Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a transformative approach that, if implemented properly, can provide immense value to any engineering team or an entire manufacturing company. However, despite its potential, many companies are still facing significant challenges in adopting this comprehensive solution.
Working with many customers of any size from small startup teams to industrial OEMs, I found that for any team or company, PLM is usually “hard to swallow”. I can literally see how some of the companies with well-known brands are struggling to “wrap their head” around PLM. The situation is even worse in small and medium-sized companies. The reasons vary from lacking holistic data vision to poor projected management.
In my blog today, I want to share my observations. Here are the top five obstacles that are inhibiting industrial companies from fully embracing PLM.
1. Lack of Holistic Data Strategy
Historically, engineering teams and industrial companies operate within two main silos – engineering and production. There are others too like sales & marketing, maintenance, and support, but these two silos (engineering and manufacturing) are dominant. Focusing on two silos while thinking about PLM often results in transactional thinking where data is synced between two silos during transactional events (eg. Design Release) only when necessary. While it satisfies an immediate need (eg. sending drawings from CAD to ERP), it leaves many processes disconnected and data not accurate and disconnected. Without a holistic approach to data management, companies fail to unlock the true potential of PLM, which inherently is designed to bring cohesion and visibility across all departments. Simply put, companies that have not adopted a unified data strategy find it difficult to understand and implement PLM effectively.
2. Failing to Identify Business Strategy Use Case
Another common misconception about PLM is viewing it solely as an ‘engineering efficiency’ tool. While PLM does streamline engineering processes, it’s a very narrow perspective and also leaves PLM to “struggle” with engineering objectives. What is missing, in this case, is strategic thinking and connection to other departments and customers. And this is a place where PLM can really shine. Companies must look at PLM as a strategic business and digital information optimization tool that can have ripple effects across the entire organization, from procurement to customer service. Companies that fail to identify a broader business strategy use case for PLM are less likely to adopt it and, most importantly, to demonstrate the true value of PLM.
3. Lack of a Phased Approach
PLM is not an overnight transformation. The grand vision is great, but to have it separate into steps, delivery objectives, and implementation steps is no less important than having a great vision. Also, this big bang approach of doing everything in a single step is really hard. PLM is a strategic, long-term initiative that needs careful planning and phased execution. Unfortunately, many companies try to ‘boil the ocean’ by taking on too much at once with massive strategies and plans. This approach usually leads to executive support dwindling, resource burnout, and ultimately, failure. The lack of a phased approach often stops companies from implementing PLM successfully.
4. Making the Wrong Technological Choices
The technological landscape is common with vendors promising groundbreaking results. PLM marketing skills are well-known in the industry. The number of great powerpoints can be overwhelming and it often works until the rubber hits the road. Then companies quickly discovered that it was a “vision” and the real thing is a “work-in-progress”. Some vendors have really bad habits selling future plans. However, companies should exercise caution and not be swayed by enticing ‘slide decks’ and aggressive marketing. Especially companies need to be careful when a vendor sells a “big system for the future”. It is important to make a reality check. These days with the growing adoption of instant PLM trials (eg. Siemens TeamcenterX Free Trial, OpenBOM Instant Free Trial, PTC Free Trial, Onshape Free Trial, Autodesk Fusion 360 Free Trial) you have a way to try everything before you buy. See if it is real before moving forward and read G2 PLM Reviews online to learn what customers say.
5. Poor Project Management and Leadership
PLM implementation is a complex project and must be treated accordingly. While this is not a PLM-specific reason, it is still vital for every project. PLM projects are typically more complex than average IT projects and require robust project management skills. Poor project management and leadership can lead to disorganized execution, missed deadlines, and eventually, the failure of PLM adoption. One of the key challenges of PLM is dependency on a wide range of stakeholders in a company. As you make progress, keep in mind that all stakeholders must be engaged and you stay on the same page.
PLM adoption has significant barriers, but with the right strategy in place, you can make it happen. Companies need to think holistically about their data, identify broader business use cases for PLM, adopt a phased approach to implementation, make informed technological choices, and ensure effective project management. These steps require a combination of strategic planning, diligent execution, and continuous learning. When done right, PLM adoption can bring about dramatic improvements in productivity, efficiency, and overall business performance. From my experience of working with thousands of engineering teams and companies, diligent strategic planning and technological assessments are the key elements.
Just my thoughts…
You need to have a playbook for PLM implementation. Check this out – Unstoppable PLM Playbook.
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital thread platform including PDM/PLM and ERP capabilities that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.