If Your PLM Provider Isn’t Doing These 4 Things, It’s Time To Leave

Education / If Your PLM Provider Isn’t Doing These 4 Things, It’s Time To Leave

Summary: PLM evaluations are painful. But sometimes, they’re necessary. Modern PLM systems are fast, flexible, and integrate everywhere — PLM capabilities that should be standard today. If your PLM can’t do these things, it might be time to move on.

PLM evaluations aren’t taken lightly.

But sometimes, you need to take stock: is your PLM provider meeting your needs? Is the product fit for purpose? Does it actually help us launch products faster and cut development costs?

If it’s been a while, you might find that modern cloud PLM capabilities far outstrip what you’ve got in place.

Here are 4 cloud PLM capabilities that should come as standard. If they don’t, then it might be time to look at some other options.

1. Meet industry-specific regulatory requirements

Are you capable of meeting industry-specific regulatory requirements automatically?

Most regulation comes down to a few key things:

  • Tracking who does what, when, and why
  • Recording those interactions
  • Keeping that data for a long time.

Your PLM should be automatically tracking product data as it moves through workflows, securing and documenting changes and approvals, why the product was changed, and storing all the previous versions of a file so regulators can look back over time and see the change history.

And your cloud PLM should be capable of doing this in a dynamic way so it can adapt to changing regulations.

Chief engineering officers report have to deal with a 15% change in regulations every year.  It’s hard to know exactly where the goal posts are going to be

It’s hard to know exactly where the goal posts are going to be.

Traditionally, PLM systems have been built to meet regulatory compliance at the moment of deployment but with no recourse in the event those regulations change.

It means that organizations have to either:

  • Pay expensive consultancy fees to keep their PLM functionality in line with compliance requirements
  • Develop manual workarounds to stay compliant with regulations

These are not good choices.

First, it’s expensive.

Second, manual workarounds regularly fail, leading to expensive recalls, lost contracts, or just production delays (that can cost 12% shareholder value on average).

Compliance questions to ask about your PLM capabilities

  • Is my PLM capable of tracking changes and storing versions automatically?
  • Can I easily see who changed what, when, and why?
  • Are my revisions tracked?

2. Retain and share product data

The ability to track and share data effectively across your value chain is arguably the core function of any PLM.

The ability to track and share data effectively across your value chain is arguably the core function of any PLM.

PLM emerged

But over time, it’s actually become bad at this core task:

  • Entrenched PLM suites inhibit data sharing for those outside their ecosystems
  • Supply chains are more complex, meaning there are more people who need access to product data
  • The software landscape has splintered, so different companies are less likely to serendipitously be on the same network

Companies often find that even if they’re capable of sharing product data internally to do things like integrate with an ERP or generate a bill of materials or requisitions list, they’re not able to hook in the broader product stakeholder network. For instance, traditional PLM capabilities usually don’t include:

  • A way to send 3D CAD data across suppliers or even auxiliary internal departments
  • A way for suppliers to participate in the workflows of their clients
  • A way to preserve a change record as data moves through the supply chain.

What’s more, traditional PLMs were (and are) overwhelmingly deployed on-premise, making collaboration at a global level a complete nonstarter.

Basically, traditional PLM capabilities were built to manage changes and projects contained within the four walls of a manufacturer. Since that’s no longer the reality, it might be time to revisit your PLM capabilities.

Data sharing questions to ask about your cloud PLM capabilities

  • Does my PLM solution allow my share product data easily?
  • Do stakeholders within and outside my organization have access to the data they need, when they need it?
  • Does full product data, including change history and previous versions, get passed along as it moves through the supply chain?

3. Reduce the cost of design mistakes & make error correction easier

PLM is designed to achieve two benefits: launch products faster, and reduce that cost.

The PLM capabilities needed to do these things is variable, but they’re the raison d’etre for PLM.

Launching products faster while reducing cost is the raison d’etre for PLM.

With that in mind, one of the best ways to both increase speed and decrease cost is to make fewer mistakes and reduce the cost of mistakes when they are made.

The traditional PLM approach is to add robust approvals and workflows. The idea is that if more people look at something, then the less likely a mistake is to happen.

And that’s a great start.

But there are other things you can do to achieve these goals too.

First, it’s a lot cheaper to make a mistake early in the manufacturing process than later. For instance, changing a CAD file takes 20 minutes and is effectively free — doing a product recall (as Fiat Chrysler can attest) is staggeringly expensive.

A core PLM capability should be the ability to share CAD data, in 3D, early to a broad range of stakeholders, in a way that they can mark it up without moving beyond the confines of workflows.

Second, mistakes are going to happen. There’s no sense in a PLM system being built assuming 100% perfection at every single stage. What’s more important is how easy error correction is — can you revert to previous data? Can you access older versions or other files that might work better?

Your PLM should be capable of reverting to a previous design quickly and easily, selecting which version you want to revert to, or even looking at old project data to review what worked and what didn’t.

Error reduction/correction questions to ask about your cloud PLM capabilities

  • Can I easily collect feedback from non-engineering product stakeholders?
  • Can I easily share feedback with suppliers?
  • Are file and project versions stored beyond the most recent iteration?

4. Adapt to new technology

Technology changes all the time. Which presents a challenge for PLM. Traditional PLM is normally a static technology.

That is, it’s built and implemented to work effectively with the systems and technology of the day, but not necessarily with new systems that emerge over time.

It means that as new, mission-critical software is developed, a PLM needs to be bullied and torqued to connect with other systems. Systems like CRMs, ecommerce platforms, ERPs, business analytics, or human capital tools that businesses will acquire as they grow.

If a PLM is built as a closed ecosystem with custom integrations into the existing technology stack, it means that it’s difficult to add in new integrations without ripping everything out or at least spending months hardcoding the integration you need.

But a PLM shouldn’t inhibit new technology adoption. Modern cloud PLMs are designed with webhooks and flexible APIs so they can integrate easily with different technologies.

New technology questions to ask about your cloud PLM capabilities

  • Can my PLM integrate with all of my existing technology solutions?
  • Will my PLM be able to connect to new technologies as they emerge?

Bullet point summary

  • PLM systems get older. And over time, these systems fail to evolve with changing needs.

Modern PLM capabilities should enable all of the following:

  • Meet industry regulatory requirements automatically by tracking and controlling edits
  • See who changed what, when, and why
  • Simple product data sharing within and beyond the four walls of your organization
  • Rapid iteration early in the design phase, including getting feedback from across non-engineering stakeholders
  • Easy version control for rapid error correction
  • Integration with the current and future tech stack without extensive custom coding.

Image credit: Bernard Hermant via Unsplash

Struggling to find a PLM that can do all these things? You’re not alone. Get in touch to see how our cloud PLM solution might be able to help.