Ok- full disclosure. I make a living by designing with CAD and teaching CAD. My primary tool is SolidWorks. So- I am biased based on my current circumstances and conditions.
I also have a historical bias as I have been burned. At my peak, I was a ProE guru. Back in 2000, I gave presentations at ProE user groups (when they could bring in about 400 people paying $40/plate, instead of about 6 today). I wrote articles for ProE magazine. I thought ProE was here to stay, so I invested heavily on them and didn’t look at other software. I missed that call… now ProE is continuing to flounder and has recently switched their name to Creo in a last ditch effort to save their sinking ship. It’s too bad- I could have had a great ride with SolidWorks if I had started with them back in 2002 or so. I’ve only fully-engaged with SolidWorks recently, and it’s too late for easy and lucrative opportunities when SolidWorks saturates the CAD industry.
On the other side, I’ve worked for companies that have put fake stellar reviews on their own products and scathing reviews of other products. I’ve seen generated testimonials that are completely ridiculous. I’ve even kept products that completely under-delivered on their marketed promises.
So I’m cautious and wary, because I feel that there are 2 battle fronts I need to respect: legitimate significant changes in industry and marketing foo-foo.
How do I manage it? What do I look for? First, I analyze the reasons that ProE failed. Why did ProE lose so much market share when they had a superior product in 2003? There are a few theories, but I think they boil down to this:
- They didn’t care about their existing user-base. ProE saw SolidWorks growing because it appealed to non-engineers, inventors and designers due to its ease of use. So they decided to copy the SolidWorks interface. This was a HUGE deal for people like me who spend years getting proficient at the existing interface. It was basically as if I had spent 4 years becoming fluent in French, only to have all-French speaking countries wiped out and now have to speak Russian (if I wanted to engage with those countries).
- They didn’t care about their constituents. PTC (the company that developed ProE) decided to dissolve all their resellers and to sell direct. This helped put more of the sales dollars into PTC’s pocket. However, it had in unintended consequence of putting a LOT of very capable and technical salesmen and engineers on the street. Those guys were passionate… for their own survival AND the injustice of being cut out of a thriving partnership due to greed.
- They were arrogant jerks. I remember one sales guy coming by and showing me an add-on product. I was the “go-to” ProE user at that particular company. After the demo, I told him that the add-on would not provide any value. He said I was making a huge mistake, and asked for my boss’s contact information (implying that he was going to discuss my incompetence w/ the man that controlled my salary and career path).
Why did Solidworks win?
- The users didn’t care about market share. They cared about ease-of-use.
- They offered a product with distinct advantages, primarily that the learning curve was low.
- They were straight-shooters, fun and actually geeked out on product development.
One thing I’ve read about recently is Synchronous Technology found in SolidEdge released by Siemens. There are many articles on the web about it. The basic theme seems to be: “SolidWorks has an outdated technology”. So I decide to take a look. This is not a trivial matter. I need to download the program and come up with some way to learn and test it during a 45-day trial period. It really takes 3 full weeks to start getting the hang of any software. My work has very busy periods, and periods where I get time to explore. How do other exploring CAD-users look at all their options, especially if they are new and don’t know what to look for? It definitely takes a focused effort.
So I jumped in. Without further drama, here are my findings:
Synchronous Technology is over-rated. Like a 14-year old girl buying a wonder-bra, Siemens has something small and insignificant and they are trying to make it look big and beautiful. What is Synchronous Technology? It’s the opportunity to make changes to a model without regard to the original design intent.
While Siemens touts this as an “evolution”, it is actually REMOVING intelligence from your model. It is running over previously defined features. This can be done a number of different ways using SolidWorks, but I wouldn’t suggest it for a number of reasons.
Will it make you faster? Nope. I openly challenge SolidEdge to a part modelling contest (with changes) designed by an independent firm.
SolidEdge has a similar user interface to SolidWorks (they all are about the same these days). The hot keys aren’t as developed, and it seems to take more clicks to do similar features. They have copied “mouse gestures”, but made it some sort of double ring. Surfacing seems to be comparable. It just seems to be an underdeveloped “me-too” product.
I like a competitive market. It makes everyone work harder. I don’t like companies trying to make a quick buck on marketing-hype.
So, I wouldn’t recommend doing what I’ve done. It takes a lot of effort without much payback. I also wouldn’t trust ANY article (including this one) on the web. Instead, make a little scorecard to measure different features that you think are important and try to rate them. Here’s what would be on my scorecard:
- Invite the various resellers to your company. Then, give them a part to create. Then, tell them to change it.
- How easy will it be to get training?
- How easy will it be to get technical answers to my questions?
- How many people can I hire that have this skill set?
- How many companies are hiring people with this skill set (in the eventuality that I lose my job)?
Hey guys @ SolidEdge… no offense- but we need something more to jump ships. Let me know if you have something more than this. Or let me know if you think I’m wrong.
Jim is a CSWP and on the road to getting his CSWE. He works for HawkRidge Systems, an authorized reseller of SolidWorks. Jim also runs i-elf, a product development consulting company. He can be reached at Jim.Lucas@i-elf.com.