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written by Magnus Falkman, CEO | TECHNIA

Recently, I spoke with Jim Anderton – for the series Designing the Future on – about the market demand for longer product lifecycles and circular economies.

Our conversation explored the digitalization of product development, the democratization of the value chain, and the disruptive potential of emerging technologies like generative design, artificial intelligence and digital twins.

In this blog, we’ll delve a little deeper into the proven technologies that are helping manufacturing organizations rethink business strategies and reshape product development processes.

The First Steps Toward Making Product Creation Sustainable

Organizations around the world are reviewing their approaches to product development. Products, processes and business models are all coming under question. Governments are making moves to tackle issues like planned obsolescence with tough, new regulations. Consumers are looking closely, and much more discriminately, at the lifecycles of the products they buy.

In the coming decade, sustainable product creation will become an absolute imperative – no matter the industry you’re working in. And while ten years might seem like a decent amount of time to make the required changes, we’re not just talking about organization-wide disruption. We’re talking about global, industrial disruption. So, it’s understandable that many OEMs and suppliers are already deep into the rollout of their own digital transformation. For those who are still in the planning phase: now is the time to act.

But the first step toward more sustainable product creation is often the hardest to take. Choosing the right tools for the task can hold your organization back. And, in the case of industrial digitalization through Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), it’s not just about choosing the tools you need. It’s also about choosing the right partner for your digitalization journey.

What Do We Mean When We Say, “Value Chains”?

If a product or service’s value is determined by the completeness with which it fulfills its purpose(s), then value chains are determined by the sum of all contributing factors to a product or service(s) success. But this isn’t all we must consider when making product creation sustainable. The afterlife of a product, or the repurposing, reuse and recycling of its composite parts is an essential contributing factor to the value of any product.

In short, a Value Chain consists of all the processes needed to create, maintain and return a successful product to market sustainably.

What Makes Value Chains Sustainable?

To create more sustainable products, we must begin ideation with a cyclical product lifecycle in mind. This means that we’re considering factors like material compliance, traceability and logistics throughout the design process – even beforehand.

In recent years, we’ve seen dramatic improvements in efficiency of collaborative design and manufacturing with technologies like Cloud PLM coming into maturity. These tools are helping to improve efficiency of global communication and operations by making seamless, real-time connections between people, processes and data.

Additionally, effective use of simulation and analysis services can ensure that your products’ designs are optimized for longevity. The same expertise can be used to reduce waste and find potential reuses for unavoidable excess.

Clear, Secure & Efficient Communication

The flexibility of Cloud PLM implementations enables organizations to securely store, access and share organizational data with any authorized user, across the world, at any time. While this accessibility raises data security concerns for many CTOs, in practice, Cloud implementations are frequently proving to be more secure than traditional, on-premise options.

But one often overlooked concern is that of internal communication and training. Any organization taking on the challenge of sustainable digitalization must co-ordinate an equal investment in IT infrastructure and people. So, how can you sustain operations while educating employees and suppliers on dramatic shifts in processes?

Digital Adoption Solutions can provide the solution through customizable, in-line training and support. These applications remove the need for time-consuming training courses and act as a support structure for both new and experienced users taking on new processes.

Agile Planning & Robust Scalability

Implementing Cloud PLM to control compliance throughout your value chain can also ensure that materials are responsibly sourced and sustainable.

One of the keys factors in the business case for Environmental Sustainability is the potential to reduce cost in the medium to long-term. For example, making your business more energy efficient may have an initial outlay, but the return on that investment will start to pay out immediately as you save on energy costs.

Cloud PLM also enables organizations to plan production in an agile manner, according to demand. Of course, this calls for precise communication between suppliers. But today, OEMs have the tools available to safely, securely and affordably connect and collaborate with stakeholders throughout value chains. This capability is a fundamental stepping stone toward ensuring traceability, compliance and sustainability for your product lifecycle.

In Our Experience…

The most progressive organizations strive to promote proactive transparency as a point of pride for all stakeholders throughout their value chains.

But the truth is that building sustainable value chains through industrial digitalization is a transformational process that will last years. It requires considerable financial and organizational commitment. Early adopters have already experienced the considerable benefits that Cloud PLM offers regarding agile scalability and remote working.

In the coming decade, these are likely the manufacturers that will be the first to meet pressing regulatory requirements and market demands.

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