What to look for in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions & how Best-in-Class companies use a PLM to get ahead

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the process of managing products through their entire lifecycle, from inception, design and development, through to production, and finally end of life. Powerful ERPs such as Sage X3 provide the basic means for companies to develop and manage new products, but as a company enters the realm of multi-product development it becomes instrumental to have a PLM solution as well. PLM solutions give companies a full portfolio of tools specifically catered to managing the product lifecycle, which can have the benefit of significantly reducing production costs, time to market, and minimizing compromised product quality.

However, not all PLM software is made equal; so we are going to discuss the capabilities to look for in PLM, and which processes the most successful businesses (best-in-class as defined in Aberdeen Group report*) manage in their Product Lifecycle Management solutions, consequently having the largest impact on efficiencies & business insight. As the saying goes, there’s “no need to reinvent the wheel” – especially if we can learn from what others have already found successful. The following are the top four capabilities we recommend to look for in a PLM solution and why they have the most impact:

Compliance/Regulatory Management

One of the biggest issues faced in manufacturing is compliance with regulations and industry standards, whether the requirements are set by government or internally. Regulations can apply to every component of a product, and differ depending on where it’s going in the world and how it’s going to be used. So, with that in mind, your PLM should offer tools such as templates, tracking and formulation to help with compliance and regulatory management, as well as help keep compliance top of mind for staff as the high priority it needs to be throughout the development process. Since managing product releases in PLM ensures that these standards are being met, avoiding issues down the line in production, it’s easy to understand why 40% of Best-in-Class use their PLM for Release Management.

Portfolio Management

One of the biggest benefits a PLM offers is the ability to streamline processes, reducing the amount of time spent on product development and thereby improving time to market & reducing costs. However, in order for processes to be effectively streamlined, you have to have a PLM that can manage product portfolios. This will show where in the development process your products are, who is responsible for them and what needs to happen next.

Internal requirements, such as Defect Tracking, are another big part of portfolio management and it’s interesting that one out of five Best-in-Class manufacturers manage Defect Tracking in their PLM. This allows them to track defects at all stages, improve products more effectively, and cut costs.

Formula/Recipe Management

With products comprised of multiple components it is vital for a PLM to have formula/recipe management. Your PLM should allow you to set standards for formula creation, such as which ingredients shouldn’t be used, to ensure that the product is compliant with regulations. Additionally, it should have the ability to suggest alternative components and different combinations of components in order to find the most cost effective recipe. This capability is essential for Best-in-Class, given that 33% handle Change Management and 27% handle Configuration Management in PLM.

Reporting and Analytics

The data collected in your PLM can be analyzed to create reports that offer insight into how processes can be improved, and what products were/weren’t successful. While this analysis can technically be completed in your PLM alone, the integration of PLM and ERP allows you to leverage data across your business, ensuring that you are making the best possible decisions about product development, management, design and production. This is made clear by the fact that Best-In-Class were 48% more likely than other businesses to integrate their sourcing data from ERP to PLM, and they were also 64% more likely to integrate their quality data to PLM. This invaluable integration of data will give you the insight you need to improve your products and the development process from the very beginning.

Ultimately, your PLM should have 4 key capabilities: compliance/regulatory management, portfolio management, formula/recipe management and reporting/analysis. With these capabilities you can manage complex processes in your PLM (such as releases, defect tracking, product changes and product configuration) and integrate it with your ERP for maximum access to information & insight. This will give you the tools you need to significantly reduce costs in the product lifecycle, improve the quality of your products and introduce products to market faster.

* The source for this blog was ‘Streamlining Product Development in Process Manufacturing’ by Tracy Woo with Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen Group conducts trusted research across various topics. Visit www.aberdeen.com for more information.