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Technology / AI and automation


Aspen Technology Inc, provider of computer-aided ‘smart manufacturing’ process control software, has been shopping and bought home not one but two companies, adding neural network technology, operator training and decision support to its offering. The Cambridge Massachusetts firm bought Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based NeuralWare Inc along with its 30 employees in a pooling of interests transaction, and says it will integrate neural networks into its control, process design and optimization products. Aspen, which provides analysis, design and automation software for the chemical, petroleum, pharmaceutical, electric power, paper and pulp and metals industries, says it had been shopping around for neural technology for some time, to fill the gaps theoretical modelling could not cater for. It said manufacturing plants have a huge amount of data from which to learn, and neural network technology was the ideal answer to the problem. Aspen has also bought London-based Special Analysis and Simulation Technologies Ltd for its dynamic simulation and operator training services and applications, in an $11m stock deal. The company says it was being asked to supply training for plant operators, and Special Analysis was a complementary fit, not least because it operates in a couple of new vertical markets for Aspen, including oil and gas and exploration. In both cases, Aspen says there will be no material impact on its 1998 figures, but says the technologies are strategic and broaden the range of problems Aspen systems can address. Earlier this year, Aspen formed a strategic alliance with SAP AG, and the company can now take manufacturing requirements data out of SAP’s ERP enterprise resource planning systems, and feed it into Aspen to design and model the most efficient ways to manufacture the required products. It can then pass data back into SAP. Aspen will continue to base Simulation Technologies business in the UK, it said. Last year the company, which employs 1,300 people worldwide and turned over $181m, bought the process control division of UK- based Cambridge Control Ltd (CI No 3,018). It says it will continue to look around for suitable acquisitions.

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