While the Internet of Things does not yet boast a strong role in formula-based product innovation, there exist several opportunities throughout a product’s lifecycle for innovators to connect key points of product formulation to other systems, such as a PLM software.
Rapid growth of the IoT
In 2013 the Global Standards Initiative on Internet of Things (IoT-GSI) defined the IoT as "the infrastructure of the information society.” The IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention (source: Wikipedia).
Since the term became popular a few years ago, consumers continue to purchase and use devices that collect data via the Internet. Items like FitBits, Apple Watches and the Nest Learning Thermostat provide ease of use, remote access and the possibility for endless analytics scenarios that can be used to define key areas of improvement.
Businesses, especially those in the food manufacturing space, are just now developing strategies for how to leverage and optimize the IoT. Selerant offers its approach to how the IoT enhances a PLM system with context awareness and allows for more adaptive solutions.
Possible IoT and PLM integration points:
Selerant’s formula-based product lifecycle management (PLM) software Devex can communicate through web services. As such, there are several opportunities for devices to send data directly to Devex, and for Devex to send data directly to connected devices.
During the pre-manufacturing stage of a product’s lifecycle, brands use pilot plants or laboratories to modify existing products, or create entirely new ones. These test environments are used to manipulate formulas to achieve the perfect raw materials ratios for a successful product. The equipment and devices used in these pre-manufacturing processes provide integration opportunities for a PLM system and the plant or lab floor.
Typically, the inventory does not play a role in PLM. But, using the IoT, devices active in a pilot plant during the pre-manufacturing stage can communicate batch formulation updates to a PLM system. The PLM system can assist in inventory management for the pilot plant or lab through inventory control by way of ensuring proper raw material quantities.
In theory, using an RFID chip or barcode, plant workers can scan each raw material could to confirm it’s the correct material and quantity to use given the recipe for the product. This will help to minimize errors commonly encountered in pre-manufacturing.
Work orders access
A PLM system such as Devex that can communicate via web services can send system data to devices on the pilot plant floor, as well.
Food engineers on the plant floor could access work orders contained within the PLM system via tablets or other mobile. Engineers can scan an NFC tag on a piece of equipment to signal to the PLM system what corresponding work order is needed.
Quality Assurance teams play a major role in product development. Particularly during the packaging stage, a QA team must take note of any small issue that arises and challenges compliance.
During packaging, any sort of sensor (weight, pressure, etc.) can connect to the Internet to signal to the PLM system that an issue report must be filled out Given the complexity of the issue and the variety of data the sensors are able to collect, the IoT can take it one step further and automatically fill out and submit the issue report.
Critical control points
Captured actual process data could be used to provide warnings to the operators if the data is outside the limits set for a critical control point, i.e., pasteurization is a critical point for microbiological quantity.
In the process definition, the pasteurization temperature is mandated to be between 159-162° F; however, if the actual temperature is say 155°F, then the system can compare the actual temperature with the CCP spec limit provided by a PLM system like Devex and issue a warning provided that it is outside the mandated range.
Oftentimes, food developers use theoretical data. The use of sensors throughout pilot plant equipment can also connect to the IoT to send actual data to a PLM system like Devex. This actual data then can be used to compare with the theoretical data.
The future of IoT and PLM
Upcoming updates to Selerant’s PLM system Devex will strengthen the role of IoT in PLM. Specifically, Selerant plans for users to have enhanced system access via mobile devices. For more information around these updates, contact us today.