5 Most Important Questions About PLM

5 Most Important Questions About PLM

The abbreviation PLM often triggers many debates and questions. Starting from blunt questions about what is PLM to more serious questions about how to apply PLM in the company, measure results, what are the right technologies, and how to sell PLM to C-level execs. Regardless of your role in a company, you want to be prepared for the discussion about PLM, pros, cons, concerns, and important features. For years of working in the PLM industry, I collected the top 5 questions about PLM that you need to know answers to be ready for any PLM discussion.

1- Should PLM be exposed to an entire company?

Typically the love for PLM is falling off the cliff when you leave the door of the engineering department. Despite advertising and promotion of PLM values, PLM has a reputation as a tool for engineers that can be really useful in product development, but not very much outside of engineering heads and processes.

The truth is that there is a tremendous value of PLM outside of product development and engineering. You should think about taking a strategic approach in PLM, laying down the foundation of the product information model and lifecycle, connecting islands of data, people. But such an approach is hard, requires a C-level commitment and support in multiple organizations across the company. Usually, if a company has a vision and cross-organization support, it ends with producing a lot of value for the organization.

2- How to measure PLM value?

This question usually comes out of the discussion about PLM ROI. You can meet two polar approaches – (1) The cost of PLM is a cost of “running the organization” and you should not justify it; and (2) Building a business case for PLM. My favorite approach in building the PLM business case is to connect PLM value to the organizational business parameters and not focus on the productivity of the organization, the value of collaboration, and better data management.

Think about new business models enablement, increased sales, customer success, or reducing waste and budgets. If you can build such types of relationships, your PLM value business case will be unbeatable.

3- What is out-of-the-box PLM?

PLM is a tool and also a strategy. While both answers are right, this where companies often stuck with the question about out-of-the-box PLM. Is it possible? Can an organization buy out of the box PLM? The answer is sometimes conflicting. PLM vendors are heavily promoting out of the box nature and features of PLM software. At the same time, companies that bought into the idea of out of the box PLM, are usually struggling to come with a sustainable plan of organization transformation.

Out-of-the-box features of PLM software are important as they give you useful and reliable tools that don’t require huge efforts to set up, configure, administer, and customize. Some of the features are pretty standard. But it would be dangerous to buy in the idea of bringing “an entire PLM” out of the box to serve your organization and its business processes.

4- Is there such a thing as “PLM best practices”?

It is a very popular way to market PLM systems by advertising PLM best practices and industry-ready solutions. These packages are usually the outcome of PLM vendors’ service organizations attempting to sell the value captured in one organization to another.  How much value is in these solutions and how easy to transfer the experience from one company to another?  This is a very hard question to answer. Some of these industry solutions are valuable, especially when it comes to valuable data, templates, and other common elements of the infrastructure (eg. ECO templates). But, it is hard to believe that an entire industry can use the same “best practices”. Usually, it doesn’t work.

5- How dangerous to customize PLM?

Many organizations put a taboo on the word ‘customization’ when it comes to PLM. The history of these customizations goes back many years when PDM/PLM systems were distributed as a software programmable toolkit that was required to customize and compile to do anything meaningful. It was a tool for software engineers and IT to build a solution for a company. But it was many years ago. These days, modern technologies can offer many ways to custom appearance, functions, layout, and many other things. So, don’t be afraid of the world – technology matters. The main thing to be afraid of when you customize the system is compatible with future releases and upgrades.

What is my conclusion?

PLM is a blend of technology, products, and strategy. To be successful in PLM implementations you need to know how to mix them together. PLM is not a recipe for success. PLM is a process that will take you to the journey of PLM implementation over the years. But you need to get the right technological toolset and people’s support to make it happen. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers and their supply chain networks.


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