DaratechSummit 2003:"The Year that the Blizzard Kept the 'Wizards' Away?"

In case you happened to miss the DaratechSummit 2003 conference, held February 17th - 19th at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in NYC, you certainly weren't alone. Actually, some of the biggest names in the business were simply unable to make it due to the weather, including Bernard Charles, president and CEO of IBM/Dassault Systemes SA and Tony Affuso, President, EDS PLM Solutions. Also missing in the executive briefing line-up were Frank Perna, Chairman and CEO, MSC.Software Corp., C. Richard Harrison, President and CEO, PTC and James E. Cashman III, President and CEO, ANSYS, Inc.

Fortunately, even with blizzard conditions serving as the backdrop for the conference, most of these speakers were able to at least attend 'virtually' thanks to the help of 'modern technology. Armed with speaker phones, powerpoint slides, and in the case of IBM/Dassault's Bernard Charles' - a previously recorded videotape; the presentations went on, for the most part, without a lot of fuss. In a few instances, companies opted to have the 'second-in-command' stand in for the missing speaker, but either way, it was basically business as usual.

There were a few amusing moments. One of the most humorous occurred when Charles Foundyller, CEO of Daratech admitted that speaking to an empty chair during the Q&A sessions made him feel a bit like he was dealing with his very own Harvey (the invisible rabbit made popular by the film of the same name starring Jimmy Stewart), but once everyone adjusted to the live 'link' in place of the live person, it all went pretty smoothly. Apart from a bit of trouble with the audio at times, most of the glitches were minor and I think the majority of the attendees walked away with much the same level of understanding of the strategy and the vision of the companies presenting as they would have received otherwise.

The good news is that many more made it than didn't, and for at least some of us, being 'trapped' in New York in the midst of a winter wonderland with literally no traffic to speak of for several days - will be something that we will remember for many years to come. What many will also remember, I'm afraid, is that the event was simply not that well-attended, particularly with respect to customers. And while poor attendance overall could be blamed on the weather, the likelihood is that simply fewer CAD/CAM, CAE and PLM industry executives and professionals are traveling these days. Having said that, there were still some extremely valuable discussions during the conference, and these will be highlighted in upcoming issues of the MCAD Daily News and MCAD Weekly Review.

For starters, I had a chance to sit down and speak with Richard Riff, Director, Advanced Engineering Center, Ford Motor Company, who offered some keen insights regarding both the company's future plans and its recently announced deals with IBM/Dassault Systemes and EDS PLM Solutions. (Specific details concerning these discussions will appear in an upcoming issue of the MCAD Daily News.) Interestingly, in spite of the all the hype surrounding these recently announced deals, the subject of Ford Motor Company's engineering and manufacturing IT expenditures was given little, if any, attention during the general presentations.

There were, however, a number of other key developments announced at the conference, including an agreement between IBM/Dassault Systemes and ESI Group to deliver virtual prototyping and manufacturing solutions within CATIA V5; and a cross-licensing agreement between LMS International and ANSYS, Inc. to further extend the interface between each of the company's respective flagship products, LMS Virtual.Lab and ANSYS Workbench®. PTC also officially unveiled Pro/E Wildfire and its emphasis on a 'ProductFirst' approach (underscoring this commitment with the appointment of Jim Heppelmann to Chief Product Officer, a new role that PTC hopes will take hold throughout the industry), and EDS PLM Solutions launched I-deas™ 10 NX Series, and SolidEdge Version 14, featuring new advanced shape creation technology. (For additional details concerning these and other major announcements made last week, please refer to the Top Stories section included below in this week's edition of MCAD Weekly Review.)

Overall, the primary focus of the conference this year was PLM (Product Lifecycle Management). According to Daratech CEO, Charles Foundyller, "PLM has the potential to completely revolutionize the discrete manufacturing industry." How? To a large extent, the answer to that question seems to be by not only changing the way that organizations manage product information, but by changing the actual underlying processes by which products are designed, developed, manufactured, and distributed. More to the point, PLM seems to be as much about process as it is about having a well-connected, interoperable, highly integrated set of enterprise-wide software tools and technologies.

Still not completely clear on what PLM can and can't do for your organization? Don't worry - again, you're not alone. There is still a great deal of confusion surrounding PLM, not the least of which is how companies can 'start small' and scale up in this area.

So stay tuned. We'll do our best to attempt to bring some clarity to this subject, as well as to other related topics in upcoming issues of MCAD Weekly Review.

Comments? Feedback? Email Contact to tell us what you think about this topic or if you have additional information you'd like to share on this subject!

Amy Rowell is the managing editor of MCADCafe, and the editor of MCAD Weekly Review.

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