For many consumer goods manufacturers, COVID-19 exposed issues with their digital thread – the way they discover, create, make and sell new products. These issues were exposed by the impact of wide swings in consumer demand, the rapidly changing nature of consumer preferences for products and the dramatic acceleration of direct-to-consumer (DTC) as a sales channel. Most product development leaders were caught off guard by the impact of COVID-19 and had to react with short-term fixes over the last 15 months or so.
Fortunately, most product development leaders are now looking beyond 2021 to plan and execute digital thread improvement programs which will enable their businesses to grow again over the next three to five years. These product development leaders are also recognizing the value and impact of cross-functional collaboration across digital threads between leaders in R&D, product and packaging engineering, regulatory compliance, production engineering, product management and sourcing.
Product development leaders should collaborate with their cross-functional peers should boost their company’s Digital Thread capabilities by going digital in three areas:
Product Portfolio Management
During COVID-19, product portfolios – both those in production and those in the product development pipeline – experienced heightened cycles of contraction, replacement and expansion. These accelerated cycles are likely to occur for years to come. Therefore, product leaders need to develop the processes and tools to dynamically manage their product and pipeline portfolio.
Portfolio and project management solutions enable product development teams to catalog, manage and constantly assess the mix and progress of product development projects individually and as an entire portfolio. With the addition of machine learning enablers, these solutions can also detect patterns in portfolio development and performance and begin to predict the success of the portfolio, identify gaps and then prescribe changes to existing projects and/or make recommendations for new projects. An optimized portfolio enables product development leaders to bring the right products to market, while also giving visibility to their manufacturing colleagues who need to prepare to produce the products that are moving through the pipeline.
Product Lifecycle Intelligence
COVID-19 exposed the cost of developing and commercializing the wrong products. Many consumer goods manufacturers were caught with too much of the wrong inventory or too little of the right inventory and became out of sync with the demand preferences of the market.
To better synchronize product development with the demand preferences of the market, product leaders should implement product lifecycle intelligence (PLI). With PLI, brands can extract meaningful and actionable insights from data which is generated from multiple sources and systems (both internal and external) to help formulate predictions, recommend improvements and automate actions within systems and processes with the use of AI/machine learning solutions.
PLI is the application of advanced analytics via specific use cases across the product lifecycle to improve innovation results. PLI applies machine learning techniques to mine operational insights from product development data in business systems including PLM, enterprise resource planning (ERP), quality management systems (QMS), manufacturing execution system (MES) and more. Brands can leverage PLI to:
- Explore current and historical product development performance metrics;
- Explain performance trends with multivariate statistics and identify important patterns, correlations and root causes;
- Forecast future performance to set reliable expectations on cycle time, cost, quality and manufacturability; and
- Prescribe evidence-based recommendations to improve future outcomes and automate actions in PLM, including accepting or rejecting workflow changes.
Implementing PLI, one use case at a time using rapid, agile cycles, will accelerate speed to value and build confidence and momentum to bring the best products to market.
Product and Production Digital Twins
As product development leaders and manufacturing leaders continue to deal with a less predictable consumer marketplace, they would like to ensure the successful manufacturability of new products that are progressing through the product development pipeline to avoid production mistakes and increase speed to market. Ideally, these leaders would like to understand the production implications and requirements of products in the pipeline on capital spending, operating expenses and labor deployment long before making these financial commitments.
To do so, leaders can first utilize 3D design solutions to create a digital twin of the product being developed including the packaging, digitally depicting the visualization and physical properties of the product. Once the product digital twin is available, leaders can then simulate the manufacturability of the digital product by utilizing a digital twin of the factory/production line where the product is due to be produced. These leaders can digitally simulate the production process to optimize the line set up and resolve any design issues up front.
In summary, brands that can quickly pivot and embrace the rapidly emerging digital world to drive new rounds of end-to-end product lifecycle transformation will deliver powerful, effective results. By connecting systems, assets and people, brands can gain deeper, real-time (or near-real time) insights and visibility into their customers, assortment and performance.
Steve Riordan serves as global director of the Consumer practice and Life Sciences practice for Kalypso. He joined Kalypso to help the firm scale up its capabilities to serve a broad range of organizations, building on the firm’s portfolio of experiences and capabilities across numerous industries.