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The Ultimate Guide to PLM Software

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The Ultimate Guide to PLM Software

Jun 28, 2022

John McCurdy
Business professionals gather around a table to discuss new product development.

Working in the manufacturing industry, you know that at the end of the day, it’s your products that matter the most. Your teams work tirelessly in bringing them from the initial ideation stages to launch and full maturity, and it’s vital for your business’s profitability and longevity that they find success in the market with your target audience.

That’s why the concept of product lifecycle management (PLM) warrants considerable attention, no matter what sector your company operates in. It isn’t particularly novel—the origin of the idea dates back to the 1980s, when the American Motors Corporation began to employ computer-aided design (CAD) to facilitate innovation—but it remains true that a deliberate and detail-oriented approach at each stage of the process is necessary to achieve optimal results.

You trust in your company’s highly qualified professionals to perform well in pursuit of this goal, but in today’s competitive manufacturing landscape, purpose-built technology that can give you the extra edge is essential. Of course, we’re referring specifically to PLM software in this instance—but what exactly are these solutions, what purposes do they serve, and how do you best utilize the features they offer?

Read on for a thorough deep-dive into the subject and further explanation of how an industry-specific PLM system can help your business unlock critical advantages, make a positive impact on your bottom line and further your organization’s digital transformation.

What Is PLM Software?

For starters, let’s define what we mean by PLM software—this variety of solution helps businesses like yours manage the new product development process holistically and makes all pertinent information easily accessible. It serves as an organization-wide platform dedicated to the management of design and production data, with additional tools for cross-functional communication, marketing, packaging and compliance.

Importantly, a PLM solution isn’t meant to be used by just one team or department within your company, but all of them. As your products move from one phase of development to the next, stakeholders in various roles can take advantage of the functionalities included, helping them complete key responsibilities effectively and transparently.

It’s worth noting that PLM software does not serve the same purpose as enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions. Instead, the two kinds of systems should be seen as complementary to one another, and the ability to integrate your PLM with your ERP should be a high priority if you are considering deploying both.

Why You a Need PLM System Now

Consumer goods markets are dynamic and fast-paced environments that require agility and informed decision-making. A purpose-built PLM can help you keep pace with the rate of change and maintain cohesion within your organization without neglecting your bottom line.

Respond Quickly in the Face of Changing Consumer Trends

One compelling reason for your company to implement a PLM solution is to accelerate new product development and keep pace with changing consumer preferences. Today’s consumers have unprecedented access to a staggeringly wide array of products and as such, new demands are arising. For example, desire for more sustainable and functional goods is on the rise, and in order to capitalize on the earning potential that such items offer and maintain your brand’s relevance among the growing crowd, you need to be able to deliver to market swiftly.

Create Order from the Chaos of Your Data

Another primary motive for putting a PLM in place is to eliminate data redundancies and information siloes. We live in the age of data, which for businesses can either be the key to unlocking continuous improvement or act as a perpetual thorn in your side, causing you to silently leak profit and miss opportunities. Disparate systems, data siloes and redundancies can all hinder your teams’ ability to collaborate, which is crucial during the growth and launch of a new line—confusion over important details and incomplete data are the last things you want when the success of your new offering is on the line.

Control Your Costs as Prices Skyrocket

Finally, you should consider the deployment of a PLM platform in order to cut costs and save money in the new product development process. Commodity prices are on the rise, as are transportation and logistics expenses, but the tools we’ll cover in the sections to come will help you mitigate these additional outlays and keep profit margins healthy.

Industries Served by PLM Platforms

What kinds of organizations can use PLM solutions? To put it simply, if a company is engaged in the manufacturing of consumer goods, there’s a good likelihood that they can reap considerable benefits by installing a system tailored to their segment.

The list includes, but is not limited to:

Worth mentioning is that while product lifecycle management is an imperative in all of the above industries, PLM software should not be seen as a “one size fits all” solution. As will become increasingly evident as we explore further, there are many segment-specific considerations that need to be addressed, and only a PLM specialized for the relevant product sector is likely to come with the tools necessary to tackle them.

Key Features of PLM Software

The first feature of PLM systems to highlight is the fully digital and unified platform that they provide. Long gone are the days when pen and paper or Microsoft Excel spreadsheets served as satisfactory methods for record-keeping, especially in new product development—you need a reliable and intuitive interface that ensures everyone is working with the same facts and figures.

Next, there are the robust recipe, formula and bill of materials (BOM) management tools that PLM solutions offer. These allow you to dial in the specifications for your new items with precision, ensuring that your materials, quantities and manufacturing processes are just right, giving your products their best chance to gain traction in the market.

Then, there are the sector-specific features of PLM that help specialized businesses conquer their unique challenges. For example, manufacturers of food, beverage, personal care and cosmetics products will appreciate the compliance and quality management tools that help ensure all finished goods adhere to the exacting standards of enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, apparel brands will love the integrations with design software that purpose-built PLM software provides.

Benefits of PLM Software

PLM software can unlock a huge range of significant benefits helping you to increase profits and outpace your competition. The specific advantages most applicable to your situation will depend on your industry, broader tech stack and organizational structure, but here’s a taste of what you can achieve:

  • A single source of truth to easily share data between teams and departments

  • Improved accuracy and timeliness of data with digital processes, automation and real-time visibility

  • Reduced time to market to capitalize on revenue opportunities

  • Greater understanding of the implications of product or formula alterations

  • Better adherence to exacting standards of enforcement agencies and expedited approvals

  • Tighter control over costs and precise profit margin analysis

  • More successful continuous improvement campaigns and more efficient processes

There’s still more to love about PLM solutions, but this list should give you an idea of how impactful and comprehensive their effects can be.

PLM Software as Part of a Complete Digital Transformation

We’ve mentioned several times in this post how a PLM system helps you engage in new product development with a cohesive, agile approach. When you realize that’s no less than what today’s dynamic markets demand, you can see the need for such systems, as well as a company culture that encourages being proactive and flexible.

To that end, now is the time to jumpstart your digital transformation if your organization is not already actively pursuing that most important of change initiatives. A solid technological foundation for manufacturers normally begins with an industry-specific ERP, but additional supplementary platforms—like PLM—are also critical for success across the broad spectrum of consumer goods sectors.

At Aptean, we offer a complete suite of solutions, including ERP software for businesses in the food and beverage, process manufacturing, apparel and industrial manufacturing spaces. Likewise, we also offer specialized PLM platforms for various verticals, including food and beverage, personal care and cosmetics and apparel.

There’s still more to love in the Aptean software ecosystem, including Aptean Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which helps manufacturers maximize their efficiency and ensure they’re getting the most out of their machinery and materials. There’s also Aptean Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), which gives you the features you need to stay on top of maintenance and spare parts inventory, and other business solutions like Aptean Pay, Aptean EDI and Aptean Business Intelligence (BI) that can fully equip your company for the future.

We’ve built all of our offerings with decades of collective experience, superior technical know-how and a goal of working with our clients as partners throughout the implementation and go-live phases, as well as down the road as updates become necessary. We’re eager to help businesses like yours get Ready for What’s Next, Now®.

Now, if you’d like to hear more about our industry-specific PLM systems and full lineup of best-in-class business solutions, contact us today. We’re also happy to schedule a personalized demo of the software at your convenience.

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We’ve got the specialized solutions you need to conquer your industry challenges.

Tell us about yourself and an Aptean specialist will be in touch.