Industrial software utility, useability, future

How can providers and users of industrial software advance software usefulness and ease of use, so software and its benefits can be more widely adopted? Control Engineering China provides some thoughts.

By Stone Shi September 9, 2022
Image courtesy: Brett Sayles


Learning Objectives

  • There’s a need to make industrial software easier and more useful to have it more widely used and accepted.
  • A prominent developer of industrial is working to advance education, focus, support, collaboration around industrial software.

A View From China of Industrial Software: Insights

  • Control Engineering China offers encouragement for industrial software companies based on an interview with the leader of the China-based business unit of MathWorks, the maker of Matlab software used across many industries for engineering design, mechanical and motion simulation, controller programming, artificial intelligence development, education and other areas.
  • Taking a long-term outlook, hard work and persistence are among words of advice from Control Engineering Chinafor those developing industrial software. Are other core values useful for industrial software providers not mentioned here?

Discussions about industrial software have become popular. A consistent view seems to be that industrial software packages for operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) applications are too difficult to use, and the gap between domestic industrial software [from China] and foreign advanced industrial software [not from China] is too large.

Why is industrial software development and use challenging? People have different opinions. Some people say the technical barriers of industrial software are high and difficult to break through. Some say the software is missing core industrial technologies, and the accumulation industrial knowledge is not yet sufficient. Others say industrial software research and development (R&D) requires a long period, and the return on investment (ROI) is slow. Some people blame a lack of interdisciplinary talents, and too few unified standards.

Making industrial software easier, more useful

In total, perhaps these fit the saying, “There is only one reason for success, and there are thousands of excuses for failure.” The phenomenon is not surprising. With many challenges, how will industrial software mature more quickly? Let’s apply positive thinking to explore industrial software challenges and opportunities.

Cao Xinkang, general manager of MathWorks China, explained some industrial software successes since the birth of Matlab in 1984. Since then, Matlab by MathWorks has become commonly used software tools for analyzing data, developing algorithms and creating mathematical models by scientists and engineers around the world. Xinkang attributes this to MathWorks’ long-term corporate culture, which allows the company to focus on the implementation of long-term strategies, avoiding disturbances from short-term market changes.

Industrial software education, focus, support, collaboration

As the head of MathWorks China, Xinkang has been focusing the company’s efforts on four areas: education commitment, deep industry focus, deep support and extensive collaboration.

In education, MathWorks has a special policy for the education market in China: Pricing is much lower than in Europe and in the United States, so the revenue share of the education market is very low. MathWorks China invests a lot in education. In addition, more than 20% of the staff focus on the education market, and every staff member is obliged to support education customers.

MathWorks also will help key customers establish an R&D system that integrates R&D and information technology (IT) operations and maintenance, using guided programs, staff training, standards certification and consulting. MathWorks has encouraged a healthy Matlab ecosystem, including a commitment to expand a cross-domain third-party cooperation program, MathWorks Connections. So far there are more than 500 third-party Matlab-related solutions.

A prior Control Engineering China article cited MathWorks about the need for updated process design tools among “Five trends of Industry 4.0 outline the future of flexible factories.”

Industrial software long-term encouragement

Observing these successes, it is easy to see that for industrial software with small volume, high concentrations, difficult development, long development cycles, and high capital requirements, success is impossible without a long-term commitment. Every industrial software company needs to endure loneliness, frustration and temptation. What else is needed? Long-term persistence to get through technical challenges with measurements of value in the investment.

To be successful, embrace a long-term view among core strategies, or “first principles.” Those interested in the long-term are unafraid of hardship, remain far-sighted, are more aware of what “delayed gratification” means and will achieve what previously was considered unattainable.

Stone Shi is executive editor in chief of Control Engineering China. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,


Does the view from China about industrial software development differ from U.S. industrial software perspectives? What can we learn from each other?


Author Bio: Executive editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China