Continental’s Hoeflich, BMW’s Probst and ProSTEP’s Vetterman (l-to-r) welcomed progress made on PLM openness (Photo: Claus Dick)

HANOVER -- Automakers and suppliers reported major progress in creating common IT standards to be used in product lifecycle management (PLM).

"We now have a common understanding with regard to the issue of openness in PLM systems and now have measurable criteria for that openness," said Steven Vetterman, who heads ProSTEP iViP, a global association promoting open standards.

Addressing the annual automotiveDAY conference here, Vetterman said core association members agree in principle on a "Codex of PLM Openness" or CPO, which now needs to be adopted by all major industry players.

"We're calling on everyone to sign the document and contribute further proposals for improvement," Vetterman said.

ProSTEP aims to establish more open IT solutions for PLM. It wants to set standards for data formats and create more transparent architectures. As the association says on its Web site: "The more open the IT solution, the higher will be its ability to be integrated into existing system environments and business processes. By seeking maximum system integration, companies want to ensure that they are able to use their data once it was generated continuously throughout the entire product lifecycle."

Vetterman was joined on the podium by BMW CIO Karl Probst and Elisabeth Hoeflich, CIO of supplier Continental. Both companies are among core members of ProSTEP iViP.

Probst said an industry-wide agreement on PLM openness is essential "from a cost and efficiency point of view." And Hoeflich added that the importance of the Codex lies in its agreement on "what data actually mean."

Said Hoeflich: "Managing complexity is a very big challenge for us."

It was clear during the discussion at the conference that reaching agreement on the Codex was - and remains - a difficult process.

Oliver Riedel, a senior Audi executive who is also on the board of ProSTEP, said it had been "incredibly difficult" to define selection criteria without running into anti-trust issues.

Karl-Heinz Zachries, managing director of business software provider Contact, said his company depends on the openness of partner systems. "And in that area we have been obstructed for years," he said.

Zachries said he had filed official complaints with the European Union on the issue and strongly welcomed the ProSTEP initiative for more openness.

Most major German automakers have signed up for the initiative. It is also supported by key IT players.

ProSTEP started the initiative for a CPO in 2011 and developedversion 1.0 together with BMW, Daimler, Dassault Systèmes, IBM, Oracle, PTC, SAP, Siemens PLM, T-Systems and Volkswagen.

The aim was to develop a common basic understanding on the subject of openness of IT-systems in the context of PLM.The partners definied measurable criteria in the process.

The CPO is a voluntary self-commitment for companies that is intended to generate seamless PLM data processes.

-By Arjen Bongard