12 Questions and Answers about PLM and Its Role In Manufacturing Business Processes. Hey Man… Version

12 Questions and Answers about PLM and Its Role In Manufacturing Business Processes. Hey Man… Version

It is almost 40 years after PLM was introduced by American Motors Corporation (AMC). Digital Engineering article PLM Stays Relevant in Manufacturing by Randal Newton, principal analyst at Consilia Vektor reminded me about this historical fact in his Digital Engineering article and interview of two my favorite PLM software experts – Stan Przybylinski is vice president of CIMdata, Inc., a market analysis firm retained by software companies and manufacturers and Jonathan Scott is chief architect at Razorleaf, a PLM product and services implementation specialist. 

Here is a passage that speaks about AMC PLM invention:

In 1985, American Motors Corporation (AMC) was struggling as the No. 4 carmaker in America. It made an audacious gamble and placed all its design and engineering information into a new computer technology called relational database management. 

The automated recordkeeping included engineering drawings created using another new technology called CAD. The AMC Jeep Cherokee and its successor Grand Cherokee were the first vehicles to market produced using the database technology we now know as product lifecycle management (PLM). It was noted at the time for being the fastest production cycle for a new product introduction in the modern era of automobile manufacturing. 

I’ve been following PLM software technology and business practices for the last. One thing that doesn’t stop to amaze me is the disagreement about PLM definition and role of PLM in the manufacturing business. Just a few days ago, I was talking about what are chances of PLM to become a profession and to my big surprise in the comments I found debates about PLM definition as one of the pre-requisites of PLM profession establishment. After 38 years, the industry is still cannot come into agreement about Product Lifecycle Management.

Check the interview with Stan and Jonathan. I found it insightful and straight to the point.

Although product lifecycle management (PLM) is changing, both Stan’s and Jonathan’s opinions that PLM remains a crucial player in today’s tech-heavy marketplace. While PLM has its roots in CAD and relational database management, it has evolved to encompass the digital thread, digital twin, and extended reality (XR). These technologies are being seamlessly integrated into existing systems and workflows, demonstrating their significance as PLM investments. Digital twins, for example, are being used to enhance decision-making by providing multidisciplinary insights, while the digital thread ensures that data accompanies a product’s entire lifecycle.

One of the interesting aspects of PLM trajectories is changing market’s buying behaviors. There is a growing preference for cloud-based solutions and subscriptions allowing companies to explore and adopt these technologies in a much easier way. However, in any case, PLM’s role remains essential, especially for companies pursuing digital transformation initiatives and optimizing product development and lifecycle management.

Corporate digital transformation initiatives in manufacturing are closely linked to PLM as they involve improving processes and leveraging digital information to revolutionize business models. PLM plays a crucial role in digital transformation by ensuring the reliability and sturdiness of products, particularly in the context of product-as-a-service strategies. Overall, PLM continues to evolve and find its place in a technology-driven marketplace where digital transformation is the key to staying competitive and innovative.

The interview made me think about what are key elements PLM manufacturing professionals are looking after and how to simplify PLM and provide a path to companies for easier PLM adoption. Below, I put 13 questions about PLM software and business asked in various conversations with my readers, prospects and customers.

You can find many articles about these topics online. I decided to provide a “Hey Man… ” version. I learned this practice from one of my advisors at OpenBOM when practicing how to speak to prospects and customers about OpenBOM value proposition.

PLM Software vs PLM Business Strategy

One is software sold by vendors such as DS, PTC, Siemens, Autodesk, OpenBOM, Propel and others. Another is the way you organize processes in your company. They are connected, but not the same.

Why Do Companies Need PLM?

Imagine manufacturing company building products. To do so, you need to organize a lot of information to flow between many people in the organization. Design, Bill of Materials, Change Requests, Orders, etc. PLM software makes it happen. Business strategy helps to create principles of data organization and process management.

Do I need PLM?

Absolutely. Every company that build products have it. You can have an “Excel version” of PLM or you can have a modern digital SaaS version. But in both cases you will be using PLM, even if you won’t use this name.

How PLM delivers the Digital Thread

Think about multiple organizations in manufacturing companies, building products. Some of them are still in design phase and some others are already shipped to customers. Alongside this path, there are many stages and different information represents them. Digital thread connects all these stages and pieces of information together.

The Elements of Modern PLM

Old (legacy) PLM was is a “database to store company (product) data. Modern PLM is a platform capable to support a wide range of activities such product data management, supply chain management, into a connected product development process including manufacturing process and customer feedback. Legacy PLM software was about document management and modern PLM software is about data and information.

The five phases of product development

Idea, Design, Engineering, Production, Maintenance.

Challenges in Product Lifecycle Management

The main 3 challenges of PLM is to organize information flow in the organization connecting multiple disciplines starting from computer aided design (CAD) data, product data management, supply chain and overall process of designing and building products.

Why Successful PLM Requires Integrated ERP

PLM and ERP represent two major siloes in every organization. It is impossible to make PLM software successful without connecting design and product engineering to business functions and processes managed by ERP systems.

What is Change Management

A formal process to manage change requests, approvals and coordinating with everyone in organization to make it happen.

Five benefits of PLM

Organize product data, streamline change process, reduce product cost, provide a foundation for business services, help to support customers.

3 Ways To Overcoming PLM challenges

Create a playbook for PLM, bring technology to implement it, iterate by small steps and measure the results.

Future of PLM technology

Digital platforms that allow to build a manufacturing business around digital information assets.

What is my conclusion?

Product lifecycle management is a complex process that requires connecting data and organization processes. From a very early days of PLM, the data was extremely important to make PLM software successfull . These days, I can see a growing importance of digital technologies allowing to data to be used efficiently to connect people and processes. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital-thread platform with cloud-native PDM & PLM capabilities to manage product data lifecycle and connect manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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