Rivalry Between IBM/Dassault and EDS PLM Solutions Puts Ford Motor Company in the Driver's Seat

While you certainly won't find a shortage of analysts who view the decision to include the use of CATIA v5 software in new vehicle design at Ford a big victory for IBM/Dassault Systemes, you might also call it just another day in the life of one of the world's top automakers. Last week, both IBM/Dassault and EDS PLM Solutions announced significant deals with Ford Motor Company, each hoping to alert us to a clear winner. (See IBM and Dassault Systemes Awarded Contract for Worldwide Vehicle Development by Ford Motor Company and EDS Awarded Expanded Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software Contract For Collaboration and Product Creation By Ford Motor Company ) But it is Ford, hopefully, that will be the real winner here -- for coming up with an effective long-term strategy for its design and manufacturing initiatives; one that, in effect, takes advantage of the strengths of the offerings of each of these key business partners.

In short, for starters Ford has indicated that it will begin using IBM/Dassault's CATIA v5 design software -- to a limited extent -- on its new vehicle programs. The question is, should this really come as a surprise? With cars like Volvo and Land Rover now a part of its product mix, why wouldn't Ford consider using CATIA? After all, Volvo and Land Rover have both been using CATIA for vehicle design for more than a decade. So, why not take advantage of this company "know-how" in other vehicle programs?

Second, Ford has elected to standardize on Teamcenter 3.0 from EDS-PLM Solutions for its product lifecycle management needs worldwide (which isn't really that much of a surprise either, since SDRC's Metaphase, the forerunner of Teamcenter, was well-established as the product data management system of choice for many years at Ford). Actually, with PTC making some inroads at Ford; assorted versions of SDRC I-Deas and Unigraphics NX currently in use; and CATIA v5 now being tested in its new vehicle programs, the reality is that Ford Motor Company must be able to support a heterogeneous CAD environment for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, why wouldn't the automaker choose to go with Teamcenter from EDS to manage its product data? By selecting Teamcenter 3.0 from EDS-PLM Solutions as the backbone for its product lifecycle management program, isn't Ford simply making a smart move, by choosing a PLM solution that has a proven track record in its ability to support multiple CAD programs?

But for just a minute, let's put aside today's scorecard, and instead focus on just what Ford will need to accomplish with its new mix of CAD/PLM software and services down the road. A few questions that come to mind, include:
  1. With both EDS and IBM/Dassault now playing a role in shaping Ford's future, how does each company plan to help Ford successfully create, manage, access and reuse product lifecycle information? Specifically, how does EDS plan to help Ford integrate models or data created or managed using Teamcenter or Unigraphics NX with data created or managed by such programs as Enovia and CATIA? Likewise, how does IBM/Dassault plan to help Ford integrate models or data created or managed using CATIA and Enovia with data created or managed by such programs as Teamcenter or Unigraphics NX?
  2. How will IBM/Dassault and EDS assist Ford in cutting manufacturing costs? Specifically, which provider's digital manufacturing initiatives will be put in place at Ford? EDS's Tecnomatix solution, or IBM's Delmia? Or some of both? And if the answer is both, how will this be accomplished?
  3. How will EDS and IBM/Dassault help Ford to gain a competitive edge in terms of design and styling? Specifically, to what extent will Unigraphics NX be employed at Ford? And to what extent will Ford rely on CATIA, in particular, CATIA v5 to meet its design and styling requirements? (Some critics argue that CATIA v5 is still an immature product -- how can IBM/Dassault assure Ford that it is not going to have to contend with a software solution that isn't "production-ready?")
  4. With an eye on the future of automotive manufacturing -- which promises a tighter integration between design and manufacturing and a greater emphasis on manufacturability -- what does IBM/Dassault bring to the table for Ford? What about EDS-PLM Solutions? To what extent will Ford be able to take advantage of EDS-PLM offerings in this area, if its new vehicle programs are designed using CATIA v5?
  5. Finally, in terms of virtual prototyping and simulation (the area credited most often these days with delivering the greatest cost savings in automotive design and manufacturing), will Ford employ virtual engineering tools from EDS or IBM/Dassault Systemes? Or both?
Actually, the real question really isn't which CAD software or PLM system Ford elects to go with in any or all of these areas, but rather -- how each provider plans to deliver the level of support required to make its programs at Ford successful. The fact is that this past week both IBM/Dassault and EDS-PLM Solutions were awarded contracts for CAD/PLM software and services estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the years ahead. And because of this, Ford will be relying on each of these companies to deliver on some very big promises. We'll all be watching to see how it turns out. If Ford is successful at cutting costs, increasing profits, and gaining market share -- perhaps it will, in part, have both IBM/Dassault Systemes and EDS PLM Solutions to thank. And if either one of these companies fails to deliver? Well, let's just say the competition will be ready and waiting. And when you've got the top two contenders working hard to earn your business, well -- that puts Ford Motor Company right where it should be -- in the driver's seat.

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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