Siemens Digital Industries Software held its virtual global conference on June 23-24, 2020 to announce its new Teamcenter X platform. The content is free and accessible until July 24 via their website (https://events.sw.siemens.com/realizelive/) and there was a wealth of content. This article is aimed at summarizing what I found most pertinent.
My interests are primarily in PLM, Simulation, IoT, and Cloud so I focused on the keynotes from Joe Bohman on Teamcenter X, Bill Boswell on Mendix, Raymond Kok and Eric de Hasselle on Mindsphere, Kerry Doyle's breakout on Teamcenter X, Jan Leuridan on SimCenter, Ray Ahmad on Factory Simulation, Rob Reich on Active Workspace and the Q&As. The following notes are my takeaways and further questions based on these presentations. I will spend the largest amount of my review on the Teamcenter X announcements. A BIG THANKS shout out to Denis Goudstikker, Digital Management, and Analytics Portfolio Strategy Senior Executive at Siemens Digital Industries Software, for his patient explanations over a Teams call to clarify some points!
[Nota bene: I had a few issues accessing the presentations due to Safari and Chrome incompatibility, so I would highly recommend using Firefox to avoid any frustration for fellow Mac users.]
Joe Bohman's keynote "PLM of the Future: A Teamcenter Strategic Update" announced the new cloud-based Teamcenter X platform and the free 30-day trial that is being offered. There is a lot to be excited about including Instant-On PLM to accelerate deployment with best practices built-in to the software, the new search-led paradigm for the user interface, and the robust cloud infrastructure provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and leveraging microservices.
Teamcenter X is the new portfolio of Teamcenter solutions where "X" refers to the Xcelerator brand (and not the number "10"). The actual release number is Teamcenter 12.3. It is available in two flavors, SaaS (Base and Add-ons) and PaaS (Personalized) as described in the next paragraph. The portfolio of Teamcenter 12.3 on-premises is identical with that of the managed services (PaaS) version whereas the SaaS portfolio is pared down to a smaller, pre-configured footprint ("Base") with optional "Add-ons". Teamcenter X is delivered by default on Amazon Web Services (AWS), but it is also Microsoft Azure-certified and FEDRAMP-compatible. Note that ITAR, however, is only available in the managed services ("Personalized" or PaaS) flavor.
The Base offers contains Document Management, Visualization, Workflow, Part Revision and Release, "basic" EBOM Management, a few preconfigured Workflows, Data Sharing as well as operations and upgrades from Siemens as you would expect in a SaaS online offering. There is a catalog of Add-On services for connectors to SOLIDWORKS, SolidEdge, Mentor, Altium, and NX (CATIA V5 and Creo connectors are forthcoming) as well as classification and change management. Lastly, they have a "Personalized" offer which includes other integrations, customizations, hybrid cloud, and advanced configuration. This "Personalized" offer is actually on Managed Cloud (or PaaS), but it takes reportedly only ten minutes to migrated any SaaS environment to the Managed Cloud environment (it is also possible to migrate to On-Premises or even another cloud such as Azure). Note also that for Project Management and any other PLM functionality not already mentioned, you need to have "Personalized" and this is only available as a managed service (PaaS). Over time, Siemens plans to expand the SaaS portfolio but preserving the multi-tenant aspects and thus eliminating customization and moving towards a pre-configured, out-of-the-box model. With the base offering, you can create new apps with Mendix and create attributes, but anything that requires their Eclipse-based Business Modeler IDE (BMIDE) will necessarily be single-tenant on the managed services ("Personalized") platform.
Peter Biello from CIMDATA chimed in about the proven legacy of Siemens in PLM and how Teamcenter X is the next logical evolution in their portfolio with the new OPEX business model that helps customers move to the future.
Bohman then compared Teamcenter X with Teamcenter on-premises claiming that Teamcenter X has access to the full Teamcenter portfolio applies the Managed Services offering ("Personalized") and NOT the SaaS offering ("Base" or "Add-ons").
He then passed the ball to Francis Evans who demonstrated a few interesting new apps such as the Teamcenter Assistant which is an AI command prediction model for driving user navigation (also available on-premises) and Active Change for automatic tracking of change management that is fully CMII-compliant. The demos for these were quite convincing.
Some other topics mentioned were the Supplier Collaboration Portal, the Partner Connect for Contract Manufacturing, and Teamcenter Product Cost Management which seem to be key new functionality for the supply chain.
The next subject that was addressed was Multi-Domain Product Architecture which is the Siemens term for model-based system engineering. They have added integrations to IBM Rhapsody and Cameo (now Dassault Systèmes) No Magic and their endorsement of SYSML 2.0 as well as Polarion X for a new ALM platform for software lifecycle management. There was also a demo of Smart Discovery which was proximity filtering on 3D models and Go-VR which adds VR capabilities to their visualization platform. [Note that the speaker was very careful NOT to mention the DS acquisition of No Magic. The author of this article hopes that Dassault will not one day cut off access to the tool from external integrations and strand non-DS customers...]
All in all, it was a good presentation that should excite old customers and interest new ones in where Siemens is going with their Xcelerator rebranding and their SaaS adoption with Teamcenter X.
There is another presentation, "New Product Announcement: Introducing Teamcenter X" with Kerri Doyle and Troy Banitt which repeated some of the points (and one of the demos) from Bohmann's presentation and gave a few more customer examples.
Rob Reich's "What is New in Active Workspace" was also quite revelatory. I noticed that it works with Teamcenter X and wonder whether you can include apps/widgets from a Teamcenter on-premises instance. The impact items demo was quite good as well. What I also appreciated was that on the bottom of the screen, you see the project, group, role and workspace, ID Display Rule, and Revision Rule for the active user. This sounds like a deeper degree of granularity of access control than the simpler User, Organization, Collaborative Space model of 3DEXPERIENCE. The Panel Builder looks great for building UI elements to Active Workspace and see the impacted JSON - great stuff if it works as easy as Rob demonstrates it. There is a Breakout by Glen Keller "Investigate Workspaces in Active Workspace" which helps users understand some of the features in customizing Workspaces and how to include and exclude commands and does demonstrate a great degree of flexibility in customization despite the somewhat scary use of using a command-line app.
To be more specific, Active Workspace is an HTML5 framework into which any apps can be added. There are already examples of integrating SAP HANA and Teamcenter via Active Workspace. It is also possible to see the contents of two different Teamcenter instances. My understanding is that, unlike 3DDashboard from Dassault Systèmes, it is a standalone construct independent from the PLM system.
[Note that the Q&As are incorrectly labeled. "Cloud 1" is IIOT following Kok's presentation and "Cloud 2" is Mendix following Boswell's presentation, both reviewed below.]
Mindsphere and Mendix
"Industrial IoT as a Service" by Raymond KOK did a nice job of describing Mindsphere, Siemens IOT platform from a high-level talking about how the platform is divided into Apps, Edge Management and Connectivity. The connectivity is primarily around connecting sensors on the factory floor to the Edge for data collection. In the Edge Management layer, they can do some analytics on the Edge or send data up to the apps for further analysis. The most exciting piece was the Apps layer where he mentioned a public Mendix App Store as well as private app stores.
"Low-Code Development in Action" from Bill Boswell gave an overview of Mendix' low-code platform with some great examples. Mendix looks like a powerful platform that can call into Teamcenter and MindSphere to create intuitive apps. The way that business logic can be implemented with microflow looked powerful as did the wealth of layout and other widgets available for building mobile interfaces and connecting them to data and other apps.
Another good talk was from Ray Ahmad's "MindSphere IoT Cloud to Plant Simulation" which has some impressive plant simulation demos. The point cloud piece sounds quite powerful in creating the digital twin based on scan data on the factory floor as well as pulling in data from MindSphere. What was not clear from Ray's talk was whether these tools were available on the cloud or if they were only on-premises apps and how this data is connected back to the Teamcenter data about the assemblies being manufactured. The virtual commissioning is also valuable in being able to simulate humans or robots working on an assembly line. I did not, however, see mention of additive manufacturing other than some NX modules such as NX Hybrid Additive CAM, so it was unclear whether the digital factory could also contain 3D printers.
Perhaps my preferred presentation in this space was "Big Data, IoT & Digital Twins" by Eric de Hasselle which did a great job explaining how MindSphere can filter data and compare and contrast simulation data with real-world data. He gave a great example from the automotive world, and it is worth your time to watch.
Fino's Observations, Questions, and Comments
I felt that the overall organization (with the exceptions mentioned above) was of high quality and very interesting from a technical point of view. Teamcenter X sounds like Siemens finally caught up with Dassault's 3DEXPERIENCE platform in terms of a scalable, flexible SaaS PLM platform, but based entirely on AWS (as opposed to using their own data centers like Arena Solutions uses or having a wholly-owned subsidiary like DS does with Outscale). Some of the positive differentiators I see are:
- More included with the Base offer: With 3DEXPERIENCE, you have to buy the Industry Innovator to get some of the capabilities that come with the Base offer of Teamcenter X. EBOM Management, document management, and visualization plus (some preconfigured) workflow and Part Revision & Release is an outstanding way to get users excited about the platform and ramped up very quickly.
- The integration with Mendix: according to Gartner's 2019 Magic Quadrant of Low-Code Development Systems, Mendix was furthest along the innovation curve. It certainly looks far more powerful than the tools that DS offers for building widgets and connecting objects via the powerful Teamcenter APIs. Add connecting IOT data from MindSphere, and this has the potential to be a game-changer for Siemens.
- I was especially excited about the idea of having Mendix public app stores and even private app stores for sharing apps. This marketplace idea sounds fantastic and one that I wish was more widely adopted in the PLM world.
- The Teamcenter Assistant sounded like a great idea to have AI-driven navigation for users on the platform as well as capturing how an entire team works together. One would hope that the data could never be brought back to an individual user as this would violate privacy laws. It would also be interesting to see whether the help system is integrated into this Assistant so that users don't waste time looking through PDF documents as well as whether the indexation rules are configurable.
- The 30-day trial: This is a fantastic idea as well. I signed up, will you? [Nota bene: my application was rejected, strangely :-/)]
On the other hand, there were several subjects which opened up more questions than answers for me:
- Teamcenter Share sounded like a powerful tool for SolidEdge users (similar to 3DDrive for 3DEXPERIENCE platform), but it was unclear whether it worked with both Teamcenter and Teamcenter X and whether NX and other data in the platform could be shared. From a sales point of view, it is aimed specifically towards SolidEdge users. The idea of adding conferencing was good as well. In the MindSphere Q&A, they alluded to applications leveraging Teamcenter Share as well. Worth investigating further...[Nota bene: SolidEdge is NOT as-yet available as a SaaS offering.]
- In that same Q&A, there was a lack of specificity on the amount of customization that could be done server-side on the cloud. They took an approach, similar to Dassault on 3DEXPERIENCE with Baseline, where there are templates on how much customization (or configuration is possible) due to the multi-tenant nature of their SaaS deployment. The speaker seemed to say that for front-ends using Mendix, it is highly customizable, but that the server-side objects are more controlled. You can add attributes, but you cannot modify types as far as I understood. Any additional programming and APIs are only available in the "Personalized" (PaaS) managed service portfolio or on-premises.
- Data sharing was mentioned as possible between Teamcenter on-premises and Teamcenter X, but the level and granularity of data were not mentioned nor was the method used for transfers other than "standard tools." They also said that they say existing customers keeping Teamcenter and starting new programs on Teamcenter X. There are a variety of integration methods for team center: local data caches, their multi-site offer, and the Teamcenter Enterprise Data Layer with APIs for exchanges via Open JMS as well as commercial 3rd party products from OpenSTEP, CENIT and others. I find it very encouraging that it is apparently very easy to move data from one environment to another and that seems to be excellent insurance against vendor lock-in.
- The announcements around the Supplier Collaboration Portal and Partner Connect for Contract Manufacturing sounded powerful in terms of the granularity of what pieces of a complex subsystem could be shared and secured. They have an Enterprise Digital Rights Management (Teamcenter EDRM) integration from their partner Nextlabs. Similar to DRM in the music industry, they can apply specific rights and validity periods to individual files or packages of files.
- I listened to the SimCenter keynote and found that their portfolio looks as complete as that of Dassault's SIMULIA brand. They leverage a partnership with Rescale to allow burst computing (pushing a large calculation into the cloud and getting the result back). I was told that there may be some applications that are only available on-premises and not on the managed services ("PaaS") offering. I also understood that the SimCenter is the brand name and that Teamcenter Simulation is the product name. There is the same metadata for engineering and simulation, in other words, there is only one Teamcenter database.
- Similarly, Teamcenter X seems to be focused on Engineering and less on Manufacturing. For the Manufacturing BOM (MBOM) or the Service BOM (SBOM), there are managed services in the Teamcenter Manufacturing and Teamcenter SLM products which each leverage the same database as Teamcenter and Teamcenter Simulation. Look for a demo at the end of July 2020 from Siemens Energy that will demonstrate the full digital thread from end to end.
- Lastly, there were several mentions of private and hybrid clouds, and Siemens offers any number of combinations thereof. You can use Teamcenter in the cloud for all collaborative processes and via multi-site leave all the files on-premises. You can also (as previously discussed) federate multiple Teamcenter instances up to a chosen level (project level, BOM level, assembly level, etc) depending on how access rights and organizations are configured. This would, of course, only apply to the "Personalized" (PaaS) managed service offering. One customer using a hybrid approach is the Joint Strike Fighter program from Lockheed Martin.
Thanks for reading this article and I hope that it provided some interesting observations and got you thinking a bit. Please comment below if I missed something or got something wrong. I am always happy to talk about PLM. I also hope you appreciated all the updates!