Editor’s Note: This is a guest commentary by MCAE industry veteran Dennis Nagy.
On Thursday (Nov. 8, 2012) Siemens announced its intention to acquire LMS International of Leuven, Belgium for EUR 640M (~$865M), topping previous acquisitions of Ansoft ($824M) and Fluent ($589M) by ANSYS in 2008 and 2006, respectively. Kenneth Wong has already written about the details of the announcement, so I will not repeat those here. As a 40-year MCAE industry veteran who has worked in the past for or with both Siemens and LMS in the specific area of MCAE, I am particularly familiar with both parties to this acquisition and I have clear views on what I think it will mean for the engineering simulation software industry going forward.
LMS started in 1980 as Leuven Measurement Systems*, a mechanical vibration testing company, and has been a leader (both in thought and action) in the combination of mechanical vibration/dynamics testing and MCAE for almost two decades now. They have always realized the synergy between simulation and testing (not simulation vs. physical testing) and have delivered on that synergy with software, testing hardware, and related consulting for their growing customer base in automotive, aerospace, and other industries. So Siemens (and their Siemens PLM [SPLM] Business Unit, into which LMS will be integrated) gains both a strong mechanical testing software/hardware presence and a highly-respected set of MCAE/testing consulting engineers.
In the traditional MCAE software arena, SPLM will have some shorter-term tactical challenges in positioning (and integrating), marketing, and selling their multiple/overlapping offerings in finite element modeling/analysis (FEM/FEA) and multibody dynamics simulation (MBD) through their multiple sales channels.** I am confident that SPLM and LMS (both known for their solid, professional management teams) will find ways to overcome these merger-related birth pains and be able to focus on the much more strategically significant (to me, at least) move into mechatronics that this acquisition represents.
Key statements in the Siemens and LMS acquisition press releases (my emphases bolded) support this view:
- “LMS is the only provider in the world that offers complete platforms for physical testing and mechatronic simulation, including model-based systems engineering …
- “Siemens will become the first product lifecycle management (PLM) software company to provide a closed-loop systems-driven product development solution … [and] will enhance our core competencies by adding model-based simulation …
- “The manufacturing industry faces a significant challenge of efficiently developing the right products while mastering the growing complexity of next generation products. One aspect of this growing complexity is the rapid expansion of products integrating mechanical systems, electronics and software, referred to as mechatronic systems. With the acquisition of LMS, Siemens is well positioned to deliver PLM solutions where the mechatronic systems in a new design will simultaneously be optimized.”
The convergence of mechanical and electrical/electronics engineering needs (including embedded software in digital controls) has rapidly descended upon the traditionally decades-long separate vendor markets of MCAD/MCAE and ECAD/EDA/ECAE. We only need to look at the rapid evolution of digital electronic cost content in automobiles over the past decades (electronics from 10% in 1970 to 40% in 2010 and embedded software from 4% to 13% in 8 years [2002-2010]), to sense that meeting design requirements now demands a more integrative engineering approach at all levels from system to subsystem to component design.
LMS acquired the French company Imagine, and its promising product AMESim, in 2007 and has been heavily promoting (with apparent success) the resulting LMS Imagine.Lab platform for system simulation and Model-Based System Engineering (MBSE). SPLM previously had no real offering in this emerging MBSE space, and now arguably jumps to the head of the class. Dassault Systems (DS) does have a similar product in Dymola, but it is housed in the CATIA business divisions of DS, separate from the rest of DS’ MCAE line in Simulia, and seems more competitive with MATLAB/SIMULINK from MathWorks (a whole other story). ANSYS has a lesser (in my opinion) product in SIMplorer (acquired as part of the Ansoft acquisition in 2008), and finally MSC acquired, with great promise, EASY5 from Boeing way back in 2002 but seems to be slowly starving it to death since then, choosing to focus instead on acoustics and materials simulation with its recent smaller acquisitions and partnerships and some aspects of MBSE in its traditional MBD line (MSC.ADAMS and related tools).
SPLM now has the ingredients to respond to the growing need for integrated mechatronics/MBSE simulation environments. Some astute automotive engineering observers believe that the obstacle to such integration (and corresponding vendor success) lies more with the traditional “silo” organizational structures of major automotive OEMs than it does with available pieces of tools and technology. But that’s a whole other topic. Stay tuned!
*At the time LMS was founded in 1980, the clear leader in modal analysis-based mechanical vibration testing was Structural Dynamics Research Corporation (SDRC) of Milford (outside Cincinnati), OH (and I worked for SDRC at that time). SDRC also had a good presence in MCAE and decided to grow outward in different directions from the mid-1980s through 2000 (into 3-D MCAD and PDM), losing its mechanical testing interest and consequently its lead to LMS. LMS, in turn, realized the future required a strong synergy between MCAE and testing and created their LMS Virtual.Lab platform in response to that need. SDRC was taken private by EDS and merged with Unigraphics in 2001, later to be spun out again as UGS and eventually acquired by Siemens as their new Siemens PLM Business Unit in 2007. Now that SPLM is acquiring LMS, the many former SDRC employees/executives who are still in key positions with SPLM are finally getting their mechanical testing mojo back!
**More specifically, SPLM will have the following technology/positioning issues to deal with:
- Four MCAE/Finite Element modeling(FEM)/visualization environments: FEMAP, NX CAE (both currently part of SPLM, one linked to SolidEdge, the other to NX CAD); LMS Virtual.Lab and CAESAM (from LMS’s recent acquisition of Samtech). I coincidentally wrote last year, as a consultant to CIMdata, a white paper titled “Modern Engineering Simulation Environments: Maximizing the value of your CAE investments” on SPLM’s NX CAE as an example of a comprehensive MCAE environment meeting today’s needs.
- Three multi-body dynamics (MBD) tools: RecurDyn (OEMed by SPLM from Korean company Function Bay), LMS Virtual.Lab Motion (the DADS MBD software acquired by LMS in 1996), and MECANO from Samtech.
- Two Finite Element solvers: NX NASTRAN (acquired by SPLM from MSC as part of an FTC settlement imposed on MSC), and Samcef from LMS Samtech.
- Two optimization solutions: LMS Virtual.Lab Optimization (formerly LMS Optimus, spun out as Noesis [I worked as a consultant to Noesis in 2003] and sold to Cybernet Systems of Japan last year), and LMS Samtech’s BOSS quatro.
Nagy is an independent simulation business development consultant based in North Carolina.