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PROSTEP TECHDAY 2018: The right mix of hands-on experience and new products

By Peter Pfalzgraf

PROSTEP TECHDAY, which takes place every two years, serves primarily to inform customers and prospective customers about the latest news and product innovations from PROSTEP, and there were plenty of these this year. In addition, a number of customers reported on the use of PROSTEP solutions in their companies – a well-balanced mix of hands-on experience and product innovations that was very well received by the nearly 50 attendees.

PROSTEP had chosen an attractive location for this year's customer event: The DARZ high-security data center in Darmstadt, which runs on green electricity and hosts the web-based data exchange solution OpenDXM GlobalX as a cloud-based SaaS application. A tour of the building that once housed the Hesse Central Bank's vaults, where the Federal State of Hesse used to store its gold and money reserves, allowed the participants to get an idea of the data center's impressive security architecture and infrastructure.

A new look for OpenDXM GlobalX

The real highlight for OpenDXM GlobalX users, however, was the new, fully HTML5-based user interface, which takes into account growing demands for user experience and ease of use as well as the changed environment following the discontinuation of Java Web Start and Oracle's announcements in respect of future support for the Java Developers Kit. PROSTEP is considering offering its customers OpenJDK as an alternative in the future and will also provide support for an additional database from version 9.1 onwards. The new, customizable user interface makes it easier for non-CAD users to operate the data exchange solution.

Dr. Ulrich Koller, managing director of UID GmbH, which designed the new interface together with PROSTEP, explained that digitalization represented a considerable challenge for vendors of industrial software applications because users had increasingly high expectations in terms of quality and operation. According to a survey, 61% of users believe that their private devices work better than company devices. In his keynote speech, Koller emphasized the difference between usability, which primarily aims at making operation more efficient, and the user experience, which conveys positive emotions to the user. The former is increasingly taken for granted.

One customer who has been using the PROSTEP solution for secure data exchange between its various locations and in collaboration with partners for more than 15 years is the Brose Group. The renowned manufacturer of door systems, seat adjusters and mechatronic systems for the automotive industry recently set up OpenDXM GlobalX as an ERP-connected portal solution to replace the OpenDXM supplier client and to provide homogeneous technical data exchange in the change process by bringing together CAD and Office data. Patrick Naumann and Uschi Seliger from Brose explained to the participants the objectives and challenges of introducing the web-based solution, which reaches completely new groups of users. Although work on integrating Outlook is still underway, the number of users has already increased to 11,000.

OpenPDM to become cloud-capable

OpenDXM GlobalX is not the only PROSTEP solution that will in future be capable of being operated in the cloud, as Dr. Mirko Theiß explained to the participants. OpenPDM, the platform for PLM integration, migration and collaboration, will also be made cloud-ready next year with a new, microservice-based architecture. The current version already offers improved support for digital manufacturing and the Internet of Things (IoT) thanks to new connectors to Dassault Systèmes' DELMIA digital manufacturing software and PTC's IoT platform ThingWorx. This allows customers who do not use Windchill to connect the IoT platform to their PLM systems.

The OpenCLM solution for configuration lifecycle management, which is based on OpenPDM, supports the linking of information in different source systems via OSLC in order to make changes in product configurations transparent throughout the product lifecycle.

PROSTEP has also developed an independent collaboration platform called OpenPDM CCenter. In joint projects, it allows development partners to share product and project data and synchronize this data with their respective backend systems.

OpenPDM is an important technology element for implementing Schaeffler's smart engineering vision, the scope of which Dr. Fabrice Mogo Nem outlined to the participants. The global automotive supplier is thus responding to the challenges posed by the development of individual mobility solutions, which are largely driven by electrification, automation and networking. According to Mogo Nem, smart engineering supports the company's digitalization strategy, with the goal of making all information available digitally. This requires model-based, interdisciplinary working. Based on Aras' PLM software, Schaeffler has developed a prototype engineering cockpit which brings together all the data from mechanical development, electronic development and software development and the relevant TDM/PDM systems. PROSTEP is the strategic partner for integration in this project. And Mogo Nem emphasized that prototypes are an important aspect in persuading users.

Digitalization with PDF Generator 3D

PROSTEP has developed PDF Generator 3D to provide a flexible solution for generating assembly instructions, service content and spare parts catalogs in order to offer the best possible support for the digitalization of business processes right through to service and after-sales. Timo Trautmann explained to the participants the main highlights of the various software releases that have come onto the market in recent months. These include, for example, the option of server-side rendering of 3D models including PMI information, 3MF export for exporting 3D print data, and the creation of VDA-compliant technical data packages (TDPs) to support drawing-free processes. The key innovations in the current release are the conversion of CAD models into HTML5 format, so that they can be viewed with a simple Web browser, and the automatic generation of BOMs with 2D views. This allows PDF Generator 3D to be used even more flexibly as a service content generator, e.g. for the provision of spare parts catalogs on the web.

André Hieke from the Siemens Large Drives business unit, which manufactures a wide range of large electric motors and converters, explained the dramatic time savings that can be achieved by automating the provision of CAD data for downstream processes. Manual preparation of simplified 3D models and other documents for the product configurator used to have to be ordered three months before market launch. Using PDF Generator 3D, they can be derived in just a few minutes from the configured NX or JT models and are therefore always up to date. As Hieke explained, the solution fits perfectly into the company's system landscape and it is intended that it be used for other processes in the future, such as communicating with suppliers or providing drawing-free production information.

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