Date posted: November 8, 2016
In a recent column on Automation.com, Bob Hillier, managing director of Design Rule, detailed some thoughts on what enterprises should consider when researching PLM solutions. In particular, he points to four areas:
- Compatibility with existing systems
When engaging a PLM provider, one of the key things to consider is whether they will carry out compatibility tests upon implementation. For example, for engineering and design companies, it’s important to ensure new software works well with the computer-aided design (CAD) tools already installed and integrate to other business systems, like ERP. Many companies today use an internal portal to manage document sharing and work management. However, these sharing points should not be used to manage product lifecycle and related documentation because of limited security. Ideally, a PLM vendor should not only provide the software, it should also implement it. This way, if any problems occur during set-up, you have only one supplier to kick.
- Current non-value activity
Many companies decide to implement PLM because their existing processes are taking too long and errors happen on a regular basis. Both issues cause excessive non-value added activity (NVA) and increase the amount of time it takes the company to deliver a product or service. Two of the main reasons errors occur include working with incorrect data and lacking digital continuity across existing systems and procedures. More worryingly, employees sometimes misleadingly inform current systems that tasks have been completed only to keep the process moving to the next stage.
Inefficient approval processes are another major cause of NVA. You may think that in our digital world industry has done away with paper-based approval systems. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many companies still use a paper-based system that can be misplaced or sits on someone’s desk when away on holiday. Hardcopy approvals can only be a serial process, which significantly delay the approval or change management process. A PLM system allows every user to see the exact status of a product or service at a glance, and parallel approvals can be used to speed up the process. Dashboards are available for managers to see the status of all activities [affecting] product release schedules, and identify bottlenecks.
- Global locations
If your company has multiple national or global sites and key suppliers that are part of your value chain, it’s important to use a web-based PLM system with a strong security model. Web-based access [ensures] all users in the value chain have simple common access to required data without additional software being installed on their PC or tablet. The additional security is critical is securing controlled user access to data that is either Intellectual Property, Commercially Confidential, subject to Export Control, or is Militarily Restricted, etc.
- Support during and after implementation
For companies that deploy PLM software, the implementation can be more critical than the software itself. When looking for a PLM supplier, choose a company that is willing to give you and your staff the time and attention to fully convert your requirements into a functioning PLM solution. While every company aspires to an out-of-the-box (OOTB) deployment, every company has its own way of doing things—so time is required to find the right balance. Every business wants to improve year on year, but not all have the tools in place to do this.
These seem good considerations to us, but the list is far from exhaustive. What do see as critical considerations when choosing a PLM vendor? We’d love to hear your ideas.