Some might say it all starts with PDM (Product Data Management). That statement is true for many manufacturers. All design engineering, product development, and manufacturing organizations need an automated solution for managing, utilizing, and leveraging 3D CAD design data. And PDM tends to be the starting point. Determining whether a PDM solution is and should be the only solution to answer growing needs, however, can be challenging for most manufacturing organizations.
Questions like, do you need a PDM system or a PLM application? What are the major configuration differences between the two? And if both are needed, how can they coexist within the organization? The choice between PDM and PLM is partially an either-or proposition. All PLM applications use some form of PDM as the underlying data foundation on which they operate. One former blog post describes how PDM systems can optimize CAD design data by upgrading to PLM.
Yes, you CAN now have your cake and eat it too!
But before starting a PLM initiative – or just contemplating starting an initiative – it is important to make sure that all stakeholders, including management, understand what PLM is – and what it is not. Widespread confusion about PLM often creates obstacles. Obstacles that lead to incorrect definitions of needs and unclear justifications for introducing PLM in the first place. In this blog, we examine facts and myths about PLM.
Myth: PLM is a “one size fits all” solution
Transferring best practices from one organization to another is clearly a myth: only experiences and learnings can be shared, but without any guarantees that what worked in one organization will be as effective somewhere else. Some practices will certainly work in small pockets of scope. However, working practices cannot be fully reproduced out of context, even if the system implementation can be copied. Every organization is unique and has its own legacy of challenges, both from a data and process perspective.
Most organizations will not look at simply buying a tool or platform to enable PLM-related processes. They expect operational efficiency and implementation of best practices to help them become more effective and competitive: i.e., do more with the same resources and scale activities while reducing cost. Whereas buying apps or tools is quite straightforward via a license model, making good use of an integrated and streamlined working practice across multiple functions is not always obvious. This can be quite complex based on product or process requirements which can be contradictory at different stages of product maturity.
Even if it covers more scope, no single platform or tool can stand out-of-the-box (OOTB) on its own unless covering only a very narrow self-contained scope; implementation complexity rises with the product, data, and business model complexity, in addition to multiple legacy ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and MES (Manufacturing Execution System) integration points and legacy data migration requirements. PLM processes need to be contextualized for any brownfield organization wanting to get value from it. Similarly, for start-up or greenfield organizations, PLM processes need to be tailored to their level of business maturity—aka customized in a controlled manner, balancing short- and long-term requirements.
Every digital solution requires some tailoring design, including adaptation and integration with the rest of the enterprise—because it is contextual and (for the most) does not consist of simple transactional processes. No single platform or solution will cover it all, and neither will the platform be used in complete isolation from any other solution, especially for advanced product engineering and manufacturing.
This can be quite complex based on product or process requirements which can be contradictory at different product maturity stages.
In addition, most enterprise digital platforms now cover much more than what a former PLM system used to deliver. Buying a PLM platform is not a simple decision. It typically involves a medium to a long-term commitment to a vendor and short/medium-term engagement with a strategic implementation partner.
Myth: PLM is simply a tool
One of the most recurring – and consistent – myths about PLM is that it is viewed as a tool. It is a view that goes back to the days of basic engineering collaboration tools, where IT platforms emerged from the world of 3D and CAD data management tools to also manage the relational data of the whole enterprise.
PLM is not only about engineering; it is also about converting ideas and concepts into virtual simulations and digital models, ultimately leading to physical products and associated services. A significant part of the product creation process is rooted in engineering. However, we, as engineers, are also very conservative people.
Historically, it is fair to state that PLM started as a tool. But it has since evolved into a discipline. It took twenty years. Now it’s here, and it will continue to reshape and evolve.
Fact: PLM is an enterprise-wide methodology
PLM includes all engineering aspects and is used as a product lifecycle management process to help connect, organize, control, manage, track, consolidate, and centralize all the information that affects a product. Just as important, PLM offers a process to streamline collaboration and communication between product stakeholders, engineering, design, manufacturing, quality, and other key disciplines. PLM helps track information related to the safety and control of components, especially in the aerospace, automotive, electronic, medical device, military, and nuclear industries.
A robust PLM framework improves the development and management of the Engineering Bill of Material (EBOM), Manufacturing Bill of Material (MBOM), requirements management, sourcing, document storage, collaboration, workflow - and other areas all essential to product development.
Fact: PLM can be used on an enterprise scale
PLM should not be seen only as an IT tool that represents a central hub containing all data from various systems like CAD, CM, PDM, etc., but also as a business hub that manages all the different information flows from concept, through production, to end-of-life.
As CIMdata defines it, “PLM is a strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of product definition information across the extended enterprise, and spanning from product concept to end-of-life-integrating people, processes, business systems, and information. PLM forms the product information backbone for a company and its extended enterprise.”
Being both a business approach and a software solution, Product Lifecycle Management has shifted from being a purely engineering-oriented tool to an enterprise solution, which enables organizations to create better products in less time, and at a lower cost.
Due to the increased product complexity, continuous innovation, and globalization, organizations focus on partnering with other enterprises in pursuit of better product design and efficient manufacturing. As a proactive reaction to the ever-changing business environment, outsourcing activities to specialized partners is a common practice, where each partner should have access to relevant data and processes.
The challenge with this is that the data is often scattered in different systems, file folders, network drives, etc., making it difficult to locate and share the correct data. In addition, the product-related processes are not integrated, reducing the traceability and visibility of the end-to-end product lifecycle processes.
Selecting the correct Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution can help companies resolve these challenges, providing a solution that supports the end-to-end lifecycle of the products - all the way from ideation through requirements management, product design, and industrialization to maintenance and end-of-life. To be truly successful with PLM, a system that can be integrated both up and downstream in the supply chain is required to have the flow and control of information as effective as possible.
For more information on the benefits of using your multi-CAD and PDM tools with Aras, watch our on-demand webinar.