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Smart Engineering: The impact of Industry 4.0 on PLM

By Martin Striezel

The digital transformation and Industry 4.0 are calling existing business processes and business models into question and creating new opportunities. Experts from PROSTEP discuss what impact this will have on future engineering processes and PLM architectures in a white paper entitled "Smart Engineering: The impact of Industry 4.0 on PLM".

In a wider sense, Industry 4.0 refers to the linking of the value chains in development, production, service and sales using state-of-the-art information and communication technologies. The development of smart, connected, or connectable, products and services and the associated production systems demands new engineering concepts. The objective of smart engineering is the creation of end-to-end digital value chains based on digital product models that can be enriched with data generated during the service life of a product. The Internet of Things (IoT) and the analysis of Big Data open up new possibilities here, from predictive maintenance to product optimization. At the same time, they provide the basis for new, service-oriented business models.

The authors of PROSTEP's white paper stress that: "PLM has a vital role to play in the digitalization of value chains and the implementation of smarter engineering processes." Existing PLM infrastructures, however, are not prepared for mastering the challenges posed by Industry 4.0 and smart engineering. 

The shift from traditional products to cyber-physical systems, which incorporate software and electronics and are also interconnected, means that interdisciplinary know-how is required for both product development and process design.

The experts at PROSTEP see a need for action in a variety of strategic, PLM-related areas, starting with the PLM architecture: "The increasing complexity of interdisciplinary product development can only be handled by a modular overall architecture comprising federated subsystems with intelligently linked information.” The lightweight integration of the systems used for application lifecycle management (ALM), product data management (PDM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) is essential if the entire lifecycle of the digital product representation is to be supported. Companies need to rigorously expand their approaches for digitalizing product development so that a completely digital product model can be created.

In the authors' view, domain-specific IT tools and methods do not provide sufficient support for an interdisciplinary engineering process. They therefore recommend that the tools and methods used for model-based systems engineering (MBSE) be integrated in the PLM processes in such a way that classic PLM functions can used on MBSE information. In the context of Industry 4.0, getting to grips with variant, configuration and change management becomes a cross-domain issue that encompasses the development and manufacture of mechanical parts, electrical components and software. 

According to the authors, technological innovation in the context of Industry 4.0 is also leading to greater collaboration across companies and domains. They therefore pose the question of how PLM systems can better support the growing need for collaboration during the development of smart, connected products. PROSTEP strives to provide the appropriate answers to these and other questions with its comprehensive range of consultancy services and solutions for Industry 4.0 and smart engineering.

Please find here the complete White Paper.