What Industry 4.0 Means for Product Management

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Industry 4.0 is about leveraging current technologies such as cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and AI to improve products and their manufacturing processes.

Product management managers and their teams oversee the design and manufacturing processes of the products customers want. Industry 4.0 will lead them to new ways to improve and update products using real-time data from internet-connected sensors.

Here is how Industry 4.0 will change manufacturing processes:

Real-time maintenance and information

Part maintenance and replacement guidelines could soon become obsolete and tool lifecycles could lengthen, thanks to the increased use of internet intelligence and real-time monitoring. New sensors in production equipment can document performance and yield. When this data is analyzed (data analytics), product managers need to know more about the operation of equipment and make maintenance more accurate. This should allow maintainers to get more work and production out of each part for longer periods of time before needing to replace them.

If there is something wrong with a machine, managers can manipulate and test adjustments on a digital twin to figure out the problem before making fixes and replacements on the real machine. This should save on maintenance costs and time and increase production, a big win for product managers.

The same data and analytics can be used on products used in the field by customers to show product managers how the machines they design and build are actually used in the field, which features are used the most and which could be improved. They can base their future product designs on this feedback to make their machines and parts more efficient and user-friendly.

Build with Agility: Evolution of Scene Triggering Processes

In product development, there is always a long list of steps to improve a product. Product managers are responsible for overseeing this list and ensuring that each step is handled in the correct order. However, selecting the right steps to prioritize is a constant challenge. Industry 4.0 will push product managers to implement agile processes in manufacturing and simplify the task of prioritizing the many stages of product development.

With any IoT device, users have eyes and ears in the field 24/7 to determine product performance in real time. This approach has been used effectively in software and is sold as part of consumer products.

The next step, into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, will see the same real-time sensors and information used in the manufacturing of material and physical products. This will pave the way for manufacturers to follow the development of every feature and even make real-time updates during development. Industry 4.0 products will also allow companies to collect data from machines in remote locations.

For example, consider the automotive industry. The vehicles are quite different from those of just a few decades ago. Many now have video screens instead of analog speedometers, odometers and entertainment controls. Vehicles without these digital interfaces are considered by many to be technologically obsolete. Cars developed with an agile Industry 4.0 approach will have adaptable hardware and internet-connected software that can be continuously updated remotely throughout the life of the vehicle. Agile manufacturing processes will lead to the integration of hardware into the vehicle before its software is ready for market.

For product managers, this type of workflow means moving away from the traditional step-gate workflow, where parts of the development process are delayed until hardware or software elements are ready. The platform for a car or truck can be built while software features are simultaneously developed for future testing and remote implementation, accelerating release schedules and ensuring products have the best and of the latest advances.

Industry 4.0 will change the way product management teams design and maintain products. For companies, adopting Industry 4.0 could make the difference in competitive industries.

Building a business that can grow and scale profitably requires tools and strategies that are collaborative, agile, and leverage real-time data. Industry 4.0 fits this model. It’s time for a revolution and it will be exciting to see what innovative new technologies emerge from Industry 4.0.

Maziar Adl is co-founder and CTO of greedya SaaS product portfolio management and planning company.

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