The Business of CAD   >   Issue #940   >   May 22, 2017

From the Editor

I am in Japan next week for Graphisoft's Key Client Conference 2017 taking place in Kyoto. I hope to blog the event live on and tweet about it through @upfrontezine.

As a result, there will be no upFront.eZine next week, but it will return June 5 with coverage of KCC 2017. 

Measuring the Unmeasurable: Cambashi's Methods

by Ralph Grabowski with Peter Thorne
When we talk about seat numbers, market shares, and future market projections, loud arguments begin. Do seat numbers include educational ones? Are market shares for a region or the whole world? This quarter, this past year, or for all time? Who can believe projections, when they vary so widely?

A number of companies make their living from collecting, analyzing, and selling data useful to the CAD industry. Their reports are not cheap, but they help hardware and software manufacturers justify working in new markets. One of these analysis firms is Cambashi, now in its 33rd year. Earlier this month I spoke with director Peter Thorne about how his company determines numbers. First, here is Mr Thorne describing their methods; later, we have a Q&A.
- - -

If you are talking market figures, there are no reference sources to see how well our numbers compare. This is unlike, say, measuring the length of the official meter stored in Paris. Everything we do is an estimate, and so we developed methods that try to leave very little opinion about market numbers. By being consistent from year to year, clients can see the differences -- the trends -- even if there are errors in the methods.

Astronomers do the same thing all the time, inferring the positions of stars and planets. We start from multiple data sources, hundreds of them and possibly in the low thousands. We look for independent data sources. We have a model of the market with multiple components (see figure 1).

Figure 1. Multiple components of a market model integrating multiple sources (all images from Cambashi)

We can then triangulate:
  • By product (easy to do, as public companies publish their results) 
  • By country (helps find the gaps between public and private company numbers)
  • By vertical industries (more difficult here to find independent data sources, such as trade surveys).
It's like a giant game of Sudoku. Country-spend is 100%, but then the list of industries doesn't add up to 100%. So we balance. But then the input from providers and products doesn’t align, so we refine, constrain, and converge -- this is the core of our methods.

In each update cycle, we nudge the model according to the changes in the world, using new data points we find. In essence, we calibrate it. Then we can go to a very deep level in the market using affordable amounts of primary survey data.

Here is an example of how we look at the data, find outliers (numbers that don't seem correct), and then find an explanation for them. In figure 2, the blue bars show the number of engineers in each country. The yellow dots indicate the % of engineers of total employment. For instance, we see that France employs 10x more engineers than China, relative to population.

Figure 2. 
Absolute and relative numbers of engineers per country

In figure 3, the blue dots show the total amount spent per engineer per country on all engineering software, such as GIS, BIM, MCAD, CAE, and PLM. It's no surprise that developed countries spend more, less developed less.
Figure 3. Amount spent on software per engineer per country

With all the data summarized in these charts, we can investigate outliers. When we create the equivalent of figure 3 for the automotive sector, we see that China spends 4.5x more on automotive engineers than on other types of engineers. We would dig deeper into the data to find out why.

Here is another outlier: South Korea spends 2x as much per automotive engineer as Japan. When we dug into this, we found that South Korea has a very strict definition of an "engineer," and so some automotive engineering work is done by technicians. There is no international definition of jobs used by all countries and organizations that mean the exact same thing.

And so we continue to look for these kinds of anomalies. This goes beyond just making sure percentages add up to 100%. Things can change dramatically with little warning, such as both Ford and GM in 2013 announcing shutdowns of automotive manufacturing in Australia. This showed up as an outlier of greatly reduced PLM spending in Australia.

When data is vague, we look at similar markets. For example, an injection mold manufacturer in Italy works a lot like one in Japan. We get some of our better data during mergers and acquisitions, because that's when deep information to justify the transaction is revealed to shareholders -- such as revenues and license numbers.


Q: Who buys your data?
Vendors (mainly) and investors (less so) purchase reports from Cambashi. For instance, researching the simulation (CAE) market meant us researching 450 companies; this is a much larger market than most realize. But then investors can see the landscape more clearly by using the long list of names we provided.

Q: How do vendors use the data?
CAD vendors use the data for their business and market planning -- resource allocation among automotive, high tech, and so on -- and among countries; It's used to determine where new opportunities are.

Q: BRICS countries were at one time highly-touted, then they fell. Tell me what happened there.
The sustainability of their growth faltered. The economies of Brazil and Russia had spectacular currency differences from the US dollar in 2015, which destroyed the apparent value for an international company thinking of working there. 

India and China remain strong, although when it comes to Chinese figures we need seasoned people working through them; growth there is decent enough for now, because much of their economic activity is hidden from Western eyes. Venezuela is doing so poorly that we should probably be excluding them.

Q. So where then is the future growth?
Asia Pacific is at the top of many sectors, such as in consumer goods, high tech, government, and transportation. More specifically, CAD vendors can expect the most revenues out of China, but the most growth percentage-wise out of India, now that it has a business-friendly government. 

Our models indicate the propensity to spend in the future, while country economies give a multiplier on those spends.

And Now the Rest of the News...

EOS updates its EOSPRINT 2.0 additive manufacturing software with easier part optimization for metal systems. A future update of EOSPRINT 2.0 will add support for all current EOS metal systems and future polymer systems. 

This monster pictured below is the new GLOBAL S coordinate measuring machine from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. 
In other Hexagon news, the Swedish company acquires VIRES of Germany for its software that develops, tests, and validates autonomous driving technology. 

Installed size of DWG viewers:
ODA Teigha Viewer = 100MB
Autodesk TrueView = 2.2GB - yikes!

EDEM releases EDEM for Adams bulk material loads simulation software for Adams system dynamics analysis software. The scary part is that it "enables engineers to [not need] DEM (Discrete Element Method) knowledge or expertise in bulk material simulation." 

Software for low frequency electromagnetic & thermal simulation Flux is now part of Altair HyperWorks system. 

Stratasys is showing but not shipping arrays of 3D printers that continuously print and spew out 3D parts into the blue boxes illustrated below. If a one printer cell fails, job is routed automatically to next available cell. Statasys is targeting zero-inventory supply chains, but I could see IKEA having these in their stores' spare parts departments.

Letters to the Editor

Your mention of disgruntled employees sabotaging files and hardware brings back fond memories. Here's my personal vandalism story:

Many years ago, the company I worked for shut down the profitable “foreign” (Canadian) division and kept the money-losing “domestic” (American) division. As part of the shut-down, all the computers were shipped south.

When the ex-Canadian computers were next booted up, they all displayed the message “Stolen from Canada” but then went on to boot up normally and work perfectly. I later heard that their computer resource people worked on them for several weeks to the point of re-formatting the hard drives from the original IBM-supplied write-protected floppies. (This was in the days of DOS.) They couldn’t make the message go away, and so they finally ended up living with it.

What they never figured out was that I had hacked the new message into the file. I bypassed the write-protect switch on a floppy diskette, and copied my hacked version back onto the original apparently-unmodified installation floppies.​
    - Name withheld by request

The editor replies: Ah, the good old days when DOS was easy to play around with.
- - -

You were instrumental in getting me started in CAD, back when I was the sales and marketing manager for a small CAD software company named Drafix. I have always been grateful for your help with that, and the other information throughout my CAD career. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to continuing to read your emails.
    - Roger Roberts, president
    Mid-West CAD, USA

The editor replies: Thank you for your kind words. Drafix was the first CAD program to run on Windows, and a very fine program for its time. Later, it was bought up by Autodesk, never to be seen again.

Re: Solid Edge ST10

Just wanted to let you know that Frustum is the integrated topology optimization solution for Solid Edge.
    - Jesse Blankenship, ceo


Re: And just like that, Autodesk lost its battle against resold software in EU

Has this decision been reversed in 2017?
    - John Damaciosalazar (via WorldCAD Access)

The editor replies: Checking online, I see no change to the EU ruling since it was made in 2012.

Re: Erik de Keyser on the Future of BricsCAD

As R.K. has re-awoken this thread, I should note that Ms Bunszel's observation of DWG being the file format of choice for professional designers is entirely correct. It's good to see that she and Mr De Keyser agree fully on this point. 

As for building a strong network of 2,500 developers, I remember Autodesk in 1995 boasting of 3,500 developers. Rather than building on that strong base over the next 22 years, Autodesk somehow managed to lose a thousand developers! Seems pretty careless to me. 

Perhaps Ms Bunszel could ask Mr Quanci where they went, and then get back to us. 
    -Steve Johnson (via WorldCAD Access)

The editor replies: My understanding is that there are fewer third-party developers because Autodesk over the years incorporated functions into its software previously provided by third-parties. In other cases, such as with books about CAD, the market was eviscerated by free tutorial videos on YouTube, blogs, and piracy, and so many publishers and authors are no longer members of Autodesk's developer network. 

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Notable Quotable

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