Chief Executive Officer
BigLever Software Inc.
Engineering: Describe your company’s product line engineering [PLE]
software. Is it related to product lifecycle management [PLM] software?
Charles Krueger: It’s sort
of an orthogonal activity to PLM. PLE began a few decades ago focused on software,
and I did my PhD thesis in the area. With PLE, it’s all about managing a family
of products, or a system of systems, in a way that is as efficient as possible.
The challenge with that is finding an effective way to take advantage of things
that are common across the product line, while managing the variation.
PLE brings a new approach for managing product line diversity
based on features. Manufacturers can create a PLE Factory that automatically
assembles and configures systems and software assets—such as requirements,
design models, source code, BOMs, and test cases—guided by product feature
profiles, to produce all products in a product line. This PLE Factory
production line approach also manages how the various product features and
feature combinations interact with each other, which is most often in very
ME: How long has this PLE software existed, and how has it evolved?
Krueger: It’s been around for 20–25 years, but it’s grown and matured. What happened
over time is we’ve helped companies like Lockheed Martin support product
variation across the engineering lifecycle in a way that’s consistent. Imagine
you have an optional feature of a product family, say in automotive, it could
be a Pedestrian Detection System, where some vehicles will have it, and some
won’t. PLE’s role is to understand and efficiently manage what’s optional—I
want my software and my calibrations to understand what’s optional, and that I
need my PLM’s Bill of Materials to understand what’s optional. So we just make
a feature choice that says Pedestrian Detection System in or out. This single
choice could impact thousands of places across the engineering lifecycle. PLE
manages that, and automates the configuration of assets needed to create that
ME: Does this software fit in well with the emerging products in the Internet of
Krueger: It does. While there’s some hype in the market [with IoT], it’s very relevant
to what we’re doing with our customer, General Dynamics and the Army CPM [Consolidated
Product Line Management] program. CPM is for building the training systems for
the soldiers, so it can entail a single soldier training on a computer, like a
video-game program, all the way up to a 2000-soldier, battalion-level
force-on-force simulated combat in one of those courts somewhere, where they’re
all laser-tagged and instrumented. If you think of the soldiers as
things—they’ve all got their personal-area network that’s got all of their
devices hooked up—you could connect them to the larger system that’s sending
signals to show simulated explosions.
ME: Have you worked extensively with the military?
Krueger: Absolutely. Surprisingly, one of the earliest adopters of PLE was aerospace and
defense, with companies like Lockheed Martin in its Aegis ship program, the
Navy cruise missile destroyers. Lockheed’s Aegis system started using it about
seven or eight years ago, and it’s very, very successful—they’re recording
about $50 million a year in cost avoidance. That’s essentially 50% of the effort,
if you look at the total cost of what the engineers are doing. Working with PLE
tools and methods, they’ve eliminated half their costs. They get twice as much
done as they were previously able to do.
ME: Are you partnering with any IoT software developers?
Krueger: Yes. We integrate with Aras, and IBM is a long-standing partner of ours.
They’re using one of our customers, the Army training system, as a good example
of an Internet of Things application. It lines up really well. It’s been around
for a long time, but if you listen to the IoT message coming out from IBM,
what’s happened there is strongly analogous to what they see the world of
interconnected devices should look like.
ME: How important will the IoT and connected systems become in the future?
Krueger: I think it’s interesting to connect some things to the Internet, such as cars
and equipment that’s sensitive to maintenance—all of that’s very important. I
think sometimes you hear from companies ‘Everything’s going to be connected!’ Samsung
gave some numbers that by 2018 or 2020, every Samsung device would be on the
ME: So your PLE software
can greatly help manufacturers with variation control on their product
Krueger: Certainly, it’s key for development. One of the challenges in manufacturing is
that we have too many parts, and our factories have to deal with too many
variations. Historically that’s all been managed from what’s called Complexity
Management—reducing the number of parts, reducing the number of part variations.
Our PLE approach elevates the discussion to focus on features. What are the
interesting and economically useful features and options to put in your
product? This is one of the big benefits of PLE—allowing manufacturers to
build, manage, and evolve their product line based on features. So rather than
using a Bill of Materials to determine features, they can use a Bill of
Features to determine materials—where materials can include mechanical assets,
electrical, wiring, software, calibrations, requirements, designs, test cases,
documentation, etc. It’s a new way of looking at the engineering and
PTC Making a Splash in IIoT
At its live-streamed “ThingEvent”
conference Jan. 28 in Boston, CAD/CAM and PLM software supplier PTC (Needham,
MA) signaled its intentions to go big in the race to develop enterprise-wide
software for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). PTC acquired the IIoT
developer ThingWorx in late 2013 and then later added Vuforia in November 2015.
As a PTC subsidiary, Vuforia announced at the event new features for its
augmented reality (AR) platform with support for Windows 10 and also the
company’s new VuMark solution for adding AR experiences to any object.
The addition of AR to its IIoT offerings aims to add a disruptive
technology to the enterprise, according to PTC. Vuforia’s AR platform is
supported by more than 200,000 developers who have built some 20,000 apps for
smartphones, tablets and a new generation of digital eyewear, according to the
company. “PTC believes the technology has arrived to completely transform the
way we interact with and experience things, and that technology is augmented
reality,” said Jay Wright, Vuforia general manager and senior vice president,
PTC. “Our goal with Vuforia is to deliver an augmented reality experience on
top of all types of things—and fundamentally change the future of work.”
VuMark, which the companies
dubbed the next-generation bar code, potentially could alter the way
applications are delivered to the machinery and manufactured goods that will be
found in future IIoT ecosystems. VuMark is said to offer a simple method for
encoding data, such as a URL or a product serial number, and it is capable of
overcoming the limitations of existing bar code technologies that do not
support the AR experience or that may detract from a product’s appearance.
Service applications are the first “killer app” for the Internet
of Things (IoT), and new augmented reality applications will be critical for
service, noted PTC CEO Jim Hepplemann at the ThingEvent. PTC offered a glimpse
into the future of IIoT enterprise applications, showing its new ThingX
platform for building AR-enabled apps, which included the new ThingServer, for
storing IIoT data; the ThingBrowser, a way to browse IIoT objects on the Web;
and the ThingBuilder, for leveraging CAD models and other data for
manufacturers to easily build IIoT applications. PTC said that support for
Windows 10 and VuMark will be publicly available to all developers this spring.
Siemens AG (Berlin and
Munich) and CAE simulation developer CD-adapco (Melville,
NY) announced Jan. 25 that the companies signed a stock purchase agreement
under which Siemens will buy CD-adapco for $970 million. CD-adapco is a global
simulation company with solutions in a wide range of engineering disciplines
including computational fluid dynamics (CFD), solid mechanics, heat transfer,
particle dynamics, reactant flow, electrochemistry, acoustics and rheology.
Siemens plans to integrate
CD-adapco into the PLM software business of Siemens’ Digital Factory division. “As
part of its Vision 2020, Siemens is acquiring CD-adapco and sharpening its
focus on growth in digital business and expanding its portfolio in the area of
industry software,” said Klaus Helmrich, member of the Managing Board of
Siemens, in a statement. “Simulation software is key to enabling customers to
bring better products to the market faster and at less cost.”
In its last fiscal year, privately held CD-adapco had more than
900 employees and revenue of almost $200 million with double-digit profit
margins, according to the companies. CD-adapco’s simulation tools include its
flagship product STAR-CCM+, and its solutions allow engineers to discover
better designs, faster. With more than 3200 customers worldwide, CD-adapco’s
software is currently used by 14 of the 15 largest carmakers, by all of the top
10 suppliers to the aerospace industry, and by nine of the 10 largest
manufacturers in the energy and marine sectors.
(Fair Lawn, NJ) announced Feb. 1 that is has acquired Prometec GmbH (Aachen,
Germany), a developer of advanced solutions for monitoring and control of
machining processes in production machines. The company also supplies equipment
for laser beam diagnostics and primarily operates in the European and North
American market. A large part of the customer base comes from the global
The acquisition includes all shares in Prometec GmbH. The
company, which has 35 employees and had sales of approximately 48 MSEK for
fiscal year 2014-2015, will be integrated with Sandvik Coromant, according to
Sandvik, and will be part of Sandvik Machining Solutions’ efforts in Industry
4.0 and digital manufacturing.
SPC software developer Hertzler
Systems Inc. (Goshen, IN) has released the latest version of its
GainSeeker Suite SPC software. The latest version 8.5 makes disparate
manufacturing data even more accessible and actionable. Users can triage,
prioritize, address issues faster and more reliably, and uncover hidden
opportunities to increase revenue, grow margins, and improve asset performance.
The update contains applications for Overall Equipment Efficiency
(OEE), SPC, Defect Management, and costly Overpack in a single software
package. It also includes a new browser-based analysis tool, Mobile GainSeeker
Analysis, to quickly and securely analyze data from any device.
Software Update is edited by Senior Editor Patrick Waurzyniak; firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published in the March 2016 edition
of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.