February 14, 2011
Aston Martin to Standardize Its Global Sports Car Development with Siemens PLM Software
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor


by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Siemens PLM Software announced that Aston Martin is standardizing its global sports car development process using NX software for integrated computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering analysis (CAD/CAM/CAE) and Teamcenter software to manage their product and process knowledge. This company-wide commitment will enable Aston Martin to drive productivity improvements, common processes and enhanced global collaboration for product design and development.


The growing sophistication of design and development has forced numerous automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to evaluate the systems currently in place to ensure they are using best-in-class technology. Aston Martin began its extensive and ongoing competitive PLM technology evaluation two years ago. The decision to migrate from its current technology to NX and Teamcenter is critical to its mission of continuing to produce some of the world's greatest sports cars.


“The automobile industry is undergoing enormous transformation both in terms of technology and business operations. The increasing complexity of vehicles and changing economic conditions are forcing automakers to re-evaluate their existing PLM applications to align with the best available in the market,” said Sanjeev Pal, PLM analyst at IDC Corp.


“Luxury automotive manufacturers like Aston Martin must make their product decisions earlier and more efficiently in today's marketplace. We are pleased that our technology has been selected for the advanced product planning through detailed engineering processes which are critical to increased productivity,” said Chuck Grindstaff, president and chief technology officer, Siemens PLM Software. “It's truly a must for OEMs to be able to manage increased sophistication across all systems in a car to ensure quality while reducing time to market.”


Aston Martin's decision to adopt Siemens PLM Software's technology as the corporate-wide PLM standard highlights the importance of an open PLM environment to enhance innovation and manage increased sophistication. It also demonstrates the scalability of Siemens PLM Software solutions to match the diverse deployment requirements of the full spectrum of automotive OEMs.


Siemens PLM Software is the leading supplier to automotive OEMs in all areas of product development and manufacturing where PLM software is applicable. Siemens PLM Software's industry-leading technology is used by automakers and suppliers to collaborate, plan, design and validate the development and manufacturing of vehicles. The solutions satisfy the critical needs of leading automakers for managed collaboration across complex engineering functions and throughout the extended supply chain. By breaking down barriers between engineering functions and all other disciplines associated with the product lifecycle, and by providing real-time access to design, analysis and simulation, Siemens
PLM Software has enabled efficiencies and key innovations throughout the industry.



Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor


Strange times these are when a company the scale of an automotive manufacturer, albeit a relatively small one in the scheme of things, decides to swap out its engineering software for something different (although the company would not disclose what was being replaced). Aston Martin, of course is by no means the only one - last May, Chrysler dumped CATIA for NX, and just last week, BMW announced that it had selected some of Dassault's V6 PLM solutions to develop future electrical, electronics, and embedded software (E/E) architecture of BMW cars. BMW's switch doesn't actually involve the entire automotive design process yet, but it's a good foot in the door and a needed win for
Dassault. And, it was only a couple years ago that EADS, the parent company to Airbus switched from Dassault and standardized on PTC's Windchill for their PLM needs. The revolving door aspect of the MCAD software business is proof that nothing stays constant forever.


These are all major decisions and are by no means arbitrary. So, why switch horses in midstream knowing that it can (and most certainly will be) a massive, complex, and expensive undertaking? A number of reasons, really - competitive/comparative analyses of MCAD/PLM software, cost considerations and price breaks, perceptions, and just plain old politics.


So why use an MCAD/PLM system in the first place? Since the inception of PLM, there are three basic reasons:
  • Increasing product accuracy, repeatability, minimizinging rework, and reducing technical and financial risk.
  • Lowering costs by minimizing lost and repetitive effort.
  • Provides an automated engineering-program history and documentation to lower costs on similar future design programs. In other words, PLM ideally provides for not constantly “reinventing the wheel”.

    These issues must constantly be addressed regardless of whether a company is choosing its first or third MCAD/PLM system.


    Anyone who's done it, whether an individual or as part of a team, knows how tough it is to objectively evaluate competing MCAD/PLM software. The vendors have always been more than willing to demonstrate their software, but I've found that really has little value - looking over someone's shoulder working on parts and assemblies optimized for their software and demo. If you go that route, be sure to have the demo centered around your parts, assemblies, and workflow.


    Personally, some of the criteria I've used when considering a possible MCAD/PLM change at companies I've consulted with include:
  • Ease of learning, and not so much just ease of use (that gets harder and harder to quantify). In other words, how fast a person can be trained to be productive, as well as how much on the job training will required to supplement and reinforce the training.
  • Speed to perform in your workflow/production environment. The time required by each of the systems being evaluated to accomplish a specific design task or series of tasks.
  • How much analysis can be performed concurrently during the design process and how easily can design changes be made based on the analysis What is the level of interoperability between the different software packages and what are the differences in translation accuracy. Finally, how clean are the translation interfaces, processes, and results.
  • How can design and engineering processes be changed to minimize time to completion, as well as take advantage of a vendor's software modules for performing various procedures, such as simulation, photo-realistic rendering, and sustainability.

    Obviously, evaluation and ultimate selection are only the beginning, but a giant step to change-over implementation. In this economy that still struggles to get back to previous levels, through conversations and other interactions I've had, a surprising number of CAD practitioners and managers are considering switching MCAD/PLM technologies. This potential change includes all products at all levels across the board - from AutoCAD to CATIA and everything in between. The reasons include everything from the desire or need to (still) go from 2D to 3D, to the ability to upgrade hardware and software, to the fact that some organizations and their MCAD/PLM needs have just outgrown the
    capabilities of their current software. Whatever the reason, I expect to see a major uptick in MCAD/PLM software sales over the next 12 months as companies continue to switch software packages in attempting to find what can make them more competitive and profitable.


    Strange times these are, indeed.



    The Week's Top 5


    At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.



    CCE, a provider of interoperability technology announced its newest Open Data eXchange (ODX) library - ODX/CAT6 - for accessing CATIA Version 6 (V6) data without requiring a CATIA Version 6 license or software. This is a major milestone for the interop industry as ODX/CAT6 is the world's first API for CATIA V6 independent of Dassault. The first release of ODX/CAT6 supports visualization and geometry data and assembly structure. ODX is a collection of software development libraries that provide users the ability to read and write native CAD files, without the cost of ownership associated with the respective CAD systems. Applications developed using ODX are completely independent of any
    form of CAD software or licensing. ODX libraries are very robust and are currently being used by a number of leading MCAD software ISVs worldwide. The libraries, architected using the state-of-the-art technologies and developed in portable C and C++, are easily implemented, and are continuously updated to support the latest releases of all major CAD systems, including CATIA V4, CATIA V5, UG/NX, SolidWorks, SolidEdge, Parasolid, JT, 3D PDF, IGES, and STEP.


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    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.




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