In my two years old article in the Onshape blog, I shared my thoughts about what will be PLM systems circa 2022. I discussed how modern product lifecycle management will be changing from many perspectives – business processes, business models, manufacturing processes, and how it will impact the manufacturing industry. I especially focused on how a new PLM platform for connected manufacturing can change the product development process and provide a competitive advantage to engineers, OEMs, manufacturing companies, contractors, and the supply chain.
My key observation from the article was related to the PLM IT architecture and transition from isolated data management architectures to connected global platforms capable to support an entire product development cycle and PLM processes. A PLM system built in such a way can provide a new way to manage product data, integrated disparate systems, and manufacturing organizations. The new architecture of these systems will be using machine learning and artificial intelligence enabling new digital twin models, facilitating connected business rules, and providing a foundation for continuous improvement and decision-making processes.
Pandemic and Supply Chain Correction
I want to review my conclusions from the last two years and see what has changed. The last two years of pandemic accelerated digital transformation processes and created new pressure on manufacturing processes. Traditional manufacturing processes and methods are out of step with new consumer expectations. A major change is needed as companies move through the steps of digital transformation in the manufacturing process towards a novel connected platform approach, data connectivity helps manufacturing companies, contractors, and suppliers to achieve a better outcome.
Future Business Model For the Manufacturing
In my article PLM 2030 – the point of no return for fax machines, I shared three stories about the future of manufacturing in this article. Check them out – Custom Product Manufacturing, New Product Development, Maintenance, and Repair. One of the things I discussed in my article is business processes and the way these processes will be transformed using product data, industrial internet, smart products, and digital transformation. Here is the passage from my article.
PLM 2030 is a virtual online system operating in an environment that can remind you of today’s online e-commerce services combined with transportation, consumer, and online gaming environment combined together. The elements of such systems are available today and various B2B online systems are capable to provide such environments operating on a global scale. So, what is missing? The key element of PLM 2030 is a sophisticated information model connecting companies, suppliers’ tiers, maintenance, service, and customers together. There is no way a single system from a single vendor does it. Imagine Google only can index and process data from the websites and other services designed using Google tools. This is not how it works today. Product development and manufacturing environments are heterogeneous with their own lifecycle. Therefore, to make the 2030 dream come true, companies will have to agree on a variety of ways to make data available and charge other companies to provide data and services. The new business model is a foundation that will bring companies to work together
5 Trends for Manufacturers To Follow in 2022
These are trends I can see these days that are important for manufacturing companies to follow. They cover multiple aspects of manufacturing engineering, process simulation, industry 4.0, connecting data silos, evolutions of product lifecycle management PLM, and ERP systems.
Product development combined steps such as concept development, design, production, sales and marketing, maintenance, repairs, and recycling. In a traditional old fashion approach, companies are relying on siloed systems built for each department or organization. This is going to change with the companies’ movement to connected products and the establishment of connected product lifecycle management.
The World Economic Forum report says that most digitally advanced manufacturers increase production by 140% and reduce design-iteration by 98%. Creating a connected environment based on product data means that process will have less friction and will be more transparent by sharing data in real-time. The data is a key element in setting up connected processes.
The trend for mass customization is materializing these days. Here is a passage from my back in 20215.
…. the opportunity around mass-customization is facing challenges in engineering and manufacturing environments. I shared some of my thoughts about PLM, mass customization, and BoM vertical integration last year. The problem with the management of bills of materials to support manufacturing integration is real. We can achieve improved product customization by improvement of BOM management and providing configurable BOM solutions integrated with manufacturing systems. However, in many situations, product configuration capabilities are defined in the core of product design – the CAD system. You can manage product configurations using CAD systems. Most 3D mechanical CAD systems are supporting the ability to create some sort of product variations. But here is the thing, it is very hard to connect CAD product configurations to engineering and manufacturing systems.
A great example is Porsche’s new facility (PDF) in Stuttgart, Germany, where the company makes the all-electric Taycan. It is a digital factory. It uses autonomous vehicles that have replaced the assembly line. The most interesting thing that caught my attention is that cars are moving through stations per the customer’s order.
Products are complex these days and contain multiple systems and components – mechanical, electronics, software. This multi-disciplinary nature creates a huge problem for the engineering process demanding a better collaboration between engineers working on these different systems and components. To improve the collaboration, a new system offering a connected experience allowing to engineers to work independently and share data in real-time.
Here is an example of how Tomcar uses OpenBOM to deliver full product definition shared globally with all company users and manufacturing partners. Another example of how digital tools can help to collaborate during the design and share data manufacturer is Gaius Automotive achieved single source of truth using OpenBOM view control. The main element to support design collaboration is to have a centralized environment to supports interoperability, allowing different disciplines to collaborate in real-time. Ideally, such an environment should be connected to online cloud file collaboration reducing frictions in changes. You can check how modern CAD environments such as Autodesk Fusion 360 and Onshape support seamless collaboration.
Inventory management is quickly becoming a big deal with challenges in supply chain management and mass customization. For many years companies ordered materials as they needed for efficient inventory management. ERP systems facilitate this process with a high level of efficiency. However, pandemic proven these processes are very fragile and dependent on suppliers and components availability. Check the article – 5 Trends impacting the manufacturing supply chain.
Flexible manufacturing is a backup plan for supply chain challenges. What happens if traditional suppliers are becoming inaccessible? Companies should be able to move to alternate suppliers, alter product design to fit available supplier components. To do so, a new PLM product data platform is the main essential part allowing us to analyze the product data, dependencies and find the best way to proceed.
The foundation of the digital journey is a platform enabling people, data, and processes to be connected. In the PLM world, a platform was always an important element. PLM marketing promoted PLM platforms for many years. However, the challenge is that most of the legacy PLM platforms in fact only served engineers and mostly focused on PDM functions managing files.
Modern platform architecture combines new data management principles, multi-tenant data architecture, real-time collaborative user experience, openness, and a business model to allow everyone to get on the platform. Similar to we engage with platforms today via smartphones streaming music and ordering rideshare. The important element of any platform is a data foundation connecting everyone in a value chain across disciplines and company silos.
What is my conclusion?
A major transformation is coming to the manufacturing industry. It includes technologies, tools, and methods allowing manufacturing companies to survive modern challenges as well as to outcompete other companies. A question manufacturing companies will need to answer in the next few years is how to become digital brands. The transformation will require quick adoption of new tools and switching their methods of work from document-driven to data-driven using product data as a foundation of the transformation.
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.