PLM 4.0 – The heart of any future business

It won’t be too long before everything we own, everything we use, everything we experience will be smart and mostly personalized to us.

The development of these smart products requires the intelligent connecting of engineering processes across the ecosystem. That’s what I call PLM 4.0.

Overhauling your existing PLM architectures and end-to-end digitalization of the entire product lifecycle is what it takes.

Let’s get on top of those challenges!

PLM 4.0 Tactically Speaking

The blending of Product Lifecycle Management and Industry 4.0 is not for the faint of heart, as not only does it require the proper use of PLM processes and incorporates many of the Industry 4.0 technologies but also demands a shift to the Digital Culture of today’s most successful organizations.

The intertwining of design, development, production, sales and service using modern digital infrastructures and communications, places the enterprise at the forefront of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

PLM 4.0’s objective is an end-to-end digital value chain, built upon an Industry 4.0 foundation of more powerful and cheaper sensors, embedded systems, AI, vertically and horizontally integrated networking and 3D printing combined with the increases in computing power.

This digitalization of business processes requires a complete digital product model that not only maps the development process but also the entire product lifecycle (digital master and digital twin).

Unfortunately, but typically product data today remains managed in data silos, i.e. in separate ALM, PLM and ERP systems that are only partially integrated, at best.

What is needed is secure and efficient access to consistent and up-to-date product data over the entire product lifecycle.

  • Industry 4.0 technologies include the inexpensive, high-quality additive manufacturing processes (3D printing) that allow for technically complex products that meet the exact design requirements and are no longer constrained by restrictive production processes.
  • In addition, the use of embedded software, sensors and actuators makes product customization easier rather than relying on physical variants.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data allow data from the entire product lifecycle to be analyzed and utilized. Access to data relating to wear and tear, operating parameters, usage statistics and to service data not only enables predictive maintenance but also ensures fast feedback regarding customer benefits and expectations from the after-sales phase of the development process.

This facilitates and accelerates product optimization in terms of functionality, cost and quality.

PLM 4.0 Macro Challenges

The 4IR brings new ideas built on new technologies, a new speed dynamic and agility to the industry marketplaces and as a result enterprise needs to master the strategic challenges associated with new product lines:

  • Each sector is evolving and seeing the arrival of new products, services and business models that leads to ever-increasing competition. The enterprise must continue to innovate and push the boundaries of its product lines. New PLM product innovation platforms that stretch across the entire ecosystem demanding a new level of collaboration.
  • The 4IR demands traditional products are generally disappearing, being replaced by cyber-physical products and systems that integrate software and electronics. This new machine-to-machine communication demands new interdisciplinary skills, not only when developing the products but also when designing the processes.
  • Both B2C and B2B demand frequently mass-customization resulting in volumes of product variations and complexity. Generally, this gives rise to more complex development, production and servicing.
  • The growing availability of digital information across all phases of the product lifecycle offers an opportunity to increase efficiency potential through the horizontal and vertical integration of data and to further boost the value add / customer experience and the ultimate benefit to customers.
  • The use of collaborative methods, systems and processes will increase the range of engineering services available, thus reducing costs, speeding up design and development. As a result, the enterprise needs to be thinking of more value chain collaboration opportunities to compete with competitor agility.

PLM 4.0 The Enabler

Product Lifecycle Management has expanded over recent years including the wider integration of the supply chain, the integration of customer data and frequently now not only the visualization of manufacturing but the manufacturing operational management aspects. PLM has a vital role to play in the digitalization of value chains and the implementation of smarter engineering processes.

It’s very normal to see the various product aspects across mechanical, electrical, structural and software departmentalized. This means as design goes through the phases, a cumbersome approach to change and modeling, underpinned by disparate systems. It can be assumed that process innovations will result in a significant increase in efficiency when developing, manufacturing and servicing smart products.

PLM 4.0 can quickly identify 6 main areas for improvement that optimize the use of i4.0 technologies:

  1. Agile processes and modular PLM solutions
  2. Integration of Application Lifecycle Management, MES, SCM, CRM and ERP systems
  3. Model-based Systems Engineering (MBSE)
  4. Interdisciplinary variant, configuration and change management Collaborative PLM processes
  5. Implementation of the digital twin

Most of us agree that enterprise needs a modularized series of systems within an open architecture that allows data to be linked across different systems.

The creation of a digital innovation platform that provides users with the single source of information and functionality they need to perform their respective tasks in an easy-to-use interface, is a key prerequisite for making the growing complexity of the systems and processes involved vertically and horizontally integrated environment.

In the meantime, always welcome your thoughts as to the current challenges out there with Smart Product ideation, design, production and maintenance.

It’s fascinating times ahead as Industry 4.0 technologies blend across the Product Lifecycle.

Best wishes, Andrew