Anubhuti Shah holds the title of vice president and head of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Design to Operate at SAP. I caught up with her recently to discuss the state of PLM today and to focus on one software offering in particular – SAP Teamcenter by Siemens, which is part of product lifecycle management solutions from SAP.

As Shah explains it, PLM is traditionally approached as an engineering-centric discipline. But at SAP, the emphasis has always been more holistic. “We see PLM as the process of managing the product’s lifecycle – from inception through design, manufacturing, sales, service, and eventually retirement,” she says.

With deep knowledge of enterprise processes and expertise that extends across almost every known industry, SAP helps manufacturers realize this vision of PLM by delivering an integrated portfolio of products that can enable manufacturers to connect enterprise functions. With SAP S/4HANA and PLM solutions from SAP, for instance, you can connect product engineering to procurement, manufacturing, planning, logistics, service, and the front office. Better coordination across all aspects of the product lifecycle enables you to deliver what your customers want, when they want it.

Going Further with SAP Teamcenter

What is SAP Teamcenter? As Shah says, it’s software from SAP and Siemens that expands on the PLM portfolio from SAP, with Siemens adding deep expertise in product data management and a long history of empowering engineering teams, particularly in discrete industries. The goal is simple: to help manufacturers tackle the challenge of growing product complexity and faster product development cycles.

We asked Shah for more details. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: What is going on in the PLM market from the SAP and Siemens customer perspective?

A: First some history: SAP Teamcenter came into being because mutual customers of SAP and Siemens wanted to bring our offerings closer together. They wanted SAP and Siemens to work together on an integrated software – and this is what we’ve delivered. What has this collaboration brought to the market? Fundamentally, it has enabled the sharing of data and processes. The goal has always been to bridge the gap between engineering and business systems. And today customers are realizing concrete benefits, like shorter cycle times, lower costs, and improved quality. This has led to greater demand for us to deepen the integration, which remains one of our core missions.

What can this close relationship influence?

What Siemens brings to the table is an exceptionally rich set of engineering-centric product development capabilities. SAP powers intelligent enterprises with a broad portfolio that includes PLM solutions, market-leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, and deep experience connecting companies across business units and up and down supply chains. Our solutions help customers manage the vast complexity of their products across geographies, mitigate risk throughout the supply chain, and continuously innovate to improve performance. This kind of PLM cannot be done in a vacuum. Where can I source needed materials the fastest? How can I build this product profitably? How can I meet environmental mandates and surpass my customers’ expectations on sustainability? To answer these kinds of questions, you need real-time insight and the ability to tie engineering and product design decisions to specific business outcomes.

Working together, SAP and Siemens have a tremendous influence on the way PLM is being executed today. It shows the market how the original vision of PLM – expert management of the entire product lifecycle across all domains, even in the face of complexity – can be realized. With SAP’s ability to integrate engineering data from SAP Teamcenter and third-party PLM solutions with critical business data in back-end systems, our customers can have the visibility needed to detect and predict issues, consider trade-offs, and take action quickly.

What are customers asking for?

Customers that have not moved to SAP tend to have, let’s say, “federated” PLM environments. With such environments, the process of PLM is one that needs to be pieced together with a certain level of manual integration. Integration, when done on a custom basis, is costly and risky. So, what customers are asking is for vendors to bring engineering and business data together to minimize that manual integration and to help contextualize every design decision. At SAP, we brought on SAP Teamcenter and integrated it with our PLM offerings and other products to specifically answer this question.

What’s the vision behind the software?

The vision is as simple to articulate as it is challenging to achieve. What we want to achieve is a comprehensive PLM process. What stands in the way is an embedded notion that engineering is a separate thing – separate from the business, as if there’s a wall between the two. But for so many of our customers, nothing could be further from the truth. Engineering is often the heart of the business. Yet, operationally, the wall remains.

The vision, then, is to break down this wall. SAP Teamcenter and other PLM solutions from SAP are at the heart of engineering, and SAP helps connect the engineering function to all others such as procurement, which has engineering interdependencies. What does this mean on the ground? It’s all about data: if you can create bidirectional data flows across engineering and the business, then you can do PLM the way it’s supposed to be done. SAP enables this seamless data flow as it takes data from engineering systems like SAP Teamcenter and adds it to, say, supplier, financial, and service data in SAP S/4HANA. This can give engineers the data they need to make effective decisions and trade-offs.

How far have we come in delivering this vision?

We’ve spent a lot of time listening to what our customers need. Based on this input, guided by our collective vision, we have developed a multi-year plan for our companies to deepen the integration between our products. Today, we’re on our third release of SAP Teamcenter, and work continues on the next set of capabilities to address customer needs. But we’ve already made significant progress.

Again, what we’re trying to overcome is the idea that PLM is the exclusive domain of engineering, where the focus is predominantly on managing engineering design revisions, bills of material, and CAD modeling versions. With deep integration between engineering and the business, now we can talk about digital twins and creating a real digital thread that runs throughout the PLM process and connects to the extended enterprise to break up silos. Now you can maintain a record of a specific product deployed in the field, visualize its current state, and run simulations on how new designs will impact performance, operations, and costs.

What can we look forward to over the next couple of years and beyond?

With a few releases under our belt and a clear road map for further integration in place, SAP and Siemens are proceeding in alignment with the initial intent of the relationship. This intent has always been to deliver a robust, market-leading PLM software that is designed to alleviate the burden of integration from our mutual customers. Stay tuned for more as the companies pursue an integration strategy focused on PLM that goes beyond engineering alone to incorporate all relevant phases of planning, manufacturing, operations, and service.

Bring Engineering and the Business Closer Together

If your organization wants to learn more about how SAP brings engineering and the business closer together in a way that modernizes product lifecycle management, reach out to your SAP representative or visit us online.

Stefanie Otter is director of Solution Marketing for Product Lifecycle Management at SAP.