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Industry 4.0 and Its Impact on PLM

by Karsten Theis

What impact Industry 4.0 will have on PLM technology and PLM providers is one of the questions that PROSTEP has recently been examining closely. This is also demonstrated by the interview conducted with our CEO, Dr. Bernd Pätzold, in the current edition of our redesigned newsletter. Head of Marketing, Joachim Christ, reveals the reasons for the makeover.

The fourth industrial revolution brought about by the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the relative importance of products and services and is leading to the creation of new business models. This is of course also having an impact on the product development process, which is actually no longer a product development process because, in extreme cases, the product is only a means of providing a service. The lifecycle of these services extends far beyond the products' start of production.

A second important trend is that the products providing the services are being interlinked to an ever-increasing extent with other products and systems. They collect sensor data and pass it on, thus allowing information for controlling their behavior to be gathered. Or, and this is the latest trend, it is used to simulate a product's later behavior in the virtual stage. Digital and real products are becoming increasingly similar, which is why they are also referred to as "digital twins".

In the field of manufacturing, the intelligent networking of machines, systems, workpieces and IT systems is a prerequisite for what Americans refer to as "mass customization", i.e. made-to-order series production. It leads not only to a massive increase in the complexity of the development and manufacturing processes but also to their level of interaction.

When it is no longer possible to simulate every theoretically possible configuration of a product during development, every ordered product variant must at least be validated before the start of production. This requires a much higher level of data communication and, above all, the bidirectional communication of data between development and manufacturing or manufacturing planning. The keyword here is “digital manufacturing”.

What does this all mean in terms of the strategic IT landscape? Many companies are questioning the classic distribution of tasks between the PLM system as the engineering platform and the ERP system as the backbone system for the other business processes. They are wondering whether the PLM system is perhaps the better backbone for ensuring an unimpeded flow of data at the "green border" between development and production. We invite you to share what you think with our PLM experts. Because, regardless of the outcome of the discussion, you can be sure that, with Industry 4.0 and IoT, PLM systems will be faced with performing new tasks.

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