Hexagon: Leading The Way In Manufacturing

CIO Vendor Today's turbulent manufacturing environment is influenced by megatrends such as globalization and ever-increasing requirements for a higher degree of product customization and personalization. In this complex just-in-time world, the value of upfront design, simulation, testing, and measurement is self-evident. Hexagon is a global leader in sensor, software, and autonomous solutions. The Company's solutions focus on boosting efficiency, productivity, and quality across industrial, manufacturing, infrastructure, safety, and mobility applications.

The group over the years has acquired several companies going back more than 100 years. In the manufacturing space, this consists of well-known brands such as Kern & Co., Browne & Sharpe, Leitz. In 2017, Hexagon AB acquired MSC Software to expand on its software portfolio and recently integrated it into the Manufacturing Intelligence division. This division mainly deals with dimensional metrology, design & engineering, and production software portfolios-each adding value to the manufacturing ecosystem, both as point products and combined solutions.

MSC Software has an inspiring story of its conception. In 1965, as we know, John F Kennedy aimed to put a man on the moon. His famous speech stirred the air, not just for the citizens around the world; it also left scientists and engineers on a daunting task to make his vision a reality. There was no room for a trial and error approach; they were sending a human onboard the 28,801 kilograms heavy vehicle drifting through space. If there were an error in the vehicle's metrics and design, it was mission failure.

While the average cost of a launch today is $152 Million, the Apollo 11 launch would be worth $25.4 Billion in today's value! There was no way that engineers could test the device on the moon's surface, break it, and then rebuild it - the first vehicle had to work. Times were inspirational and engineering filled with challenges. This opportunity threw open a tender by NASA to come up with a software program that can simulate a rocket system. IBM and McDonnell Douglas both were two prominent organizations, among others, who bid for the tender.

In the same group of bidders, there were two professors from California, Dr. Richard H. MacNeal, and Robert Schwendler. In response to this 1965 request for a proposal from NASA for a general-purpose structural analysis program, Dr. MacNeal contributed significantly to the aerospace industry's early efforts. He successfully developed a software program for simulating on-the ground physical testing through computing to deliver the right answers and the correct physics to take humans to the moon. The duo then considered commercializing its software and therefore laid the foundation for MSC Software (MacNeal-Schwendler Corporation). In 1971, MSC Software released a commercial version of Nastran, named MSC Nastran.

Becoming a Premier Enterprise
Over the years, MSC Software, now part of Hexagon, has grown significantly, expanding its product and application portfolio. Today, this cuts across structures, fluids, thermal, acoustics, materials, manufacturing simulation, and more. MSC Software is one of the ten original software companies in existence and a global leader in helping product manufacturers to advance their engineering methods with simulation software and services.

MSC Software is arguably one of the very few companies that have not just survived but excelled in the last 57 years. The reason is its positioning and strategy. While the aerospace industry was the early adopter of the simulation software, the automotive sector caught up with the technology trend. Simulation has helped cut down the product development cycle in the automotive industry. What used to take 60 to 65 months in the design process was cut short to 18-24 months with MSC Software's assistance. This is how the premier simulation solution provider has earned key players' trust in the research and development domain of several industries.

"If you want to attain a well-designed and well crafted product in the first attempt, simulation is the only way," says Sridhar Dharmarajan, Executive Vice President & Managing Director, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence India & MSC Software Indo-Pacific. "Enhancements in simulation software and robust hardware can drastically reduce the time taken to solve complicated physics problems," he added. As per Gartner, simulation is one of the few technologies growing in a double-digit percentage.

Building an Ecosystem at Large
Simulation has made its space in almost every industry. Every OEM looks forward to cutting down on their development and testing cycles for the
products. Dharmarajan expresses a keen interest in bringing the benefits of simulation to tier 1 and tier 2 companies. However, observation and surveys suggest that the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) find it challenging to attract the right talent to work on simulation and production technologies. The reason being that simulation and quality engineers come at a premium price due to the demand and supply gap in top engineering talent.

Subsequently, the Company, with efforts by Dharmarajan, have started reskilling initiatives across India. The Company has established several Centers of Excellence (CoEs) across academic institutes to teach engineering through simulation software. Having coined the term "Visualizing Engineering," MSC Software has worked closely with institutions to map the syllabus and create workshops that help students understand and learn concepts by visualization and try-outs through simulation. With this approach, MSC Software is working towards a broader vision to help students obtain exposure to the global platform and get an opportunity to work in real-time with Hexagon and MSC customers. The Company has created an engineering-focused skill database in the form of the "Skill Connect" portal, wherein businesses can employ students whose projects match their area of work or expertise.

Hexagon has been pioneering the establishment of simulation, production, and inspection ecosystem in the country

Hexagon and MSC Software has been educating businesses about the benefits of simulation and, at the same time, taking care of its supply side. Overall, the Company has been pioneering the establishment of simulation, production, and inspection ecosystem in the country.

The Digital Thread and Smart Manufacturing
Dharmarajan explains that quality is not a singular concept, but has multiple dimensions. Any product or part has two kinds of quality - perceived quality and performance quality. Talking about perceived quality, solutions from the Hexagon Production Software come into play, i.e., the simulation of the actual manufacturing process. An example would be of 5-axis milling and ensuring the right quality product is manufactured. For performance quality, MSC Software solutions come into play. The functional aspect of the part is corrected and perfected upfront in the engineering and design process. Lastly, the Metrology suite of products informs whether the manufactured part has achieved the required dimensions and tolerances.

Hexagon integrates these into one digital thread to allow customers to achieve a cohesive process - as designed, as produced, and as measured part. This provides OEMs and suppliers with solutions that offer high accuracy, speed, and overall efficiency right from the design to engineering through all stages of the manufacturing process. Dharmarajan further simplifies this saying, "If one has a digital twin, they can initially work in the digital environment and then replicate it in the physical environment. Working with the digital twin makes these various Hexagon products and solutions intelligent, digitized, and infinitely connected - enabling customers to adopt Smart Manufacturing. This process further allows concurrent feedback for each decision."

This digital thread is an extension of the platform play that Hexagon and MSC Software's customers have trusted over the years.

Toward a Brighter Future
Looking forward, Hexagon has resolved to participate in helping the Prime Minister's economic vision of a $5 Trillion by 2025. Since the manufacturing industry is the most significant contributor to the GDP, Hexagon assists manufacturers in realizing the might and benefit of Industry 4.0. "The hardware is available. Software is available. People with knowledge are available. Why not adopt," says Dharmarajan. "I would say this is the right time to invest and come out stronger in the postCOVID-19 world," he added. To support this initiative, Hexagon has been setting up centers and tie-ups across the region. One such tie-up is part of the Samarth Udyog scheme of the Government of India, with the IIT Delhi-AIA Foundation for Smart Manufacturing. Hexagon works closely with the foundation building awareness through workshops and other initiatives for MSMEs about smart and intelligent manufacturing.

The market is evolving in unique ways bringing innovation in sharper and integrated ways - to build products with improved quality and increased productivity. Rightly so, the combination of individual and diverse solutions that Hexagon has brought together positions the group firmly in the market and enables Smart Manufacturing. With many products in its portfolio and expertise built over the last 100 years and counting, the group is truly redefining manufacturing globally and in the region.