Transform Manifesto Principle #5: APIs Deliver Data to the Point of Need

by | Apr 15, 2024 | Digital Transformation, Insights, Model-Based Enterprise

Engineering information should be delivered at the point of need, anywhere in the enterprise, through APIs.

This is the fifth in a series about the principles of the Transform Manifesto. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.

Engineering professionals don’t want to learn another application, visit another “workbench”, or modify their existing workflow; they want actionable intelligence delivered into their existing applications. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can be the solution. APIs can connect disparate systems even from different owners and deliver data into enterprise applications (like PLM, authoring tools, MES, Office365, etc) to give end-users the answers they need right where they need it.

An engineer recently described to us the experience of finding the requirements for drilling, threading, and reaming a hole. The requirements were complex because of the end-use environment and the standards imposed by industry and the customer. There were only three individual documents that governed the process (two industry standards and one customer spec) but those three documents referenced many others, and the engineer had to round up dozens of specific requirements from more than 10 different sources. She carefully crafted a set of instructions for the supplier and sent them out. Mission accomplished, right?

Three months later, one of the industry standards changed and the customer insisted on using the updated standard. The engineer had to review the requirements, revise the work instructions, and notify everyone in the internal and external supply chain of the changes. All of this work was manual and the supplier had to pause their production until the engineer was able to send the new requirements, a nearly three-week delay.

The manual labor and project delay could have been avoided by using APIs to bring updated data from the authoritative sources into the engineer’s system and down the supply chain to everyone using the data. APIs can autonomously monitor, interpret, aggregate, and deliver data from multiple sources so that engineers can do less manual labor, reduce errors, and spend more time doing real engineering.

APIs are the beginning of a build-your-own-tools renaissance using data elements from specs and standards.

APIs also come with a secret sauce. Using a robust open API with a variety of microservices, API developers can quickly develop simple apps to do big tasks like shop floor wizards, executable calculators, quality checklists, table look-ups, reference networks, and more. APIs are the beginning of a build-your-own-tools renaissance using data elements from specs and standards.

Nobody wants to play hide-and-seek with data in yet another fancy application. Engineers just want the good stuff delivered right into their everyday tools to help them make better decisions, faster. APIs deliver the goods with low development effort and low overhead. The SWISS API has over 200 available “calls” (i.e. commands) that enable you to query, extract, analyze, and compare data, and the API connects to many common enterprise systems including Siemens TeamCenter, PTC Windchill, PTC Creo, and Office365.

What do you think? Should engineering information flow to the places that need it, right when users need it? If you would benefit from actionable intelligence delivered to the right application, let’s talk.

If you want to read all seven principles of the Transform Manifesto, start here.