It started out much like a rock concert with Technia's CEO Jonas Gejer running up on stage and into the spotlight to heavy base and drum music while pictures of the event’s speakers flashed on the walls. “Welcome to the PLM Innovation Forum – a day of interaction and inspiration,” he said. The audience of about 300 people, mostly experts from aerospace, automotive and other industries, responded with a hearty applause.
The focus of the day was inevitably the hot topics of our time: digital disruption and transformation. But that was not all. The first speaker, Leif Östling, the former head of truck company Scania and now Chairman of the Board of Confederation of Swedish Enterprises, stressed the importance of not being blinded by the tech developments. “The road to success is always asking ourselves: “How do we take advantage of all digital instruments to service the customer?”
At Scania he used to stress that no matter how high the quality of their trucks are, “the customer is buying a transportation solution, not just a truck.” That meant adding services around the product, many based on sensors, big data and other new technology. Scania has now gone from just marginal service revenues to having two thirds of its profits coming from its service package, and the rest from the actual trucks.
Robin Teigland, Professor at the Center for Strategy and Competitiveness at the Stockholm School of Economics, said that in this age of digital disruption, companies have to constantly reinvent themselves and search for new business models, or risk dying.
“Act like a tourist that is continuously asking: Why? What? What if?” She compared top Fortune 500 companies in the world in 2001 and 2016 and said it clearly demonstrated a shift from energy, banking and other traditional giants to young technology companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. “It is a dramatic change going on, and take note that these new multinational companies to a very large degree are built on intangible assets, not on products.”
The PLM event was being held at the Fotografiska Museum in Stockholm. Energy was high during coffee and lunch breaks, which Technia had made extra-long for participants to make contacts and view the trade exhibitions, which included trying out virtual reality glasses, learning more about IoT and listening to live Swedish folk music.
Märtha Rehnberg, co-founder of tech advocacy firm DareDisrupt, said products centered around factories and logistics has traditionally been the base for many companies, but that the game plan is changing. Many successful companies are now offering products for free, such as Facebook and Google.
Also, the perception of what is and what is not a product is floating as a computer-file can be made into a product in your own home, for instance a shoe or a gun, with the help of 3D printing. Like Teigland, Rehnberg also urged companies to rethink. “Give it a thought: how would my business make money if my products were for free.”
On a more traditional industrial note, Roland Reichlin, Leader Business Applications, Stadler Rail, explained how PLM 2.0 helps the Swiss train maker meet the challenges of fast growth, increased demands on detailed documentation and a Swiss franc that keeps getting stronger. “It was easy to communicate when we were small, now we have operations in Spain, Germany etc., and we need to share data,” Reichlin said. Technia has had a team of 20 consultants helping speed up Stadler’s system and making it more relevant to staffers with different tasks.
Thierry Deau, Agility Product Manager and company expert at Sidel, said making machines smarter helps customers save energy and minimize time loss in production. Sidel is a global provider of liquid packaging with more than 37,000 of its machines installed around the world. Deau said production flow improves vastly with machines that can analyze their own energy consumption and functionality and can anticipate malfunctioning down to minute details and pinpoint when maintenance is needed.
While Sidel has been in business for 165 years, Roger Malkusson, Vice President Vehicle Engineering, NIO, represents a car company that was founded by two Chinese internet gurus in 2014 and was due to present its first commercial car in December 2017. That’s only three years!
After a brief introduction, Malkusson waived to technicians backstage and a huge screen showed a blue sports car, the electrical NIO EP9, going at full speed along a racing track. The car was filmed from above, from the side, from the front along with a whistling sound as it zoomed past and autumn leaves on the track where whisked up in the air from the blast of the wind.
“It is emotional isn’t? Anyone here who does not think so?” he asked the audience. Everyone seemed to agree with him. It was cool. NIO already has 2,000 employees around the world and is set to make commuting and driving more enjoyable with the help of design and tech, such as autonomous driving and a robot driver’s coach “that will even be able to sense your mood,” said Malkusson, a former chief engineer at automaker Saab.
It was apparent from the speakers and the atmosphere at the forum that the world of industry is changing at an ever faster speed. At a panel debate rounding up the day, Darren Cairns, Managing Director at Intrinsys – the company that Technia acquired earlier in 2017 – said he was jealous of young engineers. “I wish I were a young engineer in these days. It is so exciting, the development. There are huge changes going on with fantastic opportunities.”
Bertrand Sicot, Senior Vice President Dassault Systèmes, said: “We are at the beginning of new era. Things will change completely in the next 15 years. It is a revolution, and as a Frenchman I know what a revolution is. If you don’t watch out you can lose your head…”
One industry that is notably slow in change is construction. Lars Albinsson, Creative Process Consultant at Maestro Design & Management, cited US statistics which showed little or no production gains since World War II. In Sweden, construction industry costs have doubled compared with Consumer Price Index since the 1990s, while most other industries has used new technology and processes to lower prices.
The main hurdles in construction include regulations, unions and fragmentation. “But there is hope for them too,” Albinsson said, taking the tallest wooden building in the world as an example, the 18-story Canadian University of British Columbia’s Brock Commons student residence.
Plumbing in key parts of the building were first done in 3D down to minute detail, which enabled them to plan the work perfectly and save 60 percent in production time compared with traditional plumbing. “Other parts of the building were also done first in 3D and the building was finished four months ahead of schedule – something very rare in the construction industry.” Albinsson said there is more to come: robots can help with brick laying and armoring, 3D printers can print walls, for instance.
At the end of the event, seven companies were awarded for their long partnership with Technia, some up to 20 years: GE Healthcare, Ericsson, Esab, Macgregor, Seco Tools, Scania, and Valmet. Two companies were awarded the Innovator Prize: Honeywell and Stadler Rail.
Summing up the innovation day, “rethinking” and “reinventing” were no doubt the most important words, that would go for all industries.
Images: Niklas Hildén