PLM stands for Product Lifestyle Management, and is a system which manages information regarding a product throughout its lifecycle. It integrates and processes the data in the business system, which helps in expanding the business. This software is cost effective and efficient in terms of managing the information of the product from designing to service and disposal.
Product Lifestyle Management system revolves around maintaining and centralizing the data to facilitate effective management. By accommodating new methods of design, PLM systems are making an impact on the progress of companies.
In short, PLM is the science of managing the product data from its birth or design phase to its service and disposal. It has evolved from PDM (Product Data Management), which was limited to managing the data till the production phase of the product.
Stages & Applications of PLM
Following industries can use PLM:
· Mechanical Engineering
· Small Manufacturers
The primary role of PLM software is to act as a coordinator between the information, processes and the people related to the product. PLM plays an important role in the entire life cycle of the product in all the stages.
Here are the 4 stages of a product life cycle and the utility of PLM across all these stages:
1. Concept – PLM system enables the designers and stakeholders to keep an eye on the evolution of a new product. It is the first and most important step as it will prepare the foundation for the next phases of the product. Here, PLM plays an important role in providing a basic theme or outlook of the product to the designers.
2. Design – This stage deals with creating mockups, prototypes and final testing plans of the product so that it can get ready for the production. The Centralized Document Management
System of the PLM software plays a significant role in managing the track record of the product during this stage.
With the in-built production management tool, PLM software coordinates between the entities involved in development. This keeps the team updated and work accordingly for the next stage of the production.
3. Production – From the PLM’s point of view, this stage is most important as the amount of data gets multiplied compared to previous stages. Now the PLM system will have to coordinate between various systems such as Inventory Management, ERP, CRM and supply chains. Information such as sourcing of materials, costs, origin etc. is collected during this phase is very vital and needs to be processed carefully.
4. Maintenance and Distribution – From production to warehousing and distribution of the product, PLM system manages the process efficiently. It also helps maintain the track record of the product’s performance and improve performance in response to market needs.
Features of PLM System for Small Businesses
Following are some features of PLM software that enhance the productivity of small businesses:
· Billing of Materials (BOM) – It is very necessary to have a common source of information within the company. PLM has features designed for team members such as engineers, designers etc. who collaborate frequently. Hence BOM becomes an important feature of PLM.
· Portfolio Management – Portfolio management can help determine the areas to invest, which will hike returns from research and development. During the life cycle of a product, it becomes important to keep an eye on the product portfolio. PLM system identifies the best possible avenues for investment. Next, the organization can track the progress of the product till completion. This gives a better forecast of the future of the product.
· Computer Aided Design Management (CAD) – This is the most important feature of a PLM system during the development phase of the product. At this stage, a product can go through different functional changes and PLM can manage these changes without disturbing the physical attributes of the product. Also, many PLM systems allow the user to import CAD files and data from a secure location.
· Project and Component Maintenance – This feature enables the scheduling and tracking capabilities which makes it easier to manage the product development while allocating resources in real time. It is very important to track the ongoing process of the product to manage the constraints, and to estimate the milestones to plan accordingly. With this feature, you can also receive regular updates on component maintenance.
Hence, this feature allows the user to source the best components as per the standards and availability.
· Quote Process Management – To support the respective teams or collaborators, PLM system gathers information and organizes data pertaining to product design. This feature helps the user finalize the cost of schedule and streamline the collaborative team efforts. Best part of this feature is that it only shares the necessary information so that you can spend time focusing on crucial work.
· Risk Management – This feature draws your attention towards potential risks, which can be managed in time without any damage. With this feature, risks can be reduced at the early stage which eventually lowers the overall cost. These risks are detected and highlighted to you through the real time project visibility, which also allows for initiating preventive as well as corrective action.
· Work Flow Management – With this feature, you can determine the phases of a project and assign the respective milestones. It allows you to check all the implemented and pending changes along with the subsequent effects of these changes. This system provides an insight on resource allocation to improve profit margins as also to prioritize supply to demand.
· User Access Level – It allows setting user access level to the sensitive information so that there is no breach of data to or by your rivals. You can restrict the access of the data to limited and trusted members only.
Data is king in the age of information. Therefore, data management becomes an extremely sensitive issue in the present day. This is precisely where the features of PLM make their relevance felt. PLM’s importance for your small businesses can never be overstated considering your budget and time constraints.