Thursday, May 30, 2013

PLM Implementations: Start at the Beginning!

Starting a PLM implementation activity can be a daunting task for anyone. I have been reading a couple of articles that mention some of the challenges on this "PLM journey". Read this example of how one company did it. Why is it so hard? Why does it take so long? And, why is it often not as successful as planned? I think there are several reasons why people get less from their PLM implementations than what they hoped. Here is what I think:


The first thing that most companies under estimate is the cost of a good PLM implementation. After spending multiple millions of dollars on ERP, most companies think that they can spend a small percentage of that on PLM. Why? You should be planning to spend enough on PLM to make it work properly. PLM is at least as complex as ERP, and in some cases it is more complex. Make sure you have allocated enough money to do a good job planning your PLM activities, and you will be much happier with the results.

Remember the old programming adage: garbage in, garbage out? Well, the same applies to your product design activities. If you don't manage the information in a very strict way at the front end of your design process, you won't get good information into ERP; ERP cannot fix that. PLM is the head of the product design beast; don't let the tail wag the dog!


It can take a good amount of time to do all the tasks that are needed for a good PLM implementation: process re-engineering, business requirements gathering, solution selection, cultural change management planning, data migration planning, user acceptance testing, training, and others. These plans take time to create and implement, and if you don't plan well, you just might fail. Spend more time on planning and you will likely spend less time fixing mistakes, and living with disgruntled users.


Most people don't do large scale PLM implementations often. Finding people that know what to do is hard. There will be those that think they know what to do, but you may miss many aspects of a successful implementation. It never hurts to get help from those that do this kind of thing for a living. Often the PLM vendor can be helpful, but outside help from a third-party is often very useful. There are two keys to getting people with the right knowledge to manage your PLM implementation properly: education, and getting outside help from experts.


Get education for your key PLM people! Let me say that again: get education for your key PLM people! If the PLM team is not on the same page, it will be hard to direct a cohesive PLM implementation strategy. That includes educating your upper management and some executives. Many implementations fail because management has unrealistic expectations, or they do not see the expanded view of PLM. Not one PLM implementation I know of has ever failed because of too much education.

Keep these key items in mind when planning your next PLM-related implementation, and you will have more success and happy corporate PLM users.

What do you think? I would love to hear your experiences.



Thursday, May 9, 2013

PLM is a Team Sport

The other night, as I sat watching Lebron James and the Miami Heat play basketball, I was reminded of PLM. Not because of the excitement, fouls and bad language, but because basketball is a team game. The selection, implementation, and continuous improvement for PLM should also be a team game. Is this the case in your company?

First, we should recognize that the PLM team leader must occupy an important place in your company. The PLM team leader should be someone that is competent and recognized as capable and tenacious. He or she should be able to get the resources needed to make PLM happen in a significant way within the various organizations of your company.

Second, the members of the PLM team should also be subject matter experts and well-seasoned members of their own organizations. They may not spend full-time on the PLM team, but they must always be available to support PLM activities. They must always be looking at how PLM can be used and enhanced in their own organizations, and bring these ideas to the PLM team for future projects.

Third, the PLM team must continue to function even after significant roll-outs and implementation activities have finished. There is always a need for continuous improvement in the PLM space, and there must always be a leading team to make sure this happens. The roll of continuous improvement cannot be assigned to one person; all members of the team, and everyone in the company, is ultimately responsible for continuous improvement.

Best practices have shown that companies with a permanent PLM team have had far greater success with PLM than companies that do one PLM project, and then disband the team. PLM is a team game after all, and you must keep working to make is successful.

What do you think? How is your PLM team doing? Who are they? Where are they?