In today’s fast-paced business landscape, digital transformation is a buzzword that’s hard to escape. Many companies are reevaluating their processes to stay competitive and efficient. One key question that arises is, “Can PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) help build an end-to-end process?”
Let’s dive into this question and explore different strategies manufacturing companies adopt in their pursuit of digital transformation.
No System and Digital Jungle
A typical process is a Document driven process with files shared and moved using various type of home grown collaboration, usually folder/file based. Spreadsheets and various local databases and solutions.
Imagine a situation where a company operates without a structured system. It’s like a wild jungle, with no clear paths. In this “No System” approach, chaos rules the day.
Companies use documents, emails, and shared storage in a haphazard manner. Files are scattered around, often organized in folders, and people rely on their makeshift methods to collaborate. Spreadsheets and local databases further complicate matters, making it challenging to maintain any semblance of order.
Department Systems and Silos
In another common strategy, companies develop different systems for various departments as they grow. This is similar to how different parts of a city have their own neighborhoods. For example, engineering departments might depend on CAD/PDM systems to manage their work, while systems like MRP/ERP/Finance handle other business functions and production. This approach leads to processes operating independently in separate “neighborhoods,” and companies use “data sync” solutions to connect them. The processes are growing in silos and various “data sync” solutions are becoming popular.
Single System Dominant Environment
With a strong leadership and enterprise leadership history, companies might decide to grow into a “single system” approach. It doesn’t mean that everything is organized using one system, but it means that a single system is chosen to become a place that controls data and processes. Everything else (engineering) is synced into this system. Typically it can be ERP or PLM, but there are some other options when companies decide for content / document management to become a single system.
Here, one chosen system takes the lead in controlling data and processes. Other systems may still exist, but everything revolves around this primary system. It could be an ERP, PLM, or even a content/document management solution.
This approach requires strong leadership and a commitment to centralized control.
Moving from Data Ownership to End-to-End Processes:
Historically, these approaches focused on who owned the data within departments. This often meant that data, such as documents and information, had to be exported and transferred when needed by other departments or external parties. However, a modern approach shifts from department-centric thinking to a more holistic view that supports overall business goals. Key end-to-end processes include:
Product Development and Design: This involves everything from the initial idea for a product to its design, development, and testing.
Procurement and Supply Chain Management: This encompasses the processes of acquiring materials and managing the flow of goods through the supply chain.
Production and Manufacturing: This deals with the actual making of products, from raw materials to finished goods.
Quality Assurance and Testing: Ensuring that products meet quality standards and undergo rigorous testing before reaching customers.
Order Fulfillment and Distribution: Managing orders from customers, ensuring timely delivery, and efficient distribution.
How to Build End-to-End Processes:
When establishing end-to-end processes, companies face two essential questions: What infrastructure is needed, and how to build the process?
Infrastructure options include traditional enterprise systems like PLM, ERP, and CRM, as well as modern platforms like low-code development and cloud infrastructure. A flexible data modeling approach is crucial in defining all business and product assets. This holistic data model captures relationships between products, customers, suppliers, and contractors.
The third element is communication, collaboration, and business process tools. Companies can leverage various tools, including collaboration software, messaging platforms, business workflow tools, or even custom-built solutions. Some systems may serve as umbrella solutions, integrating data from other systems.
What is my conclusion?
In today’s business landscape, building a digital foundation of end-to-end processes is essential. Relying on spreadsheets, legacy databases, and document-oriented practices is no longer sufficient. Companies must transition from fragmented systems to a holistic platform. This transformation requires a shift towards data-oriented thinking, embracing modern data management practices and single-source-of-change approaches.
In the journey toward digital transformation, PLM and other modern tools can play a pivotal role. Just my thoughts…
PS. I’m going to talk about it in the next articles. Stay tuned.
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.