From Fender guitars to Sony, SOLIDWORKS is at the centre of product development says Mike Cowley.
It was used by the drilling company to help the trapped Chilean miners escape; it has put Fender guitars at centre stage in the rock world; it helped create the first bicycle that made it to the North Pole and it is also helping companies in and around Stirling such as Falcon Foodservice Equipment keep ahead of the competition.
The common denominator behind all these success stories is SOLIDWORKS, the world leading “solid modelling computer-aided design and computer aided engineering software program.”
But that’s enough of the jargon. It is what it does for more than two million engineers and designers at more than 165,000 companies worldwide – and what it is doing for an ever increasing number in and around the east coast of Scotland – that’s the important bit.
And despite its rather ponderous sounding name, there is a very human story behind SOLIDWORKS as there is from the benefits it offers people who run companies which use the products today.
Founded in December 1993 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate Jon Hirschtik, the initial funding came from $1 million he won playing blackjack. He used the money to recruit a team of engineers with the goal of building affordable, easy to use 3D CAD Software to run on Windows desktop.
Releasing his first product in 1995, his company soon came to the attention of French-based Dassault Systèmes, best known for its own CAD software, which acquired it two years later for $310 million in stock. The rest, as they say, is almost history in that SOLIDWORKS has gone on to currently market world-beating versions of the software which all dovetail into each other to provide the answers for any product design problem.
It was then very much a gamble that paid off. But the products are certainly not a gamble, as witnessed by its blue-chip and obviously cautious customer list which includes Apple, Microsoft, Toshiba, Nokia and Sony.
Yet the real appeal of SOLIDWORKS is that what it does for the big boys, it can do for any type or size of company where product design is a key requirement.
Some 19 years ago, NT CADCAM became one of the company’s Elite global resellers and introduced SOLIDWORKS to the UK, where it now has 12 offices supporting SOLIDWORKS, a sure sign of how well received it has been by British firms.
Scotland with its history of engineering and design has not been slow on the uptake either.
The Stirling office of NT CADCAM’s client list includes such innovative companies as Castle Precision Engineering which is preparing the wheels for Bloodhound, 1000mph Supersonic Car and Clyde Space, whose satellites are currently orbiting the earth.
It has also become a must-have tool for regional innovative design companies such as Cramasie, which has won several awards for products ranging literally from the kitchen sink to ATM machines.
“SOLIDWORKS reinforces our lean, agile business model permitting us to tailor projects around customer requirements and budgets,” says Simon Salter, Director at Cramasie.
Similarly enthusiastic is Chris Gawith, director of leading design house XDK.
“This technology really has minimised the drawing overheads within engineering. If you are looking to either move from the old grey 2D world, or looking to introduce the first CAD system into your business, then SOLIDWORKS needs to be first on your list to see how modern CAD can change the way you work.”
In all cases, the customers see the benefits of a range of products which offer a bomb proof process where design and simulation talk to each other.
Yet the bottom line for all customers is the money they can save from making their businesses more efficient.
One recent client using the SOLIDWORKS Enterprise package had an ROI in its first year of close to £3 million, around 10% of turnover. This was made up of a savings ranging from increased documentation retrieval time through cutting back on time wastage, to reduced errors in manufacturing wrong parts.
Jon Reich, the Territory Sales Executive for NT CADCAM based in Stirling, has been working in telecommunications since the age of 17 – almost entirely in the SME sector – and knows full well the importance of ROI to these customers.
“We are not price led, we work hard with every prospect to find a fit and show a return on investment,” he insists. “When working with smaller companies, you tend to be dealing with an owner or a director. This makes the job of establishing their needs a little easier, nobody speaks about their business more passionately than their owner and this helps to understand exactly what the business needs.
“And whereas the businesses in themselves may be different, the reality is that when it comes to SOLIDWORKS, they have common needs.”
So what is the real appeal of SOLIDWORKS?
“In all cases, it is that it gives companies a competitive advantage,” says Jon. “It enables them to manage product and the pipeline it goes through more efficiently. That’s something that everyone who is in the business of designing and developing new products needs.
“They also want a quick return on any investment they make and this is even more important in today’s economic climate.
“We can help companies achieve this by allowing them to get their product to market quicker than the competition, at a lower cost, on time and with high quality designed into it from the start.
“Factor in just one less prototype into your development cycle and this can represent a huge saving in time and money alone. Measure twice and cut once as my gaffer Ian always says!”