Has the business role of PLM evolved from a tool used predominantly by Engineering?

The original article was published here

PLM Pulse is the first industry-led survey hoping to shed some light into where we are in our PLM journeys and where the real value lays. It is not meant to be an academic or consulting research paper, but rather a temperature check of how industry sees PLM today – the pulse.

In this first short article we will explore the first question why “The business role PLM has not yet evolved from a tool used predominantly by Engineering.” This article is not intended to be conclusions to the question or a detailed research findings, but more observations from industry professionals in the PLM space – our food for thought.

Have your say now… Go straight to the survey by clicking here

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has its roots in the need to manage information that engineering departments create. There has always been a strong alignment between the need to manage Computer Aided Design (CAD) files and the functionality of the system.

Is this strong history and symbiotic relationship now hampering the development of the use of PLM in organisations? Why is PLM still seen as only the tool Engineering use to managing its data and is this limiting business value from PLM?

Listening to the PLM vendors, consultancies and analysts alike, there is a strong message that PLM is an enterprise tool to manage product information and key business processes throughout the products lifecycle – from the earliest idea to retirement from customer use or the market. There are many topics and sub-themes to the PLM story now, including service lifecycle management, ideation and portfolio management just to name a few.

Yet today we still see the majority of PLM use in the Engineering department to manage engineering product information, CAD files and drawings – why is this?

It is clear, that even the simplest example of other departments such as Manufacturing and Quality gaining access to the valuable information that Engineering creates, will increase a businesses value from PLM investments. This is a more common extension. But what about functions like Product Management, Sales Teams or Service Engineers accessing remotely. How often has the PLM information be used to support these functions?

One potential barrier to the wider use of PLM in a business is simply that the information held in the PLM system is solely engineering or technically focused. This is essential in defining the product, but has limited use in the full business context. Connecting this technical information to wider business or information generated through the lifecycle of a product can potentially yield huge benefits. Especially, as the need for companies to identify and analyse products performance through its life and performance becomes increasingly attached to new business models (and revenue streams).

Another barrier to the greater use of PLM technologies is simply the usability, or lack of. They are simply not intuitive to use. The user interfaces are complex and often need specialist training to be able to fully utilise their capabilities and realise their value.

When the tools are too complex to use, alternative ways to access or utilise the information in PLM are created. The dominance of “Excel based solutions” is prevalent in most organisations, creating many off-line versions (read duplicate) of information inside of PLM. This not only damages the benefits an organisation could gain from using PLM information at source, but also creates a whole set of new business issues.

Many companies have by passed the complexity in the user interfaces and developed their own simpler “skins” to improve the user experience and adoption. Some vendors are now developing “apps” which sit on top of their normal applications and tailor the experience based on a users role. This simpler user experience is critical if PLM information is to be accessed by resources for example in Manufacturing or with customers.

This is our food for thought, now it is time for you to have your say. We have posted the anonymous PLMPulse survey on to get your feedback on the topic. 

Click on this link or copy and paste https://i42r.nl/2y9Tmgi into your browser. 

Each survey will take no longer that 1 minute to complete. It should be that quick.

Read more about the PLMPulse conversation on LinkedIn and Twitter using the hashtag #PLMPulse.

At PLMx Texas in October, we will present the result of the surveys along with a live poll in the audience. We will then collate the results in a short report which we will publish later in the year..

To make this work, we need your support and honest feedback via the surveys. So have your say on where industry is in its PLM journey and have your finger on the #PLMPulse.

We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

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