Beyond PLM

At Siemens' recent PLM Connection event, Matt Bailey spoke to the company's managing director PLM Software, Robin Hancock about the company's vision for the future of PLM.

Siemens says it has brought a lot of investment and understanding of what's required in industrial software to bear in order to bring a very broad scope of software to the market. The company's aim is to offer a complete industrial software set, "without it being proprietary".

According to Siemens managing director PLM Software, Robin Hancock. "People want as much integration as they need, but they don't want to be forced into taking everything from the same supplier." Charting the development of PLM, Hancock says, "In the old days it was all about product design. Now, while you're designing and developing the product and getting people to collaborate around it, you're also designing and developing your plant and your manufacturing capability concurrently. Because the pressure is to get more competitive, more highly configured products to market at a lower price and higher quality, more quickly, doing those things concurrently is the next big value proposition for manufacturing and engineering companies. But change is difficult and the last thing you want is some 'big bang'.

"Longer term there is the interplay between what we call TIA – totally integrated automation. This integrates everything, from controllers up through manufacturing and then into engineering and back into R&D. We already provide systems in all those areas," says Hancock. "People like Rolls-Royce are integrating manufacturing execution with PLM and getting big benefits from bringing those things together. It is about getting your products to your customer quicker."

The design lifecycle Hancock says Siemens is now looking at the whole lifecycle of design through production and beyond, to maintenance, repair and overhaul. "We try to become part of the customer's project team, so we are mindful of how quickly they can manage change and engage with them in a way that is not going to take too many risks," he says. "Our engagement model is probably our biggest differentiator. You are managing the competing pressures of delivering enough value for it to be interesting without taking on too much change risk."

Another very important development is HD-PLM (high definition PLM). Unveiled at Expo 2010, HD-PLM allows cross-domain decision making by uniting users with the people, tools and precise product-related information they need to intelligently evaluate decision alternatives.

The user's experience is personalised by actively placing them into the digital context appropriate to their role. HD-PLM will proactively assist users in collaborative decision making, and information will be clarified and turned into knowledge through a highly intuitive visual presentation. HD-PLM helps users validate decisions against company best practices appropriate for the task at hand. "It allows interested parties to concentrate only on the product detail that is important to them," Hancock explains. "You might want to see a car design from a recyclability point of view and want everything else masking out. HD-PLM enables you to understand it more easily, collaborate on decisions about that aspect more easily and make decisions more easily and share best practice."

Rapid development Clearly the sector is changing rapidly. "We're investing billions in developing our tool and product set and our service capability," says Hancock. "We are seeing huge growth in PLM, in markets that are supposed to be pretty tough. That tells me that companies are investing in technologies that can help them be more effective and efficient and give their customers what they want more quickly.

"Our technologies are almost counter-cyclical," he adds. "The decision to find the right people and employ more of them can be difficult to justify, but applying technology to make the people you have already got more effective is a strategy that seems to be driving growth in PLM. It used to be the preserve of automotive, aerospace and a couple of other industries, but now it is being very broadly adopted by many sectors: PLM has come of age."

Matt Bailey

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