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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
Getting Smart About 3D Plant Design with 3D CADWorx
By Susan Smith
The number of AutoCAD users in plant process and marine has been legend in that industry. According to a report I wrote in October, 2009, On the Road to Revolutionizing 3D Plant Design 89% of plant and process users are AutoCAD users, which makes one wonder why it took so long for Autodesk to enter that market.
Meanwhile, companies such as COADE have known it all along and based their 3D CADWorx product on AutoCAD. So it was no surprise when Intergraph acquired COADE in January of this year, as Intergraph was lacking in its portfolio an entry point for users to take the next step into plant design software. The formerly COADE product line included CAESAR II, PV Elite and TANK products, for pipe stress, pressure vessel and storage tank analysis, as well as its popular CADWorx plant design suite.
As Intergraph acquired COADE, so did it acquire the CADWorx University User Conference which was held for the first time under the Intergraph moniker. The event drew 200 attendees.
Executive vice president, Business Development, Intergraph Process Power & Marine, Patrick Holcomb, said that some users had feared that Intergraph might shut down CADWorx and maybe force upgrade to SmartPlant 3D or something else. “It was shocking – whether we liked it or not, we had a question mark in the audience starting the event, by the end of it, that was no longer an issue,” said Holcomb.
Customers wanted to know how Intergraph would make CADWorx successful. Already, CADWorx is successful, the company reports, with September being the biggest month they have had. In addition, at the conference they unveiled publicly CADWorx 2011 beta, which will be probably ready to release sometime in the next month.
“There is an enormous market out there we want to address,” said Holcomb. Not surprising the undertaking of a 3D CAD system, yet it is a bit reminiscent of where Intergraph has come from – some readers might recall Intergraph partly owned MicroStation at one point and based a lot of their products on that CAD engine, including their old PDS plant design tool.
That “enormous market” of AutoCAD users who have not moved to a 3D plant design system have not done so because most 3D plant design systems are notorious for being difficult to learn. A recent Daratech survey of 2D vs. 3D software indicated that it takes 140 days for a user to become proficient in 3D software, a deterrent for companies who don’t have the time or manpower to devote to that education. The understanding seems to be that 3D systems are “too complex and heavy to manipulate.” In contrast, CADWorx users report being “up and running” within a few hours.
With the downturn in the economy, EPCs were looking at doing smaller projects which did not require a big 3D plant design system. Intergraph found out during due diligence that CADWorx was co-existing many places in their accounts. CADWorx typically is brought into a maintenance and modification group or smaller projects group.
At the conference, the audience really liked a prototype of the integration between SmartPlant 3D and CADWorx: a smaller shop can do skid work, in a big project you outsource a smaller skid to a smaller outfit. The audience learned how you could use CADWorx for doing the skid work and you could reference it inside SmartPlant 3D for the mega-project. They could then see how they could work with CADWorx in a smaller project and could also work with people who are doing the mega-project.
CADWorx is an easy way for someone who has been using AutoCAD to take the next step, and do 3D modeling on top of AutoCAD. It has been used for well over a decade by a loyal user group, and is low cost.
Will CADWorx customers want to move to SmartPlant at some point? Intergraph is take a “wait-and-see” attitude to determine if they get serious demand and volume around the possible upgrade path from CADWorx to SmartPlant. “Right now, for the most part, the CADWorx user groups are coming from small project groups, SmartPlant groups are from mega project groups,” said Vornel Walker, vice president, marketing CADWorx & Analysis Solutions.
Discussions also revolved around the possibility of rolling the CADWorx conference into the big Intergraph conference. “We talked about it with several clients there and they liked the idea of being exposed to the broader Intergraph conference, however the one comment from everybody was, don’t give up the educational intensity of the event,” said Holcomb. “I personally haven’t seen anything like CADWorx University, primarily taught by users who volunteer to be instructors, giving very real life pragmatic guidance and people in attendance love it.”
On the last session of third day there were 20 people sitting in class. CADWorx 2011 modeling was the favorite topic.
It’s not just project size that differentiates SmartPlant 3D and CADWorx users. “It’s more a function of unique global workshare, how many concurrent users do you need, what is the timing urgency, size and scalability, do you have something semi-repetitive that could benefit from some automation technology from SmartPlant 3D,” said Walker. “It tends to be other people’s abilities that differentiate it, not just project size. Directionally, CADWorx tends to be smaller and SmartPlant seems to be larger. There is a very clear bias that way, but you can’t let the project price tag decide.”
In a separate interview with CEO Hexagon AB (soon to be owner of Intergraph), Ole Rollén, said that “Plant is probably our single largest application within the Hexagon group.”
More About Intergraph
Intergraph has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by Hexagon AB, (Sweden) a global measurement technology company, and the transaction is valued at approximately $2.125 billion.
According to the press release, “Upon closing of the transaction, Intergraph will operate as a separate Hexagon division under the Intergraph name and branding. Intergraph will become Hexagon’s core software platform and will continue to provide differentiated and vertically-focused software solutions to its core industries. Intergraph software will also be integrated into Hexagon’s existing measurement and precision technology system markets to provide a visual presentation layer for the management, analysis and sharing of the vast amounts of critical data produced by these products.”
Former president and CEO Halsey Wise has been with Intergraph for seven years. When asked what he felt he had brought to the company, he said: “Most memorable to me is that we gave the company a revitalized sense of strategic intent and strategic importance. In order to do that, as a company we were able to make change our ally, we challenged the way we did business in 2003. I don’t think that was the best way for Intergraph to be set up and focused. We set up Intergraph to be extremely focused on our end markets and customers and then we operated behind that with what we called three phase transformation and growth plan called ‘Now, Next and After Next.’ That three phase plan was really the road map for the full transformation that we’ve made at Intergraph and the sum of it all is we’re more relevant than we’ve ever been before, by any measure you might use, number of customers, revenue growth, R&D spend, customer satisfaction, profits, etc.”
As far as “Now, Next and After Next,” Wise said that Intergraph is in the “early innings” of ‘After Next’ now, with a focused plan that is in keeping with Hexagon goals.