Since the launch of Industry4.0 initiative and with the desire to improve product development, product-lifecycle-management (PLM) technologies have been slowly evolving in the background. PLM technologies have come a long way from just allowing a basic collection of product information to platforms that are capable of incorporating information coming from Computer-aided technologies (CAx) systems, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), manufacturing execution systems (MES), Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Life-cycle Assessment (LCA) tools.
With the increasing demand for mass customisation, the manufacturing sector must have a deeper understanding of the product – process workflow. To achieve this, businesses are turning more towards data-driven manufacturing, extracting every bit of information from product lifecycle management systems. With PLM, it is possible to manage the data generated during the various phases of the product lifecycle, this, in turn, can reduce the time required to bring a novel product to the market or extend the lifespan of an existing product. In a rapidly changing global market, manufacturing organisations are having to switch from a more traditional static operational business models to a more pro-active model. These pro-active models would leverage the ERP, MES and SCM systems to be capable of reacting to changing customer needs and market trends. This will help manufacturing organisations to stay competitive.
Globalisation has opened the doors for designers and manufacturing organisations to work together to build a product. This has brought about its own unique set of challenges while not only working with a diverse set of expertise but also the data associated with it. Standardised software packages will be a key element to bringing about a solution to this. With globalisation bringing about the need to create a collaborative working environment, PLM technology can provide this environment with structured data that was generated during a product lifecycle, available to various stakeholders involved with the development.
At University College Dublin, Laboratory for Advanced Manufacturing Simulation and Robotics (UCD-LAMS), we are developing projects deploying technologies like process automation tools into a CAD-CAM workflow so that designers / engineers may be more productive. With automation of tedious elements within a product lifecycle workflow, designers / engineers can focus on more complex tasks. Software packages specialised in Robotic process automation (RPA) could be used to handle repetitive tasks that would otherwise require a significant part of designers’ / engineers’ available time.
Currently, UCD-LAMS is also engaged in conducting experiments in the area of improving product development workflow with particular emphasis on how additive manufacturing (AM) processes may be integrated in the design, validation and production processes. Although standardisation is coming about in AM, the digital workflow of AM allows for the faster direct integration of manufacturing information with design tools. This will give more information to designers regarding what the impact of particular design decisions will be on the production process and product quality. With Cloud Manufacturing (CM) and Agent-based systems, designers/engineers can co-ordinate with scheduling and control operations remotely utilising an MES from any part of the globe. All this has been made possible due to the rapidly evolving nature of the PLM infrastructure.
In summary, the advantages of employing product lifecycle management technology include:
- Better management of product information.
- Support of collaborative engineering workflow utilising a common working environment.
- Stronger integration with external stakeholders by providing standardised access to technical information.
- More efficient reuse of product information for future product / process iterations.
- C. Holligan, V. Hargaden and N. Papakostas, "Product lifecycle management and digital manufacturing technologies in the era of cloud computing," 2017 International Conference on Engineering, Technology and Innovation (ICE/ITMC), Funchal, 2017, pp. 909-918, doi: 10.1109/ICE.2017.8279980.