Liveworx 2020 Recap: 4 Skills to Thrive in the New Normal

Written By: David Immerman
  • 6/9/2020
  • Read Time : 8 min

The premier digital transformation event LiveWorx took virtual form this year, delivering four survival skills to help industrial enterprises thrive in the "new normal." among several other thought-provoking ideas and industrial innovations on display.

During the show, PTC President & CEO Jim Heppelmann delivered a high-impact virtual keynote ‘Disrupted: Lessons Learned and the Path Forward’. Here is a summary of the four skills industrial enterprises need to thrive in the new normal:

  • Workforce mobility and resiliency requires scalable cloud software for the future of work.
  • Supply chains must be flexible and foster innovation with shifting and unpredictable market conditions.
  • Connectivity and collaboration software is required to maintain productivity for digitally underserviced front-line workers.
  • Remote monitoring of products and factories is key to maintain uptime and business continuity.

1. Workforce Mobility & Resiliency

Many organizations’ IT infrastructure were under prepared for the massive workforce shift to remote work caused from the COVID-19 crisis. Seventy-five percent of organizations immediately shifted to work-from-home policies and 41% reported a strain on internal IT resources as a result.

While IT departments are seeking short-term patches to manage this crisis, a long-term strategy for a resilient and mobile workforce is needed. This new forced method of working has let the "genie out of the bottle," as 74% of CFOs report they will move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post COVID-19.

Many cloud and SaaS-based tools have allowed for a seamless transition to remote work for certain functions. For example, SaaS tools already dominant in enterprise software such as CRM, HCM, and ERP have enabled workers in those related functions to work from home with little or no difficulty. 

However, product development tools remain largely on-premises today. This is poised to quickly change; IDC predicts by 2022, 70% of manufacturers will use cloud-based innovation platforms and marketplaces for cross-industry and customer co-development.

In his presentation, Heppelmann outlined three companies already taking advantage of the benefits of cloud and SaaS software to enable their product development process with remote and geographically dispersed engineering teams.

  • Grey Orange provides touchless warehouse automation and robotics systems, important for completing tasks when human intervention is minimal from COVID-related workspace constrictions. With the cloud, Grey Orange engineers can remotely access product design and other information for digital review and release processes, improving collaboration.
  • Fresenius, as one of world’s largest providers of dialysis services and equipment, needed to create isolation capacity to maintain continuity of care for dialysis patients during COVID-19. Fresenius uses the cloud to sustain product development activities and engineering efforts across its global remote workforce.
  • Garrett Motion is a leading global automotive supplier whose design team normally works and collaborates in a few large offices around the world. However, due to the crisis, those offices were closed, and the workforce of engineers suddenly became distributed as they began working from home. Regardless of their location, productivity of Garrett’s product development organization was unfazed with their use of SaaS product development tools.

2. Flexible and Innovative Supply Chains

Supply chains are remarkably complex, which challenges manufacturing production flexibility, especially in times of crisis or disruption. Global manufacturers like automakers have, on average, 500 tier-one suppliers, who each have 250 tier-two suppliers, creating a supply chain network of 1.25 million suppliers.

Today’s supply chains have to install and deploy the same version of the same software tools at each company in order to facilitate exchange of data. This means that upgrades must be coordinated simultaneously up and down the supply chain to keep everybody interoperable.

Quickly cross-exchanging design information to engineer, update, and manufacture products is burdened by this lack of interoperability and points to the need for a seamless digital thread to maintain continuity of information across the supply chain.

Heppelmann shared three more examples of how digital transformation enables flexible and innovative supply chains.

  • Francisco Gavidia University collaborated with multiple companies to design and build a COVID-19 response ventilator in a matter of days versus weeks or months. Using a SaaS product development tools, the University and its industrial partners quickly iterated on designs and used 3D printing to bring the ventilator to market.
  • e.GO produces battery-operated electric vehicles with research, industry, and urban planner partners. Using a franchising business model, the franchisee can take the vehicle design, localize some components to their market, and produce it. Cross-exchanging of information, collaborations on localization changes, and monitoring ongoing data access enables this flexible franchise production model, while protecting innovative IP.
  • Rockwell Automation enables flexible and concurrent engineering for its customers through a digital twin that reduces risk and downtime when rolling out new production lines or making changes to existing ones. With simulation and testing of machine’s functionality prior to implementing it in a factory, Rockwell can reduce its customers’ automation engineers commissioning and validation times by 50%, operator training by up to 75%, while hitting higher levels of overall equipment effectiveness.

3. Connectivity and Workforce Collaboration for Front-Line Workers

Around 75% or 2.7 billion of the global workforce is considered front-line or deskless workers. However, digital benefits have not historically benefited them; video conferencing software like Microsoft Teams and Zoom allows desk workers to collaborate on desktops, but front-line workers do their work in the physical world. However, this is quickly changing with augmented reality (AR).

With AR for remote assistance, front-line workers connect with remote experts for over-the-shoulder support to collaborate in real-time and quickly solve complex problems. AR can publish content such as training manuals or work instructions onto real-world objects and places for the worker to absorb in-context to their work environment and task at hand. AR can capture how-to information such as service procedures and map it to the real world.

Industrial companies have begun to empower their front-line workers with digital capabilities and AR is their chosen technology to do so:

  • Toyota Motor Corporation’s contractors carry out construction and maintenance of factory assets during planned downtime over holidays and weekends. If they experience unexpected or unsafe site conditions, a TMC employee who is the expert may not be available to assist them onsite. With AR remote assistance enabling in-context collaboration, TMC reduced the need for some in-person supervision, minimized downtime costs, and increased employee safety and compliance.
  • Smiths Medical joined the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, which included GKN (auto and aerospace manufacturer) to produce 10,000 ventilators during the COVID-19 crisis. Smiths used AR to capture step-by-step assembly process and production procedures for these ventilators and transfer this knowledge to GKN’s production workers. With no previous medical device background, GKN could quickly take these captured workflows and provide them to its nearly 1,000 production workers to ramp-up ventilator production.

4. Remote Monitoring Products and Factories

Downtime costs industrial companies thousands per hour. However, COVID-19 restricted access to an array of industrial assets, whether in a factory or hospital, with 81% of companies implementing travel bans and 46% issuing mandatory restrictions on employee contact in the workspace.

Remote monitoring of products and factories allows companies to continue operations despite work from home, travel bans, quarantined areas, and limited staff. Remote capabilities were critical in the wake of the crisis for improving uptime in critical environments, but they also save massive labor and asset costs from technician travel and downtime, and they transform the relationship with customers.

  • Elekta’s customers are hospitals, which need to ensure the radiation therapy equipment required to care for their patients is available when needed to deliver the best patient care possible. With remote monitoring and IIoT, Elekta can better predict equipment downtime and service interventions, dramatically reducing downtime and enabling the ability to remotely service about 50% of issues without requiring a service technician visit, further improving the quality of care hospitals can provide to their patients.
  • Autoliv is the worldwide leader in automotive safety, their airbags, seatbelts and steering wheels save more than 30,000 lives and prevent ten times as many injuries. Autoliv is in the midst of an Industry 4.0 transformation, leveraging IIoT and analytics to eliminate paper-based manual processes, bring real-time visibility into operations through OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) improvements, and implement analytics-based workforce planning

Final Thoughts

By implementing the above four skills, industrial companies can thrive during these uncertain and challenging times.

During his keynote, Heppelmann shared a dozen examples of leading industrial companies that have leveraged digital technologies like SaaS to enable resiliency and mobility across their knowledge workers, and flexibility across design, supply chain, and manufacturing. We saw how AR is being used to enable front-line workers to collaborate in new ways to improve productivity. And we saw how IoT combined with AI enables factories and product fleets to achieve double digit improvements in their operations, at times saving both money and lives.

Now it is time to take stock of what has worked and what has not during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to think beyond necessity, to leverage these four skills for business advantage going forward.

  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • Augmented Reality
  • SaaS
  • COVID-19

About the Author

David Immerman

David Immerman is a Senior Research Analyst on PTC's Corporate Marketing team providing thought leadership on technologies, trends, markets, and more. Previously David was an industry analyst in 451 Research’s Internet of Things channel primarily covering the smart transportation space and automotive technology markets, including fleet telematics, connected cars, and autonomous vehicles. He also spent time researching IoT-enabling technologies and other industry verticals including industrial. Prior to 451 Research, David conducted market research at IDC.