Product lifecycle management (PLM) software isn’t just for the engineering and operations teams. PLM software manages the entire evolution of the product lifecycle, enabling a full-spectrum view of the product. It covers multiple facets of how a product is developed across various global cross-functional teams.
In addition to product development, PLM helps companies address the product commercialization aspect. Missing out on the product readiness and change orchestration could impact the product commercialization plan and slow down the overall company’s growth.
PLM connects and aligns data, processes, and technology to bring a high-quality product to market fast. With this alignment, PLM not only helps smaller companies scale up, but also provides agility and flexibility to larger organizations. It helps the larger organizations eliminate bottlenecks with repeatable process frameworks that are built on the scalable PLM platform. It provides a path for breakthrough transformations and acts as a single source of truth from concept to customer. A contextual collaborative PLM platform helps to quickly resolve issues that might otherwise cause serious delays or budget overruns.
In today’s competitive marketplace, executives must continuously think about improving operational efficiency, reducing infrastructure costs, improving product quality, and accelerating time to market in order to improve the overall throughput of the company. Companies need to embrace a digital transformation strategy in order to maintain a competitive edge, increase revenue and customer loyalty, and, overall, be more responsive. PLM software delivers key benefits, which we’ll explore below.
In a world of regulations, each industry has to comply with specific regulatory standards. Companies need to adhere to these industry regulations as they launch new products. Failure to comply with these regulations can hurt customer retention, damage brand reputation and negatively impact the company's bottom line.
Ensuring product compliance is vital throughout the design and production phases. However, once the product is in the hands of the customer, it is equally important to monitor customer complaints and track quality issues in order to close the loop between engineering, manufacturing, sales, and service. PLM software help companies maintain detailed, time-stamped, historical information of changes in product versions to ensure audit trails are intact. It also helps reduce the risk of fines, delays, and lost sales due to non-compliance.
PLM software also makes it easier to manage products after they leave the factory. For example, when a high-tech manufacturer discovers issues with the display in a specific model of a phone, they can easily check whether that display has been used in other devices. They can then issue recalls for only the affected devices, mitigating the cost of replacement.
PLM software helps mitigate risks through planning in a product’s initial design phase and promises a higher success in later phases of the product lifecycle, such as during product commercialization and go-to-market. PLM helps companies ensure that the target costs are met along with the supply and material availability in a constrained environment.
It serves as a single source of truth by providing a complete view of the product quality data to the engineering and operations teams that are tightly linked to the product record. Instead of using a separate quality management system to track quality and compliance related issues, integrated PLM software can help eliminate duplicate data entries, potential errors, and productivity challenges.
Leading research says that only 39% of the employees spend their time actually performing their primary job. PLM solves this problem by helping companies improve operational efficiency, reduce infrastructure costs, improve product quality, and accelerate time to market, which ultimately drives increased throughput.
Consolidating all product records — communications, workflows, designs, and documents — in a single unified location on a scalable PLM platform increases overall employee productivity. Consolidation and contextual collaboration eliminates the need to open multiple tools or dig through emails to find the latest project updates and design files. This allows teams to search, access, and reuse data easily and focus on product innovation.
The dynamics are changing with an increasing number of millennials constituting a large part of the workforce. This emerging workforce has a social- and mobile-first mindset, which marks an overall shift in the culture and preferences. PLM software’s next-generation, modern and intuitive user interface drives dramatic improvements in the user adoption rates.
Given the increased pace of the price erosion and variability, companies need to have clear visibility into product costs during the development phases. They need to be able to model a forward-looking view of the associated product costs. PLM helps companies put together the forward cost model.
PLM provides a holistic view of the product lifecycle to various teams such as procurement and manufacturing, so that they can find product materials and parts that are durable and cost-effective. These teams can set real-time dashboards or schedule reports while designs are being developed and provide their valuable feedback and make recommendations to help reduce costs later. This is far from possible if the product data resides in disparate and siloed systems.
A complete understanding of the product lifecycle also prevents under- or over-buying materials. The comprehensive database enables manufacturers to see which parts can be reused, and prevents them from ordering duplicate parts or missing out on bulk pricing.
AI-powered algorithms can help companies track vital business and customer information like the number of product units sold or customer service tickets issued. Based on these data-driven analytics, a predictive or prescriptive model can be devised for an upcoming trend or a detected anomaly. Being data-driven helps to resolve the issues quickly instead of relying on hallway conversations and lengthy meetings.
Speed of innovation is the new scale, as companies are continuously trying to outperform one another, and are racing against time to launch new and innovative products. PLM software helps companies get to market up to 75% faster — successfully staying ahead of the competition.
It takes time to hand-off between engineering, manufacturing, sales, and service — especially if the information needs to be recompiled at each stage and can’t be reviewed concurrently. There is also a higher chance of error when sharing product versions over email communications. PLM software provides a contextual and collaborative environment where teams can immediately discuss issues and brainstorm to find the best possible solutions. The product information has to flow seamlessly across the entire value chain to all employees, partners, contract manufacturers, and suppliers.
PLM software helps companies access the data globally from any platform. In the age of social- and mobile-first culture, employees can access, review, and approve designs from anywhere, on nearly any device. The scalable and extensible PLM platform helps companies reduce their Total Cost of Implementation (TCI) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), while driving faster time to value.
Improving operational inefficiencies, reducing costs, launching high-quality products, and accelerating time to market results in increased revenue. With increased contextual collaboration, teams don’t have to spend time individually responding to emails, filling out spreadsheets, and sending updated product design files. This contributes to increased productivity, which further drives revenue.
PLM software consolidates all product data in a central unified repository supplemented with the voice of the customer. Customer-centricity is a key driver for increased revenue. PLM software helps in creating a closed feedback loop ensuring all teams across the entire product lifecycle gather insights from the customer feedback. Successfully leveraging these data points to design robust and innovative future products is crucial for today’s businesses.
Also, product data is best understood in context, and therefore incorporating e-commerce and sales metrics is key to seeing the full picture. That way, teams can monitor potential problems and take advantage of opportunities to save or boost revenue.
Data sharing goes hand-in-hand with scalability (discussed below in detail). The ability to share the correct information with the correct people at the right time comes into play, especially as we enter a new era of a highly connected, increasingly global market.
Sharing network drives and sending emails may work (albeit slowly) for co-located teams, but trying to manage remote or off-shore talent, international partners, and new clients with disparate tools wastes time and invites input errors, or even data loss.
Cloud software eliminates the need for complex and cumbersome security measures like setting up VPN access or maintaining on-premise installations. Instead, teams can use their unique credentials to securely log in to the PLM from any device, even their mobile phone. PLM notifications allow teams to safely untether themselves from the office and interact with other team members or clients without worrying about missing important updates. They can answer questions on the fly to get work moving faster, eliminating bottlenecks.
Centralized information and workflows increase visibility, improve collaboration, and enable teams to work efficiently, increasing revenue and speeding up the development process.
In the past, PLM systems were set up on-premise, which limited the extent to which centralized data could be accessed and shared with remote employees and partners. Cloud PLM software makes this process much easier and gives businesses the ability to collaborate in real time and scale effectively.
This allows for unparalleled synchronization between engineering, operations, sales, and service. With a centralized platform where collaboration is unhindered, all teams can contribute to product improvements during any phase of the product lifecycle. The sales team can pass insights to the engineering department about what they are seeing in the market, service can let operations know about problems or design flaws, and direct feedback from customers can be relayed to the engineering team, creating a complete closed loop.
The centralized and collaborative platform is also extremely valuable for ensuring version control with external parties such as vendors and partners, who can easily access the latest product designs without sending multiple files.
PLM enables companies to create an innovative product, and, ultimately, a robust organization. In fact, top-performing companies are twice as likely to use product data management (PDM) and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems. It’s not surprising that these companies are more successful — PLM systems integrate consumer and product data, giving teams direct access to customer feedback across the entire product lifecycle. Metrics such as units’ sales, adoption, and customer loyalty can be easily tracked, and this data can be used to continuously improve new products in the pipeline.
Enterprises can better prioritize and plan for success when they can leverage the data-driven insights coming directly from all involved teams — engineering, sales, marketing, customer success, contract manufacturers, partners, and customers. Product issues can be tracked easily and quickly, thereby ensuring product quality with a faster go-to-market. Quality processes are closely knit with the design processes, which helps the engineering and development teams to be agile while ensuring the products comply with the regulatory framework.
PLM software reshapes the product innovation and commercialization processes for both small and large companies. The traditional focus of concept-to-release is quickly changing to concept-to-customer — incorporating the voice of the customer.
Teams can be quickly notified of the customer’s pains and challenges through the highly collaborative and productive PLM platform that facilitates the design of innovative products to help mitigate these concerns. Satisfied and happy customers become repeat business and may even generate referrals.
Medical device manufacturers are required to maintain compliance with federal regulations and responding to customer complaints is critical. Listening to their customers’ perceptions, issues, and complaints as a part of the closed-loop quality process allows companies to track and resolve issues and concerns. Continuously improving products based on customer feedback helps medical device companies earn trust and loyalty. Similarly, engineering-to-order businesses can use a PLM system to track customer responses, which helps to build tighter customer relationships and ensures customers are happy.
Faster production, speed of innovation, higher revenue, and increased customer loyalty all add up to one thing: growth. Along with helping businesses in the near term, PLM software also prepares companies for the future. PLM not only helps smaller companies scale up, but also provides agility and flexibility to larger organizations — eliminating bottlenecks with repeatable process frameworks that are built on the scalable PLM platform.
Cloud PLM helps businesses scale up or be more agile and flexible by: —
Onboarding new employees and getting them up to speed is made easier with PLM systems. Conversely, when a team member leaves, a few clicks can move resources around, assigning and unassigning people to different product lines or projects. This empowers teams with increased agility and flexibility, without compromising quality or consistency.
PLM software is no longer just for engineers. PLM software is only truly successful when it acts as a single source of truth for all the teams involved in designing, manufacturing, selling, and servicing products. Integrations with related systems like a CRM or ERP ensure that everyone is in sync, which helps to maintain alignment with the overall corporate strategy.
The future is bright for PLM software. Emerging technologies like connected devices, IoT and sensors, AI-powered machines, and chatbots hold great promise for supplying a wealth of performance and customer data to supplement product information. Cloud platforms allow team members to add updates from anywhere. With the connectivity of cloud and mobile technology, partners and sales teams can get the information they need, when they need it, whether they are remote or in the field.