Transforming Quality Management with Smart, Connected Products




Smart, connected products and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing the way that organizations and industries do business. One such way is that manufacturers can improve their ability to boost product quality both before and after those products enter the field.

Using onboard sensors, software, and connectivity, smart, connected products can provide OEMs with real-time visibility into their own performance. This data can be analyzed and used to continuously improve both current products – with opportunities to improve service and operation – and future iterations of the product – with opportunities to gather lessons learned and improve product designs next time. This is because the constant analysis of products in the field enables manufacturers to identify and predict when a product is about to fail. By identifying potential issues before they become full blown problems, companies can head off issues with proactive and preventive service measures, as well as communicate this information back to engineering to re-design products better the next time: increasing customer satisfaction in both the short- and long-terms.

In a recent blog post, Matthew Littlefield of LNS Research stated that quality management “cannot rely on the customer to take action, it needs to be based on the ability of systems to pull necessary information and share back up the value chain. Smart [connected products] will make customer complaints a thing of the past, giving all manufacturing and engineering all the information they need for continuous improvement.” 

Smart, connected products that give quality managers, engineers, and service technicians alike the ability to analyze and predict a product’s quality and performance in the field before it negatively impacts customers will help businesses expand into new, more “evergreen” models such as Products-as-a-Service (PaaS). In this business model, organizations shift their value proposition from “What tools do you need to achieve the outcome you want?” to “What outcome do you want?” This shift means that, rather than sell a customer a product and end the relationship there, manufacturers who provide a product as a service are responsible for maintaining the product over the course of its lifetime: making sure it continues to perform optimally, doesn’t need unexpected maintenance or fixes, and delivers on the outcomes promised to the customer, reliably and without fail. The revenue potential for this business model is proving to be very attractive to companies like Trane, a division of Ingersoll Rand. When discussing its own transformation from selling commercial air conditioning units to selling “comfortable working climates”, Trane predicted that this shift could result in up to $8 in services revenue potential for every $1 of equipment they sell.

Of course, to fully take advantage of these new business models, it is essential that smart, connected products are first and foremost used to create a high quality product. “If you’re unable to offer a quality product today, how will you be able to offer a quality ‘service’ in the future,” continued Littlefield in his blog post. “Improving quality and customer service and the associated analytics will provide the insights and learnings that will eventually enable the leap to selling services, instead of products.” 

PTC Windchill 11, the first IoT-enabled PLM solution, makes it possible to “close the loop” on a product’s lifecycle by feeding field information back to engineering and manufacturing -- ensuring that companies are continuously improving quality. Meanwhile applications, such as PTC Navigate, deliver fielded data to the correct stakeholders to ensure that the most value is garnered from the data. 

You can read Littlefield’s full blog on LNSResearch.com and be sure to tune in on Thursday, May 26th at 11am EST as Littlefield joins PTC for the webinar presentation, “Connect All Parts of Your Product Lifecycle, Including Service and Use”, and see a demo of closed-loop quality at work in the first Smart, Connected PLM, Windchill 11. Register here