Product lifecycle management (PLM) software solutions are designed to make it possible to manage the stages of a product’s lifecycle. In this article, we will talk about a product’s lifecycle, how PLM software can help manage it, and the benefits of using such tools for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
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Product lifecycle management can be a critical issue for companies, and PLM software can provide a practical and efficient solution. When managing their production or distribution activities, companies may have to make decisions based on data collected during the product’s lifecycle. Centralizing this data can ideally be done using PLM software, which can be vital for companies that need to quickly improve their product launch strategy.
What is a PLM system?
Investopedia defines product lifecycle management as:
“Product lifecycle management (PLM) refers to the handling of a good as it moves through the typical stages of its product life: development and introduction, growth, maturity/stability, and decline. In practical terms, PLM, as a concept, enables learning from experience.”
PLM software are usually computer programs that enable the sharing of information as well as the integrated management of data and processes related to the various stages of the product or service lifecycle. All stages are taken into account, from design to the end product, including manufacturing, distribution, use, maintenance, and upgrading.
This type of software support the recording and processing of information exchanged during the lifecycle of a product. The objective is to potentially reduce the amount of time taken in management, minimize errors, capitalize on know-how, optimize costs, and enhance quality and decision-making through collaborative work.
To achieve this goal, some PLM software have the following basic functionalities:
- Document management
- Workflow configuration
- Remote collaboration, control, and support
- Instant messaging
- Complete bill of materials management
- Access to Gantt charts that can enable users to view the progress of tasks from creation to the completion of a project
- Automation of forms
- Automation of processes and marketing
- Customer service ticket management
- Employee and supplier management
- Productivity analysis
- Compliance management
- Budget management and billing
Factors to consider when choosing PLM software
Many PLM software products are available with standard functionalities that can be adapted to different industries. Some may offer additional modules specific to certain businesses. Depending on their needs and process requirements, companies can choose between a traditional PLM system or custom PLM system.
In either case, it is essential to choose the right software to get the most out of it. Whether standard or customized, appropriate PLM software can be based on an architecture that offers good network performance and efficiency in data replication and security. The architecture can have the following characteristics:
- Integration and unification of all functions
- Web-based functionality for full accessibility
- Software that can be used with existing systems
Some common characteristics of product lifecycle management software
Generally speaking, the ideal PLM solution should be ready to use and offer enhanced functionality to minimize the cost and customization of software. Keeping this in mind, here are some key features that can be essential to good product lifecycle management software:
- Document management, which can help gather technical data on the product and tracks the exchange of information on the product’s various changes and developments.
- Requirements and modification management, which takes into account specifications, configurations, and modifications.
- Cost and quality management, which assists in calculating and estimating costs by recording the resources allocated to each stage.
- Reporting and analysis that facilitates the tracking of various indicators and the study of results for task assignment and strategic decision-making.
- Collaboration management that helps ensure teamwork, information sharing, and traceability of exchanges in a unified system, including an advanced search function.
- Software training, which takes into account knowledge acquisition opportunities related to the use of the software.
- Technical support options offered by the software publisher to meet the needs of users.
- Operational specifications, which includes the compatibility of the software with the company’s existing infrastructure.
- Integration possibilities with other tools and systems within the company.
- Pricing, which should be studied in detail based on the various plans offered —free trial, monthly or annual subscription, price per user, and more.
Why should you consider using PLM software in your company?
Product lifecycle management is part of a knowledge management approach. It can allow companies to capitalize on experiences, thanks to the availability of homogeneous information. This data flow can be useful for the design and development of better products.
By aiming to improve the quality and reliability of products, some product lifecycle management software can help meet the need for efficiency and speed in production and decision-making. These tools can offer the following benefits:
Can provide better access to information
By centralizing all the data on the lifecycle of a product, PLM processes can help generate the flow of useful, relevant and easily available information. These tools can help optimize access to the data needed for product development. In addition, this data can potentially be shared between the different project stakeholders. The knowledge base can be secured by means of authorization management or an authentication system.
Can help automate processes
PLM software can ideally enable the organization to structure its resources and processes more efficiently. Repetitive tasks can be grouped in batches and automated to save time and minimize errors —document updates, validation, modular strategies, etc. Process automation can promote increased production volumes and product compliance.
Can result in the reduction of cost and time
Thanks to PLM systems, the optimization of interactions and productivity can result in a potential reduction of time-to-market and costs. The cross-functional approach and resource planning enabled by the use of product lifecycle management software can minimize expenses while helping to increase the efficiency and speed of the product development process.
Can help create a collaborative work environment
PLM can help create an environment for team communication and information sharing at all stages with multi-channel communication functionality, both between departments and with various partners —suppliers, subcontractors, customers, etc. Collaborative work usually promotes the harmonious participation of all stakeholders and the cross-functional vision that could be necessary for the success of projects.
PLM software may be useful for executing the different stages in the lifecycle of a product, from its creation to its delivery, and can help manage information related to its manufacturing. In addition to automating processes, such tools can enable users to improve exchanges between different stakeholders and potentially increase employee productivity.