PLM (Product Lifecycle Management)

What is PLM? In the 90’s, the commonly accepted definition of product lifecycle management, or PLM, was an amalgamation of functional design and manufacturing technologies - product data management, computer-aid

Issue 34 - May 2012

In PTC’s definition, 21st century PLM has evolved into a comprehensive, enterprise-wide global software solution that allows companies to improve operational efficiencies in the product lifecycle. These improvements are directly tied to the Bill of Materials (BoM), the multi-layer structure that holds core information by which manufacturers design, build and support and, in some cases, service their products.

Today’s PLM software optimizes the management and transformation of the Bill of Materials throughout the entire product lifecycle – from conception to retirement. Any and all activities that affect, change, influence, or finalize a Bill of Materials are the factors that drive a manufacturer’s operational effectiveness and, as such, are subsumed within the PLM solution.

A successful PLM solution includes:
• A foundation set of “must-have” PLM capabilities delivered through seven distinct PLM components: document management, embedded visualization, workflow, distributed multi-CAD data management, collaboration, complete BoM management and change and configuration management
• A single, scalable PLM system architecture and infrastructure characterized by high performance, effective data replication and robust security that is integral, Internet-based, and interoperable
• The ability to easily integrate added value capabilities such as requirements management, program portfolio management, product analytics, manufacturing process management, quality management, component and supplier management, and service.

Here are seven more reasons why manufacturing industry analysts believe PLM is becoming a manufacturing business game-changer:
• PLM software delivers both top-line and bottom-line benefits that come from gains in time-to-market, operational efficiency, regulatory compliance and lower production costs.
• Similar to the evolution of ERP, PLM is a consolidating technology that offers significant IT cost-of-ownership benefits.
• Unlike ERP, which focuses on cost-reduction initiatives, PLM addresses both cost reduction and revenue growth.
• With respect to profit contribution, revenue growth is four times more influential than cost reduction and a more sustainable unbound option to improve earnings.
• PLM enables product-centric organizations to meet bottom-line goals while addressing product development lifecycle challenges such as product complexity and globalization.
• PLM solutions have reached a point in their maturity where its ROI potential is making it a top-of-mind business imperative for C-level executives.
Seven essential PLM capabilities :
PLM Capability 1: Document Management
It’s critical that PLM solutions offer documentation management capabilities that track data change and ensure the quality of product information in real-time from a searchable, centrally-located data repository. With strong information management, PLM systems achieve better control of document distribution and improve security, regulatory compliance audit trails, archiving and disaster recovery.
PLM Capability 2: Embedded Visualization
Since cost and time-to-market are largely determined early in the product development process, it’s vital that cross-functional teams have an opportunity to review engineering designs and “see” what a product looks like before committing to prototype development or manufacturing. PLM solutions provide visualization capabilities that allow teams to accurately measure, section and compare 3D models, assemble parts and analyze complex product structures in real-time and across far-flung geographies.

PLM Capability 3: Workflow
Simply put, workflow systems determine and prescribe who does what task and when. By definition, it is the computerized facilitation or automation of a business process. In PLM solutions, workflow capabilities increase productivity and reduce time-to-market by incorporating standardized work practices that are a prerequisite to process automation.

PLM Capability 4: Distributed Collaboration
If you’re like most manufacturers, customers and competitors are located worldwide - as are your employees, suppliers, contractors and partners. As a result, PLM software must include collaborative product development tools that speed time-to-market, reduce product development costs, enhance product quality, ease entry into new markets and streamline business operations.

PLM Capability 5: Multi-CAD Data Management
Most manufacturers today are leveraging a variety of 3D CAD packages in their product development activities. Some have purposefully adopted different CAD tools to support different design processes such as mechanical design versus electrical design. Others have been forced to use multiple tools due to acquisitions or customer requirements and still design products in an ‘integral’ way. To do that, engineers need a unified database framework for accessing, loading and designing with heterogeneous CAD content so dependent relationships between parts and assemblies can be accurately managed throughout the evolution of an integrated Bill of Materials. This framework facilitates synchronization of ongoing design changes across varying CAD systems and maximizes a manufacturer’s investment in disparate or legacy CAD tools. In its most efficient form, multi-CAD data management enables designers to identify and use components from one CAD tool to provide contextual design in another CAD tool. This ensures high-quality, single-product definitions, faster collaborative development, and fewer data management errors.

PLM Capability 6: Complete Bill of Materials Management
The challenge for manufacturers is to find a way to create visibility across the disciplines to form a single product structure – a complete Bill of Materials. By combining ECAD, MCAD and software domains, cross functional teams can concurrently develop associated designs, synchronize activities and associatively transform the eBOM (engineering), the mBOM (manufacturing) and the sBOM (service). This complete view also allows for ongoing product analysis for compliance, performance, risk and cost early in the development and throughout the product lifecycle. The results are higher product quality and lower product and service costs.

PLM Capability 7: Change and Configuration Management
Just as change is inevitable in product development so is the need to manage change. In a product lifecycle management solution, the goal of change and configuration management is to provide a well-defined process by which changes to the Bill of Materials are shared among design, manufacturing, service and support teams, and updates in a product’s configuration are systematically managed and traced over time. This process is a central capability of a PLM solution. It minimizes the repetition of mistakes, synchronizes engineering, manufacturing and service Bills of Materials, coordinates multi-disciplinary content and improves decision-making.