COFES2003: A Technology Summit Like No Other

by Amy A. Rowell

Innovative technology conference explores the future of engineering software

Envision a world in which high-speed, wireless Internet access is the norm, the batteries that run your laptop last for weeks not hours, and desktop computing as we know it no longer exists. Imagine working in a world in which 'smart' design systems make it possible to create products faster and with greater chances of commercial success using advanced visualization tools and knowledge-based systems. And consider the very real possibility that in less than a decade, we will be able to 'manufacture' human organs, using a combination of rapid manufacturing technology and the ability to manipulate organic materials at the molecular level.

Sound far-fetched?

It shouldn't. Because these represent just a few of the possible new directions that technology promises to take us to the years ahead, according to some of the leading technologists and scientists among us today. Such ideas, and others that are currently being formulated in conference rooms and research labs around the world, are what drive the product development initiatives of tomorrow.

So where do you find these great minds? From May 15th - 18th, you could find quite a few of them in Scottsdale, Arizona at the annual COFES technology conference. Now in its 4th year, COFES (the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software) brings together some of the most innovative minds in engineering and computing today. At this informal gathering of industry analysts and executives, engineering and design professionals and visionaries – the result is always the same. Lively discussions and lots of debate. What else to expect at this techfest of creative thinkers?

Participants at this year's conference included some of the tech sector's best and brightest – from visionaries like Alan Kay, Senior Fellow, HP Labs and Dick Morley, inventor of the Programmable Logic Controller, to industry thought leaders like Dave Kasik, Technical Fellow, Boeing and Jon Hirschtick, the founder of SolidWorks. From futurists like Jeff Harrow, author of The Harrow Technology Report, to technology evangelists like Engineering Technical Strategist, Karl Schulmeisters, from Microsoft.

Like these individuals, all of those who attend COFES are the type that thrive on understanding and analyzing the latest advances in science and technology, and who are anxious to take on the challenge of determining just how these technologies can best be harnessed in the years ahead.

This year's theme? "Leveraging Engineering Technology to Achieve Business Goals." And let's put it this way – both the participants and sponsors of COFES really do mean business. Through the support of such companies as HP, Microsoft, Intel, EDS-PLM Solutions, and IBM/Dassault Systemes, COFES is able to create an environment that fosters innovative thinking. The kind of thinking that will not only shape the technology of tomorrow, but make it pay.

The best part? There was a genuine sense of optimism concerning the tech sector at this year's conference. In fact, attendance was up 30 percent over last year. (see COFES2003 Opens to Record Attendance.)

So what's up?

Well, let's just say there's a whole lot going on 'behind-the-scenes' in this industry. A brief overview of this year's conference is included below, along with a list of the presenters that covered topics likely to be of interest to MCAD community. So stay tuned. We'll be bringing you highlights of the conference in an upcoming edition of the MCAD Weekly Review.

COFES 2003

Congress on the Future of Engineering Software

Leveraging Engineering Technology to Achieve Business Goals

The 4th Annual COFES event brings the latest and best information, understanding, and clarity about the role engineering technology will play in your company's future survival and success.

COFES offers:
  • Exclusive, equal access to a wide-range of high-level invitation-only experts, decision-makers, vendors, editors, and analysts
  • An intense, focused schedule that ties together the current issues and future concerns that bother engineering executives, CIOs and CTOs
  • Private meetings between vendor participants and interested parties
  • Analyst briefings covering a spectrum of issues
  • Intense business and industry keynotes that introduce new, innovative technologies coming down the line and allow you to tie that to business decisions you are making now

Alan Kay, Senior Fellow, HP Labs – Keynote Speaker

Alan Kay, who recently took a position as Senior Fellow at HP Labs, is best known for his groundbreaking work in the development of the laptop computer, the invention of the overlapping window interface, and the invention of modern object-oriented programming.

Alan Kay has been intimately involved in the computer industry since the birth of personal computing, and many of the significant advances in computer technology that we take for granted today were invented by Mr. Kay.

During his prestigious career, Kay participated in the design of ARPAnet, the forerunner of the modern Internet; worked at Xerox PARC where he invented and worked with a number of revolutionary computer technologies; was the chief scientist at Atari; and was a fellow at Walt Disney Imagineering.


We've invited some of the brightest and most talented analysts and thinkers to give a 5- to 15-minute presentation on issues they view as critical, with the remainder of the 35-minute session a working discussion.
Ken Versprille
D.H. Brown

The vision of PLM is to establish and automate cross-organizational business process and product development process data exchange and collaboration. Implementations underway from competing PLM vendors and consortiums for connective "circuitry" of XML-based information are being promoted as the new industry path toward data interoperability across heterogeneous application environments. We'll discuss the efforts in PLM XML from EDS, OpenHSF from Tech Soft and Spatial, STEP XML, and ebXML from UN/CEFACT and OASIS.
David Weisberg
Cyon Research Corporation

The engineering software technology industry currently seems to be stalled – revenues are growing slowing, if at all and many vendors are struggling to make a profit. On the other hand, the tools these companies produce are more robust than ever and are capable of dramatically improving design, manufacturing and construction productivity. Unless the industry becomes more profitable, we will see more consolidation resulting in fewer options for users and venture capitalists will be unwilling to fund innovative ideas. This briefing will look at some of the issue causing this incongruity and what both users and vendors can do to create a healthier industry.
Louis Columbus
AMR Research

There's a fundamental shift happening in the manufacturing arena today. Made-To-Order (MTO), Build-to-Order(BTO), Configure-to-Order (CTO) and Engineer-To-Order (ETO) are all strategies that are revolutionizing how manufacturing companies do business with their customers. Delivering highly differentiated products utilizing quote-to-cash and quote-to-order processes is a significant competitive advantage. And it's all driven by owners with a strategic vision of their business and product strategies.
Marc Halpern
Gartner Group

PLM shows tremendous promise to improve an enterprise's ability to increase revenues by delivering innovative new products to the market. Yet, IT departments continue to prioritize their investments in ERP, SCM, and CRM over PLM. These investments improve operational efficiency and indirect product costs. But with a lower priority for PLM, they reduce their opportunity to direct product costs. They also reduce their best opportunity to foster product innovation. Discuss strategies that companies can take to convince IT departments to give PLM higher priority and allocate a greater share of their budget to it.
Peter Bilello

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is receiving tremendous attention from manufacturers as an initiative that can transform their companies and unleash their ability to deliver innovative and successful products to market. PLM enables the intellectual assets of an organization to be effectively utilized in the pursuit of product excellence. But there is considerable confusion in the industry regarding the scope of PLM and the best ways to pursue it. This discussion will focus on PLM's role in the enterprise and fit with other investments.
Ray Kurland

Real designers usually admit that CAD is used more for documenting the design than developing it. What we need is a rethinking of the design process now that we have all these exotic computer based tools. Ray will examine the concept of systems engineering, what it is, what it is not, and explore how such a concept might be used for future designs based on requirements.
Peter Marks
Managing Director
Design Insight

Pete Marks has always been one of our highest rated keynote speakers. This year, we asked him to cover new information relevant to today's recessionary times. Peter's point is that great products are the engine of economic growth. This year --- a half dozen ways to help companies create great new products and services --- and restore growth to the economy.
Mike Tanner
Managing Director
The Chasm Group

Mike will speak about the predictability of boom and bust cycles in technology, the current issues facing vendors and customers in the enterprise software markets, and the opportunities presented as we come out of the current technology down-cycle.
Dave Burdick
Collaborative Visions

Most technologies and strategies have been too narrowly focused on tools and capabilities for the individual engineer. In order for corporations to develop and deliver continuous innovation they will need to completely re-think the processes and technology framework required. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a business strategy that is focused on addressing this "big picture" problem. We'll discuss a strategic framework for architecting and implementing a PLM strategy, including six major imperatives: Alignment, Collaboration, Technology, Innovation, Lifecycle Opportunity and Intellectual Property.
Jay Vleeschhouwer
Merrill Lynch

A look at the outlook for the product development and design infrastructure market, from the perspective of the investment community. Why is this technology important for the companies that develop and sell it, and for their customers? We will discuss the performance of the companies in this market, and key essential business and technology issues that will shape the success of this emerging area.
Mike Evans

Will a new upstart CAD vendor's wave hit the users' shore in 2004? Every seven years until now we've seen one: 1977: ComputerVision; 1984: Autodesk; 1989: PTC; 1997: SolidWorks. Our research says users want easier to use systems. However, there is a trade-off between ease of use versus the complexity and a power user's tasks demand. Can Knowledge Based Engineering, long the preserve of academic research or specialists in giant users provide a solution to this trade off?
Dick Morley
R. Morley, Inc.

Dick Morley is an Angel. Honest. As an angel, he invests in the future, with investments in more than 100+ companies. Since the average time for "instant success" is nine years, investments MUST focus on the next decade. Dick, the guy who is one of the fathers of the programmable controller and the floppy disk, will discuss his vision and strategies.

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