Forecast 2023, Part Two: PLM Trends Will Remain Focused on Digital Transformation

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Over the past two decades, product lifecycle management (PLM) has become increasingly important to ensure not only the effectiveness of a company’s supply chain management but also the ultimate success of products in the marketplace. In the year ahead, intelligent, cloud-based PLM digital solutions—incorporating the use of technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IOT)—are also expected to play a crucial role in fostering product optimization and innovation, especially in the face of continued economic challenges.

PLM Digital Solutions

Used by manufacturers to manage the development of complex products, such as medical devices, PLM traditionally may refer to both the strategic process of managing a product’s journey from conception through the end-of-life (EOL) stage and the software used to manage the data and processes for each lifecycle stage across the supply chain. Today, PLM strategy and software are inextricably entwined, and there is greater urgency than ever for companies to adopt effective software solutions to gain dependable, 24/7 access to the complete range of data associated with a product—at all lifecycle stages.

According to data gathered by PTC, “the majority (63%) of manufacturing organizations believe that, without upgrading or reinvestment, their enterprise software systems will remain competitive for roughly two to three years. This means that any organization that upgraded in 2020 before, or at the start of, the pandemic, will likely be seeking to reinvest in its software solutions, [including] around product lifecycle management.”

As companies increasingly upgrade to cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms, they can ensure that a product’s sustainability and cybersecurity needs are addressed and incorporated into every product lifecycle stage, from ideation to EOL.

For example, PLM software tools can help ensure that products are “sustainable by design,” according to PTC, “using no more material than is physically necessary,” and the use of artificial intelligence can ensure that only the essential materials are being used to create the strongest design. Such technology tools can also help ensure that components are designed to facilitate their disassembly, reuse, and recovery at EOL.

In today’s environment, design- and engineering-focused product teams also require strategic insights for managing risks in their supply chain, particularly with an eye toward components or parts scheduled for EOL, according to manufacturing services company Jabil, which noted that “predictive analysis helps to identify the technology changes that are on the horizon so that necessary modular redesigns get traction early enough to help the OEM maintain leadership and competitiveness in their market.”

PLM Use Cases

Heading into 2023, executives are recognizing that PLM is perhaps more important than ever, as companies continue to face economic uncertainty due to war, inflation, lingering challenges from the receding COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing supply chain issues.

A recent article by engineering.com notes that the use of intelligent PLM software and processes helps companies achieve and access data standardization and consolidation, cross-business integration, improved user experience, and cross-platform analytics—all necessary to drive innovation and sustainable business resilience.

According to experts like Oracle, PLM software and IOT are being used for a variety of use cases, which include:

  • Seamlessly integrating data and processes in supply chain systems to develop a holistic product development strategy
  • Driving faster innovation to launch by more efficiently designing, developing, and managing new product introductions and engineering change requirements
  • Enforcing product compliance and tracking changes throughout a product’s lifecycle to adjust to changing global standards

Additionally, both Oracle and engineering.com note that PLM will play an important role in supporting the use of digital twins, or the digital representation of products, for tasks such as running virtual what-if scenarios, predicting the cost or benefit of product modifications, and ensuring optimal product performance.

“Going forward, virtual twins are becoming more realistic, more accurate, more predictive, more dynamic, and more timely representations of the real,” said engineering.com, noting that effective digital twin management implies robust lifecycle management.

This approach to using technology to monitor product lifecycles, especially with an eye toward EOL, is at the heart of what Dynamic Technology Solutions does when it evaluates and recommends technology solutions to maximize the lifespan of components used in mission-critical systems. To find out how this could work for your products, watch Dynamic’s Product Lifecycle Management case study video and download its Technology Asset Lifecycle Management Solutions fact sheet (PDF).

2023 Forecast: Technology Investments Will Offset Continued Supply Chain Disruption

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As we start the new year, disruptions to supply chain operations, including geopolitical conflicts, inflation, and labor shortages, are expected to continue.  “In the year ahead, a second wave of unplanned supply chain risks will likely be realized,” notes KPMG, which reported that 71% of global companies highlight raw material costs as their number one supply chain threat for 2023.

In this environment, organizations may have limited access to manufacturing materials, replacement components, and maintenance items. Increased energy costs and price surges may also make manufacturing challenging and prompt global corporations to reevaluate their manufacturing operations and consider shifting them onshore, KPMG said.

KPMG’s survey of global organizations also showed that:

  • More than 60% expect that geopolitical instability will have a detrimental impact on their supply chains in the next three years
  • Nearly half expect cybersecurity to be an important operational challenge for their supply chains during the next three years
  • 67% believe meeting customer expectations for speed of delivery will be a critical factor affecting the structure and flow of their supply chains over the next 12-18 months
  • Some plan to invest in digital technology to bolster their supply chain processes, data synthesis, and analysis capabilities
  • 54% plan to increase their focus on sustainable sourcing

Technology Trends to Watch

To address supply chain disruption, companies in recent years have invested in cloud-based digital transformation strategies to improve the sophistication of their supply chain planning, visibility, and risk management, and this key technology trend is expected to continue in 2023.

Another digital trend likely to have a significant impact this year is the Internet of Things (IOT), according to the Association for Supply Chain Management’s Top 10 Supply Chain Trends 2023 report.

The IOT — a network of connected devices that facilitates data collection and communications — provides real-time smart logistics information to supply chain managers about product location, movement, estimated time of arrival, and temperature conditions. With data-driven insights generated by IOT, companies can optimize their supply chain networks and control costs, gaining a competitive advantage.

Companies are also turning to mobile and stationary robotics to assist workers with warehousing and transportation and as a result, are transforming supply chains. “Safer, more efficient warehouses, with fewer people in them, will drive down costs,” ASCM reported. “Although the initial capital investment will be high, the cost savings are primed to be dramatic.”

Additionally, organizations should be reevaluating their transportation planning systems in the coming year to identify logistics vulnerabilities. This effort will ensure that supply chain stakeholders are collaborating in an integrated way and adapting plans based on real-time information. “Logistics organizations must create the conditions necessary for a seamless interaction among multiple transportation networks and their digital replicas. They also should be rethinking the physical connections among warehouses, highways, ports, waterways, and air transportation,” ASCM said.

Other digital transformation trends that became prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic (which we’ve covered in previous blog posts) and are set to continue in the coming year include data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), data security, and sustainable supply chains.

Cyber Risk Mitigation Remains a Priority

As companies consider upgrades to their digital systems and invest in new technologies in 2023, they should be mindful of data security and managing cyber risk. Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated when infiltrating supply chains.

“The supply chain can offer vulnerabilities that provide external parties with a pathway to get into your systems, particularly your supplier network,” explained KPMG. “Criminals could also hack in through basic warehouse equipment such as barcode readers or via internet of things (IOT) devices applied within your manufacturing and other operational sites.”

KPMG recommends that all companies consider the following cyber risk mitigation measures in 2023:

  • Identify strategies that your company and its partners must enact to mitigate cyber risk in your supply chain
  • Ensure that new third parties in your supply chain ecosystem undergo cyber risk assessments
  • Consider AI and machine learning when onboarding new suppliers to address threats such as email spam and phishing
  • Conduct a cyber assessment for all supply chain activities using IOT devices (e.g., storing data, managing inventory, tracking goods)

In the next installment of our 2023 Forecast, we’ll examine what trends are on the horizon for product lifecycle management and technologies—including End of Life (EOL) issues—that can help manufacturing companies foster innovation and drive competitive advantage.