Hexagon Joins the PLM Trend to Connect Design, Simulation and Production

Sounds familiar? That’s because it is another portfolio spanning platform.

A New Portal for Hexagon Customers

Hexagon is working toward its vision of “a future where data is fully leveraged so that business, industry and humanity sustainably thrive.” The company focuses on “sensor, software and autonomous technologies”; however, it has also announced several software offerings and acquisitions split between the design, simulation, manufacturing and infrastructure realms. Hexagon recently announced Nexus, a new way for its customers to share data and collaborate between its offerings.

A look at Hexagon Nexus. (Image courtesy of Hexagon.)

A look at Hexagon Nexus. (Image courtesy of Hexagon.)

Nexus is the company’s attempt to give customers one portal to use all the Hexagon software needed for any given engineering situation. Beyond access to Hexagon software, the portal offers training to help engineers learn the new tools and provide data sharing opportunities for multiple users within a company.

Giving customers access to all of Hexagon’s tools is a smart business strategy. Making design decisions quickly and with strong accuracy should be one of the main goals of any simulation engineer. Based on the announcement, Hexagon is hoping that building this one-stop portal will help engineers to be successful.

What Does Nexus Do?

There’s already a virtual showroom built for the portal, which shows the areas where Nexus can help customers. The four major areas of focus are:

  • Operations
  • Design and simulation
  • Manufacturing
  • Metrology and inspection.

All departments on the Nexus platform can work concurrently using the same data and engineering change level. This ensures the fidelity of the results and that products will get to market faster.

The collaboration and data sharing are big parts of Nexus. The portal is not only set up for different departments in a company to share data, but also for customers and suppliers. Hexagon is also quick to point out that software from other companies can be used within Nexus for collaboration. I’m assuming that any non-Hexagon software in the collaboration realm will already have a preexisting user agreement and simply follow that user agreement into the portal.

Using a cloud portal has several advantages. The collaboration between different companies is big, but there are additional benefits. A user accessing Hexagon software through the portal can alleviate their IT concerns about computing power, server space and update installations. Having access to all the different software and applications from Hexagon and its partners could also help a manufacturing customer to bid on a job outside its core competencies. The smart functions of the portal might tell a customer that the software being used is suboptimal for a specific problem and might suggest a different specialized tool. This isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon; sales engineers could always tell a customer that a different software program might solve a problem faster. The benefit is that licensing and access to the new application can come faster and be easier.

Caption: Introducing Hexagon Nexus

Tying It All Together: Is It a PLM play? Another Portfolio Platform? Or Just Hexagon Indoctrination?

Nexus has a huge catalog of products and a large stable of software tools brought in from Hexagon’s acquisitions. Perhaps the acquisition with the most impact was MSC in early 2017 when Hexagon first entered the simulation arena. Hexagon acquired CADLM in 2021 to bolster its AI arm. The full design-to-manufacturing cycle is present in the Hexagon family as well, thanks to Designer for CAD and SURFCAM for CAM. Pulling all these connected-but-not-collected applications together feels like what many product lifecycle management (PLM) big players did when they started to move toward portfolio platforms (starting with Dassault Systèmes and its 3DEXPERIENCE). The Nexus portal seems to have been built as a tool that will enable customers to get more from the overall Hexagon experience.

On its surface, Nexus looks like a way to plug the nontechnical parts of an organization into its engineering activities. Speaking from experience, engineers can feel threatened when the full organization has access to our designs and thought processes. Nexus says that it wants to bring engineers, managers and leaders together, but some veteran engineers might approach this objective by asking, what is the benefit of bringing managers into the design and development process?

Nonetheless, engineers will get the benefit of fast and easy access to all the Hexagon software with the ability to show a design to upstream or downstream partners. Managers will get this same boost, knowing that what engineers need to do the best possible job is now easier to obtain. Organizational leaders can use the portal to look for big overarching trends that will show opportunities for growth and highlight bottlenecks in the full design-to-manufacturing process. The design and development processes often work best when everyone realizes that the most important design tool is an engineer sitting at a PC or workstation with the exact software required to do the job. This is an easier way to approach that utopian state.

Collaborating using a vendor portal is convenient because the IT burden and computing requirements are pushed onto the vendor and the cloud. Employees from several different countries or time zones can work together on a project, while manufacturing and production control can start the work required to order material or equipment for fabricating a product. One potential downside for some organizations is that a company’s intellectual property will now reside on a vendor’s server instead of with the customer. Though generally safe, there’s always some threat, or fear, of security issues when data is beamed across the world.

This might be a straight reordering of the products and services that Hexagon offers, repackaged for 2022 with an eye on the next 10 years. There’s value in the idea that engineers and designers can now have access to simulation tools, input from other departments, and real-time data from the components being manufactured. The manufacturing and quality control aspect that’s brought in here adds a lot to the portal and makes the tool feel more like something the entire organization can use instead of something else that the managers had to buy for the engineers. Following the progression of acquiring simulation and AI companies, bringing those functions together with manufacturing floor data feels like a smart move. The announcement of Nexus and the promotional material provides a good idea of what might happen, but I was unable to access the fundamentals of the portal for review. However, the website’s Nexus experiences attempt to mimic the idea of the platform using an HTML-based mouse movement exploration tool that is best described as wonky. The big examples in these experiences are a wind turbine and an electric vehicle.

Hexagon’s mission and vision as a company are very big picture, working toward a safer and more sustainable world. It’s promising to see a company use these kinds of broad goals to guide itself through the small, detail-oriented tasks found in design and simulation. The company’s Offerings page does a great job of showing how all of us are interconnected as engineers and global citizens. Data management can be used to help farms, mines and manufacturing companies, but we need to remember that these things are feeding consumer products, buildings and infrastructure. Nexus looks to be a tool for engineers to focus on the fine details and make smarter decisions faster.