Technological leaps and the associated paradigm shifts have brought about some "industrial revolutions".
Steve Jobs said: "Only those who are adaptable today can survive". Today, companies no longer put their product at the centre. Their job is to be customer-centric. Customers no longer want to decide between two product variants. They demand more options, more variety, new digital services around the product, the best quality at the best price including service. They have their own ideas on how to buy and use their products. This development has a relevant influence on product structures, processes, and tools.
It all began with mechanization and Engineer to Order (ETO) in the 18th century. The degree of standardization in ETO was very low.
It was followed by the use of electrical energy for mass production at the beginning of the 20th century. The Ford Model T was the time of Make to Stock (MTS). The product volume increased, but (almost) no variants were offered.
Another fundamental paradigm shift was brought about by the programmable logic controller (PLC), which accelerated and simplified manufacturing processes. More capacity was freed up for the control of variants. Configurable products were created - Assemble to Order (ATO) - which could be manufactured in one production line.
Customer requirements increased and specific solutions became more important than ever in percentage terms. Today, customers expect a say in the design of the individual product. Every day new solutions, new features, new ideas are created. Today, companies must master these: Make-to-order products (MTO). The aim of the development and manufacturing process is to produce products in batch size 1 under the economic conditions of mass production.
The number of product variants is increasing enormously, which has a major impact on the product structure. Ideally designed product structures taking into account different product types MTS-ATO-MTO-ETO are the basis for consistency in the flow of information and allow, for example, easy configuration of products. The task of product structuring is to achieve transparency in product data and minimize process costs by means of the continuous information flow achieved.
Many industrial companies are faced with the challenge of strengthening their standards through a cleverly defined internal variety of variants and reducing process costs, especially for exotic products.
The more customer-specific a variant becomes, the higher the process costs can be. As a result, "customer-specific variants" are often calculated too cheaply.
Intelligent product structures and processes enable low process costs despite the diversity of variants. In this way, customer-specific solutions can be returned via standardization in order to keep process costs as low as possible.
The "Digital Product" is the defined, consistent data and information structure that brings about an increase in efficiency and quality by means of PUT principle.
Product Lifecycle Management/PLM is an integrated concept for the IT-supported organisation and management of all information about products and their development processes throughout the entire product life cycle, so that the right information is available at the right time in the right form at the right place.
Industry 4.0 enables the further development of the "digital product" or existing PLM methodology by integrating modern technologies. Industry 4.0 turns "simple" value chains into completely digitalised value creation networks and new business models are created.
In the Internet der Dinge/IoT objects communicate with each other - within the company and across company boundaries. Through Internet IoT, every object and place becomes part of the Internet.