Doesn’t PLM 4.0 start with Customer-centricity & end with the Customer Experience?

When I first became excited over the Industry 4.0 Technologies, my inquisitive childhood trait kicked-in; I had to know the answer to so many “whys”.

I had to understand how these new and exciting technologies could really impact the enterprise and what would drive their take-up at scale and internationally. I consider myself a slow-starter when I come across something new, because I have to understand the details before I do too much.

Today, while the learning curve is steep, it all makes sense at a manufacturing level. Those i4.0 technologies blend data extraction, analysis and usage for the improvement in enterprise productivity, product design, manufacture and servicing.

It’s all tied together through the Customer Relationship (CRM), Product Lifecycle (PLM) and Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) applications. And, it’s all driven by the new and ever evolving customer expectations, under the banner of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

You’ll hear me regularly define companies as being in “defense” or “offense” mode and constantly pushing everyone I come into contact with to be aligned with the new Digital Culture of Offense mode realizing improved productivity, product innovation and customer experience.

Constantly pushing the boundaries of customer expectations through improved experiences and products is the route to growth, survival and success in the 4IR.

It has to tie back through your holistic Product Lifecycle methodology that of course includes Smarter Manufacturing.

Reverse-engineering the Customer Experience (CX) to PLM 4.0

Moving the current state of your customer experience to the future state is complex and includes significant shifts in organizational culture and business processes. The reality is of course the threat of risk and cost and thus procrastination in undertaking such a project or series of projects.

However there is little choice but to embark on these business transformations, because to not do so would leave a stagnating customer experience and series of products, leaving no matter the enterprise the huge risk of losing market share and business.

If you hadn’t noticed already, I am a “PLM 4.0 nut” but really because I want to see Product Innovation in all my customers.

However, for innovation there is a much better alternative by integrating the CX across all touch-points back into the product ideation and design processes for the betterment of:

  • Simultaneous development of the customer experience and product
  • Delivering a design that makes servicing, product reuse/recycling a positive customer experience
  • A design focused equally across customers’ ongoing needs and initial point of sale

This move to embracing the customer experience and product design thinking provides opportunities for the creation of multiple new business models and revenue streams.

PLM Customer-centric Business Focus

The main focus of PLM remains consistent in this new data rich and cloud based environment:

Customer benefits:

Your new Digital Culture should revolve around the fundamentals of customer-centricity: personalization and speed of delivery.
As a result, speed of innovation, design and manufacturing are recognized as the key approaches further enabled by i4.0 technologies: design of product type, including platform based and modularized, process modeling and management, knowledge management and collaboratively engineered.

Enterprise benefits:

From the resulting customer benefits, the enterprise benefits through optimized speed-to-market, volume and profit.

Installing an effective PLM Solution is a full project and blended with Industry4.0 technologies, one with tremendous potential returns; enhanced, scalable, and personalized products, to maximize customer satisfaction and profitability.

PLM helps facilitate these objectives through the creation of Product Innovation Platforms (PIP) that accelerate start up processes, design collaboration, minimize time to market cost and maximize the revenue generated by a product.

Customer Information Makes the New PLM 4.0

Since the introduction of the internet, access to customer information has been accelerating and more so recently with the data extraction, storage and analytics tools of IoT, Cloud & BigData.

Having access to this information is set to impact how manufacturing enterprises plan, design and service future products:

Product & CX Design

This is where I see the greatest impact through the leveraging of customer information to understand how your product is or isn’t meeting customer expectations will allow the design to in future meet CX expectations during introduction, launch, purchase and ownership.

But What Do You Need

Investing in IIoT, analytical and automation tools. Managing the data through a strong Customer Relationship Management application integrated with your PLM.

Your PLM will need flexibility to incorporate the additional data and processes.

The CRM & PLM Marriage

Imagine all that customer data entering your CRM with increasing voracity. For years it’s been locked away, ignored and filtered with inconsistent impact in the design and product lifecycle process. Today, we have the ability to make sense of it and use it intelligently.

For instance product warranties that are such a huge part of an enterprise financial model, often see detailed customer complaints that could be handled better through faster corrective action enabled via a comprehensive PLM Single-source of Product Data.

Through the integration of CRM based information within the product design and development process, it provides for:

  • The proactive designing out of product issues for future generations
  • Reliability improvement through an understanding of customer usage behaviors
  • The performance of root cause analysis

Agile Innovation Platform

While the initial implementation of traditional PLM enabling systems, such as PDM, remains important, it can quickly take a turn for the worse by the cost and disruption from continuing upgrades and deployment to new areas, projects, and programs, as well as by partnerships and acquisitions that bring new, unpredictable mash-up of tools and processes.

As a result, these monolithic enterprise IT applications are proving unsustainable and robust enough to provide a viable solution. They are difficult to maintain, particularly when an enterprise wants to tightly integrate its product data with its product lifecycle processes and tools. A Product Innovation Platform approach helps in mitigating these issues.

The Product Innovation Platform (PIP) creates the opportunity to create a more agile and iterative development process. They offer the ability to conceive, design, engineer, optimize, manufacture, sell, and connect to a product in the field—all around the same set of common data. However for a PIP to truly work, requires you to make the move to agile product development and therefore embrace the process changes involved.

Agile Product Design is the approach to build products faster and with collaborative innovation – strongly emphasizing the rapid iteration and tighter communication lines across a wide-reaching team, including the customer.

Driven by the Product & its Lifecycle

Product lifecycle management, offers a way to collaborate, share, and exchange data in the organization and other involved users, without duplicating information or redoing tasks. In today’s highly competitive market, companies are working on continuous improvement and all wish to have a system that can faster adapt their processes to change, including that of the marketplace, customer personalized requirements and supply chain dynamics. A PLM PIP can enable this necessary collaboration.

To drive growth and profitability, companies need to focus on the customer and identify their unique value propositions and align these with their channels. Having gathered these elements, R&D, Material and Carrying costs can be lowered by avoiding the design of non-value added capabilities, as detailed above. Combine this with the elimination of non-value added iterations, improved product quality and consistency, PLM quickly pays for itself.

Extending the collaboration through the PIP from R&D and SCM to suppliers and retailers will provide increased agility, extend internal capabilities, reduce time, improve quality, lower costs and improve innovation.

Investing In The CX

Deny it as much as you can, but it’s all about investing and improving the customer experience. It can be the purchase, the after-sales service or even the warranty, but each area needs review.

Bringing together engineering, manufacturing and sales along with potentially multiple CRMs and the PLMs is an essential part of the cultural shift. The collaboration sits in the Product Innovation Platform.

Large enterprise has for many years struggled to streamline business processes that enable compliance, but integration of the single-source of customer data with the single-source of product data surely is the only way to come through the 4IR?

Bringing together CRM & PLM relies on clean and intelligent data, which means filtering the CRM for it to be best understood across the collaborative platform. In addition, the PLM must have business intelligence built in that enable the analysis to link customer demand to the product design, ownership and disposal.

Equally, it slides from product to the field, allowing customer support and issue resolution both today and in the future.