June 2007 | Sujata Agrawal

Engineered by design

Focusing on product lifecycle management solutions as well as engineering and design services, INCAT has enabled its customers in the automotive and aerospace business to be more productive and cost effective

INCAT, a Tata Technologies company, is a leading independent international provider of engineering and design (E and D) services to the world’s largest automotive, aerospace and durable goods manufacturers. With operations in 45 cities in 12 countries across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, it is focused on services and solutions for product lifecycle management (PLM) and information lifecycle management (ILM). It creates value for its clients through its unique-in-the-industry global delivery model, a state-of-the-art technology and a pragmatic approach to engineering and manufacturing processes that reduces costs and time to market. It also helps clients realise superior products.

With more than 15 years of experience helping companies realise the full potential of their technologies and processes, INCAT understands not only the complexity of outsourcing but also the business its customers are in.

The company uses technology, people skills and offshoring to reduce costs and increase the customer’s competitiveness. Quality standards are clearly defined at INCAT and there is even a checking software system, which ensures that customers get exactly what they want.

Lawrence JamesINCAT has a slew of PLM customers in the automotive and aerospace business. “We help build our clients’ business and help them to be more productive and cost effective,” says Lawrence James, VP sales (Europe), INCAT.

PLM supports the management of a product, with all its associated processes, right from the concept stage. It takes in the design, launch, production, use, and even the final disposal at the very end of the lifecycle. It is a process that yields such dramatic improvements that analysts say even if the already sagging fortunes of Detroit’s big three companies decline to the point where they will no longer be ‘big’, they can still stabilise their market and sustain their profitability by making effective use of PLM.

In partnership with IBM and Dassault Systèmes, INCAT has set up a global software development alliance for the CAD / CAM / CAE / PLM market. This provides solutions to implement digital enterprises, creating and simulating the entire product lifecycle from the very concept to the product in actual service. Their products, including CATIA, ENOVIA and DELMIA, support industry-specific business processes, helping customers innovate, reduce development time, and improve quality and competitiveness.

INCAT’s earliest origins are from 1983, in England, when it got into the automotive business in a tie-up with Volvo. Five years later, its partner, IBM invited it to work in the growing US automotive sector. Here, it built a long standing relationship with DaimlerChrysler and other large auto companies.

The current UK operation started in 1989. In the early days, INCAT worked with IBM, selling software technologies and providing services to implement the software, helpdesk, training and consulting services. The method involved understanding a customer’s processes of designing automotive components, and implementing technology that would help do it in a faster and more productive way.

Through the ’90s, INCAT developed and built a strong customer base. In 2001, it decided to move into the engineering and design business. “Our customers in the automotive area were doing a lot of design work for body / chassis or powertrain. Our aerospace customers needed work in the areas of systems and integration, as well as manufacturing. It was a good opportunity to provide more value-added services,” says James. INCAT also started to ramp up the number of people working on customer sites full time.

The turning point came in October 2005, when Tata Technologies acquired INCAT. The synergies and opportunities that the acquisition bought with it resulted in a 30 per cent growth of business within just three months! “I was very excited about this move,” James says animatedly. “INCAT was a small player on its own, with limited capability. Being part of the Tata group, we could move to the next level, grow the business and offer more services to customers.”

And the customers did not disappoint. “They saw, as we did, the opportunity to get more resources, a greater cost advantage, and work in a global environment,” says James. The Tata name quickly helped reassure customers about security, quality and ethical issues.

Very soon after the acquisition, INCAT got its first global delivery project with Contour, a long-standing UK customer. The company designs aircraft seats for several airlines, including Air France, British Airways, Emirates and KLM. But Contour was spending a huge amount on R and D and manufacturing. Tata Technologies and INCAT showed them how they could get extra resources and leverage cost advantages. Today, there are about 35 people working on Contour projects every day in Pune, and 70 people onsite in the UK. “The Contour case is a good example of the synergies that Tata and INCAT wanted to achieve out of coming together. It is an ideal example of globalisation,” says James.

James is excited about the synergies between INCAT and Tata Technologies operations in Thailand, especially as some of INCAT’s customers have operations in Malaysia and Thailand. INCAT also provides support for Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) in its Warwick operations. “We are looking forward to working with TMETC, and look at it as a good opportunity,” he says.

Overall, 2006 was a good year for INCAT. It was authorised to sell and deliver Autodesk Subscription Gold Support in the USA. It also launched the Realize(SM) brand of implementations for PLM systems at the PLM world conference held in California. The company got into branded managed security services, and announced the deployment of leading knowledge transfer solutions. It signed an agreement with OPTIS of France to distribute and implement simulation software for designing lighting systems.

Today, INCAT has a 10-per cent share of the £250 million UK PLM business. In E and D, it has a £5 million share of the approximately £1 billion UK market. The UK business contributes about 20 per cent ($40 million) to Tata Technologies’ overall revenues of $210 million, while the share from the US market is about 50 per cent. In terms of the future, James sees a tremendous opportunity in the E and D space through global delivery projects based out of Bangalore and Pune. He expects to double business next year, from £4.5 million to about £11 million. “It’s quite a dramatic growth that we are aiming for,” he smiles.

This, he hopes, will come from existing and new customers in the aerospace and automotive business. They are also talking to customers about handling offshore delivery work in India. “The next phase of growth will clearly come from India’s resource pool, particularly in engineering design,” says James. He would like to see the company’s current five projects increase to 20. He expects these to be multi-million dollar projects, which will give a dramatic boost to the business. Also on the agenda is a plan to set up an office in Bangalore, home to a number of aerospace industries. Clearly for INCAT, it’s exciting times ahead.