• May 4, 2010
Anyone that's ever tried to get divergent computer systems to play nice knows that it's not a trivial matter. And when two automakers come together, getting everyone on the same page is both enormously difficult and critically important if the enterprise is to succeed. Chrysler is all too familiar with lackluster enterprises thanks to failed marriage to Daimler, and with it's recent Italian tie-up, the (software) language barrier could cause some problems.

Now that Chrysler has hooked up with Fiat, the two engineering teams need to consolidate the design software that they use to develop new products. As we learned in the Chevy Cruze safety story, computer aided design and simulation is the foundation to being able to develop products that meet regulations around the world.

Chrysler's engineers have been using Catia from Dassault Systems for more than two decades while Fiat uses the other major brand Siemens PLM's NX software. CEO Sergio Marchionne wants everyone in his domain to use the Siemens software for new projects. Unfortunately, the problem goes well beyond just switching out the software at the Chrysler tech center. Suppliers will also have to buy new software because they share design models with the automaker and they need compatibility. Chrysler has begun using the Siemens software for the modifications to the North American version of the Fiat 500, but it could be some time before the issue is resolved completely.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub Req'd]


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  • 59 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      This scene does not resemble my experience with CAD designers. The room needs to be almost dark, all the screens are oriented so that designers can see anyone coming, and nearly all the screens have Doom on them, except for the newbies who are doing the actual work. Used to call the CAD room the bat cave.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly. You said it all.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sounds like a lot of neckbeards and kilts.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well, when I was an intern at one of the Big3, we played Call of Duty, but the principle's the same.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think I speak for everyone when I say "Chrysler uses CAD?!"
        • 4 Years Ago
        Chrysler was a different company in the 90's. Product quality was not bad. As a matter of fact they scored higher on JD Powers 3 year dependability surveys than a certain German company who later "merged" with them (they also scored better than Nissan, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Mazda, VW, and Hyundai). Just because Daimler screwed them up doesn't mean they were always this way. If they were always this bad Daimler would not have been interested in them. Now that Daimler is long gone, we are starting to see signs of life again.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No you don't. Chrysler was one of the first domestic automakers to go to CAD. They've had Catia since 1989. The 98 LH platform (2nd generation) was totally designed by computer. This early adoption of what is still a very expensive design tool was one of the reasons that Chrysler was able to get their cars from concept to production quicker than the domestics or the Asians in the 90's. It's one of the reasons also why they were able to develop new cars for less money than their rivals.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Frank,

        I believe MachinaDC5 has made a good point. Vehicles sold by all parts of the Chrylser group have for some time been properly associated with incredibly poor quality of assembly and underlying engineering. Bragging about how quickly Chrylser brought vehicles to market only helps to explain Chrysler's inability to produce quality products. If being quick contributed to Chrylser's current state, I hope they slow down and take the time necessary to produce a product that isn't laughably sub-par. It's great Chrylser adopted CAD so early, but it's totally deplorable that Chrylser used CAD to make such crummy products.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The elephant in the room is the fact that these two manufacturers aren't collaborating on an open standard.

      When considering products so well matched in terms of features, an enterprise like Fiat or Chrysler doesn't talk about such-and-such a feature is missing -- they talk about compatibility with platforms, with competing products, they talk about product lifecycle, they talk about security (both technical and proprietary), they talk about licensing solutions (from a technical and financial point of view)...

      In short, more than anything else, they talk about *support*. And *BOTH* Dassault's and Siemens's products are woefully lacking in this department, simply by the evidence of their incapacity for interoperability.

      Such a major customer should be banging heads together in *BOTH* software companies and tell them to get their act together. With the emphasis on *together*.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Dumb. V5 is far superior to NX. Fiat should make the switch.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Some good screen shots and explanations of CATIA v6 at work here: http://www.allpar.com/corporate/chrysler-group/catia-vs-nx.html

      An engineer talks about the issues of file interchange and the difference between CATIA and NX. Seems like CATIA is a far, far, far more capable program - and that v6 eliminates many of the bugs in it.

      Chrysler moving to NX, in short, seems like a b*a*d idea. Especially if SolidWorks will be more interchangeable, allowing relatively small-fish suppliers to interchange files without having to cough up for CATIA's full PLM capable software.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I didn't realize that Chrysler used CAD software, thought they just used long pieces of string and a t-square.
      • 4 Years Ago
      My company (large aerospace company) has been slowly converting all of its programs with new design still going on over to CATIA from various packages. Some were in Pro-Engineer, some were in UniGraphics. There isn't really a good way to go between. You can generally export as a "dumb" solid to another program, and save in the new file system, but you lose the ability to edit the part in the process.

      Plus, everybody has to learn the new software. When you've been working on something else for a long time, its not easy.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I just hope they pick the package that is most compatible with their machining facilities. Where I work they rammed ProE down our throats because TWO of the 50 some odd engineers where more comfortable with it, even though the CNC machines in our machine shop use a system based on Solidworks (Camworks). So the machinists have to rebuild most if not all of the models sent to them, huge waist of time, money and resources.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Wait...ProE and Solidworks are 90% identical and supposed to be compatible. I am surprised that there's compatibility issues!?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Used Catia a long time ago, it was really impressive. Been using Solid Works, it't quite great also.

      It's not possible to develop a software capable of transforming Siemens's models into Catia and vice-versa?
        • 4 Years Ago
        There's already a couple standard formats that can be used by most any program. The problem is that a lot of data is -literally- lost in translation. Most OEMs will demand that suppliers design their parts in the preferred CAD program.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Mmmm, I get it.

        Tough situation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I prefer Autodesk Inventor
      • 4 Years Ago
      CATIA blows NX away. I used CATIA for over 6 years and now I'm on NX and really sad :(
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have heard Catia is the king of all CAD software systems, but Chrysler is in no position to try and tell Fiat which system to use.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Absolutely. And switching software systems is going to fry a lot of engineers and designers brought up on Catia. Many of the subcomponent assemblies will either be duplicated in NX or remain in Catia for production until they're superseded by newer stuff. It's not as bad as switching from US to metric, but it's going to be difficult if not bad.
        • 4 Years Ago
        These are BIG issues that will delay Crisisler from bringing new (Fiat) product to market any faster and with better quality... its just not that easy as is sounds... you can hope fo rthe best, but this Fiat-Crisisler merger is going to take YEARS to work itself out...!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've been working in the heavy truck market on CATIA V5 for over 7 years now and the company I work for decided to move from CATIA V4 and ENOVIA VPM to V5 and SmarTeam about 4 years ago. It was quite the transition for most people and was very difficult to convince management of the value of the transition to V5. After about a year and a half once all programs were moved to V5 slowly (one development platform at a time), the new software really shined and showed how much faster you could develop products and with greater fidelity. Moving from V4 to V5 is essentially like moving to a whole different platform and STEPing out the data, you lose the history and design data. In our case we have learned to deal with this and it's not terribly difficult, we only remaster data into the latest system from V4 (and before that CADAM) when a part needs to be updated or V5 native data is absolutely necessary to have. Otherwise if you can use legacy data and dummy solids, it's not that terrible of a thing.

      It can be dealt with, perhaps not as simple as we would all like, but the data really isn't the issue in my opinion. The bigger issue is retraining of the engineering staff, and changing of a corporate philosophy. I have dabbled with Solidworks and Inventor a small amount, but neither handles large assemblies in the same way as CATIA V5 to me that is quite intuitive if you work with it day in and day out. Being forced to use another platform takes a while to get back to the same productivity level, in the case of my company we have about 300-400 or so engineering staff, still far short of what a big 3 would be. That's a huge dollar sign when you're talking productivity and development timelines.

      It will be interesting to see what direction they go, though many of the large companies in defense, aerospace, and automotive have been heading towards V5 (and V6 over the next several years) especially when you work with surfacing and large assemblies.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Good point about the handling of the large assemblies. While Catia's CGR system makes it a lot lighter for handling, NX5 still lags unless you work on a better hardware.
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