Mumbai: Tata Consultancy Services is moving into the limelight with industry-focused offerings and point solutions that have evolved through the rich and diverse experience of its global IT services business. As it does that, areas of its operations are getting revealed to the public. Here's something from TCS's industrial automation domain.
TCS has rapidly built up the components required to support its thrust for a leadership position in this space - domain knowledge, technology expertise, software tools to facilitate rapid application development and reuse, service channels for implementation and support, and collaboration with leading specialist organisations across the world.
Also, there is one advantage TCS has that no other Indian software organisation does - close links with manufacturing and service companies. That's because TCS is a part of the Tata group, which has operations in a wide range of industries, from chemicals, power and steel to automobiles, finance and telecommunications.
How does TCS benefit? By working closely with engineers and managers in some of the Tata companies, the software organisation's own engineers and consultants have sharpened their domain expertise, and tested and upgraded their software with experience on the ground.
The result is that TCS is now beginning to deliver much more than the services it did in the past. It is offering specialised products designed to meet the needs of specific industries.
This is happening simultaneously with greater cooperation with other companies in the Tata group. Examples of such initiatives:
- In the automotive sector, TCS is working on a consolidated set of offerings, based on combined capabilities, with Tata Autocomp Systems (TACO). It is also in discussions with leading technology companies to create an alliance for 'shop-floor to enterprise systems' connectivity for the auto sector.
- In cement, TCS has had a five-year association with Associated Cement Companies, earlier a part of the Tata group, to create the CemPac suite of products for plant productivity enhancement (ACC engineers worked with and moved into TCS).
- In steel, the Tata Research Development and Design Centre (TRDDC), TCS's R&D division, has worked closely with Tata Steel in developing models and simulators that help analyse and optimise plant operations.
- In chemicals, TCS has a strategic IT outsourcing partnership with Tata Chemicals, whose engineers will also selectively work on assignment with TCS. The outsourcing contract spans the management of plant information through automation systems, for which TCS is working in collaboration with Tata Honeywell.
- In the area of embedded software, TCS has a business associate relationship with Tata Elxsi and Nelco, and the acquisition of CMC is expected to add significant value here.
From toolkits to products
These efforts will help TCS 'productise' a significant part of its software development for the manufacturing and process sector. Which means it will be able to scale up operations in the industry areas in which it offers its services.
This process is the culmination of years of experience in the field. In the process of providing software services for its global clients, TCS engineers developed software tools in order to improve productivity and assure quality. They also developed standards in checking and testing tools for real-time systems, and artificial intelligence tools for high-level decision support.
These tools form an integral part of TCS's ''asset creation process,'' as Ravi Gopinath, head of its manufacturing and process industries practice, describes it. ''These include control application toolkits - a component-based middleware suite used to rapidly build and deploy advanced control applications for process industries.''
TCS's client list in the manufacturing and process industries area is impressive. It includes names such as Boeing, Cummins, Ford Motor, General Electric, Kellogg's, Lafarge India, the ministry of mines of the Government of India, Rockwell Automation, Saab, Tata Chemicals and Tata Steel, to name but a few.
Having developed the tools and process control solutions for industries, TCS is now expanding its reach into integration frameworks that connect ERP and automation systems, and into embedded software for industrial automation.
In this endeavour, it is building the alliances that will help it create solution frameworks that can be rapidly productised and taken to market. These include associations with global technology product vendors such as Rockwell Automation and TIBCO for enterprise solution integration.
TCS has also recently initiated a collaborative R&D project with the Gintic Institute of Manufacturing Technology, one of Singapore's best known applied research institutes, to develop the prototype of the next generation 'smart controller' based on embedded software technology.
The TCS management sees products as ''point solutions.'' Says Dr Gopinath: ''We developed the CemPac suite of products for cement process optimisation based on our control application toolkit. Process models based on ACC domain knowledge were incorporated and the solution tested rigorously for two years at different plants before we launched it as a product.''
The product has now been benchmarked against leading products such as ECS from FLS Automation and ABB's Linkman. TCS has filed patent applications in major cement-producing and technology-base countries and is now taking CemPac to the global market following its success in India.
Creating successful products means that TCS's engineers can focus on the specialised consulting part of deployment, for example, process audits, benchmarking, and core-model customisation. End-user or channel partners do the configuration and implementation.
''So CemPac can be deployed with minimal service inputs from TCS once the plant-specific model customisation is done by us. The implementation partner or end-user can do most of the configuration and commissioning,'' says Gopinath.
According to him, half the projected $50-million opportunity TCS sees in CemPac will come from product licensing. Now that's only the beginning of a journey that could propel TCS to the forefront of global software product providers.
TCS already has other products, in areas such as banking, insurance and healthcare. You can be sure that, with its enormous amount of experience in a wide range of industries, more manufacturing industry-specific products will emerge from the TCS software foundry.