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GRAITEC Q&A

By Ralph Grabowski, June 22, 2012

GRAITEC is a 25-year-old French software company that operates internationally, producing software packages for designing concrete and steel structures:

Ralph Grabowski and Roopinder Tara of CADdigest.com interviewed Alexandre Tartas, the chief operating officer of GRAITEC.

Q: Reading about your company, we noticed that you have made many acquisitions. What were the motives for these - to acquire employees, or technology, or presence in other countries?
A: The GRAITEC acquisition strategy is driven by two main goals: technology acquisition to reinforce our global structural BIM [building information modeling] offerings, and geographical extension.

 Q: Despite acquiring many companies and their software, it appears to us that you promote only the three software packages listed above. What happened to the other software?
A: The acquired software packages still exist and serve their customer base. In addition, GRAITEC R&D [research and development] integrates them into our Advance suite so that our users can migrate to the most international and standard GRAITEC solutions. Our target is to deliver not only equivalent functionality, but also expand functions to the benefit of all our users.

Q: What does the standalone software run on, AutoCAD OEM?
A: Historically, it was based on the AutoCAD platform, and Advance Steel 2012 can still run on AutoCAD, but GRAITEC has also developed a true standalone version with a DWG-based CAD engine that uses technology from the Open Design Alliance (ODA).

Q: What kinds of firms tend to be your biggest customers?
A: Our largest companies are the top construction companies worldwide, such as Bouygues of France.

Q: Who do you consider to be your competition?
A: GRAITEC has competitors in every area of our software - steel and concrete structural detailing and structural analysis. However, GRAITEC is a global solution provider covering the entire structural construction process, from modeling, analysis, and validation, to production. From this perspective, GRAITEC is unique in its capacity to cover the complete process and all stages of structural jobs, contributing with high specific expertise to the global BIM process.

In this sense, GRAITEC believes that the BIM process brings high added value to the construction process. From the GRAITEC perspective, the best of BIM is achieved by merging the best expert vertical solutions into a single model. GRAITEC is the best-in-class structural player to contribute to any BIM initiative.

Q: We are interested in knowing about your market share in France. In Europe?
A: This is a very interesting question, but not easy to answer. Of course GRAITEC has a very significant market share in France, the country in which we have been operating for the last 25 years. For the rest of Europe, the situation can be different from one country to another, but generally speaking, GRAITEC is quickly acquiring market share and developing sales in Europe.

The positioning of the GRAITEC solutions is key in our marketshare acquisition. The market is very much attracted to the BIM initiative, but construction professionals are worried about keeping a high level of expertise in the software they use. Vertical specialists, such as GRAITEC, are meeting with construction specialist challenges. At the same time, the ease of use and ease of learning of GRAITEC solutions are key for the implementation phase, and so our customers appreciate that GRAITEC Advance is a powerful BIM solution with an affordable acquisition and maintenance pricing.

Q: As your customers must comply with local regulations, how does GRAITEC support them locally? We are especially interested in the situation for the USA.  
A: Localization of the GRAITEC solution to the local norms is clearly a permanent challenge. To meet with this challenge we rely on our local experts. They give GRAITEC fundamental knowledge and expertise in the local construction codes, and so are in charge of providing specifications to GRAITEC developers, and to verify that our development meets with the highest expectations.

For key regions such as North America, GRAITEC bases its expertise on local development teams. For example, GRAITEC has an experienced development team based in Canada for North America.

Q: What is your strategy to compete in the US market against established software? Do you plan to compete through features, price, and/or support?
A: : For North America ,we plan to compete by positioning that which differentiates GRAITEC from the competition, and by our local support. Our positioning is that GRAITEC is unique worldwide as an independent software package for the construction field. It is unique in offering a suite of international engineering-to-detailing CAD solutions for steel and concrete, combined with structural analysis software. On top of that, GRAITEC solutions are incomparable in their ease of use and ease of learning. They are powerful, and very affordable in price. This makes all the difference from a competitive perspective. For example, Advance Steel grew 100% in 2011 over 2010.

Q: The US office was established in 2003 in Boston. How many people work there? Is it meant primarily for US sales?
A: Our North American team is based in two different offices, Boston and Montreal. In total, the GRAITEC North American team has now over 25 employees. Most of our employees are engineers and have a strong background in the construction field.

Q: Has the slowdown in US economy, especially in building and construction, affected GRAITEC?
A: To be honest, we have been affected in the sense that our start in North America was not as fast as expected. However, GRAITEC is a new player in the field, and every company in this industry would be more than happy to show the same growth rate as has GRAITEC in North America.

But the business is not easy, and unfortunately we have lost some of our resellers during the financial crisis; a direct sales approach was necessary in some cases. But we feel the situation is improving, and so we are actively recruiting value-added resellers. Through this, we expect to increase our North American coverage.

Q: Emerging markets are showing much higher growth rates than North America or Europe. Construction in Asia, for example, seems to be booming. Does GRAITEC have a plan for expansion in these areas? If so, what are some of the countries on which you are currently focusing?
A: You are right. Not just Asia, but also South America is a key markets for the future. Of course GRAITEC is already investing in these markets. GRAITEC based its Asia Pacific operations in Singapore, and we operate through a channel of over 20 resellers in Asia. We are planning to open a new office in the coming months in India, and eventually in Australia. Brazil is also a target, and no doubt some investment will come also in this region.

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About the Author

ralph Ralph Grabowski, TenLinks senior editor, is one of the leading CAD journalists and authors, with over a 100 books and many hundreds of articles. His upFront.eZine may be the industry’s longest running newsletter. Ralph holds a civil engineering degree. More…

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