At the recently concluded Delcam Asian Technical Summit 2011 held in Zhuhai, China, I had the opportunity to sit down with Clive Martell, the CEO of Delcam. Here is part of my conversation with Clive.
Deelip: Tell me something about yourself.
Clive: I think very early on I knew that I wanted to get into the manufacturing industry. I had an interest in how things were made. After school I studied engineering after which an opportunity arose where I could join the parent group of Delcam. The company sent me back to do my master’s degree after six months. So I was very happy to be a student with a salary at that time. I have a degree in production engineering and did my masters in manufacturing technology.
Deelip: And all this was how many years ago?
Clive: 29 years ago.
Deelip: So Delcam is the only company that you have every worked for.
Clive: Correct. However, earlier I did work for a small tool making unit operating lathes in one of my summer holidays and then later I worked in one of the Rolls Royce factories doing NC programming.
Deelip: What did you join Delcam as?
Clive: Well, I joined as a graduate recruit and my job decryption was basically to do whatever needed doing (laughs).
Deelip: So how did you end up here? I mean, right at the top.
Clive: I was fortunate to join Delcam in the very early days of the organization which gave me the opportunity to gain a broad range of experience. As the company evolved and grew, I started looking after the company’s support group. Then after that I was involved in developing the marketing team at Delcam. That led to the growth of the UK subsidiary company which I headed up. Later I headed up the European group and then overall responsibility of the corporation and eventually becoming the chief executive in 2008.
Deelip: What changes came about in Delcam after you took over?
Clive: One of the things that came about in my time was the creation of the healthcare division.
Deelip: Speaking of healthcare, Delcam appears to be a company that is spread quite wide, although your core competency lies in CAM.
Clive: Yes, our core competency has always been the design and manufacture of 3D shapes. So even in the healthcare area we start with scan data from a patient, process it into 3D data and then get it milled and delivered to the customer. So although its a different application, the technology we are using is basically the same.
Deelip: Do you see more money in selling CAM software or actually manufacturing parts? I ask because Delcam does offer manufacturing services as well.
Clive: We do have a small manufacturing facility. But that is mainly used for process development. We put the processes in place first at out facility and then offer consultancy to our customers. I think the approach that we will take is to be the provider of technology and consultancy rather than competing with our customers.
Deelip: So you don’t see manufacturing as a revenue source. This seems to more like R&D.
Clive: No, I think the consultancy side of our activity also has to be a revenue source.
Deelip: What is the one thing you find most difficult to do as chief executive?
Clive: Being interviewed by people like you asking me tough questions (laughs).
Deelip: (Laughs) OK, in that case what is the second most difficult thing?
Clive: Well, I do wish I spoke more languages.
Deelip: Yeah, I guess you travel a lot.
Deelip: Do you think you get the support you need from CAD vendors? I see that Delcam is a SolidWorks Gold Partner. But apart from that…
Clive: We have a very good relationship with SolidWorks. With other CAD vendors I think that they very much like to have their CAD/CAM solution within their company and therefore there is no great enthusiasm to support our activities with respect to their customers. But some of their customers often find that Delcam software fits their manufacturing processes.
Deelip: What’s the kind of response that you have got for Delcam for SolidWorks?
Clive: The response has been very good. Although ours is not one of the first CAM solutions integrated into SolidWorks, it is an extremely well integrated solution.
Deelip: What’s the logic behind the policy of selling Delcam software in different regions? I mean in India you fired all your resellers and decided to go direct. Here in China you have resellers. How do you decide what to do?
Clive: We have a flexible approach looking to make the best use of the people that we know in the marketplace. We have a mixture of wholly owned subsidiary companies and sales partners.
Deelip: But given the choice which would you prefer?
Clive: I think the real issue is the people involved in the sales partners in various regions which drives the business model there.
Deelip: Is there anything that you would like to add? Or maybe ask me.
Clive: How can we be more successful with our CAD product?
Deelip: Well, firstly you need to stop wedging PowerShape between an MCAD product and PowerMill. Right now you are marketing it as a tool to be used by CAM people to tweak models created by people in a MCAD software. PowerShape has one of the best modeling kernels behind it – Parasolid. And it the only CAD system I know that works with solids, surfaces and meshes, what you call tribrid modeling. I mean the fact that the PowerShape brand doesn’t stand on its own bur rather falls under the advanced manufacturing division says it all.
Clive: I think you make some very good points there. For a number of years the CAD market was driven by the concept that people needed to have parametric modeler. Back then we didn’t have a parametric modeler and we didn’t want one either. We didn’t think that was the best technology for our customers. So we positioned PowerShape like the way we did. But I think now with things like tribrid modeling PowerShape does have a unique set of capabilities. We do use the functionality of PowerShape in our other products like Dental, ShoeMaker, etc.
Deelip: Which is precisely my point. This shows that PowerShape is perfectly capable to create geometry from scratch. Even from raster data.
Clive: Absolutely. We have a number of customer who are using PowerShape to design extremely complicated parts.