When Solidworks was first released in 1995 it changed forever the way design and manufacturing companies approach CAD software. Compared to the contemporary 3D modeling systems, Solidworks had a significantly lower price and was much easier to learn and use, with almost no compromise on features. This was a clear call for a new generation of PDM systems. As designers were rapidly switching to Solidworks they started asking for new software tools to manage all their design documents and models powerful enough to handle the dynamic and flexible processes typical of small and medium companies. One company stood ready to answer this demand for a new generation document management system. That company was MechWorks. Today MechWorks software is used by thousand of designers and remains faithful to its original mission of delivering an affordable solution without compromising on the functional level. The people who envisioned this new generation of PDMs and who were able to deliver it to all Solidworks and now Inventor users are Ciro Ettorre and Gaetano Tavano. Here is my interview with Gaetano Tavano.
Gaetano, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company?
MechWorks was incorporated in 1998 to develop add-ins for SolidWorks with the scope of porting our legacy CAD/CAM product. We soon realized the total lack of document management and decided, based on our previous experience, that a database based Document Manager was needed.
more than 12000 designers are benefiting from DBWorks/DBInventor
We started the development of DBWorks together with the porting of our 3 axis cam software. 2 years later we made the decision to focus entirely on Document Management and sold our CAM product business. Today more than 12000 designers are benefiting from DBWorks/DBInventor Data Management.
Document Management, more than any other software category, has to compromise between simplicity and features. How do you handle this intrinsic dilemma at MechWorks?
In the past we have seen the slogan “Out of the Box” used extensively by some PDM vendors. It was needed to comfort the customer that the software could be used right after installation. This was misleading.
[the concept of] “Out of the Box” PDM was misleading
By nature the PDM implementation needs to understand deeply the company’s processes and therefore need to be tailored to the company’s needs. What must be really understood is that the PDM system must offer a blend of basic functionality with a comprehensive API toolbox to make this happen in terms of weeks and not months or years. In DBWorks we try to accomplish this by offering a very rich set of options giving the user the possibility to add /remove specific functionality.
Many PDMs solutions are forcing companies into rigid processes leaving little space for flexibility. How important is flexibility for your customers and how can it be implemented with DbWorks and DbInventor?
Our European customers see flexibility more important than our US customers. In order to accomplish this DBWorks and DBInventor API’s have the possibility to override certain restrictions and make the “special case” part of the implementation.
You have been working with SolidWorks for many years. In the mean time SolidWorks and parametric feature-based technology have become almost mainstream. How has the way people use SolidWorks changed through the years?
The most fundamental change we have seen through out the years is the fact that the companies would like to model their entire product in 3D. At the beginning just portions of the product was modeled in 3D due to performance issues and software limitations.
today the software limitations are falling but we still see performance issues
Today the software limitations are falling but we still see performance issues that limit the size of complete machinery that can be managed with today’s hardware. Of course more complex the machinery modeled more challenge for the PDM system. At the very end it looks like performance is never enough.
How critical is a product like DbWorks for companies making a decision to adopt SolidWorks as their main CAD system?
The choice of the PDM system that will rule the CAD implementation and product development is becoming a very important factor for all companies. While in the past the CAD system was chosen first, and afterward the PDM, it has become clear now that you must think about the PDM from the beginning.
many PDM implementations are taking place in companies that have worked with the CAD system for years up to the point where product development was not manageable anymore
As a result of this many PDM implementations are taking place in companies that have worked with the CAD system for years up to the point where product development was not manageable anymore. On the other hand starting with the PDM in first place may make the 3D CAD system usage slower at the beginning but with a long term advantage.
Your products offer an extensive API to support customization and integration. Can you share with us some of the most unexpected uses of API done by your customers?
The ability to define relationships between documents and projects, independent from the 3D CAD documents, has been used by our customers to model their product structures in DBWorks/DBInventor from various perspectives. An interesting application of this has been the definition of spare parts kits defined as a logical generic document container related to 3D cad documents. Also a customer managing URLs as documents was quite unusual but very effective.
How is the US market for Document Management different from that of Europe?
We see major differences between the two markets. Part is due to the fact that the US market is composed of bigger companies and that they are geographically present in more than one state so global collaboration is more a requirement.
workflow is much more adopted in the US than in Europe
The other difference is a higher level of a formal product process definition in the US. Workflow is much more adopted in the US than in Europe. Partially this does depend on the company size but also on mentality. I also think that the European users are more open to evaluate solutions and are less marketing driven than the US users.
I would like to thank Gaetano Tavano for taking the time to answer my questions. If you have any questions for Gaetano or for Novedge, please leave a comment below and we will be glad to answer.