Further Thoughts On Autodesk Subscriptions Model

I think you all know I am dead set against the subscription only model. Recently things I am hearing and topics I am asked to give my opinions on are revealing to me what may well be thoughts and intent among VAR’s and Autodesk for the future. Remember with me here that if you paid full freight for Inventor Pro HSM in just under five years subscriptions would surpass your overall costs and then exceed them every year after. And you have to pay to play no matter what happens and how poorly the product is updated. I firmly believe that innovations will dwindle rapidly with any company that does not have to win with free market principles customer loyalty. Improvements will be just another cost added category software authors can choose to ignore since these new chattel model customers will have no choice but to pay irregardless. Permanent seats are the only way software authoring companies can be kept honest and when this is gone the future will be bleak for users trapped in this scenario.

I never gave thought to what you really can expect to get in the way of support with Autodesk VAR’s until recently when Hagerman refused to answer on the phone the first question I had to ask in five months. I find out that Autodesk has no set policies regarding the obligations of VAR’s to support users other than initial install and licensing problems. So of course users who pay the $1,500.00 yearly maintenance costs for Inventor Pro HSM or get stuck into subs never-never land at $3,700.00 per year perpetual costs have no support quantity or quality guaranteed with this. A rational answer to this would be to spell out exactly how many hours of support each customer would qualify for and I don’t mean just install and licensing I mean for the software itself. This has gone on for a long time and I doubt that Autodesk has never considered this and many other things regarding support. Autodesk has elected to set hardly any standards for VAR’s so there are hardly any there.

One of the touted advantages of the subs model given to me recently was that it would get rid of the VAR’s who are so lousy at support. It boggled my mind to hear this. It is like saying that the company who is responsible totally for this lack of VAR support standards will by charging a whole lot more to customers for less (sorry subs that cut you off from use ARE far less valauble to customers than permanent seats you can use forever) give you added value. Where do you start when you hear such nonsense except to shake your head in disbelief. I will certainly trust those who tell the Fox how to get into the Hen house to behave when they become the replacement Fox. Support apparently has not been a topic of importance to Autodesk via VAR standards and I highly doubt it will be a consideration when they are making more money from the new chattel model. What has and is being talked about is additional costs to subscribers.

Couched in flowery terms like “Now Vars will have to prove their value added worth” under this brave new world you have to wonder what is in the water being drunk. As you listen further though there is one common thread and it is laying the groundwork for buyers to expect to have to pay additional dollars to get actual support for the software itself beyond I guess install and licensing. The numbers I hear are $500.00 to $750.00 per year but the proponents have yet to spell out exactly what this covers. Just trust them I guess it will be good. Using this $500.00 yearly support cost number the permanent seat full-blown costs to break even with subs is now just four years and after that subs with questions answered will be at least 250% the cost of permanent seats each year and forever. The nebulous quality of the support since nothing is clearly spelled out leaves lots of wiggle room for VAR’s to do fee building with comments like that exceeds your support allotment or topics covered and here is your additional cost for that. And how can you argue against that since nothing is laid out in black and white for VAR obligations? I can see things like you want to use last years version being a cost extra for instance. Or next year maybe Win7 will be cost extra over Win10 even though Win7 professional is supported until 2020 by Microsoft. Think about the clever ways enterprising VAR’s can use support categories in an unregulated by Autodesk environment to run your costs up quickly. I imagine you will think of even more than I have.

I find it really hard sometimes to write positive things about the best milling CAM software out there in my experience which is HSM because of this subs only paradigm. I guess if I was a current CAMWorks customer I would consider HSM subs and hold my nose while buying into it. But I would also be looking constantly for a permanent seat far cheaper over time replacement for it since dollars I am forced to spend on expenses are after all my dollars that need to stay in my pocket as much as possible. As an aside here. Is it not sad how corporations are supposed to worry about incomes and outgo’s as being responsible stewards of their organizations but somehow we as business customers of theirs are not to operate by the same standards? That we are reactionary backwards looking technophobes because we do not want to embrace this new marketspeak babble from PR departments trying to put lipstick on this 250% cost increase pig from people who evidently have low regard for their customers financial well-being.

I still have hopes this subs model will fail and Autodesk will go back to subs and seats. I really like HSM and I hate to see the greed brought to the table by Autodesk happen.

Choose Your Inventor Pro HSM or HSMWorks VAR Carefully

This will be a brief post today but right to the point. I am sitting here fuming over a conversation I have had with a Hagerman rep 5-6-16. Call up for support on a simple parameter setting question on Lathe threading. After first being told I would get a call right back to let me know when someone would contact me or indeed the CAM support guy would be calling I wait. Some time goes by and I call again since time is money and I am waiting as I was instructed by the phone.

Now I had switched my maintenance from NexGen to Hagerman this year based on the idea of having a company nearby for support and because they also supposedly were into a user community in my immediate area. Sad to say some things are not as they seem. I have pretty well given up on the local user group as I never get any response on this nor any notification about meetings. Sales seminars yes and some online stuff but no dice on the local user groups. I can handle that but what happened today is worthy of being talked about.

I don’t pester people for a lot of answers and so the few times I do reach out for an answer I expect to get a worthwhile reply. Hagerman got a check from me last December and this is the very first time I have called for support. Simple question and it wont take much time to answer. Threading on a lathe I need to know if there is a setting for changing the initial feed depth on the reduced infeed parameters. Yes or no here it is or isn’t. Send in an email and wait or pay extra for immediate phone support is what I am told. $1,500.00 per year with Hagerman apparently does not cover ANY immediate personal support beyond helping with install and licensing. It certainly did not cover the only question I have ever asked them in five months. I have no idea how quickly they would respond to emails as I have never asked for email help before. I don’t intend to bother them again either since what I was met with is not the corporate attitude a small machine shop business owner generally will appreciate.

So this leads to some investigation and here are my findings and conclusions. NexGenCam which is where I started and would have stayed had I known this was Hagermans policy is the largest HSM reseller in the US. This is where I am heading and it is where do CAM customers rate in the world any particular VAR lives in. Hagerman is one of the largest Autodesk VAR’s out there. They sell a ton of Autodesk products and I would imagine that HSM of all flavors represents such a tiny percentage of their gross that if HSM was to die tomorrow they would never even notice. And the Big Company attitude that goes with it. Does that make Hagerman a bad VAR in general? No but it does mean if you are a machine shop owner and your primary source of income is direct manufacturing with machine tools you better look elsewhere. They do not have an appreciation for the urgency a shop owner has when a machine or machines are sitting idle. It is not their business model and today I don’t condemn them for this but I do understand it.

So what is the prudent alternative for a shop owner? Find a VAR who derives a significant portion of their income from the sales for the product you use. My advice for people considering HSM is to do this. Now understand if you want CAD and CAM support this might not be wise. In my case though I still use Solid Edge for my modeling and only use Inventor to bring in parts and do simple edits just so I can get to the HSM gold. The same holds true for all the SW users to I bet and we are all here simply because HSM is so good.

I mention NexGenCam but there is another HSM VAR I have been told about. Since it has become clear to me having a VAR with a physical presence nearby may not bring any benefit at all I no longer count this as a key ingredient for selection especially if there is no active local user network. Which as far as I can tell seems to be the case with Hagerman and Nashville, Tn. So across the country with webexes works and today my prime criteria is becoming what does the VAR have in common with me. http://www.selwaytool.com/applications is who I am looking at for support in the future and they have come highly recommended to me from someone I trust. As far as I can see Selway will be my next and final HSM VAR. Here we have a lot in common as they are an actual Haas and others machine tool sales outfit. They sell and support CAM and not only do they do so they do so with a machinist and machine selling viewpoint. They understand chip making and what cuts the chips and I suspect have a pretty good idea of what we machine owners need and want far above and beyond mega VAR’s like Hagerman.

I like the idea that Selway is a Haas dealer (among others of course) since my machines are all Haas and I expect they have support insight other VAR’s only dream of. Really how can an office full of shirt and tie guys who have never run a mill or lathe but can say we work for Mr Great Big Autodesk VAR guy compare to hands on? I mean hands on all aspects of what I have to personally deal with where the rubber meets the road. The whole Autodesk experience is less than two years in duration for me now and I am still finding things out I did not know ahead of time. One of the things I have found out is that with HSM as my primary reason for being here I darned sure do not want to get support from someone who could care less. If you are a machine shop type I believe it would behoove you to move from Mega Autodesk VAR to a primarily HSM VAR or at the very least explore this idea.

I don’t intend to switch more than one more time. Over the next half-year until my maintenance with Mega VAR Hagerman is over I will be checking out Selway in far greater detail and will report here what I find. At this time sadder and far wiser about what to look for though I don’t expect any unpleasant Selway surprises. I have no idea if Selway is the only US HSM VAR with this business model and I am not going to check much to find out. I trust the recommendation I received. Look around though and perhaps there is a similar one close by to you and if so let me know. It would be nice to have a list of HSM friendly VAR’s to share with my peers and one guy can’t check them all out. So send me your machinist recommended VAR and let us see if we can get a list going.

Inventor Pro HSM 2016 Users Can Now Check Out Most New 2017 Goodies

OK everyone, at http://cam.autodesk.com/inventor-hsm-experimental/ you can download the latest developmental version. This one will work with Inventor Pro 2017 and 2016 and since 2017 serials have not been released this is the only way to get a glimpse under the hood before the official release. My guess would be within days for that since this has been posted.

4-28 16 Inventor Pro HSM dev build

If the first two items do not inspire you to get this you certainly have not been waiting like I have with anticipation. THANKS guys for letting us get our hands on something without waiting to the very last moment. I don’t know what all is in there but I can tell you that the basic program download size has grown about 100MB so tons of new code has been added.

Is There Hope? Solid Edge User Community Update

This has been a bit of a pleasant surprise lately for this author to see the many year running poorly designed web site and user group activity surrounding SE take a turn for the better. I don’t know what is going on over there and I hope someone with over-riding authority has recognized the value Solid Edge could have to them if they would just treat it right. Someone who can see past the UGS hate SE team of saboteurs and see the remarkable value SE brings to the table for mid range MCAD. Especially with Autodesk now shooting themselves in the foot with subscription only for Inventor I think SE has been given yet another chance to pick up market share. They failed to capitalize on Dassaults inept handling of SW. Will they do so with Inventors upcoming subscription rebellion remains to be seen. Opportunities to acquire customers from the competition are hard to come by and opportunities where your competitor shoots their own feet are even rarer.

In any case http://community.plm.automation.siemens.com/t5/Solid-Edge-Blog/Cleveland-Getting-an-EdgeGroup-on-June-8/ba-p/343841 will take you to an article referencing a brand new SE user group in Cleveland Ohio on June 8th. I highly recommend any SE user in the area consider attending. You do not understand the value of face to face interaction until that first time you get bailed out of a jam with experienced user help or get that new bit of work that comes from in person interactive networking. Read about it and if you are in the area DO something about it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the decision had been made somewhere in the Siemens mega bureaucratic behemoth to actually throw a bit of love and attention SE’s way?

Geometric The CAMWorks Author Bought Out By HCL Technologies Ltd

For what it is worth http://schnitgercorp.com/2016/04/04/geometric-acquired-hcl/ will take you to information regarding this. What ramifications this will have for Solid Edge integrated users in particular I don’t know. I suspect the uptake of CW4SE (CAMWorks for Solid Edge) has been very poor for obvious and well documented reasons. Whether the new bosses will consider this market to be worth pursuing any more may well be in doubt. Will new owners change old rules? Are the obligations between Siemens and Geometric/CW4SE binding after the buyout? Would Siemens actually even care if Geometric walks away from this anyway since it takes potential sales of Cam Express away from the UGS remnants inside of the corporate beast?

I have mixed feelings over this. CAMWorks if it could actually implement the underlying premise of its program to be usable without consuming vast quantities of it’s customers time just to set it up and keep it running right each year could have been really revolutionary in it’s power to streamline the effort to create CAM programs. Whether this is even possible to do today with existing math skills available to Geometric I don’t know. It has not been to date. The program as it exists if you try to use it without setting up the Tech Data Base takes far more effort than should be just to get a plan out the door. Either case means huge amounts of time wasted in the end to do the same things as HSM with Autodesk takes to do and time is money.

The parsimonious behavior of the Geometric people I have had to deal with makes me wonder though if a new owner/boss could change things. Is it possible that HCL would be willing to put serious money into making CAMWorks truly be what the glossy promos say it is in reality? Time will tell. It would be nice if this new arrangement would end silly things like provable user problems being dismissed as “being done by design” and “improper cad files creation by users” when it is supposed to be integrated with a program like Solid Edge. Which by design frees you from having to do things a certain way and just right to arrive at a correct and definitive end result. Improper cad design never was defined for us by the way but it was a good alibi. With a new source of potential money comes a new source of potential commitment to acquire the right talent to solve CAMWorks problems if they desire to do so.

The track record of buyouts results for companies I have had to deal with generally have not been good. UGS buys out Sold Edge and the step child thing goes into full swing. Siemens buys out UGS and then after a period of hope the step child thing goes on and in addition to that the gutting of SE developer talent then goes into full swing. Not good for SE users. HSM and Delcam are acquired by Autodesk which I thought was a real part of a master plan to conquer the market for mid range MCAD to be combined with manufacturing in a way no one else was doing. Then come the onerous burden of subscription only for all new customers chattel mindset. VX now ZW3D was bought by the Chinese and has pretty well not advanced much beyond what it was five years ago and indeed compared to it’s competitors is slowly falling behind.

Of course I no longer use CW4SE but I still would like to see it live up to it’s promises as I would like to see any program I have had to deal with achieve. First and foremost I am an end user and what I talk about are things that I have to deal with personally and each affects my bottom line. Unlike 90%+ of all blogs out there with CAD and CAM as a main topic I am not employed or paid by anyone but myself so I am free to write as things unfold in the real world in my shop.

It would be nice to see HCL get behind Geometric and fix both flavors of CAMWorks. I have become very cynical about the trends that software companies are taking towards users though so I doubt much will change. I can see a huge percentage of small and medium size shops soon deciding to just step off the pay each year bandwagon for things that just are not bringing new features that are worth it. Most certainly these permanent seat holders which are I bet 95%+ of existing users are not going to go subscription either. So just like many shops around here we can and will work just fine for the next five years or more and give none of them any more when these companies offend us enough. Unlike Autodesk, Siemens, Dassault and ZW3d most small to medium size businesses can do fine without having to pay anymore to them for some time. I wonder if they can however thrive if WE don’t send them the money they have been accustomed to receiving.

Treat your customers like crap long enough and in time someone a bit wiser will seek them out and take them from you and once gone wont be back.

Inventor Pro HSM 2017 Good Things On The Way

Autodesk is pretty tight mouthed about what will be new and when it will be out. It is around the corner though and I suspect that within the next week or two will be released. There are some serious code changes under the hood that are taking place and it, like all ambitious coding projects seem to be, is garnering delays in release of product.

What I have heard is the long-awaited Hole Wizard may not happen soon. I don’t know why but none seem to want to talk about this in terms of soon or finished. Lathe seems to be taking a back seat to four and five axis milling and some new people are coming on board to help with this including some exceptional four and five axis post talent. I have been told that this represents a bigger market than Lathe which personally I find hard to believe. I am not privy to numbers though so what do I know eh? Four and Five axis is an area that needed help though and it is on the way.

Something which I have seen but have not had any pictures forwarded to me to share is Probing for we lucky owners of Haas CNC mills that have the Renishaw probing on them. Haas probing which is as far as I am concerned is the best single option offered in the industry besides the inherent speed of cutting possible on whatever equipment is purchased from any one any where. If you buy a Haas mill and do not get probing you are crazy. Adding to this value for HSM users is the upcoming HSM ability to probe many different shapes and features way beyond what many do. Haas probing comes with a great Renishaw program but you have to learn the macros to use it with. HSM probing as I gather will take ease of use for the probes to a much higher level. I don’t know about you but anything that makes my life easier with the avoidance of having to learn yet another programing routine is welcome.

For Solid Edge users we will finally be a part of Inventors AnyCAD importing capabilities. At this time I have seen some associativity with parasolid files I have imported auto updating but this has been very spotty. With the advent of direct recognition of SE .par and .asm files this bottleneck will be gone.

There is behind the scenes co-operation between machine manufacturers and cutting tool manufacturers and HSM that will become evident this coming year. Personally I am excited about these upcoming partnerships and improvements because in spite of my outright hostility to subscriptions the power of HSM has been proven in my shop to my satisfaction. Anything that improves this great tool of production to a higher level is icing on the cake served every day I cut parts in my shop. Adaptive is the engine behind this as it is the single best high-speed machining program out there and forward-looking companies are getting involved with HSM because of this.

Funny thing about HSM adaptive. My friends shop bought into Delcam Partmaker for turning because HSM could not do the multi-axis work to their satisfaction on their new Okuma. I am always curious about programs and talked to Delcam about turning. At the same time the sales shmuck waxed eloquent of the common gui between all aspects of Partmaker so I asked about milling and specifically high-speed machining. Gave them a part and five specific screen captures of areas I wanted to see tool paths on. I was sent one screen capture of a boss with a cavity on top and the other four areas were ignored. The Delcam tool path did not get to the bottom of the top boss cavity. I responded and asked why and where were the other areas of interest and no response. I figured if they had something to show me they would have. Just like Volumill and CAMWorks it appears Delcam Partmaker evidently could not equal the efficiency of HSM Adaptive. I have yet to see anything else that does.

I have no doubt there are many new things upcoming but like most of us I have to wait and see. I have found beta testing to be more trouble than it is worth and don’t seek the “thrill” of exposure to a program before it is RTM anymore. CAMWorks cured me of any desire in this area. Autodesk is reticent to talk about things ahead of time and I can understand that to. The poor HSM guys for instance get hammered when things don’t happen just as they predicted and these choices are not exactly under their precise control. You get beat up often enough you quit talking and making promises and so we get the waiting game. It will be over soon though and I for one look forward to good things to talk about.

Solid Edge and Inventor Pro HSM 2017 User Groups

Much to my amazement today I go to the Solid Edge Siemens forum and for the first time ever see a professional looking page. http://community.plm.automation.siemens.com/t5/Solid-Edge-User-Community/ct-p/solid-edge takes you there. My main reason for going there however was to promote the upcoming first ever Cincinnati user group for Solid Edge. I happen to think that user groups are a value to local users in many ways. Unfortunately the promises made by John Miller at SEU 2015 do not appear to have any support to speak of from official Siemens auspices and it looks like it is primarily a local VAR and user interest entity. I have waited for some official information to be forwarded to me and none has arrived so today I will give the link to the group and talk about why you should go. First off though http://community.plm.automation.siemens.com/t5/Cincinnati-EdgeGroup/gp-p/CincinnatiEdgeGroup is the site to the group.

I have always felt that user groups benefit primarily users in the beginning. They can network to find mentors and talent for hire and work for hire among local people and businesses. Your peers will be a real source of help and information and contacts that VAR’s and Siemens and SE will never be. Forward looking companies like Solid Works used to be before the corporate Francophile era began realized this and built a user group network that helped in serious ways to gain them the #1 spot in mid range MCAD. Over time sellers of software benefit from user associations and SW is proof of this. Today it would be harder to benefit from this compared to years ago due to resistance to having to change software of use. With a much more mature market it now boils down to who can you steal existing users from not how do you find vast new sources of new users. In this regard I am sad to say that SE is losing this race based on users in the existing Huntsville user group for SE. Ashland Hot Water heaters and Hyco Hydraulics are two companies that used to use SE who have been bought out and the new owners use SW. The power of an established user network and base once again proving it’s effectiveness against those who do not subscribe to this paradigm. These two companies were a fair percentage of the SE users that showed up to the Huntsville group and they were interested and supportive and now no more.

It is a thankless task for an individual to be a leader of a user group in many ways. Perhaps the worst single thing is to be one and work to get people there and very few show up. It kills enthusiasm quickly for something that should be common sense for local users but alas is not. SO I urge you local users get behind this effort and be there. It will benefit you.

One of the reasons I switched to Hagerman for Inventor was the the idea of local physical support if needed and local user groups sponsored by the same. I must admit to being a bit saddened by what I see so far here and even though I have offered to work with forming an HSM local user group to date there is nothing much to speak of. After dealing with Siemens I have determined that I am not going to beg for these user things to happen any more. Either the VAR will or wont and it is not my job to pursue them and cajole or shame them into doing something. I have some sympathy for VARS in this area though and cant blame them as much as I blame the software authoring companies for user groups demise. In the case of Siemens they do not care if SE goes right straight to you know where. It has been proven that if you care and want SE to succeed you will be run off. So I suspect affiliated VAR’s who are not stupid see the handwriting on the wall and refuse to spend money and time that will not yield positive results. I predict the Cincinnati user group will be the only new one this year and if this nonsense keeps up may be the last ever and it being some what short lived. User group networks can’t survive or even begin if the corporate sponsors do not pursue it.

The Autodesk VAR’s are faced with another big problem and if it has not dawned on them yet it will soon. How does a software company like Autodesk or Dassault eliminate a huge demand upon their profits? Well I think the decision has been made in these two places to jettison the whole or much of the VAR network over time and replace it with subscription based markets. IF they can which I hope not. If enough people buy into this subscription thing and become captive, support entities like VAR’s are no longer needed. Users cant leave and so you can degrade support as an un-needed expense and replace it all with on line forums where many are growing accustomed to going for answers anyway. So for these Autodesk VAR’s like Hagerman who have had a past record of community involvement begin to back off and I can’t blame them. Now mind you all this is just common sense as I see it and I have no real knowledge of corporate decisions made in this area. But I can see results and project forward. Just like manufacturing will never employ as much as it used to even if it pumps out ten time the products because of automation. Subscription is the robot that will get rid of overhead in the software world as over time VAR’s would be relegated to far lesser importance in this world. Something that oh say Piranha hostile investor groups would like to see to enhance short term profitability. Once these things are started it will be hard to reverse even when the Piranhas have left.