Art of implementing PLM (Product Lifecycle Management)

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Art of implementing PLM (Product Lifecycle Management)

PLM comes in many shapes and sizes. Optimal PLM for large series standard product business compared to PLM for one of a kind, engineer to order project business are very different from each other. So are the implementation success factors.

The most common PLM implementation tip is – start with defining a PLM strategy or define your processes.

This is a good start; however, what really counts, is the foundation of your PLM strategy. All PLM implementations must be based on exact understanding of the business model or models in use and their requirements for PLM. There are four basic business models when thinking it from PLM perspective.

  • make to stock / order, standard products
  • configure to order, mass customized products
  • engineer to order, project-based products
  • service related to devices and equipment

In each case, the PLM set up must support and facilitate the used business model in most optimal and feasible way. The business model sets the requirements, not e.g. general part management practices.

These basic business models are rather independent from the context, they are applied quite similarly e.g. in telecom services, life sciences, fashion and heavy machine manufacturing.

  • PLM in large series, standard product, multi-factory manufacturing business is very much about fast, accurate and transparent engineering change management.
  • PLM in high volume, mass customized, configure-to-order business is very much about managing the variability and variation of the products in multi factory manufacturing, but it is also about modularity management and management of platform product architectures.
  • PLM in one of a kind, engineer-to-order, project business is about facilitating the reuse of existing designs cross different deliveries. It’s also very much also about managing the base product template, suitable designs/modules and their allowed use in different delivery cases.
  • PLM in equipment related services is very much about managing the individual sellable spare parts related to each product configuration and compatibility between product evolution versions. In general service PLM must also cater for service product definition, compatible service offering available for the delivered product configurations and product instances. i.e. the installed base that we sell the services against.

Your PLM implementation will fail, if the specifics and characteristics of the business model in use are not clear and if you do not have a clear definition how PLM will support and facilitate growth of performance in a specific business model.

Many companies have multiple business models in use simultaneously in different business units or locations. This makes companywide PLM implementations rather complex. However, this does not dismiss the need to define how PLM supports each of the models individually, but rather adds the dimension of defining the targets also from the corporate perspective.

Yet another PLM implementation dilemma to solve, is dynamics of the business landscape. Company landscapes keep changing and evolving. Companies acquire other companies and integrate them to collect the benefits of the economics of scale. Harmonizing mature PLM set-ups between companies is art of its own, however very significant portion of PLM implementations today.

In today’s world pure Greenfield PLM implementation are very rare. Most companies have some level of product related data management established. It may be related to the mechanical CAD designs; it may be related to an ERP system or it may be an Excel spreadsheet based but nevertheless there are a lot of processes and tools already existing.