COFES2003: A Technology Summit Like No Other
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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.

Research Report: Peter Marks and Brad Holtz
Peter and Brad share preliminary results from a joint research project that explores SMB (small and medium sized businesses) focusing on key differentiators for competitive advantage.

Peter Marks, Managing Director, Design Insight Brad Holtz, President & CEO, Cyon Research Corporation

Peter Marks is Managing Director of Design Insight, Santa Cruz, CA. An internationally recognized consultant in the area of new product development, he has helped scores of companies identify innovative points of differentiation and back them up with disciplined design processes. Marks is author of three books in the area of new product development and e- Design columnist for Computer Aided Engineering magazine.

Brad Holtz is President & CEO of Cyon Research. An internationally recognized consultant, he has spent the past 20 years consulting within the engineering software community, providing insight and analysis of the CAD marketplace. He also serves as chairman of The CAD Society. Holtz's book, The CAD Rating Guide, is widely regarded as an industry "bible"; its sixth edition will be published later this year. He is widely published and is quoted worldwide as an industry analyst.

Design and Engineering is Where Value Goes In
Engineering-software technology plays a critical role in our world-wide economic strength and standard of living. For most projects/products, 90% of the degrees of freedom are fixed by the time a project leaves the design and engineering.

Unfortunately, our $12B engineering-software industry is so small compared to the multi-trillion dollar world manufacturing and construction industries that it is too often ignored at the level of the corporate boardroom.

In this interactive planning session we discuss the situation and a means by which we can grab the attention at the boardroom level. The ultimate goal is for this increase awareness to increase the willingness of corporate boards and owners to invest in engineering-software technology to enhance their competitiveness and improve their top-line performance.

David Weisberg, Chief Industry Strategist, Cyon Research
Joel Orr, Vice-President & Chief Visionary, Cyon Research

A lively discussion of where and how the industry can improve and build itself into a more dominant technological and innovative presence.

About CYON Research

Cyon Research Corporation was founded in October of 1999 by Brad Holtz, Joel Orr, and Evan Yares, consultants and analysts, each of whom have a history of successful consulting practices serving suppliers and users of engineering software.

Cyon Research was formed in order to create an industry event unlike any known at the time—COFES: The Congress on the Future of Engineering Software. Holtz, Orr, and Yares then combined aspects of their consulting practices to work together on consulting projects. Cyon Research subsequently acquired two major publications, Engineering Automation Report and

These three areas of operation—events, publications, and consulting—are mutually synergistic: each is more effective and more profitable when grouped with the others than they could be separately.

The primary clients of Cyon Research have been the vendor community and users of technology seeking unbiased, educated, experienced consulting about their strategies for implementing, building and leveraging engineering technology throughout their enterprises. Cyon Research's close contacts throughout the user, analyst, vendor and developer community provides unforeseen benefits for clients and is one of the driving forces behind the value of the firm.

A special thanks to all who helped to make this year's COFES event possible, including: For more information about COFES, see

In the end, COFES might best be described simply as a conference that makes its attendees think. So many discussions, so little time! In fact, most of the participants leave with a feeling like, "Wouldn't it be great if we could continue these kinds of discussions throughout the year?" So, if you attended, or even if you would have liked to have attended but couldn't, consider this an open invitation to share your thoughts, questions or ideas on the topics described above, or on the subject of "the future of engineering", in general. With your input, we'll work on identifying topics to be addressed in discussion forums, articles, and white papers in the coming year. Simply submit your ideas to: Email Contact. Thank-you!

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

Editor's Note: Here's what just a few of the COFES participants have had to say about this event in previous years. All the individuals who are listed below were in attendance again this year, and expressed even greater enthusiasm for the conference.

"The COFES conference was perfect for our purposes. No other conference that I am aware of provides the attendees with the opportunity for hosted personal introductions to key industry players and the chance to speak directly to those individuals about issues that affect the 3D CAD industry as a whole. We accomplished in two/three days what could have taken weeks, perhaps several months. The return for us was invaluable given our objectives."

Rick Benoit
Strategic Marketing Manager
Intel Corp

"COFES was a great opportunity to have quality discussion time with some of the most interesting people in our industry; I was glad to be a part of the conference, and will look forward to next year."

Jon Hirschtick,
Dassault Systè­¥s Group Executive
SolidWorks Board Member

"As first-timers at COFES, Proficiency was very pleased to find a strong emphasis on CAD interoperability threaded through many sessions. COFES brings an intense focus to the major engineering software issues of the day, and takes a long look at how they might be resolved in the years to come."

Michael Jannery
VP of Marketing
Proficiency Inc.

"You did a great job with COFES2002! I'm glad I attended--it was very intellectually stimulating and motivational and I met a lot of new people."

Dennis Nagy Technology Business Consulting

"Other than sex, the morning keynotes at COFES [2002] were the best two hours I've ever spent in my life."

Jerry Laiserin
Industry Analyst,