PLM’s Evolving Role In The Internet Of Things

PLM’s traditional services are undergoing an evolution as manufacturers move into Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. By Jonathan Chou

Initially introduced in the aerospace and automotive sectors connecting CAD with engineering and manufacturing requirements in order to speed up product development cycles as well as managing quality and cost, PLM is now a ‘strategic business approach to solving the problem of managing the complete set of product definition information,’ as defined by CIMdata.

The market for PLM across various industrial sectors has thus seen growth, and global demand is predicted to grow from US$40.26 billion in 2014 to US$75.87 billion in 2022, with a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.1 percent, according to according to Transparency Market Research.

The largest end-users of PLM were in aerospace and defense in 2015, accounting approximately for 23 percent of the total market share.

Geographically, the Middle East and Africa region is the fastest growing segment, with a CAGR of 14.7 percent. North America remains the largest and most mature region, accounting for a third of market share.

PLM Coming Into Play

Increased product complexity and the globalisation of the world’s economy forces manufacturers to design, build and maintain their products anywhere, all the while remaining competitively priced.

‘Products’ in question can vary from large, complex aircraft to seemingly innocuous objects such as toys. Different industrial sectors have used PLM to effect; long-lived assets such as telecommunications or civil engineering projects like bridges all require information management across the product lifecycle.

While information management is a huge aspect of PLM, the system is more than just managing CAD and product-related data. Research firm Tech-Clarity states that it is a “software-enabled strategy to improve processes to conceptualise, design, develop, and manage products — to drive higher levels of product profitability.”

For The Bottom Line

When executed correctly, product lifecycle management has seen benefits like reduced time-to-market, reduced prototyping costs, reduced waste, and savings through the integration of engineering workflows.

Due to the growing need for safety features in automobiles, the automotive sector is experiencing continued growth in demand for PLM solutions in the market at a CAGR of 9 percent, according to Technavio.

Analysts also estimated the Asia Pacific region to exhibit the highest market growth rate from 2016 to 2019. While accounting for only 24 percent of the market, rapid growth of the automotive industry in China is a critical factor in APAC’s rapid expansion rate.

PLM solution providers are also branching out into process manufacturing. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry is under constant pressure to hasten drug design, shorten time-to-market, and lower operational costs, all while complying with stringent government regulations.

German engineering group Siemens, having identified the process industry as a potential growth opportunity, recently assigned a profit margin of eight to 12 percent into its process Industries and drives division, indicating the market’s strong potential for growth.

The company also recently acquired Mentor Graphics for around US$4.5 billion, and the German engineering company expects the Ontario-based industrial software developer to contribute significantly to the PLM software business of the Siemens Digital Factory division.

Taking It To The Cloud

When production is managed globally, workflow processes becomes much more complex due to operational challenges from working across different time zones, cultures, systems, processes and organisations.

The solution to the problems of reach and accessibility for participants in global product development networks and supply chains lies in cloud computing. Additionally, cloud-based solutions also support integration of analytics solutions, and generally have lower investment commitments.

The need for cloud-based PLM services that interconnect across countries has been projected to develop at a much faster pace of 17.7 percent CAGR for 2015-2022 compared to their traditional counterparts, according to Transparency Market Research.

Enabling Industry 4.0 And IoT

The advent of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) will also give rise to new ways in which PLM services evolve. A whitepaper published by NTT Data on the vision of PLM in the age of Industry 4.0 and IoT speculates four major upcoming industry trends:

  • The development of smart products
  • The planning of smart factories
  • The integration and digital networking of processes
  • The designing of new business models, in particular new service offers

NTT Data further posits that in an Industry 4.0 scenario, the aim is to have “an end-to-end digital chain from product development, production planning, production and logistics, right through to the service”.

According to Prof Dr-Ing Martin Enger from the University of Kaiserslautern, engineering processes for IoT and IoS are based on collaboration, integration and interdisciplinary developments.

The integration of component models poses various challenges, however. When systems, production, logistics and service need to be integrated in addition to product models, a lack of standards and universal cross-company semantics becomes apparent.

As such, standards for universal semantics and improved tool support are an imperative need for the Industry 4.0 platform.

The international association ProSTEP iViP headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany, is working on the development of open, vendor-neutral PLM standards such as STEP, ensuring the interoperability and quality of software solutions for the product creation process Dr-Ing Enger also identified certain new IT technologies that would be used in the future:

  • In-Memory-Databases and Grid Computing
  • Cloud Computing
  • Big Data
  • Repository-Supported Customising
  • New Methods of Interaction and Presentation (Usability)

So the question remains: How can PLM enable manufacturers to embrace Industry 4.0 and IoT?

Digital Models

With the abovementioned technologies in mind, industry experts have found it possible to enable simulations of entire business models, total costs, or even cities.

Preparations for the ‘digital twin’ are already well underway. Dassault Systèmes has invested over US$1.5 billion over the past three years, acquiring companies such as Accelrys, CST, RTT and Archividéo.

The French PLM and CAD company’s acquisitions highlights its approach to the digital twin. Modelling, simulation, visualisation, data management, supply chain management and process integration are all needed across the company’s targeted market that spans 12 different industries, from aerospace to mining to human sciences to urban planning.

The company is also in the midst of a pioneer project to develop Virtual Singapore, which is part of a five-year US$51 million research and development programme that sees the National Research Foundation (Singapore), the Singapore Land Authority and Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore as joint partners.

The dynamic, 3D digital twin of Singapore will not only take into account the physical aspect of things, but also its biological and geographical aspects. Users will be able to create visual models and realistic large-scale simulations of the city-state. The project is slated to be complete by 2017.

Products Get Smart

Through IoT, products are interconnected with each other and the Internet, combining technological advances in IT (processor performance, big data and cloud computing) with trends from the information society (power of the individual, knowledge-driven society, being ‘always-on’).

For manufacturers, this means that mechatronic systems need to be developed in order to convert conventional products into ‘smart’ ones.

While systems engineering provides methods for developing and safeguarding for these kinds of systems, manufacturers also need to invest in the cloud for the networking of smart products, particularly in the secure link-up and development of special cloud services for expanded product functions.

The role of PLM in developing ‘smart’ products will entail the initial management of the product data and controls processes, such as requirements management, change management and approval.

However, an integrated system still needs to be developed for apps and user interfaces for smart products, cloud services, business models with a focus on services, and big data solutions for analysing data findings.

Smart Factories

A distinct feature of smart factories in the Industry 4.0 scenario would be autonomous, networked systems that can directly influence their environment with sensors and actuators. These Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) can offer high flexibility and small batch sizes for customer products.

According to Marketsandmarkets, the smart factory market size will be projected to reach US$74.8 billion by 2020, with a CAGR of 10.4 percent between 2016 and 2020. This is driven by factors such as the increasingly wider adoption of IOT and technological advancements in M2M communication in the industrial sector, along with the focus on saving energy & improving process efficiency.

PLM will play a role in the smart factory by offering traditional methods and tools for digital manufacturing, from factory planning to robot control. New systems will be required for the development and safeguarding of CPS, however.

Algorithmic Action

With huge volumes of data, collecting data is not a problem. Gleaning insights from the large swathes of data and coming up with real-time productive decisions is the next challenge. Such an outcome could potentially save manufacturers time and money in recalls, repairs and lost business.

Autodesk recently announced a partnership between their Fusion Connect IoT product and Nutonian, which that specialises in artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics.

The partnership will see Nutonian use its predictive analytics functionality to analyse historic data sets within Fusion Connect, and automatically create equations that describe the past, and thereby hopefully predict the future. The feature can be automated so that, for example, if the operating conditions change within a piece of equipment running on a factory floor, it will update the predictive algorithm.

The Only Constant

While the core of PLM (product lifecycle management) lies in the creation and central management of all product data and the technology used to access this information and knowledge, the means of use are constantly evolving.

With increasing pressure to lower costs, improving quality and shortening time-to-market, PLM’s constantly expanding services could prove to be a robust tool for global manufacturers to reap the full benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Internet of Things.

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