Notes on the December 2005 Meeting

Mark opened the twentieth anniversary meeting with a brief summary of how AutoCAD has evolved over the years. Starting with version 1.0, which Mark had the pleasure of reviewing in order to select a competitive CAD system. Interestingly, although AutoCAD 1.0 was extremely primitive by todays standards, it made the grade back in 1982.
Now, it’s twenty-something years later and here we are with AutoCAD 2006 and it’s good to see that it’s grown up a lot in that time.
He welcomed Andre Pravaz, Vice President, Autodesk South Asia-Pacific, Manoj Pandit, Autodesk Applications Engineer (Mechanical) and Robert Sasadsky, Strategic Account Manager, Utilities.
Andre Pravaz
Andre led the talk by making the interesting obsevation that he is the longest serving MD that Autodesk Asia Pacific has ever had. He’s been in the post for seven years. It’s good to see that this position is no longer such a revolving door!
Andre gave us a rundown of Autodesk’s place in the global PC industry. It seems that Autodesk is up there with the top half dozen software companies in the world. Annual revenue is up to US$1.234 billion: an easy number to remember. Still, I don’t think they,ve any plans to stop there! He spoke of Carol Bartz, who has been President for 13 years now, also a sign of growing stability within the company. Although she went through a few health crises a few years ago, she’s now looking much better. Apparently her health is rising with the stock!
Autodesk’s strategy is to move away from a single product (AutoCAD) and towards a vertical, or specialist, product strategy, e.g. for architects or mechanical designers. Revit is now the fastest growing division, at 42% per annum. This is the stuff of gold rushes! However, AutoCAD is still the company’s mainstay, generating over half its revenue.
They have a tight schedule for the release of new versions of all their products. These days, it’s an annual cycle. A new AutoCAD is released every March. If any readers have been involved in software development, they will be aware that this is an onerous committment.
Subscription revenue comprises about 35% of total. This is the preferred form of income, since it is distributed throughout they year and not just at upgrade or new version release time. This allows for better income forecasting and financial planning.
About 10% of customers are using 3D, which means that the other 90% are still using 2D. Andre sees a huge benefit for those 2D diehards to move to 3D, and it is Autodesk’s challenge in the coming years to facilitate and encourage this.
Although there are a lot of new products both available now and coming soon, Autodesk are not about to forget AutoCAD: about 55% of the company’s revenue comes from it. Amazingly, 60-70% of worldwide sales are coming from new seats of AutoCAD. Seems that the market isn’t all that saturated after all.
Although piracy continues to be a problem, Andre is at least encouraged to see that AutoCAD is the pirated software of choice! Accurate numbers are hard to establish, but it would seem that pirated AutoCADs far outnumber any other CAD programs. It is estimated that there is about $400million of pirated AutoCADs in Australia alone.
Autodesk is a member of the BSAA (Business Software Association of Australia.) This organisation was formed to discourage the use of pirated software and educate users on the benefits of properly licenced software. The BSAA prefer the term “software theft” rather than piracy. Andre said that the main emphasis of the BSAA is education rather than law enforcement. When a comapany is discovered using pirated or stolen software, they tend to be given the chance to make amends by immediately purchasing the required licences. It was surprising to hear of some of the companies who got into hot water over this – they included some of the big multinationals familiar to all of us.
Andre gave us a few peeks into some of the new features of the upcoming AutoCAD 2007. This sounds like yet another significant leap forward, and probably would be a must-have upgrade. I’d tell you more, but I’d have to kill you! Understandably, Autodesk keeps a pretty tight lid on information concerning new releases so they can keep ahead of the competition.
Finally, Andre is keen to hear from user groups about ways in which Autodesk can assist. Comments and ideas to
Data Management with Autodesk
The second talk of the evening was given by Manoj Pandit, Autodesk Applications Engineer. His topic was Data Management with Autodesk Vault and Productstream and some new products coming up from Autodesk.
Manoj is passionate about Autodesk mechanical products and this shows in his presentation. In case you haven’t heard, Productstream is a new program for business processes.
Apparently, Autodesk users generate a trillion drawings per year. Shame on us (Autodesk) if those users aren’t using an Autodesk product to manage them.
Most users of Autodesk products use Windows Explorer to manage their document files. Most of the time spent managing a product is spent in gathering, analysing, massaging and presenting data rather than in a CNC machine actually cutting metal.
Productstream is a superset of Vault, a basic data management program which is supplied with all Autodesk mechanical products. Vault can manage any files (.dwg, .jpg, .doc, .xls etc.) concerning the project.
Vault is designed for mechanical projects but will also work with other programs such as Revit. However, it won’t take into account parent-child relationships in the data (like xref’s). We expect that this will be addressed in a future release.
Vault is in two parts Vault Server and Vault Client. Vault Server is set up to maintain the project database. It contains a subset of Microsoft’s SQL Server, limited to a smaller number of users. You can upgrade this for more users by paying a fee to Microsoft if you wish. Although you can set it up on your workstation, it’s best to set it up on a dedicated server.
Vault Explorer is, as you might guess, a way to “explore” your projects. It uses a simple graphical representation of the contents of your project. It looks a bit like a cross between MS Outlook and the Windows Explorer. You can map different locations for various files. The program knows how various parts make up the different assemblies in the project.
There is an embedded DWF viewer to quickly check the graphical representation of your parts. These DWF’s are generated automatically every time you change something.
Vault Explorer has a built-in data indexing system (think Google desktop) to find relevant information with a minimum of bother. Faster than Windows Explorer. An interesting observation is that you don’t have to be part of a large team to benefit from Vault: you can set it up as a single user to manage your projects.
Manoj started up Inventor R10 and showed us how it interacted with Vault. Some of the features are free with Vault, some you have to pay extra with Productstream. This is the essence of the marketing strategy: basic needs are covered by the Vault program which is included in the Autodesk mechanical product; more adavnced requirements are met by the extra cost Productstream product.
Productstream seems a bit strange at first, but is in fact a representation of the way that the typical purchasing department might work. It can be set up to follow part and purchasing numbering schemes. Also, it flows along a chronological time frame which relates to typical milestones such as a document being released to manufacturing.
Revision management is handled elegantly by following typical business processes such as ECO’s (Engineering Change Orders.) Processes for checkin / checkout are followed. If you are familiar with QA (quality assurance) systems you will feel right at home here. You can export to ERP and MRP systems like Great Plains by Microsoft.


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