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Clive Martell CEO Delcam
As if TCT Magazine needed this fact confirming by a higher power than a press release, we were invited down to Delcam headquarters just outside of the thriving mass of traffic and concrete of central Birmingham city, where we could hear what the bodies at the top thought of this industry-disrupting deal.
Disrupting is an unfortunate choice of word in this instance, as the UK is currently weathering stormy conditions reminiscent of the opening scenes of Twister. As such, this reporter's train journey (after a promising start) was temporarily scuppered by a fallen tree on the line, resulting in a fashionably late arrival. Luckily, the first item on the agenda for the day was a tour of the Delcam facility - and I've already had the pleasure.
The press conference commenced with Delcam's Marketing Manager Peter Dickin announcing Autodesk's acquisition of Delcam as "the biggest news in the history of the CAM industry", as he introduced Delcam Chief Executive Clive Martell to the conference.
Martell began by comparing the Delcam acquisition to others in the industry. Autodesk bought Delcam for $300 million (£180 million), making it the largest acquisition ever to have been signed off in the CAM industry. He compared the deal to the likes of the Vero-Planit and Cimatron-Gibba and Associates mergers - dwarfed in comparison - and then asked 'why is Delcam so valuable'?
"It's because of the team at Delcam," he said. "That's what makes us so valuable. The team has the expertise to allow us to develop the amazingly strong brand that we have - and absolute world-class products. It is the largest CAM team in the world and everybody here has a real expertise in leading-edge manufacturing.
"It's all about the people who are producing great products and producing a wonderful brand."
Martell continued: "We are still the leader in the market. Every six months as a public company, we can see steady growth. In 2008 there was a slowdown and the first part of 2009 was hard, but every six months we have increased our sales. Vero and Planit total sales have shown no sign of growth.
"Delcam, by 2010, had actually overtaken 2008 numbers. The reason we have been so successful in driving our business is down to our worldwide distribution. We have done very well in the Americas - a major growth area - and in Asia. We have a great income stream from all over the world and a steadily increasing customer base worldwide."
Martell then went into some detail about the major industries the company works within, including prosthetics and orthotics, footwear, industry, dental and jewellery and how major brands within all of these marketplaces are using Delcam.
"Behind our brand," he said, "is the team producing all of this and Delcam continues to invest in this growing team. In the long-term, you cannot have a short-term view.
"We have been investing heavily in research and development and are supporting new talent by employing skilled graduates.
"Moreover, we choose very carefully with the projects we get involved in. We are involved in a number of new products involved in additive manufacturing, including the Bloodhound, of which we are an official sponsor."
Combined knowledge and expertise
Martell reiterated the terms of the acquisition, which stipulate that Delcam will continue to operate as a wholly independently-operated subsidiary of Autodesk, but the benefit of this deal will bring "enormous credibility and resources" to Delcam's business, in addition to Delcam bringing more to the table for Autodesk in terms of its digital offering.
"A very key part of this strategy is Autodesk expanding into manufacturing," he said, "and for our customers, they will benefit from having the Autodesk expertise in design supported by our knowledge in machining and metrology. By combining our knowledge and expertise, we can really benefit our customers.
Martell concluded that the acquisition and the plans both companies are making together for the future "should be terrifying our competition".
Next, Senior Vice-President of Design, Lifecycle and Simulation at Autodesk Buzz Kross presented his third of the conference. Kross' team was directly involved in the acquisition - a choice he said "was easy" for Autodesk.
"We have added an excellent component. As you heard, it's our intention to operate Delcam as an independent subsidiary. For the customer, it will feel like the same relationship.
"Delcam was a really easy decision for us," he said. "We have 2,400 channel partners, we have a strong financial foundation and we show the same growth trajectory as Delcam... We invest 26 per cent of our revenue into research and development and the way we move on in the market is by investing. We invest in existing products as well as new products."
Kross listed the main spheres of influence Autodesk's offering permeates: architecture, engineering and construction being the main markets. However, the company also has significant media, entertainment and gaming clients. In addition, Autodesk's growing client list includes major organisations in the manufacturing market, automotive and industrial machinery. He joked that all the big car brands use Autodesk, but "all the beautiful cars use us a lot more".
"Start of a revolution"
He went on to note that Autodesk's advancements within the cloud are going to echo the shifts in industry last seem when the PC boom took off - the tech phenomenon that secured Autodesk's place as a major enabler. Fusion 360, for example, was the "first ever CAD product for the cloud" and this was, to Kross and co. at least, the "start of a revolution".
"We can simulate a product better digitally than physically," Kross explained. "Manufacturing is a really critical market for us, as is industrial machinery and automotive... Delcam helps us to complete the circle."
Kross joked that the issue Autodesk and Delcam are going to have is that the list of ways they can work together is only going to continue growing, but both sides are excited about the acquisition.
"It's going to make a big difference in how we go to market," he said, before introducing Senior Director of Manufacturing Engineering Products at Autodesk Carl White.
"My team is really focused on how do you move into the larger production environment. We can bring some unique technology that people haven't seen yet. We're very good at this design business," White stated.
"Autodesk is in the 'making business'," he acknowledged. "For us, the time has come to be part of the production process and there's no better group to be involved in this than Delcam."
White made this rousing final statement with the final slide behind him brandishing the legend 'Digital prototyping for customers of all sizes'.
After a short break, the press conference continued with presentations on some of the latest developments from Delcam, including the newest incarnation of PowerSHAPE, due for release in the coming weeks, with this next generation featuring a merge faces capability, snap-fit in 3D modelling, a radial cutting and cavity core wizard and KeyShot rendering incorporated as standard. In addition, there were presentations on PowerMILL, FeatureCAM and PowerINSPECT.
With a growing range of products made to fit a broad church of industries that are increasingly easy to use and can now benefit from two major industrial players' expertise and developments, this acquisition really does feel like the "biggest news" to shake up CAM.