Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology provider PTC held its annual LiveWorx 16 IoT conference in Boston last week amid over 4500 attendees. Supply Chain Matters in the person of this industry analyst was invited to once again attend this annual event and walked away with varying impressions regarding the state of IoT adoption and on some shifts among PTC’s ongoing product strategies.
In our previous Part One commentary, we shared various overall impressions, insights and takeaways. In this Part Two posting, we share additional impressions.
Prediction Seven within our 2016 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains (available for complimentary download in our Research Center) anticipated that B2b focused manufacturers and services providers would broaden their perspectives on connected devices and enhancing customer needs, but also stumble because of conflicts in approach, conflicts in stakeholder interests or data silo approaches. We were therefore especially eager to attend the LiveWorx panel discussion featuring select PTC partners. This panel consisted of executives from Cognizant, Dell, Flowserve, Glassbeam, HP Enterprise, National Instruments, ServiceMax and SAP.
Most all of these panelists observed that for now, most customers are not seeking out a specific IoT initiative per-se. Instead, they are seeking technology to assist in resolving use cases involving ongoing business challenges in manufacturing or supply chain or tapping new business opportunities and revenue streams. One panelist indicated that the current hype surrounding IoT has many teams “scratching their heads” in terms of selecting start points or understanding what business problems IoT will solve. From our lens, that reflects a need for broader market education.
Where projects lean toward IoT, the sales and approval cycle tends to be elongated, cited in the range of 6-12 months, with indications that discussion with up to 7 people representing different business functions such as IT, manufacturing, service management and other functions are involved.
Regarding project ROI, the panel indicated that IoT related projects must address definitive returns to the business in areas such as moving the revenue needle, avoidance of expensive downtime particularly in process intensive industry settings, safety of operations and of-course, enhanced customer service and response.
Another common challenge cited by panelists was the need for ubiquitous connectivity of networks, both in broadband Internet connections and mobile devices. Noted was that today, many customers do not have the scalable networks to support the large amounts of data flow implied by IoT use cases, along with the perception that doing so now would be cost prohibitive. One panelist questioned the large amounts of “junk” data now being collected.
As noted in our Part One posting, information and data security remains a top customer concern with panelists indicating that a lot of additional multi-industry education remains to be done. A separate panelist noted this as consistently one of the top three concerns from any customer. One panelist with lots of experience in process based industry observed that industry already has data security standards that are well-understood. This panelist pointed out that the controller domain will always be protected by separate protocols than the data extract domain.
One other area we wanted to highlight for our readers was the topic of what is commonly termed agile engineering. This is practice commonly adapted by software and technology companies that promotes the creation of scrum teams that conduct frequent product prototypes, gaining immediate customer feedback on a proposed new product, and moving forward with yet another improved prototype until the ultimate product is released. With more multi-industry products now having more and more technology and software content, classic “waterfall” engineering processes have a hard time keeping up with needs for constant agility. Readers may note the common thread among equipment product recalls of-late has been problems with the functioning software component or needs to update that software to address hardware issues.
PTC executives addressed this specific challenge in the industry analyst and press briefing, along with why they believe that augmenting PLM processes with more AR and VR tools can help support more agile engineering needs. To help in this effort, PTC is sponsoring specific thought leadership for customers to more fully understand agile engineering needs and requirements.
We did manage to attend a couple of breakout sessions focused on Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) and specifically customer efforts to upgrade older versions of either MCA or Xelus service parts planning application to PTC’s latest releases. From the customer presentations we observed, the upgrade process was reported in positive terms. What was more interesting was the motivations for upgrading, which ranged from internal business changes or consolidation to needs to upgrade to more modern and more advanced planning capabilities.
Finally, during the executive Q&A, PTC CEO Heppelmann indicated that he does not expect PTC to get any more deeply involved in supply chain management focused IoT application needs. Rather, PTC will allow its partner network to address SCM business and process needs utilizing PTC technology platform and applications.
Overall, LiveWorx 16 was a much more productive and educational conference this year, one that reflected on PTC making its own transitions into the current realities of the current Industrial IoT market.
© Copyright 2016. The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.