An interview with the new Director Digital Business at ECS Engineering Consulting & Solutions makes it clear that it is not just the PLM system integrator in Neumarkt that is undergoing a thorough transformation. The industry in total is experiencing a massive upheaval toward digitization, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is obviously not as easy to have as standard software.
PLMportal / Die Digitalisierer: What will change for ECS as a result of the new Digital Business division, Mr. Terwey?
Larry Terwey (photo Sendler): ECS is getting a real growth spurt. While jobs are being cut in many areas of the industry, we are hiring. I already have two new members in the team – one in Berlin and one in North Rhine-Westphalia as excellent regional additions – and I am immediately looking for a pre-sales expert and a cloud solutions architect for the Internet of Things. Within a very short time, we already have almost 40 projects in the pipeline in which customers want to go full throttle. Most of them are greenfield projects, still at the very beginning. I need people who know their stuff. And they are not that easy to find.
ECS is a very healthy company, has large and important customers, is recognized in the market. Now there is a new development through initiatives from the digital business, which not only let us find new customers, but with which we can reach and serve all of them, even the long-standing customers, better, faster and more directly.
Against the background of your many years of experience in the IT industry and management consulting, what do you see as the most important change in the industry, especially with regard to the use of IT?
Larry Terwey: This can be seen very well in the new contacts. Among them are many companies that are no longer satisfied with some of the large standard software they have and especially with the way they are supported in its use by some of our competitors. It is as if IT in its previous form and use is reaching a limit. The limit primarily means: installing licenses in-house, instead of using them via the cloud. But also: using IT for new business.
The cloud has been a big topic in Central Europe for about 12 years. The question is no longer whether it makes sense. But how to migrate, how to get to the right cloud in the best and fastest way, that is still a big challenge.
Big Data is another issue. Many have a lot of data that they finally want to use properly, and of course they quickly come to the topics of IoT and AI. But to do that, they first must find the model with which they can operationalize the data. And most of them lack the knowledge and personnel to do this.
The pressure on companies comes from both customers and competitors. Almost all industrial companies are feeling incredible pressure to digitalize their processes and products. Some have even started but realize after a few years that they are not getting anywhere.
Are there three most important points that companies need to keep in mind when it comes to digitalization?
Larry Terwey: I’ll tell you how we’re approaching this now at ECS, and there are indeed a few points that I think apply quite generally.
The first thing is to identify the business case or cases. We see an interdisciplinary workshop of two or three hours with all important experts as the central means to ensure a successful start. Where is the shoe pinching, where is the pressure greatest, where is something most likely to be achieved? All the scenarios that are possible from the current perspective are quickly found in which IoT and digitalization can be used to develop more consistent processes and new business, and cost savings can be quickly achieved. And at the same time, you can rule out the cases that are not so important.
The next step is to prioritize the cases, which leads to a roadmap for the company. To do this, you need a coordinator in-house or even externally to lead the whole team into implementation. I think it’s very bad to spend years on proof of concept, as has been the case with standard software for the past few decades. I’m more in favor of getting started. For that, we bring a whole network of partners for everything you need, platforms, connectivity, tools, but especially solution providers and system integrators. No one can do IoT alone. The respective partner ecosystem is crucial. That’s what we offer, and if the customer is ready, we can start tomorrow.
This brings us to the third point, which many consulting firms and software providers no longer feel responsible for: the go live! As quickly as possible, the business cases found must be brought to market in accordance with the roadmap. We offer our customers holistic support from the idea to market success.
Is IoT primarily another new technology or platform that replaces the old IT?
Larry Terwey (photo Sendler): Quite the opposite. IoT is not an or, it’s an and. We want to help customers get more out of the investments they’ve made over the years in good tools and systems. They probably still need one or the other in addition. As an add-on. IoT is a journey for the industry to embark on. It needs connectivity for its products and processes, then a suitable platform, and then companies get to the new services that make them money.
The technology itself is not the deciding factor. That is decided in each individual case and in the respective business case. Whether low code or standard software, whether this or that platform – the use case leads to the required solutions.
What is new about IoT? What is fundamentally changing for the industry?
Larry Terwey: Companies need to think like SW developers. “You go to bed as an industrial company and wake up as a software and analytics company.” That’s a similar way Jeff Immelt, longtime head of General Electric (GE) put it. Define the business case, try something quickly, get going – not spend years developing and going through the old processes that were right for the mechanical industry.
The product may no longer be the focus. Rather, it’s a service you can offer with it. It’s like a traffic sign manufacturer I once dealt with. In the end, his business no longer had anything to do with selling signs, but with the services he offered various customers with digital signs.
But in the same way, manufacturers of hardware have to think about how to adapt their engineering to the new requirements in a digitally networked way. The use of software is what they have managed well so far. Now it’s a question of ensuring that the data generated in the process can actually result in a business.