MSC Software is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It was literally one of the first software companies, and though its been through some changes over the years, it’s still in the business of creating tools for engineers to simulate and analyze complex systems.
Last week, I spent a couple of days with MSC, at their user conference in Irvine, California. While small in scale compared to the massive conferences put on by the big CAD companies, it was still good sized, with a solid group of attendees from a wide cross-section of major manufacturers.
My goal in attending was to get a read on the state of the company, and its products. About three and a half years ago, MSC was taken private by a private equity firm, and Dominic Gallello was brought in to be its new CEO. It was a major transition — one with no guarantees of success.
Dominic Gallello is a veteran of the engineering software industry. He held top management positions with Intergraph, Autodesk, Macromedia, and Graphisoft prior to taking over at MSC. To those of us who’ve also spent our careers in the industry, Dominic is a singular figure. Consider this anecdote: About 20 years ago, during one of Autodesk’s dealer meetings, there was a major power outage. Dominic happened to be on an elevator when the power went off, and was stuck for some time. After the power was restored, the story spread like wildfire: Turns out Dominic wasn’t the only person on the elevator. Also stuck was one of his direct reports — who, by the time the power came back on, had a big stack of new work to do. Dominic is a hard worker, and he demands the same of the people who work for him.
Since taking over at MSC, Dominic has substantially cut the overhead formerly associated with being a publicly held company, while simultaneously putting big money into product development. While at the user conference, a former MSC salesperson (who now works for a partner company) told me a story, from when Dominic first started with the company. Dominic had gone with the salesperson to visit a major customer, who was none too happy about the state of Patran, one of MSC’s major products. On the way back to the office, Dominic called ahead, and told one of his top managers that the customer had told him about problems in Patran, and that they needed to hire more engineers to work on it.
This focus on product quality is starting to show results, throughout MSC’s portfolio. Nastran, Marc, Patran, and Adams—all legacy products—are seeing substantial improvements. And, from my conversations at the MSC user conference, customers are pleased with the direction things are taking.
In the last couple of years, MSC has made some interesting acquisitions. In 2011, they acquired Free Field Technologies, developers of Actran acoustic modeling software. In 2012, they acquired e-Xstream engineering, a company focused on multi-scale modeling of composite materials and structures. My sense is that, in both cases, the acquired companies were likely courted by other major CAE companies, but chose to join with MSC, because they felt it would lead to a better result.
MSC has also spent quite a bit of development effort on internal development. Last year, I wrote about Adams/Machinery in Design World. It continues to grow in capabilities. Soon to be released is MaterialCenter, a “materials lifecycle management system,” that keeps track of both materials and related manufacturing processes. This looks to be a major product.
The secret project
As a condition for attending the user conference, MSC asked me to sign a non-disclosure agreement, in order to see a preview of a new technology. In truth, I don’t even know if I can tell you the code name for the project. Here’s a stastement from MSC that they will let me reprint:
“MSC introduced new game changer technology today at their 50th Anniversary User Conference in the U.S. There was no public announcement made as it is MSC’s desire to demonstrate the technologies to their customers and solicit feedback at the 20 user conferences around the world over the next few months before any public announcements. ”
For those of you who are justifiably cynical about marketing hype, seeing the phrase “game changer” probably sets off alarm bells. But consider this: I’ve seen the technology. It’s real. And it’s going to be big.