This blog provides a summary of IDC Manufacturing Insights’ participation in several recent PTC Live Executive Exchanges that focused on Connected Products. The events brought together product and service managers across manufacturing verticals to discuss the impact connected products are having on the way products and services are delivered to customers.
Through a series of PTC Live Executive Exchanges being held in the U.S. this past month, I’ve had an opportunity to interact face-to-face with manufacturers that are either considering or in the process of leveraging connected products for enhanced services to customers. Despite the range of connected products maturity in the audience, there were a number of common themes that highlight the current state of connected products in manufacturing from an aftermarket services perspective.
Among the opportunities that were shared from manufacturers were the use of connectivity to monitor customer-owned assets and provide a new level of service and repair that often got out ahead of the problem, before it caused a significant interruption in work or led to other problems. From medical diagnostic equipment to data center systems, companies are adding software and connectivity to products to capture data, monitor the health of the products, and now predict when that equipment is heading into danger of failing. Some manufacturers are taking advantage of this connectivity to be proactive and swap out equipment that is about to fail, which can save service costs and prevent downtime. And, the ability for machines to heal themselves was a topic of much discussion among attendees. It was viewed by many as the zenith of what connected products can deliver to the services environment. The capability of a machine to identify its own patterns that indicate it is heading for degradation in service, call for a remote fix to "cure" itself, and then implement the fix is the level beyond where early adopters are today.
With opportunities come a number of challenges, though, and there were some common themes across manufacturers related to successfully using connected products for enhanced aftermarket service. One that is frequently mentioned, not only at this event, but also from manufacturers I've spoken with, concerns the current lack of standards related to IoT. Many of the companies that hadn't yet started down the path of making their products connected cited this as a roadblock, with concerns for moving too far in one direction when the standards market was still nascent. Security was another common topic for discussion, as manufacturers shared their concerns around data privacy and network security as reasons for reluctance to start connected products initiatives. Connectivity is an ongoing concern, and it was raised multiple times during the session, especially for those manufacturers that have global customer populations, some of them in remote locations. For those manufacturers that rely on channels to sell and service their product, there was a very pressing challenge regarding lack of visibility into customers' connected products. There often exists a delay for the OEM in receiving feedback and data related to the product's operation and any issues that have been reported. This makes it more difficult to be proactive when it comes to service, and even predictive services can be limited. And finally, there were many discussions among attendees around how to properly weigh the cost of creating connected products and the value of the services that can be delivered from them.
These are certainly exciting times for service leaders within manufacturing companies. The use cases for connected products are proliferating, and numerous companies have seen tangible results. Events like PTC Live Executive Exchanges are excellent occasions for manufacturers to gather and share best practices, understand challenges, and identify opportunities for using connected products to drive aftermarket services initiatives. While there are still many ongoing challenges related to adoption of connected products and having them deliver on the promise of their value from a services perspective, the existing use cases provide encouragement and direction. An upcoming report from IDC Manufacturing Insights will look further into the opportunities and challenges listed above. In the meantime, I welcome a dialogue on what you see as the biggest barriers to using IoT and connected products to transform your aftermarket service initiatives.