Considering IoT and the Business of Engineering

By Peter Schroer, Founder & CEO, Aras Corporation

In the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), today’s manufacturer faces unprecedented change. Complex, connected products incorporate hardware, software, and electronics into systems that communicate with other products, services, and people via mobile or hard-wired Internet connections. 

IoT impacts are felt across industries-from connected vehicles in automotive, flight information feedback in aerospace to the industrial Internet and wearable technologies on the factory floor. Today’s products are more sophisticated than ever and are growing in complexity as hardware, embedded software and electronics become integral.

How do these forces impact global product developers in automotive, aerospace and beyond?

Asked another way, what is the impact of IoT on the business of engineering?

Managing the Business of Engineering
When considering today’s business of engineering, digital connectedness emerges as a core concept. Connecting the disciplines is essential, as well as cross-enterprise and extended enterprise processes stretching from sourcing, component engineering, manufacturing, and the supply chain to maintenance, service, and support.

What we commonly see is that product developers turn to their existing Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems to handle these challenges. What the enterprise quickly discovers, however, is that legacy PLM systems were never designed to flexibly manage cross discipline or cross-enterprise business processes.

Product quality hangs in the balance, as does the potential for safety issues, recalls, and repair. Companies often get stuck with gaps in both data and processes that can reduce quality, increase time to market, and lower profitability. Furthermore, using spreadsheets to fill the gaps can lead to unclear master data, a lack of data sharing, unaddressed business processes, and a general lack of scalability. As product complexity continues to increase these conditions introduce the potential for a range of serious issues including safety, liability, and field repairs or recalls.

When product teams distribute information across different disciplines and with partners via spreadsheets and other documents using email, shared drives and file sharing, there is no version control and little or no security. This leads to design issues, quality problems and the potential for expensive field failures and liability risk.

Digital Connections
Today’s business of engineering demands digital connectedness between the engineering disciplines-(mechanical, electronic, and software development) as well as extended enterprise collaboration across sourcing, manufacturing, the supply chain and field service. Without this digital connectedness, it is impossible to create a context for IoT data and successfully leverage it.

Some of the most successful product developers we have seen power the business of engineering by integrating cross-discipline product development, manufacturing and field service with fast-changing processes and workflows across the extended enterprise, including customers, suppliers, partners, remote employees and other stakeholders. In many cases this can be done without having to replace many existing systems, thus lowering cost and risk.

There is much at play here. 
It takes adoption of a PLM platform approach to achieve this new level of collaboration and connection.

It also takes a culture that brings together people, processes, and systems across the various disciplines and the extended enterprise to truly enable the seamless design, development and delivery of tomorrow’s smart, connected innovations.

A Final Word: Balance
For the past twenty years, companies have made deep investment into elements of “The Science of Engineering.” These technologies are important but, without balance, without a matching investment in what is emerging as “The Business of Engineering,” manufacturers will struggle to produce advanced products that meet market demands.

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