How the Internet of Things is Changing Product Lifecycle Management
Michael Alba posted on May 15, 2017 | 13210 views
Graphical overview of the PLM Domino Effect for a connected automobile. (Image courtesy of Infosys.)
Graphical overview of the PLM Domino Effect for a connected automobile. (Image courtesy of Infosys.)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is in the process of transforming almost every aspect of our lives. From our factories to our farms, cities and our health, no domain will be left unaffected by the 20 to 50 billion connected devices that will be online by 2020.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is no exception. According to Jeff Kavanaugh, a senior partner at the IT consulting firm Infosys, the IoT is poised to kick off a “domino effect” that will revolutionize PLM. “The term domino effect typically carries a negative connotation,” says Kavanaugh. “However, in our context, the domino effect is positive, since it can create successively greater product effectiveness, spanning the complete product lifecycle.”

Traditional PLM

Before the era of data-gathering sensors, product developers had to rely on customer feedback to learn what did and didn’t work about their products. As Kavanaugh notes, this approach has several drawbacks.

“If a customer complained about a product being ‘poor quality,’ ‘too slow,’ ‘below expectations,’ or ‘not user friendly,’ it was difficult to extract meaningful insight from their feedback, and apply the proper corrective action in time to make a difference,” says Kavanaugh. As an additional challenge, customer feedback can’t be collected in real-time, which forces product developers to work with dated information that’s only updated periodically.

“The challenge is not only the ability to collect real-time product performance data, but also to reduce the amount of time to manually diagnose and recommend action,” says Kavanaugh.“What if this analysis could be done with less or even no human intervention, aided by sensors, data, and intelligent automation?”

Sound familiar? It should—sensors, data, and intelligent automation are the driving forces behind the IoT, which offers a clear solution to traditional PLM woes.

The IoT Domino Effect

“With connected products, developers can quickly access data on customer behavior usage patterns,” explains Kavanaugh. “A domino effect can be initiated by one action from a single actor that may trigger a chain of subsequent, related actions to create a cumulative effect. Each action can be analyzed separately or aggregated for insights into usage behavior and areas of possible product evolution.”

Kavanaugh provides the example of a connected car: “Take the basic action of starting an automobile. This activates many embedded sensors, where each sensor has a specific role and pre-defined data gathering scope. Once the consumer starts driving the vehicle, additional sensors come to life and start recording or transmitting data based on instructions and computational algorithms… The combination of sensors, analytics and feedback creates a cascading set of communications between the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and vehicle that allows secondary and tertiary responses based on the initial input.”

In a nutshell, the IoT enables product developers to obtain an unprecedented level of feedback, in realtime. For PLM, the implications are clear: IoT data insights spur product innovation, which results in even more refined data insights, which spurs further product innovation, rinse and repeat. In addition to benefitting product developers, this domino effect also offers consumers a continual cycle of improvement based on their own use habits.

As with factories, farms, cities, healthcare and the plethora of other IoT beneficiaries, the future of PLM is looking bright. “No longer do designers have to rely on hypothetical ideas or wait for anecdotal evidence for input into new products,” says Kavanaugh. “The combination of sense-response data collection, closed-loop feedback, and more sophisticated simulations are spurring exciting advances in product development.”

For more about the effect of the IoT on PLM, read “TV-report: The Internet of Things – The secret to what PLM and ERP can do in the smart revolution.


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