prevailing philosophy of 100% customer success. And you should feel free to email me directly if there is anything that we can do to increase your success with the think3 products or if you have any questions or concerns. Please email me directly at
Warmest Regards,

Austin Scee
General Manager, think3 Division