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clip_image002[4]Last week I attended the Product Innovation Conference in Berlin, an event that revitalized the discussions and information exchange around PLM.

I have been blogging about this event since it started in London 2011, the year after in Munich and Atlanta and now in Berlin. The event has grown in size, both for the amount of speakers and participants. There were many parallel sessions per interest stream, and for that reason I cannot give a full overview of the event as I did in my previous blog posts.

This time I will describe only my personal highlights, being aware there was much more to learn. A nice service to the more than 350 attendees is that they will be able to see all sessions online soon as they were all recorded.

Some of my personal highlights

The first keynote speaker was Steve Wozniak and for me one of the guys that changed my professional life. The Apple IIe was my first personal affordable computer to explore a new world of automation, the peeks and pokes, the analog/digital converter, programming and application software, like Visicalc. I somehow feel the same excitement with 3D printing. How is this going to affect our future life?

clip_image004[4]The Apple IIe was an innovation and Steve Wozniak led us through the successes and failures he experienced within Apple. Steve´s presentation was a clear motivation for all of us to think different, to have your goals in mind. Do not focus on the common sense or be part of the organization. There will be failure but also success if you are clear about your goals. Engineers should follow their creativity and be original, instead of copying books. Creativity and Innovation are like humor (some have it and some will never have it). It was a good inspiring start for the two days, and these themes came back several times.

During the rest of the day, I learned about The Human Factor and Managing Cultural Change by Dagmar Heinrich, which can lead to damaged bike or car.

Stan Przybylinski provided interesting statistics and insights about investments in discrete manufacturing related software around the world (US, Japan, Germany, India, China) demonstrating there is still an enormous gap between the traditional economies in the west and the emerging countries.

clip_image006[4]An excellent presentation was given by Caterpillar – Beth Hinchee representing the PLM / business side, John Berg representing the IT/Infrastructure side, combined with Accenture Rüdiger Stern – Innovation and Product Development Lead.

Their presentation was a blueprint how large PLM implementations should be executed, and it was a confirmation of what I am preaching.

steppedAs a PLM implementation is always about changing the way a company works, you need to make sure you have a strong involvement from both business and IT. Without a third party that brings in the best practices, the coaching and moderation between the two disciplines it often fails due to different viewpoints and a different focus. The role of the consultancy partner is to be the glue, the motivator and source of bringing outside experience from other implementations into the discussion. As normally a company might have experience with one or two PLM implementations, a consultancy firm should be able to bring in much more experiences from all their customer engagements.

In the afternoon Michael Grieves, author of Virtually Perfect: Driving Innovative and Lean Products through Product Lifecycle Management talked about the value of innovating starting from virtual products, and how they contribute to faster mature, better validated products, benefitting from a lower overall investment for innovation. He also stated it is more important to focus on practices instead of standardized processes inside PLM. clip_image008[4]

This matched perfectly with my presentation; Innovation loves PLM, explaining the huge value that PLM brings for Innovation in relation to the company’s culture and approach towards open innovation.

The two closing keynotes sessions from the afternoon were interesting. Peter Bilello from CIMdata talked about The Future of PLM: Enabling Radical Collaboration. For me the first time I saw such a change from CIMdata, now looking forward to the upcoming generation instead of presenting more common, consolidated PLM wisdom. My blog buddy Oleg wrote about it in more detail in his recent blog post: Product Development as we have known it is dying.

The last session of the day was from Marc Chapman: Designing the World Land Speed Record. It was inspiring for all of us, demonstrating the beauty and challenges of engineering when trying to break the world land speed record. See more at bloodhoundssc.com. Not so much PLM related, but full of challenges and a need for innovative approaches.

And after a network session with drinks and a short night

clip_image010[4]The next day started with an inspiring speech, please pay extra attention to this topic. Massoud Hassani, born in Afghanistan, is striving for awareness of the global land-mine problem through his innovative decommissioning device Mine Kafon. Traditional mine discovery and detonation programs are expensive. Affected countries and the UN are not spending significant money to solve the problem as an exploding mine is no longer world news (unless it is a famous person).

Still people get injured or killed by these mines – forgotten victims. Have a look at Massoud´s project on kickstarter.com and get inspired where you can contribute. Massoud’s initial design was based on his childhood experiences, knowledge gained at the design academy and now looking for engineering support to optimize his extreme low cost, but innovative solution.

Some other sessions from the second day: The lessons learned from previous failed PLM projects by Andritz: When Things Go Wrong: How to Put Them Right. They decided not to follow the common approach that many companies try to make: one size (type of PLM) fits all, learning from their failed PLM project now rolling out several PDM systems.

clip_image012[4] This presentation somehow has a connection to what Marc Halpern from Gartner mentioned. One of my favorite opening statements he made about PLM upgrades was:

“Upgrading your PLM system, is like rewiring the house with the electricity on”.

As Gartner’s focus is more on the IT-side of the business, he explained that current PLM implementations cannot be maintained in the long term future as they become too expensive and complex to maintain. He mentioned the risk when selecting one provider for PLM, you would suffer probably from being locked-in by the vendor. This made me think what about if you would implement SAP PLM ? The SAP message is clear: one single platform for PLM and Execution!

The counter approach from this vendor lock-in is the approach to work towards open standards. Here, I attended the session EUROSTEP: Achieving business benefits by using PLM standards such as STEP and PLCS.

Currently I am involved in several projects where standardization of data for the long term and efficient data exchange between various systems is important. It is somehow a battle against all odds. Standardization is making small steps forward, but it requires companies to have a long-term vision and most of the time they chose for the short-term proprietary data formats from their software vendors. As time and less complexity is money – the problem will come later for the next generation of managers and software.
Of course this always has to be considered in the context of the dynamics of your industry – the longevity of data plays an important role.

clip_image014[4]Second last keynote speaker of the day was Prof. Martin Eigner, a long term visionary and icon when it comes to PLM. Prof. Eigner provoked the audience again that almost no company actually has implemented PLM.

Most companies are stuck with a form of PDM combined with complex customizations. They do not keep it simple – PLM is for Product Development and definition and ERP is only for execution. Companies tend to invest in their expensive ERP systems which have less impact on the future business as PLM and Innovation have.

Companies should invest much more in the design process as here it is where almost 70 % of the costs are defined and innovative products are born. To innovate better we should add Model Based engineering which includes the steps of systems engineering into the design process. Mr. Eigner was talking about a new term for PLM: sysLM. His speech was consistent and logical for all of us. But why do companies not adopt this vision?

I will come back to that in my conclusion.

clip_image016[4]The last keynote speech was from Doug McCuistion, program manager from the NASA Curiosity Mars Exploration mission. Doug guided us through all the challenges the mission went through. He shared with us the reasons for the mission, the complexity and challenges of the landing procedure and the upcoming discoveries expected. It was the last session of the congress and I feel sorry for those who had to leave earlier for their travels as it was the most inspiring session of the congress. Going for the almost impossible and such a contrast to the “boring” world of PLM.

And here comes the link between NASA´s Curiosity project and Prof Eigner´s PLM presentation.

The Curiosity project is a challenge, not on this planet, it is on the edge of what is possible and has no competition (or it must be budget cuts by the government). For most other companies, the challenge lies on this earth, and they want to stay ahead of the competition. Here it is about being able to fund your innovation and assure future funding by introducing innovative products to the market that generate enough margin to invest in the future. PLM presentations seem to be “boring” as the business value is not clear for the management (the do not attend PLM conferences), they get more enthusiastic from short-term financial figures.

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One of the (younger) attendees told me that it was impressive to see so many PLM icons at this conference, but where is the new generation of PLM to-be icons ?

Fixing this disconnect is probably related to the magic we need to find to bring Innovation and PLM to the next generations.

Who starts ???

My conclusions:

  • The conference has become a “must” for companies looking for experiences related to PLM. Why and how PLM contributes to your business
  • Companies are looking for their second PLM implementation trail. Learning from their previous mistakes they learned it is not an IT-only project, business should be leading, cloud becomes an option.
  • The awareness of a new upcoming generation of workers. Everyone is aware of it, still at PLM conferences we are waiting for the first thought leaders of this generation to speak.
  • Excitement comes from innovations that seem to be unachievable. Some go extremely fast, some detonate mines and some go to Mars, the rest has to be achieved in a competitive and global market.
    Innovation loves PLM.
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