Followers Complain, Leaders Create Competitive Advantages

Followers Complain, Leaders Create Competitive Advantages

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Rapidly changing and increasingly tightening legislations, inclining raw material & input costs, shorter development cycles and downsizing without compromising performance are some of the factors affecting automotive manufacturers presently. In order to combat these challenges, simulation comes across as a handy tool, allowing companies to bypass the process of making prototypes, finding flaws and going back to the drawing board again. Rafiq Somani, Country Sales Manager, ANSYS India tells us why getting it right first time is becoming important, and more.

As the Country Sales Manager, ANSYS India, Rafiq Somani is responsible for driving the growth of the company's sales across industries, including automotive, industrial, aerospace & defence, consumer and infrastructure. Prior to ANSYS, he worked with PTC as the Country Sales Manager, since 1996. He also worked with Tata Consultancy Services for three years and Minicomp Computers for two years. Somani completed his education from Bombay University, where he earned his Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. Thereon, he completed his Masters in Marketing Management from the same university. Beyond his work, Somani takes deep interest in contributing towards social causes and is presently the Chairman of the Aga Khan Education Service India, an AKDN NGO.

ATR _ ANSYS recently acquired Space Claim. Help us understand the benefits of this acquisition and what impact would this have on the Indian operations?

RAFIQ SOMANI _ The key philosophy for ANSYS is simulation-based product development and our effort in respect to present times is to offer customers with the option of front-loading computer-aided engineering (CAE) in the initial design-cycle. This leads to shorter and more cost-effective development cycles. Space Claim is one of the fastest and most direct modelling technologies available, making it a good fit for us. This will help engineers to achieve higher quality in shorter durations.

An example highlighting the benefits of front-loading CAE in the design process is the concept of Hyper Loop. This is a futuristic tube transportation system, driven by compressed air, allowing a distance of 570 km or that between San Fransisco to Los Angeles to be covered in 35-odd minutes. Although there is no prototype, passengers in the Hyper Loop will be able to travel at speeds of about 1,200 km/h. There is no detailed design done on this, and there is no prototype but using ANSYS computational fluid dynamics (CFD) technology, the design has been optimised virtually to make it safe for passengers to travel. I don't know when and if this will become a reality but it's the power of front-loading CAE in the design process, which has made it possible to conceptualise the Hyper Loop.

Given the profile of the business we're generating in India, Space Claim has a good potential, especially since the market is becoming a hub for a lot of high-end designing.

How are you doing things differently in India, given the unique requirements of the market?

In India, we're trying to give our customers a 360o solution involving people, product and process. We've taken global solutions and tweaked them keeping in mind the kind of work Indian companies primarily do. This results in a more direct positive impact on the customers' operations. An example of such fine-tuning is for companies operating in the space of turbomachinery, which is quite common in India. On the process side, we're conducting people training and automating processes by going back to our customers and understanding their processes. By recommending the suitable and best practices, we're helping them enhance the efficiency of their simulation processes. In addition, we're training people to ensure that the industry benefits from adequately skilled people, maximising the benefits of our solutions.

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Although more in numbers, two-wheelers have lagged four-wheelers in adopting electronics. Do you see an opportunity in this space?

As consumers demand more features, even two-wheelers are increasingly looking at usage of technologies such as mechatronics. Now, this cannot be achieved by simply stuffing more and more electronics into a two-wheeler, and embedded software will also play a role in my opinion. One thing that applies to all vehicles and aerospace as well is that those times have gone when one could do simulation or CAE in isolation. The structure, flow of the fluid and electronics today are coupled together in a way that the functioning of one impacts that of the other two. For example, the heat radiation of the vehicle, usage pattern, road conditions and other factors will have a direct impact on the performance of the electronics. In that respect, ANSYS is the only company to offer solutions, which can couple structural, fluid and electromagnetic physics together and deliver optimised results. This is where a lot of development is happening for the two-wheelers already at the drawing board level.

Simulation usually leads to lower physical testing. What kind of development can we see in this space in the coming years?

I'm already talking to a lot of customers, who want to get the product right in the first go. I think we've already come to a stage where virtual prototyping can help people get the product right in one go. The relation of virtual testing with physical prototypes though depends on factors such as cost of prototypes due to nature of product and legislation, wherein certain amount of physical testing is mandatory.

For example, the Red Bull F1 car uses about 80,000 parts and even if they achieve a 99.9 % correct geometry and analysis, 80 parts going wrong could have severe implications, especially when speeds regularly goes in excess of 300 km/h. Add to it the fact that the exhaust temperature can go beyond the melting point of aluminium and you can imagine how important it becomes for them to get things right in the first go. Also, since F1 cars need to be developed in very short cycles compared with road cars, there is hardly any chance of physical testing for all systems.

As I mentioned earlier, the cost of the prototype also makes a significant difference since someone developing a complicated system wouldn't want too many prototypes due to their high cost. Physical testing is emphasised quite a lot historically in the auto industry, and we do not see a stage where simulation could spell the end of physical testing but it'll certainly help people get their designs right the first time and save time and money.

In cases of mandatory testing too, simulation imparts a strong confidence that the product will deliver the desired results in the first go, when tested in the laboratory. Also, areas such as NVH and emissions are relatively new and not everything can be done through physical prototypes, making it important to use simulation.

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Talking of electric vehicles and batteries, and their design to maximise cooling and performance, what kind of progress has ANSYS made in the recent past?

This is a very relevant question in the present scenario, and within this space our customers globally are using our tools to roll out more efficient products on parameters such as weight, cooling etc. The parameters within this space are very complex and vast, making it hard to touch upon it in short.

Would you like to put a number to the increase in efficiency of batteries in the coming years?

It's hard to put a number since there are many predictions in a very wide range. Also, this increase would depend on the kind of disruptive technologies that make their way through. Technologies such as 3D printing and mobile phones have already changed the overall scenario and the effect of any such new technology can only be a guess right now. The key parameter many people are tracking in the battery space today is power per unit of weight and size. In the last decade or so, the progress in this area has been quite consistent and the predictions would lie with the battery makers. But they surely are using a lot of ANSYS tools to make this happen.

I'll give you an example of motors, in terms of how small incremental efficiency gains too can make a large difference. About 45 % of the world's industrial electricity is consumed by electric motors and overall, about two-thirds of the world's electricity is consumed by different form of motors. You can imagine now what impact a small gain of even one per cent, made using our tools, would have.

So after all this, how has the response been from Indian companies?

I see here two clearly distinguished customer profiles. One is where the companies are complaining about the increasing competitiveness, regulations and other parameters. These companies are mostly followers and I hope they change their outlook soon. On the other hand, there are companies, especially those with second-generation leaders, who want to take their company to the next level. Rather than complaining about things beyond their control, they focus on taking a leap in their capabilities and create a competitive advantage for themselves.

Bharat Forge, for example, is using CAE tools to come up with forged parts that are lighter, stronger and can be developed in a shorter span of time. This ability allows it to better compete with global forging competitors, especially those from China, Eastern Europe and the US. Such competitive advantage combined with the frugal engineering capabilities of Indian companies can lead to innovative and cost-effective solutions. This is one way how we can offset China's mass-manufacturing advantage to an extent.

There are Indian companies, which come up to us and say that they want us to help them become global majors. Customers are now understanding the value being offered to them and are willing to pay accordingly.

How much does the automotive business account for in the Indian revenues?

We only disclose global numbers, wherein automotive industry accounts for about 15 % of our revenue, which continues to grow. In India though, the share is much higher since in India, automotive customers set the benchmark for many other industries in terms of CAD & CAE. The remaining of our business comes from industrial segment, followed by aerospace & defence.

Please tell us more about the role being played by your R&D centre in Pune.

We're doing some critical work from our centres in Pune, Noida and Bangalore, and it is not just quality analysis. Our Indian engineers are working hand-in-glove with their colleagues from the US, making Indian R&D extremely important for all the products you see from us in the market. The Indian R&D operations are the second-largest for the company outside of the US and does core engineering for us. We already have about 200 engineers in India and continue to expand.

Text: Arpit Mahendra

Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay