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PLM Software Selection Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide
PLM Software Selection Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide
Oct 24, 2023John McCurdy
Sometimes the most important projects are the most difficult ones to start. When you’re staring down an undertaking that entails significant effort and a considerable risk-reward proposition, it’s easy to feel intimidated and either procrastinate or talk yourself out of taking it on, even if it could result in a transformative effect once completed.
Thankfully, a basic concept in psychology helps us reframe such a task in a way that seems more manageable, and that’s breaking it down into individual steps. Even if each requires several actions and the collaboration of multiple people, they’ll all have clear beginning and end points, and they’ll simplify matters so that you can make consistent progress toward your goal.
In the world of manufacturing businesses, one of the clearest examples of an initiative that can get pushed off for too long due to its complexity is upgrading your tech stack. Whether it’s making improvements to existing systems or implementing an entirely new platform, it can be daunting given that it takes time, requires investment and typically results in substantial change.
But we are now in the midst of a fully digital era. Technology is only going to become more and more central in the way organizations operate. And with consumer tastes rapidly changing, the pressure is on manufacturers to deliver products that meet their expectations and tastes. Doing that effectively is much more achievable with a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution on your side.
So, to inform your PLM software selection, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide that will take you from the initial internal preparations to making your choice and moving forward. There’s no doubt that there are a number of items on the to-do list, but with the guidance provided here and your eye on the benefits the project will produce, you’re far more likely to succeed.
1. Establish the Vision and Key Objectives
The process of implementing new business software solutions—or “digital transformation”— is a continuous initiative without a true conclusion, being more about the journey than the destination. That said, no project should begin before clear objectives have been determined and communicated to all involved. After all, it’s pretty critical to progress to have something worthwhile to strive for.
In order to do this, consider which benefits of PLM systems would be most impactful for your company, be that a faster time-to-market cycle or enhanced collaboration with material suppliers. And in order to ensure you can measure your return on investment (ROI), determine what metrics you’ll need to track to make the calculations, secure the means to monitor them and align expectations with your timeline.
2. Identify and Document Your Critical Processes
Because PLM software is designed to facilitate workflows necessary for new product development (NPD), you need to establish an understanding of how your processes are currently conducted, as well as how they’ll fit within a new digital platform. It’s vital that you remain open to opportunities for improvement in this period, as it’s not always ideal to modify the system to accommodate an in-house practice—workarounds tend to be inefficient, and the software as-is offers streamlined workflows.
Some of the key NPD-related business processes include brief creation, prototyping, testing, iterating and designing packaging for your new products, so be sure those are among the procedures that you document and re-evaluate. Depending upon the sector your company operates in, your functional requirements could also include formulation, labeling, compliance features or other specialized tools.
3. Assemble a Balanced and Diverse Project Team
Buy-in from everyone in your organization is critical not only for your PLM implementation, but also full utilization of the platform once it’s in place. To generate the enthusiasm and commitment of your employees, you’ll want to create a diverse project team with individuals from all levels and departments of your manufacturing operations.
This group can help combat the resistance to change that any major initiative inevitably brings out of your staff. They can help explain how day-to-day responsibilities will change, emphasizing that the new technology isn’t meant to replace workers, but to make their jobs easier. And by reminding their colleagues of the end goals, your project team members will help promote steady progress.
4. Conduct Research and Due Diligence
Now comes the “fun” part—shopping for your PLM solution. In reality, this will require a lot of work, so roll up your sleeves and pull up a chair. It’s time to begin researching your options, perhaps starting with a simple search online. As much as possible, narrow the field to only those systems that are specifically developed for your industry, as generic software often requires expensive customizations.
You should also research the providers behind the platforms you’re considering, with special attention to their track record, any recognitions received and commitment to your vertical. It’s also worth checking in with your peers at other businesses who have experience with a solution or supplier on your list, as their first-hand perspective can be particularly insightful.
5. Evaluate Options and Determine the Best Fit
Once you’ve whittled down the many possibilities to the most promising PLM systems, you need to see how they stack up head-to-head and complete the selection process. You might choose to use a request for proposal (RFP) for this purpose, which is a sort of expanded rubric to help you evaluate how well a particular offering meets your functional requirements.
Another important component of this step is requesting and engaging with demos of the various solutions that are on the proverbial table to get a feel for how they work in practice. Lastly, as you’re getting ready to have some final discussions, gauge the culture fit between your company and the PLM vendors in question, and factor that into your decision.
The Case for Aptean in Your PLM Software Selection Process
With this set of steps laid out in front of you, hopefully you’re feeling more confident and enthusiastic about the digital transformation process and can look forward to a successful PLM implementation. Keep in mind the points made before regarding the central role of technology in the modern manufacturing world and the need to satisfy shifting consumer preferences, and you won’t lose sight of the project’s importance.
We can recognize that the project is a tall order and will require an appreciable investment of money and time, and that makes finding a software provider you can trust all the more important. There are several points in Aptean’s favor in this regard, and we’re confident it’s worth your time to read about and consider a few of them before you launch into your new initiative.
First, there’s our in-depth experience with the industries that our purpose-built PLM systems support. Aptean PLM Lascom Edition is built on decades of collective experience in the food, beverage, cosmetics and personal care sectors; likewise, Aptean Apparel PLM Exenta Edition is backed by a team that knows the unique challenges and best practices of the dynamic fashion and apparel world.
What’s more, both of our PLM solutions can be deployed from the cloud on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, which offers greater scalability, increased flexibility, enhanced cybersecurity, stronger data protection and broader accessibility. Each offers tools tailored to the complex processes of their respective supported industries out-of-the-box, no add-ons necessary.
Finally, there’s the fact that we were ranked in the top tier of businesses on The Software Report’s Power 500 Software Companies of 2023, coming in at the 30th overall spot to place in the top 10% of organizations included. That’s proof of our dedication to our target markets and the value that our systems provide customers around the world every day.
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