[INTERVIEW] We expect an increase in digital transformation in Slovenia and the region

[INTERVIEW] We expect an increase in digital transformation in Slovenia and the region

Photo: Matija Habljak/PIXSELL


»Our vision is to become the first choice in the use of digital technologies in development and production companies and to become a System Integrator capable of meeting the biggest challenges of digital transformation in the region and the EU,« said Zlatko Šimunec, owner and CEO of CADCAM Group. 
Read the interview for the Tovarna leta, where Zlatko Šimunec, answered questions about the beginnings and expansion of CADCAM Group, progress in the digital transformation of manufacturing companies in the region in recent years, the impact of the pandemic on digital transformation and about business expectations and plans for 2021. In the interview, he also talked about good practices and projects in the companies Rimac Automobili and Pipistrel Vertical Solutions and the advantages of CADCAM Group software solution MECODES (MEchatronic COllaboration DEsign Solution), which is a unique suite of solutions for collaboration of ECAD and MCAD engineers in the development of electromechanical products.
Read the entire interview in Slovenian language on the Finance portal Tovarna leta.
Interview translation:
We want to establish a knowledge base and selflessly share it with users because digital technologies are very complex and require multidisciplinary knowledge, says Zlatko Šimunec, owner and director of the Croatian CADCAM Group.
Our vision is to become the first choice in the use of digital technologies in development and production companies and to become a system integrator capable of responding to the biggest challenges of digital transformation in the region and the EU, says Zlatko Šimunec, owner and director of Croatian supplier of lifecycle management software.) and computer-aided design by CADCAM Group based in Zagreb. The group, which is celebrating 30 years of existence this year, has close to 70 employees in four countries, in addition to Croatia and Slovenia (since 2001), Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Your business journey began three decades ago with the founding of a company to develop medical devices for the rehabilitation of the hearing impaired. What prompted you to do this?

I felt an interest in the development of electronic circuits already in my student days when I started working on projects for the development of electromedical devices.

My first job as an engineer was at the manufacturing company RIZ in the medical electronics department, where my team and I developed the first medical diagnostic devices in cardiology and neurology, such as ECG devices, monitors, defibrillators, and complex EEK devices. Then Professor Vladimir Kozina invited me to jointly develop a digital device for delaying the rehabilitation of hearing impairment for the SUVAG center in Zagreb. According to the verboten method of this centre, similar centers operate in more than 70 countries. For me, this was a real milestone and a challenge to start my own business.

Our plan is to expand to the European market in the field of use and introduction of digital technologies, and we want to expand MECODES to the world market, says Zlatko Šimunec, owner and director of the Croatian CADCAM Group.
You designed hearing aids in your company with the help of CAD software. How advanced was the design of the electronic equipment at that time?

True, medical devices were already being developed at the time with CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) software tools, but in the 1990s it was real "space technology."

At the time, this was the first CAD and CAM software tool on personal computers in our area, which was used to design electronic devices, printed circuit boards, and which was also used to prepare production.

These were truly pioneering years in the introduction of CAD and CAM technology in Southeast Europe.

After a few years, the company focused on selling hardware and hardware design software. How challenging was this jump?

Yes, it was a quantum leap from one technology to another, but I had already gained some experience with the development of medical devices. They had to be functional and reliable and small, smart and aesthetically pleasing. So this was a logical continuation of my life path as an entrepreneur and programmer.

We formed a multidisciplinary team of mechanical and electrical engineers who managed to respond to market demands by introducing mechanical and electronic CAD and CAM technology and work methodology to be able to implement new solutions in their customers. This was the first transformation of the CADCAM Group from a development company to a company that offers complete solutions and introduces modern CAD and CAM technologies to other companies.

When did you realize that the company can successfully expand its business beyond the borders of Croatia?

It was a natural development path. At that time, the Slovenian market was the most technologically and innovatively advanced, which is why we first expanded to Slovenia. We received great demand from Slovenian companies for the introduction of CAD and CAM technologies.

The biggest turning point was the establishment of a larger development group in Cimos in Koper. Then we presented the CATIA software tool for CAD design at the Cimosa Development Center. This was another big challenge because at that time CATIA was the most demanding, but also the best CAD software tool on UNIX workstations, which helped Cimos become one of the leading companies in the automotive industry in Slovenia.

After the successful implementation, many other Slovenian companies wanted to follow the same path and present the same product development concept.

Today, the CATIA software solution, developed by Dassault Systemes, is the leading software solution in the Adriatic region, and with the 3DEXPERIENCE product lifecycle traceability platform, we have more than 430 satisfied users.

Today, the CADCAM group operates in four markets, so you have a good insight into the activities of manufacturing companies in the field of digital transformation. How do you assess their progress in the digital transformation of recent years?

Slovenia is also the most advanced country in the region in this field, where the digital transformation began many years ago.

I must point out that we mainly work in the automotive and industrial equipment industries, which are quite conservative and are not inclined to introduce new technologies until forced to do so. Therefore, we had to invest a lot of energy to convince our partners and encourage them to use digital technology, because only then will they be able to maintain a competitive position in the market.

For this purpose, we offer potential customers the opportunity for our experts to make a BVA (Business Value Assessment) analysis, where after analyzing the situation in the company, we suggest improvements with the help of digital technologies. The foundation is the improvement of development and production processes and the creation of a pilot project that shows the contribution of digital transformation. Therefore, together we make proposals for improving development and production processes and work methodologies.

What acceleration, according to your observations, has the pandemic given to digital transformation?

Companies today are forced to think about adapting to new circumstances. Everyone is tormented by questions of how to solve the situation that ten workers cannot come to work due to infection or self-isolation, how to organize production, how to continue development, ensure efficient work of the whole team, and so on.

And last but not least, companies are also faced with questions about what will happen when the pandemic ends, when the market wakes up and orders increase, how they will respond to customer demands and wishes at that time.

The conclusion is very simple. It is necessary to invest in digital technologies and establish new digital processes.

Computers need to perform common tasks and run processes, and people should just exercise control. Thus, the software must optimize the work of employees, machines, and raw materials and ensure that production does not depend too much on external influences.

In any case, both state and economic incentives that facilitate management’s decision to start investing in a company’s digital transformation are also important.

Rimac Automobili was the first user of the new 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which enables work in a centralized database.
The CADCAM group participates in the development of automotive and aerospace products, among other things, with a range of software solutions that it offers with the knowledge of experts. How would you rate the collaboration with Rimac Automobili and Pipistrel, which good practice projects would you highlight?

Rimac Automobili was our first user on the new 3DEXPERIENCE platform. It was a demanding project for both us and them, but after two and a half years, Rimac introduced a new car, and more than 200 of their employees are working on the platform at the same time.

This is a record implementation time compared to other long complex PLM projects. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables work in a centralized database. It provides access to information about the project and/or product, regardless of the current stage of construction, and at the same time provides a visual overview of the data to all participants in the process of development and preparation of production.

Pipistrel is a story unto itself, and I am very happy to have been working with the company for over ten years. Pipistrel Vertical Solutions has faced a challenge in the simulation of the new SW 128 electric aircraft, as testing is required to determine the aircraft's own frequencies and control surfaces, and to determine the associated structural attenuation is time-consuming and extremely expensive. The company used Dassault Systemes ’SIMULIA Abaqus software as a solution to simulate the behaviour of the new SW 128 electric aircraft in a virtual environment.

Pipistrel simulated the behavior of the new SW 128 electric aircraft in a virtual environment using Dassault Systemes' SIMULIA Abaqus software.
Let's also touch on your own software solution MECODES, which won the GZS Gold Award for innovation for one of the best innovations in 2012, and today is recognized worldwide. What are the benefits of MECODES that convince users?

MECODES (MEchatronic COllaboration DEsign Solution) is a unique collection of solutions for collaboration between ECAD and MCAD engineers in the development of electromechanical products.

MECODES is specifically designed for collaboration between CATIA V5, Mentor Graphics Xpedition Enterprise, PADS, Altium Designer, and CADENCE Allegro software solutions. Today we have electronics in an increasing number of products and therefore there is an obvious need for electrical and mechanical engineers to communicate faster, better and work on one model.

MECODES is already used in Valeo, Geberit, Gentex, Swatch Group, JoyNext, and we are currently working on large pilot projects in Hella, Germany, and in Grundfos, Denmark.

The main advantages of MECODES are faster, better, and cheaper development of electromechanical products because electrical and mechanical engineers work on the same model, which in turn leads to fewer errors and subsequent changes. The final product is of better quality and has a shorter time to market or so-called time to market.

Our MECODES is a collection of solutions for cooperation between ECAD and MCAD engineers in the development of electromechanical products, and is used in the companies Valeo, Geberit, Gentex, Swatch Group, JoyNext, said Zlatko Šimunec.
What are your business expectations for 2021?

I can say that we started 2021 very intensively. During the pandemic, not only did we retain all the professionals, but we also hired new ones, so we are now ready to respond to the challenges of current users and meet the demands of new customers.

The pandemic has encouraged many companies to think intensively about investing in modern technologies and optimizing production, so this year we expect the digital transformation to flourish in Slovenia and the region.

What are your plans with CADCAM Group for the future?

For 30 years, CADCAM Group has been one of the leading providers of PLM software solutions in Southeast Europe and a reliable partner in product development and digital transformation.

Our vision is to become the first choice in the use of digital technologies in development and production companies and to become a system integrator capable of responding to the greatest challenges of digital transformation in the region and the EU.

Our plan is to expand to the European market in the field of use and introduction of digital technologies, and we want to expand the use of MECODES to the world market.

In addition, we want to establish a knowledge base and selflessly share it with users, because digital technologies are very complex and require multidisciplinary knowledge, from information technology, hardware and software solutions, clouds, manufacturing technology, methodology, electronics, mechanics, physics, mathematical algorithms, programming and so on.