Despite the pandemic, most product developers stayed busy as ever getting products out the door in 2021. So, you could easily have missed what’s new and trending in the industry—whether it’s at the company across the street or an enterprise on another continent.
That’s why we asked Brian Thompson, Divisional General Manager, CAD Segment, at PTC, for some insights.
Throughout the year, Thompson works with hundreds of manufacturers, large and small, across a swath of industries and geographies to understand their product development needs. Here’s what he told us:
I would never want to diminish the impact that the second year of COVID has had on human beings and on businesses, but I do have to tell you that the CAD segment at PTC had an exceptional year.
Our larger customers showed us they remain committed to investing both in new products and in new product development strategies. At some point, we hope, COVID will recede, and those companies want to be prepared for that.
Customers in the small to medium-sized business (SMB) space had less of a financial cushion and were more conservative in their spending. We still had a healthy 2021 in that part of the market, but spending was not at pre-pandemic levels. That said, we’ve seen a resurgence and expect improvement in 2022.
Digital transformation. I realize “digital transformation” has become somewhat of a cliché, but the fact is that our customers have digital transformation initiatives across the board and transformation is happening. Nobody’s sitting around having more coffee and discussing it – customers are putting energy and money behind these initiatives. What does this look like? What are our customers doing?
If I were to give an operational definition of digital transformation at the discrete manufacturers we serve, I’d say these manufacturers have seen the power and value of doing more digitally in design and in product development. COVID brought that message home quickly.
I’d also say that our customers want to be far more model-based in everything they do, not only in product design and product development. To see this, recall what model-based definition (MBD) is: it’s an approach to creating 3D CAD models so that these models effectively contain all the data needed to define a product.
That has two big implications.
How is that specifically impacting market requirements? Customers are looking for technologies that help them get as far as they can in the digital environment before they commit to money, time, and togetherness in the lab developing prototypes. It’s not just about COVID, it’s about cost. Our partner, Ansys, the world leader in simulation, did research showing that upwards of 70% of product cost was already baked into the product by the time development reached the prototype stage. 70%! By the time you reach that number, any changes you’re making will have only a small impact on cost.
To do that, we’re seeing manufacturers looking to simulation and generative design, and I don’t think it’s any secret why they’d do that. With simulation, designers can experiment in real time, change their minds, change materials and approaches – all without spending anything on materials or lab time until they need to.
Generative design takes this a step further. We’ve seen customers like Jacobs Engineering and Volvo Trucks use this with great success. The computing power is in the cloud so engineers set the problem, the system creates and ranks alternatives, and engineers can use one of the solutions as-is or continue to evolve it on their own. You not only save time, but you also see alternatives you might never have considered in the time you have for the project.
Our customers see huge opportunity in digital transformation and are moving forward to grasp it. No question. They know that no matter what the size of their business, they can enjoy benefits. We’re seeing customers be successful by starting at home. What I mean by that is that they set aside the time to reassess their usage of Creo. This is a more nuanced analysis than it might seem.
First, we see successful customers start with the basics – what’s being used and what isn’t being used. Second, they ask themselves a more far-reaching question. Are their people using Creo according to the most modern recommended workflows and techniques and, if not, what can be done about this? Customers want their highly skilled engineers at the top of their games, both in the tool they use and how they use it.
It’s not unusual for a customer to come to us looking for a little help. I’m happy to tell you, we’ve seen a lot of success with Creo LEARN, a cloud-based training offering that provides unlimited access to live, virtual half-day classes. Some teams use Creo LEARN to upskill users quickly for new projects. Others want their teams to earn full Creo certifications, or they have advanced users who want to get into a virtual lab with an instructor and spend time on a topic.
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