Best-of-Breed Versus Complete CAD-PLM Suites: The Debate Rages On

The PLM world is currently witness to fervent debate on the most appropriate type of PLM/CAD software. Best-of-breed solutions offer the needed capabilities and hence integrate the necessary software modules as per the customer’s needs, whereas all-in-one CAD/PLM suites attempt a “one size fits all” approach. In his report, TEC principal analyst P.J. Jakovljevic provides his view on the intricacies of these two approaches.
While it is not at all surprising to see competing press releases (PRs) issued by the opposing parties of the US presidential election campaign, one would not expect that much convention interference in the enterprise software world. But perhaps the best example comes from the announcements by Siemens’ archrival Dassault Systèmes during the recently held two-day analyst summit by the Siemens PLM Software unit.

On the first day of the Siemens PLM summit, when the leading product lifecycle management (PLM), software vendor would traditionally have talked about its business overview and recent wins, Dassault Systèmes issued a PR about extending its Enovia PLM platform contract with Boeing. Not surprisingly, the PR comes after Siemens’ early 2012 announcement about Boeing signing a 10-year deal with Siemens’ Teamcenter PLM platform.

On day two of the summit, when Siemens presented updates on its individual PLM, computer aided manufacturing (CAM), computer aided engineering (CAE), and computer aided design (CAD) product lines including presentations by some marquee customers, Dassault Systèmes released a PR on Local Motors, an open source automotive company that is using the vendor’s flagship CATIA 3D CAD platform. Again, Local Motors ironically presented at Siemens’ analyst event about its use of Siemens’ Solid Edge in crowdsourcing and community-based design.

Similarly to Boeing, Local Motors uses CATIA and Solid Edge in different divisions and for different purposes: CATIA seems as a good fit for an intricate in-house Rally Fighter 3D design of an entire vehicle, whereas Solid Edge is ideal for fast and flexible design of mechanical parts within many in-house community-based projects.

It’s a Multi-product World

I was oblivious to any such competitive game and attitude during the recently held PlanetPTC Live 2012 and Aras ACE 2012 conferences. But I wouldn’t be surprised if similar moves by Siemens, Dassault Systèmes, and other PLM/CAD players took place during those conferences as well. Why do CAD/PLM vendors engage in this “we are still there too” game playing?

Well, it appears that the name of the game in the PLM/CAD/CAE/CAM/MES world is "The more one can offer, the better, but the best-of-breed (BOB) world is here to stay!" The situation is similar to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) world, where most global and diverse organizations can take on all of the possible ERP solutions that meet the needs of their diverse divisions. In the PLM world, being able to have the needed capabilities and hence integrate the necessary software modules in a BOB manner is still a more sensible strategy versus the “one size SAP (or Oracle) fits all” type of strategy.

In addition, it appears that there is no brand loyalty enterprise-wide—and this is particularly true among CAD users. Even Siemens admitted at the event that the vendor’s own PLM, CAD, manufacturing execution system (MES), and other products are only used in about 15 percent of its four huge divisions (each with multiple units) and of its more than 290 factories globally. Although CAD is largely a desktop tool (at least before the advent of the Web-enabled Dassault Systèmes’ V6 platform), it has played a big role in enterprise information technology (IT) decision making.

Interoperability is always a huge concern for CAD software users. For example, big original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) use CAD systems and mandate them to their supply chain partners. Ironically, because OEMs do not want to deal with disparate CAD systems their suppliers may use multiple CAD systems to comply with whatever CAD system is in use by the OEM—and hence disparate file formats that cannot be imported and read. Even in Siemens’ case, in addition to the “domestic” Siemens NX and Solid Edge, its divisions also admittedly use I-deas (a legacy CAD solution developed by Siemens), Zuken, Pro/E, Medusa, and AutoCad. CAD tools are such that they are difficult to learn and modify. 

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