As IT becomes an integral part of any business strategy, it is also influencing the way that companies operate their service Lifecycle management (SLM). The connection between people, process and technology, particularly in the manufacturing industry, is at the heart of SLM but trends in the industry could help or hinder this process.
"I believe these [trends] are tailwinds, these are opportunities for us to get behind and leverage to push us forward," says Lee Smith, PTC SLM manager, speaking at PTC Live Executive Exchange in Nice.
"If we don't address these forces head on, they will turn into a headwind for us. But by addressing these solutions we will have a very compelling solution going to the marketplace."
While all of the trends are important, addressing all of them could be "transformational" for businesses.
PTC was founded in 1987 on the concept of digitisation thanks to Computer Aided Design (CAD). But Smith sees digitisation continuing to evolve. "We continue to see trends of digital data, what we call high fidelity data in the manufacturing and service sector. We're seeing these high fidelity 3D drawings coming into 3D printing so we're seeing a product go straight from a manufacturing facility to 3D printing," he says. Smith also praises the literal digitisation of manufacturing in division of prosthetics as fingers can be now be manufactured to suit the individual.
As the barriers to communication continually come down, Smith said the need to operate globally is here and its table stakes. But he stressed that it is not it's not just about the products being stationed around the world, the whole servicing and selling experience needs to be worldwide. "You have to be able to use products simultaneously around the world," he said.
"Regulations can become quite a headwind if you are not able to deal with them," says Smith. In terms of manufacturing, almost 2000 new regulations have been introduced in the last 25 years to manufacturers being able to deal with regulations is critical. Product analytics at PTC can identify which suppliers in the supply chain are hindered by these regulations and either work with the supplier to design them out or replace the supplier. This is particularly beneficial in light of the 3TG regulation under US conflict mineral law that is soon coming into place in Europe.
Personalisation is not necessarily the individual customer, but various regions. Diversity with scale comes into play when companies develop a product but need to change systems to adhere to regulations when deploying it in a different region. But Smith explains how this is linked to an individual as well: "As we move into regional variablity and mechanical variability, we move into the area personal variability is moving from a software perspective." Software can define characteristics of any personal item from a coffee makers' settings to the apps on a smartphone. "Personalistion is moving into everything that we have," says Smith.
"This is a major disruptive force," stresses Smith. Once you have an IP address, you can connect anything to the internet, perhaps even a wheelbarrow will be connected one day - the possibility of the Internet of Things is endless. But the quantified self is the current trend with IoT. "This is the beginning of things to come with how we not only connect things but connect ourselves to the internet to become a thing," says Smith.
The integration of hardware and software within products will fundamentally change the engineering that goes into them and change the ability to vary and control product performance through individual programming. Smith says that companies making traditional products these days are employing as many, if not more, software engineers as they are engineers with conventional disciplines.
"Servitisation is not about service as how we usually consider it, but how products become a service," says Smith. OEMs are seeing a trend of customers not wanting to buy a product, but buy a service. For example: people no longer want to buy an airconditioning unit, they want to buy the service of having their building maintained at the correct temperature the whole time. The product becomes part of that service. Therefore data and service operations are now just as important as the products themselves.
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