Product Lifecycle Management, also known as PLM is not just software; it is a business strategy. It is also not merely a technology; it is a solution designed to go through four specific phases that take a product from its conception to its decline. A tool that can ‘digitally’ integrate conception, design, production, and decline, PLM is an excellent solution for managing material requirements for efficient design and development. Experts usually describe PLM as a solution that could close the loop between design, development, and operational maintenance. To sum it up, PLM has become the anchor that can connect different areas while ensuring the effective management of a product.
Defined as a single source of truth up to the point of sale by Swathi Sambhani, Chief Technology Strategist, TechNotch Solutions, PLM is more efficient when centrally coordinated across systems and when implemented well. This integration is why it is crucial that when businesses decide to roll out their PLM system, they need to do so with a concrete plan. A strategy will help you identify problems you need to solve, but it will also help you keep a closer eye on your workflows so you can make improvements. It is also worth remembering that once a strategy is in place, it must remain consistent throughout each phase.
PLM encompasses all aspects of a product with the ability to support concurrent business models and product development, including relevant data and technical manufacturing processes. Furthermore, PLM allows all manufacturing requirements to be taken into account very early on in the design process. This data collection means that the PLM system can reduce product development time by half and significantly improve the quality of the product while lowering design related changes. When it comes to reducing product development cycle times, PLM can be a collaboration platform across countries and regions.
Maintaining an Effective PLM System
To maintain an effective PLM system, it is imperative that each business first defines its success criteria. Companies can do this by establishing their requirements. Doing so should bring about two advantages. The first one is that you can develop a channel for the product to flow through. And secondly, information relevant to the commodity can be accessible centrally to all those who are pertinent to its life in the market.
PLM software is no longer just a big-company sensation; it is capable of helping small and mid-sized fashion businesses remain relevant. With a fundamental purpose to create a flexible and straightforward process that is easy to use and maintain, PLM’s focus is mainly on product inception, design, build, and configurations, according to Sambhani.
When it comes to maintaining an effective PLM system during COVID-19, Product Lifecycle Management has taken on a new role. With the shutting down of projects and the disruptions of supply chains, PLM has moved to the cloud during the lockdown and expected to become more significant than ever post-pandemic. With PLM’s business structure looking like it could change permanently, Leonardo Silva, Senior Manager, Global Brands Group, explains, “Development time needs to be drastically reduced by designing better products. To design better products, you need to know your customer better.” Adding, “PLM allows users to have a flexible working arrangement and agile communication with counterparts in other parts of the world.”
Extending PLM Beyond What it is Today
When it comes to future music, many experts believe that PLM is destined to enter the world of the Internet of Things (IoT). This reality has been backed up by the fact that if you were to add additional software, electrical, and mechanical components of an IoT platform, it could vastly improve PLM, allowing for the software to scale. The collaboration is prophesied to come with many benefits, like the extending of the post-sale process. Bradley Shaw, President, SEO Expert Brad, Inc. explains on SmartSheet.com that extending the post-sale process could result in “additional revenue both in terms of service contracts as well as to create better products based on feedback”. Shaw adds: “PLM technologies also need to integrate with the big data analytics and IoT platforms to consume data returning from sensors.”
When it comes to the role that digitalization plays in PLM, Silva believes that it is a technology that could play a vital role in being a connecting place for other initiatives like 3D design, material development, ERP integration, and involvement of suppliers in development. He explains: “Without PLM, all these initiatives would be individual projects with local benefits, but without an integration tool like PLM, none of them can really impact if implemented at all.”
Shaw predicts that for PLM to evolve into smarter software capable of disrupting the spheres of product design, engineering, and manufacturing cycles, he also warns, “PLM technology incompatibilities and complexities can turn implementation into a nightmare.” Although businesses should heed Shaw’s warning, the lesson to takeaway is that PLM is more efficient when centrally coordinated across systems. Also, it is worth noting that it has been reported that there are currently three main use cases capable of extending PLM beyond what it is today. They are product monitoring, product performance, and product maintenance.
Although every well-designed PLM process is unique to each company, Greg Dohrman, a consultant at Avatech, recommends that “doing it all” on the first attempt is not advisable. Instead, he encourages companies to build a solid PLM foundation first, so they can later scale to a complete enterprise system.