“Case Study, why companies loose the competitive edge thru native file requests”
“Companies enduring swapping quality for native file formats”
You’ll be reading the above headlines in various CAD magazines by 2010 if not sooner. It’s a growing trend in the industry that many companies request native file formats so they can edit the outsourced designs in house and keep documentation control “clean” “easy”, and “editable”.
Is this request nurturing a company that ultimately swaps quality for ease of documentation? I believe it is.
Operating a product design firm since 1989 our primary function is as an outsourced design resource for many organizations both large and small. In recent years we have added a division that provides 3D CAD software reseller sales and services. I will keep the application confidential since I did not intend this article to be an advertisement; merely a perception of a trend forming that can be dangerous if not evaluated further. Having the rare opportunity to see both sides of the fence allows us various insights into trends that develop in the industry.
Our extended business model has been developed and streamlined over the years to allow freelancers, internal design staff, and other firms to collaborate on various projects as needed. In order for this process to work fluently we needed a design tool that would allow us to accept 3D files from various CAD applications. In addition, provide the ability to continue to edit them as tough created natively and utilize them to their fullest capabilities in the most expeditious manner. So after extensive research we standardized on a product that met all these requirements in 1998 after a long and arduous evaluation. It was this product that we now are a reseller for. This allowed us tremendous flexibility since we could get 3D cad files in virtually any format from an extensive talent pool regardless of what application was being used and continue to edit them as though they were created natively regardless of the history trees.
This process promotes the ability to get the best talent to perform the best work in whatever their application happens to be ultimately allowing us to provide the best quality services and products to our clients.
Recently, there has been a trend forming, and requests from clients to provide designs in native file formats has been on the rise. Well for us, this is a growing concern since we have clients utilizing just about every conceivable CAD application. We run the gamut from low-end to high end CAD applications that our clients have internally. This presents a problem we are currently looking to get under control. Up until now, we had no problems with our clients accepting our 3D CAD data regardless of their software, our current software continues to allow us to provide formats compatible to there internal software. Now clients are demanding more and more native formats for various reasons:
- Maintain history-structure to maintain the editable from internal design staff. (Which is debatable)?
- Have the warm feeling that all there engineering documentation is on one format.
These are the two main reasons given to us when asked.
So, this trend worries me, not as a reseller of a CAD application but as a design firm that has to maintain the requests from its clients. So what do we do?
- Go purchase a license of every CAD application in existence, along with all the ancillary support and training fees.
- Do we only accept projects from clients utilizing our internal software thus reducing our gross sales?
- Do we continue the impossible task of mating application to talent?
All the above are tremendous financial burdens that would choke even the largest of design firms.
All this for what? Does the client really gain an advantage from requesting native file formats? In my opinion they are actually doing themselves and mankind a disservice. This seemly simple request appears to be harmless on the surface, but I feel it is very dangerous when the hood is lifted. I feel this can ultimately lead to the downfall of an organization. The by-product of these requests that seemingly appear to be harmless are;
- They will loose their competitive edge.
- Degrade the quality of their products (because of setting the task on the application expert and not the process expert)
- Decrease the ability to incorporate innovation into new products (Since most leading applications do not allow for progressive conceptual design phase and thus reducing the number of design iterations that can be evaluated)
- ncur increases in outsourcing fees. Thus not meeting already tight budgets
- Miss already tight deadlines
- Increase the risk of rework and poor workmanship
And this list goes on any time you sacrifice quality. This is because now they are setting themselves up to degrade the quality of services and the amount of innovation applied to a project ultimately loosing the competitive advantage over their closest competitors. In addition, the client will ultimately have to pay higher fees because we now have to offset the increased overhead costs associated needed to meet this demand.
I think CEO’s of companies need to sit down and speak to their respective VP of Engineering and investigate the mandate more in-depth and take a harder look at this mandate: A need to re-evaluate if the requirement for native formats is urgently needed or ultimately just a shoot from the hip’ request.