Carmakers Flock to Mass. For Digital Design Help
Boston Globe (01/08/12) Denison, D.C.
Two decades after the last auto factory in Massachusetts closed, the automotive industry's presence in the state is growing as companies develop software that is essential to the modern automobile. For example, French software firm Dassault Systems has its North American headquarters in Waltham, Mass., where engineers are advancing digital tools used by automakers like Ford, Honda, BMW, Jaguar, and Land Rover. "All the significant players in the manufacturing software that’s used in the automotive industry are here," says Oleg Shilovitsky, a consultant in Massachusetts who also blogs about the automotive tech companies in the state. Companies like Dassault, PTC, and Progress Software represent a renaissance of the auto industry in Massachusetts, which used to be home to dozens of companies experimenting with steam and electric cars before the combustion engine exploded in the Midwest. First developed at MIT, software to help manufacturers design new products and manage manufacturing processes are the new face of the Massachusetts auto industry. Automakers can use a suite of Dassault design, simulation, and collaboration software to understand how vehicles will operate, be manufactured, and perform before making significant investments. For example, a Japanese automaker recently used Dassault software to create a simulation of its assembly line for a new model, and learned that the car's dashboard as designed was too big to fit through openings to be installed in the car. The company was able to redesign the dashboard long before the car or assembly line was built, avoiding a very expensive miscalculation. Automakers will increasingly rely on advanced technology solutions like the software from Dassault as customers continue to demand vehicles with more sophisticated technology. "As the auto industry continues to explore new ideas, and new vehicles that are powered by electricity and alternate fuels, it will get much more complex, and more global," says Al Bunshaft, managing director of Dassault Systemes’ Americas organization. "That will play to Massachusetts’ strengths."