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Product Lifecycle Management – Strategy Not Software

We all know the business benefits of successful, new product development: competitive advantage, profitability and long-term growth. But today, from industrial machinery to medical devices and aerospace applications, all industries are facing a new set of challenges:

  • Rapidly evolving technology and digital connectivity have increased product and supply chain complexity
  • Industry regulations are becoming more strict
  • Globalization has increased competition and accelerated the pace of innovation
  • New users are requiring the need for you to provide custom products and services
  • Economic uncertainty means companies need to respond to changing market conditions

And with 3 of every 4 products never making it to market and 9 of 10 products failing to generate a return on their original investment, the product development landscape is tougher than ever.

Simply put, to be successful in today’s business environment you need to be quick, agile, innovative and quality focused to stay competitive. You need complete product lifecycle management (PLM).

What is product lifecycle management? One hint: It is not software.

Companies that have gone this route can tell you they have spent millions of dollars, sometimes up to 25% of their revenue, on PLM software implementation and have little to show for it. In fact, nearly half of that spending inside PLM ends up wasted on products that do not meet market needs or timing. Why is that?

Little has been done to align design and engineering teams with operations departments and as a result relevant information doesn’t flow between teams and cross-functional collaboration is inefficient. Engineers, for example, are often disconnected from the new product introduction (NPI) process. Consequently, NPI teams are unaware of critical last minute design changes and because these insights are not shared, the final product doesn’t meet user expectations and performs poorly on the market. Unfortunately, in fast-moving industries, a problem like this can be fatal for a business.

Product lifecycle management means much more than its predecessors and traditional role of managing CAD files and orchestrating mechanical design processes. Companies need to streamline processes and provide an environment for collaboration across the complete product lifecycle. This cannot be orchestrated from a single software program.

Product lifecycle management may sound like one of those deep-in-the-weeds terms, but it has become one of the most important arenas for accelerating product development, reducing costs and generating more revenue in virtually every industry. So what exactly is it? PLM is a strategic approach that integrates and manages people, data, development processes and business systems throughout the complete product lifecycle – from ideation to end-of-life and back to ideation again. This philosophy promotes efficiency and cross-functional collaboration across all teams to ensure you deliver a high quality, cost-effective solution that meets your user and business needs.

PLM Services

Benefits of PLM:

  • Faster time to market
  • Increased profitability
  • Maximized collaboration
  • Higher product quality
  • More efficient value chain
  • Streamlined regulatory compliance

Boiling it all down

The long-term viability of a product increasingly depends on how well companies manage product information across multiple internal and external teams. In an ideal world, the product development process would flow together easily. But, in the real world, designs are complex: a typical project has thousands of documents and can be touched by hundreds of people from R&D to manufacturing before it makes it to market. Then it goes through numerous iterations and updates once on the market with a hundred new engineers who don’t always know or understand where the product started or how one minor change can affect the whole system. It’s easy to see why this process isn’t easy and companies often fail.

The risks of poor PLM

Executed correctly, the benefits of PLM are substantial but managing PLM effectively is vital to the success of your product. The loss of continuous collaboration and a comprehensive product view can have detrimental effects on not only your product, but your business as well.

In medical devices, a poor approach to product management can easily result in delayed regulatory approvals, fines or consent decrees that require an extensive and costly product redesign.

In industrial equipment, if your complex supply chain is working from different product requirements you can see lengthy delays and high production costs.

In aerospace, critical design changes are not communicated and implemented correctly leading to recalls and safety malfunctions.

So how can you beat the odds and take a PLM approach to new product development successfully? We have taken the PLM process and broken it down into three critical phases: Roadmapping, Development and Fulfillment.

Roadmapping – Building the foundation

The Roadmapping Phase includes the ideation and discovery and concept and prototyping stages of product development. The goal of Roadmapping is to examine market and industry trends, user requirements and technology considerations to narrow down a list of ideas and formulate a high level concept to guide next steps. Different development options are explored and high-level planning begins as you think about regulatory, technical, resource and competitive considerations. This phase should include expertise in product management, market research, R&D, engineering and legal or regulatory.

Key elements in Roadmapping:

  • Addressing user needs
  • Determining ROI at this early stage
  • Understanding technical risks
  • Understanding regulatory constraints
  • Ensuring Executive buy-in
  • Securing program funding

Development – Where concept becomes reality

The Development Phase begins with solution definition as your high level concept becomes a long list of specific technical and user requirements to prepare for execution by your development engineering team. This is the stage where the majority of your product budget gets spent as designers and engineers work through iterative prototypes to get closer to the final version and ready for transfer to the manufacturing and fulfillment teams. Your users are vital to the success of your product and it is important to include validation testing to ensure your success post-launch.

Key elements in Development:

  • Pre-marketing and user feedback
  • Defining technical requirements
  • Developing and refining the product solution
  • Resources – designers, engineers, market research
  • Production planning
  • Maintaining executive buy-in

Fulfillment – Managing long-term profitability

This is where your products spend the majority of the lifecycle from new product introduction through end of life. With some products spending decades in Fulfillment, it is important to be able to monitor and adjust based on changing market, technology and user needs. But, with a smart PLM approach, planning for common issues during this time including obsolescence management, device management and sustaining engineering means that this is also the phase where your device is most profitable.

Key elements in Fulfillment:

  • Product launch and commercialization
  • Maximizing ROI
  • Resources: design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain
  • Aftermarket planning
  • Device support
  • Maintaining executive buy-in

Proper product lifecycle management is the engine of growth for delivering shareholder value. Although containing costs and meeting regulatory standards are absolute requirements in today’s markets, by themselves they will not drive the growth that you need to stay competitive. While product lifecycle management may be more difficult than ever before with today’s complex products and user requirements, there are partners out there who can help and it can be done successfully.

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