You can’t get away from it; IoT, the Internet of Things. Connected devices everywhere. It is estimated that there will be over 50 billion connected devices by 2020. At this rate, our toasters will be connected to the internet! From your smartphone, you can control the heat level, monitor temperature and look for cool spots, watch the carbohydrates carbonize in real time!
While we may not actually see the connected toaster (at least I hope not), many companies are looking into their own IoT strategies.
Manufacturers are no different. Industrial IoT (IIoT) is helping manufacturers learn more about their own products. All this information is helping to create brand new business models, selling outcomes instead of products. GE is probably the most notable example of this, where they sell flight hours instead of jet engines. With an immense amount of data generated by sensors on these engines, GE is able to predict failures and analyze performance to fine tune operation.
The question now, is not how can a company utilize this type of operational feedback, but when. Manufacturers will have to understand how that data fits into their systems engineering. As of now, this would require a company to apply the digital thread and digital twin philosophy. In short, the digital twin first accounts for the PLM’ish information leading up to delivery (requirements, simulations, designs, manufacturing processes, etc.). Then, each physical product will have an instance of the digital twin to record what happens after delivery. This includes as-built conditions, service modifications, and, here is the IoT connection, operational parameters.
The market may not yet be ready for this level of digitalization (a term I first heard here, at least in this context). So many companies are still using shared drives and spreadsheets as the PLM tools of choice. What we discovered is that if a company wants to have a IoT strategy, they have to understand what that entails. Will the company be ready to change their culture fast enough? IIoT is a great feedback loop. However, there has to be something to feedback all that data to. The promise is there; I think people understand the benefits.
To answer the original, I think PLM may be ready for it, as it matures and incorporates systems engineering, simulation-in-the-loop, and other enabling technologies. However, I don’t think the market is ready for the marriage of IIoT and PLM.