Creating the “Things” in the Internet of Things: Part 1 – Fulfilling the Promise of PLM

Consumers, analysts, and product development companies agree: the Internet of Things is not only the future of the products that will shape our world – in many ways, it’s already here. IoT technology is already changing how companies develop products, get information back from products once they’re in the field, and improve future products. But although they’re known as “smart” connected products, the things in the Internet of Things cannot do this alone. Product lifecycle management, or PLM, technology will be instrumental in developing, managing, deploying and leveraging these products -- although it must evolve to meet this challenge.

With the advent of popular new technologies like IoT, PLM has only grown in importance. This is because, to be equipped for IoT, products require intricate systems of software, electrical, and mechanical components. PLM will help companies design products for the IoT in the same ways it always has: by enabling the systematic processes, change control, and workflows required to effectively collaborate across increasingly diverse and cross-functional teams. As the single source of truth for product data, configurations, and processes, PLM provides each team with close control over the development of highly complex and multi-disciplined product data, while apprising collaborators of changes from other teams that will impact their work. It manages a fully accurate and up-to-date record of the product as it was designed and planned –including all of its software, electrical, and mechanical systems – to support the development of today’s increasingly complex smart, connected products.

But what happens today to information about the product after it launches? Although its name would imply that PLM manages data from the entire product “lifecycle”, most PLM systems typically do not manage much if any product data from the operational phase: the longest phase and arguably the most valuable to product development and service. Information about real-world usage, operating conditions, performance, and quality remains largely inaccessible to product development teams and processes – creating an open loop with very little systematic use of operational data to improve the work they do.

If PLM could close this loop – leveraging IoT data captured in real time during the operation of the physical products that PLM creates – the entire product lifecycle would reap the benefits. For example, product planning and design could leverage value analysis to improve features that customers use most, configure offerings to usage patterns, and redesign parts or systems to save on costs while meeting design requirements. Plus, engineers could be more quickly apprised of quality issues through the automatic capture, communication, and analysis of sensor data as soon as a product failure occurs. And more complete root cause analysis data would enable faster and more accurate corrective and preventive actions. What’s more, a standard set of measurable data related to every product failure would drive an unprecedented ability to trend, understand, and avoid conditions that lead to quality issues. This, in turn, would benefit service teams, equipping them to monitor fielded products for these trends, initiate proactive measures, and prevent product failures before they occur: improving the user experience while streamlining service delivery.

If the Internet of Things as its being realized today can help PLM reach its full potential, what role does PLM play in the world of the smart, connected products it creates? A significant one. Part 2 in our 2-part series, “Creating the Things in the Internet of Things: Realizing the Potential of IoT”, will explore just that.

Discover how Windchill leverages the full potential of PLM using groundbreaking Internet of Things technologies.