I’ve been catching up on reading over the weekend. One of the articles caught my attention. Forbes article by Kevin O’Marah of SCM World (formerly Gartner research) provided an interesting perspective on trends in supply chain based on just released SCM World annual Future of Supply Chain survey comprising opinions of 1,415 practitioners around the world.
My attention was caught by used of word “digitalization” and how it applied to several technological trends I’m following these days – big data analytics, IoT and cloud computing. No much surprise, but these technologies are representing the most influential disruptive force. You can see it on the picture.
However, my favorite passage was the following one:
Operational technology is catching up to information technology – digitization is huge these days, but the mindset shift away from “digital equals computers” to digital in everything is still very much a work in progress. Operational technology including advanced robotics, drones, 3D printing, Uberization and IoT is disruptive because it changes the way that material and equipment behave. It’s important because these changes enable new business models that can be more personalized, less resource intensive and higher margin. The extreme, but realistic use case is virtual inventory for maintenance parts in capital equipment situations. Operational technology includes IoT to know what needs to be fixed, 3D printing or robotics to make the part and drones or Uberization to deliver it. Mix and match these tools to get better business results in aerospace, building controls, energy infrastructure and more.
PLM vendors and technologists are using word “digital” a lot when it applies to design and engineering processes. However, very often this word is a cliche that replacing word computer. After all, engineers are not asking for “cloud” and it is okay. After all, most of engineering jobs are using computers for design, simulation and other design automation tasks already for few decades. What I found interesting in SCM World review is a notion of “digital everything”.
It made me think about about how PLM technologies will be involved into “full digital” operation and downstream processes. For the last decade, large manufacturing companies have implemented lot of PLM products and adopted sophisticated processes for design and engineering. However, when it comes to downstream processes, communication with suppliers, contractors and operations, you can see lot of bizarre practices. And if you look into what processes used by midsize companies, you might discover a complete digital jungle with mix of reports, spreadsheets, MS Access databases, Sharepoint sites, etc.
What is my conclusion? Digital everything is an interesting and important trend to watch. But it is also a very critical to look into holistic processes and data handout between silos. Operational technology will be connected to PLM and engineering and the efficiency of the connection can impact manufacturing company efficiency in a major way. Heads up note to PLM architects and PLM vendors. The future of digital data handoff is coming. Just my thoughts…
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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.