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If it were up to the interesting topics and top-class speakers, the 59th sendlercircle would not have had to be the last one. But its core, the industry of industrial software providers, has changed fundamentally, and the number of participants has become too small for the continuation of the circle. Today, software for digital transformation is also offered from companies in the industry itself, but they do not (yet) see themselves as IT providers. The protagonists have not reached the point where they want to join forces like the providers of initial engineering software systems did 28 years ago.

At the sendlercircle in Hamburg – as has been the case since its inception – the agenda included presentations that went well beyond the question of IT application in the manufacturing industry. Christian Wilkens spoke about the digital solution needs of the Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung (BGE), Dr. Jørgen Schiønning Larsen, founder and CEO of PDM technology, presented the company and its Bluestar PLM, and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Stark from the TU Berlin gave insights into the state of research on AI in engineering. I myself explained my position in a recently started debate about ERP, PLM and MES.

The major IT providers such as Autodesk, Dassault Systèmes, PTC, SAP and Siemens have withdrawn one by one in recent years. You can still find them – in addition to their own customer events – at trade shows and some major events. To think of a joint event like the “CeBIT Management Forum 1999 of CADcircle” (CADcircle was the original name of our circle) would be hard to imagine today. (The picture shows the flyer of the event, which was organized together with Deutsche Messe AG).

At that time, the Tagesschau anchorman Jan Hofer, whom I had engaged, moderated the event on the topic “United States of Europe – Role Model USA?” at the Tagungs-Centrum Messe in Hanover. The journalist and foreign correspondent Dr. Dieter Kronzucker gave a situation analysis of the USA and Germany. And Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Abramovici spoke on “Corporate IT is a matter for the boss”.

The retreat of IT providers over the last ten years was just one sign of the great change that is currently taking place here. Monolithic standard software for CAD, MES, ERP, PLM and the many other tasks in industry is no longer simply the set standard as it was before. Microservice-based cloud software has also gained a foothold in industry and is emerging as a complement, sometimes even as direct competition.

For analysts as well as decision makers in the industry, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track. What kind of software is the right one for what? How do old and new systems work together? What training will IT specialists need in the future? Such questions are only being asked sporadically. And the previous “vendors,” as IT providers have been called over the past decades in the automotive industry, for example, are no longer necessarily the ones who can provide the answers.

This major change we are currently experiencing continues to have my full attention. I accompany it with analyses and reports, for example in the background series on “Composable Software”, on my news portal And of course I am watching the development of the market to see if it might call for a new edition of such a special network in a different format and composition, as the sendlercircle was for 28 years.

I will publish some articles about the history of the sendlercircle in the near future. Its role in the development of industrial IT, especially in the German-speaking world, was too significant to simply put it to rest. For a great many of those responsible in the industry today, the content will offer largely unknown information that may help to see current developments in a broader context and to understand them better.


The most important results of the last sendlercircle

Christian Wilkens, Group Manager Digitalization BGE (Photo Sendler)

Christian Wilkens on “BIM in nuclear waste disposal”.

Christian Wilkens is group manager for digitalization at the Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung (BGE). The BGE has the task of making the final disposal of radioactive waste possible, which should ensure the best possible safety for one million years. At present, however, practicable solutions have to be found and implemented that involve previous interim storage facilities and the waste disposed of in them to a large extent in unaccounted-for quantities and with unaccounted-for risks.

This means the retrieval of enormous quantities of radioactive waste and the construction and operation of repositories for low and intermediate level waste (German abbreviation SMA). The completion of the first SMA repository licensed under nuclear law, the former iron ore mine Schacht Konrad, is scheduled for 2029. At the same time, repositories used in the meantime, such as Gorleben or Asse, must be decommissioned in accordance with nuclear law and the waste they contain safely disposed of.


Some of the tasks are projects with enormously long durations whose objectives can hardly be clearly formulated due to the largely unclear data situation. In some cases, such as the construction of repositories or the disposal of temporarily stored waste, the projects can be compared to a certain extent with factory planning and construction and even with industrial production. (Graphic BGE)

But the responsibilities within and around BGE are more comparable, if at all, to architecture and urban planning, because of the lack of clear structures and defined processes, while a variety of actors are involved whose relationships with each other are far from clear.

The BGE is looking for solutions that can help in addressing this mountain of challenges. A BIM system, or Building Information Modeling software, seems the most likely candidate.


Dr. Jørgen Schiønning Larsen on “Bluestar PLM, embedded in Microsoft Dynamics ERP, new on the German market”

Dr. Jørgen Schiønning Larsen founded PDM technology 20 years ago in Aalborg, Denmark, and launched a PLM system that was fully embedded in an ERP system from the start. Since the acquisition of Axapta/Navision by Microsoft, Bluestar PLM was embedded in Microsoft. Today, the ERP solution is called Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&SCM. Dr. Larsen still heads the company.

The German market was – until the Corona pandemic – hard to reach for a PLM system embedded in Microsoft ERP. Bluestar PLM won about 60% of its customers in the U.S., and the rest in Scandinavia.

But since the pandemic brought to the fore the question of how to make work in industry more independent of the office PC and the company servers, the first inquiries came quickly and in the meantime also a whole series of new customers in the German-speaking market.

Dr. Jørgen Schiønning Larsen, founder and CEO of PDM technology (Photo Sendler)

PDM technology now has a branch office and its first employees in Großwallstadt near Aschaffenburg and is planning to rapidly expand its activities in Germany. There are also branches in Pilsen in the Czech Republic and in Atlanta in the USA.

Jørgen Schiønning presented the cloud-native system Bluestar PLM in the form of a series of live demonstrations in the cloud, with which he demonstrated important functionalities.

In particular, the online demonstration of seamless integration of CAD systems such as SolidWorks, but also the short response times for more complex process simulations were impressive. (Graphic PDM technology)

Bluestar PLM is likely to become a well-known provider not only in the context of the currently reawakened interest in cloud solutions in German-speaking countries. The software also offers special qualities especially in the environment of the increasing individualization of industrial products in the direction of batch size 1. The generation of one hundred percent manufacturing BOMs from 150% engineering BOMs and the associated variant management are the core of the solution.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Stark on “AI in Engineering

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Stark, Director of the Department of Industrial Information Technology, TU Berlin (Photo Sendler)

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Stark is Director of the Department of Industrial Information Technology at TU Berlin.

Recently – especially since the general availability of ChatGPT at the end of 2022 – the possibility of using modern AI also in industrial engineering has been increasingly discussed, and so the institute at TU Berlin is also active in various projects.

Prof. Stark started his talk with a short introduction to the development and state of the art of AI, a classification of ChatGPT and other methods and current procedures, algorithm and training types. And he showed the different level of support needs addressed to AI in engineering.

With a literature review, use cases and target directions of the use of AI were investigated at the institute. According to this, most applications in engineering are aimed at simplifying modeling, followed by product and functional improvements as well as process improvements.

Predictions that lead to process improvements, for example with predictive maintenance, also play a role in the applications. And, of course, hopes are pinned on AI solutions for issues such as autonomous driving and the cyber security of vehicle networks.

Prof. Stark presented several research projects: A DFG project on AI-based progress measurement within product development, an industry collaborative project at the Werner von Siemens Center to assist in turbine blade repair decisions, and an EU project UPSIM (Unleash Potential in Simulation) in the automotive industry.

He cited the availability of sufficiently suitable data, the fact that it is usually not possible to see how AI arrives at results, and a lack of integration of AI expertise with existing expertise in product and process engineering as limitations of AI use.

“AI map” to classify the different AI approaches and methods (Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rainer Stark)

Ulrich Sendler on “ERP, PLM, MES and the future of industrial IT”.

In the weeks leading up to the sendlercircle, I had started a public discussion on the theses regarding digital transformation, especially in production automation, formulated in various articles by Prof. Jörg W. Fischer, Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and Steinbeis Transfer Center RIM. I made my position clear in this discussion in a short contribution.

A core of the theses of Prof. Fischer sees the previous supremacy of ERP threatened by the increasing individualization of industrial products. It is becoming increasingly difficult to operate MES for such products from ERP. Instead, there are indications that PLM will take on a leading role here. So in the future, ERP will more likely get the production bill of materials from MES, which in turn will get its data from PLM. I think this thesis is realistic.

It seems less sensible to me that Prof. Fischer introduces some new terms in his articles which, in his opinion, will make up the future IT landscape in industry. He talks about a “Digital Information Architecture” and about xLM, which in my view is more of a rehash of the term SysLM, which I coined in 2011 but which did not catch on in practice at all. The “Industrial Data Science Layer” introduced by Prof. Fischer also seems to me to only reinforce the confusion of terms that currently prevails in IT.

Ulrich Sendler (Photo Daniel Sendler)