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ASCON’s Mobilezation: My impressions from the “White Nights” Forum
On 28-30 May, I was a guest of the ASCON’s annual customer Forum. I was invited as a journalist from isicad.ru and my blog (ASCON paid for my travel expenses and hotel), however this could not camouflage the importance of partnership between ASCON and LEDAS. Anyway, I made my best in coverage of the Forum in an extendable Russian reportage for isicad.ru and published an introductory post in my English blog “ASCON holds its Forum "White Nights" in a place perfectly suitable for the next COFES-Russia”. Now — some impressions from the Forum.
1. General info from CEO
|Maksim Bogdanov, CEO, made an opening presentation. He informed us about 230 participants and 22 customer presentations from various industries. I attended some of the customer talks: all of them were very concrete, presenting real-life results and problems — with a very active Q&A communication with the audience. Among other facts and statements, Maksim told the following.|
- Because of a slow after-crisis recovery of the Russian economy, ASCON’s income of 2011 (707 mln RUR) did not reach 760 mln of 2008 but demonstrating a very good dynamics is ~20–10% higher than the incomes of 2009–2010,
- at the same time, independently on the crisis, a number of ASCON’s customers is always steadily increasing — up to 7000 in 2011 (this includes some very big Russian enterprises),
- distribution of business niches (MCAD, AEC, other) is always changing in favor of AEC and other: from (64, 31, 5) in 2010 to (61, 32, 7) in 2011 (DL: this may look rather slow but note an 11 times increase (from 72 in 2010 to 787 in 2011) of the installments of the ASCON’s PLM-for-AEC Lotsman!)
- 3D became a standard (in 2010/2011, KOMPAS-3D seats increased by 12% while KOMPAS-Graphics — by 2%), supported by such options as Artisan rendering from Lightworks ,
- industries are very much attracted by ASCON’s systems: CAPP VERTICAL and especially by MES “Golfstrim” (Gulf Stream) to be released this autumn,
- historically, ASCON was oriented to requirements of the customers originated from USSR however today he company is more and more turning to the global market: e.g. note an opening of ASCON’s office in Minich,
- introducing more support of top-down design for (very) large assemblies in KOMPAS-3D,
- today ASCON is strongly tending to industrial full-cycle solutions that involve all levels of a customer enterprise: from ordinary executors to top managers.
2. 3D-kernel as a strong marketing message
This spring, at COFES-2012 in Arizona, ASCON announced the opening of its home-made 3D-kernel — now named C3D — which earlier was successfully used in KOMPAS-3D. For sure, this is a clever marketing move which gives a lot of global publicity to the company which is making its first serious steps in the world market. On the other hand, this can probably bring some direct income since the kernel is an efficiently working light software with a reasonable price: note that LEDAS (which is perfectly competent in the domain) agreed to be the first global VAR for this ASCON’s component. BTW let us exclude some misunderstanding: LEDAS is participating in the Russian consortium which is, under the government contract, developing an absolutely new 3D-kernel called RGK (Russian Geometric Kernel), and at the same time became a VAR for another kernel, the original ASCON’s product C3D. Why two Russian geometric kernels? Why not? Just business, nothing more. Interesting to note that ASCON is naturally promoting a strong skepticism that it’s reasonable to develop a very new modeling kernel while Nilolay Snytnikov, the manager of the LEDAS sub-project for RGK, believes that to meet a lot of new requirements from the CAD/PLM domain, an absolutely new 3D-kernel should be developed…
At the Forum, Igor Volokitin, the KOMPAS-3D product manager, made a detailed presentation. For people from industry this was, first of all, an enlightening lecture about 3D-kernel but for sure the message was clear and efficient: the company which developed its own very smart product which internationally distributed is a reliable and promising vendor and partner.
Eugeny explained that the project began in 1994. In 1996 it was already applied to support 2D in KOMPAS-Graphics 5.0, while two years later a parametric solver has already been implemented. In 2000, the kernel began to support KOMPAS-3D V5.9 and in 2002, in KOMPAS-3D 5.11 it was used for assembly design.
Note that the ASCON’s kernel project was from the very beginning based on a strong math school and background related to Moscow university and personally to Nikolay Golovanov, the key expert, author of a series of books on geometric modeling, computational geometry and other.
3. How ASCON reacts to global trends
Oleg Zykov is an excellent and very promising example of young generation of the ASCON team. A fan and profound expert of Formula-1, Oleg is one of the most popular Russian CAD bloggers. He is the director of ASCON’s prospective projects, the position which speaks for itself. Earlier I have seen Oleg’s presentations (incl. that at COFES-Russia-isicad-2010) on the market trends that obviously were a part of his analysis on how ASCON can and should react to these trends. But this time, at the Peterhof Forum, Oleg made a very nice and important step forward which I consider to be valuable both for ASCON’s industrial products and ASCON’s marketing.
Oleg presented a table whose columns were named Expectations and Experience while its five rows were related to Cloud technologies, Operating systems, hardware Processors, Mobile devices, and new user Interfaces. Oleg subsequently went through all these five lines making his comments on how ASCON deals with each of them. This is some of the presented experience and conclusions:
Clouds: In Russia, not only security of public clouds generate a lot of common concern: in addition, there is a very low trust to local service providers and, last but not least: ASCON believes that small business related to MCAD (engineering industry) actually does not exist in Russia. Conclusion: because of lack of demand, sales of KOMPAS-3D on SaaS model has been suspended.
OS: Almost all ASCON’s customers have Windows XP/7, netbooks with Chrome are absolutely not demanded, earlier announced Russian OS does not exist. ASCON launched KOMPAS + WINE for Linux which resulted in a lot of testers and reviews but not in sales. Conclusion: ASCON’s software will be multi-platform or platform-independent.
Processors: Russian customers renew their computers once in 4+ years, even professional video cards still are not common, GPU are actively used only in CAE and rendering. Conclusion: ASCON and NVIDIA opened a joint project on acceleration of KOMPAS-3D at NVIDIA Quadro (with special adaptation for KOMPAS-3D).
Mobile devices: mobiles are quite often replace PC — also in Russia, quite unexpectedly they appeared to be professionally effective in industry, Russian market demonstrate needs in personal mobility. Conclusion: ASCON is actively developing its LOTSMAN-PDM:AEC for Android/iOS (see below).
New UI: Key trend — touch screen however involves problems of radical changing of UI paradigm, typical customer today has keyboard and mouse or, at best, 3D-device from 3Dconnection, as for multitouch, it has not yet achieved acceptable combination of advantages and price. Conclusion: ASCON concentrated on 3D-devices and completed certification of KOMPAS-3D for 3Dconnection.
What you should do? — Oleg Zykov addressed the audience of ASCON customers (with a hint to the popular Russian classic novel of XIX century called “What to do?”). His answer is: “keep track of global market trends, analyze them, try to test them, evaluate their effectiveness, implement and install the best possible solutions at your enterprise, and give us your feedback. But note: do not implement anything only because it’s fashionable, implement only those right for you! And request ASCON to adjust our solutions for you”.
4. LOTSMAN-PDM:AEC for Android/iOS as an example of how ASCON reacts to the market trends
Note first of all that the first year of sales of non-mobile version of LOTSMAN:AEC brought very good results: about 1000 licenses. And the customer feedback prompted that mobile version is very much requested (e.g. for remote management, for demonstrating the updates to the customer, and other), that’s why the project has been established rapidly and in a completely industrial style.
During the Forum at Peterhof, every participant could install a LOTSMAN client at his or her device. Maksim Netchiporenko, head of the product marketing department, confidently demonstrated a steady work of the system.
5. Customer’s presentations
I had a chance to listen to some of 22 customer’s presentations that have been reasonably selected as useful user cases and, sometimes, as success stories. Main impression: they were very concrete, they were rather representative, and they were quite instructive. As far as I could judge, some of them gave rise to intense debates looking like seminars that were spreading useful information about products and their optimal integration. I believe it’s valuable to mention here some customers and their presentations.
Alexander Poyarkov, one of the top managers from OZNA, made a plenary talk which described broad range of ASCON-OZNA collaboration. The main business of OZNA is design of oil and gas facilities, manufacturing and servicing oil and gas field equipment, engineering and construction survey services, engineering of oil, gas and water metering facilities and process control systems. The company has a rather developed English web site.
Andrei Kanivets, chief technologist from TOGLIATTI TRANSFORMATOR told about installment of KOMPAS (since 2004) and LOTSMAN:PLM (since 2006). Today PLM is processing more than 140 000 documents with a completely paperless flow and considerable economic effect. TOGLIATTI TRANSFORMATOR is one of the biggest post-Soviet area manufacturers of high-volt power transformers with work capacity up to 30GVA. Our nomenclature includes transformers of general and special use with voltage rates from 35 to 500kV and capacity range from 2500 to 400 000KVA. See the English web site.
Oleg Fofanov, the IT director from MachineConstruction plant (city of Perm) presented impressive results based on integration of LOTSMAN:PLM. The plant is a part of open joint stock company “Military and industrial corporation JSC “MIC “Mashinostroyenia” (JSC MIC Mashinostroyenia), the legal successor of Federal State Unitary Enterprise “NPO Mashinostroyenia” is one of the leading space and rocketry companies of Russia. JSC MIC Mashinostroyenia, as a prime contractor in the multi-discipline cooperation, providing the National Armed Forces with advanced military equipment and collaborating with foreign partners in the military and technical fields. See English web site.
Sergey Boronnikov presented a successful experience of integration of 90 seats of LOTSMAN:PGS (AEC) PLM system at VSMPO-AVISMA which at its English web site says the company is “the world's only vertically integrated producer of titanium”.
Sergey Zarudnev told about installment of a large set of CAD and PLM seats from ASCON at one of the plants of SIBUR, the leading petrochemical company in Russia and Eastern Europe with 2,000+ different types of products (Hydrocarbon Feedstock Division, Basic Polymers Division, Plastics and Organic Synthesis Products Division, Synthetic Rubbers) and 30,000+ employees in 20 regions of Russia.
Youlia Kononova gave a very detailed description of the IT environment and data flow related to CAPP JSC “Ural Works of Civil Aviation” — one of the biggest aircraft repair companies and takes leading position on international market of repair services for Power Units of helicopters designed by JSC “MIL Moscow helicopter plant” and JSC “Kamov” . The talk was especially interesting since it explained expectations from the Golfstream, the ASCON’s latest solution.
There were other interesting presentations but to give you the idea about ASCON’s customer base I mentioned those with easily found English web sites.
6. My meetings with ASCON’s top managers
During the Forum I had a rare opportunity to talk to many top persons of ASCON.
I was happy to feel a lot of common viewpoints on the CAD/PLM industry and some general aspects of life while an hour speaking with glasses of wine with Alexander Golikov, the founder and Chairman of the Board.
During a brief but intensive discussion with Dmitry Osnatch, the marketing director, I understood a lot about ASCON’s potential and problems of business development.
Vladimir Zakharov, VP R&D, is a person with exceptional sense of humor (definitely) and native English pronunciation (for my ear). See his English twitter. In Peterhof, I have had a chance to sit next to Vladimir and talk during an hour... We are now preparing a paper reflecting our detailed and very informal discussion (interview) which probably be published next week.
7. ASCON’s corporate review “Stremlenie” (Aspiration)
There are strong opinions that traditional media like journals are hopelessly outdated. I believe it depends. It depends on quality. ASCON released nine issues of their corporate journal and, to my mind, it’s rather effective for the corporate team building and is just interesting to read. See the links to the web versions.
8. Peterhof: an ideal place to hold an efficient international event
The proof is very easy. It’s half an hour from of the most attractive cities and cultural centers of the world. It is a very polished and civilized place of the good European level. It combines quiet picturesque places for promenade around the hotel zone and (15 minutes from the hotels) a world famous large park with unique fountains, museums and other built by Peter the Great — today perfectly kept. Just look about the park in Wikipedia or these striking pictures.
Within a cultural program, we were invited to walk through the park with not working fountains (in the evening) that to my mind looked even more interesting than in the daytime with thousands of tourists. At the end of the park, at the pier we boarded the ship which needed 20 minutes to bring us to the very center of St.Petersburg — to the restaurant where ASCON organized a nice party.
9. One of my recommendations to ASCON
ASCON is more and more dynamic and good in its trend to become a global company, see for example my above notes of Maxim Bogdanov’s talk. Such trend is reasonable and inevitable since a real growth of ASCON is very restricted within Russia and CIS whose market looks very stably divided by ASCON, Autodesk, and other. In this trend, it looks like ASCON wants to initially extend its foreign customer base and establish more its foreign representatives and only afterwards considerably invest into its foreign marketing. To my mind and upon my, obviously very incomplete awareness of the ASCON's business and strategy, this is a mistake.
The marketing should prepare and actively support a process of entering a new vast market: by promoting general publicity and image, by telling success stories, by active promotion of the products, by analyzing and promoting ASCON’s comparative advantages, and so on. In contrast to this, as I was told, currently ASCON considers its (rather successful) marketing as activity for Russia and CIS only: foreign projects are managed by from-time-to-time actions of some top managers as well as by a small group that sometimes and very restrictedly translates some texts into English. If I were ASCON, I’d immediately integrated all its marketing facilities, enhanced its abroad budget by say 10 times, and probably had begun (couple months ago) by making a developed English web-site for such a successful and wonderful event as the White Nights Forum 2012 — the event for which I thank and congratulate the ASCON team.
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