Integration is the Key to Digitalization – An Interview with PROSTEP AG’s Karsten Theis
With the appointment of Dr. Karsten Theis as a new member of the Executive Board, PROSTEP has initiated a generational change in management just in time for the company’s 25th anniversary. In an interview with the PROSTEP Newsletter, Theis explains how the PLM consulting and software company will position itself to be prepared for the challenges of the digital future. “We Integrate the Future” remains the company’s DNA.
Question: PROSTEP sees itself as a 100-percent PLM specialist. Is this the right way to prepare for the future?
Theis: What we mean by 100% PLM is the digitalization of the entire product lifecycle from development to production and operation through to service. This vision is exactly what the market is demanding and what we – and only we – are able to deliver in this form. Our core focus lies in the integration of complex processes and systems – including at a cross-enterprise level. The market for such solutions is growing strongly because the topic of integration is becoming ever more important. Digitalization, Industry 4.0 and IoT are bringing new players whose systems have to be integrated into the existing processes and IT landscapes. I therefore think that we are very well positioned for the future.
Question: Does the market share your view?
Theis: PROSTEP is one of the few vendor-neutral providers with expertise in the PLM field. That is a very important unique selling point. The market perceives us as being the think tank par excellence of the PLM world and this clearly has a lot to do with our close links with the prostep ivip Association. We enjoy a very positive image as a neutral PLM consultant in the automotive industry in particular, but also in shipbuilding. However, we have also acquired a whole series of larger customers in the fields of machine and plant engineering and this has further raised our profile on the market.
Question: What new target markets will you be looking at in the future?
Theis: Our target market is and will remain the discrete manufacturing industry, that is to say carmakers, machine and plant manufacturers, shipbuilders, as well as manufacturers of mechatronic and electronic equipment. We also have customers in the aerospace industry, but in this sector there is still room for us to fly higher. Our strength lies in a healthy mix of project business with Automotive OEMs and regional sales with mid-sized companies.
Question: PROSTEP is increasingly having to address new issues such as model-based systems engineering, the integration of electrical/electronic and software development, etc. How do you manage that with the existing headcount of approximately 250 employees?
Theis: It’s a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, we have to address new topics in order to identify their potential at an early stage. On the other, we sometimes have almost too many topics in our portfolio. But for the topics you’ve just named, we have the right answers ready to hand. Through our acquisition of Bartscher & Hasenäcker Consulting GmbH, which specializes in PLM for E/E and software development, we have brought some valuable specialist know-how into our fold. We want to deepen our internal know-how on the subject of MBSE in various research projects and combine it with the know-how of Bartscher & Hasenäcker Consulting. Where we certainly have to do more is in the development of OpenPDM connectors for E/E and ALM systems.
Question: Is cloud PLM also an area of interest for the future?
Theis: We are currently finding that all PLM vendors want to adopt a cloud strategy. Whether and when this approach will become all-encompassing is still very difficult to judge. But I think that smaller businesses in particular and probably also many mid-sized companies without large PLM teams will increasingly rely on cloud offerings because the operation and maintenance of PLM solutions are becoming increasingly complex. However, it is very difficult to integrate cloud-based systems because they are highly self-enclosed due to security concerns. Cloud providers must provide clean interfaces for integration into complex cloud scenarios, which is not the case today. However, I assume that this will change.
Question: What does this mean for PROSTEP products?
Theis: That we need to follow up on some of the things we have already done at the product level. With OpenPDM 9.0, we are switching our architecture over to microservices and distributed deployment so that we can also offer integration solutions for cloud scenarios. At the same time, we want to add SaaS models to our product offering, which will also make international sales easier. These already exist for our OpenDXM GlobalX data exchange solution. We are also developing new product ideas to ensure traceability in interdisciplinary mechanical, E/E and software development. These concepts no longer target the exchange but instead the cross-system and, in some cases, even the cross-enterprise linking of data.
Question: Where does PROSTEP want to be in five years?
Theis: For me, ideally we would be a brand name in the field of PLM strategy consulting in the same way, for example, as McKinsey is in the world of business model consulting. For this, Germany will undoubtedly remain our most important target market. However, when it comes to product business, I would clearly place the focus on internationalization and partnerships. We want to build up a network of partners with industry knowledge to support our product sales, for example to give us access to international automotive OEMs or other major corporations.
Question: Don’t you also need employees with completely new skills?
Theis: It’s clear that we will have to pursue a more consistent personnel development policy. Recruiting is difficult even though PROSTEP is a very interesting company and young people, in particular, have excellent opportunities for developing their careers. Where else can you undertake projects for the major market players – companies such as BMW, Daimler, Schaeffler, Kärcher or Meyer Werft, to name just a few. There are not many competitors with whom you can acquire so much expertise in so short a time.
Mr. Theis, thank you very much for this interview (the interview was conducted by Michael Wendenburg).
About Karsten Theis
Dr. Karsten Theis (born 1969) has been a member of the executive board of PROSTEP AG since the end of 2018 and is responsible for products, marketing, sales and US business. Prior to his appointment, he was a member of the management board and responsible for sales. Theis joined PROSTEP in 2002. As head of the PLM Strategies & Processes business unit, he made a significant contribution to expanding PLM strategy consulting, which is now a core component of PROSTEP’s service offering. Theis studied electrical engineering at Dortmund University and obtained a doctorate there in Automation and Robotics. He is married and father of a daughter.
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