PTC president and CEO Jim Heppelmann has identified what he calls the “seven forces” at work in manufacturing businesses today, any one of which would be significant – but the combination of all seven is, he says, “transformational”.
The Heppelmann Seven are:
Digitisation. It’s been 25 years since computer-aided design started the process of digitising product geometry, but the degree and scale of digital product information now available is much wider: it is, says Heppelmann, “the DNA of manufacturing”, with applications in analysis and in production and assembly now commonplace. Digitisation has scope for further transformation of manufacturing in technologies such as 3D printing, where products are created directly from data, and in new areas such as service businesses.
- Globalisation. Digitisation is just one factor that has brought about the globalisation of companies and their products: the availability of air travel and the arrival of the internet contributed too. But digitisation enables collaboration across the boundaries of geography and has changed the whole business of innovation through information sharing of design files and manufacturing data.
- Regulation. Now that so many manufacturing businesses have global markets, they run increasingly into the myriad governments and agencies that set rules and regulations – on products, their uses, their content and how they are produced. Other regulations come about through environmental or economic pressures. Compliance is intrinsically linked to product data, which provides evidence that regulations are being met through analytics applications such as those found in Windchill.
- Personalisation. The existence of different regulatory regimes fragments global markets: but the idea of one product able to serve all markets applies to very few commodities anyway. Different geographies and traditions – such as which side of the road you drive on – make customisation inevitable… and it’s often what customers want anyway. A balance has to be struck between diversity and economic scale in conventional products, but Heppelmann believes that software inside products changes the rules and makes individual personalisation possible. Indeed, he says, we already do it with our mobile phones.
- Software-intensive products. Heppelmann’s fifth transforming force is the integration of hardware and software within products, which changes fundamentally the engineering that goes into them and changes too the ability to vary and to control product performance through individual programming. Companies making traditional products are these days employing as many, if not more, software engineers as they are the conventional engineering disciplines.
- Connectedness. Alongside software comes connectivity, and this is in two directions. It enables today’s products to be controlled and modified by the manufacturer in terms of performance and even function while they are in use. But it also enables the products themselves, through technologies such as wireless sensors, to relay back their status and condition, to warn of incipient problems and to provide new data that can be used in future designs.
- Servitization. The ability of products to communicate – and to be communicated to – dismantles conventional barriers between what is perceived as “product” and what has usually been viewed as “service”. This aligns with a wider business trend for manufacturers to take on more of the service responsibilities for their products and opens up a new area of service lifecycle management (SLM) systems that both borrow from and contribute to a broader unified digital product information system.