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Software: Collaborative engineering

Mar 2, 2002

The rate at which things have changed in past few years is overwhelming. Just imagine the difference between the way you used to bank two years ago and today. To survive organisations have to be very agile and respond to the rapidly changing environment. Speed is the key element for success. And to act swiftly, real time information is needed and that is where information technology comes in. This is especially true for manufacturing organisations that are bigger and work on complicated engineering assignments. Here, lack of information could result in significant time and cost over runs. Thus, there is a need for co-ordinated information flow throughout the product development life cycle. Design needs to communicate with manufacturing and this department in turn needs to communicate with a host of others. Apart from this, at any point of time, information exchange with support functions like procurement is also critical.

The need to work closely has given rise to a demand for software that will help integrate whole process from design to manufacturing to distribution to be done in a more synchronized or collaborated way. This has given birth to collaborative product commerce or collaborative engineering. It is a product centric business solution that enables information to be shared throughout the product development cycle across the extended enterprise.

Apart from reduced time to market there are other advantages. Traditionally, design engineers have worked in isolation to other departments and suppliers, which result in design problems coming to light only in the manufacturing stage. As a consequence, there could be delay in product launches, cost overruns and wastage.

The building blocks
Component Function
Product Data Management (PDM) Management of data related to product that has to be manufactured.
Product data management system typically includes tools to manage
CAD/engineering data, files and documents.
Visualisation Software Software used to view parts and assemblies using CAD. This category
also includes software that allows engineers too concurrently view CAD
models in an Internet-based environment.
Design Portals Portals, that is can interface witih CAD/CAM software and therefore,
the drawing can be see through the inter/intranet.
Project Management Software
Component And Supplier Management (CSM)

The market for collaborative engineering solutions is comprised of four major segments: comprehensive technology suppliers, visualization/collaboration vendors, system integrators and specialized application providers.

The comprehensive technology suppliers are companies like SDRC, PTC and MatrixOne that special in the CAD/CAM software and PDM systems that form the heart. Companies like Geometric Software provide solutions for visualisation. Next come the systems integrators like Wipro, Satyam and Infosys that write the patch so that the disparate software (businesses application software and the CAD/CAM software) that can communicate with each other.

According to CIMdata statistics, the worldwide market collaborative product commerce solutions grew by 62% to reach US$ 2.8 bn in 2000. Investments in collaborative engineering related software were US$ 1.2 bn, comprising 43% of the total market and exceeding the growth rate for service revenue for the first time in years. The market is predicted to exceed US$ 4 bn (Rs 192 bn) in 2001 and increase at a compound annual growth rate of 43%. However the numbers given by Geometric are much subdued. The company has indicated a market size of around US$ 600 m (Rs 29 bn) in 1999, with a double-digit growth rate for the future. Either ways the opportunities for Indian software sector is immense. While Indian companies do not have a presence in the technology space, the effort is to penetrate the segment that has been the traditional forte of Indian software companies like systems integration or implementation. Also, the integration of geometry causes the nature of the solutions to be slightly more complex. This gives rise to the opportunity for specialized software development.

According to Mr. Manu Parpia, MD, Geometric Software viewing objects in solid form, and manipulating them would become more of an everyday affair rather than being the domain of a select few. This translates to the fact that that geometry must be integrated to the enterprise software. For example, those in the supply chain (take procurement for example) need to see the part. There might be a need make some change to the part or need to do some referencing with the part. Therefore, access to the geometry of the part is critical.

Geometric has a product called CollabView for the visualization space. Wipro and Geometric have entered into alliance to address a larger segment of the collaborative engineer space. Wipro has a significant experience in systems integration together both the companies can jointly address visualization and systems integration space that accounts for 37% of the potential market.

Satyam has adopted a different strategy. It is focusing on the implementation markets. Satyam has entered into an enterprise consulting partnership agreement with Parametric Technologies (PTC's). Satyam will implement PTC's Windchill software solutions. Windchill solutions span the entire product development cycle, allowing collaboration from design to in-house or contract manufacturing, to service and support.

Indian software companies traditionally have had an inclination towards banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) and telecom verticals. With the decline in market size (due to the cut in IT budgets all over the globe) the competition in the segment has intensified. This has caused software companies to look at other areas for growth. At one end, Infosys is looking at IT enabled services (areas like business process outsourcing) while Wipro, HCL Tech and Hughes continue to be focused on technology. The manufacturing sector could be an interesting area to look at for identifying new growth opportunities.

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