Before Ford introduced the moving conveyor to the assembly line, it took workers around 12 hours to assemble a Model T car. However, in 1908, when the conveyor belt was added, workers could put a Model T together in 93 minutes.
A more recent game-changer for manufacturers was Product Lifecycle Management or PLM. It offered a centralized hub where manufacturers can make all their design and manufacturing decisions, which replaced an inefficient siloed system.
Just as technology affects our processes, it also enhances our existing technology. This is evident when examining how IoT will affect PLM, improving the final products, and helping companies be more customer-centric.
Let’s look at some benefits of PLM before seeing how to combine it with IoT technology.
Benefits of PLM
PLM technology has brought numerous benefits to manufacturers:
- Companies can accelerate product development and bring them to the market faster, increasing their profitability.
- PLM software saves companies money and time by keeping all parties informed of changes in real-time, reducing mistakes or misunderstandings.
- It integrates with Enterprise Resource Planning technology or ERP.
- It enhances the communication between different business divisions, reducing time waste or loss of change requests.
The problem with current PLM technology
In its current form, PLM software does not help much once the product has been sold and used by the end-customer. Customer feedback can be collected, but the feedback could be problematic.
Describing a product as being of “poor quality” or performing “beneath expectations” does not provide meaningful insights for product developers. Even if any insight is collected, it is usually too late to help the complaining customer. This feedback only comes after the purchase, so it is almost impossible to collect real-time feedback as the customer is using the product.
Therefore, this feedback is not as actionable as product developers would like. This is where IoT can come to rescue.
How IoT can enhance PLM software
- It uses smart devices and sensors that are both interconnected and connected to the internet. They can collect important information and relay it to interested parties. These gadgets can be embedded in any product, from vehicles to clothing.
- It can inform product developers and manufacturers in real-time how a certain product is performing out in the world. This can be valuable to engineers and designers thinking about the next iteration of the product.
- Another benefit of combining IoT with PLM is that companies can spot problems with the products on the field and fix them before they escalate, and the product breaks down. Such a preventive measure will help customers avoid unnecessary downtimes and increase their bottom line.
- Companies can use both IoT and AI to predict future problems with a product and address them before they create inconvenience for the customer.
- However, the biggest is that companies will become more customer-centric. Manufacturers will have mountains of data on how customers are using their products so that they can build new products in-line with the customer’s behaviors and usage patterns.
How to get the most from integrating IoT with PLM
Incorporating any new technology requires investing money and effort. Here are a few tips for businesses to increase their ROI.
Partnerships are important
Businesses new to the IoT space are bound to make mistakes. One way to expedite the learning curve is to build the right partnership with other companies that have previous experience with IoT.
Companies can partner with IoT platform vendors early on, so the vendors have sufficient time to know the company and to offer valuable business intelligence.
Another beneficial partnership is with other stakeholders along the supply chain. Any benefit accrued at one point of the chain will cascade along the rest of the chain. Manufacturers can partner with their vendors, giving them access to the insights gathered from the data. This, in turn, would help the vendor increase their sales, benefiting the manufacturer.
IoT gadgets are connected to the internet, and security is a serious concern for businesses. These gadgets are susceptible to hackers who might steal data, upload malware, or control the gadgets for their own means.
AI technology might be the solution to help safeguard the gadgets. Also, businesses need to be selective about what partners will have access to the generated data.
Other technologies can add more value
Some values added by other technologies are:
- Cloud computing enables companies to store PLM files on the cloud instead of hosting it on on-premise servers. It offers an efficient method of connecting several different technologies, including PLM, CRM, SCM, and ERP, providing these solutions with real-time access to data generated by IoT.
- AI has a lot to offer IoT and PLM. Aside security, it makes sense of the generated data, spotting patterns that humans might miss. With the help of AI, companies can perform predictive maintenance for their products in the field.
- However, with the introduction of industry 4.0, several other technologies can add value to PLM.
At the beginning of this article, we saw how the assembly line was revolutionized at the beginning of the 20th century. But we failed to mention that companies that did not adopt these new technologies had a hard time competing, and most of them were soon out of business.
Similarly, IoT can give companies a competitive advantage today, but soon, businesses that do not use IoT may have to close shops. Companies should try to stay ahead of the curve and do their best to incorporate IoT into every system they have, including their PLM software.