INCAT in engineering overdrive

  • 18-May-2008 08:37 EDT
INCAT video conference.jpg
Senior engineering team leaders for INCAT conduct daily video-conferences to provide updates on global projects. INCAT managers at the Center for Engineering and Design in Troy, MI, talk with their counterparts at the INCAT Center for Advanced Engineering and Design in Hinjawadi, India (on-screen).

Business is booming for a provider of engineering services, and the company's top executives say right now is the busiest the firm's engineers have been in years.

"Our value proposition is resonating with the global automotive market, specifically amid the U.S. downturn. Corporate structural changes and changes in the auto industry overall are driving demand for the INCAT engineering services delivery model. The balanced delivery of engineering services outsourcing—tapping talent and skills worldwide—is the most time- and cost-effective approach for OEMs and suppliers," said Warren Harris, CEO of INCAT, with operational bases in the U.S., India, and Germany.

INCAT's good news is also good news for engineers in search of a job. "We anticipate adding 1200 to 1500 [engineers] by 2010. More than 30% of those would be U.S.-based," said Kevin Fisher, INCAT's Vice President of Engineering and Design in North America. The firm currently employs about 500 engineers in the U.S. with 80% being tied to the automotive sector and 20% to the aerospace and consumer products industries. In the coming months, INCAT officials say they need to hire manufacturing, electrical, mechanical, and embedded electronics engineers.

In the past year, automakers have retained INCAT engineers for a number of projects, including managing the refreshing of a major vehicle model, handling complete Class A surfacing work on an all-new vehicle, performing engineering work on an existing line of vehicles, as well as performing human simulation and production line simulation tasks. Harris and Fisher point out that confidentiality agreements prohibit INCAT from naming the various automakers or from identifying the specific vehicle platforms.

"Our unique value proposition is based on local teams—worldwide—providing customer intimacy and then, in turn, managing the contributions of INCAT engineering professionals who are sourced through our various global delivery centers in the U.S., Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. It is important to understand that this is profoundly different from the India-centric or 'India-out' approach of our key competitors in the engineering space," said Harris. He added, "If manufacturers have an aversion to off-shoring, I guarantee it's because they've tried and failed by applying a flawed information technology-centric model. INCAT offers cultural alignment, presence, and experience that is uniquely effective."

A few months ago, INCAT inked a strategic alliance with Tata AutoComp, one of India's leading automotive component manufacturers. One of the first INCAT/Tata AutoComp alliance projects involves handling the complete design and development of a new vehicle platform for a Chinese automaker. INCAT will provide comprehensive vehicle-level integration to the project, while Tata AutoComp will provide the module integration of automotive components.

"This alliance and combination of resources offers global automotive OEMs and their supply chain a single source for automotive engineering and design services and product-development information technology—delivered by INCAT," said Harris, further noting that complete product development and component manufacturing will be delivered by Tata AutoComp, which has 30 manufacturing facilities and six engineering centers scattered in various locales.

INCAT is serving customers in developed countries and emerging markets. "We have a global delivery infrastructure that enables INCAT to synchronize product development activities between independent delivery centers. This allows the high-end capabilities that we have in our delivery center in Troy, MI, for example, to support projects in Germany, the U.K., India, Thailand, and China," said Harris. INCAT has more than 100 offices in 15 countries, spanning three continents.

Harris believes INCAT's business model is attractive to automakers. "Structural changes are challenging blue-chip OEMs to change and adapt in developed markets. Drivers of that change include cost, access to talent, and access to new markets. Our offshore delivery capabilities and nexus in key markets—lndia, China, and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region—are allowing INCAT to support this demand. We've been very successful in applying frugal engineering methodologies that we've learned in emerging markets [to] developed markets," he explained.

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