EPLAN: With Certainty In The Cloud
Interview with Sebastian Seitz, CEO of Eplan and Cideon
(The meeting took place at the end of September 2019 at the Munich branch in Gräfelfing.)
PLMportal: Eplan goes into the cloud. What security can you give customers to ensure that their data is protected from misuse and disclosure to third parties?
Sebastian Seitz (photos Eplan): When we talk about the so-called public cloud of the major providers, we rely on market-proven solutions. In our case this is Microsoft Azure. Today there is an infrastructure here that our customers understand better and better that it offers security for the data stored there that can hardly be created in-house.
And finally, we are talking today about built-in security in software development, as it is used for applications in such platforms. The software must already be designed to be secure against misuse and data theft, and here too we rely on the sufficiently available standards.
All in all, this means that we take the issue of security very seriously and make great efforts in this direction. The data sovereignty of our customers has the highest priority. Nevertheless, it is clear that there will be no 100% security in the foreseeable future in our connected world, neither in our customers' infrastructures nor in the cloud.
PLMportal: Will Eplan rewrite its product range to suit the cloud and offer it as Software as a Service? If so, is there a timetable or roadmap?
Sebastian Seitz: Where it makes sense and generates customer benefits, yes. But Eplan Electric P8 is not being rebuilt first. Rather, we want to accelerate working with P8 through the possibilities of the cloud. We prefer to gradually introduce our customers to the new without touching the core. Nobody should be forced to switch to the cloud. The potential added value should be convincing.
When developing new solutions, by the way, we use the methods known from the Scrum process. Today, we work with responsibilities that are much more directly linked to the solutions for the customers. The business owner, for example, is responsible for knowing the requirements of the market and also taking care of marketing. The solution owner is something like the technical architect who is responsible for the technical properties and functions. And the product owner is responsible for a concrete service from development to deployment at the customer's site.
PLMportal: Does Eplan think the AI technology is mature enough to be used in industry?
Sebastian Seitz: In my opinion there is no question about that. But we have to decide what we want to use it for, what results it should provide us with, what data we need for it and what semantics we can compare with this data in order to train it. Predictive maintenance is on everyone's lips now, but that's just the beginning.
At the moment we have a team that is exclusively concerned with giving answers to such questions. What is happening here is real research. For us, this is an extremely exciting field in which we will present our solutions in due course.
PLMportal: Are you planning to participate in an industrial platform ecosystem like Adamos or Siemens MindSphere?
Sebastian Seitz: We don't see our solutions as an immediate component of such platforms. Our approach to this question is cloud-to-cloud connectivity. We want to make our services interesting for all platforms by using standards such as Industrial Data Space or Fiware, without becoming dependent.
The best service from a platform provider is of little use to us if we can only use it in this form in this one platform. Unfortunately, the new platform world is still as proprietary as we know it from the past of IT. We want our solutions to work everywhere.
PLMportal: PLM vendors have more or less given up the term PLM, at least it's obviously no longer the roof over engineering software or industrial software in general. How does Eplan deal with this? Is the connection to PLM systems from mechanical engineering still important?
Sebastian Seitz: In my opinion, PLM's promise to manage all data belonging to a product, including all departments involved, over the entire lifecycle has not been fulfilled. PLM has largely stopped at data exchange and management of part of the product development data. Nevertheless, the term is still in use.
Our approach: We make ourselves integrable. The need for consistent data over the lifecycle is undoubtedly there and correct. That's why we talk to the providers of the corresponding systems from 3DEXPERIENCE to Teamcenter, SAP and Pro.File to Windchill and Vault. Our data should be easy to integrate with all these environments.
PLMportal: Is the border between the old standard software areas becoming increasingly blurred? PLM, ERP or CRM, for example, but also between the subject-specific applications?
Sebastian Seitz: The broad debate about digitalization, Smart Factory and Industry 4.0 has led our customers to think like we do today in processes from beginning to end. The silos of SCM, CRM or ERP and the isolation of the individual application areas no longer fit into time. The "experience" of customer benefit is important. The customer journey, as it came from the online media, is also decisive for our customers today.
Who wants to have an offer, place an order, get the order confirmed, and pay the invoice before using the product? From the point of view of modern companies, all this takes forever. This is a waste of time and must be much easier and faster. Online. It must not take more days and weeks if it is possible online in seconds.
PLMportal: How do you see the development of industrial software? Is standard software, which is sold as a product in the form of licenses, outdated? To what extent do your customers today already demand solutions by using the software without having to buy entire packages or platforms?
Sebastian Seitz: The call for standard software is even growing stronger because it is necessary for the standardization of processes. The scope of performance of the large packages is still desired. But accessibility needs to be improved. The user needs better support. It must become much easier to use a CAx system, for example, "just for a moment". This is not yet the case.
Here machine learning and AI can help to support the simple and user-specific application much better. Eplan Smart Wiring is a typical example that makes it easier to support wiring via a digital twin of the control cabinet. These are the fields in which our main efforts are currently being made.
Our next topics? The digital twin in the form of the 3D control cabinet or the expansion and optimization of the Eplan Data Portal with a uniform data standard. Together with Rittal, we will make integration into the value-added chain of control and switchgear construction even rounder - and much more.