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For successful PLM, IoT and digital twins required

“Let’s be frank. In an industry that calls itself ‘product lifecycle management,’ nobody’s done much lifecycle management,” said Jim Heppelmenn, CEO at PTC, during his keynote at this year’s LiveWorx event. “When the product left the factory floor, we lost sight of it though it labored on in the field for years or even decades.”

Lifecycle management is a bit of a challenge if you can’t see the product for its entire lifetime, no?

Fortunately that’s all about to change. Get ready for a makeover, PLM; IoT is here.

IoT and PLM? IoT is PLM.

“Let’s step back and think about IoT and PLM for a moment,” Heppelmann said. “The ‘things’ in IoT are products that came out of a factory. Why would you connect products to the internet if not to better lifecycle manage them? The simple answer is that IoT is PLM — or at least the next generation of it.”

PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann talks PLM, IoT at LiveWorx.

PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann talks PLM, IoT at LiveWorx.

IoT is PLM. It’s a simple enough statement, and one that most familiar with IoT and PLM surely recognize and have heard in some iteration time and again. But think about it for a minute. For centuries products have been manufactured, sold and used in factories, workplaces and homes with hardly any performance data reciprocated to their creators. Despite PLM and its promises, much of a product’s lifecycle has largely gone undocumented, meaning companies may never find out what improvements a product needs to sustain viability.

Now, combining IoT and PLM, companies are adding sensors to new and existing products stationed everywhere from in the field or on a factory floor to in a customer’s home or workplace, or even on the move with fleets and cargo. Using the data gleaned from connected sensors and IoT, PLM software is helping companies and manufacturers truly monitor the product for its entire lifecycle like never before.

And it doesn’t — or, at least, shouldn’t — matter if products are homogenous or disparate, multi-vendor or single vendor.

“We can collect data from a fleet of similar smart products that are distributed all over the world, or we can collect data from each unique combination of dissimilar assets that you can find gathered together in every factory worksite or city infrastructure,” Heppelmann said. “We can bring that data back across the boundary into the digital world where we can analyze it to understand how the product is being used, what experiences it’s been subjected to and how well the design is working. There are so many new possibilities with this new generation of PLM. IoT is the next generation of PLM.”

Adding digital twins into the PLM/IoT equation

Taking it a step further, Heppelmann touted digital twins as an integral part of IoT and PLM. IoT sensors gather data, which is then analyzed to make better business decisions or for predictive analytics. However, by involving a digital twin of the product in the process, companies can replicate the product digitally and gain a deeper understanding of the product’s real-world experiences in its environment. Digital twins can also be used to simulate the product’s response under different circumstances, or to test potential product improvements and how the product would then fare under the same conditions.

“By looking at this digital twin, we gain incredible insights into ways that we could improve the product’s design, operation and service,” Heppelmann said, adding that the lifecycle is finally complete, finally full circle — and in many cases may never end thanks to improvements that can be made with PLM, IoT and digital twins.

“With these powerful feedback loops in place, we have the foundation for a true cradle-to-grave concept of product lifecycle management” Heppelmann said.