Question: Professor Dr.-Ing. Stark, last year you wrote a book about virtual product creation. What was the motivation behind book?
Stark: There were actually three things motivating me: One is the question of how we can make it easier for people from different walks of life – students, managers, specialists – to understand virtual product creation and the various technologies involved. The second is the challenge of how to use these technologies, how to introduce them, how to culturally maintain them and how to change the processes. Reconciling that with what the world will look like in the future and what new things will be added to the list was the third motivating factor.
Question: Peter Bilello from CIMdata recently said that product development as we know it is dead. Do you agree?
Stark: Dead is a strong word, but I would agree that it no longer has a future. First of all, new technologies from the IT world are creating new opportunities and enticing us to use them profitably. Artificial intelligence is one example. Then there are the technological changes to the product systems and plants that we develop and the way in which they are used, for example as the result of new driveline concepts or new services.
The third trend is sustainability, which is becoming more concrete due to legal constraints and public acceptance. This gives rise to new issues that engineers have to take into account during development.
Question: What specific challenges do trends like servitization pose as far as companies are concerned?
Stark: The trend toward servitization means that engineers have to give more thought to the way something is used, especially when developing durable capital goods. They have to think about how they can provide a service, and perhaps also understand what is happening in the field. Companies also face the challenge of increasing their development capacity by utilizing the many different types of data and information. Their IT departments have to make it possible to integrate an increasingly large portfolio of applications. And our desire to build larger systems of systems is making the model worlds in systems engineering much more complex.
Question: If I understand you correctly, you’re talking about the digital thread, i.e. linking information across systems and domains?
Stark: Marketing is sensationalizing the digital thread. It ultimately all comes down to enterprise architecture integration. Vendors are all aiming to build larger system architectures. They hoist their portfolio onto a platform and offer users an ecosystem in which they can do cool things. For this to happen, the customers have to enter this ecosystem with their data and models. But they still need to be able to move the models back and forth between these data spaces. We have not yet found solutions for this in the prostep ivip association either, because it goes beyond federated PLM.
Question: Aren't initiatives like GAIA-X and Catena-X supposed to create these shared data spaces?
Stark: Catena-X has gained momentum thanks to the lead taken by the two southern German carmakers and expects GAIA-X to deliver results. But it's not yet clear how quickly providers here in Europe will create their data spaces using these types of protocols and whether or not the Americans will offer this in their ecosystems. Another issue is the semantics we want to map in the platforms. The prostep ivip Association, for example, is thinking about creating its own engineering data space.
Question: PLM vendors are expanding their platforms primarily through acquisitions. Is this the right way to go to create modular, federated architectures?
Stark: I try to look at it from a neutral standpoint. The vendors are of course interested in keeping their platforms and architectures in good working order for at least ten to 15 years. On the other hand, the oligopoly of solution providers is a problem for the entire community because plug and play doesn't work the way users would like it to and need it to. Small and medium-sized companies in particular are faced with the problem of keeping their architecture reasonably flexible as they don't have the same size workforces as large companies.
Question: One of the trends you alluded to is AI, which is making the headlines with Chat GPT. What impact will it have on product creation in the future?
Stark: I firmly believe that in ten years' time every development engineer will be using a bot as an assistant and that AI components will be part of these bot systems. The question is how to train engineers and development teams so that they are able to create their designs faster and more precisely while at the same time preserving their solid technical know-how. The problem with these AI solutions is that you almost always get a result, so it's up to you to question the extent to which you can trust it. But suggestions as to what you could do differently when modeling will become normal tools.