14. December 2017
PTC’s software solutions support the manufacturing industry in developing, producing, operating and servicing of products. The company is an enrolled member of the European 4.0 Transformation Center within the Smart Logistics Cluster on RWTH Aachen Campus. Why and how does PTC work on RWTH Aachen Campus? Markus Hannen, Vice President of PTC answers these questions in this interview.
Why did PTC decide to get involved on RWTH Aachen Campus and to enroll there?
We made this decision in early 2014. PTC understood that the digital product creation has been outgrowing the entrenched structures of the noughties and that new subject areas and approaches have become increasingly important. Buzzwords would be design to target, requirements-oriented development and new modes of agile cooperation. These were very novel concepts at the time, not only with regards to ways of working but also to sales. We realized that communities would become increasingly crucial to decision-making, with business software being evermore complex. At the time, we were already working very closely with StreetScooter, Professor Kampker and Professor Schuh. We found the concepts and aims of the Campus very convincing. Investing here was a strategic decision on the part of top-level management, supported by the entire company.
To what extent does your membership of the European 4.0 Transformation Center (E4TC) within the Smart Logistics Cluster contribute to the implementation of your business strategy?
I would consider three aspects: First, we are hugely successful in achieving industrial innovation in practice working with the E4TC. This means that we see early on and fast which concepts can be realized, what impact they have on specific applications, where there is room for improvement and which scenarios are relevant.
Secondly, our clients get to experience digital transformation in action through the E4TC. Given the high level of complexity and abstraction, this is invaluable as it enables clients to better asses their own decisions. A third aspect is standardization. Aachen, a hub for communication and experiences, allows us to encourage our clients to settle for a largely homogeneous use of innovative technology. This is of great importance for the robustness and sustainability of the solutions and creates space for further innovation.
Have your financial commitments paid off?
Direct cost-benefit analyses are of course tricky: It is the strategic aspects that make the difference. From this perspective, we are confident claiming that it has paid off. This pertains to mutual inspiration we experience between science and industry actors, consultants and software producers, and which has triggered an incredible learning effect with all partners. On the other hand, this is simply about realizing that digital transformation is teamwork and that the roles of those involved continue to evolve. Being able to practice this in trusting cooperation might be the most important factor. Our clients, too, see this when they come and visit.
Are there any short-term benefits in addition to long-term advantages, too?
Certainly. As I mentioned, experiencing innovative application of digital potential themselves offers important guidance to our clients in their decision-making. Having to travel up to Aachen from Southern Germany can actually be an advantage as it means visits are better prepared and experiences can be reflected on the return journey. This should not be underestimated in terms of these heavy topics. In the short term, we certainly observe decisions being made faster. Also, good cooperation with a range of partners makes opening certain doors easier than if we had to do this on our own. The e.GO Life is also a cool product that clients love studying and testing.
What is your contribution to the development of the city electric car e.GO Life?
We provide the lion share of software tools for the development and validation of the e.GO Life. In addition, we advise the e.GO team on suitable methodology, provide impetus by showing what is possible and in some cases have our experts support operations, too. This way, we make a significant contribution to turning the e.GO project into a scalable industry product which can grow from small batch series to a global program.
The totally new way in which the e.GO Life was created is also a great convincing asset. This would not have been possible without the power of PTC’s digital systems.
Are you invested in similar set-ups with other universities?
RWTH as an institution is one of a kind. It enjoys this same reputation abroad, too, and our clients and partners from outside Germany and Europe – especially from Asia – are amazed by the innovation happening here. The Campus concept bringing together academics, industry stakeholders and digital influencers is unique. Comparing this to the US, you will find that in the US there is a number of rich and powerful universities, but they are still lagging behind with regards to tangible cooperation with businesses. We do of course have cooperation programs with other universities, but they are rather different, especially regarding investment and depth of cooperation. Referring to Aachen as the ‘Engineering Valley’ is justified, not just from a German perspective, but even internationally.