Industry experts indicate that we are in the midst of yet another Industrial Revolution, this one characterized by the connectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and cloud computing.
Historical Background Advancements in technologies over the years have paved the way for many massive changes in industrial protocols. The introduction of the steam engine in the late 1700s brought about the first Industrial Revolution. A century later, the establishment of electricity wrought additional changes in industry. The introduction of electronics, computers, and information technology in the 1970s meant more updates for industrial processes. Now, industry experts indicate that we are in the midst of yet another Industrial Revolution, this one characterized by the connectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and cloud computing.
Currently, the key component to the connection of data, devices, and information is referred to as the Internet of Things, IoT.
What is IoT?
IoT is the linking of objects through sensors and software to connect and exchange data over the internet. For example, a smart watch tracks your vitals and health markers and also connects to the internet so you can track your health. The IoT is not just wearable technology, though. It consists of all connected technologies… your refrigerator, home security system, thermostat, television, and even your car. Regardless of size, nearly all your home gadgets can connect to the internet and track data. This data can then be used to effectively catalog and monitor your health, finances, and almost all your everyday activities.
What does this mean for the manufacturing industry and product creation?
New and powerful technologies in the field of sensors, embedded systems, AI, and networking must enable smart, connected systems to enhance product development. From a high-level perspective, these connections give rise to a more integrated supply chain that links all phases of a product's life cycle.
Take for instance the sensor data for a car brake manufacturer. Sensor data analyzes and communicates how a brake is performing under certain conditions, and this data is vital to developers. It can be used to analyze predictive behaviors and further optimize the component. These same IoT technologies can be used in other industries and applications in manufacturing, like monitoring an airplane wing. IoT technology allows the manufacturer to view the wing’s data in real time and search for operational issues.
Regardless of use case, IoT technologies can benefit each stage of a product’s life cycle. From initial ideation to development, manufacturing, use and end of life, IoT data makes it easier for companies to create better products more efficiently with less errors and defects through preventative maintenance.
What Implementation Challenges do SMEs face?
SMEs face unique challenges for IoT adoption, ranging from business process improvement to resource management and technology know-how and execution.
How will incoming IoT technology affect your current business processes? Business processes will require a complete digital product model that maps the development processes and the entire product life cycle. Enabling smart, connected data through each phase of the product's life cycle requires interdisciplinary engineering. Because product data is still mostly managed in data silos (separate ALM, PLM, and ERP systems), SMEs need secure and efficient access to consistent and up-to-date data over an entire life cycle.
Connecting disparate systems with siloed data is a challenge with the potential for costly errors. However, leveraging IoT the right way helps SME product development processes in a variety of ways. For one, it enables your product life cycle to be analyzed in such a way that usage statistics and service data enable fast feedback for predictive maintenance. It also facilitates product optimization in terms of quality and functionality.
PROSTEP, a leading technology expert in the field of systems integration, has been a proponent of integration for the past 25 years. Their experience has led to the development of many standards for product development.
There are a few things that PROSTEP believes you should know to fully prepare for and utilize the benefits of IoT:
Global networking and access to data means different skills are needed for resource selection and adoption.
Product Development often involves numerous suppliers, manufacturers, and entities down the supply chain. It is imperative to understand how each system interrelates and have the resources to effectively manage and adopt IoT into your processes.
The shift from physical to digital models for IoT data tracking demands interdisciplinary know-how of the right software, business processes, and implementation.
Innovative IoT software comes from a variety of vendors. Does your team understand how to execute a suite of IoT offerings and services from a vendor such as PTC’s ThingWorx platform? What data are you tracking and for what purpose? Do your existing processes support IoT initiatives?
Product customization leads to product variants, intricacy, and strategic approaches to PLM and processes.
Due to the complexity of various IT systems, companies must develop system architectures capable of integrating new technologies that support data linking and traceability of product data across the supply chain. A sound enterprise architecture management plan helps facilitate information between various IT architectures.
Growing an IT landscape with data from other systems requires system know-how and integration of data from disparate systems.
Today’s development processes see mechanical, electrical, and software development in different organizational units. This means data in one system has a good chance of not being up to date in other systems. The wide range of systems poses a challenge for SMEs. Where possible, implementing strategic approaches is necessary to reduce the complexity of system architecture and restructure processes for IoT.
- IoT adoption leads to new ways for collaboration and data sharing between people, processes, and systems.New workflows and data add to the overall complexity of IoT adoption. Enabling seamless collaboration using integration solutions helps connect not only your data and processes, but also the people and teams involved in product development.
It is clear that IoT brings a new level of organizational, technical and business process challenges to SMEs. These challenges can be mitigated, however. Companies can integrate product data information, communication and product technologies, networked products, production systems and teams, making it easy to share data and use this data for product enhancement.
There is no one-size-fits-all process for IoT adoption, as companies vary in the level of maturity required for adoption and readiness. More often than not, an IoT assessment aids in defining the current state of the company and helps to create a roadmap for IoT projects.
As a leading consulting and software company integrating systems, PROSTEP supports the redesign of IT landscapes and the optimization of processes. With over 25 years of experience, PROSTEP provides readiness assessment for SMEs.
The consulting consists of 4 phases:
1. Compilation of company data and IoT company awareness, highlighting procedures and methodologies.
2. Analyzing the state of engineering processes and defining the target state of adoption.
3. Workshops analyzing the results and generating ideas for process and product optimization.
4. Evaluation and summary of results to deliver a roadmap for implementing new initiatives
With 500 employees and a global reach, PROSTEP is the leading vendor-independent PLM consultant for the discrete manufacturing industry. In addition to its global headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, PROSTEP’s US headquarters is located in Troy, MI.PROSTEP plays an integral part in new developments with various partnerships to organizations leading digital change. Organizations include 3D PDF Consortium, NAFEMS – National Agency for Finite Element Methods and Standards, PROSTEP iVIP Association, IT Security Association Germany (TeleTrust), VDMA – Verband Deutscher Mashineno un Anlagenbae e.V., and Wissenschaftliche Gessellschaft fur Produktwicklung WiGep.If you are interested in an IoT readiness assessment, please contact visit our pages at prostep.us to learn more.