The Engineering Software Pyramid

by Dan Roberts

Engineering software vendors have been developing software to aid designers and engineers for decades. Functionality in those tools has improved to the point where most architects, designers and engineers find them indispensable. Often, they will use several different tools. Major vendors, such as Dassault Systèmes, Autodesk, Siemens PLM, Bentley Systems and PTC, continue to improve and refine their design capabilities to provide full coverage of the design cycle including the full visualization and simulation necessary to enable digital twins.

However, these vendors and many others are seeing the potential for supporting other stages of the lifecycle, beyond design and engineering. While the traditional tools have catered for the 6 million architects and designers worldwide, and the newer capabilities have enabled the 37 million engineers and engineering technicians to refine the product specifications, there are many occupations engaged in supporting the delivery of engineering programmes that are less well served.

Chart showing employment by type of occupation from the Cambashi Employment Observatory

Data from the Cambashi Employment Observatory shows that world-wide there are 15x the number of managers and skilled trades people compared with architects, engineers and technicians. This represents a significant opportunity not only for software vendors but also for businesses looking for further efficiencies as part of digital transformation.

Cambashi’s Employment Observatory tracks the employment by occupation and industry of over 50 countries, covering approximately 2.5 billion people. It classifies workers employees into over 120 occupations and more than 100 industries. For example, the number of Mechanical Engineers in Spain that work in the Manufacture of Motor Vehicles industry, or the number of Construction Managers in Australia that work in the Construction of Roads & Railways industry.

The Employment Observatory shows that the number of managers and supervisors dwarfs that of the architects, designers, engineers and technicians. At around 127 million, there are nearly three times as many managers and supervisors as those traditionally served by the engineering software vendors. Even more impressive are the number of skilled tradespeople and machine operators. These are the people that make or build the final product, whether that is a car or an office block. There are about 4 times as many of these professions than there are of even the managers.

With such a vast number of potential users, it’s clear to see why vendors might be rushing to provide tools to help. The caution comes with the price companies might be willing to pay for such software. Traditional tools have been aimed at relatively well-paid professionals. Since the tools are critical to the productivity of those professionals, companies are willing to pay handsomely. For example, if you can improve the productivity of an engineer that is paid $100k per year by 10%, that’s equivalent to a saving of $10k. By contrast, machine operators are paid much less, and the tools are not as critical to their productivity. So, companies may only be prepared to pay a tenth of the subscription price. With 12 times the potential user base, at a tenth of the price, that represents an opportunity to double the market size for engineering software vendors. And we haven’t even mentioned the people needed to operate, maintain and repair the final products.

More about the employment observatory

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