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What Is PLM Software and How Does It Work?


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What Is PLM Software and How Does It Work?

15 Mar 2023

John McCurdy
Product designers gather around a table and their materials.

In the increasingly crowded world of consumer goods, many businesses struggle to differentiate from their competitors and expand their share of the market. With so many options to choose from on retailer shelves and online storefronts, catching a shopper’s eye and convincing them that your brand is the one that’s right for them is challenging, to say the least.

Another complicating factor is how discerning—and in some instances, demanding—modern consumers are. Their preferences are pronounced and almost constantly in flux, so finding the right mix of parameters that will maximize your items’ appeal and win your organization new customers is an ongoing and frequently difficult endeavor.

That said, demonstrating your business’s ability to innovate through the launch of exciting new products and reconfiguring of existing goods to align with emergent trends is still vital for maintaining market relevance and driving revenue.

The new product development (NPD) process is involved and complex, requiring effort on the part of many departments, fine-tuning of a number of variables and an accelerated time to market in order to capitalize on opportunities, but with the right solution, your business can succeed on this front.

But what exactly are those solutions, and how can they facilitate an approach to product lifecycle management (PLM) that will keep your brand relevant and popular among your target audience with an attractive portfolio of offerings? We’re here to introduce you to purpose-built PLM software and walk you through how it works in practice.

We’ll also introduce you to Aptean PLM Lascom Edition—our industry-specific system for the food, beverage, personal care and cosmetics markets—and Aptean Apparel PLM Exenta Edition, which is tailored to the needs of fashion and apparel manufacturers.

What Is PLM Software?

Before we dive in on our examination of the solution that supports it, let’s first flesh out the definition of product lifecycle management as a practice. The term refers to the handling of products and their related data and processes through each stage of a consumer good’s existence, which includes:

  • Concepting (including market research and creation of the product brief)

  • Design (testing, prototyping and iteration, both of item and packaging)

  • Development (further testing, iteration and refinement of specifications)

  • Production (manufacture of the goods, including procurement of materials)

  • Launch (initial offering of item on the market and early sales)

  • Maturity (including the rise and peak of the product’s popularity)

  • Retirement (decline of popularity and end of manufacturing)

It follows, then, that PLM software is a business system offering features that aid in the successful and timely completion of each of these product lifecycle steps. The solution acts as a single shared database for all teams involved in the overall NPD process and offers tools dedicated to the specialized responsibilities of the various professionals involved.

That, in turn, helps to produce the following benefits for those companies that implement a PLM system:

  • Accelerated time-to-market via process automation and easy access to all relevant data, ensuring team members don’t have to search for the information they need.

  • Facilitated collaboration and informed decision-making thanks to a “single source of truth,” driving clarity and cohesion from start to finish of the NPD process.

  • Better quality, consistency and regulatory compliance of finished goods through digital record-keeping and adherence to formulas and bills of materials (BOMs).

How Does PLM Software Work?

The defining elements of a PLM solution are the toolsets they offer for three different fundamental focus areas in the NPD process: product development; project and task management; and documentation and specification management. We’ll now look at each individually.

1. Product Development

During the product development process, PLM software will serve your designers with the functionalities they need to manage creation of items all the way down to the individual component level. They’ll also be able to trace all versions of the items they’re working on and manage the complete portfolio via the unified database.

These features can help your business realize the benefits of greater efficiency through the use of previous versions of product as templates for new variations, as well as better adherence to the original product brief. Your team members will be empowered with the tools necessary for dialing in the many variables in play during development so that you end up with an optimized finished good.

2. Project and Task Management

With a PLM solution in place, your project managers will have features at their fingertips for tracking development in real time. They’ll also be able to monitor team workloads and handoffs as steps in the workflow are completed, not to mention identify bottlenecks that can be alleviated through the reallocation of resources or adjustments in processes.

That helps streamline the launch of your new products while also increasing process transparency along the way. With a bird’s eye view of the development pipeline and a holistic understanding of how different tasks and teams affect one another, your organization’s project managers can fully leverage their ability to guide NPD to an optimized end result.

3. Documentation and Specification Management

Paper-based record-keeping systems can be tedious and cumbersome—not to mention not always easily accessible—and that’s why it’s so significant that PLM software handles documentation and specification management in an entirely digital format. That helps your professionals review changes and track important product data and details with efficiency and clarity.

Using a PLM system to maintain all documents and specifications related to your NPD projects helps drive better product quality and consistency, as test results and the effects of design tweaks will be easily observable and can inform smart decision-making. The right solution can give your professionals visibility over the entire development process from end to end.

Aptean PLM Lascom Edition Highlights

Our PLM software for the food, beverage, personal care and cosmetics industries is trusted by manufacturers around the world thanks to the highly specialized tools it offers. We understand the challenges that businesses in these markets face, and that’s why we’ve carefully crafted features that help companies tackle them, including:

  • Advanced formulation and indexing functionalities for auto-calculation of values found in the product brief; easy searching and filtering of component data; and access to built-in INCI, USDA and CIQUAL databases

  • Compliance and brief adherence features for cross-checking product parameters with regulatory libraries; auto-verification of design to original product brief; and automatic identification of allergens to enable proper disclosure

  • Advanced labeling tools that offer support for multiple languages and regional formats

  • A supplier portal that facilitates collaboration with external supply chain partners and allows for the tracking of key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate performance

Learn more about our PLM software for food, beverage, cosmetics and personal care companies.

Aptean Apparel PLM Exenta Edition Highlights

As a PLM solution dedicated to the fashion and apparel manufacturing market, Aptean Apparel PLM Exenta Edition is packed with functionalities that help businesses in the industry overcome their unique challenges. The tools that the software provides help our customers account for the nuances that come with producing clothing and are highly specialized for their purposes. The list includes:

  • Line and seasonal management features that provide a high-level view of plans; access to line sheets and presentation boards; and a portfolio calendar for facilitated management of product and line releases

  • Material and sample tracking functions to handle the design material approval process collaboratively and also issue email notifications to vendors as necessary

  • Robust sourcing and costing tools that let you utilize configurable cost sheets, including quotes and BOM comparisons

  • Advanced tech pack development features that enable the creation of multiple BOMs, measurement pages, grading views and templates

  • A vendor portal that allows designers to collaborate with suppliers within the solution, eliminating the need to communicate via a separate platform

  • Integration with design applications, including Adobe Illustrator, that eliminate manual data transfer and the need to switch platforms to access PLM product libraries

Learn more about our PLM software for fashion and apparel businesses.

What Sets Aptean Apart as a PLM Provider

Now that you have a greater understanding of PLM software and how it works in practice, you may be looking ahead to the process of selecting the solution that’s right for your business and ensuring that you get a full ROI on your purchase. Before you leave to start your search, consider these additional advantages beyond our PLM solutions’ functionality that make us an ideal vendor for your needs.

First, there’s our teams’ tremendous accumulated knowledge of the markets we serve, formed over collective decades working in the food, beverage, personal care, cosmetics, fashion and apparel industries. We know them inside and out, and our professional’s firm grasp of the challenges and intricacies of each helps them guide our customers with sound best practice advice.

Then, you have the fact that both Aptean PLM Lascom Edition and Aptean Apparel PLM Exenta Edition are cloud-based software ready to be deployed via a flexible Software as a Service (SaaS) model for savings on hardware costs, enhanced security, stronger data protection, robust scalability and greater mobile accessibility.

Finally, consider that Aptean offers not only leading industry-specific PLM software but also a host of other solutions, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), enterprise asset management (EAM) and transportation management systems (TMS). We can cover a diverse array of business system needs for a simplified, “one-stop shopping” experience.

So, ready to learn more about Aptean’s PLM software and how it can facilitate optimized NPD processes for your organization? Contact us today or request a personalized demo.

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