ALM+PLM = the future of product development

Megan Lampinen talks to Siemens about the benefits of a combined application and product lifecycle management strategy

Traditional development techniques won’t work for non-traditional products, and the automotive industry is fast becoming far from traditional. With intelligence spreading to mechanical systems, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate application lifecycle management (ALM) and product lifecycle management (PLM). Boundaries are gradually eroding as software plays a greater role in product lifecycle development, and the challenge now is to create a seamless collaboration between the two.

“When we define ALM it is important to set a context, and the context is this new age of smart products,” Siemens India Director of Marketing, Gautam Dutta, told Megatrends. “PLM is about the physical product, a car, a phone or some heavy farm machinery. ALM is about the intelligence or the software applications that drive it.”

Systems of systems

A smart product has some level of intelligence and some level of software electronics built into it so that it can respond. “The products are becoming systems of systems,” observed Dutta.

One common example is the modern seat belt. When a driver or passenger puts on the seat belt and locks it, there is mechanical click of the lock. The signal is picked up by the sensor which travels to the dashboard where it turns off one of the electronic icons, telling the driver whether or not the seat belt is secured. This one safety system has multiple subsystems – a seat belt, a lock, the lock’s sensor, the sensor’s embedded software which converts the mechanical signal of locking to some kind of electronics, which is then fed into a common display unit on the dashboard, and the icon switching on or off.

“These are multiple subsystems which have to work together as a system. That means when we are developing a seat belt locking system, there has to be a set of people working on the mechanical lock, a set of people working on the belt itself and its tightening mechanism and some people with electronics background working on the sensor,” elaborated Dutta. “All of them have to work together, and that’s where the ALM comes in. If you treat that subsystem as a part, then ALM is the science behind managing the continuous lifecycle of the software application development or in conjunction with the mechanical equipment like the seat belt.”

Siemens’ own enterprise-based ALM solution is targeted specifically at the development of software and embedded systems. “It helps people work together as a team, maintaining the various development lifecycles and data, and coming out with new versions of that product time and again,” said Dutta.

As you move up the value chain, taking on embedded engineering and complex systems-driven product design, we believe the need increases for ALM+PLM integrated solutions

The system, which is offered under the name Polarion ALM, promises project transparency, helping with connecting teams and projects and improving application development processes with a single, unified solution for software requirements, coding, testing, and release. “It enables everyone to be aligned around what is being built and why, to drive advancement while protecting integrity and compliance. This approach helps teams respond faster and with better quality to new business opportunities and customer demands,” said Dutta. The development of Polarion ALM follows last year’s acquisition of Polarion Software, the company that created the first 100% browser-based ALM back in 2005.


“For many subsystem suppliers involved in pure software engineering activities, for those supplying just software codes or binaries, ALM alone may be enough,” he added. “As you move up the value chain, taking on embedded engineering and complex systems-driven product design, we believe the need increases for ALM+PLM integrated solutions.”

The advantage of this approach, he explained, is that companies can scale up. “You may come from the traditional mechanical industry side where you had a PLM system running your traditional seat belt design. Or you may come from the electronics sensor industry and you were using ALM. Then you scale up for an integrated PLM+ALM solution,” he pointed out.

Autonomous cars exemplify the merging of different domains in a single overall system. “You have the body made of sheet metal, you have the various mechanical components, and then you have a battery which is a combination of chemical domains. You have the power electronics that bring together the powertrain, which is specific to the electric vehicle. It’s a totally different way of developing and configuring a vehicle,” he said, noting the high volume of software and apps required to drive autonomous cars.

On the whole, Siemens expects all companies to eventually require both ALM and PLM. “The reason is simple – we are all looking for smarter products. A product can only be smart when it is responsive to intelligent self-deterministic operations. It should be able to understand what the customer wants it to do. When you put your fingerprint on a coffee machine, the coffee machine should be able to figure out this lady wants a decaf, no milk, one sugar, and made from Brazilian coffee,” said Dutta. “That will be driven from your biometric electronics, your Big Data capture converted to some kind of instructions, telling the coffee machine to make the coffee that you want. We want that. And if we want that, that smart machine cannot be developed traditionally.”

India is very strong on the systems software and software-driven manpower. We need to quickly adapt ourselves to this global need for suppliers of subsystems and systems for the new automotive age

Multiple verticals

It may not be long before Dutta’s coffee example plays out in the car. “Automotive somehow has defined considerable engineering understanding, which has driven technology-centric improvement elsewhere in other domains, other verticals such as aerospace, defence and industrial machinery,” he observed. However, adoption cycles are shortening. “It used to take a decade or more for such changes to move from automotive. If somebody tested something in a spacecraft before it went to the moon, it was probably 15 years until similar technologies were adopted by automotive, and another ten years until that was adopted by machinery. But because companies are doing multiple things, adoption cycles have shortened.”

Siemens, for example, is active in healthcare, energy and automation. “To use one patented technology in multiple verticals is very normal,” he added. In fact, he said, “Diversity across verticals is our priority.”

Eye on India

Dutta and his team are based in India, where the specific priority is to send out a warning. “We want to highlight to customers the need to upgrade themselves to defining, designing, conceiving, manufacturing and setting up their supplier ecosystems to develop and deliver smarter products for the country. We want to help customers embrace the change by making them understand the preparation and transformation required within and across organisations,” he explained. “The traditional way of working is not going to work.”

The reception among companies in India varies. “The ones who are globally aware understand that the status quo cannot continue,” Dutta said. While these companies may be committed to change, the big questions is how to change.

Siemens’ own business faces rapid change as well, and the work Dutta and his team will be doing in five or six years could prove dramatically different even from today. “We are not talking about incremental innovation any more. We are talking about transformational innovation,” he emphasised. “That’s what we will face in our work – quick turnaround for the introduction of brand new advances and development of comprehensive applications.” He pointed to greater use of robots working with people, additive manufacturing, knowledge management, and digital services. “Digital services will become increasingly popular with people across businesses, creating new business models. There are numerous disruptive business models currently that can corroborate the claim,” said Dutta. “These new developments and new business models will be defined.”

From India’s perspective, one of the biggest changes will be the reskilling cycles. “These changes will drive a need to reskill people in our organisations,” he predicted. “The older ways of working will have to change. That means, people would have to unlearn and relearn.”

In general, he regards India as arriving on the cusp of a tremendous opportunity for automotive suppliers to become smarter product suppliers to the world. “India is very strong on the systems software and software-driven manpower. We need to quickly adapt ourselves to this global need for suppliers of subsystems and systems for the new automotive age,” he said. “If we all work together we can seize the opportunity. Otherwise, somebody else will, and we will miss the boat.”


This article appeared in the Q4 2016 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine. Follow this link to download the full issue.