3 Questions with Aras CEO and Founder, Peter Schroer
Product complexity has increased exponentially over the last two decades as electronics and now software dominate almost every type of product. Manufacturers face multiple challenges: managing product integrity without adequate software development disciplines; managing the involvement of suppliers who control critical technologies; ensuring operational safety for products being updated in the field; and ensuring compliance with regulations.
Traditional PDM technologies have failed to keep pace. Their legacy architectures with tightly interdependent hard-coded applications, data and process models result in systems that take years to implement and are complex and expensive to upgrade. Worst of all, legacy PDM systems are focused on managing 3D CAD designs – the Science of Engineering, leaving other critical processes including software, electronics, requirements, process planning, technical publications and quality – the Business of Engineering – disconnected and under-served.
In your view, what is meant by the term “the Business of Engineering?”
For today’s manufacturing enterprise, the primary job of engineering is business – to create the products that can be sold profitably. This has many implications such as to meet customer requirements, to minimize liability, to deliver on the most sustainable, lowest development costs and the lowest manufacturing costs and other key business considerations.
Too many of our competitors and the market analysts love to hype the value of Innovation. But the job of engineering is not to design cool products. It is to create profitable products — i.e. business. A focus on “The Business of Engineering” is understanding the whole lifecycle of the product, and managing all the impact (manufacturing costs, liability, risk, etc.) This used to be called “Design For X” where X = manufacturability, testability, supportability.
Why is it important for a manufacturing enterprise to distinguish between the “science” of engineering and the “business” of engineering?
The important thing is balance. For the past 20 years, the market (including analysts, software vendor marketing, and universities) has driven deep investment into 3D CAD, Simulation, and DMU (expert level visualization). The Science of Engineering is important, but without balance, without a matching investment in Business of Engineering, manufacturers struggle to produce profitable products.
Manufacturing, Quality, Supply Chain, Packaging, Configuration Management, Logistics, Field Support, Requirements Management – these are just a few of the critical roles and tasks required to produce profitable products. But if you take an honest look at manufacturers, the majority of the product-related data and processes across the enterprise and supply chain are still manual, paper, email, Excel, Lotus Notes, DropBox, FTP, and home-grown systems.
What are the top strategies manufacturers should consider in terms of meeting the challenges of product development into the next decade?
The current reality is that manufacturers face rapid changes in compliance, liability, global competition, distributed supply chains, increasing complex software and electronics content, the Internet of Things, and many more factors. Products are no longer mechanical only, and can no longer be designed in a vacuum. Everyone becomes a Systems Engineer. In terms of a top strategy recommendation, it’s imperative for manufacturers to rethink their PLM strategy and consider how to impact the Business of Engineering. We need to replace all the chaos with a platform that efficiently supports the new business requirements