“Too late, too late will be the cry when the man with the bargains has passed you by.” From Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. When the character Bacon delivered this line in the film he was not talking about PLM, but he might well have been.

Change at a pace

Cutting edge engineering firms of all sizes are getting their teeth into Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things and Big Data. Those that haven’t started implementing their strategy are working hard to understand the potential risks and opportunities, attending events and networking. Not a one off activity, these new sources of information need to be tapped regularly to maintain a useful ‘finger on the pulse’ of the changes in the marketplace.

One of the key potential benefits the new environment promises is to create business value through the ability to deliver actual product usage data directly into the engineering and manufacturing processes. Data that can be used to fine tune and optimise future product based on previously unknown usage, performance and consumer experience.

PLM has become part of business as usual

So if you are a business focussing on what data to acquire and how it will be collected and analysed to provide the insights that you need to drive exceptional business performance where does that leave PLM?

Some are already promoting ‘The Digital Thread’ associated with Industry 4.0 as the replacement of a PLM focus in the boardroom. There is no doubt that data acquisition and transforming it into information will be a significant task for organisations. For many the concept is still quite new and mastering big data and extracting value from the analytics will take time. This should not be the cue to place PLM to one side. In fact PLM is one of the most important stepping stones to Industry 4.0 success.

In many ways modern PLM, with its focus on the experience, is probably the most important enabler and is itself under constant development to further optimise the supplier/partner – company – customer and internal business functions as value chains.

Additive Manufacturing, a recent addition to the manufacturing mix has already been brought into PLM by OEM’s like Dassault Systèmes. This gives those that spot a business opportunity enabled by optimized design the ability to remove manufacturability constraints or speed-up custom product delivery. The software tool manufacturers are already including the developments needed to maintain accuracy in a 3D printed virtual world that will minimize expense and waste in the real world.

Still considering PLM?

On the reverse side of the coin. What if you are still thinking about implementing PLM? Maybe you use some of the engineering toolkit (design, analysis etc.) but have resisted PLM and the database, that would replace your file based system, at the centre of the applications and the product data that you create.

It’s becoming increasingly likely that if you are still considering PLM for your business that you may now be so far behind the curve that you will never recover.

Industry 4.0 layers another change and development across industry in its entirety. OEM’s that have been working hard to digitize their value chains and integrate their partners and suppliers will have increasing less time to support some older or potentially new suppliers that aren’t up to speed with what they now see as the basics and can’t integrate quickly.

This could really be the last chance saloon for a large number of engineering businesses.

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