PLM in use in teaching: Students discussing the production process of e-bikes

The Starting Point for Implementing Digital Transformation: Excellent Teaching

Steinbeis experts develop tool kit-based PLM teaching module PLM-Tactile

Digitalization in combination with Industry 4.0 (cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things) will decide the destiny of German industry. A successful transformation within a company requires the horizontal integration (also known as lateral integration) and the design of product and project information flows based on lean principles. The implementation of this transformation requires skilled young professionals capable of comprehending the creation of information and the information flow within a company. In addition, their qualification has to include the knowledge and practical application of methods of product lifecycle management (PLM). The Steinbeis Transfer Center for Computer Applications in Engineering developed a modular system based teaching module in collaboration with Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and Siemens Industry Software GmbH. The toolkit will be made available to universities and universities of applied sciences.

Product lifecycle management (PLM) is offered as an interdisciplinary topic to university students and will be a familiar part of everyday work. PLM methods enable companies to correctly map their product development process (PDP) in order to become leaders in digitalization. In daily company life, topics such as change management and requirement management bring together professionals of a variety of fields. In these cases where it is crucial to combine knowledge of engineering, business administration, IT and other fields – PLM training is essential to speaking the same language.

The PLM teaching moldule „PLM with Teamcenter and Active Workspace in Training“ (or PLM-Tactile for short) was developed under the leadership of Professor Dr.-Ing. Jorg W. Fischer at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences. The module sets out to show the methodological approach of the PLM idea.

PLM-Tactile consists of several modules for use in lecturing. Each module is assembled to focus on the main priority of different educational facilities and may be extended to include further information. The teaching methods used for the module are based on the kind of use case scenarios encountered in industry. PLM-Tactile provides a case study to develop an e-bike on a PLM platform including CAx applications. As its name suggests, PLM-Tactile can make product lifecycle management more tangible and easier to understand. The case study allows students to complete tasks by working with the digital twins of the e-bike and the associated bicycle factory. During the exercise, they have to adopt the different roles performed in the product development process. The goal is to enter the growing e-bike market. The case study leads the students through the individual phases of product development using the V-Model according to VDI guideline 2206.

The teaching module was developed at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Computer Applications in Engineering. Jorg W. Fischer is a partner at the center: “Our Steinbeis Transfer Center and Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences were the ideal partners for implementing this idea – Karlsruhe has been prioritizing this area for five years now, with its master’s degree on computer-integrated product and process development, and these are important topics for digital transformation.” To develop the teaching module, the Steinbeis Transfer Center formed a network spanning a variety of universities and universities of applied sciences. Siemens Software GmbH was also involved as an expert in technology and processes.

Workflow-based life cycle management at the Team Center

“To implement a software-assisted course is a challenge for any individual professor,” explains Fischer. “PLM lectures should equip students with the skills they need to work with confidence in the digital PEP scenarios of the future.” To do this, professors have to work their way into different topics touched on by PLM, starting with requirement management and culminating in after sales and reutilization. If a course needs to be supported by exercises, it is necessary to realize the digital process chain in a PLM system and to develop a suitable scenario for the exercise. “It´s especially in this area where the professors need support with PLM-Tactie”, continues Fischer.

PLM courses are aimed at students of engineering, economics and IT degree courses at universities and higher education establishments of applied sciences. Due to the modular design, it is easy to integrate the teaching module into bachelor and master degree courses. The aim is to provide professors with a wide choice of contents to develop their own PLM lectures. For each of the ten core PLM topics, there are modules as well as exercises and instruction videos. Each module can be used by a university to match their given situation, and the modules may be adapted as required. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ute Dietrich of the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin (HTW Berlin), which is now using PLM-Tactile to include the topic of PLM in its own lectures, says: “This lecturing modular system and the exercises they come with are excellent; they’ve provided us with the ideal foundation. The use cases in particular go down really well with our students and they scored highly in evaluations. We plan to introduce more module items in the future, step by step.”

The Environment Campus at Trier University of Applied Sciences has also made use of the output of the Steinbeis project. For the first time, it now includes PLM in their own teaching. “We receive really good feedback from our students on the PLM teaching module. They really recognized quickly why the topic of PLM is important to them. We would never have been able to produce a teaching module without support, not of this quality or in such a short time,” says Stefan Hirsch, a lecturer in the mechanical engineering department on the Environment Campus. The starting point on the university campus in Trier was PLM-Tactile, which it integrated into a master’s module on product data management. This will be used as a basis for creating its own PLM Module after a further round of accreditation.

The teaching materials for PLM-Tactile are provided for free by Siemens in collaboration with the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Computer Applications in Engineering. The Steinbeis Transfer Center supports the institutions to adapt PLM-Tactile to their specific needs and gives advice to the Implementation of the PLM system (Teamcenter) which is necessary for the exercises.


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg W. Fischer, Jürgen Klinzmann
Steinbeis Transfer Center Computer Applications in Engineering (STZ-RIM) (Karlsruhe)