Despite its potential to streamline supply and manufacturing processes, product life cycle management (PLM) is a phrase that makes many business managers shudder.
And with good reason: historically speaking, PLM solutions have proved to be costly, overly complex and extremely difficult to integrate with existing processes. So why do these solutions, which should be making things easier, often fail?
1. Not investing enough time, infrastructure and funds to get started
Any successful technology implementation requires an investment in three equally important areas: people, process, and technology. Attention must be paid to the people involved, and processes must be analysed and updated so that both the people and processes can collectively take full advantage of the new technology. If you don’t properly address all three of these areas then the implementation has less of a chance of success.
2. Lack of long-term use planning
For all of the effort and planning that goes into implementing a PLM solution, surprisingly few companies put any thought into long-term use. The question “now what?” hangs in the air once the technology has been implemented. As a result, the PLM deployment becomes a bright, shiny new car that nobody ever drives.
3. Not giving all necessary departments access to the PLM solution
There is often a belief product data management (PDM) and PLM are basically the same thing and, therefore, the engineering department should be the owners and guardians of the PLM system. That is a mistake. If you’ve spent an enterprise-sized amount of money on a PLM solution, but aren’t using it enterprise-wide, then you’re not tapping its full potential - and it becomes difficult to justify the investment.
4. Denying external parties access to the system
Much of the benefit of PLM also comes from extending it across the organisation to different divisions and even outside of the organisation to partners, suppliers, and contractors. This facilitates collaboration and data re-purposing, creating a continuous digital workflow. Unfortunately, rather than tackle these complexities, some companies simply deny access to outside parties - thereby breaking the digital chain and defeating much of the purpose of having a PLM system to begin with.
With all these potential pitfalls, a new approach to PLM is needed: one that is affordable, easy to use and simple to deploy. The benefits of PLM - such as more efficient product development, improved profitability, higher product quality and streamlined supply chain management - are simply too important to lose to the hurdles of traditional, on-premise PLM deployments.
☛ Mike Watkins is PLM product manager at Autodesk