Aras Acquires MRO Player to Close the Product Lifecycle Loop
Verdi Ogewell posted on February 12, 2018 | | 4646 views

Aras PLM continues to play offense. The company recently announced it acquired the Impresa Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) business from Infospectrum.

The purchase of Impresa looks like a good fit. The idea is to integrate this solution into the Aras PLM suite, Innovator, and offer complementary MRO capabilities to help manufacturers to digitally transform the development and maintenance of complex products.

“Previously, Aras had been able to cover 60-70 percent of MRO use cases with the existing applications on our platform. Through the acquisition of Impresa, we are now able to cover the full range of MRO use cases and data models for the maintenance of complex products and assets in the field,” says Aras CEO Peter Schroer.

Aras plans to deliver both PLM and MRO on a single platform that extends digital product information into the field.

As engineering.com reported last year, Aras raised $40 million in venture capital from Silver Lake Kraftwerk and GE Ventures. The Impresa deal means that they have started to spend that investment to tie the digital thread.

As of this writing, no purchase price for the Impresa deal has been released.

CONDUCTING TRANSFORMATION. “Companies choose Aras as a digital transformation partner to modernize their most complex engineering and manufacturing processes. They have been asking for an MRO application to extend their journey,” said Aras CEO, Peter Schroer. He continued, “With the acquisition of Impresa, we are adding a highly-talented team and proven solution to further expand our MRO capabilities and to be the first to connect MRO to the Digital Thread on a single platform.”
CONDUCTING TRANSFORMATION. “Companies choose Aras as a digital transformation partner to modernize their most complex engineering and manufacturing processes. They have been asking for an MRO application to extend their journey,” said Aras CEO, Peter Schroer. He continued, “With the acquisition of Impresa, we are adding a highly-talented team and proven solution to further expand our MRO capabilities and to be the first to connect MRO to the Digital Thread on a single platform.”

Aras and its community have identified MRO as a business-critical solution for both realizing the benefit of the Digital Thread and the Digital Twin. For typical complex assets—such as airplanes, automobiles, ships, weapon systems, industrial equipment—these products experience many changes to configurations in the field and have very long lifetimes. Maintenance is key to sustaining these assets.

The MRO perspective is a reasonable way to look at this situation, and indicates that Aras is moving in a direction resembling what the big PLM players, such as Dassault Systèmes and Siemens PLM, already have in place. MRO solutions are part of these companies’ respective solution suites, 3DEXPERIENCE and the Digital Innovation Platform (including Teamcenter).

What it Takes to Compete with the “Big PLM Guys”

Two important things in connection to this are that Aras PLM has had commercial successes in these fields—remember the Airbus 30,000 seat deal in aerospace, and GM’s 50,000 seats in automotive? But as disruptive technologies transform product realization and operation, progress is necessary. To be able to compete with the “big PLM guys,” Schroer and his coworkers must develop solutions that can meet these industries’ paths forward and match their resulting technological needs.

PREDICTIVE MAINTENANCE & DIGITAL TWINS. With digital twins, companies are seeing both internal and external benefits. Precise analytic modeling and predictive maintenance are replacing unscheduled maintenance. Schroer noted that, “Digital Twins mean that we can achieve new levels of predictive maintenance on aircraft.” Bottom line, airlines can have more planes in the sky more of the time—in other words, more money made and saved. “MRO a la Aras will play a significant role in this context,” Schroer asserted.
PREDICTIVE MAINTENANCE & DIGITAL TWINS. With digital twins, companies are seeing both internal and external benefits. Precise analytic modeling and predictive maintenance are replacing unscheduled maintenance. Schroer noted that, “Digital Twins mean that we can achieve new levels of predictive maintenance on aircraft.” Bottom line, airlines can have more planes in the sky more of the time—in other words, more money made and saved. “MRO a la Aras will play a significant role in this context,” Schroer asserted.

Take aerospace as an example. This industry segment is characteristically an early adopter of smart design, manufacturing and maintenance solutions. The result is that the realization and operation of modern aircraft will generate “mountains” of data relating to, among other things, maintenance. What complicates the picture is that Digital Twins and Digital Thread initiatives are, or will become, part of the strategy in all major producers in segments such as aerospace and automotive.

In a recent report from March 2017, global giant consultant Capgemeni pointed out the industries with the most “smart manufacturing” initiatives. The research showed that 62 percent of the aerospace and defense industries have this type of smart initiative, while automotive with 50 percent and energy and utilities with 42 percent finish second and third.

One result is a growing accumulation of big data volumes. How effectively these terabytes of data are handled, analyzed and simulated will become mission critical as Digital Twin and Digital Thread concepts are gaining ground. It will also affect technicians’ insights into things like engine status and how aircraft maintenance is performed and documented.

Connections to aircraft in the field is imperative to how maintenance data can be correlated with the history of the engine and tell what is going on inside it. Aircraft are, after all, expensive assets so it is valuable to maintain engines to give them a longer life and minimize time in hangars.

“When there is a problem discovered after years of operation in the field, it’s been difficult and sometimes impossible for the owner or operator to trace a ’thread’ of information linking the problem to find the root cause,” commented Schroer.

He continued, “Was it a bad requirement? Wrong design? Poor testing? Or was the problem introduced during maintenance due to wrong tear-down instructions? Faulty replacement parts? Our Digital Thread vision is to have a real-time view from the requirement through the design all the way to the recent operations and repairs, so that faster, better decisions can be made.  Having a fully incorporated MRO application helps the Aras community to realize the vision for Digital Thread.”

CONDUCTING TRANSFORMATION. The Digital Thread is key to Aras’ acquisition strategy. “We have a unique approach to acquisitions”, said Peter Schroer. “Our vision is that each acquired application gets incorporated onto our platform.  In other words, we don’t just sell separate systems with a new brand the way our competitors do. With Aras, each acquired application gets 100 percent ‘cloned’ onto the Aras PLM Platform so the customer experience is always consistent and sustainable. This is important because it makes applications inherently connected for customers and makes Aras far more scalable.”
CONDUCTING TRANSFORMATION. The Digital Thread is key to Aras’ acquisition strategy. “We have a unique approach to acquisitions”, said Peter Schroer. “Our vision is that each acquired application gets incorporated onto our platform. In other words, we don’t just sell separate systems with a new brand the way our competitors do. With Aras, each acquired application gets 100 percent ‘cloned’ onto the Aras PLM Platform so the customer experience is always consistent and sustainable. This is important because it makes applications inherently connected for customers and makes Aras far more scalable.”

Why is Realizing Digital Thread Configuration so Important?

As is often the case, customers are pushing software developers forward.

“Although generally in early phases,” CIMdata analyst Peter Bilello said in my interview with him during PDT Europe, “Digital Twin and Thread concepts have gained a lot of interest.”

Schroer agrees, claiming that this also applies for Aras’ customers. The community is very interested in achieving capabilities in these areas,“ They have pushed us to deliver greater MRO capabilities in connection to this.” Why?

“MRO is equally important in realizing the Digital Twin configuration,” Schroer said, adding that, “The most compelling driver for achieving Digital Twin capability is to drive real-time, continuous simulation of the product within known operating parameters.”

Schroer noted that if you can simulate the configuration of a specific aircraft with the actual loading conditions reported by IoT sensors, then new levels of predictive maintenance on that aircraft will be within reach. This will save the owner and operator billions of dollars in unplanned downtime, lost usage and unnecessary repairs.  

“The most important topic is knowing the actual configuration – Digital Twin configuration – of each specific maintained product and asset.  In our view, this is impossible without PLM connected with MRO functions which are used all over the world in the repair depots,” Schroer concluded.

Simulating a Digital Twin is Not Easy

While simulation is compelling in the context of digital twins, there are some issues that make it harder than one would imagine to carry a common simulation strategy through. I recently spoke to Gartner’s Marc Halpern about this, and he pointed toward a couple problems worth considering.

First, Halpern said, “I think it is a significant risk that some companies will embark on a digital twin journey without having fully identified and reached consensus on what will be the business objective and how will this be implemented or executed. As well as how are you going to monetize it?”

“There’s still a lot of hype about digital twins,” he continued. “For example, there will possibly be simulation models associated with the digital twin, but you’ll never know exactly what simulations you’re going to need when you first start out. So, we really need an open architecture that will allow the connection of different simulation capabilities and be able to have those co-exist and be able to do multi-physics types of analysis or simulation; even under unexpected circumstances.”  

“I’ve seen a number of circumstances where senior executives in companies who have very little technical background, but perhaps they have great business savvy. They see the potential opportunity of digital twins if it all worked perfectly. For example, they hear about simulation, but they don’t understand that this idea of predictive capabilities and analytics comes at a price—that it could be multiple simulation models that need to be attached to the digital twin model. And the way that the digital twin as initially designed may not accommodate those models,” Halpern added.

“I have seen many demos that suggest that simulation is going to be easy. You see the end results and not all of the risk involved.”

Going From 60 – 70% of MRO Coverage to 100%

Before the Impresa acquisition, Aras claimed to be able to cover 60 to 70 percent of MRO use cases with the existing applications on their Innovator platform.  Through the acquisition of Impresa, this PLM “Mind Share Leader” is now able to cover the full range of MRO use cases and data models for the maintenance of complex products and assets in the field.

“The Aras community has been using Aras in the maintenance of helicopters, aircraft, radar sites, ships and other complex assets for over a decade,” claims Schroer. He explained that, “these users have leveraged our standard solutions for Document Management, Configuration Management (As-Maintained configurations), Change workflows, Project Management, CAD Visualization and Quality Systems compliance.”

Enabling the Digital Thread

Industries worldwide are striving for flexible platforms; ones "which can embrace tools from many vendors and handle the new product life cycle needs," as CIMdata describes it. Some of the "old" software tools are not sufficient for this task. “Companies need a much more flexible, scalable and upgradeable platform for business,” said Schroer.

The vision is that with Aras, they can get several tools to convert and optimize every step of the product lifecycle. By enabling the digital thread that connects data and processes from system technology and simulation, to smart manufacturing and predictive maintenance, the Aras platform contributes to an environment where you can get the digital twin—the exact digital representation of a car, a ship or an airplane engine, working flawlessly through automation and associativity.

MASSIVE MRO. With the acquisition of Impresa from Infospectrum, Aras aims to complete its PLM platform with a massive MRO solution, linking product development with service and maintenance efforts in the field.
MASSIVE MRO. With the acquisition of Impresa from Infospectrum, Aras aims to complete its PLM platform with a massive MRO solution, linking product development with service and maintenance efforts in the field.

Why Companies Must Make a Transformation Journey

In order to stay ahead of the competition, manufacturers must continuously work on developing next-generation products and offering flexibility in "capacity-as-a-service offers," claims Schroer.

This means they must transform the way they develop products and plan how these products should be served in the field. Linking their PLM solution to MRO is one way to close the product lifecycle loop by creating a flow of product data from the field and end-user solutions to their product development capabilities.

Both owners and operators have strong incentives to improve their ability to handle complex products—which they may still own if they are offering "products-as-a-service" — and control the entire chain to minimize downtime and maximize bottom line profitability. One effect of this is to have control of product design to optimize service efforts; for example, by proactively replacing worn components.

Having access to an unbroken digital chain that combines PLM tools with the maintenance side can optimize both the functionality and economy of the products.

“STAYING AHEAD.” Aras is committed to staying ahead of the pack when it comes developing digital thread solutions, which involves linking IT solution support
“STAYING AHEAD.” Aras is committed to staying ahead of the pack when it comes developing digital thread solutions, which involves linking IT solution support "end-to-end."

The Critical Role of the Digital Thread

Throughout all this, the “digital thread” plays a crucial role. It's about linking everything "end-to-end.” This can be a challenge for users with older PLM solutions that can be inflexible when it comes to incorporating the disruptive technologies that are exploding onto the market.

In this situation, these older systems, processes and fragmented IT architectures must be modified and adapted to enable new business goals. Processes and systems must be transformed into a development cycle where departments are linked together, removing operational silos and creating full traceability over the entire product lifecycle.

This is the ideal scenario that Aras, along with other PLM platform developers, are now aiming for. While working towards platforms for digital threads and digital twins, Aras and their competitors are in the early stages of the development of complete connected tools.

Aras's Role as a Change Partner

Peter Schroer speaks about Aras' role as digital change partner, and his confidence in his own platform solutions is limitless. The company has had great success in recent years, so there are good reasons for his self-confidence.

"Aras chooses digital transformation partners to modernize its most complex technology and manufacturing processes today and for the future," Schroer says. "They also want and have asked us for an MRO application to extend the journey. With the acquisition of Impresa, we add a highly talented team and proven solution to further expand our MRO capabilities. In short, we want to be the first to connect MRO to the digital thread on a single platform."

The Risk of Errors and Mistakes

Schroer also points out that the ability to understand a product's configuration is crucial to optimizing how it is operated and maintained.

"Connecting ‘As-Built data’ to ‘As-Maintained data’ is a powerful step forward for manufacturers who want to keep these complex assets for their customers," says Schroer.

The head of the Innovator Solution Architecture, Rob McAveney, agrees, “Companies that maintain large, complex assets have traditionally tried to transfer information from older PLM systems to standalone MRO systems or mixed MRO and PLM through third-party systems. These approaches often result in mistakes, and mistakes are not sustainable. Impresa on the Aras PLM platform enables companies to transform their processes to track everything from asset configuration to utilization and predictable maintenance.”

Free for Current Aras Customers

As part of the transaction, Aras will acquire technology, intellectual property and subject expertise. Aras plans to start the integration work immediately so as to get Impresa’s MRO technology in place as soon as possible on the Aras PLM platform. We see this as a wise move, as integration is perhaps the most critical success factor for a commercially fruitful result.

A final note—the Aras Impresa MRO software will be available as part of Aras’s corporate subscription and is immediately available, free of charge, for current Aras subscribers.


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