It was a pleasure to participate this last week in the PI DX USA conference for several reasons. First, because Marketkey has been able to organize the event in the same manner as before. Meaning presentations, networking meetings, and roundtable discussions. Virtual, of course, however, in the same spirit. Secondly, the 3-day event took place during a late afternoon for Europe lasted 4 – 5 hours per day, allowing a larger audience to learn from each other. Before we had the European viewpoints and American viewpoints separate, now we had the chance to discuss and listen together.  A single version of the truth!

A few highlights of the sessions that I attended. There was enough to choose from if you look at the agenda from these three days.

Creating a Digital Enterprise: What are the Challenges and Where to Start?

The conference started with a panel discussion lead by David Sherburne. The three panelists came from entirely different industries Jaswinder Walia, CIO Engineering, GE Aviation, Erik Olson, VP Product Innovation and Development, Crocs and Samuli Savo, SVP Product Management & Innovation, Stora Enso. It was interesting to see the commonalities and differences between these companies, all working towards a digital enterprise.

David’s last question was about getting advice from these gentlemen.

What mistakes to avoid and what to share?

Jaswinder: The mistake of doing too much analysis paralyzed the organization. Sometimes you need to move ahead and adapt during the journey – do not wait. Sometimes there is too much focus on the quality of a business solution and not enough attention to the flow of information

Eric: COVID-19 was THE success. It pushed people to work with digital tools. They had immediately proof points delivering a deal within 6 weeks.

Samuli: The success is in funding ideas. Samuli had a more extended session on this topic during the event. Do not invest in long time projects – visible success is needed in a few months, not in 1 year.

Probably I liked these three pieces of advice so much as it is the same as what I am advising companies. Moving from a traditional PLM-approach towards a more model-based approach. Instead of waiting and looking till others master this topic, start learning (small) and make sure you make progress. Learning is crucial for a digital transformation in the PLM-domain.

What is Stopping Manufacturers from Implementing Industry 4.0

This roundtable session was structured by Gavin Hill and Jonathan Bray, both from the AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre), who gave several insights and examples from what AMRC has been doing as research in the context of Industry 4.0.

A roundtable is supposed to be an interactive session, which would have been a challenge as I noticed 49 people subscribed to this session.  However, during the session, it became clear there was a significant silent majority.

Gavin and Jonathan had a lot to share. When the time came to interact with the audience, it was mostly other vendors talking about their Industry 4.0 vision or capabilities.
Vendors are perhaps more than ten years ahead with their vision as CIMdata’s image on the left states. When you would implement all these beautiful concepts, you will discover many frustrating gaps as your existing company’s processes, people, and skills are not that easy to change.

Smart Manufacturing: Simulating Workflows to Drive Efficiency and Productivity

A company that has been active in Smart Manufacturing is AGCO, who has been presenting several times their future strategy and lessons learned at PI.

See Susan Lauda’s presentation in The weekend after PLMx Hamburg 2018

In this session, Andreas Frank and Dominik Hammerl shared how AGCO utilizes line balancing simulation to identify bottlenecks and create a productive, efficient workflow as one of the projects within their Smart Factory strategy.

Their current solution was introducing a new that that had fast user adoption. The big elephant in the room remains to connect all these tools, having a flow of consistent data between all enterprise systems.

No problem at this time, as I heard in most of the sessions that I attended – stop analyzing and solving all the details upfront – start doing and learning – keeping the ultimate vision in mind/

Transforming to a Software-Centric Business Model: How the Need for Data is Changing Business

This was an exciting session to see digital transformation in action. Subramanian Kunchithapatham, VP Engineering of Sensormatic Solutions (Johnson Controls) who are focusing on the brick and mortar retail shops.

These shops have been evolving as online shopping. The shift of focus towards customer experience in the shop requires these businesses to adapt. By using a digital twin concept for shop behavior and operations, they can now sell software solutions that improve their customer’s performance, as you can see from the image below.

To What Degree Do We Need To Integrate PLM, ERP and MES?

This roundtable session, excellently moderated by Jan Johansson, Senior Director Digital Transformation at Terma A/S, was the type of roundtable you would like to participate in. I think the theme is actual for all of us

Statements varied from”ERP is our only system of truth as here we manage our financial execution” till”We should include CRM, CPQ and all other TLAs inside an enterprise – the connected enterprise”

My observation was that many of us are still thinking in systems, an ERP-system, a PLM-system. We talk about”owning data” instead of”being accountable” for data in that context.

Another observation was to check who is responsible for PLM in your company. If it is engineering, probably your PLM-system is considered an engineering tool, not an infrastructure that enables product data to be available along the product lifecycle.

How to deal with legacy data, a challenge in the aerospace industry. Store data in neutral formats or select a preferred vendor-related format and stick to it.

A great roundtable that hopefully inspired the participants to explore some of the options discussed or connect and learn more from each other experiences.

Overcoming Data Management Challenges with AI

Nicely complementary to the previous roundtable was the session moderated by Mo (Muhannad)Alomari’s, AI Hub Lead at Rolls Royce plc. As an introduction, Mo dazzled us with the amount of data/knowledge related to gas turbines. Impossible to comprehend or access by human beings without the support of Artificial Intelligence.

Mo also brought the knowledge graph to our attention through this movie from the Google Knowledge Graph. We discussed this concept and its applicability for the PLM-domain. For sure, technology can bring high value for discovering information. However, there will still be a human-based interpretation required to filter out incorrect or unwanted associations. I think we all observe the challenges introduced by the”knowledge” algorithms on social media. Instead of building your knowledge, they try to drag you into even more absurd “facts.”

Mo also shared how, through AI, they are setting up data conversion practices. As you can imagine, a lot of Rolls Royce legacy data came from the era of paper/scanned drawings. Which text is meaningful on a drawing. Is the text a remark or an official annotation?  AI-based best practices are not yet affordable for mainstream companies.

I believe we are all looking forward to learning from the best and bad practices of these frontrunners.  As the group was small, it was an interesting discussion and learning session that you only can have by participating actively.

Embracing Digital in Face of Pandemic Disruption

I want to close my highlights by pointing to the final panel discussion. Where the theme was to”hear from experts who have been guiding customers through digital transformation projects before COVID-19 and supporting their clients throughout the crisis,” you would expect an expert discussion.

Indeed, the first part illustrated the trend that COVID-19 accelerated the focus on an inclusive and flexible supply chain. Perhaps traditional PLM-systems have a massive engineering focus, now most panelists report a shifted focus to the supply chain. The point of gravity has shifted.

The discussion started to shift, where the newcomers in PLM started to claim that they do not have an upgrade issue thanks to their cloud offering. An when Paul Powers started to pitch that upgrades should be as easy as smartphone upgrades and BOM-updates do not need people anymore because we have machine learning, it reminded me of my 2015 PDT presentation.

In The Perfect Storm or a Fatal Tsunami session (here on Slideshare) , I predicted that AI and machine learning would remove many traditional PLM-related processes in the long-term. However, the future solutions must be rigid, not just a demo.

The discussion drifted toward “openness” and “PLM is dying out.” Again, here you could see the vendors’ fixation to talk about a single tool, not about a business strategy.

A statement like “PLM sucks” does not help the strategy. It shows these vendors cannot understand the PLM domain and prefer to create their own terminology, cornering PLM in the mechanical domain to be different. I will not go into the PLM sucks discussion as I mentioned this acronym at the PI 2016 event in Munich (slideshare).

However, we should be grateful that these companies sponsored this event. They imagine the (their) ideal future and thanks to their contribution, we were able to be in this event with fruitful discussions. Therefore my thanks to all the sponsors making this event happen.The challenge is always to imagine the future and next have a realistic path to get there on-time.


It was exciting to participate in this PI DX event. The Marketkey-team has transposed the conference concept to a virtual event, very close to the physical event. In particular, well-moderated roundtable sessions based on Teams are the big differentiator for me compared to other virtual events I have seen.

Expecting COVID-19 will not disappear next week, I look forward to the next event with such an interaction.