October 24, 2005
Autodesk Acquires Engineering Intent Corp. For Engineer-To-Order Capabilities
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Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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Autodesk, Inc. announced that it has acquired certain assets of Engineering Intent Corporation. Privately held and based in Waltham, Mass, Engineering Intent provides "Engineer to Order" (ETO) software and services. The acquisition enables Autodesk to help its customers address the growing demand for mass customization -- efficiently delivering end products uniquely designed and configured for individual customers. Autodesk's expanded solution directly supports its' customers requirement to efficiently produce and deliver customized end products for time to market advantages. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ETO software can significantly shorten manufacturers' sales cycles, typically from an average of 30 days to as little as one day or more importantly, a single sales call. The software also helps them manufacture their end products more cost effectively. By embedding a company's engineering specifications or design intelligence and rules up-front, ETO software enables sales to achieve pre-approved designs in the field, reduces engineering design iterations, minimizes costly errors and can eliminate manufacturing re-work.

"Engineering Intent has been active and successful in helping its customers address sales engineering automation," said Buzz Kross, vice president of Autodesk's Manufacturing Solutions Division. "In addition to bringing domain expertise, Engineering Intent has developed ETO software that encompasses a competitively unique rules engine. This acquisition expands our business scope and demonstrates our commitment to providing an increasingly comprehensive solution to our customers."

Engineering Intent has successfully partnered with Autodesk Consulting for a variety of AutoCAD and Autodesk Inventor-based ETO implementations.

Hytrol Conveyor Company, a major manufacturer of conveying systems and accessories, has been working with Engineering Intent and Autodesk to implement a company-wide ETO system. "This system will help us to significantly shorten our sales cycles and engineering time by automating re-design for each order, Bill of Material (BOM) production for manufacturing, and spare parts lists for our customers," said Stuart Shaw, Hytrol's Manager of Information Systems. "We'll be able to implement this system in half the time it would have taken us to develop a customized solution in house."

Southern Staircase, a premier supplier to home builders, commercial contracts and architects, is a long time Autodesk customer. "We are thrilled about this acquisition," says Randy Scott vice president at Southern Staircase. "We are implementing a solution consisting of Autodesk Inventor and Engineering Intent, with the expertise of the Autodesk Consulting team guiding the entire project including the integration into our ERP system. With this solution we will be able to reduce order administration, reduce errors, get to market faster, and ultimately increase our sales volumes. This move by Autodesk to help address the engineer to order challenge for its customers is further
proof that we made the right decision with Autodesk."

In acquiring certain assets of Engineering Intent, Autodesk broadens its solutions for manufacturing companies with market leading 2D and 3D design products and process automation offering such as Autodesk Productstream. Autodesk continues to enable its customers to realize ideas and increase process automation for improved return on investment.

Although it's not really clear exactly what they're acquiring, Autodesk Inc. has acquired some of the assets of Engineering Intent Corp., whose ETO software is used to help manufacturers produce design specifications for potential customers. Neither company disclosed financial details of the deal, or the parts of Engineering Intent that were left out of the acquisition. In 2002 Autodesk acquired another Waltham Massachusetts-based company, Revit Technology, and has announced six acquisitions so far this year, including Alias for conceptual design and visualization and Solid Dynamics for analyzing and optimizing assembly physical motion and loading. So, all in all, Autodesk has been on an
acquisition spree this year.

Engineering Intent was founded in 1991 as Heide Corp. and its customers include General Motors Corp. and Toshiba. Engineering Intent has produced tools that employ a knowledge-based engineering (KBE) software language based on its proprietary Intent Technology framework (Intent), for tying together and increasing the efficiency of sales and engineering operations. Intent captures "expert" level knowledge to distribute across a supply chain, with the intent of making all users "experts" without having to duplicate actual "expert" resources. This is intended to promote interactive dialogues; automate sales and administration processes, and permit employees,
partners, and customers to perform at the level of "experts."

The Intent product family is a suite of software products that use Intent Technology for engineering knowledge management. Intent technology can be used to capture, manage, and re-use a company's engineering knowledge and processes, as well as the ability to effect rapid responses to customer needs, from custom design to costing, allowing for quick and accurate responses to product requests.

Intent's Runtime CAD Deployment Options enable applications to be embedded directly into the user environment of CAD systems, including AutoCAD, Inventor, CATIA, and Unigraphics. By embedding Intent applications in these CAD systems, users can create environments that use both Intent and CAD technologies from within the user interface of the CAD system. This includes the ability to interact with both Intent- and CAD-created geometry through the one interface. Any geometry created by Intent is native to the CAD system and does not require translation from the Intent geometry engine to the CAD geometry engine.

This is all well and good, but the press release emphasizes Engineering Intent's ETO technologies, something some other companies call product configuration. In its most basic form, a product configurator is a tool that simplifies order entry and routing/bill of material design based on features and options selected for a customer order. Ideally, with a product configurator, the user (whether producer or consumer) picks an optimal solution as the configurator guides them to the best feature and option choices. A product configurator lets users ask questions to guide recommended options; provides pictures, help tools, and calculators to assist choices; presents alternate features and
options; and constrains choices based on compatibility rules.

Product configurators are particularly useful if and when a product is available in different colors, sizes, or other variations to help determine exactly what is being specified or ordered; how to manufacture the product; if the product can be manufactured; what the cost will be to make the product; what quantity of raw material(s) is required to make the product; and the product's price. Basically, it is an online tool designed to manage the design, manufacture, and selling processes of complex and configurable products.

It will be interesting to see how Autodesk integrates ETO technology, as well as which products it will offer it in. It will encounter some competition from established companies already in the ETO space, such as StormMaker, RuleStream, and Deligo Technologies. ETO (or product configuration) technologies can be complex to implement, but done right can provide impressive benefits to diverse groups ranging from sales to engineering to customers.

The Week's Top 5

At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.

UGS Corp. and Microsoft Corp. announced that NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has decided to expand its UGS Teamcenter digital lifecycle management implementation by deploying a Microsoft-based Teamcenter application focusing on enterprise project and program collaboration capabilities. The implementation connects JPL employees and outside suppliers -- representing over 2,000 total users -- to 38,000 3D product models, more than 6000 drawings and all associated product data, for enhanced development productivity. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California is NASA's lead center for robotic exploration of the solar system, tasked with developing
sophisticated space exploration satellites and telescopes for observing distant galaxies. Teamcenter includes built-in 3D product visualization and is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office 2003, Windows Server 2003, and Microsoft SharePoint products and technologies.

The Boeing Company, in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), successfully demonstrated boost phase performance of a hypersonic strike demonstrator vehicle called HyFly on Aug. 26. A Boeing F-15E launched the HyFly vehicle during the test over the U.S. Navy's sea range at the Naval Air Weapons Center - Weapons Division at Pt. Mugu, Calif. The solid rocket booster successfully ignited and accelerated the HyFly to a speed of greater than Mach 3. This test was the second of five HyFly flight tests that are scheduled from 2005 to 2007. In the first flight test, conducted on Jan. 26, 2005, an un-powered HyFly
vehicle demonstrated safe separation from an F-15E as well as vehicle guidance and control functions. During the next three test flights, the HyFly vehicles will be powered by a booster and a dual combustion ramjet engine at speeds up to Mach 6.

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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.

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