Clients can’t buy engineering software because of talent lack
Altair Engineering aims to grow 25% in the region this year
ALTHOUGH companies in Asia understand the capability of product design and development, and engineering software, not many of them are adopting it because of a talent gap, said a senior official from Altair Engineering Inc.
According to Altair Engineering managing director for South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand Srirangam Srirangarajan, human resources is one of the main issues limiting its growth potential in this region, including Malaysia.
“Most of them realise that they need to adopt this technology to gain operational efficiencies and a competitive advantage, but they find … a big challenge in both hiring and retaining talents,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) in an interview in Kuala Lumpur last week.
“There were cases where companies tell us that they can’t buy our software because it is very difficult for them to get the people,” he added.
In order to help address the human capital issue, Srirangam said that Altair Engineering is currently embarking on an internship training programme, where it will train fresh graduates for a period of six months to help them become “industry-ready.”
“We hire interns as soon as they graduate. Whenever companies – clients or potential clients – need and ask us for people, we will recommend these.
“I guess it is a win-win situation for everyone. The industry gets the right talents, and at the same time, it helps us to sell the software as well,” he said.
Srirangam said that Altair Engineering is also working with a few universities in Malaysia, helping develop complete course curricula for the students and materials for the lecturers.
Virtual sim an industry boon
Troy, Michigan-headquartered Altair Engineering was established in 1985. Its flagship product is HyperWorks suite of CAE (computer-aided engineering) software. Its product design and development, and engineering software is used by various industries.
In the automotive and aerospace industries, for example, its software is used in designing new cars and planes, respectively. In the pharmaceutical industry, its software is used for genome innovation and sequencing.
Its clients include BMW, Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Airbus (pic above), BAE Systems and Boeing.
Its software is also used by Hollywood, with Srirangam saying its technology was used in at least one of the Iron Man movies.
In the entertainment industry in Malaysia, its clients include Les' Copaque Production Sdn Bhd, most known for its TV series Upin and Ipin.
Altair Engineering software is also used by different industries for simulation. For example, car manufacturers use the software to simulate a crash impact to find out how a head-on collision will impact the car, its driver and passengers.
Aircraft makers use the software to simulate the impact of an emergency landing on water, to find out the chances of survivability, or areas where the aircraft needs to be strengthened.
Srirangam claimed that Altair Engineering’s virtual simulation software can achieve a 95% correlation with the physical test results.
“However, that depends on a series of factors – how well you characterise the material, how well you capture the physics of the problem, and how well you make the model,” he said.
Besides accuracy, Srirangam said that the software helps companies reduce product development time. In the past, before such software existed, car companies would take about eight years to develop a new car.
“Today, you can develop a car in less than two years. The main reason for that, besides the knowledge that they have gained over the years, is simulation technology.
“With such technology, you don’t have to keep going back to the drawing board and fixing the prototype,” he said.
Altair Engineering also provides consultancy services to its customers. This segment contributes approximately 30% of its business in the region he oversees, Srirangam said.
Healthy growth in the near-term
Since 2008, the company's revenue has been growing at the rate of 45% annually in the region, Srirangam (pic) claimed.
“This year, we are expecting growth to be around 25%,” he said.
Growth this year will be mainly relying on a few sectors, including oil and gas, automotive, and manufacturing.
Although the automotive sector remains as one of its biggest, revenue growth here has been “somewhat unexciting.”
“This year, automotive is slightly low but looks like it will revive next year. We expect take-up for our software to increase next year as car-makers look to develop new models,” Srirangam said.
He believes that when the automotive industry is on an aggressive mode to develop new models, it would result in additional staff being needed in the design and development departments. This in turn will result in additional orders for Altair Engineering’s software.
“Also, it could result in additional consultancy hours, which can be significant,” he added.
While car-makers in the region are using its software, Srirangam hopes that the market can be expanded to other automotive-related companies.
“We hope that more automotive component makers can take up the technology, as it could help them in moving up the value chain,” he said.
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