The traffic light turned green. But, not a single vehicle moved. All the drivers were busy texting on their phones. It took a little while and a lot of honking to get the traffic moving.
This scene isn’t very uncommon, is it? Nowadays, you see more public service ads like AT & T warning you against texting while driving than being drunk at the wheel.
You also seeing people waiting at Elevators staring at their phone, not bothering to say “hallo” to others or getting down on wrong floors? Last week, I got down to the 4th floor instead of 6th floor and was searching my office and realized I was staring too much my iPhone.
This shows the ubiquity of the mobile handset and the entire technology ecosystem that has changed our behaviour in very drastic ways.
Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud – SMAC – as it is known, has permeated everything from our interpersonal behaviour, to personal care, to complex power systems, to how large-scale manufacturing is being managed. You communicate more through text via social or messaging apps than you do using verbal/non-verbal speech or gestures. Your toothbrush or electric shaver is capturing and transmitting your dental data or skin health using Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Your wearable all-purpose device tracks your critical health parameters and sends it to your doctor, and probably your insurance company, via the cloud. Your electricity consumption is digitally measured, metered and you are prompted to power down your home lights if you’ve forgotten to do so before leaving home.
Welcome to a futuristic world where everything you do is linked some way or the other to the internet, and is tracked, measured, and fed back into the system. While this opens up privacy concerns, it is still fascinating what one can do with an astute use of such technology.
You may ask the question, so what? How does this really affect or alter the manufacturing process, or to put it broadly, the product life cycle? Doesn’t a product still have to go through the rigors of a step-by-step process?
What we often don’t realize is that technology and the human adaptation of it has changed the definition of a product considerably. For example, while a toothbrush is still a toothbrush, a device that cleans teeth, a connected toothbrush is a source of rich user data, which feed in to intelligence about user habits, consumption patterns, material wear-and-tear and give inputs to product specifications.
To add to this, there is significant learning that can picked up from unstructured data, such as conversations in social media or messaging apps. This is particularly relevant when it comes to unfelt needs or tapping human desires, rather than finite product related information.
In any organization which is serious about negotiating the drastic tech-influenced change in consumer habits, digital PLM has a significant role to play. Digitization is adapted rapidly by consumers, and change is rapidly replicated. In fact, you could say that it is contagious. User habits change before a corporation or even society can react to it – a good case in example is the rapid adaption of Uber and the pushback by traditional cab unions and governments the world over.
A foundation of cloud, apps, mobile technology, big data and even social media can enable manufacturers to introduce more innovative products and services – thus enabling innovative business models based on bundled costs and consumption-based pricing.
It is apparent that an organization has to be lithe and adaptive, and digitization of PLM is an essential step in this transformation.