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Why Product Lifecycle Management is Critical for Success

Published by SPK Blog Post
on December 2, 2011

It is said that we should learn from history, but too often product management fails to take the time to learn from the mistakes of others. Product lifecycle management (PLM) isn’t new, in fact it has been around (in different forms and disguises) since people started building things. However the formal definition of this process along with the tools needed to perform successful PLM have only been described since the invention of computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing. Learning from the failures of other projects and implementing good product lifecycle management will ensure success in terms of deliverable dates, budget and customer satisfaction, as well as give managers the tools and data needed to make business decisions.

What is Product Lifecycle Management?
PLM is the job of managing a product from its conception, through design and build, to delivery and servicing. It includes the people, the data, the manufacturing and supply processes and the business systems that are needed to get a product out the door and into the customer’s hands. Getting it wrong can cost millions of dollars, and likewise, getting it right can ensure high revenues.

Communicate and collaborate
The product lifecycle can be broken down into four major phases: 1) Conception – which includes requirements gathering and initial planning; 2) Design and development – including prototyping, testing and validation; 3) Manufacturing – including supply chain management and customer delivery; 4) Servicing – including customer support and maintenance.

Successful PLM must ensure good communication and collaboration across all these phases. Although the product lifecycle can be divided into these phases, don’t make the mistake of thinking that each phase is separate or autonomous. Good PLM oversees the communication and collaboration among the different phases including the management of product data, change management, document management, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM).

PLM must consolidate all the product data into a single accessible and manageable resource while allowing the free flow of information between people and the different phases of the product life cycle. Many industries require products to undergo compliance testing and meet regulatory standards. PLM can foresee these needs during the conception stage and create and manage the appropriate product data during the design and manufacturing stages.

Tools
Product lifecycle management creates lots of data and this data needs to be stored and managed using special PLM software. This software allows each engineer in each phase to access, create and modify the data for the product while giving executives the reports needed to manage costs and define sales strategies.

Since PLM covers the whole enterprise, it’s important to use a good PLM solution. It’s also crucial that all the people (including engineers and managers) using the PLM solution support the implementation and are sufficiently trained. This will reduce the resistance to change and allow the business to reap the benefits of the PLM process.

Conclusion
From conception to customer support, the successful management of a product during its lifecycle will ensure that high quality and cost effective products are produced without budget overruns and design failures. Managing the product lifecycle can be complicated and choosing the right managers (or outsourcing it to the right company) and using appropriate tools will guard against PLM failure.

SPK Guest Blogger

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