In human body, heart is well developed from the beginning for physical functioning of body, but brain grows gradually as we gain knowledge.
Similarly, in any company ERP system is must from beginning to run the company and Product Lifecycle Management system (PLM) develops over time as intellectual data grows.
This intellectual data is in the form of designs, drawings, Bill of Materials (BOM), how to make instructions etc., anything that defines your product – how it should be.
ERP system uses this definition data for transactions like procurement, production, assembly, sales, finance, shipping etc.
If this definition (recipe) is wrong, then the product fails or is delayed. Problems in assembly line are often due to incorrect data and lot of time is wasted in finding the root cause.
As product grows, complexity and amount of designs grows making lot of room for errors.
Which version or revision is used in what BOM is often a problem with constant changes in design. One change in part can affect many places it is used.
After company grows to a specific point it no longer can rely on excel and file systems to manage Engineering data.
A proper PLM system can prevent sudden loss of productivity when complexity and data grow. Like brain, PLM system also has basic functions in early stages starting with just Part data, 2D, 3D vaulting and revision control. These basic functionalities are often called Product Data Management (PDM).
As more and more functionalities are added like change management, business workflows, document management, more and more departments (people) and processes are integrated, and PLM system is fully utilized.
What is a PLM system?
Product lifecycle management (PLM) System is a system or software that manages and integrates all the product data, processes, business systems and, ultimately, people in an extended enterprise.
PLM connected with ERP and other business systems makes it possible to follow the lifecycle of each component and product itself from its birth to retirement. This can be used for smarter decisions, finding root cause of problems, improving efficiencies, faster product development, increasing sales and reducing costs.
Advantages of PLM (why do we need PLM?)
1. Faster product development leading to more sales
It is proven that PLM removes classical hurdles in product development and makes concurrent engineering truly possible. It is often observed that Engineering R&D is the bottleneck when it comes to launching new products or delivering Engineered to Order. A good PLM system saves Engineering time by
a. Increasing reuse of parts by efficient search based on attributes, shape, status etc.
b. Reducing errors by managing versions and revisions of parts
c. Saving time in approvals by providing online review and approvals.
d. Saving time in finding right data by providing single source of truth.
e. Making data visible to other departments to increase collaboration.
Even non-manufacturing companies like Google and Apple have realized benefits of a PLM system and adopted it. Sheer increase in PLM spending year on year ratifies this fact. It is estimated that companies who do not adopt PLM will disappear sooner or later. On the other hand, a good PLM system and process will make company globally competitive and faster products to market will increase sales and market share.
2. Control over Product configuration
Products are getting complicated day by day with increased variations, software, and mechanical content. It is difficult to have control over these complex product configurations without a proper configuration management system. PLM systems have inherent product configuration capabilities and provide different levels of variability control capability depending on your business. This means you can roll-out more variants of your products quickly giving customer more choice of products ultimately increasing sales. PLM makes it possible to reduce errors introduced due to complexity by providing many features including application lifecycle management and model-based systems engineering features.
3. Efficiency improvement leading to lesser costs
PLM makes right data available to right people at right time saving lot of time and efforts to search for right data. Moreover, classification feature in PLM saves data in categories and catalogues which increase reuse of parts and saves cost to company. Data categorization also helps purchasing to group similar parts by design, method, material etc. and negotiate better price with suppliers. Duplicate part numbers are a common problem in many companies due to lack of proper system in the past. One-time data cleaning and standardization helps to save a lot on maintenance of duplicate parts. PLM saves time and efforts for all departments and
connects them like a thread.
4. Breaks silo, increased collaboration leads to less mistakes
It is proven that PLM provides platform for increased collaboration between different departments. It enables them to see, talk and discuss in same data context but shown in their perspective. Collaboration is observed to be increased as early as during PLM implementation phase, as lot of decisions are cross-functional and brings out “that” much needed communication on table. PLM and ERP systems when integrated properly forms the two major executive systems in the company which everyone relates to. PLM acts as source of truth to ERP. We can say PLM is a recipe which defines design and how-to instructions and ERP uses recipe to produce actual products for customers based on demand. If one of the system has problem then the whole company has a problem.
5. Scalability and accessibility
If you do not have a PLM system, then you will struggle to access your data from anywhere. PLM software are easily scalable and can serve thousands of users without problem. Even though you have operations at one place but sooner or later you need to access it from outside. As data increases traditional file storage and email systems cannot cater. More time is spent on searching, storing, and sharing data. PLM systems provides secured and seamless access to your data based on access rules. You can also choose to host certain servers on cloud to get rid of in-house maintenance. Data sharing to suppliers and external partners is also a major factor in choosing PLM system for business.
Do you struggle to find out who changed what and for what reason often? PLM keeps track of all changes made to a part or BOM and makes it possible to trace it back to a reason. You can setup comprehensive change management system compliant to CMII standard which enables you to relate any change notice to problem report or change request. PLM makes it possible to capture the content as well as intent for change which is crucial many times.
7. Remote working, remote commissioning, remote Monitoring possible
Having all data in PLM system makes it possible to harness that data for virtual commissioning and alike. Many of the PLM software provides these functionalities out of the box. PLM software have matured to cater to modern challenges and have opened lot of possibilities. Remote monitoring systems save lot of costs for both customer and OEM supplier by triggering online preventive maintenance. Customer do not have a breakdown and service engineer does not have to travel.
8. IOT data can be stored and processed for traceability, warranty, and design
IOT data is mostly used these days to set alarms for preventive maintenance. But if this data is connected to PLM and proper feedback loop is set to design engineering then it is possible to improve product as well as reduce cost. Valuable life characteristics for design and manufacturing engineers can help them experiment more and trace if their design is working without fear of failure. Reduction in factor of safety is also possible if this data is analyzed over a period saving lot of material costs. IOT data if made integral part of PLM can give benefits which are beyond today’s possibilities and will give you clear edge over your competitor.
9. AI and Data analytics can be applied easily if data is in PLM
Most of the AI algorithms and all data analytics depends on large amount of good quality data and demands data preparation as a pre-requisite. Lack of proper PLM data can make this task nearly impossible. PLM data can be easily processed by any data analytic tools giving valuable insights to business. Expanding data boundaries of PLM to cater to applications where it is needed is easy and controllable. Access control makes these things reliable operations.
Grouping of suppliers based on design complexity, materials, method of manufacturing etc. enables purchasing to negotiate better price from suppliers.
Feature data extracted from CAD data stored in PLM system can be used to find cost reduction possibilities.
Parts in Bill of materials and their characteristics can be analyzed to forecast demand, find nonconformance rates, cost saving opportunities etc.
Read answers to Frequently asked questions on PLM here
Why should you invest in PLM now?
1. Less business activity means “best time to change”
Better not to change pants while running. Downturn calls for increased spend on R&D and Process improvements so that we make full use of upturn. Your staff is relatively free to focus and contribute to PLM deployment. PLM needs business resources as key users who will steer what type or solution and processes to set. Internal contribution is key to success otherwise PLM becomes another software for users to feed data without much benefit.
2. Availability of good resources in market
Pandemic made lot of PLM vendors panic and lay-off staff. We have cashed in on situation and are employing good resources from market. They bring varied experiences and value from industry. You can also get a good resource to lead your PLM from us on a contract to hire.
3. Attractive offers
Everybody has relaxed their margins considering pandemic situation and we are not an exception. You can get better deal on software as well as services including some free trials and free consultations. Similar work costs a lot in normal situation.
4. Boosts morale of your company
The last thing you need during such times is low morale and negativity. PLM is a companywide project and touches all. Announcement of such an initiative brings hope and positive outlook for employees and encourages them to work harder which in turn helps company to turnaround. This is the most neglected or undermined part of PLM initiatives but has proven to be a silent winner. Your staff also compares systems and processes to their previous companies or competitors. PLM and its embedded digital transformation make your company lucrative as well as one step ahead of your competition.
5. More adoption for change
People who always resist work from home or working paperless have been forced to adapt to these changes rapidly during this pandemic. Organizational change management is always a challenge in any improvement projects and PLM is no exception. People are more willing to adapt to changes in challenging situations like these and probability of success is more.
6. Ready for next Pandemic like situation
PLM makes it possible to work from anywhere as all the data is organized in systems and people can collaborate more effectively. PLM provides wide variety of methods to apply access rules based on role and group of users, both external and internal. You need not worry about data security and sharing is easy to control.
7. Make best use of remote working
PLM implementation can easily be kick-started remotely. There are lot of offline activities which can be done during this period when travel is restricted. This not only saves cost but also helps to engage your employees. Slow and steady start is always better than a rush project. Use this time to slowly understand and build what do you want from PLM system. Start with a POC on your favorite PLM software and see if it is the right choice.