SOLIDWORKS irons out its long-term strategy amidst evolving industry | Manufacturing Asia

SOLIDWORKS irons out its long-term strategy amidst evolving industry

CEO Manish Kumar says ‘the sky’s the limit’ as top-level involvement in product development directs the company’s strategic trajectory.

The next three years lay out a period of growth for the product design and development services market, with manufacturers pushing a higher demand for advanced tools and software. The forecast for this specific market sets the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 10.9% between 2022 and 2027.
Fueling this growth projection are brands such as SOLIDWORKS, a unit of Dassault Systèmes that specialises in computer-aided design and drafting (CAD) software.
Speaking to Manufacturing Asia, SOLIDWORKS Chief Executive Officer Manish Kumar shared how they embark on integrating artificial intelligence (AI) without disrupting creative rights — a strategic choice in research and development (R&D) and in meeting customer needs in the long-term.

 Kumar also discusses the challenges in the short-term and how hands-on involvement of top executives ensures alignment in product development — mindful of security measures, must-have features, and future outlook.
Read on for the highlights of this exclusive sit-down with the SOLIDWORKS CEO.

As the CEO of SOLIDWORKS, how do you prioritise research and development efforts to stay ahead in the competitive CAD market?
SOLIDWORKS is part of Dassault Systèmes, and as part of that, we have a solid structure where we have teams and organisations whose job is to look into the industry trends. And that industry trend is fed into all the brands. SOLIDWORKS is one of the 13 brands of Dassault Systèmes, and we look at those trends and devise our strategy by looking at who our customers are, which market segments we serve, and what is most important to them. That defines our long-term strategy. Our short-term strategy is quite simple for the mainstream market. We look into what our users’ current needs are, what they are struggling with, and how we can serve them.
What are some key challenges SOLIDWORKS faces in integrating AI into its platform and engineering processes, and how do you address them?
AI is nothing new for us. Even before AI became a household name, because of ChatGPT, we delivered AI-driven functionalities in SOLIDWORKS – which users are using in their day-to-day. SOLIDWORKS already had a structure in place, we already know, and we already know how to develop these. Now with ChatGPT getting more attention than before, we continue to say this: “AI is not new to SOLIDWORKS.” We are just more confident with delivering our services this year. However, there are many things in the pipeline that you will see a lot of AI-driven capabilities coming to our users.

How does SOLIDWORKS ensure the security and integrity of sensitive design data in its collaboration and product data management software?
SOLIDWORKS has only two flavours: with the cloud and on the cloud. Both are the very same SOLIDWORKS that people have been using in the past 29 years. But with every new licence of SOLIDWORKS, we give a licence to the platform so that people can have the option to save data to the platform. This enables people to have an option to save data to the platform or they can continue to save data wherever they were saving before.
The reason why we are giving the two flavours is we are giving users an option to save data to the platform. And once the data is on the platform, then safety and security is our responsibility. If the data is on local premises, on your local hard drive hard disk or anywhere you want to keep it, the responsibility is in the user's hands. With all these clients' data on the platform, it needs to be extremely secure.
At SOLIDWORKS, we have a team of security experts who ensure that there are no loopholes in our firewall. We are part of a consortium called MITRE. Any vulnerability that is exposed, this organisation flags its partner members, making everyone aware of the threats. The moment the vulnerabilities are exposed, we immediately fix those in real-time – preventing any kind of attack.
As both the CEO and VP of R&D, how do you balance the strategic leadership responsibilities with hands-on involvement in product development?
This is the DNA of Dassault Systèmes, actually. If you look at Executive Chairman Bernard Charles, is a mechanical engineer and also the CEO of Dassault Systèmes.
Before me, Gian Paolo Bassi, senior vice president of 3DEXPERIENCE Works, was the CEO of SOLIDWORKS. And even before he became the CEO, he was the vice president (VP) of research and development (R&D). It’s an ongoing tradition or culture. It’s not unusual for me to lead both these departments being the CEO as well as VP of R&D. It’s the merging of the responsibilities, where I can define the direction in which we should go. Even the execution of it all is part of my responsibility. Yet, I still consult with my team on what direction to take at times.

Is SOLIDWORKS seeking to collaborate with any specific industries that have untapped potential?
I would say all industries are evolving in mechatronics development. And to me, the announcement that you saw whether it was related to the Cadence [Design Systems] partnership or whether we tried to launch our new Mechatronics app for out-of-box components, is to ensure that we fill that gap. Because any device that you see today, almost all of them have some level of mechatronics in there – whether it be industrial equipment, organic, health or medical devices, etcetera.
Simply put, Mechatronics is a field in which we need to focus a lot and give our users a magical solution to make it more democratised — where everyone and anyone without past experiences should be able to deliver what they want without trying to learn new tools or new techniques.

How does SOLIDWORKS differentiate itself from competitors in terms of both product offerings and customer experience?
It’s in a big way. And the way we differentiate ourselves is because we are part of a platform now. Imagine you have a lot of different islands, and you need to connect all those islands, there are two ways you can connect all of them. One is you can build bridges between all of them from each island to every other island. And that will be very messy. The second approach is where you build a bridge to a central island. So, from each island, you build just one bridge to a central island and everyone will be able to go from anywhere to anywhere.

To me, the central island is the 3DEXPERIENCE platform where today’s SOLIDWORKS users can put their data on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. They start to almost instantly get access to any of the capabilities that are exposed by the platform: Right from collaboration and all the way to the high-end manufacturing or simulation or governance needs. No one else is doing that. We were the first one.

We’ve invested a lot in the platform. Why? Because we provide the same scalability. No one else can claim that. Our competition would even laugh at us. When Dassault Systèmes created the term “Product Lifecycle Management”, the competition was laughing at us – saying “these guys are crazy”. And when we created the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, everyone was laughing at us.

Now, everyone is saying they are going to create a platform. I would say competition is not thinking ahead. They're trying to follow the path of SOLIDWORKS, follow the path of Dassault Systèmes. But rather than laughing at us, and embracing our vision, they might be able to deliver solutions faster. We are already far ahead in terms of the platform and we are able to deliver AI-driven capabilities that competition will not be able to even think about right now. They’re just trying to think of connecting different processes together.

In a sentence, how do you envision SOLIDWORKS moving forward?
The sky’s the limit.

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