5 on a Wednesday: Additive merger mania continues, news from the world of fashion and retail, Hexagon supports manufacturing startups

Sep 27, 2023 | Hot Topics

There is so much going on right now that it’s hard to keep up. Here are a few things I’m watching:

The saga of 3D Systems’ possible merger with Stratasys is still ongoing. Stratasys and Desktop Metal have their shareholder meetings tomorrow, so we’ll learn whether Stratasys’ management even has enough votes to continue discussions with Desktop Metal—both 3D Systems and Nano Technologies say no (here and here). We’ll know more after the votes.

All of this is destabilizing the other players in additive manufacturing. Earlier this week, Voxeljet announced here that it, too, is “investigating strategic alternatives,” that may include “investments, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures, strategic partnerships, or other transactions.” 

In more upbeat news, Hexagon announced here this year’s class of manufacturing startups that will receive Hexagon’s support. You can read about the startups in the press release; what struck me is that much of the cohort uses advanced analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence not for design/simulation tasks but to improve product quality in manufacturing or connectivity in supply chains. We tend to think of AI/ML in design; Hexagon is clearly promoting a much wider field of play. Interesting. 

Centric Software, the fashion and retail PLM provider owned by Dassault Systèmes, announced here that it has acquired aifora, an “AI-driven, best-in-class predictive pricing retail automation platform that enables brands and retailers to achieve continuous growth and profitability improvement through data-driven pricing, inventory management and allocation practices.” I’m not a big shopper, but DS explained the problem this way at its analyst event in June: the new world of online retail means shoppers can instantly check prices and availability on dozens of competing storefronts with very little effort. Retailers and manufacturers must respond with promotions, price changes, and other mechanisms if their initial price doesn’t hold. According to Centric’s press release, aifora helped one retailer to “predict consumer demand more accurately so that we can produce the right amount of inventory and price competitively to improve the rate of sell-through at full price … [and] make better decisions and understand our pricing in a way that would be impossible using manual methods.” Details of the transaction were not announced.

Sticking to fashion and apparel and the theme that it’s tough to be a smaller player in global economies, Datatex and Setex announced that they’ve established a holding company focusing on IT solutions for the textile industry. Funded by Elvaston Capital Management, they plan to acquire to “become the global benchmark and standard for digital solutions within the textile and apparel sector fully integrating all manufacturing and business functions from Fiber to Garment.” Datatex makes the NOW suite of ERP solutions designed for the textile and apparel industry; Setex makes automation solutions for textile manufacturers, including the Orga TEX production execution system and human-machine interfaces. Read more here.

There is, of course, more news than what I’ve cherry-picked here. But these tidbits highlight what seems to be coming to the fore: First, older ways of doing things often no longer work. Retail pricing, traditional and additive manufacturing, and the small David going up against a big Goliath are all under stress. Second, applying new technologies to solve old problems like quality and supply chain connectivity requires imagination and intuition. And third, putting those two together: how long will an innovative startup be able to go it alone? Judging by the news today, not long.

More after the Stratasys and Desktop Metal shareholder meetings tomorrow.