10 things you need to know about PLM (Product Lifecycle Management)

Investing in a PLM solution can seem like a big step for any company, but it doesn’t have to be. We have compiled 10 common questions regarding PLM, to help you better understand the benefits of investing in a PLM solution. 

10 things you need to know about PLM (Product Lifecycle Management)

At Symetri our aim is to always challenge people to work smarter and to turn ideas into new realities that shape a better future.

This is certainly no exception when it comes to challenging companies within the manufacturing industry. We have supported many innovative companies of different sizes within the product design and manufacturing industries, to optimise their working methods and increase the quality of their projects by implementing PLM solutions.

What is PLM (Product Lifecycle Management)?

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its inception all the way through to its disposal. It includes the inception, product development, manufacturing, use, service, maintenance, product innovation and enhancements, and discontinuation of the product including recycling when needed. 

What is PDM (Product Data Management)?

Product Data Management (PDM) is defined at Symetri as a system for managing, maintaining and controlling all types of product information which is used to define, produce and maintain a product during its entire lifecycle.

By using PLM with Product Data Management (PDM) throughout product development, the data, the process, and the people involved are all better connected, enabling collaboration and giving you greater control. PDM captures and organises all your design and product data at a lower cost. It improves your engineering process so that you can deliver products faster. PDM ensures you have a single source of truth that looks after all your designs and engineering bills of materials (BOMs) in one system.

What is the difference between PLM and PDM?

The short answer is that a PDM system is often used to simplify product information management during the product design phase, while a PLM system can handle product data in all the different stages of a product's life cycle, i.e., from the concept phase to production including phasing out and recycling. In addition, a PLM system can create efficient business processes in the collaboration between product design, sales, marketing, production and aftermarket.

Do we need a PDM or a PLM system?

A PDM system can handle all changes related to what is created by the design department. However, it can’t handle purchased products which have an item number in the ERP system. A PLM system, on the other hand, connects the PDM and the ERP systems and thus becomes the hub of the entire product life cycle.

A PLM system can, unlike a PDM system, also keep track of delivered products and know what a particular delivery looked like and what has been replaced after delivery. It can also handle aftermarket processes and keep track of product history, i.e., when a product should be serviced and when the service was performed. When delivering spare parts, you know which different versions of a product are available and which spare parts fit each version of the product.

In addition, a PLM system has full traceability, good search functions and complete control over all changes that have been made to a product or delivery, and the system can be made available to the entire company. For example, when the purchasing department picks up an order that is retrieved from the PLM system, they can be confident in knowing that all information is up to date.

(Why PLM, and) what are the main benefits for companies implementing a PLM solution?

PLM connects business processes and systems to optimise operational performance around lead times, cost and quality.

It’s no secret that the essential role of product lifecycle management (PLM) is to inform or put the right information into the right hands at the right time. Any professional involved in a product’s development or manufacture, any organisation that sells a product or has customers who use it, or procurement who specify and purchases it all need the information to assist and drive their involvement with the product and ultimately the success of a product.

PLM benefits include:

• Reduced risk of errors with updated and automated data sharing – by connecting development with the rest of the company's value chain, you can ensure that everyone in the company has access to the correct and updated design data. This also makes it easier to find and reuse design and technical data and for suppliers to have access to product information and design changes during the tender round.

• Significant savings in design time – Features that allow you to enrich model data with smart properties, such as dictionaries and calculated field values, and that automatically create information needed outside the engineering department, such as bill of materials (BOM) and divisible files, allow designers to spend more time on the actual design work and focus on innovation rather than administration.

• Streamlined sales process - Through simple and rule-based configurations, which do not require an understanding of the technical context, the sales process can be streamlined through a greater degree of customer customisation, shorter delivery time and fewer errors due to automatically generated material and bill of materials.
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• Better support and service offerings - By having sufficient knowledge of delivered equipment, one can link a service program to this and create an understanding that necessary service and spare parts provide further business opportunities.

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Which industries will benefit from a PLM solution?

There are not many limitations at all to the industries that can benefit from implementing a PLM solution. At Symetri, we are focused on supporting companies within the industrial equipment, transportation and automotive, oil and gas industries.

We have seen that a PLM solution will bring huge benefits to project engineering companies and building component manufacturers.
More than what the industry company represents, it’s also about the company’s business model that defines what kind of PLM solution is required - is the business Assembly to Order (ATO) where products are assembled from components after the receipt of a customer order or Engineer to Order (ETO) type where each customer order results in a unique set of part numbers, bills of material, and routings.
Whatever the industry or type of business, using a PLM system will add value and support the business to reach its goals.
But you might still ask, Isn’t PLM just for large, complex companies?

The simple answer is that the right PLM solution fits most companies, regardless of size, but before you rush into choosing a PLM solution, we advise you to ask yourself these three questions:

1. What is the current situation at the company – what are our challenges and bottlenecks?

2. What do we want to achieve – What are our short-term and long-term goals?

3. Are we prepared to change (our/the) current processes and workflows and start working more according to [LEAN]?

When you have answered these questions and carried out an inventory of your challenges and thereby have an idea and vision of what you want to achieve – and, above all, are prepared to work for change – then you are ready for the next step: to make an inventory and shortlist of the suppliers in the market that provide the right PLM solution for your company.

How will your company benefit from a PLM solution?

Although the first area of involvement is typically the engineering department, as this is where most of the product data is created, PLM can be used for much more than just CAD data management.

PLM presents Return on Investment (ROI) benefits in every phase of the product’s lifecycle:

• Sales: guarantee that the correct products and parts are selected and sold

• Procurement: ensure that the correct item revisions are ordered and documentation is provided to the supplier

• Production: assurance that the correct items are assembled and delivered and that engineering changes are implemented in a controlled way

• Service and maintenance: ensure that the correct spare part documents are created, and information related to each individually delivered product is stored, managed and easily accessible.

As the industry develops along with innovations and technology, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), PLM is a huge asset. When connecting real-time information from an individual product or fleet of product configuration data managed in PLM, you can expand the opportunities related to additional products and service sales extensively to your existing customer base.

Where to start with PLM?

Planning is the main key to success in a PLM implementation project. However, many other important factors influence the success of the implementation, and they all need to be noted and understood from the start. Successful delivery can be achieved through experienced suppliers and the correct implementation methodology.

Each project and customer environment are unique. However, there are also many similarities when it comes to the requirements that a PLM solution should fulfil. Instead of starting from scratch, you can get started quickly today with predefined PLM processes based on the industry best practices. These can be tested, verified, and further fine-tuned to fit your company’s specific needs. This agile approach ensures smooth and more risk-free implementation.

Although the technology implementation may be easy today, you must not forget the most important factor: people. Technology implementation is worthless without proper change management and training and ensuring that everyone understands the benefits that will follow.

When is the right time to start using a PLM solution?

That must be on a case-by-case basis, but in essence, it comes down to return on investment, ROI. Will you get more out than you put in? The first step is to work with one of our solution experts to look at the challenges your business faces and the solutions that are available for you.

Often, companies do not consider implementing PLM due to the initial cost of investment. However, the question is not whether you can afford to invest in PLM; the question is, can you afford not to?

Product data is crucial to a company and its most valuable set of information, and it’s essential to ensure that it is used effectively throughout the business processes. You need to have peace of mind that it is properly and centrally saved so you avoid it being either lost, deleted, or saved to a single person's laptop. Failure to manage product data can, in turn, lead to time being wasted on redesigning drawings in the engineering department and lost time searching for product data when you need to know which spare part your customer requires. PLM ensures that your work is always based on accurate data and avoids extra costs incurred due to the stakeholders' lack of access to the right revision at the right time.

PLM takes care of all of this for you, minimising the steps you need to take and optimising the time you spend on each step of the process, from product design to delivery and beyond.

What PLM solutions does Symetri offer?

The PLM solution that Symetri develops maintains, and supports is [Sovelia Core].

Sovelia Core benefits your entire organisation. It can be implemented smoothly using templates and industry best practices, and the ROI can be seen from the moment you make your investment decision.

Symetri’s solution portfolio is developed with LEAN philosophy and based on customer needs. Our mission is to help you remove waste from engineering and business processes to create more value and increase productivity by incorporating LEAN solutions.

Sovelia Core is supporting collaboration and securing correct, always up-to-date product information across the business. With Sovelia Core, you will have:

• Access to the right information at the right time

• Access the data globally at anytime

• Intuitive user interface for all users through a web browser

• Personalised view of the information

• Role-based access

• Approval processes

• Supporting documentation is automatically generated.

What do all the abbreviations stand for?

The CAD, PLM and PDM worlds are full of abbreviations and it's easy to get lost among all the three-letter combinations. We can help you sort it out once and for all!

Bill Of Materials (BOM) is the listing of items that comprise a product. A BOM includes such details as item numbers, quantities, part descriptions, lifecycle state, and other properties. BOM management helps you document, track, and review every component in your product, prepare a product for manufacturing, and more.

Likely unneeded to explain because the term has existed since the 80s, but CAD quite simply stands for Computer-Aided Design.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), or business systems, are software that manages the company's needs for management and administration. Includes applications for accounting, orders, inventory, invoicing, personnel administration, customer management and production planning.

LEAN is a production philosophy that aims to remove everything in a production process that does not create value for the customer.

Product Data Management (PDM) is a system for managing product descriptive information (mainly 3D models and drawings). Helps the company to ensure that the information is complete, correct and up to date, also eliminating the need to do the same job twice by reusing existing information where possible. It keeps track of changes and revisions and makes sure that changes take effect in all places where the information is repeated.

Product lifecycle management (PLM) is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its inception through to its disposal. It includes the inception, product development, manufacturing, use, service, maintenance, product innovation/enhancements and discontinuation of the product including recycling when needed.

Return On Investment (ROI) is a term used for showing the profit of investment in relation to the costs.

Internet Of Things (IoT). Products become more connected to the Internet, more intelligent and can then be controlled remotely by humans or by other machines including sending data that is used for measurements, diagnosis and automatic control.

In Assembly-to-Order (ATO), products are assembled from components after the receipt of a customer order. The key components in the assembly or finishing process are planned and stocked in anticipation of a customer order. Receipt of an order initiates assembly of the customized product.

In Engineer-to-Order (ETO) customer specifications require unique engineering design, significant customization, or newly purchased materials. Each customer order results in a unique set of part numbers, bills of material, and routings.  

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