March 29, 2004
Bentley Selected As GM Technology Partner For Virtual Factory Initiative
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by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Bentley Selected As GM Technology Partner For Virtual Factory Initiative

Bentley Systems Inc. announced that General Motors' Worldwide Facilities Group (WFG) has selected Bentley as its technology partner for its innovative virtual factory initiative.

General Motors has been preparing for virtual facility capabilities - based on 3D and building information modeling (BIM) - for several years. A GM benchmark study and pilot project proved that Bentley BIM could save the manufacturer millions of dollars by cutting out redundant design processes and improving interference detection. GM's virtual factory initiative will implement BIM on all new greenfields and major existing brownfield sites. These solutions and the virtual factory initiative are part of GM Worldwide Facilities Group's strategic goal of cutting building project costs by 25 percent by 2005 and reducing design cycle time.

GM is already using BIM on several projects. WFG has implemented a comprehensive BIM strategy that streamlines project implementation and reduces change orders in the field. The first major implementation of the virtual factory initiative will be at the new Lansing Delta Township project in Michigan.

"The Lansing Delta Township project is a great opportunity to showcase our ability to design in 3D and capitalize on our objectives of compressing the design/build schedule and reducing construction costs," said Laird Landis, who is managing virtual factory efforts for GM Worldwide Facilities Group. WFG is responsible for more than $4 billion of construction annually. "We have partnered with a strong software corporation that responds to our needs and is aligned with our goals for a successful project," Landis said.

General Motors has developed 3D graphical standards to assist suppliers in 3D facility design. All suppliers completing GM design work will use Bentley BIM applications, including Bentley Architecture, Bentley Structural, Bentley HVAC, Bentley PlantSpace, and Bentley Digital InterPlot. Bentley Systems provides software for infrastructure lifecycle management. The company's portfolio for the building, plant, civil, and geospatial vertical markets spans architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and operations.

"Many large organizations are consolidating their processes and supporting software around standards, so they can do more with less," said Brad Workman, vice president, Bentley Building. "In this case, Bentley's BIM solution has the depth and breadth of a comprehensive offering that fits into GM's standardized environment for facilities."

GM's Lansing Delta Township manufacturing facility consists of 350 million square feet of facility design, one square mile of earth to be sculptured, and more than four miles of new asphalt paving. This project, with an estimated construction cost of $250 million, will provide GM with a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. The objective is to provide full design/build services for a body shop, general assembly and administration building. The complex will also include conveyors, utilities, pedestrian walkways, an automatic storage retrieval system, and site work.

A superset of CAD, BIM captures essential building concepts and information beyond drawings and provides a managed environment for building projects and operations. Bentley's BIM solution encompasses 20 enabling BIM technologies, is based on proven and scalable MicroStation, and offers a unique ramp to BIM so users can run mixed projects and realize BIM via evolution versus revolution.

It wasn't all that long ago that Bentley was involved not only with architectural and civil engineering software, but mechanical CAD, as well. If I recall correctly, I believe the product was called MicroStation Modeler. Anyway, Bentley decided that they wouldn't or couldn't compete in the mechanical design space when things were just beginning to heat up in affordable/capable MCAD, so the company diverted its attention and focused its energies toward AEC. In hindsight, probably not a bad decision for them. Bentley has a lot of experience and a comprehensive portfolio in the infrastructure realm, so it will be interesting to see how GM utilizes to maximum benefit Bentley's BIM

Theorem Solutions Sees Big Future For JT Open Initiative

Theorem Solutions, a developer of technologies and services for CAD/CAM product data exchange, announced that it has elevated its level of commitment to the JT Open initiative from Advocate to Vendor Member.

JT Open, announced by UGS PLM Solutions in November of last year, is an initiative driven by global leaders looking for a competitive advantage through product lifecycle management that have adopted the JT data format as a standard. JT is a common data format for enabling product visualization and information sharing between PLM software applications. The robust functionality and lightweight nature of JT technology makes it possible to view and share product data and interactive images worldwide, in real-time and throughout all phases of the product lifecycle.

As early adopters of the JT format, Theorem has taken a wide range of JT translators to market. These include CATIA V4 and V5, CADDS5, Autodesk Inventor, and STEP AP203. Theorem's JT translators are already installed in many design and manufacturing companies including Boeing, BMW, Renault, and Ford, as well as many Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive suppliers.

In elevating their status from Advocate to Vendor Member of the JT Open initiative, Theorem plans to make use of the availability of a rapidly evolving development environment which will enable not just new Theorem JT translators, but significantly more functionality in JT translators that they have already brought to market. According to the company, the first fruits of this change will become apparent in a few months, as Theorem plans a 2004 launch of bi-directional JT translators.

Theorem Solutions develops translation products for CAD/CAM product data exchange, offering application programs for direct database conversion and for international standards-based conversion methods (STEP). The Theorem CADverter family, for example, is a broad range of direct CAD translators. In addition to CADverter, it includes CADviewer, Data eXchange Navigator (DXN) and CADhealer, all delivering improved communications and interoperability between CAD systems.

Theorem President Stuart Thurlby said: "Theorem's JT translators enable users to translate whole assemblies or single components and can be integrated with design, viewing, vaulting and data management solutions. All of these are being brought closer and closer together in today's PLM environments through initiatives such as JT Open." He went on to add: "Membership in JT Open helps us not only to quickly develop best in class products, but also to exchange views on product direction and future requirements with other JT Open Members, including General Motors, Ford, Mazda, UGS PLM Solutions, PTC, Intel, Hewlett Packard, and SAP. This environment is the perfect place from which to deliver
more benefit to our customers by providing focused solutions to clear business requirements."

JT Open is an influential community of independent software vendors, users, universities, and other interested parties spanning the PLM chain who, through an open distribution of enabling technology under a level playing field business model, are able to share 3D data through the medium of the JT file format for the purposes of:

Visualization - JT data is well suited to visualization applications and the JT Open Toolkit provides API access to the JT information in a manner that lets a visualization application configure or render the data most consistently with their paradigm

Collaboration - The JT Open Toolkit and JT data support collaboration applications. Most collaboration capability revolves around product structure integration, design-in-context, or design reviews - all of which are supported by the JT data representation and toolkit access

Data Sharing - The JT Open Toolkit and JT data provide an enhanced capability within a multi-CAD design environment. Lightweight representations can be used for design-in-context, with the ability to handle precise representations if actual model information is needed for design operations.

Any individual or organization interested in tapping into the JT pipeline can join JT Open. This includes software vendors who wish to develop JT-enabled applications for sale to other member companies, as well as companies that want to make JT a standard part of their business processes. JT is a mature lightweight data format that already enjoys relatively widespread use in the automobile and aerospace industries and is equally suitable for virtually all manufacturing industry applications. The success of JT and applications that exploit it is such that JT is becoming the preferred common data format for many large end-users. The JT data representation is:
  • A rich data model with robust entity support
  • A high-performance, compact persistence archive format for graphics data
  • Supportive of large assembly/model interactive capabilities
  • CAD-neutral supporting all major MCAD applications
  • Software product developers have created translators from the popular MCAD systems into JT. It is nearly always the only format common to the major applications that might be used in an enterprise. JT data can be very lightweight, holding little more than facet data or it can be richer and hold associations to the original CAD information, assemblies, product structure, geometry, attributes, meta data and PMI. It supports multiple tessellations and level-of-detail generation. Although a relatively young technology set and organization, the JT data format and JT Open seem to be gaining attention
    and acceptance. As time goes on, many in the automotive and aerospace industries are watching closely to see what additional software vendors and end users get on the JT Open bandwagon.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, Contributing Editor.


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