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Five product-design trends to watch in 2018

Dec. 19, 2017

Manufacturers must transform their product-development process.

The way that manufacturers manage information throughout the product lifecycle has changed significantly in

PTC's Kevin Wrenn

the past few years. The Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated innovation in the design process, making it possible for manufacturers to receive information from products in the field that can be leveraged to improve future iterations of products. In order to succeed, organizations are going to need to embrace new technologies and capabilities available through enterprise-system vendors.

Below find five trends in product design that engineers are going to leverage in the coming year:

Augmented reality (AR) in design review

As teams become more globally distributed, it can sometimes be difficult to get everyone involved to review a product design in a timely manner, collect all the information needed for the review, and capture feedback for future action.

Using augmented reality (AR), team members are able to visualize, interact with, and provide feedback on product designs from anywhere in the world. AR makes it possible for stakeholders to interact with a 3D model of the product, such as walking around it and viewing different states of the model—including going inside the model itself. AR also enables users to get a third-party perspective from other teammates. 

IoT products transforming design practices

The market is clamoring for smart, connected products: whether it’s an Amazon Echo, a Nest Thermostat, or a Fitbit. In order to sufficiently meet the expectations of customers, manufacturers need to transform their product-development process to understand and leverage data from products in the field. Noting product information on a CAD drawing is no longer going to cut it as products become more complex. Manufacturers will need to become more organized with their product-development process.

Having a comprehensive PLM system provides a strong foundation to taking full advantage of IoT capabilities. By consolidating all product information into a single-view digital-product definition, organizations can ensure that stakeholders are all accessing the most accurate, up-to-date product information. With a PLM system, all information is streamlined into a single, easy-to-read Bill of Materials (BOM) list format.


Product data is an organization’s most valuable asset. With products gathering data from the field, this data is becoming more valuable every day. However, many organizations continue to keep it locked away with engineering and manufacturing. Product data can be leveraged throughout the enterprise,  whether it is how the marketing team promotes the product or how the sales team sells it.

By digitizing the product-development process, stakeholders throughout the organization will be able to easily access product information. For example, if a manufacturer just merged with or acquired another company, digitizing the product-development process and making product information accessible to all stakeholders ensures that there’s no infrastructure disparity between organizations.

PLM and the digital twin

Having a window into how each product or asset in the field is operating is key to improving profitability, decision making, and ensuring security, legal and regulatory compliance. With a digital twin, the digital definition is combined with the specific physical experience of the asset, for example environmental conditions and performance data from an operating asset. This purpose-built digital representation allows manufacturers to analyze assets for future sales, recalls or update opportunities. Real-world usage can be leveraged to improve future products or future iterations of existing products.

PLM in the cloud for rapid transformation

In order to stay competitive, it is imperative that manufacturers rapidly transform their product-development process. Enabling this is the ability to host their PLM and other enterprise systems in the cloud. Cloud-based PLM removes the burden of setting up and maintaining the system on-premise while also reducing the cost of owning the system. Forget managing your enterprise systems on the cloud. More and more manufacturers are relinquishing the burden of setting up and maintaining their PLM system on-premise.

PLM in the cloud makes it possible for manufacturers to rapidly deploy their PLM solution and begin to see results sooner. Deploying in the cloud also reduces the burden of hosting the server.

Alternatively, many companies are looking to host their PLM solution as SaaS. SaaS offers many the same benefits as the cloud with the added bonus of the PLM vendor handling all upgrades, updates and software migrations for the customer. 

Whether your organization considering deploying a PLM system in the cloud, it is ready for a part-centric approach, it is looking to digitize, or you're ready to incorporate augmented reality or build a digital twin, 2018 will be an exciting year for those on the product-design team.

Kevin Wrenn is divisional general manager (PLM segment) at PTC.