Cross-company collaboration in trust networks is the key to economic success in the age of the digital platform economy. In a way, that was the core message of the 2019 prostep ivip Symposium, which was themed "Collaboration in the Age of Smart Products and Services." Openness and standard are essential if companies are to respond agilely to the uncertainties of the digital future.
Trust network is the new magic word that Karl-Heinz Streibich, President of the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech), used at the symposium to promote more confidence with a view to the digital future: pre-competitive cooperation between companies that normally compete with each other, for the benefit of all. Streibich praised the association as a pioneer of such trust networks, of which we needed more in the digital platform economy to create the next generation of industrial champions from Germany and Europe. With joint platforms, German companies could still win the second half of digitization.
The prostep ivip Symposium is the world's largest, vendor-independent meeting of the PLM industry. With 680 participants from 191 companies and 25 research institutes, the two-day event at the ICS in Stuttgart was almost as well attended as the previous year's event. Almost 15 percent of the visitors came from abroad, as board member Philipp Wibbing said at the start of the event. The association has set itself the goal of further promoting internationalization and making the projects and activities in the working groups even more transparent. "Standardization remains the nucleus of our work, but we will approach it differently and modularize standards even more," Wibbing said.
Model-based Systems Engineering (MBSE) was the dominant topic this year, not only in the presentations of the association's working groups. Many user presentations also revolved around model-based systems engineering, which makes it clear that the topic has arrived in the industry. However, when it comes to implementing appropriate tools and methods in their PLM processes, most companies are still pretty much at the beginning. One major challenge is cross-company collaboration in the model-based development of smart products and systems, which the association's Smart SE working group has been dealing with intensively for years.
The association's activities in the area of collaborative systems development are why The Boeing Company recently joined the "trust network." The U.S. aerospace manufacturer is moving fully in the direction of "model based," including factory modeling, said Russ Benson, vice president IT Product Systems, in his keynote address on Boeing's Digital Transformation Journey. Earlier, he expressed his deep regret for many deaths in the two plane crashes and assured that Boeing will do everything to regain people's trust.
This year's symposium was sponsored by PLM manufacturer Aras and automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler, who had their say in the presentations on the evening before and in the keynotes. Marc Lind, Senior Vice President Strategy of the PLM manufacturer, described the tensions of digital transformation: on the one hand, companies need flexible solutions because processes often change faster than the software is rolled out; on the other hand, tomorrow's digital processes still require customer-specific adaptations. The legacy systems legacy is a major hurdle here because it slows down investment in technical innovations, CEO Peter Schroer took the idea further in his keynote. He recommended a "resilient platform approach," i.e., a robust platform that makes it possible to replace both the underlying IT infrastructure and the applications built on top of it as needed.
You can't get rid of legacy systems, said Dirk Spindler, head of R&D Processes, Methods & Tools at Schaeffler, which uses about 450 IT systems in engineering alone. The company is pursuing the approach of linking the information in the existing applications via an engineering cockpit in order to be able to completely map the bill of materials of a mechatronic system, for example. Looking at the challenges of tomorrow's mobility, Spindler said that no one can shape the future alone, but that there will be more collaboration. This requires standards, which are only beginning to exist for MBSE, for example. The symposium is the best place to exchange ideas on such topics.
Schaeffler is not the only company to rely on data linking and role-based cockpits. Hanjo Petzold and Heike Halkenhäußer from Daimer AG explained to the participants how the car manufacturer intends to realize the PDM vision of a Digital Twin. The twins are to accompany the life cycle of each variant from cross-functional system development to the uploading of new functions "over the air". However, the current PDM model is not designed for this. For this reason, the data from the back-end systems will be networked via a semantic layer and made available in different cockpits, as the speakers said. There will be not one, but several IT data models or data layers for different use cases, they said. Data quality and availability are to be improved, among other things, by moving from series-oriented to module-oriented documentation.
A prerequisite for efficient data networking is the transition from discipline-specific to universal data management with standards-based and machine-readable web interfaces. Dr. Axel Reichwein from Koneksys emphasized this in his presentation. Relationships are basically defined by the ID of the artifacts to be networked and the relationship type. However, there are as many ways to access the ID as there are applications. Reichwein recommended using existing Web standards such as OSLC or RDF (Resource Description Framework) for networking engineering data and requiring IT vendors to provide appropriate APIs. Decoupling data and applications is an important step, he said, in order to be able to continue using existing data with new applications, e.g., for artificial intelligence (AI).
AI and machine learning (ML) was one of the main topics that took up a broader space this year. The whole range of possible applications became apparent. Dr. Martin Noack from Individual Standards IVS GmbH explained to the participants, for example, how textual requirements or the relationship information implicitly contained in them can be automatically transferred into model-based requirements with the help of speech or text recognition algorithms.
At the other end of the process chain was the application example from the association's Additive Manufacturing Interface initiative (AMI) presented by Kai Gläser (Daimler AG) and Stefan Just (PROSTEP AG). The initiative is investigating how to improve the limited repeatability of printing results, even when using the same 3D printers and initial parameters, by using ML algorithms to train a model so that it detects deviations from the target state early on or allows predictions about the actual state. The goal of AMI is to develop interface requirements for interoperability in the AM process and the handover of data to AI.
100 percent agility is the goal of the BMW Group and other companies, but agile methods cannot be implemented overnight throughout the entire organization. But that doesn't have to stop project teams from carrying out agile projects in an environment that is not (yet) agile, as the presentation by Marc Pelz (BMW Group) and Dr. Johannes Herter (UNITY AG) made clear. It all comes down to the right methods, and also to appropriate software tools. For example, Mann + Hummel, in collaboration with PLM manufacturer CONTACT Software, has expanded its project management to include functions for agile project management. Dennis Pfister and Klaus Bräuninger explained how the interaction of classic development phases and agile implementation of work packages with task boards works.
Most companies in Germany already offer smart products today or are currently developing them, even if they do not yet know what the new business models will look like. This was one of the findings of the study on smart industrial products conducted by Fraunhofer IPK together with CONTACT Software and VDI. In the presentation by Dr. Walter Koch (Schaeffler) and Dr. Jens Göbel (TU Kaiserslautern) on the development of availability-oriented business models, the audience was inspired. The two speakers presented them with three use cases that the consortium partners of the InnoServPro joint project have realized. None of them could have done it on their own, Koch assured them.
The life cycles of smart products are increasingly extending into the operational phase. For this reason, the PLM data of the product instances must be brought together with the life data from the field, which requires open architectures and a focus on IoT and data analytics, the two speakers explained. They used the example of a potato harvester from Grimme to illustrate what this can look like in concrete terms. To increase availability, a new sensor was specially developed for the agricultural machine that monitors the elongation of the conveyor belt on which the potatoes are transported. The sensor data is evaluated close to the machine and compared with the service life data so that the spare part can be ordered and the service technician requested in good time before the conveyor belt fails.
MBSE is not a new topic on the symposium agenda, but it has long been a hobbyhorse of the scientific community and standardization experts. The Smart SE group has been developing standards-based best practices for collaborative system development since 2012 and is now the largest project group in the association. This year marked the fourth phase of the project, in which participants plan to consider a generic, simulation-based decision-making process. Dr. Stefan Ruge (BMW Group), together with Timo Wekerle (PROSTEP AG), explained the new work packages in which, among other things, the requirements for standards for the simulation of autonomous systems and virtual ECUs (V-ECU) are to be defined. There are increasingly cross-domain simulation tasks for which possible new standards are required, said Ruge.
For many companies, the challenge in integrating MBSE is to link the information from the individual disciplines. At Schaeffler, for example, software development had previously hardly been integrated with mechanical development, which made consistent requirements, configuration and change management difficult. Using a real product as an example, Prof. Dr. Martin Eigner (EIGNER Engineering Consult) and Dr. Momme Stürken (Schaeffler) explained how the company will import requirements into Integrity in the future and make them available in Enterprise Architect to map them in a function model. The Aras interface will then be used to transfer the function and logical structure to the Engineering Cockpit, where it can be linked to information from mechanical, electrical/electronic and software development.
MBSE is the foundation for managing complexity in development, but it requires a transformation of engineering IT, as Christian Heider (AUDI AG) and Hannes Hüfer (UNITY AG) explained in their presentation. Using a specific vehicle project as an example, Audi wants to integrate new methods and tools into the PLM platform 3DEXPERIENCE to support not only collaboration within the organization, but also the exchange of information with partners. The vehicle is becoming one of many systems that only work together, Heider said. That's what the SE approach is designed to ensure, he said.
Agricultural technology manufacturer CLAAS also uses the 3DX platform as the basis for its global engineering ecosystem, as Chief Digital Engineering Nico Michels explained in the closing keynote. The company is very far along in terms of digital transformation. It offers its customers complete farm management systems in addition to smartly networked agricultural machinery that knows the condition of the fields and doses fertilizers accordingly, for example. CLAAS is also a pioneer in the field of systems engineering. Based on the 3DX platform, the company has built a systems engineering environment that is already being used in pilots.