Your job is that of a Manufacturing Industry Strategist at Autodesk, so
what does it entail?
It involves two things.
Internally, I am an industry analyst to help the product and marketing teams to
get their strategies right. I do not set the strategies for them; rather I help
them build their strategies. These strategies are for or software solutions and
services for our manufacturing customers. We do not do manufacturing per se
ourselves, we do software tools.
Can you explain the tools that you offer to your customers?
When I talk of tools, these
are software programmes. For automotive industry specifically, we have broadly
five areas or segments: 1) Industrial Design and Visualisation, 2) Mechanical
Design & Engineering, 3) Systems Engineering, 4) Analyses & Simulation
and 5) Manufacturing Engineering. Industrial design and visualisation tools encompass
surfacing, marketing, hi res images for visualisation and communication, etc.
Mechanical Design and Engineering, takes these industrial preliminary design,
sketches and surfaces etc and actually makes it into a manufacture ready
definition. Systems Engineering is the
area where basically tools for integrating mechanical, electronic and software
design. It is basically a computer on wheels. Analyses and Simulation involves
mechanical simulation stresses, formation, heat and composites, etc. Manufacturing Engineering is actually on the
production side. It involves planning of the manufacturing processes like the
sequence of operation, the layout of machines in the factory flow, etc.
Are these tools used in areas beyond automotive?
Yes, of course. For example
VRED is our tool for visualisation of surfaces. It makes this beautiful
photographic quality renders of 3D models. Of course, automotive is a sweet
spot for that. You could render
anything, any 3D model. Some of the tools were specifically developed for
automotive. Some are generic mechanical engineering tools that are kind of
pitched to the automotive industry.
Which are these tools that are popular in the automotive industry?
From Autodesk we offer VRED,
which is very popular. Alias software is used by every automotive company in
their industrial design. On the simulation side, we have Moldflow which is the
leading tool to simulate injection moulding. It was a recent acquisition,
around two to three years ago. Before that Autodesk was the biggest player in
injection moulding simulation. On the manufacturing side we have a tool by the
name of Delcam. It is a household name in manufacturing. It helps in generating
a code to drive the numerically controlled manufacturing machines like the
lathes, drills, milling machines, etc. From the 3D model, you take it into
Delcam and it generates instructions to manufacture.
Is it fair to assume that all automotive players whether it is a car
manufacturer, a heavy vehicle manufacturer or a two- wheeler manufacturer, uses
your tools at some stage or the other?
Yes, they either have our
tools or our competitors or a combination of our tools. No automotive
manufacturer can actually do without these tools. These tools are actually
enabling start ups in the automotive industry, which was previously unheard of,
to generate very competitive products. One customer of our which we are
highlighting a lot is Briggs Automotive Company (BAC). They manufacture street
legal cars that look like race cars. It was a company started by five people in
Liverpool in England. Because of the availability of tools like these, they are
able to compete with the Porsches and the Ferraris. They have come out with the
car BAC Mono. We love them because they are our customers. They are a small
company, for example they cannot do wind tunnel analyses because it is very
expensive. So they use our tools, especially computational fluid analyses, to
at least bring down their wind tunnel analyses. They fix most of their problems
virtually through software. At some point they have to go to the wind tunnel.
But without having to go there maybe ten times, they may have to go there
twice. They have said in their presentation before that they would not have
been able to compete if they did not have digital prototyping tools.
Of your total Autodesk business, how much comes from the automotive
In Autodesk we have three big
divisions. We have manufacturing, we have architecture, engineering and
construction and we have media and entertainment. Architecture is the largest
in terms of business generated. This is because historically we started with
AutoCAD. Manufacturing is second and within manufacturing we have three
segments. These are Automotive, Industrial Machining and Building Products Manufacturing.
Our automotive business is growing and what is interesting is that it is not
just growing in the established automotive companies, but also in luxury car
companies and in start ups like BAC. We are also getting to hear from electric
car makers and those manufacturing self drive vehicles, etc. Hopefully some day
Google and Apple become our clients when they pursue their dreams of getting
The automotive industry worldwide is also evolving big time when it
comes to their products....driverless cars, electric cars etc. Are your tools
also evolving in the meantime?
I think we need a new breed of
tools. I shall give you an example. The main driver of composites being used in
vehicles is light weighting. In the last five to ten years, composites have had
a very big push in automobiles. The tools that we developed to do the
simulation with components are changing. These components are different from
the homogenous materials used in the vehicles. In order to bring in new tools,
we have had our share of acquisition. One such acquired tool is Helius and
Majestic. We realised that we needed those capabilities for automotive that our
existing tools did not have. The advent of electronics and more importantly
software in cars made us to bring in newer tools. Traditionally the software
tools we had focussed on the mechanical components of the car. We were very
good at designing their shape and calculating their stresses, but now loads of
software and electronics in a car are working together. Thus the tools to
design, simulate and to manage information, now they need to know about
software and electronics. The tools need
to evolve. This is done by either adding new tools from scratch or adding
capabilities to the existing tools.
Are your tools a way of life for automotive companies in the western
world or is it much in demand among companies in developing countries like
The biggest scope of doing
business in several countries is moving from 2D to 3D. In fact it is a kind of
stumbling block which is preventing many automotive companies from really
benefitting from digital prototyping. We have noticed that in developing
countries there are several who have been AutoCAD customers for decades. They
find it difficult to move to 3D. But once they do it, they realise that the
information they get is much more efficient for their downstream processes. You
cannot simulate a 2D model. You cannot create manufacturing instructions from a
2D drawing. Once they realise this, they realise its true potential.
The main thing about 3D is the
shape, you are defining the geometry. Let’s assume there is a tier I supplier
of brakes. They define the brake disc in 3D. That digital file becomes the
design and now the supplier can define materials on that disc. And with the
materials and the geometry, one can run analyses and simulations, how much it
can heat when brakes are applied, how much it will deform, that digital
information can be used for analyses, for manufacturing. It becomes the single
source of information about the product. The benefits our tools give is that it
leads to increased efficiency in the product development life cycle. Once you
have the product in a digital form, many stakeholders can use it. And the fact
that you can do more tests digitally, it leads to better quality. Of course you
have to do a lot of physical tests in order to get certified etc. But by going
digital, the efficiency of their operations and the quality of their products
go up significantly. Many automotive companies today have digital prototyping
tools. You cannot run an automotive company today without digital prototyping.
Within the automotive industry, the supplier chain is also an integral
part. Are your tools in demand here too?
Many of our customers are
automotive component suppliers. They are tier I, II and III players. As you
move from I to II to III, the smaller the companies are. They adopt these tools
faster. They realise that not only are these tools efficient and can do things
economically, but they also communicate better with the OEMs. You can
collaborate more easily over a digital file than over a paper. For
collaboration for the components supplier, digital prototyping is key. Since
the companies are smaller and they do not have major resources, our tools are
very attractive because we offer subscriptions. They need not buy our tools for
prices as high as US $ 10,000 but can subscribe to our tools for a year or so.
They can also ramp up their subscriptions in case they get a big order from the
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