PLM will be redefined as IoT in the future, opening up new possibilities for value creation

PLM Pulse is the first industry-led survey hoping to shed some light into where we are in our PLM journeys and where the real value lays. It is not meant to be an academic or consulting research paper, but rather a temperature check of how industry sees PLM today – the pulse.

In this final article, we will explore the question why “PLM will be redefined as IoT in the future, opening up new possibilities for value creation”. This article is not intended to be conclusions to the question or a detailed research findings, but more observations from industry professionals in the PLM space – our food for thought.

Have your say now… Go straight to the survey by clicking on this link“This is probably my third draft of this article. The connection and synergistic relationship between PLM and IoT is so wide reaching and profound, a series of articles is probably more justified. In this final version, I skim over a number of topics, but I am sure more conversations will follow…”

In my presentations about the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital transformation, I always talk about the “Digital Gold Rush”. The California gold rush of 1849. I describe many companies today acting like the prospectors of 1849, staking their claims to the IoT landscape. But it was not the prospectors that made the most money in the gold rush[i] – it was the merchants selling to the suppliers and goods to the prospectors. PLM systems are the merchants for IoT solutions. The information inside are the goods the merchants sell. At PTC’s Liveworx event this May, their CEO Jim Heppelmann appeared ignited the whole debate again by repeating his “IoT is PLM” statement, with analysts and bloggers requoting and reflecting like mad. But how close is this to todays reality?

Does PLM have an integral part of your companies IoT strategy? Is your PLM initiative ready to support your companies IoT projects? What are the biggest barriers for PLM enabling your IoT initiatives? Do the new terms around PLM like “Digital Twin” help PLM positioning in your company?

With the explosion of IoT everything is becoming “connected”. The number of connected devices and sensors by 2020 varies wildly depending on which source you look at. But one thing is for sure, it will be many tens billions. But being connected is not enough. For companies to create value from IoT and realise its potential, they need to know what they are connected to. This for many companies is a real challenge. This is the bridge which PLM can provide in the future. It should create the backbone if information for IoT, helping companies unleash new potentials.

But have companies made the right connections to PLM in their IoT strategies? Many businesses are accelerating their digital strategies to show the market, investors and competition that they are still relevant. Depending on which industry you look at, the focus is different. But there is an absolute drive for all things digital.

The maturity of the industries and solutions vary tremendously. For example, at the Industrial IoT Talk I co-chaired in June this year, I made reference to the way IoT Analytics rated “The Top 20 Companies Enabling Predictive Maintenance”. To determine their results they measure google search results, new and blog references and LinkedIn job titles with the term “Predictive Maintenance”[ii]If this is how we consider IoT what chance do we have to ensure that the way a company uses PLM in the right way? And given some of the technical and license barriers in connecting to PLM I mentioned in my previous articles, I see many companies simply bypassing PLM completely for speed and to demonstrate results.

One of the key challenges for companies and IoT right now is defining what IoT is. Is it Industrie 4.0 or Industrial IoT? Is it putting sensors on all my products to create help me predict issues and ensure uptime? Is it the connected fan that communicates the air quality in a home and aggregate air pollution levels for a city[iii]? The problem is, it is all of the above and more.

To better understand IoT with defining it, we can look at the fundamental value propositions:

  1. Improving the efficiency of your business today,
  2. Supporting an increase of organic sales by adding services and offerings to current products or
  3. Generating new revenue streams from new business models and offerings.

In (1) the primary drive is connecting the operations of your business and (2) and (3) are enabled by connected or smart products.

In all cases, the fundamental connection between the “P” in “PLM”, which is either the “thing” or “product” and the information the defines it is essential for any IoT strategy to work.

With IoT capabilities, connecting the information of the product, through to machines in the shop-floor and improving the traceability of what was made and shipped, large improvements in efficiency can be gained. In our own internal studies, this benefit is in double digit percentage performance improvement for some product lines. To achieve this, a digital definition of product and potentially the manufacturing process needs to be created to allow businesses to capture and relate this new information in context. This “digital twin” and the corresponding “digital thread” of information between processes and systems is a core value proposition for PLM in the future.

Most companies will include the Engineered product and often a manufacturing definition in PLM. Only in few industries today does this information extend to the product in the field. But as more and more products become “connected” or “smart”, it not just the OEM that needs to understand the product and performance.

The possibility to understand the performance of your product whilst in the field, its relationship with the entire systems or environment creates huge potential for improved reliability or new service or offering creation. For example, combining simulation data (digital), test data (controlled physical) and infield data (uncontrolled physical) create huge potential, not only to predict fails, but also to continuously improve simulations, test and the overall quality and performance of a product.

For this vision to work, all levels of the value chain need to be able to collaborate around the information.. This needs new levels of openness and potentially standards in the industry to make this happen. This again, I see being some way off, the limitation being less with the technology and more with new businesses readiness to allow companies with trust each other with this collaboration.

As I wrote at the beginning of the article, this whole space between PLM and IoT is today unclear and yet promises huge potential. Writing this article has been problematic, where to start, when to stop, what to focus on. If the “thing” is the “product” then the role of PLM to be the backbone of IoT is essential. PLM should provide companies with the context to associate all the information from sensors and devises. PLM information though will need to collaborated on internally between many different systems and solutions. In previous articles, I commented on these challenges. Companies need to adapt and collaborate around a new ecosystem of information, and not protect their information in the traditional guarded way.

This future is hugely exciting for PLM… May be IoT is the catalyst for PLM to finally deliver on it long stated promise and value!

This is our food for thought, now it is time for you to have your say. We have posted the anonymous PLMPulse survey on to get your feedback on the topic. 

Click on this link or copy and paste link into your browser. 

The survey will take no longer that a few minutes to complete. It should be that quick.

Read more about the PLMPulse conversation on LinkedIn and Twitter using the hashtag #PLMPulse.

At PLMx Texas in October, we will present the result of the surveys along with a live poll in the audience. We will then collate the results in a short report which can then be accessed.

To make this work, we will need your support and honest feedback via the surveys. So have your say on where industry is in its PLM journey and have your finger on the #PLMPulse.

We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

[i] Karen Clay and Randall Jones, “Migrating to Riches? Evidence from the California Gold Rush,” Journal of Economic History, December 2008, Vol. 68 Issue 4, pp 997–1027 & Rohrbough, Malcolm J. (1998). Days of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the American Nation. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21659-8.

[ii] IoT Analytics do present a disclaimer, but it got theheadline…: “The ranking is an indicator how visibly specific companies present themselves regarding this topic. A correlation between the ranking and the marketing budget is likely. A high ranking does not mean that a company has a good Predictive Maintenance solution nor does it give any indication as to how much revenue the company makes on it.”

[iii] Paul Dawson from Dyson quoted in a recent FT article: “On a city level,” says Dawson, “we can aggregate data [from connected air purifiers] and I can see on bad pollution days an impact on indoor air quality. I can spot trends relating to outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution. But I also see trends where the outdoors is fine and the indoors is bad because people are polluting their own homes.”

In Taiwan, for example, he found that indoor air pollution spiked between Friday afternoon and Sunday lunchtime. A little research uncovered a tradition for extended families to gather for large meals: all that cooking was fouling the air.”  source:

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