PLM More Than Just An Enterprise App

By CIO Update Staff

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Over the last several years, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has emerged as the common term used to describe the creation, management, dissemination, and use of product related information and processes (i.e., an enterprise's intellectual assets or complete product definition) throughout the entire lifecycle and across the extended enterprise.

Historically, Product Data Management (PDM) and now PLM solutions were only practical for large, distributed enterprises with the extensive resources required to deploy and maintain such systems. Today, that is no longer the case. Many PLM solutions are designed not only for large companies, but also for mid-sized enterprises (SMB) with revenues between $100 million and $1 billion annually. And, as companies of all sizes are recognizing the need for PLM solutions, the capabilities of the solutions being offered have improved significantly.

PLM's ability to enhance the creation and management of product related information and processes has been proven for some time now. However, until recently, PLM solutions have not delivered enough easily-implementable, pre-packaged functionality at a price point SMBs could afford.

As PLM's scope expanded and the industry matured, greater emphasis was placed on the development and delivery of focused business solutions. These solutions are comprised of pre-packaged functionality designed to simplify implementation and solve specific business problems.

Common functionality available today includes component sourcing, supplier management, project and program management, regulation-compliant document management, engineering change management, and many other diverse business capabilities. However, simply providing a prepackaged solution by scaling down existing features and technology is not sufficient. For instance, products based on a specific, pre-developed data model may prove inflexible during implementation and require significant programming to deploy effectively.

A complete PLM solution includes a combination of the right technology, appropriate features, best practices approaches, and focused implementation methodologies. To truly address the requirements of SMBs the solution must also be easily tailored to fit the specific needs of the organization, which facilitates implementation and gets the solution into production as quickly as possible, at a reasonable price point.

This trend toward flexible, focused solutions is good for customers and the PLM industry alike, and CIMdata expects it to continue. The approach makes it easier for all enterprises to improve product and plant lifecycle activities, especially for mid-sized manufacturing enterprises.CIMdata expects the application of PLM solutions within SMBs to grow at a fast pace as these enterprises recognize the need to improve the management of intellectual assets (an enterprise's key to enable product and process innovation); more clearly recognize the need to become better integrated with customers and suppliers to address cost, quality, and delivery; and as available solutions become easier to deploy and support.

Currently there are a number of solution providers that focus on solving the problems of SMBs. And many of today's PLM solutions are proven and very capable of delivering the product definition information management functionality required by the typical SMB. We expect these vendors to be successful if solutions are continually tuned to be quick and easy to install, and comprehensive in nature.

Peter Bilello is a senior consultant with CIMdata, Ann Arbor, MI-based PLM consulting and research firm dedicated to helping industrial organizations around the world establish effective PLM strategies. For PLM vendors, CIMdata helps define business and market strategies, and delivers worldwide market information and analysis. While CIMdata works extensively with providers of PLM solutions, CIMdata neither resells nor represents any solution provider's products. Peter Bilello can be reached at (734) 668-9922 or via email at p.bilello@cimdata.com.