Siemens PLM Connection stage
Striding purposefully out of Birmingham New Street Station for 15 minutes in the wrong direction is an unsatisfactory way to start any business day, particularly when Siemens PLM Connection 2013 has made it ridiculously easy for attendees to find the venue by opting for one of the most iconic buildings in the city.
Unfortunately, this journalist does not possess a sense of direction but this ceased to be a problem once I entered the cavernous ICC, because from the entrance, through the lobby, up the escalator and standing guard at strategic points throughout the exhibition space was a legion of helpful stewards to ensure everybody was where they were meant to be.
This was TCT Magazine's first time at Siemens PLM Connection 2013 and, all things considered, the day was pleasant, if busy.
Upon arrival, I signed in and had one of those very British moments while fumbling for the right lanyard with one of the day's speakers, Adrian Brook, a Siemens CAx specialist who presented part of the Maximising Design Productivity presentation I sat in on. Presently, a steward appeared and furnished me with my lanyard and goodie bag and I was directed towards the main exhibition space, where attendees were mingling around the tables of teas and coffees and warm pastries.
It was while enjoying this moment of calm that I got to talking with another speaker, Dr Jane Flower, Head of Systems Engineering at Resource. Dr Flower was one of the speakers in the Systems Engineering - How we got to Mars presentation, which I would later attend and we both agreed that on first impressions the event seemed very promising.
After a quick recce of the 20-or-so stands, the announcement was made for visitors to file into the main auditorium for the keynotes.
Thundering rock music welcomed our industry stars on stage, which seemed to drum up enthusiasm among the crowds. By this point I had become acquainted with Ron Elston of Elston Engineering Services REP Systems and Solutions in Worcester, who was affiliated with TEAM Engineering, event silver sponsor and the longest established reseller for Siemens PLM Software in the UK. Mr Elston - who I chatted to throughout the day - dutifully made notes throughout the keynote session, which commenced with a rousing video about PLM and how it was used to get the Curiosity to Mars.
It is worth explaining briefly what Siemens PLM is. Siemens is a world-leading provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software that helps companies optimise their efficiency by identifying how to get the best out of their lifecycle processes, from planning and development through to the factory floor and support systems.
Senior Vice-President of Industries at Siemens took to the stage to discuss the company's investment strategy for PLM, followed by Executive Director of Business and Innovation at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, who related PLM to the CERN Large Hadron Collider and finding the Higgs Bosun. Chief Technologist at HP James Morrish concluded the keynotes with a presentation on HP and NVIDIA's current and future innovations, and Business Development Director David Littlejohn rounded off the first session of the day by introducing the breakouts and requesting us all to Tweet about our days - although one of the rooms two of my scheduled presentations were held in was in the basement and had no signal, meaning my live-action Tweets went out a little after those talks had ended.
Using the platform
I used the short break between presentation blocks to chat to Majenta PLM. Marketing Manager Louise Sipple was kind enough to give me a few minutes of her time to tell TCT Magazine about the team's experience at Siemens PLM so far.
"We're really excited to be here," she told me, "we have Teradici here with us and a display of the 3D printing stuff we are involved in on the CAD side - it's really exciting stuff."
Ms Sipple added: "This is our first time here since they started doing the show and we think it's good for our customers to see us at events such as these."
It seems likely that Majenta PLM will return to Siemens PLM Connection in future. The company had a prominent stand in the heart of the action, with those manning it handling a constant stream of enquiries as visitors did the rounds.
After this short break the time had come to try and locate our breakout session. There were eight different talks all taking place in different parts of the enormous ICC building and if it was not for the abundance of venue stewards it is unlikely I would have been able to find SU1 on my own in time for the start of the Solid Edge ST6 preview.
UK Channel Manager for Solid Edge at Siemens PLM Software Russ Dyer commenced proceedings, forewarning us of the upcoming Solid Edge announcement that would be made at the University of Cincinnati next week that promises to place Solid Edge firmly in the mainstream CAD market. Bill McClure then took to the stage, with his section of the talk shifting the focus to the 3D realm. He revealed that by integrating Solid Edge with the iPad, Android technology and even bringing in video sharing platform YouTube is key to making Solid Edge technology accessible and ensuring its lead in the competitive CAD market.
"I think you can tell we are really excited about this," he stated.
A quick packed lunch was provided by the catering staff and allowed a little time for more networking. I took the break before the next batch of afternoon presentations to visit the guys at the Renishaw stand. Renishaw and TCT Magazine have a good relationship and the company ensures its presence is known at trade events such as these. Indeed, Renishaw has reserved a decent-sized stand (D24) at the upcoming TCT Show + Personalize this September, while Rapid Manufacturing Manager Jeremy Pullin is sure to draw a crowd when he takes to the stage for his presentation.
Renishaw's presence at Siemens PLM was a more modest affair than we have seen in the past, but Sales Development Manager Steve Crownshaw and Technical Marketing Engineer David Ewing were unsure what shape the day would take for them, as it was their first time exhibiting at the event, suggesting I ask them about their experience again at the end of the day.
3D printing the future
Breakout session 2 began with What's New in Digital Manufacturing, which included a rousing talk from Senior Vice-President and General Manager of the Manufacturing Engineering Software solution segment of SISW Zvi Feuer.
Mr Feuer extolled the benefits of harnessing 3D printing technology, describing it as a "major" development in terms of manufacturing, particularly as its metal applications and are becoming more diverse as laser technology advances.
"Today, 3D printing is becoming a very big thing. We are doing quite a bit of R&D into these machines. There's quite a bit of research going on and we're collaborating with the MTC.
"This is the manufacturing of the future. Rolls-Royce has been looking at this for years and we've heard about ships carrying 3D printers on board to repair aircraft parts on the ship. This (technology) is going to go very far," he stated.
When this stirring address came to an end, we moved rooms to the next breakout session. My chosen presentation was Systems Engineering - How we got to Mars with Siemens Aerospace and Defence expert Jon Field, Country Manager for LMS UK Ian Strath, co-founder and Director at Asaro Systems Steve Coombs and Dr Flower who I met at the beginning of the day. The presentation touched on the use of CAD and embedded software and smoothing the pathway to project completion with effective systems engineering.
One more break came before the final block of presentations and I decided to check back in on Renishaw.
Mr Ewing told me their day at Siemens PLM has given them "some interesting leads", as the work the company does with exotic materials had "garnered some interest" - but not as much as they would have liked, describing the flow of enquiries as "slow".
When asked why he thought this was the case compared to other shows, the marketing expert claimed it was the format, with not enough time being given for exploring the stands, as attendees were occupied with a packed timetable of talks.
"It's not an additive market really," he conceded, "but we were hoping to get a but more market research into what other people are doing."
Maximising Design Productivity, which did not yield much that would be relevant to TCT Magazine despite being a very good presentation, was the final breakout of the day. I bowed out of the drinks reception and handed back my lanyard to join the crush of commuters on the next north west-bound train.
The day was jam-packed with information and my jotter is crammed with notes on the talks, the details of the new contacts I made and potential features to pursue scribbled on both sides of the paper. Maybe Renishaw has a point; that there is so much for attendees to do there is not enough time for the exhibitors to establish leads and for visitors to absorb all the information they have been given on the spot. Nevertheless, Siemens PLM Connection 2013 ran like clockwork and the atmosphere was friendly and industrious - and surely leaving any trade show with a full notebook is a good thing?