Autodesk Revit Controversy Is A Warning To Industrial Software Makers

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Thousands of leading architects signed open letters to Autodesk
complaining about escalating software costs and lackluster development. This is a warning to all industrial software providers: Customers are fed up with being locked in and are demanding open platforms with rapid innovation.

Incumbent software providers in the manufacturing space such as Siemens PLM or Dassault have been following the same playbook as Autodesk. They lock customers into their services either by forcing their platform through as a standard or promising the customer an end-to-end solution. Both these moats are increasingly difficult to defend as online services now make translating between standards a breeze and the pace of software development shatters the claim of incumbents to be providing best-in-class along the entire value chain.

Customers are revolting because it is increasingly clear that incumbents cannot or do not keep up with demands but also because user needs have changed. Customers own clients, the environment, even politics are demanding much greater agility than ever before. It’s never been more important for designers and engineers to develop and deliver new products at lightning speed. A single software provider can no longer meet this need for rapid agility.

While incumbents cling to their old business models, new approaches to address these challenges are emerging. One approach is to unpick monolithic systems and start plugging together features provided by dozens, even hundreds of suppliers. These modular approaches are aided by the fact that solutions that previously required sophisticated interfaces and advanced operator knowledge are now available as headless algorithms (functional algorithms without user interfaces).

 This evolution towards modules is happening in dozens of areas that used to be features in major software deployments. The trend affects features along the entire value chain, including orientation, mesh healing, toolpath creation, support generation, even advanced areas such as in-process monitoring and simulation. At present, these modular challengers are slowly building strength on the sidelines. Areas such as additive manufacturing – with more data, less legacy and greater need for agility – are fertile learning ground. In these emerging sectors, the modular challengers are aided by platforms that help customers bring these disparate modules into a cohesive whole. Platforms can seamlessly integrate these modules into a common thread and provide the users with several key advantages:

  1. Guarantee best-in-class: Modules can easily be switched out for different ones due to standardized pricing and contracts, as well as reduced need for re-training operators.
  2. Reduce Cost through Flexibility: Modules can be switched on or off depending on the need, so customers only pay for what they use. The flexibility to switch as needed creates efficiency for the user without the contract and pricing complexity.
  3. Enable the Digital Thread: Creating a common language for modules to interact means that all changes are being captured. This enables automatic traceability reports and permits other algorithms to use connected data as well as user actions to enhance respective algorithms.

Currently, these platforms come in the shape of recognizable systems such as Manufacturing Execution Systems. This is likely a start – more abstracted modular systems that combine data not only from modules and devices, but also legacy solutions are expected. A modular system that breaks free from categories such as MES and stretches from idea creation to part assembly could redeem Industry 4.0 . Industry 4.0’s failure to capture revenue the same way it captured imaginations is not surprising. The value the existing solutions can provide is limited by the fact that they do not have access to contextual data. They don’t because legacy providers offering these solutions are locking out module providers that could help tie this data together. Instead the legacy providers can only provide poorly operating platforms or point solutions, which yield point data. Independent modular platforms address that challenge and can provide contextual data across the entire value chain. This enables them to offer value added services on top of this data, such as digital supply chain management, material development, and more. There is a much bigger prize available if Industry 4.0 tools were to open up.

With capabilities rapidly expanding and open revolts such as the Revit controversy providing momentum, modular challengers and their platform partners are gathering the courage to claim more of the increasingly fast-paced value chain. Macro engineering trends support them. Engineers world-wide are working towards the perpetual goal of reducing the time it takes to turn an idea into a product. This goal will not be accomplished by a single company or solutions provider. Instead, it will take dozens or hundreds of domain specific solutions working together seamlessly. Much like today’s nascent modular platforms, these broader idea-to-part workflows will be adopted unevenly as needs diverge, for instance in because of regulation. That will not save today’s incumbents. If they stand in the way of the (r)evolution, Autodesk, Siemens, Dassault and other industrial software providers aiming to cover the entire range of engineering solutions will first find their market dwindling and realize that the Revit Revolt was only the tip of the iceberg.

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