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Product data management software: Secret weapon for manufacturing performance?

Manufacturers today rely on technology such as product data management software to manage critical product data, especially when problems arise.

When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovered that some four million buckles on a child's safety seat were defective and improperly recalled, it took action. The manufacturer, Graco Children's Products, ultimately agreed to a $10 million settlement for failure to promptly recall the seats. In the end, Graco stated, "We fell short of NHTSA's expectation for data collection and reporting procedures."

To keep incidents like this from happening, manufacturers today rely on technology such as product data management (PDM) software to manage product data -- data such as safety tests and checks, patents, regulatory requirements, which products were produced where and which distribution channels were affected, and many other pertinent facts that have many uses in times of crisis, as well as in normal business operations.

"Manufacturers are right to be concerned with the privacy and security of their data," Rich Carpenter, chief technology strategist for GE's Intelligent Platforms software, said. He added that companies should validate that necessary security and privacy capabilities have been built into the design of a vendor's products.

Privacy concerns aside, there is tremendous value in leveraging the collective equipment and manufacturing knowledge to rapidly troubleshoot problems and drive efficiency across the enterprise. "This can only be achieved through careful sharing of select data, analyzing this data across the ecosystem, and sharing this data in the form of knowledge focused on driving customer outcomes," Carpenter said. "At some point, the cost of not participating in this ecosystem becomes far riskier than the original data privacy concerns."

"The Internet of Things is upon us, and it is quickly reshaping the way manufacturers think about how they create and service products that are intended to be connected to the Internet," Tom Shoemaker, vice president of marketing for PLM/ALM/retail/supply chain at PTC said. Companies, he said, should consider "PLM/PDM implications that must be thought about now -- but which will persist over the next five years."

The Internet of Things is upon us, and it is quickly reshaping the way manufacturers think about how they create and service products that are intended to be connected to the Internet.

According to Shoemaker, key considerations that manufacturing leaders and their teams need to be aware of include incorporating design and engineering specifications into their products; staying tethered to product performance while it resides in a customer's operation; performance data while in use; and a feedback loop of pertinent product data for future and continued manufacturing.

Encompassing key product data and information via product data management offers a wealth of benefits in many different functional areas within today's manufacturing organization. Such benefits may be found at the departmental levels at design, manufacturing, logistics and transportation and information technology. A company's enterprise-wide embrace of data by using a technology tool like PDM or PLM software will accelerate manufacturer's ability to compete, while helping to mitigate risk of circumstances such as what Graco Children's Products faced. For manufacturing, it is a technology tool worth watching, and worth adopting to achieve their desired performance level.

"It's important to have a trusted, scalable system that can accommodate both the huge volumes of data that come from product development," Tom Shoemaker of PTC said. "But that also supports the huge ecosystem of users involved in and around the processes of product development. Performance is a key aspect to consider."

Next Steps

Discover how the Internet of Things is changing enterprise service management

To embrace IoT, companies may need extreme makeover

Will the product as a service model transform manufacturing?

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