An Interview with Mr. John Fox, Vice President Marketing, Mainstream Engineering business (Solid Edge), Siemens PLM Software
The recent release of Solid Edge ST8 is consolidating the success of Siemens PLM in various sectors. Mr. John Fox, Vice President Marketing, Mainstream Engineering business (Solid Edge), Siemens PLM Software is the right person to help us understand the reason behind the success of Solid Edge synchronous technology and the evolution of the software. In order to learn more about Solid Edge ST8, I interviewed Mr. John Fox last week.
Here is the interview.
Please tell us a little bit about your background?
I began my career as an electrical engineer, designing robotics and automated systems at a semiconductor equipment manufacturer. We developed and manufactured products in the US, but over the years we started relying more and more on a network of suppliers in other parts of the world, for both design and manufacture. And software was becoming increasingly important, certainly within our products, but also in how we communicated and collaborated with our supply chain. I became very interested in the business process side of product development and how technology can improve it.
I went back to school and got an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Then I joined Accenture, working with companies like Applied Materials and DuPont in product strategy and product development. After a few years I made the jump back to industry, but this time on the software side – first at a startup, Synapsis Technology, then at PTC, and now at Siemens PLM Software. I’ve been with Siemens for about 5 years. I’m responsible for marketing in our mainstream engineering business, which includes Solid Edge and Femap. I love helping companies develop better products faster and more efficiently with the help of technology.
Siemens is only company going forward with the Solid Edge synchronous technology ‘Direct Modeling’ software with new versions every year. What is your experience about adaptation of direct modeling technology over history based modeling?
People generally think of CAD software as falling into one of two categories – direct modeling or feature-based, parametric, modeling. Each approach has strengths and weaknesses. And companies often think they have to choose a software package that uses one approach or the other. But that’s simply not the case. We developed synchronous technology to enable Solid Edge users to get the best of both – the speed and freedom of direct modeling with the power and control of parametric design – all in one package. And our users have a choice. It’s never an all or nothing proposition.
The Solid Edge team developed synchronous technology and launched it in 2008 with the release of Solid Edge ST1. We’ve advanced the technology with each subsequent release, making it more pervasive throughout the product and easier for users to apply.
What makes Solid Edge synchronous technology different from the other tools available?
Other software vendors have tried to simulate this hybrid approach, using two separate environments – direct and parametric. This approach runs into limits – for example creating extra complexities in the model related to translations going on behind the scenes. It may appear to work in simple demos, but it’s not the same as synchronous technology, or as powerful. Solid Edge has a single modeling environment. At Siemens we have a unique advantage. One of our products is Parasolid, the world’s leading 3D geometric modeling engine. It’s the foundation of Solid Edge, and many other tools.
I encourage your readers to evaluate the technology for themselves and see the difference. Download our Solid Edge free trial. It’s fully functional software with no limitations. A great way to dive in with the free trial is to import and edit any of your existing models, no matter where they were created, using synchronous technology. We have a dedicated website with videos for those who want to see Solid Edge and synchronous technology in action.
Is it difficult to master, learn Direct Modeling tools compared to Parametric modeling tools? How is your customers’ response to adaption of Synchronous Technology?
Synchronous technology makes creating, revising and importing models much faster and more intuitive and as the technology has matured we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of customers who use it somewhere in their designs. Our users are often our best evangelists. We have many cases of customers reporting that design tasks that used to take weeks now take minutes. They also report that synchronous technology not only makes designing much faster, it makes it more enjoyable. Here’s one of my favourite quotes, from Ricardo Espinosa at Kimball International, Inc. “When you work with traditional CAD, product engineering work becomes very repetitive. With synchronous technology, you can participate more in the design process, the fun side of developing products.” Synchronous technology enables you to focus on design, not the design software. That’s the big difference.
I’ve found that students and early-career engineers and designers take to synchronous technology very quickly. One professor had to change his curriculum – students who had learned CAD using synchronous technology were solving all the classic “difficult” design problems in half the time, finishing the course weeks earlier. Unlike students, professionals who have spent years working with parametric and the traditional history tree typically need a period of training and adjustment before they can start effectively integrating synchronous technology into their workflow. Those who invest the time see the benefits and don’t want to go back – we have many examples of that.
Since the first release of SE Synchronous Technology, we always heard “This is the best version of Solid Edge ever.” So what was the most significant change, enhancement you saw from SE ST 1 till the launch of latest SE ST 8 versions? What are your favourite features in ST8?
We have hundreds of new enhancements in Solid Edge ST8, but I do have a few favourites. We’ve taken synchronous technology further. Now synchronous modeling is even easier, with a streamlined interface that displays only the most relevant information related to your design intent. As you make quick edits to the model, you’re presented with only the information that directly impacts the modification. And it now provides more predictable geometry edits. The end result is that users spend less time learning the interface and more time designing.
Another standout feature is “drawing compare,” which allows users to quickly identify differences between drawing revisions. In a production environment, tracking differences can be a nightmare, a multistep process, sometimes requiring more than one person or 3rd party software. Now it can be done much faster, directly in Solid Edge.
I also like what we’ve done with pattern recognition. Solid Edge now recognizes the regular repetition of any geometry, such as a circular, rectangular, or a user-defined pattern. So for example you can quickly and automatically add some pretty complex design intelligence to an imported part and integrate it into your design. It’s like magic.
With the announcement of Solid Edge University 2015, users are excited to know about the latest SE ST 8, can we expect big surprises? What’s would be the biggest game changer in SE ST 8?
Yes, we announced Solid Edge University 2015, which will be held in Cincinnati on October 26th to 28th. Registration is now live. It’s a great event for our users to learn how to get more productive with Solid Edge, try out new tools and technologies, and network with industry experts. And for some attendees, if they haven’t already upgraded, it will be the first time they get their hands on Solid Edge ST8.
I mentioned some of my favourite Solid Edge ST8 features, including one of our biggest game-changers already, synchronous technology. In addition, I think some of the most exciting developments for users are what we’re doing around mobility and how we’re building our ecosystem of complementary apps, to extend the power of Solid Edge.
With the advances in mobile devices, engineers don’t need to be tethered to their desk any more. They can use CAD on the factory floor or at a customer site, creating and modifying designs anywhere and at any time. At this point, the only question is which software vendor can provide the best, most robust CAD experience on a mobile device. With the recent enhancements we’ve made, Solid Edge running on Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is simply the best CAD experience on any tablet today. Users can run full Solid Edge design sessions on this lightweight, highly portable platform. We’ve fully optimized the Solid Edge user interface to use finger gestures on the touch screen for view manipulation, and the Surface Pen for more accurate input for sketching and geometry selection operations. Users we’re blown away when we first showed this at last year’s Solid Edge University. One customer said he was “astounded” by the experience, calling it much better than the keyboard and mouse he’d been using for CAD all these years. We plan to expand the availability of Surface Pros in the hands-on sessions at the event this year so users can take a closer look at this potential game changer.
Along with the release of Solid Edge ST8, we announced a new app marketplace. The Solid Edge App Marketplace is a new online store where Solid Edge customers can easily find and purchase complementary software from third parties. It’s a win for both our technology partners and our Solid Edge customers. For example, one of our technology partners, QuadriSpace Corporation is offering their low-cost Publisher3D PDF Edition, which produces PDF files with embedded 3D models, on the Solid Edge App Marketplace. For them, the App Marketplace is a perfect match for their entry-level product. They can raise awareness of their product and brand via a new channel, and Solid Edge customers can more easily find and get a useful app they may not otherwise have known about.
How is response to 45-day trial of Cloud-streamed Solid Edge?
Recently we began offering a streaming version of our Solid Edge free trial in the US and the UK. The free trial is so important to our global business. Thousands of people have experiences the free trial. For many people it’s their first exposure to the software and the Solid Edge brand. So we want to make it a positive and productive experience. With the free trial we’ve always provided access to the full set of capabilities with no restrictions, which is great. But one point of friction has always been the download and installation process. The streaming option allows users to bypass that extra step and start using the software faster. When you’re searching the web for a new solution, and you find the free trial, you may not want to wait for a download to your desktop. Free trial users are running the streaming option right now and we’re monitoring how it impacts their user experience. Many other users still go for the download option, so that’s interesting to watch too.
What’s in the pipeline for next year?
We plan to continue expanding the availability of Solid Edge subscriptions, which enables customers a pay-as-you-go option. It’s an affordable way for hardware start-ups to get access to professional CAD, and it’s a way for more established companies to easily expand their seat count as demand increases, supplementing their traditional licenses. I think subscriptions are a great way to get professional-grade CAD software like Solid Edge to more users and companies. We also plan to continue to grow our ecosystem, bringing more 3rd party apps from our technology and channel partners to the Solid Edge App marketplace. And of course we will not slow down enhancing the Solid Edge core product across the breadth of its capabilities. I’ve talked a lot about design, but Solid Edge has a portfolio of capabilities, including simulation, manufacturing, and design management.
From dental implant products to Space Systems, - what inspired innovations on Solid Edge have caught your eye recently?
Ion Exchange India Ltd. is a company that’s innovating in an extremely important and rapidly growing sector – water treatment and purification. Ion Exchange delivers systems for treating household, institutional, commercial, industrial and public water supplies, in India and around the world. In the past, the company developed its products in 2D. Errors were common and difficult to find until late in the product development process. It was difficult for customers – and even some engineers – to interpret 2D drawings and visualize how real products would look and operate. With manual checks resulting in huge amounts of data for each project delivery times were often delayed. Ion Exchange now designs in 3D with Solid Edge, and their product development process is much improved. They report that time spent on communicating and clarifying design ideas has been cut by 70%. Design cycle time has been reduced from 3 weeks to one week. With faster delivery and higher customer satisfaction Ion Exchange has captured new business opportunities. I think this is a great example of a pioneering company with a great history of product innovation taking their business operations to the next level by innovating on the business process side with the help of engineering software.
If you were able to give one piece of advice to an engineering students who wanted to get started on a career in mechanical engineering, working close to the CAD software, what would that advice be?
Students have never had greater access to free tools and information as they do today. So I would say take advantage of the free student versions, like the Solid Edge Student Edition. Join the discussion or ask questions on the public online forums like the Solid Edge Community. And look for ways to network with potential employers and learn about their products. Siemens PLM Software holds free educational events each year in India, and many local manufacturing companies attend. Drop by, ask questions, and keep an open mind. The people you meet and the companies you learn about at events like these could lead to your next job opportunity.
About Mr. John Fox
John Fox is Vice President of Marketing at Siemens PLM Software. John is responsible for defining, planning and executing the worldwide marketing strategy for all Mainstream Engineering products, including Solid Edge and Femap. He has more than 15 years of management and product development experience in the electronics, high tech and software industries, with previous roles at PTC, Accenture and semi-conductor equipment maker Kulicke & Soffa Industries. John has a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
I would like to thank Mr. John Fox for taking the time to answer my questions. Thanks to Siemens PLM India team for arranging this interview.
If you have any questions for them or for DailyCADCAM, please leave a comment below or mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be glad to answer.