PROSTEP has won over the PLM market
PROSTEP AG is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, which is a good reason to review the past and look ahead to the future. In this interview, representatives from the manufacturing industry, PLM industry and the research community who have long known and accompanied PROSTEP comment on the company's successful development over recent years, its strengths, and the challenges it will face in the future.
Question: What is the first thing you think of when you think of PROSTEP?
Riedel: The first thing is the connection between PROSTEP AG and the prostep ivip Association, which has been a fruitful and very successful relationship for both sides for decades. Then, of course, there is the excellent market position that PROSTEP AG has attained as a result of many projects and tailor-made solutions for its customers - PROSTEP AG often successfully takes on projects where other providers have thrown in the towel. And my third thought - indeed, this was actually my first thought - was the employees of PROSTEP AG, most of whom have been a loyal part of the team for many years and who put the company where it is today.
Question: How do you assess the development of the company over the last 25 years?
Trippner: PROSTEP developed very rapidly over the first few years after it was launched to wide public interest. Sometimes this development was a little chaotic, as both the management and the employees were primarily technical experts and had little experience dealing with customers. After a phase of consolidation and professionalization in product development, service, consulting and sales, the company became an internationally recognized and reliable partner in the PLM market in subsequent years, also enjoying considerable success outside the automotive sector.
Question: What are PROSTEP's strengths and unique selling points?
Barth: For me, PROSTEP stands for focus. Over these 25 years, PROSTEP has managed to win the PLM market over like no other company, not only with pure consulting services, but also with its own products. PROSTEP's most important strength lies in its broad spectrum of PLM services and solutions, coupled with openness and a willingness to cooperate with other companies.
Question: What were the important milestones in PROSTEP's history?
Trippner: Even the decision to locate PROSTEP in Darmstadt was an important one, because the company was thus in the geographical center of Germany and close to important research institutions. With the development of the highly successful data exchange solution OpenDXM, PROSTEP proved that it can produce not just standards, but also practical solutions. Other important milestones included the decision to concentrate the product and service offering on the end-user market and the establishment of the subsidiaries, which provided a sound foundation for building and growing the service and solutions business. Transformation of the GmbH into an AG gave the management more room for maneuver and enabled employees to participate in the company's success.
Question: Which characteristics are particularly important from the customer's perspective?
Hoffacker: Above all, customers benefit from the fact that PROSTEP is strictly vendor-neutral, but at the same time maintains close contact with all leading PLM vendors and has a very good grasp of the existing system landscapes. This applies in particular to the system landscapes in the automotive environment, where PROSTEP has made a name for itself as an expert partner for all aspects of PLM.
Question: Is PROSTEP also a competent partner for SMEs?
Bengel: The driving forces behind digitalization are key industries such as mechanical engineering and the automotive supply industry, and these are characterized by SMEs. PROSTEP's consulting expertise supports precisely these companies in digital transformation and in ensuring their competitiveness. PROSTEP is extremely engaged in issues that are relevant for SMEs today. These include the sustainability of their PLM solutions, PLM system integration and migration, as well as PLM collaboration with partner integration and the exchange of native CAD data.
Question: What characteristics do PLM vendors appreciate in PROSTEP?
Barth: Based on my experience in the past, I can only say that PROSTEP has always treated all its partners very transparently and fairly, which is an important criterion, since these partners are competing hard with each other. But the interaction between the vendors and PROSTEP as a consulting service provider has also been excellent. PROSTEP has always endeavored to be objective and stands out with its high level of technical expertise.
Question: What issues should the company focus on in the future?
Anderl: Product data exchange will continue to play an important role for PROSTEP in the future, as will topics such as product and simulation data management, which are increasingly developing in the direction of production preparation and production. In the context of Industry 4.0, however, issues that relate more to production data, such as the horizontal integration between PLM, ERP and IoT, will also be of interest to the company.
Here, completely new concepts for data exchange and data management are evolving, and PROSTEP can support its customers in implementing these. Furthermore, the emergence and use of the digital twin offers enormous market potential that PROSTEP should exploit for new consulting and solution offerings.
Question: What challenges do you see for PROSTEP with regard to digitalization?
Riedel: I would tend to see it as an opportunity rather than a challenge. PROSTEP is already in a very good position with respect to the digitalization of the product development process. If this digitalization expertise can be extended to the entire product engineering process and product life cycle, then this has enormous potential. However, PROSTEP will not be able to find a good, quick solution to the ever-present shortage of skilled staff that is slowing down growth in this area.
Question: What important research projects has PROSTEP initiated?
Anderl: PROSTEP has initiated important national and international research projects such as the PDTnet project, which evolved into the initiative for the Code of PLM Openness. And so, the company has remained true to its roots, because PROSTEP itself emerged from a research project. PROSTEP's participation in the iViP project was also important, and the results of this project have been incorporated into the prostep ivip Association, where the concepts will be further developed. It is interesting to note that these concepts are still applicable today and now form the basis for the "platform systems" in Industry 4.0.
Question: How has cooperation with the prostep ivip Association developed?
Hoffacker: PROSTEP and the prostep ivip Association continue to maintain a close relationship, which has changed from that of the only possible service provider in the field of standardization to one of an expert partner in joint projects. Its good networks with industry, academic institutions and standardization committees mean that PROSTEP will continue to play a key role in the association's activities in the future.
Question: What advice would you give to PROSTEP for the next 25 years?
Bengel: 25 years ago, the Internet was only just usable for commercial purposes and the smartphone had not yet been invented. Today we are talking about autonomous factories, the digital twin and artificial intelligence - a dramatic development that nobody could have foreseen at the time. One thing is certain: the speed at which new trends emerge and technologies come onto the market is increasing. We are truly experiencing transformation. PROSTEP must adapt to these developments if it is to continue to be successful. The consulting expertise that PROSTEP has built up over the past 25 years will become even more important for SMEs in the next 25 years.
Professor Reiner Anderl is head of the Department of Computer Integrated Design at TU Darmstadt and chairs the scientific advisory board of Platform Industry 4.0.
Andreas Barth was formerly Managing Director Central Europe at PLM vendor Dassault Systèmes and is now a member of the Executive Board at MHP, an IT consulting company belonging to Porsche.
Kurt Bengel is Spokesman of the Executive Board of the IT consulting and software company CENIT AG, where he is responsible for worldwide operations, marketing and investor relations.
Armin Hoffacker is Director of IT Engineering Applications Mechanics at Robert Bosch GmbH and Chairman of the Board of the prostep ivip Association.
Professor Oliver Riedel was formerly responsible for production IT at Audi AG and now heads the Institute for Control Engineering of Machine Tools and Manufacturing Units (ISW) at the University of Stuttgart.
Dr. Dietmar Trippner, the first Managing Director of PROSTEP, worked in various management positions at the BMW Group before setting up on his own with the consulting firm dreiconsult.