picongressThe product innovation conference in February has become one of my favorite events, mainly for networking. Perhaps PLM vendors try to give you the impression that we are in a fast moving world. In reality, most companies are moving in a much slower pace than these vendors dream of. In general for an outsider, last year might have looked similar to what happened this year. In this post, I will describe the subtle differences that I noticed.

The event

The event was in the same location as last year with approximately. 400 participant including 60 speakers. The conference had three main streams: keynotes, PLM and design. The PLM and design sessions were most of the time parallel sessions. Great if you are interested in one domain only, a little more challenging for people who are enjoying to be in both domains. However the good news is that all participants will have access to the recorded sessions in a week or two. And from last years’ experience I can say the recordings are good, so I am looking forward to a virtual additional conference in two weeks from now.

The sessions

Some remarks about the sessions that I was able to attend

Going to Mars ?

SNAGHTML10b65892Bas Lansdorp explained us about the Mars One mission, what was the drive and challenge behind establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars. It was an inspiring opening session to make you think out of the box. Several interesting topics came up.

1. First of all that most of the mission’s materials need to be basic, proven technology instead of modern, innovative concepts. As maintenance and risks for issues need to be minimized, it is better to keep it with proven technology.

2. The crew selection is a long process – the first crew will fly in 10 years from now, so who are those individuals that want to take up the challenge to stay forever with 3 others, and every few years some more people will come. But hard to escape, and there is no way back. Amazing!

3. Part of the funding can be done by media rights. Bas explained the revenues that are related, for example, with the Olympic Games are already stunning. Imagine to have “Live on Mars” as a reality soap available all around the world. Programs like Big Brother demonstrate that it is in our nature just to watch ordinary people see how the behave. Will they fight? Will they have sex? Public voyeurism and eternal fame.

Although the keynote had no relation to PLM, I felt energized by the entrepreneurial thinking of Bas, following his passion and wanting to realize it. As Mars does not need the first centuries entrepreneurs, it was clear Bas is not part of the first crew.

Managing complexity and volume

imageNext Peter Smith from VF International presented the huge challenge his group of companies had to manage the complexity of the various products and their seasonal deliveries, up to 12 collection models per year. The group with famous brands like The North Face, Lee, Wranglers, JanSport, Kipling and Timberland has the challenge to deliver 500 Mio units/year which means 16 units/second ! For sure an execution engine. So where does PLM fit?

For Peter PLM is part of the infrastructure, a glue for the innovation process, but not driving the innovation process. They try to standardize on a single PLM system, but some of the brands have such characteristics and history that this was not possible to realize. As the business must go on, a new PLM should not be disruptive for business.

The two main challenges Peter sees for current PLM are:

  • The software models available for them as consumers. Changes go here too slow
  • Organizational change implications. How to change when change is hard?

It was clear from Peter’s experience that many of his points were from the IT-perspective. During the networking break when I spoke with others, some of them mentioned that the business value for PLM was missing in Peter’s analysis – too much tool/infrastructure.

The digital value chain

imageAn interesting session from Michael Bitzer (Accenture) and Sebastien Handschuh (Daimler). After an introduction about the German initiative Digital Industry 4.0 the remaining part of the session was around Daimler´s approach to use JT as a neutral, application independent format for their 3D data. At this time, Daimler has already over a 6 Mio JT-files and the format has been proven to fulfill their process needs.

Where possible Daimler aims to collaborate with suppliers in JT format for 3D. In this manner, their suppliers are not forced to use exclusively CATIA or NX. And the answer one question from the audience if Daimler was supporting the Siemens flavored JT or the real neutral JT format, it was clear that Daimler was aiming for the neutral format. I believe an interesting move to a more generic data approach in this case for 3D CAD data instead of original file formats. Hopefully more standardization to follow.

PLM selection: Do´s and Don’ts

questionaireI was moderating a discussion session for companies that were in the process of selecting a PLM system or that wanted to share their experience. Unfortunate the session was overpopulated with a lot of people not all necessary in the selection process. Due to the large audience not really an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion. Still it was amazing to see that there are still companies where the value of PLM is not clear at the management level and therefore the focus is on quick ROI.

In a one-to-one discussion afterwards I learned about a company where the shareholders/investors of a company forced the PLM project to fail by pushing unrealistic deadlines and not understanding the human and business change required. Unrealistic ROI expectations and lack of understanding where PLM really brings a competitive advantage is missing. Worst case due to their short-term focus the company will slowly be out of business as competitiveness and margins will reduce. For this type of situations, there is the excellent Dilbert cartoon below.


Source: Dilbert.com

Secure data sharing in the extended enterprise

SNAGHTML10cde882An interesting session was organized by Häkan Kårdén (Eurostep) and Kristofer Thoresson (Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery). Siemens had chosen to use the Eurostep Share-A-space environment between their internal data (their PDM system and other data sources) and the external data from suppliers, customers and field services. A pragmatic concept and interesting to see Share-A-space Found-Its-place. PLM Vendors probably would claim that their system could organize this secure and remote access without the need for a system in between. But the fact that a Siemens company decides to use Share-A-space demonstrates there is still a gap between a potential safe, single PLM based implementation and a pragmatic separation approach.

PLM is changing

imageIn my session that afternoon I focused on the visible change in PLM. From an IT infrastructure for file collaboration towards a more data-centric business driven approach. And from there looking into the future anticipate that moving towards a data-centric approach is crucial to be ready for advanced computer power and brain-matching algorithms. This will be the game changers I believe in the upcoming decade in line with the Industry 4.0 ideas. My past two post have been indicating this direction:

A Circular economy

imagePeter Bilello from CIMdata had a good presentation related to the change in business we see and must make. No longer can we afford an economy where we waste raw materials. The circular economy is about supporting the product lifecycle from cradle-to-cradle instead of the classical cradle-to-grave. This is what you could call the circular economy; This matches the trend that companies more and more will deliver services to their customers instead of selling products to them. Instead of buying a fridge you pay for cooling capacity and your supplier changes the current model with a new model after three years. The service or experience economy fitting very nicely with the new generations that seem to prefer more to live and share at the moment instead of owning property.

Your digital shadow

imageThe closing keynote from Stephanie Hankey was like the starting keynote. No relation to PLM but interesting in the context of what the effects are from digitalization and mobility. She provided some insights about the data that is already collected from each individual (or device) and how this all can be combined in profiles – your digital shadow. And of course your shadow might give the wrong impression. You can imagine that with growing trend of smart devices and the Internet of Things it will be hard to stay out of it. Companies will sell and buy data sets from their potential customers (victims). Scary as it all happens in the background and you are not fully aware of it.

(At the point, I was writing this paragraph my computer crashed with a blue screen – coincidence?)

Cultured beef ?

imageAfter a good burger and discussion in the evening, the opening keynote on day two was from Mark Post with the title Cultured Beef – changing the way we eat and think about food forever. Another interesting keynote where Mark explained how we can feed the growing world population in a more sustainable way by creating animal products through cell culture and bio fabrication instead of farming. The process is still in the early days of discovery but by using cell culture you can assure you get the right meat, even without fat, and it is real meat. Currently still expensive. Mark estimates that with current technology and up scaling of the process a price of $ 65 per kilo can be reached. Too expensive for consumers at this time but a promising number for the future. Another (Dutch) keynote speaker that made us think differently for the rest of the day.

The engine

SNAGHTML10e5e94dNext Bjarne Nørgaard from MAN Diesel & Turbo gave a good lecture for the audience, what it takes to design and build a ship. You build the engine and wrap the ship around it. The challenge for MAN is to follow, service and maintain the engine through is 30 year’s lifecycle and possibly longer. Next Bjarne went into the details of their information architecture, and it was surprising to learn that their PDM system was Siemens and that they used Aras on top of that for connecting data to the rest of the enterprise and lifecycle of the engine. You would assume two PLM systems in-house for one company is an overkill. Bjarne explained that they tried initially to achieve these goals with Teamcenter but failed due to lack of flexibility. Great marketing for Aras, bad for Siemens. Although I am sure the cultural aspect has played a role. No one likes their first PLM or ERP system, as the first implementation is this domain is the moment you have the biggest internal culture shock.

Using search and semantic technology

imageThe presentation from Moises Martines-Ablanado (Configuration Management Airbus Group) and Thomas Kamps (Conweaver) was interesting as they demonstrated one of the upcoming concepts I foresee will have a great future. Conweaver connects to existing enterprise systems (PLM, ERP, CRM, and legacy) and create a semantic mapping and linking of the data indexed from these systems. And through this network of data provide apps with a particular purpose. For example identify directly changes in the current EBOM and MBOM and potentially from there update the MBOM based in EBOM changes. A concept I have seen with Exalead too, illustrating that once you are in a data-centric environment, combining data sources for particular purposes can be achieved fast. No need for the classical approach of a single database that stores all.

A new TLA ? CLM

imageJoy Batchelor gave a clear presentation why besides PLM and ERP Jaguar Landrover (JLR) needs a third system supporting the connectivity of product configurations and sales configurations. They are able to manage combinations for 170 different markets, which means every person on this planet could have its unique Jaguar Landrover. Joy introduced CLM (Configuration Lifecycle Management) as the third domain needed to support these configurations. The system they are using is ConfigIT, and I assume all automotive vendors have their own toolsets to manage the product and marketing configurations. I hope to learn more on that area. Will CLM be a separate domain or will it be absorbed by PLM or ERP vendors in the future ? Time will tell/

A game changer ?

SNAGHTML10f16946Henk Jan Pels from the Eindhoven University of Technology took us back in time and explained how ERP became visible on the CFO’s agenda eliminating the discussion on ROI. Where ERP is handling material flows, to develop and deliver products there is also a need for knowledge flows between requirements, functional and the physical definition of a product. Expanding these flows to a framework that covers the technology, the building blocks, the families and the individual products would be the ideal interaction Henk Jan is proposing. And a PLM system would be the environment to implement this concept. Henk Jan announced this as a game changer. I agree if management of companies spend times to understand the benefits, it will be a game changer. Somehow it remained an academic concept and I believe we are all eager to learn if companies will adapt this idea, knowing change to something that is not common or traditional is a cultural risk.

The German future ?

imageThe final presentation I could attend was from Martin Eigner, who first explained in some detail what the Industry 4.0 approach was about. From there he took us into the world of model based systems engineering. You could say an integration of PLM with more virtual system modeling and analysis as the front end of the development process. Somehow similar to last year’s presentation, but understandable as the world of PLM does not evolve so fast.


This is somehow also my conclusion from this year’s event. I was hoping to see some new sparks. For sure the keynotes were inspiring although less related to PLM. The case from Airbus and Conweaver was inspiring as I believe search and semantic based applications are a logical extension for the challenges companies want to address with PLM. JLR’s presentation explaining the need for Configuration Lifecycle Management strengthened my thought that in the future PLM and ERP will disappear. It is about a business platform with combined services, which might fall in one of the classical categories. I believe for many people the German Innovation 4.0 should be studied and replicated as it acknowledges exactly the future trend to remain competitive.

It was a pity for the public that Siemens PLM, Dassault Systèmes and Autodesk were not there. As the two largest PLM vendors and one of the largest PLM challengers, you would expect them be there and allow prospects and PLM consultants to compare where each of the PLM companies is different. Still it was a good conference. Well organized and as mentioned in the introduction, all presentations are recorded, giving everyone the opportunity to digest and review content again.

I am looking forward to the next Product Innovation conference with perhaps some more PLM related keynotes and big data practices.