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Are PLM Solutions the Single Source of Truth for Compliance Management?

Date posted: October 25, 2016

We know why enterprises implement product lifestyle management (PLM) solutions—better product quality, lower costs of development, rich design data, and less waste. But a significant benefit of PLM that rarely gets touted is the role it can play in supporting regulatory compliance. A recent column by David Edwards in Robotics & Automation News does a nice job of addressing this aspect.

While no one disputes the necessity of regulatory compliance, it’s hardly a topic of note when it comes to product development. But failure to comply with industry regulations can render the advantages of PLM rather impotent. The column underscores why companies should pay attention to PLM and compliance management:

From a product designer’s perspective, compliance through PLM delivers notable strategic advantages. Achieving compliance in the initial design stage can save time and reduce engineering changes in the long run. What is more, this design-for-compliance approach sets the bar for quality product development, creating a unified standard to which the entire workforce can adhere. Moreover, the support of a PLM platform significantly simplifies the compliance process, especially for businesses operating in sectors with fast-changing or complicated regulations.

A good example is AS/EN 9100, a series of quality management guidelines for the aerospace industry. Globally recognized, they are set to change later this year. The target date for companies to achieve the new standard is December of this year—a difficult deadline to make without the support of dedicated software.

Another example relates to the defense industry. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) are notoriously strict exporting standards, delivering both civil and criminal penalties to companies that fail to comply. “Fines for ITAR violations in recent years have ranged from several hundred thousand [dollars] to $100 million,” explains Kay Georgi, an import/export compliance attorney and partner at law firm Arent Fox in Washington. “Willful violations can be penalized by criminal fines, debarment (both the export and government contracting varieties), and jail time for individuals.”

These sectors are two of many subject to strict regulatory compliance standards. According to the author, manufacturers should look to PLM solutions that deliver full traceability of the product development process, from conception to manufacturing:

For those in charge of managing compliance, access to this data is incredibly valuable, for both auditing and providing evidence to regulatory panels. By acquiring industry-specific modules, businesses can rest assured that their compliance is being managed appropriately for their sector, avoiding nasty surprises or unsuccessful compliance.

Bottom line: while PLM is widely considered an effective tool to simplify product design, it surpasses that basic function by providing a “single source of truth” for the entire development process.

Using PLM for compliance equips manufacturers with complete data traceability, from the initial stages of design, right through to product launch. What’s more, industry-specific applications are dramatically simplifying the entire compliance process by guaranteeing businesses can meet particular regulations from the very outset.