Which automotive companies use dassults CATIA

The CAD system change at Daimler also surprises industry experts

In future, the automotive manufacturer Daimler, Stuttgart, will use the NX CAD software from Siemens instead of the Catia system from Dassault Systèmes that has been in use for many years. From summer 2012 over 20 development centers around the world as well as the cooperation with the most important supplier companies are to be converted.

The decision from Stuttgart collapses a constellation that was probably not only considered unshakable in Paris. The analysts are also astonished. For several years, the world, especially in the automotive and aviation industries, was seen as a market largely divided between Siemens and Dassault Dassault Systèmes. The costs of a system changeover are too high, and the difficulties in converting the processes adapted to the respective engineering system are too high. This assessment is now fundamentally called into question.

"With the combination of the CAD software NX and our product data management system Smaragd based on the PLM software Teamcenter, we will map our complete product development processes from design to equipment construction and NC production," said Prof. Bharat Balasubramanian, responsible at Daimler for research and pre-development, product innovations and process technology.

As reported by Daimler, the complete switch should be completed by 2015. Compared to earlier version or system changes, today one has the advantage of a consistently modular product range. Therefore, the changeover can be implemented much faster and more safely. An undisclosed competitor already has experience with the same change. The switch there is going faster than planned.

The change in strategy was preceded by intensive investigations into possible alternatives after Dassault Systèmes had announced a new system generation with V6, which also required the installation of the Enovia PDM system.

The systems from Siemens and Dassault were put through their paces in their coupling and each as a complete solution, using practical examples from the entire process chain, from the shell to the drive train to the equipment design. There were six performance criteria, the fulfillment of which was assessed in each case: the support of the specific business processes, the integration with the PDM system, the future viability of the concept and the technology, the quality and the costs. In this assessment, Siemens clearly offered the better solution.

Dassault was surprised by the decision of one of the most important reference customers. Daimler did not even test the new version V6, it said in a press release. And with the announcement of a five-year extension of the Catia contracts, the impression is given that Daimler is keeping all doors open.

However, it is no coincidence that Daimler has campaigned particularly intensively for the standardization of the CAD-neutral data format JT, which is soon to receive the ISO stamp. And it is well known that Daimler has been storing all Catia models as JT models for some time now. This would make it possible to continue using the data even if Catia were switched off completely. For further processes, the automobile manufacturer has already switched to the use of JT models in numerous areas.

The goal is clear: The dependency of the processes on the IT tools used should be reduced to an unavoidable minimum. As far as the costs are concerned, the contracting parties do not disclose any details to the public. But it can be assumed that large corporations can come to an understanding here for the benefit of both parties.

If such a system change is possible and considered realistic and sensible by the executive board in Stuttgart, it could usher in the end of an era. It cannot be ruled out that others will follow. Daimler's suppliers are already prepared for this because, according to information from Stuttgart, they have been informed in good time. But it could also have implications for other vehicle manufacturers and industries.

The many comments and discussions in the CAD forums - even independent Catia forums - show how important the users consider this major IT strategy change of the last ten years. The conclusions drawn by the management level will be more important. Daimler can be sure of a great deal of attention when it comes to implementing its latest decision. U. SENDLER / KIP

A contribution by:

  • Dietmar Kippels

  • Ulrich Sendler