How can Hardware companies use Agile Product Development practices to deliver quality products faster?

At PTC’s LiveWorx’23, I had the opportunity to engage in a fireside chat on why adoption of agile product development for hardware companies can be beneficial.

In today’s ever-evolving technological landscape, there is pressure to innovate and deliver quality products in short turnaround times, while customer demands and market dynamics fluctuate. Traditional approaches involving a rigid and linear product development process often lead to longer product cycles and delayed launches. But with inspiration from software companies’ success, Hardware companies are discovering new ways to optimize their development cycles, improve time-to-market, and foster excellent customer centricity using agile methodologies.

At its core, agile product development is an iterative approach that empowers teams to adapt, collaborate, and execute swiftly on changing requirements of a product. Hardware Teams can break down building a physical product into smaller component-specific projects where various stakeholders can work together and be more innovative. Agile tools can be leveraged to facilitate communication and track progress of the product on the assembly lines. Additionally, frequent testing and feedback discussions enhance product quality as issues are identified and addressed promptly. With effective implementation of Agile practices, Hardware companies can become well-informed and prepared to tackle supply chain and equipment malfunctions challenges. They can revisit sprint criteria, introduce supporting resources, and modify manufacturing plans to remain on schedule with their deliveries.

What’s My Take

From my perspective, seeing how these product development methodologies converge is interesting. Waterfall & KANBAN methodologies used in the early days of manufacturing became the setting stone and evolved over many decades to give birth to agile methodologies. Then, it was primarily adopted by software companies and yielded great success for them; now, these agile techniques are making their way into hardware development processes, completing its full-circle journey. 

Although many are skeptical about the compatibility of agile product development in hardware with complexities of physical prototyping, manufacturability, and quality assurance of products, the pandemic has made many engineering executives and organizations realize that we are more Agile than we believe to be. Businesses carried out their normal proceedings by being more adaptable to changing market tides, allowing the workforce to work remotely, and substituting many laborious tasks with digital solutions. So, I believe they’re in-tuned with many Agile practices already in place and will continue to incorporate more as they innovate on new physical products.

Why has Sustainability become a fundamental part of numerous companies’ Corporate Strategy?

Indeed, there’s more to the story besides the “it’s the right thing to do” narrative. Sustainable initiatives are a key catalyst for resourcing the present needs without exasperating the future needs of the next generation. Attending the sustainability briefing at PTC’s LiveWorx’23, I gathered insights into how the pursuit of greener initiatives can benefit companies in today’s market.

With the exploitation of resources, executives understand that a do-nothing approach won’t sustain their businesses forever. Employing a sustainability strategy allows companies like PTC to make long-term investments in technology and processes. They can address the need for reusing and recycling in the Product Development cycle to build towards a self-sufficient circular economy. Furthermore, it reduces operational costs as businesses lower their energy consumption and carbon footprint throughout their ecosystem. Being sustainable also enables companies to take advantage of many tax incentives and subsidies provided by the government while complying with the regulations.

By focusing on sustainability, corporate brands can increase their brand value and capture market share pertaining to their current and future customer demographic. It provides an opportunity to create differentiation among similar products and also gain a competitive advantage. Moreover, being sustainable is important when it comes to attracting new talent. About 70% of employees consider ‘environmental impact” a top priority when joining a new company. With the younger generation consolidating a majority of the future workforce, not implementing a sustainable strategy can lead to losing out on great talent and stagnating the company’s growth in the long run.

Companies must constantly reinvent themselves, and sustainability provides a great avenue to do that. As a predominantly software company, PTC’s carbon emissions and usage of natural resources are much lower when compared to manufacturing companies. But from a broader perspective, they understand the influence of their Software & Tools suite in helping various customer and partner companies develop more Eco-friendly products and reach their sustainability initiatives. So, implementing an effective strategy at the core of the company’s value can create a bigger win for the planet.

What does the future of Industrial Operations look like?

As industries converge with various cutting-edge technologies like the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR), we are witnessing a revolutionary shift in how businesses operate & interact with the digital realm. This has led to the emergence of the Industrial Metaverse, a new world I discovered during my session attendance at PTC’s LiveWorx’23.

So, what is it? The Industrial Metaverse bridges the realities of the physical and digital worlds in an effort to accelerate efficiency through engineering, manufacturing, and field services. Businesses can simulate their factory floors with the pieces of equipment in a virtual space, offering them real-time insights into operations, predictive maintenance, and streamlined collaboration across global supply chains & teams. Instead of relying on traditional methods of solving workspace problems, teams can leverage technology to gather data, consume its information and perform analysis in a fully spatial-aware context to make better decisions much faster & from anywhere in the world. Although it’s in the early days, the Industrial Metaverse can be categorized as offering support for solving problems in three avenues:

Fields Services: Connecting experts virtually to on-site technicians to perform support, maintenance, and troubleshooting of Industrial equipment & processes, enabling swift issue resolutions and knowledge sharing across global operations.

Manufacturing Operations: Real Time analytics of ergonomics and workflow processes are accessible to identify inefficiencies occurring while a person is working with a machine.

Design & Engineering: Enhanced collaboration capabilities help various stakeholders work together on production machines & models with VR and Augmented Reality apparatus support.

What’s My Take

Although there might be concerns regarding the feasibility and technology readiness of the workforce when it comes to implementing Industrial Metaverse, the only constant is Change. As technology develops, companies that aren’t participating in learning and adopting new metaverse ways of solving problems will be at a disadvantage. They would spend equal resources, effort, and time (if not more) addressing these situations in the real world, which could’ve been handled faster and efficiently through the Industrial Metaverse. Embracing this paradigm shift will unlock unprecedented possibilities for innovation, growth, and resilience.