The IoT is Expanding: How PLM Can Help Smaller Businesses to Thrive

The Internet of Things opens up new possibilities for receiving and sharing information. But how do you control and make the most use of this Big Data?

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According to BI Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) devices will more than triple by 2020. For small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), which may not know where to begin or have the required time and expertise to implement IoT into their processes, surviving this age of digital transformation can seem like a tsunami of data and new processes crashing down.  

BI Intelligence also noted that businesses would be the top adopter of IoT solutions because they will use IoT to lower operating costs, increase productivity and expand to new markets or develop new product offerings. Businesses should take advantage of the benefits the IoT can deliver now and in the long term. The balancing act for SMEs will be how to navigate this data with a minimal amount of resources to find anomalies in the simplest way. With the right system in place, SMEs can harness the power of this data available to them without drowning in it. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software can help SMEs do just that.  PLM offers the ability to retrieve valuable information including design data, product engineering, manufacturing and field data by tying this information to a central product record to reference for new product iterations.

PLM technology connects processes within multiple departments and active teams to create a closed loop and enable manufacturers to develop products that are able to leverage IoT data to improve product development processes.  The IoT data gathered from a product’s real-world performance and quality could impact all stakeholders across the company in product design and development, manufacturing, sales and marketing, customer operations and after-sales services.  It can also make a difference for suppliers since this feedback can be circulated back to suppliers of the parts that are used in the product design and then make any adjustments to parts to optimize performance. PLM helps manage the more complex supply chains that have come about due to the IoT by connecting directly to online content providers – this helps to predict issues such as availability early on in the development process in order to save time and money.

Product planning, design, and quality departments can learn from a product’s operational behavior via IoT to improve features that customers use most. IoT data managed with PLM will enable manufacturers to track and configure product design requirements based on usage patterns and allow for the redesign of devices or systems to improve quality.  IoT analysis and triggers can automatically report issues into PLM, which are then escalated through various processes to review and resolve. In addition, mobility improvements give users access to PLM data and processes from their mobile devices, allowing them to securely review, respond, and react faster.  It gives them the ability to record and process audit findings and any quality issues onsite or in the field. 

Manufacturers have consistently focused on improving quality, performance, reliability and positive relationships with customers.  However, it has become evident that the next generation of competition is digital, and seems to entail change in everything from designing products to supply chain management.

There is no doubt that this trend is here to stay. Data is streaming in faster than ever and from more sources than ever as the movement towards IoT grows and mobility brings even more connection. SMEs who adopt PLM will be able to take advantage of Big Data and the IoT in order to design better products, maintain a competitive edge and survive this information age.