In the past few decades, we’ve seen the evolution of standalone CAD, CAM, PLM, ERP, and other software packages for engineering into larger, more complex, and comprehensive platforms. But making a truly holistic enterprise-wide solution is more than just combining software under a common user interface.

Designers in modern engineering must now consider a variety of aspects before producing a concept. From an automobile to an airplane, purchasing, supply chain, manufacturability, marketing, quality, and environmental issues like recyclability and end-of-life disposal all play a role in the engineering process.

Martin Nölle, Co-Leader of TECHNIA Software & Global Services, spoke recently to Jim Anderton of engineering.com about the quest for engineering simplicity.

Integration is the Key

Today, integration is the path forward. But, not so long ago, the IT component of engineering used to be just about design. Engineering teams created components and assemblies, sketched them, then approved them for manufacture in what was essentially a digital version of the old pencil and paper approach. Nowadays, we expect engineers to be knowledgeable about much more than just the mechanics of designing a component. But how has the software adapted to this change?

“So, we went through a lot of milestones, like enriching the 3D data. We went away from drawings. We have all the manufacturing information in 3D. You’re probably familiar with 3D master or model-based definition. We built in a lot of engineering automation validation tools, and I think in the past couple of years we’ve succeeded in getting one consolidated view on the virtual product. That means we reduce silos, we build in digital twins where we can see what the model in production is, what is really built on site, what has been changed, and we can do predictive maintenance.”

Martin Nölle
Co-Leader TECHNIA Software & Global Services | TECHNIA

Today’s best engineering design practices require designers to consider more than the product’s performance. They must now consider factors such as environmental effect, or what happens to a product after it reaches the end of its useful life, such as how it might be recycled. That means PLM is now an essential component of the design process for product life. So, do you believe engineers will start to think more about PLM in the future?

“When you look at global ecosystems, a supplier works for multiple carmakers, or for multiple aerospace companies. They have different systems already, and they have a lot of challenges dealing with all these different areas. Then you see companies buying other companies, or they sell a piece of their company. So, I think we have to stay pragmatic in how far we can integrate everything to one single stream.

We have to try to build everything into a good and solid process. One view on the system continuity throughout the process. I think this is what is really important: these integrations with one view on the product. I think that’s where we must take important steps ahead.”

Martin Nölle
Co-Leader TECHNIA Software & Global Services

Understandably, integrations work effectively for large organizations. But we should also consider the many hundreds of suppliers to those firms. We used to think of integration as something that happened within a single company, but some are now thinking of integration amongst supply chain organizations. Is that a future prospect?

“Absolutely, we’ve actually built a solution for that, a very solid supplier hub. The way you can collaborate with suppliers, you know, we have to get away from this pushing information. We need systems where we can trace the information, where we can follow up later on what happened and exactly when, how did this process go, for instance, the purchasing process, what were the steps, the traceability performance. Of course, everything is online, so absolutely, [that’s] in a direction that we go with integrating in a pragmatic way between suppliers and even sub-suppliers, you know the Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers, like you mentioned, it’s actually a good case for that.”

Discover the TECHNIA Software Supplier Collaboration Portal — Exchange Hub

Martin Nölle
Co-Leader TECHNIA Software & Global Services | TECHNIA

The Quest for Simplicity

The mark of a great engineer is in the quest for simplicity. Even complicated systems are often as basic as they can be, and engineers, understandably, seek to minimize complexity wherever feasible. These enormous integrated software packages are pretty sophisticated, and in many engineering businesses, a single individual frequently becomes the lead person for new software deployment, and they may also become a trainer or a product advocate for new software throughout the organization.

But today, the training and support that you need for these large packages is available online and in real time. So, if a firm is looking at adopting an integrated package, how should they think about that training and support function? Because there can be a big-time gap between starting and effectively using.

“First of all, I like the point that you started with. We have always had the users in mind when we create a new system; we always have to win the users, and of course we have to win the decision makers too, to go for it.

But at the end of the day, the users decide if they like this system, if they use it or not. Well, on the other hand, you mentioned when you have complex processes, you tend to build complex tools for it. And what we try to do, I think we try to stay pragmatic. We are also experienced enough to talk to customers before they go too far. We look at their engineering processes and help them get pragmatic solutions and not to build too big systems.

Also, we can look at the 80% of users that only use 20% of the functionality. Maybe we can have very simple interfaces for these users to have the easy work — find a part, create a new part — where they can do these simple things very easily.

And when we need the complexity to give to the users, maybe we can build-in in app training solutions. These digital adoption solutions help users by showing them exactly what to do, step by step. And in a collaboration platform that gets kind of complex, so we understand where the context is, where the user is at the moment, we give them the right information.”

Discover the TECHNIA Software Digital Adoption Solution for 3DEXPERIENCE — Light My Way

Martin Nölle
Co-Leader TECHNIA Software & Global Services | TECHNIA

In Our Experience…

There are many, many resellers of engineering software in the market. Some of those resellers are also integrators, meaning they can combine many products into a bespoke solution. Even fewer actually write code or create modules or add-ins. How can engineering managers choose which sort of vendor to approach in order to discover a solution to their organization-specific challenges?

“When you select a supplier, I think you should select a partner, somebody that you work with, that you also appreciate their feedback, that you try to work on common solutions rather than only a top-down approach where somebody executes what you ask for. I think it’s a bit of a common level in these projects. I see more successful projects where we have been part of the design from the beginning, where we help to stay pragmatic, help to encourage teamwork, and come to the best results together.”

Martin Nölle
Co-Leader TECHNIA Software & Global Services | TECHNIA

Want to know more?

To discover more ways that TECHNIA Software & Global Services can help optimize your product creation processes, visit the TECHNIA Software page, or catch up with the rest of this interview at engineering.com

Watch the full interview
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