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Top 4 Industry Challenges Addressed by Software

Jordan Coffman
By Jordan Coffman Director of Global IoT, Sales & Strategic Initiatives, PTC

In the dynamic landscape of modern manufacturing, industries are confronted with many challenges, from evolving customer demands to rising costs and environmental sustainability. Fortunately, software solutions are rising to the occasion, offering tailored tools to address these complex challenges.

An engineer works on a CAD design in Creo. (Provided by PTC)

Navigating the Competitive Landscape

Today’s competitive marketplace requires manufacturers to distinguish themselves through a combination of factors, including innovation, speed, quality and cost. On all of these fronts, data silos and disparate systems present a growing problem. These silos slow down production times, inhibit collaboration and innovation, and limit opportunities for cost savings and efficiency.

Product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions address these challenges by facilitating seamless collaboration among cross-functional teams, departments and even external partners. They ensure all components, configurations and iterations are organized and documented. This means everyone is working from a unified set of information.

As product design changes happen, manufacturers maintain control over versions and revisions, reducing the risk of errors and miscommunications. No matter how complex products become, modern PLM solutions ensure everyone can connect to the data they need to be effective and meet customer needs.

As customer preferences shift, manufacturers also face challenges in adapting their product offerings. Customers increasingly expect software applications to accompany physical products. For manufacturers with complex products and strict compliance regulations, software development and management become unruly when using stand-alone development tools.

To solve this, manufacturers can turn to application lifecycle management (ALM) to manage the lifecycle of software applications. ALM software maintains a detailed record of all stages in the software development process, including requirements, design, development, testing and deployment. This is crucial for compliance, auditing and demonstrating adherence to regulatory standards, as well as ensuring that components and functionalities work together seamlessly.

With ALM, manufacturers gain a more streamlined and efficient development process, ultimately leading to higher quality products.

Overcoming Design Inefficiency

As manufacturers look to keep pace and constrain costs, they are finding traditional 2D drawings to be a stumbling block, which leads to errors. Ultimately, these errors slow down product design and lead to costly scrap and rework. 3D CAD software can help resolve these issues, offering the ability to use model-based definitions (MBD). Through MBD, traditional 2D drawings are replaced with 3D models that provide a comprehensive, unambiguous digital definition of a product. The 3D model of a product is accessible across engineering, manufacturing, quality, and supply base, and enables manufacturers to produce and inspect parts accurately without relying on 2D drawings. Key to this is the ability to annotate the 3D models so that specific details, dimensions and notes are included, allowing the model to be used directly by downstream functions such as manufacturing and inspection.

The MBD approach streamlines the design-to-manufacturing process, reduces errors and improves communication between design, engineering and manufacturing teams. With MBD, engineers no longer spend time creating and updating 2D drawings. Additionally, MBD aligns well with the concept of a digital twin, where the 3D model serves as a virtual representation of the physical product. This enables simulation, analysis and performance testing directly on the digital model.

Meeting Sustainability Requirements

In 2024, the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) will come into effect, requiring 50,000 global companies to report on their impact and commit to decarbonization goals. These regulations, combined with increasing customer pressure, are driving manufacturers to gain visibility into the environmental impact of their products and processes and to make substantial progress toward near-term and long-term decarbonization goals.

Software solutions are emerging as invaluable assets, offering data-driven tools that not only provide comprehensive insights but also enable manufacturers to embed sustainability at every stage of the product lifecycle. In the design stage, manufacturers can lightweight products using generative design, a 3D CAD capability that uses AI to autonomously create optimal designs from a set of system design requirements.

For example, using generative design, global power leader Cummins Inc. has been able to reduce material usage by 10%-15%, resulting in less embodied carbon and raw materials spending. In the development stage, CAD simulation software allows engineers to analyze and validate the performance of 3D virtual prototypes before moving to production, reducing the need for costly physical prototyping and its environmental impacts.

On the factory floor, IIoT solutions enable manufacturers to optimize energy consumption through real-time monitoring and to reduce waste and scrap, as well as conduct bottleneck analysis. Catching these inefficiencies early in the process only compounds the beneficial effects.

Looking at the service side of the product lifecycle, inventory optimization software that offers multi-echelon service-parts stocking enables companies to drastically reduce overall inventory, and its associated embodied carbon. By understanding where equipment is and how to stock parts to meet service level agreements, Mesto was able to reduce its service parts inventory by 40 million euros.

Adapting to Supply Chain Volatility

Supply chain disruptions are par for the course since the pandemic. For industrial companies, this has created new cost and risk pressures that are forcing them to consider more agile ways to bring products to market. PLM solutions are critical, providing real-time visibility, agile planning capabilities and risk assessment so manufacturers can effectively navigate and mitigate the challenges posed by supply chain volatility.

Modern PLM solutions provide visibility into the entire product lifecycle, including the supply chain, allowing manufacturers to track and monitor the progress of products and components. By integrating PLM with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, manufacturers can analyze historical data, customer demand patterns and market trends. This enables them to accurately forecast demand and make supply chain adjustments accordingly. PLM systems can also identify potential risks in the supply chain, such as disruptions in raw material availability or production delays. With this foresight, manufacturers can implement contingency plans and alternative sourcing strategies to mitigate potential disruptions.

As manufacturers navigate increasing complexity, software solutions are indispensable tools for overcoming challenges. From enhancing efficiency to enabling environmental sustainability, these solutions are pivotal in propelling industries forward.

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