What is new in SOLIDWORKS this year?
We would be announcing the 2019 version of SOLIDWORKS, which is the next development in progress. A few highlights include releasing a manufacturing software called SOLIDWORKS CAM. It is an intelligent manufacturing system, which does not require human intervention to go from design to cutting cycle. It also does not require C-code manipulation and can understand the features. It can further read tolerances and surface finish automatically. Digitalisation is all about integration and this is a perfect example.
The other one is SOLIDWORKS Manage, which is an expansion of SOLIDWORKS PDM, which stands for Product Data Management and is an addition to our product for data management. Our customers demanded for a software that is integrated, helps create and manage tasks for business, does better reporting and they also wanted a more advanced bill of material—not only the engineering bill of material but also the manufacturing bill of material. SOLIDWORKS Manage was built keeping such concerns in mind. Thirdly, we have introduced Mesh technology, which is the technology that is at the basis of 3D printing. These are the three most important announcements we have made this year.
How can one optimise the use of the entire technology aspects? How do you help your customers in this area?
One of the ways in which we help our customers explore the fullest extent of our technology is by educating them. We create educational material and every new topic comes with 10 videos, which is published online at Mysolidworks.com. Secondly, we include certification programme in every subscription. Every customer that is under subscription has access to 16 different certifications. Once the product is in the market, the certification comes along with a book. After studying these materials, and taking an exam, one gets certified. This is how the employer knows that the designer is productive.
Independent studies on the value of certification show that designers, who are much more productive, do less mistakes and create better designs if they obtain the certification. Hence, many customers have made it mandatory for all their employees to take the certification every year, which is updated to the latest integration each year.
Further, we are also doing a big data project right now to understand what are the priorities of our users and what are the things that they use the most and the least. This helps us understand what they use the most and how to make it more productive and whether the things they use the least are really necessary. This analysis helps us to make the user interface less cluttered while making it much easier to navigate.
How are you progressing towards your slogan, ‘Think Future, Think Innovation and Think that next is now’?
In our way forward towards our slogan, we make sure that we listen to our customers. We have a glimpse of the future by listening to the customer. We also scout for the best upcoming technologies. We work with prestigious institutions all over the world, including the professors in Pune. On the next generation of Artificial Intelligence, there’s a lot of research happening in India. We engage and work with them and develop technologies together. This is our way of being ahead of the curve.
As of now, SOLIDWORKS and 3DEXPERIENCE are the two 3D platforms from your company. In the future, are you also looking to create an entire ecosystem where you will combine digital front-end, software and a printer?
With our 3DEXPERIENCE platform, the mission is to put everything in close proximity—design, manufacturing and marketplace. Marketplace was not established to just print or buy something; it is also used to exchange services to make expertise available. It is a platform where start-ups and employers across the world can connect with qualified workforce, who have demonstrated an expertise in SolidWorks.
Losing jobs has been a major concern with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution. In your opinion, are people going to lose jobs with the advancements in automation and robotics?
We do not like the word ‘revolution’ because revolutions are not gentle. They leave people behind. The McKinsey Institute in North America recently conducted a study on whether automation would kill jobs. They started by classifying all the tasks in all the jobs in North America and then, they gave each task a score of automatibility to see what parts of the job could disappear. What they found is that automation is not killing jobs, rather it is killing tasks that waste a lot of time. Thus, automation will change the nature of the workforce and will allow people to learn and innovate more.
In terms of customers, are you seeing Q Sectors looking at SOLIDWORKS? How many customers do you currently cater to? Are there new sectors coming out and accepting this technology?
We have 3 million licenses sold in education and our global ecosystem is about 5 million, who use our assets globally everyday. In terms of new sectors, a lot of energy is going into wearables. Today, there are a lot of start-ups that are making clothes smarter. They can understand the oxygen level in the blood and in some cases, even prevent a heart attack. They can also improve your athletic performance. Electrification and connection of everything is also gradually converging between the mobile and cloud. There is no enterprise today that can control the usage of the mobile app. There is also a lot of convergence between electronic and mechanical design.
Further, our customers want the PCB to fit perfectly and want the circuit to be 3D printed with plastic materials. This is known as ‘plastictronics’ and it is needed because robots need to have sensors in the limbs and they need to have actuators so that intelligence can spread everywhere. Thus, they cannot have a big PCB. Hence, printable electronics is a huge trend.