Not only can companies grow their offerings organically, but there is also the acquisition route to improving and expanding what they bring to market. In the product lifecycle management (PLM) arena, during the past few years Dassault Systèmes (3ds.com) has done both. Here’s a look at some of the acquisitions it has made specifically germane to automotive, acquisitions that broaden the scope of PLM, increase its capabilities, and strengthen its IT infrastructure so that PLM user companies win in the long run by having an integrated, enterprise-wide, data management system rich with features and functionality. These acquisitions, according to Dassault, “provide [our] clients with a powerful platform, which uses the universal language of 3D and the Web as the user interface, to help them to connect the dots.” These dots would be the ones leading toward increased competitiveness, customer responsiveness, better products, and profitability through a broad and seamless virtual product development (VPD) and engineering management system.
The forte of Paris-based Exalead (exalead.com; acquired 6/9/10) is extracting, integrating, searching through, and analyzing data. Its CloudView system and other search-based applications (SBA) combine web-based natural-language processing technologies, drag-and-drop usability, and sophisticated quantitative/qualitative analytics to structure and access previously unused or under-used data, such as that found in enterprise systems (including, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and PLM). CloudView collects data from virtually any source, in any format (including tweets, email messages, videos, webpages, and log files), and transforms those data into contextualized building blocks of information that can be searched and queried, or used to create new applications. SBAs hide the complexity of underlying information sources and applications while combining a search infrastructure with workflow and domain knowledge. SBAs can be installed quickly, leading to rapid improvements in decision-making, and all the efficiencies and increased productivity that come with that.
Embedded systems development
Autosar Builder, Reqtify, RT-Builder, and ControlBuild, the software products from Geensoft (geensoft.com; 6/22/10), help with developing multi-disciplinary integrated systems (namely, embedded electronics, sensors, software, and mechanical devices). These products digitally model, validate, and verify vehicle control software (including functions and architecture), working across multi-discipline teams. Moreover, they create a validation loop connecting the physical equipment with the digital mock up. Ultimately, these products help engineers master the complexities in embedded integrated systems, and help in complying with related quality and safety regulations. Integrating embedded-systems development with PLM significantly improves the overall efficiency of VPD.
Manufacturing execution systems
Intercim (3ds.com/products/delmia; 3/17/11), renamed “Delmia Operations,” provides manufacturing execution systems (MES). MES essentially replaces paper-based processes and work instructions with real-time, web-based, computerized parts, product, and process tracking and history, data acquisition, scheduling, and quality management. This acquisition adds online execution to Delmia’s existing virtualization software for digitally modeling and simulating manufacturing operations. All this software now lets manufacturers not only demonstrate that what they built was exactly what they had planned to build, but it also leads to process validation and certification where required, real-time visibility into manufacturing operations, and increased efficiencies through better optimization of manufacturing operations. Folding MES within PLM provides the digital continuity from engineering (CAD, CAE, simulation, and so on) to the actual operations on the factory floor (MES mostly, but also ERP).
Increasing numbers of automotive body-in-white and body-in-black are turning to fiber reinforced (composite) materials, a very complex manufacturing technology. By acquiring Simulayt (simulayt.com; 10/4/11), Dassault adds composites and advanced draping/fiber simulation to its existing sheet metal and assembly fasteners design and simulation capabilities, which Dassault’s PLM already oversees. Simulayt’s Layup Technology applies advanced fiber simulation and ply modeling capabilities to predict and optimize the behavior of composite materials and parts, including the tradeoffs of composite weight versus performance. Among other capabilities, Simulayt’s products simulate draping, even over complex surfaces; simulate composite manufacturing; generate flat patterns, draped pattern, and fiber orientations; bidirectionally transfer composite data between design (geometry perspectives) and analysis (finite element perspectives); specify manufacturing procedures; and help ensure product quality and prevent costly composite part design and manufacturing errors.
Electrical engineering schematics
As automobiles rely more on integrated electrical, fluidic, and electronics systems for “smart” capabilities, associating schematics to the actual product’s behavior becomes increasingly important. It is, in fact, a hallmark of VPD—and of Elsys (e-elsys.com; 10/27/11). The company’s interactive (“generative”) electrical engineering software covers the entire electrical engineering process, from electrical specification to the configured harness. The company’s core product, Electre, automatically generates manufacturing and 2D and 3D wiring schematics from functional-logical master data. Catelectre bidirectionally integrates Electre and Catia’s 3D electrical systems, thereby combining electrical and mechanical models to a single digital mock-up. This integration lets engineers synchronize electrical schematics with the associated 3D mechanical environment, and to update harness data as the 3D models change. Last, Smartelectre combines Elsys Electre with Dassault Enovia SmarTeam PLM. All together with Dassault’s existing PLM, these products help eliminate the tedious, costly, and error-prone process of manually creating electrical schematics.
Under the moniker “We Dashboard Everything,” the “dashboard intelligence technologies” from Paris-based Netvibes (netvibes.com; 2/9/12) let users quickly and easily create customizable web-based dashboards for real-time monitoring, social analytics, knowledge sharing, and decision support on subjects of their choosing. (Remember web portals and dashboards? Netvibes is a slicker, easier, information system-agnostic, and more sophisticated and pervasive implementation.) Data sources include enterprise systems (e.g., ERP and PLM), databases, and other information systems, as well as external cloud applications, social feeds, and live sentiments. Netvibes offers three products: Netvibes.com.com for free, personalized dashboards; Netvibes Premium Dashboard featuring Dashboard Intelligence, which includes SmartTags for sharing opinions bidirectionally with customer and other opinion makers (think of this as a permanent, real-time opinion poll); and Netvibes for Enterprise for private, corporate installations, such as for providing 24/7 “live reports” on matters involving engineering and manufacturing design, analysis, and production.
Point your browser to netvibes.com/en/pricing and select the "Basic" (free) option of Netvibes to create a personal dashboard monitoring device for everything that matters to you from a variety of data sources—news, Facebook, Twitter, photos, videos, etc.—on a desktop or mobile device.