Siemens to acquire FORAN marine design solutions

Jul 20, 2021 | Hot Topics

Siemens just announced that it is acquiring the FORAN software business from SENER, a Spanish engineering, procurement, and construction firm. FORAN’s solutions are used in the design and construction of ships of all sorts, and marine structures like offshore oil rigs. Siemens Digital Industries Software plans to add FORAN to its Xcelerator portfolio. (SENER will retain its naval architecture consultancy; the software, its developers and the support team join Siemens.)

This is a big deal–a really significant and exciting announcement. Foran has many, many devoted users in the world of ship design and production, but SENER hasn’t invested enough in the technology to keep it truly competitive in a world that increasingly relies on data management, optimization, and other technologies outside the realm of naval architectural calculations. Those calculations are critical, but no longer sufficient, so the dovetailing of FORAN’s strengths with the broader Siemens Xcelerator portfolio will be a great benefit to FORAN’s base.

In addition to naval architecture tools, Siemens gains technology that may be useful in other industries too, such as world-class plate nesting, bending and cutting technology, as well as jig design for forming curved panels, and dimensional control for pipe bending and cutting. I’ve also spoken with happy customers of FORAN’s pipeline, cable tray, and equipment modeling modules, so perhaps there’s an offer to be made to broader AEC users as well.

Here’s what we know about the transaction:

FORAN will be added to Siemens’ Xcelerator portfolio, offering a comprehensive and integrated portfolio of software and services that covers all aspects of the ship lifecycle, from concept design through production to operations and optimized service lifecycle management”. Much more detail on this will be forthcoming after the transaction closes later this year — but SIemens has a solid track record of integrating acquisitions and creating a way forward for users.

This is important for Siemens. According to the press release, FORAN brings with it “over 150 shipyard and design office customers across 40 countries” — including some of the biggest shipyards and defense contractors in the world. Acquiring FORAN sends the message to the marine economy that Siemens intends to invest in this industry.

Finally, this is as much about people as it is about technology. When the SIemens team briefed me on this acquisition, they stressed that they are very excited to have these industry and technology experts joining Siemens.

(No, terms of the deal were not disclosed. It’s Siemens, after all.)

As you can tell, I think this is great news. Shipyards around the world are struggling with low demand for new vessels, even as we need to make those operating now, significantly more sustainable. As a result, many yards are searching for new relevance to ship owners and operators, perhaps by becoming more digital. Integrating FORAN’s tools with Siemens’ design, manufacturing, and operations technology will open new possibilities for marine industry players at many levels.

I’m especially excited about that “service lifecycle management” tag in the Siemens quote above. Digitalization takes on an urgent connotation when we think of the Ever Given, and its crew and the billions of dollars worth of cargo, stuck in the Suez Canal (and legal limbo) for weeks — could an onboard system have prevented the ship from getting stuck in the first place? Should ships this large be allowed in the Suez Canal — what design choices could have/should have been made differently? Could we have avoided the incident if we had had access to more timely information? Closer ties between design and operations are critical to answering some of these questions — and, perhaps, preventing such an incident from ever happening again.

FORAN is expected to become part of the Siemens family by year-end, at which point we should learn a lot more about the integration plans and paths forward. I’m really excited to hear what those are!