This year I was finally able to attend Solid Edge University. I have been quite happy with many of the features in Solid Edge since ST4, but have not had the opportunity to sit down and talk with their team members for more than a year. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but nevertheless I was excited about going and wasn’t going to miss it. My 15th (…ish) wedding anniversary was to be spent with the Siemens FEMAP team, but it was a worthy cause. (If I were completely honest, my darling wife was gallivanting around Ireland at the time, and don’t think she knew I was gone).
My cab ride to the hotel was a bit rough, as the driver took us on the scenic tour because of an accident on the main route. I have to say, given the opportunity, JUST SAY NO. There was an s-curve that was tighter and as deep as the corkscrew at Laguna Seca, and the whole ride was bumpy as hell. I did arrive safe though.
I checked into the overflow hotel at the Embassy Suites River Walk and was greeted with a cheerful, ready staff and a wonderful suite overlooking the river and downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. We were actually staying in Covington Kentucky, on the opposite side of the river. The main hotel was the Ramada, with an over-walk directly into the convention center. I am quite glad I had the opportunity to stay in the Embassy Suites as there were free drinks and food every day, as well as a complimentary made to order breakfast that went until 10:30 hours, just in case you missed the early breakfast at the convention, which I may have on one occasion.
Once I was checked in, I grabbed my camera for some sight seeing, and then ambled over to the convention center. Everyone was getting things in order, putting up displays, and so on. Check in was scheduled at 16:00 hours, which turned out to be amid construction. I didn’t mind since it gave me time to chat with vendors without a mass of people about.
The event was not extremely large. In attendance were on the order of about:
- 500 users in 68 Sessions
- 2X the content of last year’s event
- 18+/- vendors and partners
- 100 Siemens experts on hand – blue shirts everywhere
Siemens staff members were quite approachable, and willing to help with just about anything from technical issues to ‘”where in the heck is the press room?” (the answer to which was “well hidden”). I was actually able to sit down with, or stand up holding a beer with directors, marketing team members, and developers and have fairly open conversations about various strategies and approaches to their software and users. On numerous occasions management would be called away at times, (or stolen away by other analysts – I know who you are), but in every case they’d find me later, and continue the conversation, without prompting.
I had great discussions, picking on Karsten Newbury, Sr. VP of Mainstream Engineering and John Fox, VP of Marketing. Both were not only willing to let me challenge them on various issues about the Solid Edge product, but asked a great deal of questions about what I thought about the company initiatives and strategies.
I was in a FEMAP session, Tips and Tricks I believe with Andy Haines, Senior Application Engineer, Siemens PLM Software. Half way through the session he was trying to indicate that some user interface items had been moved and wanted to ensure that everyone noticed the shift. After he moved on, this fellow from the audience raises his hand and loudly asks Andy to go back a slide; Andy didn’t miss a beat and backed up. The guy engages Andy with something like “if you’re gonna make that change, then why not just add another button and save us all a huge hassle?”.
The Andy looks for a moment, and puts his head on the table. Long pause. Then I hear this laughter over the speakers, and find him, having a good laugh, still beating his head on the table. He sits up suddenly, looks at this guy (I’m thinking he’s gonna pop, right?), and proclaims, “Why in the hell didn’t I think of that?!! You want another button, we’re adding a button”.
Siemens is serious about its customers and getting them what they want.
Presentations, Keynotes, and Introductions
The company stated its vision in a statement that really reflects the model that I saw resonating with its customers:
Great CAD that fits YOUR business
Recent success and plans for Solid Edge software was represented by a diverse array of speakers. I’ve selected a few highpoints from their presentations.
Karsten Newbury – Sr. Vice-President of Siemens Mainstream Engineering
Karsten introduced the event and discussed the customers, market strategy, and things to come.
- In-Context learning – Real-time online community connectivity with easy publishing video to YouTube. More at www.siemens.com/plm/community/solidedge/
- Design awards – Dormak IF Product Design Award 2013
- Upcoming monthly rental capability with affordable pricing
- Customer satisfaction and success stories
- New world class rendering with KeyShot
- New partnership with GrabCAD
- Solid Edge will remain DESKTOP Software
Chuck Grindstaff – President and CEO of Siemens PLM Software
Chuck discussed Solid Edge’s business progress, strategy, and initiatives.
- 25% Year on Year growth in 2nd quarter licensed business
- 50% growth in simulation business globally
- New developments in developer tools, API, and partners
- Market leadership in Sheet Metal, Large Assemblies, and drawing production
- SolidWorks assembly migration – components retain design features such as materials, hole specifications, constraints, and configurations
Bernard Amadei – Engineering Without Borders USA
Bernard delivered a compelling discussion about how engineering should should benefit the developing cultures of the world. 0.8 billion people lack clean water. I’d go so far as to say that number was conservative.
Adam Stelzner – Lead Landing Engineer of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover Project
The best, no joke BEST presentation was given by Adam Stelzner. Not only did he spend a good deal of time discussing the Curiosity Mars Lander program and the design that went into it, but had everyone quite anxious at the end while they were reliving the landing sequence, where as it was told, (paraphrased) “It takes 14 minutes for the signal from Mars to reach the Earth. It will take the lander 7 minutes from the time it enters the atmosphere until the time it is on the ground. When we get the signal back that the vehicle is about to enter the atmosphere of Mars, touchdown (or something a bit more catastrophic) would have already happened 7 minutes earlier”. An expertly handled presentation about very amazing engineering.
- FEMAP and Solid Edge were used to develop power system for Mars Rover RTG
Dan Staples – Director of Solid Edge Products
Dan spent a good deal of time introducing Solid Edge ST6, which has yet to hit the shelves, detailing various improvements along with some live demo. The conference was about Solid Edge and it’s customer benefit, and 43 slides later, Dan was hell bent on you knowing all about it. A lot of information in a short time span.
- Core Values – Accelerated Design, faster revisions, and better reuse
- 1300 customer requests represented in ST6
- ST6 improvements (more on that later)
- Solid Edge Sharepoint visual design management
Wes Shimanek – Technical Computing at Intel Corporation
Wes spent time with the history of computing technology in engineering, and gave some insightful recommendations about how to leverage your hardware investment money for better results. He did a great job taking a dry subject and making it entertaining.
Vendors and Partners
I spoke with many of the vendors at the convention. Some discussions were at length so I’ll detail those in articles to come, as many of the products deserve more room than we have here. A few that will definitely be discussed further that have great or innovative products are CMC CADMAC, Luxion, GrabCAD, Cadenas Part Solutions, and Geometric.
More than 68 sessions were evenly spread across the spectrum of user needs over a period of 2 days. I popped in and out of a few between interviews, and learned some great tips for Solid Edge and how people were using the software. (I know someone said 30, but I count more than 68).
Some classes I attended were outstanding and some only were on-par, however none of them were substandard. Some speakers that I was really happy to chat with were; Rick Mason of Masco, Dave Ault of Fieldweld, Marc Bissell of Geometrics, Steve Webb of Solid Edge Field Support Team, and of course Mark Burhop of Siemens Velocity Systems.
The topic breakdown included: (Those in bold indicated at least one company usability or roundtable interaction)
- CAE / Engineering Tools – 2
- Part / Synchronous Modelling – 12
- Assemblies Design – 12
- Sheet Metal – 4
- Drawing / Drafting – 4
- Management – 8
- New Features – 1
- Manufacturing – 2
- Simulation and FEA – 5
- Surfacing – 1
- Implementation – 1
- Visualization and Rendering – 5
- Product / Sustainable Design – 3
- General / Education / Administration – 8
The price for the conference was $550 USD, and keep in mind that the hotel reservations were and additional $150 USD per day that need to be factored in. The food was fantastic, the Siemens staff were wonderful, accommodations were superb, and the classes covered a wide array of topics. $1000 USD investment for that kind of hands on, all you can get, up front and personal information is really a fantastic deal. Not only that, a location to sit down with people that are interested in hearing what you want in their software, that’s hard to beat.
I had a fantastic time with my friends from around the world. Journalists, analysts, and incredible engineers that keep me on my toes and are quick to make me laugh. (Sadly a few are missing from this picture).
The Solid Edge user base is somewhat of a close knit bunch, and don’t take too kindly to any monkey business about their CAD tools or community. Bring a beer and a story, and you’ll fit in. Mention something like ‘cloud-CAD’ and see if you don’t get a black eye. I didn’t meet a single person that had anything bad to say about the company or their initiatives (I’m sure there are some, but I never met them).
There was one resounding thing that stood out from all others regarding Siemens and the event. It is that Siemens genuinely desires to give their customers exactly what it is they need, and they are tuned in to what those people are saying. Moreover, Siemens’ users are very happy with Solid Edge and feel that Siemens PLM cares about what THEY need. It made for a great conference, and I can’t wait for next year.