Thursday, February 23, 2012

Who Needs Product Lifecycle Management?

People seemingly cannot agree on who really needs Product Lifecycle Management, or PLM.  What is my response? EVERY business needs PLM! Why, you ask, well, let me tell you.

Every business has a large pile of information that supports their products. It may be in the form of paper, but thankfully today, most businesses have a large amount of digital information that supports their business. Managing that virtual information is what allows the company to continue delivering products and support to their customers. PLM is all about managing virtual information to support physical products.

Some people believe that only companies with very large, or very complex products need PLM. Of course, these large companies need PLM because it is impossible for them to manage all the information that is required to build their products. However, with the increasing speed required for new product introductions, with the increasing pressure of global competitors, and with the increased complexity of all products, every business can be improved with the benefits of PLM.

PLM supports the virtual product, no matter what that product is. You may not have 3D CAD models of your product, but you do have a Bill of Information of some type that is used to create your product. Whether you have recipes, or formulas, or patterns, or unique process steps, or whatever, there is some type of information that must be managed. This is true whether you are a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. And, all businesses want to capture feedback from customers no matter what the products or deliverable.

For example, let’s say you run a cupcake business. Your final product is a tasty cupcake that customers will eat. Now, after the cupcake is eaten, you don’t wanna know what happens! But, your job is not done. You would like to capture a response from your customer about that cupcake, and then use that information to enhance your recipes, improve your processes, and develop new, innovative cupcakes. Your business has many recipes and processes that support the creation of your tasty cupcakes, these must be modified and continuously managed to deliver only the very best products to your customers;  that’s PLM.

There are also many new technologies that have the potential to change your business and improve your interactions with customers, suppliers, partners, and others. If your processes, recipes, and other information are not managed properly, it will be difficult, or impossible to take advantage of new innovation in your business.

For example, improvements in mobile technologies, and the capabilities within social networking tools provide a rich new playground that can add innovation to any business. But, it you don’t have your basic processes and products managed properly with PLM, you will struggle to take advantage of these new opportunities; Your competitors are taking advantage of them today!

So, what do you think! I am always interested in feedback, and I really want to eat a cupcake now!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I want to eat a cupcake now too!

    I agree with you Jim that PLM is essential to any business big or small, but I’d like to add that not only is PLM necessary – it goes hand-in-hand with ALM, application lifecycle management. I believe, more and more manufactures of any complex product, are realizing that software is becoming the main driver of innovation in the product lifecycle. Without software none of the applications would run.

    I had just posted a blog not too long ago where I said “ALM is not a fancy shiny tool as some people may suggest – it’s a way of life in the software development world,” and it’s so true. Software is EVERYWHERE – it runs our mobile devices, it’s embedded in cars, planes, pacemakers etc... so that being said, it’s pretty darn essential that the software is being managed appropriately; right along side of the other product data you mention. Proper management of product data (especially software) insures compliance with industry standards. Another essential aspect is traceability, any changes that are made within the software development phase, should be tracked and managed effectively and efficiently.

    Wikipedia defines ALM “ a continuous process of managing the life of an application through governance, development and maintenance.” Click here for the full definition.

    My colleagues like to define ALM as a platform that helps coordinate and manage all activities and artifacts associated with developing software as part of an embedded product or as a standalone application including Requirements Management, Modeling and System Design, Software Configuration Management, Test Management, Defect Management, and Release Management.

    I think that businesses and manufacturers alike, will need to find a solution that combines management of software information which is your ALM piece, with a powerful "flow-down" traceability to the bill of materials which is the PLM piece. What do you think – should PLM and ALM share a cupcake?

  3. Amen Sista!

    ALM is a very important part of any PLM solution. We are seeing more and more companies that want to link these two disciplines in some way. The ability to do systems engineering requires software as part of the analysis.

    PTC bought MKS for this very reason, I think. Dassault has Geensoft, for embedded software testing, and to try and link the various systems engineering aspects together. I think we will see more of this in the future.

    The real challenge is to tie these two very different disciplines together in some meaningful way. I think that if you can create some kind of two-way integration between the two, there are some clear benefits.

    I look forward to seeing this happen in the future!


  4. Management is very important part of everything, In the tech era without management it's not possible to lead the world.

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