ANSYS’ New CEO Focuses on the Digital Twin, IoT and Core Technology
Shawn Wasserman posted on January 10, 2017 |
Ajei S. Gopal has taken over as ANSYS’ CEO. What can engineers expect from the change? (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

Ajei S. Gopal has taken over as ANSYS’ CEO. What can engineers expect from the change? (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

With a new CEO running the show, ANSYS is sure to be seeing some significant New Year’s resolutions.

The new big man on campus is Ajei S. Gopal. From the start of this year, he has taken over as ANSYS’ CEO and president from the very successful (see Figure 1) Jim Cashman.

ENGINEERING.com sat down with Gopal to see what this change means for the computer-aided engineering (CAE) community.

In short, his major focuses are to invest into ANSYS’ core technology, the digital twin and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Figure 1: ANSYS’ revenue history from 2001, just after Jim Cashman became CEO, until 2015. Net income has dropped only twice within his tenure, and total revenue went from under $100 million to just shy of $1 billion. (Image courtesy of Graphic Speak.)
Figure 1: ANSYS’ revenue history from 2001, just after Jim Cashman became CEO, until 2015. Net income has dropped only twice within his tenure, and total revenue went from under $100 million to just shy of $1 billion. (Image courtesy of Graphic Speak.)

Core Technology Goals For ANSYS

Want to win a bid to design a product? OEMs will need to perform simulation or lose to the competition, says Gopal. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

Want to win a bid to design a product? OEMs will need to perform simulation or lose to the competition, says Gopal. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

Simulation is becoming ever more important to a product’s development cycle. This is a trend that weighs heavily on Gopal – and other leaders in the simulation space.

Gone are the days when engineers cross their fingers at the end of a development cycle hoping it will all work out. Now simulation is becoming an integral part of early design.

Gopal tells of a tier one automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vying to close the deal on new bids. This ragtag gang of engineers who had to provide simulations when responding to these bids. In other words, if the OEM is unable to provide proof that its designs will make the grade, then the customer will go elsewhere. So much for the back of a napkin.

This has created pressure on engineers to produce more simulations faster and earlier in a design. And even if the OEM performs the simulation, there is no guarantee they will win the bid. As a result, the core software needs to be able to support these engineers with faster turnaround times.

So, no surprise that when asked where Gopal will be investing his time, goals and R&D, he answered, core technology.

“Ultimately, the objective is to focus and invest in core technology and capabilities, and we are committed to that,” said Gopal. “You also have to be responsive to customers, reach out to them and support them when its needed. We’re committed to this and to make sure we have the technology.”

“Companies look to us as an authority to their problems,” he added. “That’s a huge advantage to ANSYS, and I want to maintain that technical edge and invest in the deep physics of the products.”

However, when asked which specific simulation tools and physics would be seeing much of this investment, Gopal was more reserved. He did note, however, that ANSYS does a lot of analysis to determine which area of physics to expand.

But engineers work in absolutes. So, what departments in ANSYS will Gopal make the biggest improvements?

Simulation, CAD and CAE for the Masses

ANSYS AIM offers a simplified user interface (UI) that blends CAD and CAE. This will certainly suck many designers into the world of simulation. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

ANSYS AIM offers a simplified user interface (UI) that blends CAD and CAE. This will certainly suck many designers into the world of simulation. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

One area that engineers should expect to see expansion in is ANSYS AIM. The platform looks to bring simulations to more users by blending the lines between CAD and CAE.

It’s no secret that the audience of non-simulation experts using simulation is growing. The push towards democratization and engineering apps in the industry is a significant indicator of this trend.

But there are more than just engineering apps helping new users into CAE. Simulation in-CAD (when CAE applications are invoked from within a CAD interface) should draw in more designers.So, reading between the lines points to ANSYS AIM hoping to see some expansion.

“AIM was built with democratization in mind, and so it has an intuitive workflow and is easy to use,” explained Gopal. “It’s intended to support the democratization of simulation but also for uses other than simulation.”

Gopal said, “Simulation is ubiquitous and important in the engineering industry for design, manufacturing and more.”

But where do traditional simulation analysts and experts live in this democratized CAE world? Will they be forgotten? Any expert should already know that their jobs are safe. They will always be a backbone to the industry. The difference now is that we are getting some more meat on that backbone.

“We see that traditional analysts are extremely important, and we build fantastic products for them,” expressed Gopal. “[Democratization doesn’t] lessen their importance. This is recognizing others seeing simulation as important up and down the chain. We are committed to the analyst but also want to move beyond that.”

Gopal also notes that this doesn’t mean that the simulation analyst market is saturated. Based on the number of users, the intensity with which the software is used and the growing complexity of models, there is room to grow. So again, this points back to the previous section outlining that the core technology will be seeing some improvements in the near future.

ANSYS’ Focus on the IoT and Digital Twin

Eric Banegnie (left), vice president of ANSYS systems business unit, announces the partnership with GE regarding the IoT. Gopal suggests that this partnership will grow. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

Eric Banegnie (left), vice president of ANSYS systems business unit, announces the partnership with GE regarding the IoT. Gopal suggests that this partnership will grow. (Image courtesy of ANSYS.)

The IoT is a bandwagon everyone and their dog will be jumping on. And as that happens, engineers will need tools to design these products and improve their operations. Gopal hears this call.

To him, the idea of the digital twin and the IoT are inseparable. The digital twin acts like a virtual representation of a product that uses IoT input, analytics and simulations to assess the product’s performance.

“IoT is a big concept,” said Gopal. “It’s going to become very sophisticated with business model shifts, monetizing the creation, support and deployment of products. IoT gets into the world of monitoring and moves up the chain for break fixes and transformative operations.”

The simulation aspect of the IoT and digital twin is where Gopal has his crosshairs. His dream is to have simulation associated with the IoT and digital twin just as much as analytics is today. About a year ago, ANSYS partnered with GE and the makers of its IoT platform Predix. Under Gopal, this partnership looks like it will increase.

Our role as a partner to GE, and others, is to provide simulation into this IoT world,” explained Gopal. “In this world of IoT, you collect information from all over the place. You can use analytics to decide what to do statistically. However, with simulation, you can plug those in and predict based on the model. This is not statistical but analytical operations.”

Simulation can become a powerful addition to the IoT and digital twin, Gopal argues. It doesn’t have to be computationally expensive either. The engineer can reduce the order of the model, making it more user friendly for the digital twin. This way, the system can evaluate a product’s performance and inform the operators without eating up high performance computing bandwidth.

Gopal also explains that by replaying analytics with simulations, engineers will be able to reduce the number of sensors in an IoT product. Instead of sensing the conditions at certain locations, the simulation can predict what is happening at these points.

“We’ve partnered to figure out how to make digital twins,” explained Gopal. “ANSYS has created examples of how to reduce a simulation. This allows an operator to use the simulation in real time within the digital twin to help users operate and predict operations beyond analytics. Simulation is moving beyond more traditional users to support personal using machinery through the digital twin.”

To be frank, it wouldn’t be that much of a shock for a big announcement to be made in the near future regarding ANSYS, the IoT and the Digital Twin.

What Else to Expect from ANSYS’ New CEO?

But with Cashman’s 16 years bringing ANSYS from a total revenue of under $100 million to just shy of $1 billion, Gopal has some big shoes to fill (See Figure 1).

To that end, Gopal has been spending much of his time leading up to the CEO transition working with sales. It seems that breaking that one-billion mark will be high on the priority list.

“I got here and started a search for a new VP of sales, and that took a few months to close. I was acting in that role at the time,” noted Gopal. “This is the end of our fiscal year and calendar year, and so we want a good start to the new year. Now with Rick Mahoney on board, everything will ease up again.”

But it isn’t just sales. Gopal has been focusing on other departments such as product development—another hint towards the launch of new capabilities and products. He said, “We want to ensure the right people are in the right places.”

Gopal himself is no slouch in the tech industry. He’s been a member of ANSYS’ board for over six years, was a senior vice president at Hewlett-Packard, and even spent a small stint as the interim president and COO of Symantec.

He has a mechanical engineering background and has served much of his career as a computer programmer.

When it comes to his time on ANSYS’ board, Gopal said, “I’ve come to realize how important, strong and deep the technology is, as well as what the customers think of the company and what to expect. I’ve spoken to customers, and I have learned where we fit into the industry with market leadership. We will continue to grow the products as they need to grow.”

For more on ANSYS and its core technology, read “ANSYS Fluent 17.0 Introduces New User Interface.”

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