Dassault, Siemens PLM play PR tug-of-war with Ford as the rope

Dueling Banjos would be a good song to play in the background as you read about the latest skirmish in the PLM wars.

Dassault on the left, Siemens on the right; Ford is the rope.

Yesterday two pieces of CAD & PLM marketing-by-proxy came across my desk. To say “by proxy” I mean the software vendor is using a second company to present the information, instead of sending it out directly. There’s nothing unusual about receiving two such pieces in one day; some days I get five or ten. Software vendors do this quite often to give an air of legitimacy to their marketing.

But there were similarities that caused me to notice these two emails:

  • They were from the two largest CAD-centric PLM vendors, Dassault Systémes and Siemens PLM;
  • They both were case studies on the use of analysis data;
  • Ford Motor Company was the subject of both case studies.

As the recent news about Damlier AG moving from CATIA to NX proves (see our articles Daimler choice of NX is less than meets the eye and Daimler comments on switch from Catia to NX) the CAD/PLM vendors are zealous about the automotive market. It seems as if Dassault has decided the automotive industry is going to be their Maginot Line, Siemens PLM is saying “bring it on” and the current battlefield has moved to Dearborn, Ford’s home town.

The Proxies

The Siemens PLM salvo landed in my inbox first. It came as a report from Collaborative Product Development Associates, LLC, the fine PLM analysis firm lead by Don Brown. (I say “fine” because I’ve done work for them in the past. Competitors take note.) They have just released a report—funded by Siemens PLM—entitled “Ford Motor Company Scores Quick Win with Teamcenter Simulation Process Management.” Some excerpts:

  • Teamcenter Simulation Process Management was recently installed at Ford Motor Company, which quickly realized substantial gains in their process to develop CAE models.
  • Success factors for Ford include clear expectations, good planning, and good vendor support.
  • Ford Motor Company has been able to achieve success in a very short time with deploying a tool for Simulation Data Management where others have taken much more time, or even failed.”

A few minutes later the current issue of Desktop Engineering’s “Elements of Analysis and Simulation” popped into my inbox, with a special edition sponsored by Dassault. There were several articles listed, but the one that immediately caught my eye was “Ford Ups the Tempo of Powertrain Design.” some excerpts:

  • About five years ago Ford made the decision to migrate all CAD model building to Catia. … ‘What made the difference for the management team was the capability of Catia to integrate CAE tools.’ says Jeffrey Bautz, Ford’s ADSS manager.
  • The team uses Excel spreadsheets that are attached to templates with all the key parameters. The CAD template defines the geometry. The CAE template includes the basic information for the simulation.”
  • With integrated CAD/CAE templates as part of our [digital vehicle engineering] strategy, were are able to accelerate the initial geometry and analysis generation process.”
  • By eliminating the CAD-to-CAE-to-CAD hand-offs, there has been a savings of three to four weeks overall in product development cycle times.”

Here’s what I find so interesting about the juxtaposition of these two case studies:

  • One very large vendor (Ford) is using two approaches to CAE data management (Teamcenter, Excel)
  • At two different places in the organization
  • And both groups are happy enough with the results to go through the r-e-a-l-l-y painful process of getting the corporate OK to be the subject of a published case study.

I can only imagine how many free seats of Catia or Teamcenter were thrown in to grease the skids so these two reports could see the light of day.

Q: So, Ford, do you want Dassault or Siemens technology? A: Yes.

The unspoken message here is that large manufacturers may say they want “one neck to choke” and a single vendor’s solutions but when push comes to shove (or when push comes to pull, to keep our metaphors straight) they go with best-of-breed point tools and an easy transition path every time. At Site A, Teamcenter was already in use and was modified easily for a new task, while at Site B it seemed a no-brainer to let people use Excel to manage the CAD/CAE templates. After all, Excel is engineering’s leading software tool.

Dassault’s sales and marketing is heavily weighted toward the “one neck to choke” philosophy; it is at the heart of their V6 Enovia-based PLM platform. Yet in this example they put in a system where Excel, not Enovia, is the data middleman. Siemens PLM made it clear years ago that “open” is their mantra, and with more than 5 million seats of Teamcenter out there, it seems to be working. Yet in this case it was staying with the familiar vendor that won the day. Go figure.

    – RSN