20 Jahre PLM

Siemens Digital Industries Software has had a number of names. Some of them had PLM or PLM software in the center. Now the software company with headquarter in Plano, Texas, which is with more than 20.000 employees a big part of Siemens worldwide, has not only grown in terms of the number of employees but also in terms of a huge portfolio embracing almost everything in almost every industrial process you can manage digitally. From mechanical, electrical, electronical and software engineering over simulation of behavior and functionality to controlling real machinery aided by artificial intelligence. But you hardly find the term PLM there. That was what made me curious to find out, what kind of role this for about 20 years important roof over all kind of industry software plays for Siemens today.

Siemens was also interested in giving me some answers on that question, and I had an interesting conversation about it in September. Here is what Joe Bohman told me, who is Senior Vice President, Lifecycle Collaboration Software, today. Before entering this position, he was active in the fields of CAD/CAM and PDM/PLM for many years.

The Role of Teamcenter Today

Ulrich Sendler: Joe, my first question: What role do PLM and Teamcenter play today as part of your portfolio of offerings?

Joe Bohman: As we said for many years, PLM is the single source of truth, the data backbone for industry products, especially necessary for configuration of multiple variants. But the scope of what’s defined as product data is expanding. Ten or fifteen years ago the discussion and the products were primarily mechanical. Then we had a tremendous growth in the electrical and software components. The role of PLM is still single source of truth, but now also for the electrical and software components. The other expansion is from engineering and manufacturing to operation and service all over the lifecycle, and that’s where IoT comes in.

Ulrich Sendler: In terms of the disciplines: How far is Siemens with the integration of ALM and EDA?
Joe Bohman: In ALM our successful software Polarion is very important. We try to integrate Polarion from the beginning of software development to ensure the traceability, which is key to master the product configuration. The same is true for the Mentor Graphics portfolio. The harness in e vehicle or in an airplane, a circuit board or a chip making machine, designing a cell phone – the mechanical engineer is working on the packaging, the electrical engineer is working on the board, and the board must fit into the package. We are allowing people to work together in a much more integrated way.

And Teamcenter is still the roof above all the data from the different disciplines. An automotive OEM, who had a lot of problems with the software in his vehicles mismatching with the hardware, was able to reduce his warranty costs a lot by the integration of software and hardware under the roof of Teamcenter.

Joe Bohman, Senior Vice President, Lifecycle Collaboration Software, Siemens Indusgtries Software (all images: Siemens)

Ulrich Sendler: How important is PLM for the digital twin? Is it still your goal to have a digital twin for every product? And how many digital twins are you talking about?

Joe Bohman: The core of our Xcelerator portfolio is what we call “a comprehensive digital twin”, which means that it contains the data of all the disciplines and of all the parts of the value process chain. We believe we at Siemens have the most comprehensive digital twin in the market. It covers all disciplines and the whole lifecycle.

The other very interesting term is “digital thread”. Regulators may ask a company in a strong regulated industry to demonstrate that one of their products fulfills the requirement to meet a certain standard. Otherwise, the company is kicked out of the system. This may involve tracing new software, for example as part of a pacemaker, or hardware requirements. With a digital thread you can find everything from software definition to simulation results, everything that you did to design this product. Such a digital thread is built on a digital twin.

“PLM and data lakes are complementary”

Ulrich Sendler: Is PLM losing importance due to the growing use of so-called data lakes? Can these replace PLM or parts of it?

Joe Bohman: PLM and data lakes are complementary. PLM is the structured data of the product, like you need it for a bill of material or a requirements document. PLM is primarily based on a sequel database. A data lake is primarily based on “no sequel”. It can bring in a document, a spreadsheet and many other things, and it can put a semi-structure upon it. That is very useful to be able to look across. A CIO of a larger enterprise will typically want to have access to data of hundreds of applications in many locations. With a data lake you can ask questions to those multiple sources. It is useful for reports and analytics. It complements with PLM. We feed many data lakes.

Machine learning is also a big topic. Many people run machine learning over data lakes. But we also run machine learning over PLM. One of the classic problems in the industry is building the same part over and over again. You need some hanger and can’t find the right one, so you build it again. One of the solutions for that is our part classification. You can put your parts in a library and find them by classification. A lot of customers don’t do it. The reason is: the classification of the parts takes time. Now we use machine learning. We put TensorFlow from Google into our classification system. You can train it on a few parts, and it will automatically suggest how to classify the rest of the parts. We tested it with a customer who had a library of over a million parts. They reduced their classification cost by 90 percent. Teamcenter is very modern (he smiles).

Siemens is continuously integrating new technologies in its portfolio to offer the future of automation.

Ulrich Sendler: Can you please go a little deeper into the difference between Teamcenter and the already named Xcelerator?

Joe Bohman: I draw an analogy. Microsoft Office has Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Exchange and some other key applications. The whole assemblage is called Microsoft Office. Siemens Digital Industries Software has Teamcenter, NX, Simcenter, and many other tools, and we put them all under the umbrella Xcelerator. It is a name for the work that we have done to bring all these tools together.

Now we are delivering Xcelerator Cloud, bringing all the functionality of these tools into the cloud, so the customers can use it from the cloud. Our customers want to use mechanical CAD and simulation and PLM, and it is important for them that it all works together. That’s behind Xcelerator. And within this set of tools Teamcenter is the data backbone.

Ulrich Sendler: Is PLM important for the design of new, digital business models?

Joe Bohman: Let’s take a few examples. One – not totally new – model may be mass customization. A large automotive plant in Europe is producing many thousands of vehicles a day. Almost none is exactly like the other. Now their traditional dealer network is changing. Dealers used to receive the cars and then sell them to the customers. Today the customers more and more want to configure their cars themselves and have them being delivered to the dealers. That is a new business model. PLM powers that. Every thirty seconds another kind of the same type of car – that’s not possible without PLM.

Another example is product as a service. To be able to track products after they left the factory, to have a configuration as-built as well as as-maintained, that needs PLM. Traditionally engineering, manufacturing, service, that meant: PLM, maybe PLM, and then spreadsheet. But because the customers are driving their business now to service, PLM is also expanding more and more into service.

Updating Firmware By Flashing – Not Possible Without PLM

A third example: Many customers are talking about new software components within their products and how that software can be maintained over the years. Car companies or dishwasher-producers want to be able to update the firmware every now and then by flashing. That is not possible without PLM.

Ulrich Sendler: Can you do IoT without PLM?

Joe Bohman: There is a funny commercial about this. Someone is sitting at the dentist. The dentist says, wow, I have never seen such bad cavities. And he walks out without doing anything. That’s like IoT without PLM. IoT will tell you, you got a problem, but without PLM you won’t be able to fix it.

Ulrich Sendler: What is the role of Mendix in your portfolio?

Joe Bohman: The core value of Mendix is low-code and the ability to rapidly build applications. People use Teamcenter, but they may just want to have a little app to use Teamcenter data for some communication with ERP or another system. Now we have built a bridge between Teamcenter and Mendix. We have a new technology that’s called Data Huband we use it for gathering data from different sources. It is a very synergistic relationship between Teamcenter and Mendix.

Ulrich Sendler: Which data from the many applications of Siemens will be integrated into the Teamcenter backbone? And how are you managing this?

Siemens provides a digital platform enabling the evaluation and utilization of data gathered from drive systems.

Joe Bohman: For 20 years I was the CAD guy and ran NX. The question was, which CAD data do we put into Teamcenter? We put in attributes, the material, the weight of the part, and things belonging to the bill of material and to the change process, and some meta data. In Expedition, the software within Mentor Graphics for board design, you have a set of components, that you call a block, you have the board itself and the circuit line to the board. We don’t put the circuit line into Teamcenter. But if the customer wants to share a block, that is the sort of information we put into Teamcenter. For each part of our portfolio we examine, on which elements the members of the different teams would want to work separately. The data model is getting richer, but our focus is always on scalability. We gather that data and then apply our core value of configuration management. There is not one configuration management for the board, another for the packaging, a third for software. There is just one configuration management and one change process for the product.

Ulrich Sendler: What are the regionally important markets for Siemens Digital Industries Software worldwide?

Joe Bohman: Siemens is a very global company. The United States, Germany and Japan are huge and growing markets. But among all of them China is growing very rapidly. We are running three regions, the Americas, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific, and all three are pretty much balanced. EMEA maybe a little bit heavier, but it’s fairly balanced.

Ulrich Sendler: What is your approach to the industry companies in terms of their numbers of employees?

Joe Bohman: Specifically in the space of PLM we see a very interesting trend. Traditionally the small companies did invest in CAD but not in software and people for PLM. But the cloud is changing the equation here. With the cloud our ability to draw deeper into the SMB customers is expanding. That is because product complexity, time to value and other things come to the agenda of those smaller companies now immediately.

For Smaller Companies We Very Much Rely On Partners

Ulrich Sendler: Which means a growing importance of consulting. Are you doing that with partners or yourself?

Joe Bohman: The slice of our business, that we are doing with our partners, is in fact growing. Just for the smaller companies we very much rely on partners.

Optima consumer GmbH is the first pilot customer for the multi-carrier-system developed jointly by Siemens and Festo. With this help manufacturing companies can adapt their production lines quickly to different formats, sizes and product types and to seasonal requirements.

Ulrich Sendler: What are the main branches you are serving?

Joe Bohman: Any company that makes stuff. We are very heavy in automotive, then aerospace but now also semiconductor. The acquisition of Mentor Graphics has had a big impact here. Further on we focus on industrial equipment and heavy machinery, marine, medical and consumer products, but also energy utility.

Ulrich Sendler: What about the old relationship within Siemens between automation and software? And how is your platform MindSphere running?

Joe Bohman: Anton Huber, who was responsible for buying Unigraphics in 2007, always told us, the birth of automation is the software. Our automation portfolio around Simatic and our software portfolio under the roof of Xcelerator – we think about this as the industrial edge. That is where the hardware and the software come together. MindSphere is a critical part of that. We try to collect all that data from hardware into MindSphere and then offer information from all that running hardware to connect it with PLM. We are using Mendix and the Data Hub, so that customers can rapidly build applications to use the data that is coming from hardware of any kind. Data Hub in the center of MindSphere, and our commitment to openness and open standards are important points of our strategy.

Ulrich Sendler: As what kind of IT-provider would you describe Siemens?

Joe Bohman: We call ourselves Siemens Digital Industries Software and we classify ourselves as industrial software provider. We were PLM but then we acquired a big slice of EDA, of Low-Code and ALM. The latest was Supplyframe, a digital marketplace for buyers and sellers in the chip-market. In total we are an industrial software provider.