Autodesk – Aiming to Accelerate ahead of their competitors.

Autodesk’s 2016 Accelerate event – Cloud led, positive customers, excited prospects and approachable employees. In my eyes a positively transforming business. Continue reading

Siemens PLM Software – A digital ‘engine’ provider for Industry 4.0

Siemens PLM Software’s analyst event last month provided much food for thought. First off, Siemens showed a new dimension to their messaging. One that’s simpler and more focused on customer outcomes. Second, they provided a vision and many of the pieces that deliver ‘Industry 4.0’ as (to a large extent) a practical proposition.

For those that’re unaware of Industry 4.0, it’s a German Government sponsored initiative, supported by companies such as Siemens, Bosch and SAP. It focuses on a vision of industry focusing on the digitisation of design, factories and (customer and supplier) networks around Cyber-Physical Systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services.

Chuck Grindstaff, Siemens PLM’s CEO and President rightly pointed out that today’s innovation ecosystem is relentless. Products are getting smarter and more complex; definitely true when considering the trend to more software (and electronics) driven product content. To this Siemens wants to be the be the company that helps customers deal with the contradictory drivers of product/ecosystem complexity and business velocity/agility. They aim to do this by providing a broad swathe of solutions that allow companies to design, make and support their products. A world where ‘digital twining’ (such as in areas of design and manufacturing) is as close to reality as possible so that Siemens’s digitally-led proposition to customers is both practical and (clearly) valuable.

Achieving the vision (of Industry 4.0) might be considered quite an objective from any one vendor, but in Siemens PLM’s case we have to remember that they’re supported by the technologies and know-how of the greater Siemens. Having said this, there some provisos; not least amongst these that the PLM division continues to show support for ‘open’ technologies and encourage and grow third party ecosystems.

Back to the conference. Much of the content was focused on providing press and analysts with updates on Siemens PLM’s ‘Smart Innovation Portfolio’, with some excellent customer presentations including one from Dell on their use of big data and analytics in the area of customer service.

Siemens PLM’s product messaging is one of a ‘Smart Innovation Portfolio’. This integrates ‘Engaged users’ (collaboration and intelligent app environments etc.), ‘Intelligent models’ (cyber-physical systems/digital twins etc.), ‘Realized Products’ (automation/manufacturing/planning etc.) and ‘Adaptive systems’ (data driven decision making etc.). While there’s much to comment on I was intrigued by new offerings made possible by their acquisition of Camstar, and so too their new mobile app Catchbook.

Camstar’s suite of tools allow Siemens to expand their available markets beyond traditional domains (well beyond that of MES) to areas of customer service (and by extension IoT), big data and analytics. Their first consumer-friendly (sketching) mobile app Catchbook allows Siemens to expand their reach not only to new customers but also to consumers, mindful of the (sketching) needs of new/next generation users.

Siemens have already made public their interest in transitioning their large platforms (Teamcenter for example) to more ‘app-like’ forms, and to date they’ve done a good job so far in simplifying (and beautifying) their offerings. But the next generation (Y) is (rightly in my eyes) critical on the complexity of monolithic software products and Catchbook is an interesting take on Siemens’ capacity to react to these objections. Transforming to ‘apps’ (and born-on-the-Cloud/subscription based) might be considered by many as primarily a technological exercise; but I’d suggest that it’s as much, if not more so a challenge to (Siemens’) existing pricing, business and sales models.

Views on the IT industry in Africa –Insights from IBM

IBM’s up-beat briefing on their Sub-Saharan business was not only an eye opener on their aspirations for their business in the African continent, but so too a view into some of the unique challenges facing information technology suppliers in the region.
Notwithstanding IBM’s objectives for global sustainable growth, discussions with their executive team highlight the importance they place on Africa as a key ‘Growth Market’ of the future. The transformational opportunities that make the region unique are without doubt multifaceted and driven by wide ranging issues including geographic, geo-political, and socio-economic circumstance.   The business environment is further complicated by the unique complexities of local legislation, lack of skilled staff, corruption and poor basic infrastructure; even, albeit to a lesser extent, in the more affluent South African region.
History teaches us that first mover advantage is crucial in the IT industry and IBM is keen to take advantage of this to develop a leadership situation in IT provision in the region. Often considered to be slow to change but with robust and effective execution, IBM has frequently been dubbed a ‘supertanker’ within the IT industry. In Africa, however, their aspirations and initiatives are more akin to an entrepreneurial start –up. Plans are pragmatic but the investment intent is clear; with local offices focused in areas of more intense growth, business partners are left to develop smaller and (currently) less lucrative markets.
Yet, the opportunity in the region is significant. Foreign ventures, significant natural resources and low cost labour will no doubt drive IT investments. This will, of course, vary significantly country by country but in an environment where basics such as water and electricity are still luxuries to many, investments in infrastructure will be amongst the largest, and this is an area in which IBM excels; government, telecoms, financial services etc. Although, from a pragmatic point of view, it’s also important that growth will be supported by more than just infrastructure investment. Oil and mining are significant revenue generators but manufacturing fails to match the growth many have seen in other emerging geographies such as Asia.
One can consider these to be the formative years of the evolution of the continent; where mistakes made are still lessons to be learned. Without stable infrastructure elements such as power, telecoms and water however, the incentive to invest is thwarted by supply. The power situation in South Africa is one such example where demand has outstripped supply. Here we have a (relatively) wealthy nation, with a larger than average (in Africa) established mining, process and industrial manufacturing sectors, having to engage in load shedding (intentional power outage) to protect a total national blackout of power ; clearly a challenge to overcome if investment growth is to be maintained.
But there are many areas where Africa offers clear value for inward investors. These include capitalising on mining expertise, South Africa’s nuclear power competence (notably their Pebble bed reactor expertise) and, of course, in taking advantage of low cost local talent. With particular regard to the latter point, it was interesting to have an opportunity to see IBM’s Integrated Delivery Centre. Providing worldwide multi-lingual support for a European banking organisation, it is a clear endorsement of world class technology service capable of being delivered from Africa.
Whilst the timing of Africa’s emergence from 3rd world status cannot be guaranteed by any means, where there’s a will there’s a way. I for one am an avid supporter African economic development, being Zambian born. What is clear is that support from the international community is essential to the Continent’s transition; and this means support from not only international organisations such as the IMF, but also governments and the broader business community. To this end IBM’s expansion and support of infrastructure and industry in Africa is a reflection not only of their belief in the region, but an incentive for others to invest or face getting left behind.

Allan Behrens of Taxal to represent industry views at SME event.

Providing industry insight and comment in this at the Innovative Engineering Workshops on the 11th February in Warwick, UK, Allan aims to help increase the opportunity for the smaller UK business to take advantage of technology to increase their opportunity and competitiveness.
With engineering SMEs playing such a crucial role in the UK economy and in a world that demands speed, accuracy & flexibility, it is vital to UK competitiveness that SMEs adopt world-class engineering processes, powered by the most advanced technologies available.
Intended to be the first of a series of events and supported by the Regional Development Agency and Warwick Manufacturing Group’s Digital Labs, this particular event is aimed at Engineering Managers in West Midland SMEs.  The day is focused on helping companies manage and maintain ever increasing amounts of engineering information and the escalating burdens of compliancy and administration from complex regulatory & technical requirements.
For more information or to register your interest in attending please go to Innovative Engineering Workshops