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The Opportunities and Challenges of an Integrated Approach to Engineering Systems

By Ron Watson Director, Xylem Inc

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Ron Watson Director, Xylem Inc

The last decade or so has brought immense change, challenges and opportunities for  organizations large, medium and small in how we author and manage product related information. Previous to this, Computer Aided Design (CAM) and Computer Aided  manufacturing (CAM) and Product Data Management (PDM) had primarily captured the attention of manufacturing companies and their engineering, operations and IT departments. These investments were significant, in terms of the costs of hardware, software, implementation and training, but the benefits were arguably limited. Although in its infancy in the late 1990’s, by mid-2000’s these capabilities have been overshadowed by much broader categories such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Application  Lifecycle Management (ALM), Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) and Product Performance Analysis (PPA). At the same time, they have been capturing a  growing mindshare from organizations outside of the traditional manufacturing companies such as the retail and insurance industries to name just a few. In addition, these new capabilities have gained wider interest and acceptance from departments within organizations such as sales, marketing, supply chain, service and  compliance. In parallel to this, significant change has been taking place in the very “bones” that these key technology  platforms rely on to run and communicate in the form of ultra-high speed networks, servers as well as paradigm shifts the  cloud has promoted. These, as you would expect, have presented both opportunities and challenges. Today’s companies need to be more efficient, more global, more innovative and more competitive than ever before in history. The customer’s needs are in focus like never before. Due to these pressures, organizations are looking for solutions that will help not only meet the needs  but will provide competitive advantage. The products that the customers are demanding more of to meet the solutions for their problems are electro-mechanical and often interconnected. These challenges have and continue to lead product development groups away from traditional forms of design and engineering. Where many companies were primarily focused on mechanical  design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) and PDM to manage the products, they are now looking toward integrating electronics and software. Although not a new phenomenon, the needed functionality and flexibility of the products has significantly increased, while at the same time the packaging size requirements have been reduced. Form, not just function, are becoming more in demand. As a result, traditional engineering systems and processes are being stressed to the breaking point in many companies.