Helping SMEs Harness the IoT Via PLM

How to use a PLM system to manage IoT connectivity and smart manufacturing processes.

The Internet of things (IoT) is becoming the way of the world and because of it, there are now more components being manufactured and more intricate design chain challenges than ever. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will have to learn to trust data and analytics, where once they relied on people. To truly embrace this digital transformation, manufacturers need to step out of their comfort zones to learn new habits, acquire new disciplines, and implement organizational transformation that extends to their supply chain. 

Omnify Software, PLM, IoT, manufacturing processesFor small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), this may be a bit of a challenge. Turning to their product lifecycle management (PLM) system to manage backend activities typically stored in customer relationship management (CRM), issue tracking, and data collection systems -- as well as all the supply chain activities associated with procurement -- can help SMEs take advantage of the IoT like larger companies.

PLM’s Role in Leveraging Big Data

PLM technology provides a system to centralize product data, standardize business processes and streamline communication of information across distributed product development teams. It helps to shorten development cycles, improve quality and cut the time-to-market by enabling access to current and accurate product data. Anytime. Anywhere. 

To aid in the development of more complex, smart device-enabled products, PLM software has evolved from the backbone for managing multiple discipline processes, product documentation, complex BOMs, and engineering changes, to capturing downstream activities such as manufacturing planning, quality processes, and product and customer/field-level feedback.

PLM is capable of integrating data on both the front end and back end to support a bigger picture  and better-designed products. The amount of data interaction that engineers are going to need is increasing, especially since the domains of the design and engineering environments are no longer silos unto themselves. Data points related to product performance and efficiency can now be shared with the rest of the organization. Products are getting more complex by adding electronic and software components, and increased digital customer interactions bring forth even more information and opportunity.  

Some of the PLM vendors that cater to SMEs have taken the steps to build simple-to-use tools to leverage data and communications in new and more meaningful ways. Let’s face it, communication continues to be the cornerstone of product development, manufacturing, and support. Meetings, emails, and phone/conference calls are important aspects of any team that builds products. It is all about transparency and finding the best ways to get everyone on the same page. Capturing these discussions and associating them to product records provides all personnel with the visibility to understand the full impact their products have had on user, consumers, and customers. Understanding this impact has a direct influence on product features and quality for future designs and updates/upgrades.

Embracing Customer Input

Customer feedback is commonly used throughout the product development process to ensure that the end product is something that solves a customer’s problem or fulfils a need. The companies that can intertwine product development and customer feedback will be the ones that reap strong competitive advantages, have sticky customer loyalty, and earn raving customer advocates.

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