PTC talks PLM product innovation
13 January 2012
Chris Prince at PTC explains how manufacturers can take advantage of the latest integrated technology environments to out-innovate the competition
Software is increasingly used to deliver product features and variations. However, the velocity of software change and compliance requirements threatens time to market – and drives up costs. This trend drives substantial benefits for manufacturers who can execute development processes and manage artifacts to support software-driven innovation and manage the velocity of change. Our experience with various manufacturers shows that the lack of an integrated environment that maintains links from requirements, to system models, to source code and finally to test, cannot overcome time-to-market and cost challenges.
First let’s explore the benefits of high-performance software development processes that enable leading organisations to out-innovate the competition. Innovating through software allows organisations to execute more change by orders of magnitude, and later in the development process. Another transformational benefit we see with leading manufacturers is the ability to develop software product lines (SPL), which reduces the number of hardware variants and provides differentiation and innovation through software. A key element of SPL is the ability to reuse key software deliverables such as requirements source code test validation cases and modifying key parameters to deliver a product variant, applying minimal software change. The time to market and cost advantages of this approach are game changing. We see organisations ranging from high tech to aerospace and defence leveraging SPL in this way.
Manufacturers should consider an integrated technology environment that enables well orchestrated development processes, better decision making and higher quality products
PTC Whereas many organisations recognise the benefits of innovating through software, they often struggle with managing the inherent complexity of reusing software artifacts. Software development teams and processes in many organisations are often disconnected from traditional product development in the mechanical and electrical engineering domains. There are many reasons engineering disciplines have not historically coordinated activities, not the least of which is the radical difference in the pace of change in software versus hardware. Traditional product development systems were not architected to handle the pace of change in software. As a result, the hardware product development side of the house would wait for the software end deliverable to put into the product. This process is fraught with risk. The software elements would only get brought into design reviews late in the game, which typically led to delays and rework.
Two additional challenges deserve further discussion. The first is reuse. Typically, organisations cannot reuse software artifacts (requirements, source code, system models connected to test) as they are developed via disconnected point solutions. For example, organisations often use a software requirements management solution that is not connected to test results – nor is it connected to the other engineering disciplines. Whereas the requirements management solution seems effective in the isolated silo that is the software development process, the flaws of disconnected solutions become apparent when software deliverable reuse is considered. Finally, the important element of traceability is a major challenge for manufacturers today. There are many important reasons companies need to be able to trace relationships between lifecycle artifacts in the product development process. Many of the organisations with whom we work indicate that defect tracking is a major issue. The ability to automatically trace an end product defect back to the source code and map where else that source code is used is nearly non-existent today. Rather, companies go through labour-intensive processes to trace defects and thoroughly identify all dependencies.
There are three key ways that companies can address these challenges. The first is by viewing software-intensive product development systemically. That is, to proactively design and manage interactions across all three key engineering disciplines: software, mechanical and electrical. There is tremendous value in developing a process whereby business requirements are translated into system, software and hardware requirements, which can be decomposed and tested. A systemic approach will have a positive impact on quality of product, time to market and cost.
Secondly, companies should consider how their product development teams are organised, both internally and with extended development partners. Traditionally software engineering is ‘over in the corner’ (or at a third-party development organisation) developing software. The rest of the product development team (and management) does not have visibility into release readiness of the software deliverables. Rather, it is hoped that the software will be completed in time, and that it will actually deliver the customer requirements needed. Companies should look to better integrate their product development teams such that they are all working on a common platform, and there is transparency into release readiness.
Finally, manufacturers should consider an integrated technology environment that enables well orchestrated development processes, better decision making and higher quality products. Historically, the software development process was not included in the product development system. Based on the increasing importance of software in driving product innovation, it is critical for companies to consider how their technology platform enables this transformation. The pressure to develop high quality, innovative products faster, and at lower cost, continues to increase. Software-driven innovation is a powerful way for your organisation to address these strategic imperatives head on.
Chris Prince is director of marketing, Integrity Business Unit at PTC
This article first appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Prime. To find out more about Microsoft in manufacturing, subscribe to Prime.
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