Win-win situation

The combined strengths of Tata Technologies and INCAT could spawn exciting developments in the near future, says Sandeep Belagajee

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 15 Feb 2007 Views icon2746 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Win-win situation
For all purposes, Tata Technologies’ acquisition of INCAT looks like a marriage made in heaven for both companies. Before the takeover, INCAT was already the leading provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions in the world. Through Tata Technologies, it is now in the forefront of E&D services as well. One area where this synergy is most evident is in the area of knowledge management. Over the years, Tata Technologies has built up a vast repository of domain knowledge, having worked with some of the leading OEMs and component manufacturers in Europe and North America.

Just before its acquisition by Tata Technologies, INCAT had bought out a company called CADPO, which had developed a web-based learning programme, called i.get.it. What i.get.it allows the user to do is go through all the training that is necessary to engineering graduate into a CAD specialist, online. It allows the employer to track the competence and fill the skill gaps of the employees.

With i.get.it, the individual gets a chance to boost his capability and therefore his employability and promotion prospects. There are 35,000 users of i.get.it at the moment. It is the exclusive programme used for engineering training by General Motors (GM). i.get.it covers all the existing CAD software; and SAE in the US uses only i.get.it to provide CAD certification. There is a tie-up with SAE in India, but it is still to be activated.

What Tata Technologies has done is taken i.get.it and combined it with its own knowledge-based engineering to create a company called iKnowledge Solutions (IKS). It plans to market the software to manufacturers and educational institutes, so that engineering graduates are bought quickly up to speed with the latest innovations and techniques in CAD.

After its acquisition, INCAT has gone from being a PLM services provider to one which can now offer general manufacturing solutions and enterprise management solutions besides knowledge management solutions as well. “There is a lot of research that shows what keeps CEOs awake at night. Their biggest challenge to sustain shareholder value over the next ten years is the product. Or services are designed to support manufacturers as they seek to deploy new products,” says William Laws, head of corporatec ommunications, Tata Technologies.

COMPETENCE IN DOMAIN KNOWLEDGE

INCAT’s competence is the deep domain knowledge it possesses. This is something its customers appreciate as well. This domain knowledge may well turn out to be its USP as it strives to become a global provider of engineering and design (E&D) services. “Companies like TCS, Satyam and Infosys may be good at SAP or doing some simple kind of engineering work. But if a manufacturer is going to entrust something like A-class surfacing then it is imperative that we understand the domain we operate in,” he adds.

It is this deep domain knowledge that has allowed Tata Technologies to create a host of E&D tools. Initiated about ten years ago, the company now has a tool that is more powerful than CC++. So path breaking is it that the development team even had to invent a new programming language for it. “To the best of our knowledge, no other E&D company has a product similar to this,” says T Rajasekaran, practice head, engineering automation group, Tata Technologies.

##### Recently, the company did a pilot project with a UK-based aeronautics company. While it was impressed with the capabilities of the design tool, it refused to buy it because it was not commercially unproven, other than at Tata Motors. Rajasekaran says that the tool was so versatile that is compatible with any other software. It can invoke the code of any software and display it the user end without actually containing that software itself. This makes it easier to integrate with other operating environments.

The tool is also capable of collaborative work. While one user works with it on a desktop another can modify the same design elsewhere. The tool is dynamic enough to track all changes on a real-time basis and display all changes. Process innovation is another offshoot of deep domain knowledge. This has led Tata Technologies to come up with the “solutions at the speed of specification” concept. “With this type of a tool even a less-experienced user can deliver quality work,” Rajasekaran says.

“For example, as the automobile business becomes globalised, it is impossible for designers to keep track of all the rules and regulations pertaining to passenger safety or can design in every country. Besides that different clients use different methods and reporting processes for the design process. These unique rules can be stored on the system with relevant identifier tags. The tool automatically calls up the relevant regulations whenever it detects an anomaly in the design or regulatory process for that company or region. These can then be rectified at a very early stage,” he says.

This, of course, does not mean that the system inhibits innovation. There are exigencies built into it that allows for such innovations. If a user wants to change the parameters, then the system captures that and brings it up for review any time it is required. This allows for dynamic updating of rules.

“We are trying to be masters of this game. Already, in some areas of E&D we are the best in the world,” Rajasekaran says. So advanced is the tool that not just design and development, it can be modified for production process as well. Input the rules into the system, and it ensures that there is no deviation from this process. Two US-based manufacturers, one a toolmaker and the other an OEM, have already used the tool and derived tremendous benefits, he adds.

E&D FUNCTIONS

The E&D group at Tata Technologies has three functions: product design, tooling and manufacturing. The product design teams can deliver end-to-end solutions from concept design to manufacture. From ideation, concept, aggregate design, modelling to reverse engineering, these teams can deliver the entire gamut of services. In the computed engineering department, Tata Technologies has the full set of capabilities to deliver everything from crash testing to noise, vibration, harshness (NVH) monitoring.

On the tooling side, the company can design the full complement of components and dies required for the manufacturing process. It has the capability to do critical work in transfer dies and progressive dies as well. Body fixtures, assembly fixtures, ceiling fixtures, machine fixtures, plastic moulding, ferrous and non-ferrous forgings, and die casting; the company has the requisite technology to do all this.

Although Tata Technologies does not do any manufacturing itself, it has the capability to front-end projects. It can design the prototype tools. One high-end capability the company has in manufacturing is shopfloor design. It can model the entire logistics of a plant including inventory, bins, line-level and cell-level activity, and robotics so that the actual production process is optimal and efficient.

A Japanese automaker wanted to shift a plant from Hungary to a greenfield facility. They wanted the logistics of the transfer and relocation process to be done in two weeks. They also wanted the 110 robots on the new production line reprogrammed. Several Indian companies were shortlisted for the job, but Tata Technologies got the contract on the basis of its capabilities.

“In fact, they stipulated that our engineers had to be on site when the project was being commissioned. But when the date passed, and we got no call, we asked them what happened. They said they did not need our engineers because our programmes had worked very well first time around. This is a good example of our high-end capability,” Rajasekaran says.

As their domain knowledge has increased, Tata Technologies is getting into more complex systems including engine management, ABS and GPS as well. “Getting these done outside the country is extremely expensive. We are able to deliver the same, or better, technology and quality, at one-fourth or one-fifth the cost,” he explains.

The real challenge before E&D is delivering quality at low costs. European and North American customers wants the full gamut of services at low costs. Tata Technologies, through INCAT, operates from 14 centres in 11 cities around the world. In India, INCAT, through Tata Technologies, has offices in Pune, Jamshedpur, Lucknow and Bangalore. Most of the company’s employees are in Asia-Pacific, mainly India, but most of its revenues – around $250 million – come from North America. INCAT has a very powerful onshore consulting relationship with many of these clients.

How INCAT has benefited from the acquisition is that while it used to charge US rates, it can now use India’s low-cost card and offer additional benefits to its customers. “What is emerging from the merger is stronger than the sum of the two individual companies,” Laws says.

The union has had a salutary effect on revenues as well. Tata Motors used to represent 90 percent of Tata Technologies’ overall business. At the beginning of this year, just before the Incat acquisition, Tata Motors contributed more than 50 percent of Tata Technologies’ revenue. Post-acquisition, they represent only 15 percent of overall revenue.

“We continue to do more work for Tata Motors, but it is a smaller slice of a growing global pie,” he adds. In terms of revenues, Tata Technologies is already the biggest pure E&D company in India with revenues of nearly Rs 1000 crore. This is twice as much as its nearest competitor, Rolta.
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