Inforbix $ errata, Autodesk Vault to the cloud

In my previous blog, I made an error on the pricing of Inforbix, which I have since corrected. I wanted to make sure you all have seen that correction. In the pricing example that was given, for a company of 100 persons, with 30 engineers, Vic Sanchez estimated that they might have 100K to 200K files to be indexed. The annual price for Inforbix for that size customer would be $10K to $15K. A great price range for the service provided. In fact one that is very compelling.

In the meantime it looks like Autodesk is planning to announce that their Vault will now be cloud hosted. I have no other details than some early teasers that were provided by Autodesk. It will be interesting to compare these offerings. I am planning on attending Autodesk University and will be there Monday through Wednesday, Nov 28-30. Say hello if you see me. I will report on this upon my return.

Inforbix – a new approach to cloud based PDM

18 Nov 2011: Oleg Shilovitsky, one of the more prolific bloggers in the PLM industry recently announced his new venture – Inforbix LLC.

Last week I had the chance to speak with Oleg, the CEO, and his partner, Vic Sanchez, about what their new offering was all about. Of course, I suspected that the new company, with Oleg’s background as a development manager of PLM systems, might be about PDM or PLM. Of course I was right. But, I wanted to find out what the product was all about, who founded the new company, what its objective was, a little bit about the technology, and who might use it and what it might cost.

Oleg and Vic were most accommodating in helping me understand and ferret out answers to the above questions.

Background

Inforbix began development on its product in early 2010. The product was officially launched in last October, 2011, and has been in Beta since last April. Shilovitsky teamed with a Russian development team to bring the product to fruition.

About the product

In a nutshell, here is what I learned. Inforbix, today, consists of a product data crawler app that is installed onto the target system or local network containing the product data to be indexed. After user customization of the crawler app, which basically tells it where to find the data to be indexed, the app goes to work finding relevant product data, exploring the metadata stored within the data files, and indexing the data. No actual data files are uploaded to the cloud, only metadata and where the files are located. What makes this exciting is that the crawler can crawl through many data types and vaults, and decode the inherent metadata and product structure.

Targeted at small and medium sized CAD companies, the object of Inforbix is to “help people find, reuse, and share product data.”

Both the crawler app and the cloud based search environment are optimized for manufacturing and design companies. I like that non–vaulted data such as Word docs and pdfs can be “related” back the products.

The system today supports crawling CAD and PLM data from Autodesk, PTC, SolidWorks, and Siemens. More will be coming in the future. Also supported are pdf, Word, and Excel files.

A few niceties

It is secure since no files are changed, moved or uploaded. Being cloud based, little maintenance or local support is needed. It is affordable and seems to be priced right – the first 20K files are free. Each 20K files after that cost $600 per year. Sanchez estimated that a typical medium sized company with 100 people and 30 engineers might spend $10K to $15K per year, a seemingly small cost considering that no hardware and no support staff is needed for the service. Also, it immediately allows accessing the data worldwide using a browser. Asked about what happens if indexed data moves, Shilovitsky said that the crawler monitors and tracks the new location, and updates the cloud.

Inforbix offers many ways to present the data to make sense of the product connections. These include Excel like tables and filters.

I see a few drawbacks and improvements needed

The original data still needs to be maintained along with support and local data backups. A local PDM system might still be needed to support applications that depend upon understanding the product data structure. Further discussions are needed as to how the system allows role-based access to the data. For instance, how can suppliers access the data? Data being relocated might have a delay before the indexes are updated on the cloud.

Conclusions

I really like the concept and the possibilities for extending the concept to other areas of a company. It seems that it would be relatively straightforward to have different crawlers looking for different data types. Think of it as a private Google for the data in your entire company or how to get organized without the fuss. If you are a company without a PDM system (and some 75% of companies are), then this is a perfect way to get started.

Try it out

With a free entry price, it makes sense to give this a try.

A few ways to learn more

The company: www.inforbix.com

The latest press release: http://www.inforbix.com/inforbix-launch-press-release/

Oleg shows how to start using Inforbix in 20 min: http://www.inforbix.com/how-to-start-using-inforbix-in-20-min/

The Cloud Lives!

18 Nov 2011: Ralph Grabowski proposed his opinion that the cloud is dead. He couldn’t be more wrong. Consider users at the Siemens NX CAE Symposium that ended last week. Virtually all of the eight users at a panel noted that cloud computing would definitely be part of their plans. Assuming that some minor issues such as security, cost, and application software licensing could be solved, all seem to have or want it in their future plans.

Several customers represented companies that already have with HPC clusters. While this ideal “local cloud” met their expectations, the cost of such a cluster is very high and not a solution for smaller companies.

I agree that the use of cloud computing for interactive applications is a bad idea. However, the vast computing power, parallel processing, and expected low costs make it a very appealing idea for tasks that require modest bandwidth and have high computational needs. Autodesk’s CEO, Carl Bass, clearly has the right idea. Autodesk, over the past two years has introduced several applications that span the range of interactive hardware and relying on the cloud to ramp up compute speeds. At AU last year I had the chance to listen to Bass and speak with him about his ideas for best utilizing the cloud. As I wrote in that article, Autodesk’s concept is to “Don’t replicate desktop solutions on the cloud. Instead make maximum use of desktop and mobile systems, utilizing the cloud where it makes sense.” Still makes sense today. Here is a link to that article http://wp.me/pvn8U-3e.

Oddly enough, with the possible exception of DS, Autodesk’s competitors don’t seem to get the concept. For example, while I interpreted from Siemens customers that they were excited about potential use of the cloud, Siemens PLM Software, except for licensing issues, seems to have no plans to enable them. The same goes for PTC.

Let me know what you think.
—–

How Local Motors won the DARPA contest

A few weeks ago I published an article entitled “DS clarifies DARPA crowdsource win.” A few things, in my mind needed clarification. Dassault Systemes PR rep, Jessica Harrison from fama PR, arranged for me to speak with Alex Fiechter, Local Motors Engineer. I was curious, among other things, about how crowd-sourcing was used for the design and whether it was useful. I also wondered how they handled input from 12,000 community users and what was the process they used. Finally I wanted to find our more about Local Motors.

Here is how the process worked. Local Motors (LM) massaged the DARPA specs for the contest into a “brief,” a mission statement of what they desired, and posted it onto their website, asking their community members if they were interested in responding. Most of the community members are interested in industrial design and some helped LM design their Rally Fighter. Along the way, LM developed their concept for Local Forge, an open source web-based co-creation platform. Apparently, car lovers worldwide love to design shapes for cars of their dreams. Local Forge is a way for them to share their designs via images, with all other community members.

A key aspect of the mission statement was to use the existing Rally Fighter chassis as a base upon which to build the body. With the mission statement , eventually 150 to 180 proposal were submitted, from which the final design was chosen. The proposals could be in any electronic form, such as images or even CAD files. They had to show the 3 required views at a minimum. The community then voted on the submissions. Only the winning submitter gets paid. LM used SolidWorks for the mechanical design and Catia for the body design.

What next? Will it be produced? DARPA owns the design now that the contract is complete. A research arm of the DoD, the DoD may or may not choose to produce the design.

Has Local Motors discovered a new way of doing business that involves minimal plant investment, a way to solicit valuable (and mostly free) input from leading designers, and deliver an exciting new product? You be the judge. Visit some of the links from my previous article quoted above and provide some feedback via comments on this blog.

——

Creo Freestyle exposes its shape

5 July 2011: Last week I had the chance to spend some web time with Paul Sagar, Director of Product Management at PTC. Paul is in charge of PTC’s surfacing and industrial design (ID) products. Paul’s background is in industrial design (ID) and design engineering in the UK and has spent about 11 years at PTC.

At PlanetPTC, Creo Freestyle was one of the many product announcements that struck me as fascinating. Just the idea of having incredible ID software as a freebie within Creo Parametric was one I wanted to explore further. After searching the PTC site for more detail with limited success, PTC’s VP and PR leader, Eric Snow, organized a web conference that “knocked my socks off!” You will see what I mean soon.

Immediate after my return from PlanetPTC I asked for a clarification as to precisely what Freestyle was and how it worked. Paul kindly responded with this piece of information –

  • “Freestyle is a new feature inside Creo Parametric that allows for rapid freeform surface creation. It is built upon the concept of subdivisional modeling.
  • The result of the Freestyle feature is a quilt of surfaces. The resulting surfaces or quilt can be added to, just like any other surfaces, with tools such as trim, merge, round, etc, or even thicken or solidify to make the model solid.
  • When working with Freestyle you always have to start with a primitive shape. A gallery of primitives is available for you to choose from such as sphere, cylinder, circle, disc, etc.
  • You are always working and manipulating the control mesh that surrounds the primitive. The control mesh can be subdivided up to add more detail or control. Adding more details allows for more control over the shape.
  • The 3D dragger allows for quick and easy manipulation of the control mesh and consequently the resulting geometry shape. The resulting geometry is high quality, curvature continuous, manufacturable surfaces.”

Here is what I wanted to find out about on the call:

  • What it does and what it cannot do,
  • Where it fits competitively,
  • How does it compare to a full ID system,
  • How the designs get started and how they are stored within Creo, and
  • What is sub divisional modeling?

Paul explained that Freestyle is a new freeform surface modeling capability added into Creo Parametric. Called a super feature within the model tree, Freestyle appears as a single feature with the tree. It’s almost like a modeling environment within a feature. It’s a simple and easy tool use, and is designed to be intuitive, interactive and quick. Targeted to industrial designers who want a tool to conceptualize but are not interested in the methodology of building surfaces, which has traditionally been done by building curves and surfaces from those curves. Modifications are made to the surfaces by going back and manipulating the curves. Instead Freestyle is designed to just deal directly with the shape. Thus users can concentrate on the form rather than what’s behind the form.

See the video of the bottle design that Paul downloaded.

The resulting surfaces generated by Freestyle are of high quality. You can take them directly to manufacturing. They can be thickened and brought directly into Creo Parametric as solids. They can be acted on as a normal solid with all solid modeling features, for instance, by adding ribs and bosses and holes. It can be brought directly into machining.

Surface manipulation. Can you control how the resultant surfaces by, for instance, controlling tangencies or other typical surface controls? His comment: “No. That is not how sub-divisional modeling works. It does not use normal surface patching techniques.”

A design starts with a primitive. Each primitive comes with a control mesh.

Creo Freestyle Primitives

Each mesh has edges, vertices, and faces. You can push or pull on them, or you can subdivide it. For instance, you can chose and edge and “split this edge,” and Freestyle will add more controls on that edge. The more controls, the more flexibility to manipulate the surface.

Each face of the control mesh corresponds to an actual patch in the resulting geom. that is created. Each patch is curvature continuous, resulting in a smooth model. Surfaces are G2 continuous, with some exceptions.

In the movie file of the bottle design, you should be able to see the design being developed. Unfortunately there is no audio file describing the workflow, but I am sure our readers can follow the concepts of Freestyle from watching the movie. Note that the design starts by building a solid model from a scanned sketch.

A sketch of the bottle

Trace Sketch allows importing the image and manipulates it, such as for fit or scaling, the objective being to use the image as an underlay for the design. A sphere is used to start designing the solid model using Freestyle. Special features during the process such as “connect” joins two faces together for completing the handle. Other operations such as a crease can generate either a hard or soft edge. Also note that Creo does not capture the history of the Freestyle design; only as a single Freestyle feature.

The 3D model of the bottle

Other sub-divisional modelers like Maya and 3D Studio Max, use sub-divisional modeling, but none of these modelers create NURBS surfaces — Creo Freestyle does. It creates regular Creo Parametric surfaces. Similar capabilities to Freestyle exist in Rhino’s T-Spline models and CATIA’s Imagine and Shape.

Conclusions:

  • You can build geometry very quickly with Freestyle.
  • It’s full integration with Creo Parametric integrates Freestyle design into the traditional design workflow.
  • It has only a few commands and should be relatively quick to learn.
  • The resulting geometry is of high quality and thus not throwaway work.
  • The resulting surface geometry can be operated on directly using Creo Parametric surface commands or converted directly to a solid and manipulated with traditional Creo Parametric commands.
  • With Freestyle free and relatively easy to learn, we recommend that users who do any industrial design begin using Freestyle right away.

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.

www.siemens.com/PLM

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 www.devfactory.com. 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 www.think3.versata.com. Oddly, the support site referenced contains nothing on think3. So far — much talk, but little action!

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 http://zw3d.zwcad.org/.

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 think3.com and think3.versata.com. 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 think3.versata.com) 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 austin.scee@versata.com.
Warmest Regards,

Austin Scee
General Manager, think3 Division
Versata

Dassault Systemes discusses their Intercim acquisition

Recently I had a chance to speak with both Dassault Systemes (DS) and Intercim about the acquisition of Intercim by DS. On the call were Patrick Michel, Vice President, Solutions and Marketing, DELMIA and Romain LaVault, Vice President Strategic Development, Intercim.

About Intercim

Intercim provides software to help customers in advanced and highly regulated industries with real-time Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) and Predictive Analytics for Discovery, Design, Manufacturing, and Operations. Intercim enables the supply network to better define manufacturing processes, execute shop orders, manage non-conformance and ensure quality. One of the benefits is that real-time control and intelligence on Manufacturing Operations helps Intercim customers achieve their Lean Manufacturing goals quicker and accelerate time-to-market.

Their software, the Pertinence Suite, provides manufacturing execution modules, manufacturing intelligence modules, and is already well integrated with CATIA and Delmia.

Background

In 2007, Intercim acquired Pertinence, a French company with technology for using real time production data to analyze potential quality issues. In 2009, Dassault Systèmes announced a minority position in Intercim LLC and in 2010 announced a global reseller agreement. The idea was to use the DELMIA – ENOVIA Manufacturing Hub or the DS V6 environment to deliver manufacturing process plans and work instructions to the shop floor via the Intercim Pertinence MES system.

Intercim is a US based company in Egan, MI, with French connections; revenue in the last fiscal year I estimate at between $7 – $10 million; DS is purchasing the company for 36.5 million USD. The company employs 70 people worldwide. Its customers include Boeing, BMW, Airbus, Ball Aerospace and Honeywell.

Details on the acquisition

Q. Why is DS making this acquisition?

A. To show our serious commitment in the Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) space. DS expects to integrate Intercim into the Delmia framework, possible for the creation of a Delmia Shop Floor module.

Q. What is the value in “closing the loop” between manufacturing planning and execution?

A: Faster turn around time in case of a problem and it improves the ability to work on and deliver engineering or manufacturing initiated changes.

Q: Give me some idea of the size of Intercim.

A: We have outstanding about 100,000 software licenses focused on the integration of PLM and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). We are widely used in the US, particularly within the aerospace industry. Only 10% of our target market are equipped with an MES system from any vendor, thus offering a huge market potential.

Q. How is the software used for regulatory compliance?

A. I can give you several examples. We are used for NASA’s space shuttle for the cargo tracking and have replaced mountains of paperwork. Obviously, for aerospace, individual part serial number control is required; Intercim software accomplished that. In the pharmaceutical industry, the process is important. Such items as temperature, time stamps for dating, operator and machine usage are important and can be captured and fed back to the engineering department as well. In the case of creating flu vaccines data can be read real time to enhance rapid build up of the vaccine. Many data points can be read with no need to wait for later batch analysis results.

Q. What about any potential existing OEM contracts?

A. Our only OEM arrangement is with DS.

Q Tell me about the analytics aspect of Intercim.

A. Analytics allows access to as built data for the PLM system. Decisions can be made as to whether the as-built is the same as the as-designed. Further, we can analyze the reasons for generating scrap and even to understand the commonality of scrap.

Q. Does DS envision major changes in the Intercim management?

A. No, the people in Intercim are very important to our plans and we hope for a high retention rate.

My take

This appears to be a natural extension of DS plans to extend Delmia throughout the enterprise. The two companies were already very close for the last several years and this fills a gap in shop floor control, as well as data analysis to predict potential quality problems. On the shop floor side, it brings DS closer to Siemens Tecnomatix offering, their archrival in aerospace and automotive companies. In shop floor analytics DS now has the edge.

I admit that I have been wrestling with the idea that shop floor control (SFC) is driven by a manufacturing production release system, namely material requirements planning (MRP) and ERP systems, which generate the manufacturing plans that SFC tracks. DS never likes not being in the driver’s seat. Could there be some exciting possibilities for this in the future? Hmmm. I doubt it, but one can never tell.

www.3ds.com

www.intercim.com