Chuck Grindstaff: Siemens PLM Software’s visionary leader
4 December 2013
Chuck Grindstaff, CEO and president of Siemens PLM Software, speaks to Karen McCandless about why the company remains a leader in the industry, as well as his dreams of producing wine on his farm in California.
With more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, Chuck Grindstaff has a raft of accomplishments under his belt. From being awarded a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Motion Picture Academy of the Arts and Sciences to being appointed CEO and president of Siemens PLM Software in October 2010, Grindstaff is a visionary leader. He talks to Karen McCandless about the company’s drive to stay at the forefront of product lifecycle management (PLM).
What new trends have you seen in the market in the past year and what continues to make Siemens PLM Software a leader here?
The overarching trend we have seen is that manufacturers want to be able to work with information from the earliest stages of design possible, making it increasingly important to digitise information. In addition, manufacturers are increasingly adopting a systems-engineering model to ensure all systems work together for modelling, analysis and design of the product. We have been seeing the same kind of trends for a few years now, but there is now the expectation of delivering this in a single thread. One way in which we stand out here is by constantly listening to what our customers want and incorporating this throughout our products. We also have a broad technology portfolio, not just through the PLM division, but also Siemens Corporation as a whole.
How can your solutions help manufacturers take advantage of the emerging challenges and opportunities of a digitally and socially connected world?
Accessing information from around the extended enterprise can be difficult, especially with the speed of change in today’s manufacturing environment. Our solutions can help manufacturers make sure the right data is available to the right people at the right time in a secure and highly-visual way and that there is an audit trail to ensure regulatory compliance.
You announced recently that you will be implementing a new application-based approach to product releases, what is the significance of this and why will it benefit your customers?
Previously, we released new versions of our products completely independently, which meant that IT teams had to install everything at once – the platform and infrastructure, as well as the applications. But, as Teamcenter grows, there are ever more applications available, such as Substance Compliance, Product Cost Management, Quality Management with CAPA and Briefcase Browser. By modularising the implementation, the platform and infrastructure can be installed first and then the applications on top of that. For example, if a customer is running Teamcenter 9.1, they will be able to use apps that have only been introduced with Teamcenter 10. This helps enable faster return on investment and allows companies to take advantage of new functionality as it is introduced.
How have recent acquisitions such as LMS strengthened your position in the market?
All our acquisitions form part of our systems-driven product development approach by closing the loop between the physical and virtual world throughout the entire process. They also allow us to improve the fidelity of our analytics model, which enables our customers to carry out more detailed and accurate analysis throughout the manufacturing process. With the LMS acquisition in particular, by working early in the design process before the geometry data is available, we can improve simulation accuracy.
Having announced in 2011 that you will be paying renewed attention to vertical industry solutions, how has that progressed and developed?
We have recently introduced the Industry Catalyst Series, which is a level of industry specific capabilities that are layered on top of the core infrastructure of our Teamcenter solution. A few years ago, if a defence contractor, for example, was interested in Teamcenter, we had to configure the solution to make sure all the industry-specific functionality was available. We have now bundled this together into a quick start, pre-packaged combination of industry best practice guides, templates and software. This includes regulatory compliance capabilities, quality control standards and change management functionality. Manufacturers will benefit from a reduced implementation time and a faster return on investment. We are rolling these offerings out across industries such as medical devices, automotive, electronics, consumer products, marine, energy, machinery and aerospace and are working on expanding this over the coming months.
How important is your partnership with Microsoft and the use of Microsoft technologies to support your solutions?
Our partnership with Microsoft is one of the most important we have at the company, arguably the most important. Teamcenter is fully integrated with Microsoft Office meaning that manufacturers can extend PLM to the desktop through a familiar user interface (UI). Through the Teamcenter Office Live interface, our customers can interact with Teamcenter through Word and Excel, which is crucial as Excel is probably the most widely used engineering tool in the industry. Our customers are very keen to make sure that the systems they use are as simple and clean as possible, which is a real advantage of the Office UI. Teamcenter leverages the Microsoft SQL Server database solution to enable data collection and analysis and report production from a single version of the truth. Meanwhile, the Teamcenter Community solution runs on Microsoft SharePoint to enable seamless and secure collaboration across the entire supply chain. We are also working with Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud solution, as well as Windows 8.
What technology has played a major part in both your career and personal life?
The biggest change I have seen in recent years is the creation of the desktop operating system. Previously, we had to build our own workstations, but when Microsoft introduced Windows running on PCs this completely changed the way we deliver our systems and meant we didn’t have to focus on hardware development. Then there are the recent advances in internet connectivity and social computing. The developments in analytics mean that companies can handle the terabytes of ‘big data’ that are generated through these advances, but there is still a lot to do in this area. On a personal level the ability to work and communicate wherever I am in the world has had a really powerful impact on my life.
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life – either personally or professionally?
I wouldn’t say there has been one individual, but my father’s attention to detail and emphasis on quality has influenced my career and leadership style. In his work in the entertainment industry he was very focused on making sure things were done right the first time. My uncle had a relentless focus on work and on customer satisfaction, which also inspired me. This is similar to former Siemens CEO Tony Affuso, as he always strived to make sure the company exceeded our customers’ expectations. The combination of quality, work ethic and customer service have all shaped the way I work.
Where do your interests lie outside work?
Around four years ago, along with my family, we started growing grapes at our farm in California. This will be the first year we will be able to harvest the grapes. It’s exciting but we’ve got lots of preparation to do and infrastructure to put in place first. Eventually we hope to be able to produce wine! Other than that, I love playing a few rounds of golf and spending time with the family.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of Prime
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