Digitalisation enabled by product lifecycle management

Countless new sources of information are transforming, speeding up and complicating innovation, product development and even the product itself as digitalisation spreads deeper and wider in enterprises around the world

Digitalisation, of course, is the irreversible trend of representing anything and everything in 1s and 0s.

In many cases, digitalisation is transforming products from physical goods and tangible services into “digital twins”, exact replicas or avatars of the physical product. Digital twins are one of the new artefacts of the internet of things (IoT) and its billions of connected devices that upload data continually.

Digital twins, the IoT and trends like big data are only a part of this story, however. The real news is that data itself is beginning to replace goods and services as the “product” as what is being sold to customers. This is because many products and services are now being bought and installed as much for the information they can collect or generate as for the product’s conventional value or the nominal benefits in requirements, product data sheets and advertising.

Let me put this upheaval into vocabulary of business and information technology (IT) terms. The rationale for purchasing many new “smart”, IoT-connected products is changing before our eyes. Rationales are shifting towards acquiring and leveraging the use of the information that cascades through the product’s embedded sensors, actuators and encoders.

As we all realise, information and the insights it can reveal have become nearly priceless in developing and enhancing innovative goods and services. Digitalisation can be defined in many ways and one of the most succinct definitions is as a business strategy geared to extract real-world value from digital data. In three decades of research and consulting work, CIMdata has learnt there is just one way to ensure none of this value slips through our hands, and that is defining and implementing an appropriate product lifecycle management (PLM) strategy.

IT aside, information management as we have known it for decades is being re-engineered top to bottom. Digitalisation is the driver of all the apps and icons crowding the screens of our terminals, smartphones and workstations. Undergoing sweeping changes are predictive analytics, data-mining and search, cloud-based solutions, simulations, optimisations and production, and better information integration with deeper data interoperability. This is also true of compliance and verification.

All this is empowering better collaboration among staff with very diverse skillsets and backgrounds, while linking together the increasingly intelligent machines and solutions that people need to succeed in their jobs.

Radical advances in digitalisation are underway all around us, derailing the status quo in everything from kitchen appliances to everything in industry, to sequencing the human genome. These upheavals are most felt in the older parts of IT. Scanning paper documents into images, for example, is rapidly losing usefulness. Amid today’s massive information flows, imaging falls way short of enterprise needs.

There are major consequences in all this for end-to-end PLM and the management of all related intellectual property. As information gains parity with the inherent value of tangible goods and systems, it’s no surprise that data is sometimes labelled the “new oil”.

Digitalisation is driving another transformation. To build out and enable their own platforms, PLM solution providers have invested billions of dollars in recent years in innovation and acquisitions. These acquisitions are providing users with innovative tools and previously unavailable capabilities to address the remaining stumbling blocks to prosperity in hyper-competitive marketplaces.

The march of the digital technologies is widely recognised as both unstoppable and inscrutable. Today we see only the beginnings of the connectivity digitalisation requires; connectivity that competition may impose on us unless we adopt it willingly and soon.

So from molecules to terabytes, to insights, lifecycle information from goods and services, and their digital twins, is already defining digital transformation’s next phase. And this brings us to the significance of another new label, digitalisation enabled by PLM: a foolproof way to capture, secure and manage digitalisation’s enormous value.