Field Report: Aras Community Event (ACE) 2016

Customer Stories and Accessible Thought Leadership Highlight This Year’s Event

by Martin van der Roest

Aras just concluded their annual Aras Community Event (ACE) in Detroit, Michigan.  The two and a half-day event in Motor City was packed with a combination of compelling customer stories, thought leadership, updates/roadmap for the Aras Innovator PLM solution, and practical and relevant implementation insights.  The uptick over last year’s attendance coupled with the addition of 32 new partners from around the globe, reinforces Aras as a disruptive player in the traditional PLM landscape.

 Peter Schroer, President and CEO of Aras

Peter Schroer, President and CEO of Aras

Peter Schroer, President and CEO of Aras, kicked off the event.  His comments were based on conversations he had with customers and prospects over the past year and what this means for Aras and its responsibility in the community.  This completely set the tone for the balance of the conference.  It was an open-palms conversation about what Aras is doing and needs to do to continue helping organizations drive business value and results.

An important and notable nuance separates Peter’s opening comments from other conferences that we have gone to in years past.  He side-stepped the often one-sided glowing declarations about “look at all the good things we have done this year” coupled with oracles of lofty and grandiose visions that can make one feel completely out of sync with the PLM vendor.  He did just the opposite.  There was a sense that Peter was in the trenches with you while guiding Aras to achieve both the near and long-term needs of its customers and prospects.  He doesn’t have to toot the horn … growth and customer adoption speak for itself.

John Sperling, VP Product Management, followed up with highlights of the product milestones accomplished over the past year.  And, there were several noteworthy releases such as Manufacturing Process Planning, Quality Management, Technical Documentation, and Visual Collaboration.  He then set the stage for the coming year with releases scheduled for the Supplier Portal module and upgrades to Manufacturing Process Planning along with several ongoing updates for many of the other modules.  The take-away is that Aras is working hard to extend its reach across the enterprise.

 "ARAS in the Round"

"ARAS in the Round"

The bookend of the conference was concluded with "Aras In the Round."  We don’t see this format very often.  It was Peter and Rob McAveney, Chief Architect, encircled by the attendees … boxing ring motif.  It was an open forum, unstructured format that encouraged questions and comments from the attendees.  The general tone of the session seemed to reinforce the community’s appreciation for the approach that Aras has taken along with expressing interests in a number of down-stream capabilities. 

Sandwiched between the opening and closing events was a full agenda of sessions.  They detailed newly released product capabilities, practical insights as to how best to take advantage of the Aras Innovator platform, Agile oriented implementation best practices and thought leadership concepts around such topics as Model Based System Engineering (MBSE) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Simon Floyd of Microsoft kicked off the second day with his keynote addressing “The Impact of IoT on Product Design.”  His narrative wove together the remarkable speed with which connectivity and communications have evolved and how this has affected a manufacturer of aircraft engines.   Over the past couple of decades the number of sensors on these engines have multiplied and the resulting data produced has increased by orders of magnitude.  By capturing data in nearly real-time, the engine manufacturer is able to drive greater insights into maintenance considerations and scheduling as well as establish a feedback loop into the design and engineering processes.

What was illuminated in this story is that the product lifecycle doesn’t conclude with MRO activities in the field.  Rather the significant opportunity is to apply the derived data for continuous improvement efforts.  In other words, he painted a picture of a full-circle lifecycle of activities.  Additionally, Simon identified the Aras Innovator platform as a way to support the data and as a mechanism to drive feedback into the design and engineering process.  That was a compelling argument as to why manufacturers need to design post-delivery feedback capabilities into their products.  A few conference attendees commented later that it was one of the most coherent presentations on IoT and its relevancy to the design and engineering process. 

 Pre-Conference Partner Session

Pre-Conference Partner Session

The Aras community is clearly interested in extending the value and presence of PLM in their organizations.  Aras answered this by queuing up a couple of sessions that spoke to the concepts of MBSE.  By capitalizing on lessons learned from the software development industry and Applications Lifecycle Management (ALM), Aras is working towards extending the BOM into a logical structure on the design end of the lifecycle spectrum and out to the physical structure supporting product obsolescence at the other end.  The terms “digital thread” and “digital twin” were used to reinforce this approach.  Another session augmented this presentation to address the treatment of options and variants … this of course will be essential to pushing PLM into the sales side of the business.

A number of presentations were done by customers.  The experiences and insights provided are an important and vital part of the Aras community.  Airbus, BAE Systems, and Mersen were among those that shared their stories.  In particular, Mersen talked about their selection process, and the need to improve collaboration across their global operations, facilitate the automated “push” of content to their eCommerce website, and eliminate several vertical silos of processes and data.  It turned out that they expanded the scope beyond their original expectations as they discovered the breadth and flexibility of the Aras solution.

And, of course, there were the countless off-line discussions.  The theme of the event was entitled “Innovation without Limitations.”  Indeed, the topics included everything from applying the Aras platform to “configure, price and quote” (CPQ) capabilities to treating product obsolescence and retirement.  It’s a reminder that where there are data and processes, Aras has an answer.  The possibilities seem endless.

Aras is the fastest growing PLM supplier on the market today for good reason.  The trifecta of notable factors is a company whose culture is steeped in being in the trenches with its customers, delivering a well-architected, flexible and scalable platform, and watching the customer’s back via their roadmap and accessible thought leadership.  The past year in many ways was a tipping point brought on by this trifecta.  ACE 2016 set the stage for what looks to be an exciting and breakthrough year.