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Business as Usual: ANSYS Chief Technology Officer

Business as Usual

If you've ever seen a rocket launch, driven a car, used a computer, crossed a bridge or used a mobile device, you've most likely used a product where ANSYS software played a critical role in its creation. Today, we welcomed Prith Banerjee, Chief Technology Officer of ANSYS, to detail how it has become the global leader in engineering simulation. You'll be amazed at this hometown tech pioneer and the impact that it has had across the world and across all industries.

 

Transcription: 

Good afternoon, everyone. This is Audrey Russo, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council. Welcome to business as usual, joined here today with Jonathan Kersting. He's vice president of all things marketing and media. And we are thrilled to have our guests here today who is Prith Banerjee, from ANSYS. And I'll introduce him appropriately in a moment. But before we get started, I want to give a shout out to Huntington bank, thank them for being with us along the journey. I think we are soon approaching the six month mark. So it's pretty insane that we have been doing this for this long and still finding a tremendously engaged audience. Lots of people who are you know, joining us talking about things I think I heard that at least we've had about 4000 plus people joining us and plus the downs. loads and plus all the goodwill and relationships that we're building across the community. So, so thank you for that. Thank you for Huntington bank. And so a little bit about today, because I mentioned that we have Chris with left from ANSYS. And he is the chief technology officer. We have you on mute, and we have a chat. So there's plenty of opportunities for you to engage with press. But first, I'm going to introduce Chris, and I'm going to say not only welcome, but I want to talk a little bit about his background, who is pressed the man, the CTO and what the journey has been. So welcome press. Thank you for joining. Thank you very

much for for inviting me, Audrey, and it's a pleasure to join you so. So I've had sort of three phases in my career. I I started my career in academia, I used to be a professor at University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. I was a department head at Northwestern it was the Dean of Engineering at University of Chicago did that About 2022 years, and during those years I did sort of phase two in my career, which was to, to be involved with a few startups, which is very relevant to this Pittsburgh tech Council. So I did Excel chip and bannerjee while I was at Northwestern and Illinois, again, took a sabbatical to cleave from the university and and did those two startups. The first company was bought by Xilinx second by quixtar Media. And the third phase of my career which is where I am today is to be part of large companies and heading up large r&d organizations. The first one was I was head of HP Labs worldwide for about five years. It was an incredible journey, and then was CTO at two large industrial companies ABB a power, an automation company in Switzerland and Schneider Electric and other power automation company based in France. And about two years ago, I joined ANSYS and my current role is to look at the long term technologies strategy for ANSYS, which is a simulation company, but I have been very fortunate to have worked in academia in startups and large companies and hopefully able to leverage all my experiences in my work that I do today.

It's great, so great for you to be here with us. And so as we look at, you know, how companies have responded to COVID, a few of them have actually called into app have been called into action before others, especially those like Kansas, who have global operations in China. And it wasn't in Wu Han, but I know it was in another city in China. Many years ago, Brian Kennedy and myself actually visited ANSYS. And I think it was in Singapore, if I remember correctly. So can you talk about the early days of COVID and your operations in China, talk about how that sets the stage for how you operated with your employees and your customers?

Absolutely. So first of all, just a bit of international entries, and this is an engineer Simulation company, right? We help our companies design and develop the most amazing products from sort of what we call computer chips to rocket ships. So the core technologies using our technology companies use, sort of, they build their products completely in the digital domain, right on a computer. And so we use our software to solve Oracle partial differential equations using finite element finite value methods, right. So this is software methods used to simulate the physics of the world around us. And the physics can be fluid physics, or mechanical fluids, electromagnetics, and so on. This is what we do. And we are a company of about 4000 employees, about one and a half billion in revenue. We are truly global. We have locations in more than 80 countries around the world. And as you said, we have a fairly big operation in China. So in COVID, hate I mean, essentially, it was a transformative journey for us, right. So we had to sort of figure out what what are we going to Do right our our employees our that their health was absolutely prime thing right through we had a series of sort of executive leadership meetings where he says what are we going to do, right? So, to take our employees things first, right, we said we are going to start working from home. And fortunately we had invested in the right IT infrastructure. We have Microsoft Teams across the company, and we had embraced that journey about three months prior to COVID. So the timing was just right. So we are able to take all our employees starting with with China and across the world, right, literally in a matter of less than a week. We we were able to motivate our people to work from home and essentially just to ensure short term things like allowing people to take their large books or whatever home was was okay. But the core of the work that we do involves research and developing our software and that work can actually be done from anywhere right. That was a very As you can see, right companies like Facebook and Google and so on, they are sort of allowing their employees to work from home. We fortunately the work that we do, can be done from home, right, except that our work needs high performance workstations, right. So what we did, the first thing was to enable our employees either to take their high performance workstations home, or to essentially do sort of enable this virtual remote desktops and so on, right, so they can connect in from their home laptop, right, but to connect directly to the, to the high performance workstation on their own, in their office, and so on. So this is what employees health was number one. But we immediately started working right where the people started working from home. And we were afraid that because this started happening the first week of March, and our first release was scheduled for in two weeks, sort of two months from now. We did not miss a heart Right in terms of our productivity, we got our r1 release, absolutely done on time. And the customer, our employee, productivity actually did not, did not suffer. So we were able to sort of work through the, the pandemic and the work from home and so on. And today, I mean, our r&d engineers are all working from home using teams, and they're super, super productive. And our engagement with customers, I mean, in my role as CTO, I was engaging with customers every week flying to different locations and so on. And the expectation was that customers wanted us to be there in person. And these days, the customers expectations have also gone down, right, and therefore we are completely okay with having remote meetings. I mean, just last week alone, I had sort of six very, very important customer meetings right? with customers in Europe, right in Germany, customers in Japan is seeing customers in Houston. summers in Milwaukee and so on this kind of productivity we could not do with customer meetings right in the past because in the past, I would have to be these six separate separate travels right once fly to Houston and back then go to Milwaukee and back then go to Germany and back. Now it is we are able to do all these meetings right remotely using teams and WebEx and so so we have pivoted, but we have been quite successful.

So Wow, is it in China now? Do you have people back in the office or

people are back in the office? So in China, things have actually returned to normal? I just spoke to the Chinese r&d leader. And yes, the China office has actually returned to normal. They're going to the offices and they're working and they're working with their customers as well.

Wow. And so what about you are you traveling?

I am not traveling. No,

I have been working at this is sort of what I was saying. I'm actually working from home, but my personal productivity has gone Because in the past, I mean, half my job was to be in front of customers and to, as I said, right to have a meeting with the CTO at Honeywell. Right? Who is based in Atlanta, right? So you have to figure out how flight the previous day to Atlanta, then have a two three hour meeting, then the next day fly back, right? So you lose sort of three days for a two or three hour meeting. Now, if you just schedule a two hour meeting, right, then the middle of the week, and the following meeting can be with a customer in Japan, right? And this is how I've been super, super sort of productive, my productivity has actually gone down, gone up, and my travel has gone to zero.

That's great. And so in actually what people really might be interested in in the midst of COVID you actually answer is close their biggest deal ever.

Absolutely.

So can you tell us about it?

Yes. So we had, again, not just one we had several several big deals, but we were able to I mean, I mean, this was a long term customer, right? We have had very strong relationships with this customer in the automotive industry. And this was the largest sort of set, I mean, eight figure deal. This is just you. It's unbelievable how we were able to scale to do this. And again, this is a customer who has been with answers for the last 70 years and we have been working with them in this automotive industry, right? In terms of engine designs, and so on. So for right for like more than 20 years, we started with our mechanical product, then we added our fluids further then we added our electromagnet as well, then we have sort of partnered with them on their journey towards electrification and so on. So we have been with them for a long time. But it was time for a renewal and we essentially were very, very impressive, impressive, important set up meetings where our CEO or head of sales myself everybody was involved and we literally close that business. is a truly long term partnership with them where we are with them in sort of enabling them to really push to this journey of simulation based product innovation in the presence of AI, machine learning and digital twins and everything. So very, very exciting. But actually, that's not the only customer. We have had other customers who mean like three or four really, really large deals that we are closing in this during the pandemic.

Wow. And so that's really exciting. And it's exciting because we're proud because of the history of answers here in Pittsburgh, how many people are in Pittsburgh that actually work in the answers headquarters in Pittsburgh?

So as I said, we have about 4200 employees overall. And our Pittsburgh Office has about I would say 1500 into large buildings.

Okay, great. And so, let's talk about on a fun note, though, ANSYS has been doing some great things in the autonomous vehicle industry. I mean, there actually isn't a company that is on the fortune 500 or on the NASDAQ that you haven't touched. But you know, you've been having some fun and in the electric vehicle in the autonomous vehicle industry, talk about your involvement in the industry and the engagement of the Indy 500.

Absolutely. So So ANSYS as a company, right, we do simulation software, right. So the world around us is governed by physics, right? If it's a mechanical physics, it's governed by Euler equations, if is fluid physics governed by Nava stokes equations electromagnetics governed by Maxwell's equations, right? We take that fundamental physics which is in sort of second order partial differential equations, and we convert that into numerical methods and we solve it accurately and when we say it is accurate, it is accurate right. So in the past, you wanted to have a wind tunnel to test the wing shape and see and and put wind at 600 miles per hour to see We will lift or not, these days, you don't need a wind tunnel. If we say through that sort of virtual wind tunnel test that this wing is going to fly, this plane is going to fly, right? So that's sort of how accurate our simulation models are. Now, so we have been working with different customers in different verticals, we have more than 45,000 customers in different verticals like like automotive and, and aerospace and defense and manufacturing and high tech and so on, right. But we have recently sort of pivoted to solving some really large solutions, right, which is instead of picking a particular solver like mechanical or fluid, right, let's try to take a collection of our products and solve a real problem for our customer, right. And so, examples of such solutions are electrification and we are working with Volkswagen on a fully electrification solution journey, we are working with, with Ericsson on a 5g complete solution for for mimal antennas and so on and so forth. We are working with companies like Flo Sarah And, and Kizer on IoT. And then with economist we are working with large customer BMW, right in Germany trust completed solve their autonomous solution, right? And when you're looking at autonomous, right what's difference between autonomous car and a normal car in a normal carry of a driver, a human, who is actually seeing the environment, he sees things, he hears things, and based on it, he kind of accelerates or desilets in an autonomous car, the eyes and ears are essentially replaced by sensors, you have LIDAR sensors, you have camera sensors, you have radar sensors, and we have the ability through very accurate simulation to simulate all those sensors and how in the presence of fog or lightning or cloud or whatever, right, whether the camera will actually work or not right, whether LIDAR will actually speed or not right, or in the presence of metal and so on. Right? Will my radar can do writing or so we have the full physics capability. Look at all the sounds But we can also simulate scenarios right? So when a a way more car a Google car goes around and takes videos like 20 minute videos of when they're going on on Golden Gate Bridge. I mean, in a actual road testing you can see whether that car will break or not in the presence of three pedestrians and when it's nine o'clock sunny in San Francisco, but we through simulation can do a what if analysis of what is inside of 9am is 9pm in San Francisco, and what if instead of Sunny, it is actually raining and snowing. And instead of three pedestrians, you have 10 pedestrians and a dog and a cat can make car still work. So all those different scenarios, you have to wait for 10 billion miles for the car to be tested. And this is sort of what we're all the car companies are driving towards right. So we did road testing to drive a car for 10 billion miles and they have driven only 25 million miles so far. So with simulation, you can essentially do accelerated sort of simulation, the road testing and virtual road testing for 10 billion miles. This is the power of autonomous solution that we are bringing to market with with customers like BMW. Now what we have done is to sort of do something exciting. We just partnered with the Indy 500. Right, the autonomous challenge and where we have now partnered with more than 40 universities and say, next year, the these students will have access to the same AV solution that we are partnering with the large companies like the companies like BMW, they have this we are providing the same software environment to these four these sort of student groups, right. And they are essentially going to test out right and they'll have the same car chassis, the same sensors and so on, and the same autonomous software from ANSYS. And using this software, hardware software that from these 40 sort of student groups and they are truly international groups. They are going to run the Indy 500 right and see which autonomous car drives faster. It's A fun fun project very exciting, very high

visibility. When is this? When is the so that we can track that?

This is all good, I have to look at the data it is in May of 2021. But I will just look it up and let you know,

bear with us, and we'll share it as well like to participate. And so these universities are from all over the world. Exactly. Yeah. That's really fun. That's really fun. And so everyone can tell how passionate he is about the work he's doing. So it's always thrilling to talk with the press. So in addition to autonomy, though, ANSYS has also been studying the impact of electrification. And, you know, you released a study actually on the topic earlier this year, it would be great if you could talk about that survey or that study, and, you know, tell us what you've learned.

So the electric lift, let's first talk about the electrification sort of journey, right? So the car that you and I drive today, already Last year right was driven by an internal combustion engine as a sort of gasoline powered engine and because of it you had a certain power train and brake systems and so right now and you have brakes and excellent and so on in your normal internal combustion engine The future is all about electrification right? And so Okay, so I'm gonna have electric car. So, for that I need electric motors for electric motor, you need to have batteries that drive drive this thing right and you need those power electronics right that drives them so on to drive the electric motor from the energy from the from the battery. So essentially, we have answers that complete solution flow right to model batteries to model the electric car that the electric motor from Maxwell, the battery modeling from flew in the power electronics and simpler so we have all those individual abilities. And and that's sort of what we brought in our solution for electrification working with with Volkswagen. So now the okay I just saw from from Tom. He says that the final race is October 2021 so I was wrong. I thought he was me, but it's October 21. Thank you, Don. Thank you. So so the so we partnered with Volkswagen, our electrification solution. And essentially there is this really cool race out there called Pikes Peak, right? Which is this very incredible thing that you have to climb up right and people actually try to go on top of that with sports car with gasoline powered engines right and reserved. The speed limit was like, like in 10 minutes Can you go up right so here's a driver that uses a fastest possible Porsche whatever car to drive on driver prep, Pikes Peak, Volkswagen wanted to do it with the electric car, right? And the way this the race work is you could only do it once right? So he couldn't do like five different hundred different tests and said try it with this battery side that ready size, usually one shot so it was the ultimate test of simulation based product innovation, right. So we partnered with Volkswagen said okay, you can have a much Larger motor, if you have a big motor obviously can go faster, right we have much larger motor, then you need a bigger battery then your you have a bigger battery and a bigger motor bigger because your car heavier, therefore even bigger battery right so that it will go through in. So we allowed we partnered with them on the full system simulation right to try to figure out the right size, battery right sized electric motor. So it could go on top of Pikes Peak in under 10 minutes and we are able to we allow him to beat the Pikes Peak. So this was like an amazing feat for us and an amazing feat for simulation based product innovation. Right. So I'm super, super excited about now the the the survey that we talked about right was actually sponsored by ANSYS. Right. So are you right as a customer willing to embrace electrification? Right? And and are you willing to do this or not? So we have essentially said some surveys around audio You willing to take a electric electric car or L or an autonomous car and so on and what we found, right, which is quite aligned with our thinking, right? A Absolutely. People are willing to embrace electrification, people are willing to embrace autonomous and so on. And we did those surveys about sort of security, staff safety and so on. So it was it was, I mean, the survey that we did was very well aligned with just what the business thinks. But I wanted to highlight my with my sort of passion, the how important how exciting it is to come up with a full autonomous solution, right, or a full electrification solution for our customers.

Yeah, that's amazing. That's so that's so great. So So what are you excited about as we enter these next six months, right? All over the world, there's been, you know, various reactions in terms of COVID. You know, in China, people are back to work, but in other places, they're back on lockdown. But in terms of answers overall, what are you excited for? What Do you think

I am excited about I mean, as CTO my response to Andre is to look at the long term technology for Francis right? And we have a bunch of solvers like mechanical solver, electrical solver, fluid solver, and so right. And so when when we solve our problems for our customers, it's about running it faster, running it in a more stable way, and ease of use and so on. Right, so I am sort of looking at it from a technology perspective, how can our simulation software be better for our customers? And there are about eight pillars that we are looking at. And one of the pillars is AI and machine learning, right? Again, being in Pittsburgh, like MIT is sort of the heart hotbed of AI right and right next to Carnegie Mellon. So, so but AI ml has been used in a lot of other disciplines right i mean from natural language understanding to speech and all kinds of stuff and can be current. So so what we are looking at, at nccs can AI machine learning, accelerate simulation right and so We had a little sort of a theory right two years ago when I joined to say, Hey, can I use neural networks to speed simulation up? And we had some early thoughts, hey, let's try to take a neural network and, and run is sort of electromagnetic simulation on some simple primitives, and train that neural network and train it. What we found what through did data driven neural net project can actually speed things up? Then we came up with this technology of physics informed neural networks, and that speeds up even more. So we are at ANSYS, looking at the use of AI ml to really accelerate the use of simulation, right? I'm not used access emission by a factor of hundred to 1000. Right. Super, super exciting technology. Is it in today's products? No, it will be in future products. Right? So that's one thing that I'm very excited about. Second thing is the whole area of of hyper scale simulation, very, very, sort of, how do you take I mean, all the stuff that has happened in the parallel passing community, right, which shared memory multiprocessor and message passing and so on. Stuff that our university colleagues at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, all the other universities are doing right. So, we are exploring all forms of parallelism using shared memory, GPUs, the GPUs from Nvidia and AMD and all right. And so we have looked at single GPUs or multiple GPUs are future supercomputers will have multiple GPUs per node, multiple cores per node. So how do you take our solvers and scale them up with what I call hyper scale? performance right on this feature machines, that's another thing. We are looking at multiphysics simulations, whole area of platforms, you're looking at digital transformation, we are looking at IoT and augmented reality, virtual energy, transitioning things to the cloud HPC on the cloud. So there's a lot of stuff that I'm excited about.

What about in healthcare, anything in healthcare? That's a

fantastic question. Absolutely. So we have been in different verticals right, our strongest It has been automotive and aerospace defense and manufacturing. And so right is one vertical that we have we had not paid attention to in the past was healthcare. But if you look at the amount of r&d investment in healthcare is about 200 and $40 billion, right? in every industry, if you have a lot of r&d investment, there is a sort of our two to 3% of their investment is in a is in simulation. So we identified right off the r&d investment is 200 and 40 billion. That's a lot of sort of opportunity for simulation based based product innovation, this area. So in the city office, I am actually personally looking at right healthcare sort of simulating simulation is healthcare and the particular problem we are looking at is simulation of the heart right the heart is this most amazing device it when you look at the heart, right? You look at the aorta and the ventricles and so on and is a mechanical part the muscles that are going on the heart Then the actual signals I did that the 72 heartbeats that you have per minute, right? There are electric signals that are going. So you have to model those electric things to electromagnetics or hfss. You can model those mechanical stuff by the muscles through this. And because of the muscles, you are actually doing blood flow from the ventricle to the arteries and veins and so on that is all modeled through our fluid stool. So we have this the software called LS Dinah, which is doing simultaneously fluid structure and electromagnetic simulation. And we are working with the likes of Medtronic, right to do medical device things like when you're inserting a pacemaker inside your heart, right to treat your repair and so right, that requires full heart simulation. Those are the kinds of exciting things that we are working on today. Wow.

So what about hiring? What about hiring in in the Pittsburgh region? What about you know what's happening there?

We are doing a lot of hiring factors. Interesting thing, Audrey is that our hiring has not stopped at all right? I mean, we had plans to grow our company, right in RND in as our sales organizations and sales support and so on. And we have done whatever plans we had to support our customers. We have done that. And again, a lot of the hiring has happened in Pittsburgh, but these people who came on board have essentially come on board and they're working from their apartments or homes in Pittsburgh. But we are a global company and these people who are working from their Pittsburgh homes are sort of supporting RND across as well as our as customers around the world.

Is there anything else before we wrap up? You know, first of all, thank you for your passion. Thank you for we're thrilled that that ANSYS is in our region, and just you know, just your energy and your experience across almost every vertical is pretty amazing that we've tried to pack in these 30 minutes. Is there anything else that you think our audience really needs to know that perhaps we didn't discus,

yes, one thing that I wanted the audience to know is that sort of in the computing area cloud is coming, right? Instead of having all your software or whatever running on your workstation or on a sort of a cluster computer, inside a customer site, right? People are kind of thinking of moving to the cloud. So we have a big initiative in the cloud at answers. But because of the pandemic, right, what has happened is the acceleration to the cloud has really I would say, as accelerated I mean, that the movement to the cloud as well, because people our customers are sitting in their own office or whatever right, working on say, low performance laptops or whatever, right? And they want to do very, very accurate, say fluid simulation, right to for an airplane, right? Have a virtual wind tunnel, right? You cannot do that on your workstation, therefore, you have to go to the cloud. So we are enabling our customers to take all their simulation to the cloud in all verticals. That move, just like online retail the move to Amazon has been accelerated by COVID. The move towards simulation based product innovation, right? Where you don't actually have to test your thing in a hardware lab and doing that simulation on the cloud, that journey people who are already on but he has an accident because of pandemic. Okay,

so you have a couple of people just say out loud is just to give you know, shout out for me, Hubert Eaton answers provides all of our simulation software. Love it. You have Rebecca mink, who's talking about ANSYS, about Alcoa in the 90s. Many of the projects wasn't the all aluminum outtie had a great time using your software. Thanks for the insight. Michael stropping steiners talking about continues to be one of the most impressive global pump companies, which works in Pittsburgh, bravo. I mean, thank you breath. So someone's saying what has been one of the most helpful resources in your planning of all these items that might be directed towards Brian. But I think that what you hear is just a lot of appreciation for what emanates out of here. And I swear, staying close few First of all, Perth is on the board of directors of the tech Council. So I wanted to share that he is accessible, he cares. And you can you can hear from everything that he's articulated that he's passionate, he's wicked, smart, his great sense of humor, and he's driven so they're they're lucky to have someone who comes from academia as well as from startup world to bring that to this world. So really, really appreciate the time with the press. I do want to thank everyone for being here today. And I want to tell them that we also have a couple of things in store this week, every single day we're doing something but we've just gotten verification that we will have Paul mango, who is at the US Department of Health and Human Services and he runs project work speed. We also are going to be talking to a major power developer, we have the, the CEO of Oregon, and you know, the about project work speed. It's just a partnership designed to bring the vaccine to market. So we're covering every topic. And we're pretty thrilled about bringing all this to you. So you can find prayeth I think on LinkedIn, you can see all the work that he's doing. I think he also writes a little bit and some blogs. And he is just someone that we're really thrilled to know. So thanks, everyone for joining in. And we'll see you here tomorrow.

Thanks. Thank you. Thank you. Bye bye.

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