At the Siemens Media and Analyst Conference in Brooklyn earlier this month, Tony Hemmelgarn, CEO and president of Siemens Digital Industries Software (previously Siemens PLM), sat down to answer questions about new technology for design and manufacturing. Much of the conversation involved finding the balance between getting ahead of customers with technology and – on the other hand – keeping up with the customer’s leap into new tech.

Tony Hemmelgarn, Siemens PLM, Siemens Digital Industries Software, simulation, IoT, additive manufacturing, design software

Tony Hemmelgarn, CEO and president of Siemens Digital Industries Software explained the balance the company need to meet customer’s technology needs without getting ahead of the customer. (Image source: Siemens)

Design News: How do you keep from getting too far ahead or too far behind you customers technology needs?

Tony Hemmelgarn: One of the challenges in responding to customer demand, is sometimes we’ve found we were falling behind. When we see that, we start to move ahead. Sometimes the market starts to push. At the beginning of additive manufacturing, we were a bit behind. So we moved into it, since everybody was going to do it. We caught up and now maybe the hype has gotten ahead of the market. At this point, I think additive has so much capability that people are missing it a bit, mostly because of the hype. Additive designed parts can be way more efficient than traditionally design parts.

DN: How has the balance worked with other technologies?

IoT was overhyped at first, but then it began to take off. Same with augmented reality and virtual reality. They may still be overhyped, but we have to be ready and make sure we’re there when it really catches on. Sometimes we get ahead with our technology, and then we have to wait for the market to catch up. We let our customers move at their pace. We can do cloud; we can do all kinds of things. Yet we’re not going to our customers and saying they have to go to cloud services. While we always have to be ready for new technology, we’re not going to force our customers into a business model they’re not ready for. An executive at one of our customer companies wanted to move to the cloud, but the company’s CIO said absolutely not. If they push back on our technology, we don’t go there.

DN: Are some industries significantly ahead of others in technology adoption?

TH: With model-based design, some of the automotive OEMs are pushing it. It’s also getting big in aerospace, Yet when you get out of auto and aerospace, it’s not big. Auto has been trying to learn from aerospace. In the past, auto companies would build a product and hope someone would buy it. In aerospace, you don’t build it unless you know it will work in the market. The approach is different depending on the industry. A big part of our work is to get business practices to change. Some embrace model-based design pretty well. The next generation of workers will be happy not to have a model or drawing. But in aerospace and automotive, you have to maintain drawings for 25 years.

DN: What is Siemens role in regulations?

TH: We have a lot of tools to manage it in Teamcenter even on the integrated circuit side. We have information on what it means to meet the regulations. A lot of our customers are using ISO standards. The time we get into trouble is when there is not a clear standard. One thing that’s good about standards is there are so many of them.

Our process automation customers say they have a problem, and a lot of it is with the management of the documents. They have to have a system to manage it. We thought there was value in bringing expert data management to the process industry. They need an enterprise to manage all of the data associated with the process. The customers pushed us into it.

Additive manufacturing is another area where we manage standards. Most of the machines in additive are driven by Siemens motion control. We have to validate the motion control. We’re not just building the software for the design, we’re controlling the motion. That includes the calibration and validation of the motion.

DN: How do you make the case for new developments in technology such as simulation?

TH: Sometimes we have to leapfrog technology to stay ahead. Germany was way ahead in manufacturing, and suddenly additive shows up. They didn’t know anything about it. Now, if you’re not thinking about how to design a product with additive, you’re missing out. We used a tool that gave us 300 iterations of a valve in the same time it took to do one design. So the design team resists, but you go to the CEO and say we can produce 300 iterations in the same time their engineers did one, the CEO will listen to that. People have to learn the tools. Many of our customers were trained on a certain tool in college, and they won’t leave that tool because they trust it. So they miss out.

There’s the belief that with enough data you’ll make the right decision. Well, it depends on what data you have. With enough data I can show a correlation between civil engineering and mozzarella cheese. The way you support engineers is to give them enough validated data to give them what they need. You can take a product in the field and find it’s not working right. You can run the model and see what’s going wrong. You can run the simulation to find out why the part is overheating.

DN: What’s the next big thing?

TH: The continuation of AI and machine learning. But it has to be with realistic applications, not just something that’s cool. Every time you think something is mature, we see something new that changes the whole thought process. We will continue to develop things that were once difficult and are now easy. Today, products go together because every screw has been modeled. Then we take it from how it fits together to how it is experienced. How do I know before it’s built whether a car is braking the way I want? Customers now expect to know how the product will be experienced, not just whether it will fit together.

We’re now using the brand name, Xcelerator, as a way to describe our portfolio. We would be happy to have the media to come up with a better way to describe PLM, because PLM doesn’t work anymore. Our tools are designed to help our customers get to market faster. That’s why we call it Xcelerator. Yet just because the tools come under the umbrella doesn’t mean we’re not going to still brand our individual products. Mindsphere, Mendix, Mentor. And how do they all fit? These re the tools you need to get to market fast.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.