Deep-diving into customer processes

By Ashley_Eckhoff

It’s not often that you get to try your hand at a completely different career, but not long ago I found myself sawing through bones to give a patient a knee implant that would allow them to regain their motion without debilitating pain. No, I’m not a surgeon. I’m far from it. And I guess I should come clean and admit that the patient was a simulated, blood-free, but quite realistic knee joint without a living human attached. But that day I got a small glimpse of what a surgeon goes through every day to repair the flesh and bones that we live our lives in, and it was extremely interesting. It’s not a job for me, but I’m thankful for the people who are there to mend our broken human machines.

Bone Implant

The point of this exercise was not to train me to be a surgeon, but for me to learn how medical knee implants are used in the field. One of our customers designs and manufactures these knee implants and designing the implant itself is just one part of a very involved process. The entire surgery procedure includes not just the implant, but also a set of various sized guides to show the surgeon where to cut, several measuring tools to place the implant properly and to gauge the size of the implant needed, and quite a few manual and power tools for setting guide pins, cutting out the diseased bone, and setting the implant. Understanding that the implant is just one part of a very involved procedure will help me to better understand the needs this particular customer has in designing parts for the entire breadth of the process.

As a Product Manager, I feel that the best and most exciting part of my job is interacting directly with a customer to learn as deeply as possible what they do with our software so that we can use that knowledge to make NX better for that customer. Over the years, I’ve watched people layup composite materials for a spacecraft, plugged my ears as huge stamping machines churned out sheet metal parts one after another, stood inside a huge cylindrical truss used to hold up cables for a mountain-going gondola, and watched as metal brackets materialized out of thin air as a laser hit metal powder in a 3D printer. So, operating on a knee was just one of a long string of situations I’ve found myself in while tracking down elusive knowledge of what our customers do and need to do with our software.

However, it is this exact knowledge that allows us to make products that are so effective for our customers. At Siemens, we try to take every opportunity available to gather knowledge about our customers’ needs, processes, and workflows. We get this knowledge through customer visits, one-on-one discussions, through our users conferences, and even through our beta testing events. Every opportunity we have to interface with our customer base is an opportunity to better understand their needs for our software.

Foot Pin Implants

I don’t expect I’ll ever do pseudo-surgery again, but who knows. Tomorrow I might be watching a customer lovingly apply styled blends to an automobile body, or feeling the breeze as a printing press turns out copy after copy of a new manuscript at lightning speed, or listening to a designer describe the special needs for drill maintenance in the oil refining industry. It is this deep-diving into our customers’ processes that is part of our special sauce at Siemens, and I have a feeling that it will always be one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of my job here. So, if you get a chance, invite us over for a visit. The more we deep-dive into what you do, the better our software will get, and the more useful it will become for your particular processes.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at