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SAPPOV: Time Is The Engine Of Change In Product Lifecycle Management

When “any color, as long as it’s black” becomes “any color, any time, and a new model out soon”, how can industry change its production cycles to meet new realities?

The future of production cannot be like its past: discrete and process industries must embrace new technologies to remain relevant.


Henry Ford famously commented, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, as long as it’s black.” That was the consumer proposition at the dawn of mass production.

The changing revolution

Now, however, a convergence of technologies – wireless and mobile data exchanges, rapid prototyping, outsourced production and fabrication and additive manufacture is creating a new industrial revolution. This is contributing to a massive increase in the expected complexity of products.

The pursuit of innovation and variation is driven by, and drives, shorter product lifespans and new metrics made possible by more accurate data – not only time to market, but time to value.

Although the impact of the new rules varies between discrete and process industries, both are dealing with the pressure for constant improvement and differentiation of products, and both have the same tool to pursue their goals and measure their progress – a vastly increased amount of data.

The rapid movement of information does not just speed up product lifecycles and changes in consumer behavior; it also means that bad news travels faster than ever before. A product recall or quality failure can be blogged, retweeted and reported across the world overnight.

The next stage of production evolution

Enterprises aiming for success in the new age of production management need to address three technologies of opportunity.

The use of data is not a new element in the production cycle, of course – but the amount of data generated, and the uses it can be put to, are transforming. Engineering data must be integrated with and comprehensible to the entire command and value chain of the organization, in order to maximize its value.

The information also has to be presented in a comprehensible fashion – long strings of text are difficult to process, especially on mobile devices. So, data visualization and advanced search technologies offer a competitive advantage.

Mobile devices have increasingly entered the workflow of businesses, and production management is no exception. Initially used to make information available on the move, mobile interfaces are increasingly expected to support ideation, design and decision-making. This could be a simple mobile approval application, up to full product design. Again, the ability to gather, search and visualize data across multiple interfaces is a critical part of the mobile solution.

Production management has been slow to embrace the Cloud, for security reasons. However, this is ceasing to be a viable option. With best-in-class protections, the cloud provides a way to make carefully selected sections of the value chain visible to external sources. In particular, this enables suppliers to retain control of and responsibility for the data on the products and materials they have supplied.

These three core areas for innovation have a single purpose – to maintain a cohesive and fully informed picture along the entire value chain, from the research lab through the ERP system to the boardroom and back, making sure the right information can be viewed and acted upon at the right time.

Product development is under enormous pressure – to increase versatility and variety while moving from conception to delivery, and delivery to value, ever more rapidly. Wherever there are breaks in the chain, massive pressure is put on this already pressurized process. Data analysis, mobile applications and cloud solutions help to prevent those breaks, and keep that pressure from building.

If you would like to know more about how we at SAP are creating integrated solutions to keep the production chain unbroken, take a look at our solutions for Product Lifecycle Management and our reference library of case studies here. And for more on the revolution the market is creating in production, click here to read our thoughts on the fourth industrial revolution.

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