Practical Advice for Your First Smart, Connected Product Design




Think your company is ready to embrace smart, connected product design?

There’s more to it than you might think. According to Thomas Winden, Head of a PLM department and Partner Manager at T-Systems, companies that want to take advantage of the technology should plan for both how they’ll handle data-rich products as well as some familiar old processes.

Thomas Winden of T-Systems

We recently talked to Thomas about use cases, how to transition to smart, connected product design, and the importance of failing.

Why do companies typically decide to IoT-enable their products?

Thomas: Often they see opportunities arise to approach a broader market—opportunities they don’t want to leave to the other companies in the market. Typically it coincides with the launch of an enhanced product or a completely new product.

Who in an organization oversees the initiative?

Thomas: It depends. IT has its hands on all the data, and they can bring it together. It’s not rocket science, and it’s possible with the tools available in the market. But I personally prefer it when the business drives, because then you can figure out from the beginning where the value is, who the users are, and what the goal is. You can be more focused, and with that maybe get better results faster.

What tips do you have for successfully implementing that first smart, connected product design?

Thomas: Do a trial first. Set up a project with interdisciplinary teams and be willing to mess up. That will get results fast so you can quickly re-learn and adapt. Move in small steps, not necessarily with one exact goal, but an idea of where you would like to end, willing to make mistakes and learn from them, and, maybe, be a little bit disruptive.

Creo: That sounds like Agile development.

Thomas: Yes. And in a company that is waterfall minded, the approach can be very radical. The teams needs more freedom than most. For example, if they fail, after four or six or eight weeks, they need to be able to decide on their own how to move forward. If this kind of approach is new to your company, you need to set up an environment for these teams and most of all coach them.

Creo: So in the long run, smart, connected product design is a business decision, as much as an engineering change.

Thomas: It’s really about preparing yourself. Look at what you have, what kind of processes, what kind of data, how does it all fit together. It's not about “I have a CAD system from PTC, I have a PDM system from Siemens, and I have an IoT platform from--I don't know.”

It’s not about which integration software platform connects them all, it's about what the processes look like. How does the data flow? Who has responsibility for which data in your organization?

That will lead to the point where you say, “Okay, I mapped this data in my CAD system to this data in my PDM system, and that belongs to this data in my ERP system and connects to this requirement and has a relation to….”  So ask the business questions before you start setting up or choosing kind of integration platform.

And finally, ask yourself: “Do we need to change the way we work together?” If yes, do not underestimate the need for a good change process to support this.

How to Build a Smart Connected Product Design in the IoT Era

Find out more about adopting smart, connected product design. Download the free ebook, Key Considerations for Selecting a Smart, Connected Product Design Solution. Written by Jim Brown, President of Tech-Clarity, this eBook explains more about why today’s new product development processes don’t work, and what you can do to make sure yours succeeds.

Download the Smart Connected Product Design eBook