Solid Edge Media and Academic Efforts Need Serious Revamp

You never quite know what to expect when you attend an event and sometimes the purpose of the event is only related to the thing that impresses you the most as you leave for better or worse. Sometime back I attended the Surfcam V6 rollout at the Barber Sports Museum. During one of the Truemill demonstrations the speaker asked how many there used Truemill. There were around 75 attendees and the vast majority were current users. THREE held their hands up and two were from the same company. I was absolutely floored at how such a powerful tool was studiously ignored by such a high percentage of users. Users who in many cases already owned the Truemill add on as a part of their CAM package but for whatever reason elected not to use something that could easily double their productivity and save on consumables to boot. It was almost like a certain level of capabilities and profit were sufficient and there was no desire to improve. The speaker was a bit shocked too and mentioned that they had failed to educate users and prove the benefits to them.

The first speaker at our user group meeting in Huntsville began speaking on Synchronous Tech and asked who all was using it there. Out of 21 actual users in attendance there I was the only one to hold my hand up. Now the really sad thing is that once we began the round table the use of ST was the primary topic of interest with Tips and Tricks a close second.

This leads me to what I wish to discuss and that is the failure of the promotional and Academic outreach side of Solid Edge. I don’t have a clue as to what in the world goes on in the minds of those who are in charge of this but for only one user out of a group of motivated users who chose to spend their own time to attend because they are interested in the software they use to be a user of ST is not acceptable. This is the premier element of Solid Edge and it is the true competitive advantage to both Siemens in gaining market share and SE users who become tremendously more productive by using it. HOW in the world is this not actively pushed by VARS and Siemens is beyond me. Where are the well trained individuals who will call on various customers and arrange to have demos at the place of use to show both management and users of the profound benefits. I do mean profound. I sat there thinking of how crippled user output was because no one had sat down with them and SHOWN them what ST truly means as a liberating tool for CAD creation.

Now one of the reasons for non adoption was ‘my professor teaches us only in Ordered”. I have to admit my jaw dropped on this one and I can’t imagine a teacher who would not teach the best capabilities of the software to his students nor could I believe that Siemens had not checked in to see what the teaching staff was teaching only three miles away from the headquarters. Look, whoever is reading this let me fill you in on something. These students were HUNGRY for ST when they actually saw it being used for the first time. How in the world has this been allowed to happen? As a part of grants or academic site licenses Siemens needs to police what is being done with their products. It appalled me that here were students who were selectively being taught and the best parts were never discussed.

Of course the litany of comments from users about how hard it is to get their companies to switch over and we never have time and all the stuff we as users are familiar with. These are valid reasons. Now why are they valid? Because management has not been sufficiently exposed to the power of Synchronous they labor on in the idea that we already know ordered and we don’t need the headache of change. Kind of like we are happy because we have X% of profit and productivity and as long as we don’t know those metrics could be much better we will stay with what we are comfortable with. I daresay that not one serious effort has been made to have management sit down with Siemens after Siemens does a case study for them to prove the power to improve design time by adopting a new way. From families of parts to imported parts to edits that always happen over the life of a part and Siemens evidently has nothing going on to compel change through proof of efficiency using customer parts to prove this by.

I love to sit down with and Inventor or SolidWorks users and editing their parts in my program faster than they can and I mean by many times faster. There is no more compelling thing than proof and I just can’t grasp how this most powerful and compelling thing is not blasted out by Siemens at every possible opportunity. For my money SE is just flat out the best mid range MCAD program in the world and I spent money out of my own pocket as proof of this.

I am a perfect example of how Siemens should be doing this. Back in 2008 I am shopping for good MCAD and the choices have been narrowed down to Solid Works and Solid Edge. I have attended two demo days with SW at this point in time in Nashville. I had attended nothing for SE because, well because there was nothing then to attend. However, I get a call one day from a guy with a company that used to be the VAR for the Huntsville area. He describes ST1 and called me down there to have a look. This is what I saw. My mind took one look at this principle of direct editing and I could see so many ways this was what I had been looking for without knowing what I was looking for. BUT IT TOOK SOMEONE WHO COMPELLED ME AND USED MY PART TO PROVE HIS POINT TO ME. No canned demo by some sales jock showing the same tired official Siemens polished presentations but a user who took my part and proved the principle of ST to me in a way I could not ignore.

Solid Edge is the best midrange MCAD program in the world. There are things that will be here for ST6 that will eliminate any other software as a contender for utilitarian value king.

You guys need to kick someone in the butt and get them on the ball where the dissemination of the value of Solid Edge is concerned or you can still produce the best MCAD program in the world but still be second or third place in market share. If it were me I would be less patient with mediocre efforts and the apparent corporate satisfaction with the status quo.

Dave Ault signing off shaking his head in disbelief over how this can be allowed to continue. Throw this stupid Loco Motors thing in the dustbin and get real.

13 responses to “Solid Edge Media and Academic Efforts Need Serious Revamp

  1. Dave-
    Having taught in the tech schools in the past (far past) and having relatives working (admin and teaching) in colleges I think I can say that it may not be the teachers fault. See the teachers have to submit their curriculum to a academic boards before they are approved- meaning their course can be assigned credits and are transferable to other schools. Any changes to these plans (like blueprints) have to be run throw the process again and get reapproved. It’s not a simple thing.

    You also have to look at this way too. The instructor has already invested time in designing and building the course. Why would they invest additional time after the initial publication to make updates or changes? It doesn’t gain them anything. Here we see the WIIFM factor showing its ugly head.

    But there is another point to be made here. As I recall, Siemens already has a curriculum designed for schools. I could be wrong here but I recall seeing links to materials when I was looking at getting SE in at a couple tech schools in the Minneapolis area.

    I think Siemens does have a big “outreach” program. But I will have to agree that there is probably not many resources assigned to this and especially to follow-up activities to ensure that the curriculum is actually being used for the course.

    Here’s an idea. Turn the schools into a mini-sales office. I remember back in early 90’s when I was attending a community college (RVC) in Rockford, IL. The school was actually setup to allow for the sales teams to bring potential clients into the facility to watch how a system could design, do the CAM programming, send down to the automation room and watch, from a second story window, how a robot was programmed to grab a block of blue plastic and insert and move around to a couple machining stations and produce a finished good at the end. It was awesome to watch. This was in the 90’s folks…why not rebuild these types of “programs” again inside the schools? Turn the schools into profit centers..not just knowledge centers!


  2. You know I did a quick search on Youtube for Solid Edge. I did find one presentation that should be a show stoppoer for all the SW people out there. This is a shower heard or an earbud (headphone). AMazing how the basic shape was created so quickly and with minimal features. Wow!

  3. Hi Ryan,
    I understand the curriculum stuff but after five versions in that excuse is a bit flimsy. I think the main culprit here is that Siemens does not set some conditions of use and follow up on what is done with their largesse. Utah State has no problems teaching this stuff and so neither should UAH.

    You have hit on a key thing here with the idea of showing people real life scenarios and not canned polished demos everyone has seen before.

  4. R. Paul Waddington

    Hi Dave,
    My day job is teaching and supporting CAD programs for customers; at night I teach in colleges. Autodesk products are my products of ‘choice’ 😉 and have been since the start of 1984.

    Ryan make some interesting points but can I say, as a person who teaches drawing (using CAD) in our TAFE system, there is a requirement we teach generically. That is to say we do not/should not teach a particular CAD system. Now this can become a complicated discussion but, consider the units/subjects/topics for each engineering discipline are written and selected by an industry body and these units must be followed very closely if the qualification sought is to be valid.

    This is complicated by the fact the tools we need to teach with are from a particular software company. So as an example, two people in two different colleges, with two different teachers, using (let say) Solidworks in one college and Inventor in another could be doing the exact same unit. It is the (two) teachers, and the colleges, responsibility to ensure both students have the same skills on completion of the unit.

    Put another way, we do not teach a CAD software product. Now this presents some challenges; so, for example I have always liked SE’s direct editing and could see its importance but the colleges I work in, in the main, and generally speaking, use AutoCAD for 2D and Inventor for 3D. I felt it was important for students to see the differing methods of modeling and as it is a requirement to teach as generically as possible I requested I be able to use, for 3D, both AutoCAD and Inventor. The reason was simple, with AutoCAD I can show one method of modeling which can include direct editing (which AutoCAD has been able to do for yonks) then move the students to use Inventor for the parametric side of things. For some assessments I allow the students to choose which CAD software they use.

    Now if a CAD vendor, or business, were to ‘insist’ I teach their software’s features, that would amount to a level of control outside the statutory requirements laid out for the colleges, and would probably see the software removed. However if they wanted to pay the colleges for the privilege to have their software taught specifically that can and is done through some exiting commercial arrangements. In the courses I have taught, in the colleges, of the commercial type, as the subject matter is chosen by the software vendor, it does not fit the overall requirements and therefore carries no credits to any engineering certificate or diploma.

    In the main I agree with this separation. That is to say, schools & colleges should remains as product neutral as is possible and commercial training – in specific products – remains the responsibly of (and is paid for by the) software vendors and their business customers.

    • OK Paul explain something to me. If a University is getting subsidized use of a CAD program why don’t they teach the best parts of it and how can not teaching the most powerful part of a program be an expected and desired result? I am struggling to understand the mindset you present from academia here. First off a site license for SE is $1,500.00 for a university I believe. Now as a part of this huge subsidy does not the provider have any say so over what is taught? Using SE for instance I can’t grasp how direct editing is not a part of the required skill set for an university course on SE. How can a course taught on Solid Edge be generic by the way as it is a course on Solid Edge? Now if it was course 101 on CAD theory THAT would be generic but to take a course teaching SE and specifically SE and not cover every aspect is an egregious failure of the University teaching staff and methods as far as I am concerned. I thought that the whole purpose of teaching was to provide the best tools for the job especially when it came to Engineering type things. I can understand a Liberal Arts major being taught mindless junk but not Engineers.

      I really hope things are different here compared to what you have had to deal with. I will be finding out for sure.

  5. R. Paul Waddington

    Hi Dave,
    Wisdom suggests the (contentious) arguments about education be left to another but as I live/work simultaneously on both sides of this fence I do believe it should be discussed.

    There is room for improvement and change here but at what cost?

    To directly answer your question; “Now as a part of this huge subsidy does not the provider have any say so over what is taught?” The answer, at my end, lays in the conditions under which the software has been supplied. In the main CAD software has been hawked to institutions cheaply for purely marketing purposes, Supplied cheaper to get exposure to get sales at a latter date from those passing out of the colledges.

    I am sure those same companies would like their software features taught. However, put simply, is it good for society/industry – as a whole – to have its instutions teaching a particlar CAD ideology?

    As I indicated one of the colledges I work in ran CAD units for their engineering courses and AutoCAD classes. In both of these AutoCAD was being used as the software. Now, as an example, in the CAD A unit within the engineering course the instructor was responsible for creating the course notes and content based on a documented curriculum defining what areas/functions of CAD should be covered at an introductory level. The curriculum, as written, is written in a deliberate manner to allow its application to which ever CAD program is installed. This allows differing colledges/schools to have different CAD software but ensures a consistiency in what is taught, and why, to students. It also means a teachers can have – and be sourced from – different backgrounds with different core/product CAD skills.

    When I am teaching CAD A (at a colledge with AutoCAD) my introduction outlines not just AutoCAD but talks about other software and when I am conducting the training I do actually often outline the difference to be found in other CAD software. Eg, I might teach the student how AutoAD executes the Mirror command but will also point out how Microstation has a similar function but does it differently. This I am required to do: to be as general as possible whilst using a single tool to teach general principles.

    However in the same colledge if I was teaching a commercial AutoCAD course. Firstly, the colledge has be approved by Autodesk as one of its training facilties. That entails the instructor being an Autodesk approved instructor, the course material is defined and supplied by Autodesk including the assessment material. This leave NO room for the instructor to teach or discuss variations of CAD as found in industry, but does allow Autodesk to define the features it want taught.

    It is worth noting these are not courses approved by our national training authority and as such do not count to an engineering qualifation. I am unaware of CAD vendors seeking to have their courses ratified and, I doubt they could, simply because they would be too specific and would have components only found in a particlar product and, cloud stuff 😉

    Should Autodesk (or any other CAD vendor) be able to define what a colledge, funded by the public, should teach? It’s a touchy subject and one I am right in the middle of. I believe different traing methods need to be available and, as I indicated before, if a CAD vendor wants his product taught all the cost should be bourne by the vendor not just by making the software cheaper to the colledge to buy. Lots of differing views here Dave and plenty of opportunity to do things better or differently; I am not one eyed about this, I just think it need to be done properly.

    Equally, I must say, I have NO working knowledge of how the colledge/school systems function in other countries from a qualification level and therefore I do not have any idea if the institutions you a refering to operate under the same or similar (generic) training rules I do.

    I must also say, what I have said is a general outline of what has become (sadly) a complicated system. As an example the unit I mentioned has been dropped in some colledges being replaced by more general units covering engineering drawing skills. This is too complicated to outline here but it has come about as a political change driven by industry itself. In brief this has meant a colledge teaching engineering has to construct a course programe from units defined by a body representing particular industry.

    On the surface that seems like a good idea; that would play into the areana of teaching the best availble products and functionality but the reverse has been the experience and its not hard to see why. What Autodesk wants taught is not what Dassault or Siemens wants taught. Equally our cutting edge toolrooms want advanced features taught at the expense of basic skills as needed by other teirs within manufactuing.

    The result is not un-expected nor was it not forseen and it is a mess!

    There are many lines of thought to follow hear and much argument but I do think there is a place for general instruction and specific instruction. In the main it can probably be argued general instruction is the function of schools/colledges and the specific instruction should be bourne/done by industry. Eg, I can teach in the colledge the general pricinpals of 2D & 3D CAD to any person wanting to know, on what ever software the colledge can get by spending the publics money. A company or vendor can then pay fully to train THEIR staff in the ‘advanced’ use of AutoCAD or Inventor or pay a fellow teacher – from the same colledge – to teach Solidworks.

    Dave I would quite enjoy teaching every body what I see as the best and, you and I (as commercial users of CAD products) would be on common ground in that respect and, I know other full time teachers (I’m a part timer) would have similar views. However I do see the other side and do believe industries push for control of our training system has not brought the benefits it should have; that is not the fault of the teachers.

    Industries creating and using CAD need to take a long hard look at themselves and become a lot smarter about what they really want from training institutions and get serious about understanding the difference between education and product training.

    • Hi Paul,

      You bring up some interesting ideas here and here is how I would handle it. CAD 101 would be introductory and cover basics common to every CAD system. Good sketching practices and constraints and basic 3D geometry assuming of course this is a 3D program being taught. However after that there would be a concentration on the specific type of 3D cad program selected by the student within the courses offered for different CAD programs. Universities can’t offer everything so one would have to select the one of choice that offers what you want as is true for anything. Teaching a generic watered down Politically correct favor nothing set of courses would be a road to mediocrity to me as it would preclude the student from graduating with a complete set of tools to gain employment by.

      I will be finding out more about how this is done here soon. Utah State has a wonderful course on Solid Edge and the teacher there is a staunch believer in Solid Edge and Direct editing and he makes sure the students leave with a full tool kit. His graduates all get jobs and THAT is what school is supposed to be about. Sadly here in the States many educators are tenured goofballs teaching nothing of redeeming value with the emphasis on politically correct junk and not just how will the student get work in their field of study. An appalling number of students never earn much with their field of study and end up doing something else. Stuff is broken in many ways in the education system in my opinion.

  6. R. Paul Waddington

    Yes Dave,
    You will get little opposing argument from me; however the devil is in the detail.
    There is most definitely a place for continued ‘generic’ training in both 2D and 3D and I consider I am pretty lucky my boss at the college gives me the opportunity – so long as I meet the curriculum requirements – to take the students closer to an understanding of real world CAD application than otherwise might occur.
    Equally I do believe I might be unique in allowing students to choose their weapon of choice for their final assessment project. I made the decision to do that and, sought permission to do it, when, as often happens I have students using differing CAD programs in their day jobs. I have to be very careful to ensure the rules of evidence are followed and it does increase my work load but, in the end, I believe it is better for the student and, probably their industry as well.
    Taking your point about choice and given what I have already been able to do in an environment where choice is not the norm; this is where industry- CAD vendors – could play a significant role.
    As a discussion point consider this over-simplified scenario. On the opening night of my 3D course, directly after introductions and an explanation of the software interface I launch the guys (and gals) into an explanation/exercises of the Booleans; subtract, join, intersection and I do this with both 2D regions and 3D objects. To me this is, in the main, much the same in all 3D CAD systems; the wording and interface selections being the difference.
    That functionality and knowledge is fairly readily transferred from one system to another and, along with similar functions, like you say, sketching etc. form the basis of the initial learning. The documentation for that level of training should be left to the instructor and follow the rules laid out in the curriculum.
    Having gained competency at that level, as the student moves further up the skill level, reaching a point where the choice of software may kick in, at this point, training documentation used could conceivably be product specific, developed and supplied by a CAD vendor.
    Provided, from my point of view, the material conforms to the national training organization requirements and standards – to ensure it is a valid national qualification – then I think that may be workable. Snag here tho’; this does mean the CAD vendor’s material must follow a certain format (no sales crap etc.), be submitted for approval and then MUST be made publicly available as are all other units of any recognized qualification. I do foresee CAD vendors having considerable difficulty conforming to that requirement 😉
    Done along those lines, to me, this goes some way to addressing the issues of what is education and how it may morph into product specific training whilst maintaining the integrity of a nationally recognized qualification – which MUST be achieved whether CAD vendors like it or not!
    As I have said I train commercially and within an educational system and see the conflicts and their causes. This is a very challenging area Dave and until now has been very poorly managed. You and I are not alone in our concerns but I do believe it is the CAD industry which has caused and remains, for the present, the problem.

    • Hi Paul, Yes the CAD companies are a part of the problem I know. ProE was shoehorned, according to what I have been told by an ex-Solid Edge user, into the Marshall Space Center close by me with cheap-o software prices and not utilitarian value. The ex-SE guy hates it. I know Universities and Trade schools are subject to the same chicanery. By and large though with CAD software in the USA there are deals for all major programs for academia so now the chicanery bit has been negated to a large degree. I can’t reflect much upon the situation where you are as I just don’t know your system and truthfully neither do I know how decisions are made here either. I will be delving into this though and I will let you know what I find out.

      I hope your students appreciate the competitive advantage you give them by being open to what the tools can do and teaching specific ones. I would sure hate to have my General Practitioner doctor train to do heart surgery on me after graduation because the University decided “well rounded” was better than specialization.

  7. Dave-
    I was viewing some SW presentations from SW 2013. There are a couple sessions that are available online that discuss how the colleges are using software in the educational environment.

    • Hi Ryan,
      I will have a look as time permits. I am being told that how SE deals with this will be changing as the whole PR structure ramps up for ST6. June will be exciting for SE users.

  8. I took the girls to Chicago for a couple days and visited the Museum of Science and Industry- a great museum! Inside they have a great section where you are running a business for a toy manufacturer. You start out in the front with some stations that describe the business process and then you move to the back area that has the actually automated machinery that make your toys. Amazing robotic assembly line with vibrating bowls, thermal welding and many pick-place multi-station assembly machines all the way down to the packaging.
    The interesting/ SE opportunity part would be the “design” area. It’s a bit archaic- they talk about drafting boards and use architectural motif (which has nothing to do with toy design.) It would be nice to have more functional design tool for the kids to play with and maybe to get rid of the 3D VIA exploded view station at the same time.

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