Pioneered by the car and aerospace industries, product lifecycle management is now influencing the development of everything from pharmaceuticals to the clothes we wear
Design engineers have come a long way from the drawing board, through computer-aided design and manufacture, to product data management and now product life-cycle management (PLM).
PLM helps turn chaos into order for handling the information avalanche involved in creating new products and processes, manufacture, support and disposal. PLM increasingly plays a vital role in creating the latest cars, gizmos, aircraft carriers, energy infrastructure and even the clothes we wear.
The concept is still little understood outside the manufacturing community, even at board level. Nevertheless, it is now moving from big players to smaller firms along the supply chain.
Some say: “PLM is not actually software but a philosophy for business process reengineering.” Actually it’s a way of sorting the vast amounts of information shared along the supply chain throughout the product or process life-cycle.
Though pioneered by the automotive industry, aerospace and defence, PLM has major implications for the development of everything from Crossrail, the new railway for London and the south-east, to the latest pharmaceuticals, consumer packaged goods and much else besides. PLM is a big vision but requires major culture change and board level commitment to avoid costly mistakes. As we increasingly outsource design and manufacture to partners across the world, PLM is vital for sharing product and process information with “a single version of the truth”.
The vendors promise that PLM will get new products faster-to-market, improve quality and compliance, and give competitive edge. The big success is in the auto-industry where companies like Nissan have slashed the cycle for new model introduction from years to 10.5 months using PLM.
However, most companies admit PLM is not an easy journey and there is a steep learning curve. The trick is to have a clear vision of the goal and take small steps. PLM is about business transformation – but we all know how most people resist change!