ACE 2018 was all about Fast Track to Digital Transformation. Perhaps an obvious theme, given it’s the home of the venerable Indianapolis 500, but when most people think of PLM, velocity is not necessarily what comes to mind.

Aras customers, however, are going fast and re-defining what PLM can do. Companies like Audi, BMW, Schaeffler, and L-3 have become the pace cars for digital transformation. And anyone not deploying fast, and connecting their morass of legacy systems is being left behind.

ACE attendance was up more than 20% this year which reflects that companies are looking to innovate, and recognize Aras as a partner for open dialogue.

There was certainly too much going on to cover everything at ACE, but in the style of Peter King’s Sports Illustrated column, Monday Morning Quarterback, here are 35 thoughts from Indianapolis to continue the discussion. I’ve also included a link to a Google Doc of this post for everyone to contribute to. Why? There’s so much content and conversations that we couldn’t capture it all – but you can.

Eight things that trended at ACE

  1. More V-diagrams than I’ve seen anywhere in the past year as product complexity took center stage. Across the board, speakers mentioned that systems cannot keep pace with innovation. This year, that statement had the tone of a given rather than a conclusion, showing how attitudes towards legacy PLM have shifted.
  2. Digital Thread traceability was on the tip of everyone’s tongue from mainstage to networking breaks. And it didn’t seem to be a case of the echo chamber. Pretty much everyone was pursuing Digital Thread as an outcome in some shape or form to connect people and information.
  3. Aras’ open platform is freeing teams from silos. Customers talked about connection after connection they are building with the Aras platform. Notably, connections to legacy or discipline-specific systems.
  4. Product acceptance is no longer defined by functionality. UI, UX, and design was an on-going discussion, with performance being perhaps the most critical. Engineers want information fast or they’ll look elsewhere, which often means spreadsheets.
  5. Lots of interest in Power BI. Stay tuned for what’s coming up on-prem and in the cloud for Aras Innovator. It’s also a key area of interest for internal Aras users (we drink our own champagne).
  6. Teams are actively exploring how to extend PLM downstream to manufacturing and the field. Great presentation from Aeronamic stating, “Aras is the manufacturing PLM system for us.” (Sessions from colleagues Craig Currie for Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Jason Kasper and Graeme Taylor for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) were packed. A few companies also looking at product-as-a-service models. Carestream and Parata Systems come to mind.)
  7. Topics customers did not seem to be discussing at length: IoT, AI, Machine Learning, Digital Twin, blockchain, and CAD. That’s not to say they weren’t discussed, but other topics seemed to get the majority of airtime and mindshare. Just one empirical gauge of where PLM seems to be now.
  8. Great to have Forrester’s new PLM analyst Nate Fleming attend ACE as well as Peter Bilello, Tom Gill, and John Mackrell from CIMdata, and Gartner’s Mark Halpern. Aras customers are re-defining PLM, and the industry analysts are taking notice.

Nine takeaways from the mainstage

  1. Interesting stat about innovation from keynote speaker David Kappos, former director of the U.S. Patent Office – 38% of U.S. GDP is tied to innovation. His view: innovation manifests itself less as big bang advances but as incremental innovations that move the needle (per the Steve Jobs example). The majority of innovation is the result of sustained hard work that adds value in a disciplined way over time.
  2. Martin Neff, Chief Architect for Systems Engineering at Audi, emphasized the importance of all the things that happen before CAD. He pointed to model-based systems engineering (MBSE) to align disciplines early.
  3. Fitting quote from Albert Einstein in Martin’s presentation: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” To think differently, you also have to organize differently. Audi structures its engineering teams around thirteen key elements of the V-diagram. They’ve started at the top of the V-diagram to connect release management with engineering, and are in their second POC with Aras.
  4. Schaeffler is a 70-year old ball bearings company that now must become a systems engineering company. To get there, Schaeffler’s SVP R&D Tools, Processes, and Methods, Dirk Spindler is connecting 120 systems to build an Engineering Cockpit to get the right information to the right person at the right time through mashup applications. What he’s adamantly not doing is ripping out systems that are working.
  5. PLM in the cloud or on-prem? The Microsoft team showed you won’t be compromising performance. Their Aras Innovator cloud performance was on par or exceeded on-prem.
  6. The BMW Group’s Verena Held shared the inside story on Aras’ hottest customer news of the year – how BMW is using Aras for verification and validation. She wouldn’t say how many verification tests BMW runs, but no doubt building the ultimate driving machine entails a lot.
  7. Live tests are still an essential requirement for automakers. Simulation process & data management (SPDM) is a hot related topic in the validation and verification conversation. Customers will see more from Aras in first half of 2019 with iterations likely coming sooner.
  8. Shifting priorities slowed but did not deter Brian Smith’s team at L3 TRL. It took nine months for executive approval, but deployment was fast once they got started. They completed the first 20-week implementation on time and completed the second implementation 4 months ahead of schedule.
  9. Note to PLM practitioners – if you are not using Agile deployment methodology, you are going to be left in the dust by people like Brian, Verena, and Martin.

Four observations on people, process, and technology 

  1. Each mainstage presentation spotlighted the importance of team work and culture for project success. As Verena Held from BMW paraphrased: culture eats strategy for breakfast. Don’t underestimate the importance of building and factoring in your team culture.
  2. Something else that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet: the level of collaboration between Aras teams and customers. These relationships were evident across ACE. Martin Neff brought Aras’ project manager Matthias Fohrer on stage right alongside him to present the Audi proof-of-concept.
  3. Similarly, Verena Held, BMW’s Project Lead for Verification Management, showed the tight coordination between Aras and BMW in a project org chart. Definitely a lot of trust in Aras’ project manager Andreas Zauner.
  4. Easy way to build some culture? Celebrate key successes in simple ways. BMW celebrated a project win with an all-night outing. L3 celebrated with cake after every project milestone. So much so, they ended up with new gym memberships.

Five things that added extra pop to ACE

  1. Hats off to Schaeffler’s Marketing department for their “sizzle reel.” My guess is the audience never expected to find themselves in such awe of ball bearings. The video conjured emotion and excitement with “hero shots” and a grinding bass line that countryman Hans Zimmer would appreciate.
  2. Not to be outdone, Audi personified the inner workings of a Level 3 (driver assisted) autonomous car with a video that elicited scenes of the bridge crew taking the Starship Enterprise out of space dock. No doubt PLM practitioners would love to have an equivalent video to educate internal customers about PLM.
  3. L3 TRL’s opening video was an intense, live-action counter-terrorism scenario reminiscent of Showtime’s Homeland. Cool stuff.
  4. VP of Product Management John Sperling had a nice tie in to Ready Player One with a copper key for the PLM underground, emerald key to broaden PLM horizons, and crystal key to open PLM access.
  5. A fellow bar patron pointed out to me his case for dressing memorably. Had that in mind seeing Chief Architect Rob McAveney go Technicolor Dreamcoat for “Aras In the Round” although IPX’s Joseph Anderson gave him a run for his sartorial money. Clearly they already had the conversation.

Eight things that may have only interested me

  1. If anyone wondered, “Quod Vadis,” the name of Dirk Spindler’s presentation, translates to “Where are you going?” It was certainly a great view of where Schaeffler is going.
  2. Three provocative concepts from Dirk: You cannot harmonize systems. You cannot reduce complexity, but you can manage it. Companies should not fear tossing out work as they evolve. The key is to fail quickly and iterate.
  3. Change is a constant for PLM teams. Talked with some Sandia folks last year. This year, another contingent in attendance but slightly different mix of people. Maximo, an area of interest for them last year, is now handled by a different group. People and focuses shift.
  4. Martin Neff estimated Audi engineering actually has 50-100 individual V-diagrams and needs a common framework. Perhaps building systems of systems also requires a process of processes?
  5. Overlooked stat via Purdue University’s Nate Hartman about why Indianapolis was a logical venue – Indiana is the country’s top manufacturing state.
  6. The variety of customers at ACE is one of the unique aspects of the event – and also an outcome of Aras’ open model. Martin van der Roest of The vDR Group made this point at the Day 2 opening session.
  7. A case in point: Anagram, a division of AMSCAN, attended again this year. They make the party balloons sold at supermarkets and party stores, and use Aras right alongside majors like GE or Airbus. Side anecdote, Mike shared the anguish of going to print with Eagles balloons just moments after the company’s hometown Vikings were annihilated in the NFL playoffs earlier this year. Open offer from him that we can request Patriots balloons from him next year for our Andover office.
  8. Final tale of the tape for ACE 2018: nearly 500 attendees and 20+ sessions a day.

I’ll be looking forward to those balloons next season, but more importantly to what our Aras Community will showcase. Be sure to add your thoughts to the Google Doc. What was your top takeaway? Keep the conversation rolling!