The world is shrinking, and it is creating a buyer’s market. The customers are moving towards more discrete products. And due to fast changing world these products have increasingly shorter product life cycle. Manufacturers struggle to keep up with this dynamic consumer pattern, and it is putting tremendous pressure on them. Unable to keep up with the pace, manufacturers are spending more time, replicating others’ product, instead of innovating their own. This has diminished the time lag between an innovation and the challenger. Price drops are more rapid.
To survive in today’s marketplace, retailers are under pressure to be better, faster, and cheaper than their competitors. This has driven manufacturers to the developing world in search of lower cost, labor and facilities. Owing to the emergence of internet, affordable global transport, business is now global and multilingual. As many suppliers design & develop products and actively manage inventories for brands, business systems must allow a free flow of data beyond organizational boundaries. Retailers and brand manufacturers are launching supplier portals, which provide a means of collaboration between retailers, vendors, factories and agents. It coordinates processes and provides transparency through the sourcing, production and shipment process – improving productivity. But, most of them, do not allow vendor level collaboration on design & development. In effect, brands heavily dependent on global outsourcing hence could face major inefficiencies in cost & time.
Global outsourcing, smaller product life cycles and an extended supply chain are the paradigms of a new market order.
PLM driving faster product innovation
To meet these critical challenges and maintain their competitive advantage, increasing brands and retailers are implementing business process transformation and product life cycle management (PLM) solution.
PLM software provides business a solution :
• To create, access, leverage and manage it’s enormous information bank and intellectual property across the globe.
• Ensures latest, accurate, comprehensive and timely information in standardized templates, enabling multidisciplinary collaboration beyond geographical and company boundaries.
• Manages product, process & people i.e. Product development, monitors and triggers processes & workflows, and manages availability and access of information to relevant people.
Developments in 3 dimension (3D) design, imaging and printing has opened up further possibilities and improved solutions for business. Increasingly, PLM companies and vendors are creating 3D interfaces or embedded solutions to create bigger value for the businesses.
PLM interfacing with 3D to provide enhanced business solutions in product development
Inspires imaginative collaboration
The ability of 3D to visualize products as 3 dimensional realistic images allows the product design team to better capture, review and collaborate the concepts in real time on a global scale. These digital images captured, through controlled workflows can be easily shared on the PLM platform, ensuring collaboration across global boundaries.
Enhances design & development Efficiency
Though it is possible to edit 2D images to some extent, a 3D image can be easily rotated to give different perspective. The virtual camera viewing position and viewing angle can be customized. This reduces design changes, improves product designs, lowers production cost and shortens time to get the product to market.
Enables Virtual Sampling
Sample is one of the largest cost contributors in the product development process. Today, 3D solutions offer high definition, detailed and realistic images of products. Designing a product in 3D lets one experience and analyzes the product virtually. Virtual dressing has enabled one to analyze the fitment of a garment, fall of the material. Through virtual imaging one can analyze the aesthetics and dimensions of a product, with color and hue intonations.
Raw materials like hardware, fabric, trims like buttons, labels, zippers etc. can be digitalized to enable the sampling process via images. This, to a large extent, can obviate physical samples, resulting in fewer deliveries and reduction in time to market.
Product Mock ups via 3D Printing
One cannot create product mock ups with 2D images, currently used in PLM. A 3D printer can do that with a 3D image within hours. This helps to catch design flaws and make the appropriate adjustments early. It’s an efficient, cost-effective way to create, improve and iterate products & designs by collaborating with product developers, merchants, factories & buyers. This enables delivery of an accurate product, eliminating multiple rounds of prototypes needed to find errors. 3D printing allows one to test form, fit and function. More than 50% of sample requirements between concept and pre-production can be eliminated through the introduction of 3D virtual samples and 3D printing. This can contribute significantly to reducing time to market & result in dollar savings for the business.
Speed and Cost critical factors
The foremost question that comes to mind while considering a solution is it’s cost. And considering the need for speed, and PLM being a speed vehicle, it is important to analyze how it operates within the given constraints. 3D requires a multitude of dimensions to be defined to visualize a product or item. This would be cumbersome and unpractical, simply from the effort standpoint, let alone cost and time. But, one can take physical objects and use 3D scanning equipment to capture these dimensions and transform them into 3D digital models. This data can be reused and modified to create new product models.
Laser scanning and digitizing are two most common methods of collecting 3D data. In laser scanning, a laser line, patch or sphere is passed over the surface of an object to record 3-dimensional information. The same is captured by a camera sensor, mounted in a laser scanner. Digitizing is done by touching a probe to various points on the surface of the object to capture 3D information. This method is more apt for geometric and free form shapes. The 3D rendering will depend upon the nature of the task, and the structure of the information to be displayed.
But, beyond the realms of the professional world today, a simple, raw 3D image can be made even at home, with a pair of red-blue 3D glasses, a digital camera, and some photo editing software. This image can portray optimum depth with accuracy for some products.
So, whether the benefits of 3D displays outweigh their costs depends upon the particular 3D rendering chosen, the nature of the task, and the structure of the information to be displayed.
3D’s interface with PLM is already transforming the product development process into a more efficient, faster, fluid orchestrated state.