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PLM: The Solution You Didn’t Know You Needed

PLM: The Solution You Didn’t Know You Needed

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PLM: The Solution You Didn’t Know You Needed

Apr 28, 2022

Shannon Sickmon
Woman at live computer screen

What Is PLM?

PLM, or product lifecycle management, is not a new concept. The idea of managing products as they go to market has been around since man first started selling products to others.

To understand the full depth of functionality that a PLM system can offer manufacturers, we need to explore what we mean by product lifecycle. Most manufacturers agree that four phases make up a product’s lifecycle:

  • Introduction

  • Growth

  • Maturity

  • Decline

A modern PLM system unifies all product processes to allow for the harmonious flow of data from conception to design to development, then to marketing and selling. PLM even eases the path to disposal when the product reaches the end of its lifecycle. Manufacturing companies need efficient and cost-effective ways to introduce new products. PLM software addresses this with a turnkey solution that centralizes the entire product record improving collaboration across global, remote teams and boosts creativity and productivity.

PLM: A Brief History

In the 50s, the idea of “configuration management” became the standard for products used by the U.S. Department of Defense, and later led to the advent of Computer Aided Manufacturing, which later developed into Computer-Aided Design (CAD) products. In 1985, AMC used an early offshoot of PLM to speed up the manufacture of their signature SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee. In 1992, the Jeep Grand Cherokee became the first recorded product built using the process now known as product lifecycle management.

True PLM software began in the 90s as an offshoot of CAD products. The technology of the time, however, was not designed either to share or store these massive CAD files, so the software was limited to document management. Later PLM systems focused on product launches and did add in more functions, but the software still required extensive customizations and forced integrations with legacy tools.

Modern PLM software, considered 4.0, originated in the last decade. The new iteration is both customer-focused and supply-chain-centric, and the software allows your company to bring new features and products to market in a predictable, efficient way. A cloud-based PLM system does two main things: it maximizes profitability and manages product introductions and retirements. Because PLM optimizes manufacturing processes, it ensures that costs stay low.

What has changed in the last few years is that product development has become more consumer driven, because your company’s reputation depends on how fast you can put out innovative, market-ready products. Customers are always demanding something new, and they want it now. With PLM, you can meet customer demands with a connected platform that delivers the speed you need to transform your products from digital concept to launch. Cloud-based PLM systems reduce the time it takes to go to market considerably, which boosts profit margins.

Who Can Use A PLM?

If you want to know who can benefit from PLM software, the short answer is everyone involved in the production, design and manufacturing of goods.

Let’s look at a quick example of how PLM works. Our intrepid company, Sassy Sue’s, wants to make healthy treats available to the public.

1. Product development: Sue, a vegan baker, comes up with the idea for a new, healthy single-serve brownie. She makes several versions of her treats. Because all the teams, from her ingredient suppliers to her marketing team have full communication and visibility in the PLM, she can easily create and test the product, find markets and distribute her brownies. Based on market and demographic analyses, the vegan brownie is featured at higher-end food emporiums like Whole Foods.

2. Product growth: More grocery chains start to carry Sassy Sue’s brownies. They make new, eco-friendly packaging based on customer feedback. Sales and marketing find even more distributors.

3. Product maturity: Other bakeries flood the market with similar products. The idea has reached its apex. The marketing team gets more product feedback and analyzes the data in their PLM. They assess a need for new products and improvements to their existing best seller. To stay competitive, Sassy Sues introduces healthy vegan cupcakes, cookies and even cinnamon rolls.

4. Product decline: Sales have dropped on the original product. Sassy Sues’ Bakery uses the analytics and KPIs in the PLM to halt production and concentrate on new products. All the while, the team stays true to its original concept and the PLM keeps everyone aligned. Procurement of supplies is standardized. Planning, conceptual creation and production can use continuous learning to make new products and concepts to expand the brand.

In the above example, we saw how a PLM can shorten the time from concept to sales. It’s more than that. Product lifecycle management is about connection. It connects teams, information and strategy across the entire life of any product. If you pair a PLM with an industry-specific ERP, you have the technology and tools to collaborate and share information to efficiently design, develop, source and sell a product. PLM makes it simple to foster innovation, manage information, fulfill complex requirements, and most importantly, drive profits.

Be sure to come back for the second installment of our series on PLM coming to you in May.

Are you ready to find the simplest path from concept to consumer? Find out how, now.

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