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PLM Paves the Way for Manufacturing Innovations

Pat Waurzyniak
By Patrick Waurzyniak Contributing Editor, SME Media

PLM strategies move manufacturers ahead with improved simulations in the Digital Thread and the latest Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications

The need for speed in product development programs for manufacturing has never been greater. With steadily shrinking product development windows, manufacturers demand product lifecycle management (PLM) software systems that deliver the best, fastest methods of creating product designs and building products, all while ensuring top-notch features and quality.

In recent years, the PLM systems delivered by major software developers have been deemed difficult to use and expensive, with the most-effective PLM implementations deployed predominantly in aerospace and defense programs. But with the demands of PLM users in major industries, and the rise of new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications, PLM is being redefined and changing.

The market for PLM grew to $38.7 billion overall in 2015, a 2.8% growth over 2014, noted Stan Przybylinski, vice president of research, CIMdata Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI). “When looked at in constant currencies, that growth rate would be 8.2% over 2014,” Przybylinski said. “Most of the PLM market leaders had strong growth in constant currencies, and all continued to make strategic acquisitions to expand their portfolios and, in some cases, to enter new markets. Looking toward 2020, CIMdata forecasts the PLM market to grow at a compound annual growth rate [CAGR] of 6.3% to $52.3 billion.”

Companies make PLM investments in many different areas and with many types of solutions including mechanical CAD, simulation and analysis, visualization and collaboration, building design, and others, Przybylinski added. “This diversity is reflected in the many different solution providers to the PLM market and in the fact that no single type of provider dominates the industry,” he said.

During 2015, many developers generated substantial revenues that represent PLM-related investments, with 16 providers generating PLM revenues in excess of $500 million from both the tools and the cPDm [collaborative Product Definition management] segments, he said. “Three solution providers, Dassault Systèmes, PTC, and Siemens PLM Software, are major providers of both tools and cPDm technology,” Przybylinski added, “while others, such as Autodesk and Mentor Graphics, are primarily tool providers that focus on specific segments within the overall market.”

Complexity Demands New PLM Tactics

With the complexity of today’s product development programs, many developers see a need for taking new approaches to PLM systems.

“Product complexity has increased significantly over the last 10 years and continues to accelerate as electronics and now software dominate almost every type of product and the Internet of Things becomes a compelling reality,” said Doug Macdonald, director of product marketing, Aras Corp. (Andover, MA), developer of the Aras Innovator PLM solution. “But as manufacturers gear up to meet increasing market demand for complex, connected products, they face competition from tech-savvy new entrants who could undermine their businesses.

“As they struggle to bring new products to market, manufacturers are realizing that processes designed for a simpler era are being stretched, causing numerous quality problems and resulting in rising product recalls, warranty claims and liability issues,” Macdonald said. “In fact they face a perfect storm of challenges, including coordinating mechanical, software and electronics/electrical engineers around the world; managing suppliers that have design authority and control critical technologies; ensuring product safety when updates occur in the field and interpreting IoT data; and maintaining compliance with a maze of regulations.”

To help accelerate innovation, Callaway Golf uses Siemens PLM Software’s Shop Floor Connect for Teamcenter from Siemens PLM Software to connect a digital thread from product design all the way to point of execution on the shop floor.
Image courtesy Siemens PLM Software

Major manufacturers began implementing PLM systems more than two decades ago to address these challenges, Macdonald said. “As the complexity of products and business processes increased, so too did the vision. But PLM technology failed to keep pace, causing implementations to lag even further behind the requirements,” he added. “Today, legacy systems are still focused almost entirely on the PDM role of managing 3D CAD data, we call this the science of engineering, while neglecting myriad other processes necessary to bring profitable products to market—the business of engineering.”

With cloud-based alternatives and clamoring in the market for IIoT solutions, new PLM systems including digital manufacturing solutions are making headway and will impact the market in the coming years. Mark Taber, vice president, marketing, PTC (Needham, MA), noted several major trends will affect PLM.

“We see the following major trends affecting developers of PLM systems today: cloud delivery; incorporating IoT into the design practice, leveraging IoT data across the enterprise; data management, across the business, meaning access to the full product definition, combined with aggregated information from the enterprise and external systems—ERP, MES, CRM; Product as a Service; and Visual Decision Making,” Taber said.

“The industry shifts are creating new business models and manufacturers are moving from delivering a product to be serviced to delivering smart, connected products as a service,” Taber said of the Product-as-a-Service segment. “IDC says that by 2018, 40% of the top 100 discrete manufacturers and 20% of the top 100 process manufacturers will provide Product-as-a-Service platforms. Connected products and connected customers help fuel innovation. This connectivity also means continuous product improvements through software upgrades during the lifecycle of the product.”

As augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) become more mainstream and accessible, Taber said, the design review process in product development will be radically transformed by the ability to integrate data from different sources, providing intuitive 3D experiences to the reviewers while connected to their product development systems environment.

The Digital Thread

With the push toward digitalization of all aspects of manufacturing, PLM providers need to work with users to improve overall automation processes. As products increasingly become more complex, PLM providers must supply the proper tools for designers and engineers to be able to capture ideas digitally, noted Aaron Frankel, senior marketing director, manufacturing engineering software, Siemens PLM Software (Plano, TX). “We’re trying to support the ability to enable people to do more complex designs, and to create products that do more things,” Frankel said, “where we see the marriage of mechanical and digital technologies coming together.”

An interesting challenge for PLM developers is being able to not just manage the mechanical design of the product, but also to look at products from a systems perspective, he added. “You have to be able to manage the designs of all the systems, not just the physical aspects of the systems but the digital, and to be able to design and simulate all of that so that you know how it’s going to behave in the real world,” Frankel said, “and then be able to create the manufacturing process and the production system, to be able to build it and make it.

“And as products become more complex, production systems are becoming more complex, and also intelligent,” he said. “We see an increased interest in application of sensors and devices in the manufacturing environment that are now collecting information and data from the real-world environment and how those devices and the equipment and processes are performing. And we as PLM companies are coming up with ways to look into that data and find the data that is meaningful, and extract meaning from it so that we can make better decisions on how to improve performance.”

Some recent enabling technologies include Simcenter, a new suite of simulation software and test solutions that Siemens launched in June, aimed at addressing engineering challenges of designing highly complex products. Simcenter combines simulation and physical testing with intelligent reporting and data analytics, creating digital twins to predict performance at all stages of product development. Siemens also introduced its Simcenter 3D CAE solution, built on its NX software, that combines several simulation disciplines.

At LiveWorx 2016, PTC showed several IIoT-enabled product development efforts like this Caterpillar generator app for the factory floor.
Image courtesy PTC

“The other big thing happening here which is very important is we’re not just digitalizing for single use,” Frankel said. “Companies want to be able to capitalize on their manufacturing knowledge, and they want to reuse and capitalize on their processes. We’re marrying MOM [manufacturing operations management] with PLM, so we have better insight into how our processes perform.” One of Siemens’ customers, Heidelmeier GmbH & Co. (Bad Brückenau, Germany), is using the company’s CAD/CAM and its Geolus 3D shape tool that enables pulling product manufacturing information from a part design and finding all of the tools and the CAD needed to cut it, he said. “It’s a very powerful tool,” Frankel added, “that gives you a way to reuse your manufacturing know-how.”

Tying into the IIoT

New PLM systems increasingly are leveraging the push toward full digitalization and development of applications for the IIoT. “At Aras, we continue to work with leading manufacturers to complete the digital transformation of the business of engineering while avoiding the failures of legacy PDM,” Macdonald said, adding that the key to this is the company’s resilient PLM platform that is:

  • Model-based, able to adapt to meet the unique needs of the organization and be changed at any time, avoiding complex programming, and with implementations being completed in a fraction of the time associated with legacy PDM;
  • Built on a single platform that provides application support for a broad range of users across disciplines, functions and the extended enterprise;
  • Easily upgradable, allowing manufacturers to take advantage of software enhancements and avoid legacy issues by deploying new releases in a timely and economical manner.

The main enabler of IIoT is the digital thread, Macdonald contended. “It is the connected digital information that refers to anything about a product, from its initial conception and design, through to its manufacture and in-field maintenance. But while pundits are painting the future of incredibly ‘smart’ factories, there’s a reason why the majority of manufacturers are not yet making IIoT real within their companies. Their data resides in unconnected silos and lacks context. Key to the architecture of future PLM is that it be built on a single platform that spans the enterprise. Thus, when a new product design emerges, manufacturing engineering can be automatically included in process flows to prepare everything required to actually manufacture the associated product.”

With everything built on the same platform, information flows easily and cross-functional processes become properly supported, Macdonald added, benefits that legacy systems cannot provide. “For example, a manufacturing BOM [Bill of Materials] can be generated from a process flow that connects it with the engineering BOM. At the same time, other process flows are taking place. Manufacturing engineers working in quality control can have their quality management system automatically reference the manufacturing process plans and work instructions to ensure product quality is robust.”

Several new PLM developments, Taber said, are coming from PTC including: a cloud/PLM SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offering; the PTC Navigate application for PLM; medical device value-ready deployment, with a set of pre-configured best practices for medical device makers; IoT closed-loop quality, including automated failure recording, risk planning, analytics, and corrective action leveraging data from connected devices; and distributed AR/VR product review, enabling distributed stakeholders to virtually interact with products in the field.

“The IIoT is having a huge impact,” Taber added. “The IoT enables PLM users to design products, systems, and systems of systems to provide the secure, custom data streams you need. It provides real-world data from multiple products and sources and replaces assumptions to improve business through better-informed design decisions.

“By continuously monitoring performance of individual assets or fleets of products, users can automatically detect failures and deliver fixes to the field to reduce product downtime—and increase customer satisfaction,” Taber added. “With the IoT, users can apply predictive data analytics when creating new iterations of an existing product to better meet and exceed customer expectations as well as enable new market opportunities with more competitive products.”

Simulation’s Impact

With the new simulation tools available today, product designers and builders are more capable than ever to design, visualize and build innovative new products than ever before.

An example is Siemens PLM customer Callaway Golf, which uses the Shop Floor Connect for Siemens’ Teamcenter PLM to connect the digital thread from product design all the way to the shop floor. With Siemens’ software, the golf equipment maker’s Carlsbad, CA, prototyping center was able to speed new club development from years to months, making golf clubs, like Callaway’s Great Big Bertha driver, that are lighter to swing, faster on arrival at the ball, and easier to hit the sweet spot.

“We’re working on uniting the virtual and physical worlds together. It’s also about being able to connect the manufacturing instructions that you create—connecting the digital thread—from the manufacturing plan to the people who will be using it,” Frankel said.

Other simulation developments include Siemens new NX Version 11 that was announced at IMTS, which includes new tools for working with hybrid additive/subtractive machine tools from DMG Mori (Hoffman Estates, IL). Developed in a partnership with DMG Mori, the NX 11 design and manufacturing software enables going beyond CNC, Frankel said, with support for newer hybrid additive/subtractive machines. The laser-sintering additive technology is being used at manufacturing companies such as Hoedtke GmbH & Co. (Kiel, Germany) to manufacture marine engine propellers to make parts much faster, Frankel said, than would be possible with traditional processes with near-net-shape components requiring additional machining.

“To do it the traditional way, manufacturing such a prop takes six to eight weeks, and based on this machine, they were able to do it in 36 hours,” Frankel said. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg here, with this technology. It’s very exciting.

“Additive is going to let us design parts in a different way,” he added, “with more complex cooling channels, or designs that you could make shape optimized, or as we refer to it, topology optimized.”

Many of the advances in PLM and CAD are making a difference for CAE/simulation, added PTC’s Taber.

“Smart connected products are enabling greater and more effective use of real-world data in the design process,” Taber said. “IoT platforms, like ThingWorx, are allowing users to collect and analyze massive data sets providing clear insight into actual product usage. This, in turn, enables designers to replace assumptions in their requirements and analysis with real-world data, creating greater levels of confidence in their results.”

In addition, Taber said that PTC’s Creo product design software will be introducing new technology that enables designers to build and manage sensors within the assembly and create bi-directional connections between the physical and the digital world. “Designing for smart, connected products will enable organizations to better optimize their current and future products.

“In the area of additive manufacturing/3D printing, PTC will be introducing technology that allows users to design, validate, optimize and print-check their models all within Creo, instead of exporting CAD data and run through one or more additional programs before printing,” Taber added. “This eliminates the disconnect between CAD data and final part design allowing Windchill [PLM software] to more effectively manage design throughout the entire process. Additionally, since the design, validation and optimization are performed using CAD, including the design and optimization of lattice structures, it remains as parametric data, enabling users to run any analysis and simulation they need.”

This article was first published in the October 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.

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