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prostep ivip association heads for new shores

By Bernd Pätzold

This year, the prostep ivip Symposium celebrated its 20th birthday – a true story of success. However, the Association is not resting on its laurels and has called a lateral thinkers club into being. This will have the task of developing new ideas for the design of the Symposium in the light of the challenges brought about by the digital transformation. This is a forward-looking decision because in this age of digitalization successful business models are no longer a guarantee of future success.

I offer the Association my heartfelt congratulations on this successful event that once again attracted a top-quality audience with a mix of visitors that cannot be found at any other event. This year, more than 600 participants were present in Essen's Colosseum Theater, a converted factory hall dating from the time of the second industrial revolution, in search of information about how to address the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. This revolution, set in motion by the Internet of Things, affects not only production but the entire value chain.

The scope and significance of the fourth industrial revolution were made clear in the keynote address given by Dr. Michael Picard of ThyssenKrupp AG, this year's industry sponsor of the event: Virtual commissioning of elevator systems based on digital models, big data analytics used to harmonize customers' steel requirements with production capacity, the smart manufacturing of camshafts thanks to real-time monitoring, new service offerings through the combination of sensor data and augmented reality. The long-standing German industrial group has faced up to the challenges of the digital transformation.

If they are to get to grips with these challenges, enterprises must become more agile. Not just by developing new, smart products and production systems but also by implementing IT solutions that support new business processes and models. The direction in which we are headed was set out in the keynote speech given by Ralf Waltram from the BMW Group, sponsors of the next Symposium, which will be held in Munich: Away from monolithic IT systems and toward a service-oriented architecture which will also simplify the task of integrating other disciplines.

What does that mean for PLM? PLM is not dead, as many doom-mongers have claimed, but is instead more important than ever – here I agree completely with Karl Heinz Zachries, managing director of the sponsor CONTACT Software. However, in my opinion, it is not enough to simply keep repeating this mantra which, for engineers like us, is perfectly self-evident. Instead, we need to convince the new stakeholders in the value chain – managers in the software development, production planning, service fields, etc. whom I wish I could see represented in greater numbers at the Symposium – of exactly where the value proposition of PLM lies.

Waltram went on to say that the conversion of IT landscapes demands not only agility but also open best-in-class solutions and standards and that this is the reason why the Code of PLM Openness (CPO) is so important. However, openness demands more than mere lip service. That is why the Association, with the active support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, has launched a certification program that is currently being tested in cooperation with various candidates. What is more, one of these is PROSTEP AG. A high-ranking representative of the ministry explained to participants at the Symposium why the CPO is important not only for PLM but also for the competitiveness of the German economy.

What impressed me most this year was the demonstrator for the prostep ivip Synced Factory Twin, which, taking the example of two work centers on the Airbus A320 assembly line, showed how manufacturing processes can be simulated and optimized through the real-time acquisition of shop floor data during the production cycle itself. The operations are not reported by staff but are instead recorded by means of geotracking and sensors. The Synced Factory Twin is able to cope with a degree of uncertainty and nevertheless make the right proposals for the optimum process sequence.

New topics are therefore being addressed at the Symposium. However, they are still predominantly being directed at the old PLM brigade. The challenge facing the prostep ivip Association is how to attract new stakeholders from other development disciplines and possibly other IT vendors to the Symposium. I wish the board and management every success in this endeavor. If the Association did not exist, we would have to invent it. Because it exists, all we have to do is reinvent it.

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