Carlo Poloni, President of ESTECO, Interview

Carlo Poloni, President of ESTECO, takes a look back at how optimization technology has changed over the years and talks about the company’s plans to expand the reach and capabilities of its technology

Looking back over the last ten-fifteen years, how has the use of optimization technology changed?
Essentially it has gone from being a specialists-only tool to becoming the norm in engineering design. Back in the 1990’s, optimization tools were the purview of highly specialized designers and the tools themselves were limited in scope due mainly to the scant availability and usability of models. Because optimization was so specialized, it wasn’t considered a crucial element in the design process, as the problems it could be used for were limited to the area of expertise of the specialist. The optimization process is exponentially more effective when design targets are high; if you maximize the mission of a product, the optimization becomes strategic and extremely effective. If your scope is limited to the design of a small component, it is not as strategic to the company. In a nutshell, 15 years ago, the technology was there but it wasn’t useable, or rather, it was usable only for the elite community capable of understanding its value in a small environment and in a specific application.

What’s changed? How has it become the norm?
Nowadays, we have the models, the infrastructure and the decision making process, so optimization is no longer just for specialists, but for decision makers too and therefore its deployment has become strategic. We’ve seen this transition happen, for example in Ford, one of our major accounts. At the beginning of our collaboration, we started with the weight reduction of small components, taking a micro-approach by interacting with individual engineers. This has now evolved into a company-wide, macro-approach with different actors operating on the same level – something that has only become possible through advancements in web technology. Back in 1995, ESTECO – or rather, the founding partners, given that the company was established in 1999 – was already thinking of sharing information across companies and borders. At that time, it was technologically impossible, now it’s very much a reality. It took us 10 years to transform what was an idea into something practical, useable and rock solid. The success of ESTECO is proof of the fact that optimization has become the norm. We have seen our client base grow from a small, but prestigious, group of European customers in the automotive, manufacturing and aerospace industries – British Aerospace, Electrolux and EADS Aerospace to name a few – to today’s 300-plus global clients from different industries with companies like Ford, Whirlpool, Toyota, Petrobras and Bombardier. Likewise, our company numbers have also grown: we now employ over 50 highly specialized staff and have expanded our operations to North America and India and count numerous channel partners and distributors among our ranks. On reflection, I would say that optimization isn’t just the norm, it’s strategic.

How has ESTECO’s partnership with EnginSoft made an impact on ESTECO technology?
EnginSoft provides us with the best core competence across all engineering disciplines– from process engineering, to product and process simulation, to the use of different physics in the simulation of a component or system – a fundamental ingredient when you want to put all the aspects of product simulation together. It’s with this knowledge base that we can build our vision – to use a metaphor, if ESTECO were a building, then EnginSoft is one of its pillars.

What direction do you see optimization taking in the next ten years?
The way I see it, the decision making process in optimization will become less deterministic and more social. People need to become part of the loop and have a more active role in the process. The way things are now, customer requirements and demands are filtered through management. In the future those needs and desires will become available in the decision-making process itself and open the door to interaction between who is using and who is designing the product. The birth of the Internet showed us that sharing a process in optimization could become a reality and it took us 10 years to make it happen. Even though development times today are shorter, I expect another 5 to 10 years will pass before social tools are embedded inside the optimization framework. It hasn’t been coded yet and we haven’t identified how this will impact the decision making process but it is something we are working on. Being a pioneer in the field of numerical optimization, we’ve come to expect innovation from ESTECO.

What can we expect in the future?
Our mathematics specialists are looking at how to change objectives during the process and adapting the process to the changing environment through generative algorithms. These algorithms mimic evolution at computational speed to identify the fittest designs by creating, selecting and cycling through as many design alternatives that the algorithms automatically generate. We also have several other projects in the pipeline, so stay tuned.

ESTECO was included in the Gartner “Cool Vendors for Product Design and Lifecycle Management” Report. What does this mean for the company?
Gartner is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company and their Cool Vendor program signals small emerging innovative vendors that have unique and highly original new technology that is making a difference to the market they operate in. Essentially, it gives small companies like ESTECO a chance to shine. Obviously we are proud to be named “Cool Vendor”: we have built a great company with great products and solve real customer problems and it’s nice to be noticed. Given that many companies look to Cool Vendors when investigating new technologies and considering possible partnerships and collaborations, I’m sure this will raise awareness of our company and technology to companies that may not be aware of us and what our technology can do.

Gartner, Inc., Cool Vendors for Product Design and Lifecycle Management, Marc Halpern, Janet Suleski, Rick Franzosa, 08 April 2015. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.