The post Product Lifecycle Management and Automation Are Being Drawn Together first appeared on the ISA Interchange blog site.
The worlds of product lifecycle management (PLM) and automation are being drawn together by a series of technological developments that are beginning to have far-reaching effects, not only in manufacturing, but across all industries.
For PLM vendors, this combination is manifesting itself in an upsurge of research and development activity, acquisition, and partnering. For those in industry considering future investment, from both technology and business improvement perspectives, the decision making just got harder. The driving force is a combination of the elements of hardware, “smart,” and cloud.
Additive manufacturing and printed components are set to revolutionize how products are developed and delivered. Fully defined 3D models give the manufacturing definition directly to the point of production. New industrial devices are becoming more powerful and capable, enabling direct communication with level 4 and 5 business systems. Scanners and autonomous vehicles provide new ways to capture the as-built, as-produced, as-operated environment.
Products, buildings, and even cities are becoming smarter and smarter as automation devices and networks provide comprehensive interconnectivity. However, continuous improvement in capability requires connection to the product and asset definition and a way of managing the closed loop process.
Proliferating mobile technologies enable access to information anywhere. Cloud-based infrastructure may be a more cost-effective mechanism for smaller companies to fully participate in a highly connected environment. These influences are part of a verticalization across industries, from service to hardware, that affects how products are defined, produced, installed, and serviced. In other words, the trend is to cover the complete life cycle, and that is why PLM is an essential part of this process.
Here we examine how PLM is coping with these drivers and the changes occurring across multiple industries. The article uses the terms product, service, facility, and asset somewhat interchangeably to reflect the fact that end-to-end life-cycle management applies to all of them, although the routes to operation and the time frames may differ widely.
For some industries, managing the complete life cycle has been a way of life for a long time due to the long-term nature of the assets. These were usually highly capital-intensive and regulated industries, such as nuclear power, marine, and civil construction.
The construction, process, and mining industries have been monitoring, collecting, and processing operational data for years. Facilities, asset management, and location tracking solutions capture significant volumes of data daily. Does PLM technology have a role in this future connected world? In this context, PLM is a “wrapper” around the life cycle of individual assets. It can provide the definition and operational parameters of individual equipment items—whether they are pumps and actuators; elevators; heating, ventilation, and conditioning; or heavy equipment—and respond to in-service issues. Performance data—whether it is flow and temperature in process plants, structural deformation of structures, or environmental control in inhabited spaces—can be processed for more than just short-term corrective action. It can be fed back for resimulation as part of long-term continuous improvement and for data for next-generation design.
One consequence of the continuous quest for more intensive asset use in these industries is the adoption of mobile technology. This has historically focused on activities such as task management, operational data, and fault recording and reporting. The trend is toward delivering live information as 3-D models, animations, and service data. This kind of delivery is common in some manufacturing industries with production instructions, simulations, inspection information, and exception reporting being delivered and processed directly at the point of production via PLM.
As the building and construction industry moves more toward modular, fabricated structures and even “printed” buildings, the role of PLM may increase. The processes involved are more in the realms of traditional manufacturing and assembly than of construction. China is using modular construction extensively, and it has grown in the U.S. Couple this with a proliferation of smart sensors for buildings—to optimize not just utility usage, but also performance of equipment and finishes—and the ability to reconfigure spaces and PLM starts to become a key capability in this sector. The worlds of construction and manufacturing are colliding in the sense that information about products, the processes and machinery that produce them, the facilities involved, and the supply and delivery networks that support them are coming together as never before.
But we must be careful not to get carried away with the notion of PLM as an all-encompassing technology. Many other enterprise environments already provide much of this capability, from traditional facilities and asset management solutions to the rapidly developing building information management (BIM) sector. As physical environments become more connected, the underlying supporting infrastructures need to interact and connect seamlessly and reliably. This is as true in the PLM world as it is in the automation world, where established protocols and standards (e.g., ISA-95, OPC UA, BACNet) are also being challenged to support new levels of connectivity.
To put this in context, it is worth taking a step back to look at some core capabilities associated with PLM. The scope is potentially very wide, so we will focus on two key areas particularly relevant to this discussion: product definition management and configuration management.
PLM product definition encompasses requirements, systems models, 3D models, tests, instructions, process plans, tooling, quality metrics, service information, and packaging. These areas would traditionally have been in the form of documentation, but are increasingly captured as part of a complete virtual definition. Product definition also includes the definition of product structures (bills of material) and, critically, the process trail that led to the definition. This latter capability is vitally important when considering the potential increase in feedback from both production and in-service monitoring of smart products.
Source: ISA News