1660317423696 Herosword

AR, IoT & SaaS wielding the sword of disruption

Oct. 11, 2021
"It is critical to both stay ahead of external disruptive waves as well as foster an organizational structure and culture built to harness them."

PTC and ABI Research recently produced a report titled “Wielding The Double Edge Sword Of Disruption” that highlighted three technologies that stand out in the age of disruption: augmented reality (AR), the Internet of Things (IoT), and software-as-a-service (SaaS). These three tools, per the report, provide a robust foundation that can cover existing workflows and enable movement and scale into new ventures, business models and operations.

Interesting stuff. We wanted to learn more so we connected with Craig Melrose, executive vice president for PTC’s Digital Transformation Solutions. Take a look…

Smart Industry: What is it about these technologies that enable this functionality? 

Melrose: A true disruptive technology provides both a means for companies to defend and advance against competition and market forces. For industrial companies, this entails capturing and providing digital data to and from products, processes and people to achieve greater visibility and drive improvements. 

AR, IoT and SaaS are capturing and digitizing these disparate data sources. Their increasing interoperability only compounds their value as they fold under digital-transformation strategies, but each provides powerful engineering, manufacturing and service use cases on their own. 

AR helps companies defend against workforce productivity challenges and trends including the skills gap. AR captures critical expert knowledge and disperses it across the workforce for faster training, onboarding, time-to-impact, and other skills-development criteria. Vectrona’s case study with the US Airforce is a great workforce skills-development case study and one of the largest AR training deployments known. AR also putting information in 3D and in-context to the task also improves procedures like assembly-in-manufacturing or servicing a machine by reducing the cognitive distance, which creates costs improvements from greater labor productivity. AR helps companies disrupt markets through innovative sales/marketing experiences providing differentiating consumer interactions and engagements with products.

IoT Is typically implemented in two forms for industrial companies: smart connected products and smart connected operations. To fend off against emerging digitally native manufacturers, global OEMs are turning to SCPs to better engage with their customers through improving the performance and uptime of their products, and offering ‘Products-as-a-Service’ business models to disrupt their markets. With IoT embedded in smart connected operations, IoT is helping manufacturers defend against cost pressures and supply chain disruptions through achieving cost improvements from production efficiencies and improved throughput in factories. 

SaaS provides a whole new software paradigm for industrial companies to leverage the benefits of the cloud across different functions. More simply, it allows for easier software delivery and adoption with minimal IT administration commitment and agnostic device accessibility to the latest version. For example, product-development teams turned to SaaS during COVID-19 to continue creating innovative products while physical site visits were limited. SaaS also enables end users to access the latest and greatest features in weeks instead of months, which for product development could be generative design or real-time simulation. 

Smart Industry: What is critical to maintaining balanced disruption...resisting external disruption while fostering healthy internal disruption? 

Melrose: For any company, it is critical to both stay ahead of external disruptive waves—whether they be economic, social or technological—as well as foster an organizational structure and culture built to harness them. Organizations embracing disruptions including technology innovations have traditionally financially outperformed those resisting or lagging in adoption. Using technology to achieve value optimization and maintain ‘top quartile’ financial-performance criteria is the goal to keep ahead of current waves and outpace future disruptive swells.

Smart Industry: What is beneficial about remote expertise when it comes to driving AR adoption? 

Melrose: More efficiently and effectively scaling domain expertise from seasoned personnel is increasingly a strategic imperative for industrial companies who are circumventing the skills gap and its affects on labor productivity. Remote expertise is a powerful collaboration platform for experts to guide employees through complex processes without requiring physical intervention, which is typically used in service scenarios. This can greatly save operational costs from traveling, like Toyota, which recognized and alleviated travel concerns that arose from COVID-19. 

Smart Industry: What does the projected growth of IoT equipment / sensors tell you about this strategy in the industrial space? 

Melrose: It is exciting to see increasing amounts of connected devices, sensors and equipment in the industrial realm, but it is even more exciting to see companies who harness this vast array of connected endpoints in scalable IIoT platforms, which underpin high-value use cases and fold under a well-structured digital transformation program driving business value daily. Companies are gaining unprecedented insights and performance from these equipment/sensors that are increasing revenue, reducing operating costs and generating efficiencies. 

Smart Industry: What most excites you about the growth of SaaS in the industrial space? 

Melrose: SaaS not only providers industrial companies with cloud-efficiency benefits (such as lower total cost of ownership), but also flexible collaboration, faster innovation, and greater productivity. SaaS can truly revolutionize the product-development process through these three benefits. SaaS empowers a global engineering force to collaborate in-sync through any device on the most up-to-date version of a product, replacing traditional file-based systems. SaaS also benefits engineering teams by giving them access to cutting edge features (like generative design) through software releases every few weeks instead of months. Ensuring everyone is operating on a shared-data platform minimizes rework improving productivity and time-to-market. 

Garrett Motion, a global automotive tier supplier, is a great example of the potential of SaaS and its path to inevitably become mainstream in manufacturing. Garrett is aiming to quickly respond to market shifts and demand for electrification by manufacturing electrified powertrains. Collaborating with globally dispersed employees and suppliers has historically been a challenge for new product development. The team turned to SaaS to simultaneously iterate on product designs and coordinate with manufacturing. This ability to rapidly shift to market demands was proven critical during the pandemic, where with a cloud-based product development platform they quickly produced an order for 1,900 high-tech turbochargers for ambulances in a matter of days.