7 major trends in product design
John Hayes posted on June 11, 2013 |

PTC CEO Jim Heppleman set out a list of product design trends at the PTC Live Global event in Anaheim.  It’s useful because the interaction of these trends will impact all product designers in one way or another.  

This framework also provides insight into PTC’s product strategy.

Globalization – To achieve scale economies, companies need to leverage their product development investments by delivering their products to every available market.

Localization / Mass Customization – The balancing factor to globalization is that products must be customized to meet the needs of local markets, whether it’s for language, climate, culture or price.  For example, John Deere ships fewer than 3 units per configuration of many tractors that sell thousands of units.

To achieve mass customization, the product has to be configurable enough to meet the needs while standard enough to be scalable. 

Digitization - Companies will increasingly rely on one true digital representation of the product.  That digital representation will include not just the geometry and Bill of Materials, but also the approved vendors, materials in each component, regulatory approvals, manufacturing processes and service requirements.  Expect PLM to get bigger.Regulation – Product regulation adds another layer of complexity to localization, since regulations vary by jurisdiction.  For example, many jurisdictions limit the amount and source of certain materials that a product can contain. 

Tracking those materials through the supply chain and then reporting on them to the regulatory authorities is a complex product management task that demands a sophisticated PLM system.

Smart products – Mechanical products aren’t just mechanical anymore – they are electronic and software products as well.  Even simple home appliances have lots of computing power, and this trend isn’t going away. 

This trend forces interdisciplinary teams and cross-functional product development.  For example, Tier 1 automotive supplier Continental reportedly has more software developers than mechanical engineers.

PLM products for sophisticated manufacturers will need to build bridges between MCAD, EDA and software development platforms to coordinate the interaction among these multidisciplinary teams.

Connectivity – We’ve all heard of the Internet of Things.  One opportunity that connected devices will create for product designers and support teams is the ability to remotely diagnose and service products in the field.  That remote monitoring and serviceability in turn creates business models that don’t transfer ownership, which brings us to the next big trend….

Servitization – Now there’s a word that’s not likely to catch on, but hey, we still say “interoperability”, so who knows.  In this definition, servitization represents a change in design thinking away from the physical manifestation of the product and towards conveying the benefits of the product to the end user. 

Instead of buying a truck, for example, a customer can buy the miles that the truck will travel while the manufacturer retains the risks of ownership.  For this to work, product developers need to integrate service lifecycle planning into their designs from the earliest concept stages. 

This new world of product design will continue to favor large established multi-national players who can turn PLM technology and processes into a competitive advantage.

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