The New Face of Machinery – Part 2

September 2016
Peter Thorne

Part 1 of this article discussed the new ways of interacting with connected products and how manufacturers will change their approach to development, operations and service.
Part 2 maps out how this change will create new opportunities, and new frontiers of competition for software vendors who target the smart product sectors

The scope gets bigger, again


Removing product switches and displays makes some things simpler, but not enough to turn the tide of growing complexity.

Handling the transition to a smart product is tough because of the multiple technologies involved:

  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Electronic
  • Software

Trade-off decisions are now even more complex, so much so that a systems-engineering discipline may be needed to avoid a committee vote for every decision!

A smart connected product, sold with operation or service agreements, means much stronger connection of the engineering team to the product in operation.

Instead of being largely isolated in the old ‘development’ and ‘production’ parts of the organisation (see figure 1), data streams from the product provide a high fidelity view of the product in operation.

This will help calibrate simulations. The new service team will be fiercer than any customer in feedback of any problems.

Figure 1: Some of the changing engineering dataflows

New life in the field

Product function and performance depends on all its components (including the software), as well as the capabilities of the connected back-end systems.

So, development engineers (and, of course, the sales and marketing teams) have a new method of providing new capabilities – update the software (and remember to update the as-maintained records).

Caught in the dataflows?

It is easy to imagine engineering teams getting caught out by the volume, frequency, scope and detail of even these new dataflows, and we haven’t even mentioned software configuration and support for resellers wanting to demonstrate the new capabilities, or coordinating a new software baseline with production and test.

Fortunately, for most design and manufacturing organizations, this is familiar territory, given that engineering dataflows and processes have been getting more and more complicated for decades, for a range of reasons including:

  • distributed development teams
  • global supply chains
  • gaining regulatory approvals

Software from the Product Lifecycle Management stable has provided the tools needed to manage data, and manage workflows. PLM has the structures needed to handle the new dataflows.

The new engineering software battlegrounds

The transition of smart connected products from the special case (NASA has been building smart connected products for decades) to more widespread adoption is a shift in the tectonic plates of the engineering software landscape.

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