Glimpses Into the Future of Product Development

If you’ve ever wondered who Germany’s top product development experts are then the International Congress Center in Stuttgart was the place to go in November. On November 15 and 16 the Stuttgart Congress Center was the theater for one of the largest product development congresses in Europe. More than 1,300 participants registered and 1,000-plus made their way to Stuttgart from across Germany and neighboring countries.

There’s little doubt product development is changing rapidly in every sense. The days when engineers were left to work in peace in their own cubicles are long gone. With growing customer expectations, globalization of markets and global competition, engineers need to react quickly to changing market demand. In the product creation process they must collaborate with peers on other continents, with the supply chain, and with their customers.

Over the last two decades, computer based solutions helped engineers to perform tasks under growing time and productivity pressures. At the same time, these solutions have added complexity. Digital models are produced in an ever-growing frequency, and data and results have to be coordinated across departments and continents.

It is small wonder then that engineers flocked to Stuttgart for the opportunity to meet peers and learn how to survive in today’s product development environment. PlanetPTC Live customer conference provided not only an occasion to network and hear from peers, but also to learn from experts about new digital tools and environments available today to manage information and knowledge around products.

“You expect a return on your investment,” said Rob Gremley, executive vice president of marketing at PTC, in his keynote to the participants. “We are mandated to help you achieve that return on investment… [which] starts with having conversations with customers.”

In another keynote, Jane Wachutka, divisional vice president of product development at PTC, summarized challenges the manufacturing industry faces today: “The enterprise has many challenges facing it [including a situation where] all of your departments are working together… A single source of truth enables visibility across the enterprise [so you can] always know what you have in front of you with respect to the progress your products are making and the quality of those products.”

Over the two-day congress, participants had the opportunity to listen to 66 presentations delivered by PTC’s product development experts, partners and customers. A special highlight was the keynote presentation of Prof. Achim Kampker, chair of production management at RWTH Aachen University, and CEO of the recently founded startup company StreetScooter. StreetScooter aims to produce an electric vehicle for urban areas that presents an economically viable alternative to conventional vehicles.

“We want to make electric mobility affordable, with no need for public funding, free from government support,” Kampker said. “With this project we want to make a connection between ecological and economic aspects. And we want to show that it is possible to achieve cost-effective production in Western Europe.” The key to meeting this ambitious objective in a high-cost region is the adoption of a “crowd sourced” innovation process involving more than 50 industry partners, epitomizing many of the innovative digital methods presented and discussed over the two-day congress.

Overall, 22 customers and researchers shared insights, visions and lessons learned from their specific product development scenarios in the automotive, industrial, medical devices and electronics industries.

The next opportunity to attend a PlanetPTC Live event will be on June 3 – 6, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.

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