Today’s product development has become more iterative and collaborative than ever before. In order to accommodate new design methods while maintaining quality, businesses are turning to PLM software (Product Lifecycle Management). These solutions can be a valuable addition to your business, but how can you know which one is right for your needs? By conducting a thorough PLM requirements evaluation, you can determine whether it’s a good solution for your needs, and if so, what key features you’ll want to prioritize.
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When it’s time to conduct your assessment, there can be a lot of information to sift through. The PLM market is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.3%, hitting $26.7 billion by 2023. PLM systems also give your company the increased visibility needed to adequately follow product development in what is now a complex and repetitive process. Buyers need to be extra specific when deciding what PLM features they need when evaluating new systems. To assist you in selecting a software solution, we’ve created a cheat sheet with the most popular PLM requirements. Use it to get an idea of what vendors are offering and what your business needs to compete in the 21st century.
What is PLM?
PLM solutions monitor every phase of a product’s lifecycle from early planning to manufacturing and allocation to customers across several industries and manufacturing disciplines. These applications can also track and inform everyone involved with your product’s lifecycle of every revision to a product’s design. This capability enables you to avoid unwanted surprises in development while also establishing a sleek form of team communication and collaboration for efficient productivity and rapid market time.
Top PLM Requirements
Bill of Materials
Having a common source of information across your company is incredibly important during product development. That’s why a bill of materials (BOM) is key to include in your list of product lifecycle management requirements. At the very least, your system should provide a single definition of a particular product and its components. More advanced options include features specifically designed for different team members such as designers, engineers and other professionals who frequently collaborate. You can also find systems that offer advanced BOM display options to quickly see the information on materials and documents.
A preview of a BOM tool
Excellent systems provide even more comprehensive BOM management. Some solutions provide a centralized BOM that allows users to access multi-level product structures in one place. There’s also drill-down functionality so users can view all levels of assembly and components. There are health checking and risk assessment tools that access online data about the parts you use in manufacturing as well. Further, users are able to see component availability and download compliance documents. Lastly, you can receive notifications anytime a BOM is edited.
- BOM Management
- Function-Specific BOM
- Advanced Display Options
- Health Checking and Risk Assessment
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Tools and Management
CAD features, sometimes sold as a stand-alone solution, can streamline the design and engineering process. This accessory aides product designers and engineers in mapping out and constructing 2D and 3D models of commodities on a computer instead of doing it all on paper.
An example of a CAD module
Managing your CAD activities and documents is more than useful when it comes to PLM. Your solution should be able to manage changes to product configurations while maintaining the functional and physical attributes of a product throughout its lifecycle. Production engineering changes should proliferate throughout your processes, with the changes evident in the subsequent BOMs and plans.
Your solution should also manage your documents in a centralized way so all users can access a single source of data. In addition to storing documents, many systems offer documentation tools. These include mobile documentation, product lifecycle analytics and collaboration tools. Most systems automate product history documentation as well. These features allow streamlined access to all your documents as well as the ability to track and audit your data.
In addition to managing your documents, you want to be sure your system can handle your CAD files. This means you want a solution that can integrate completely with your CAD application. Additionally, many PLM systems provide BOM import and allow users to track CAD data from a secure location.
- Change Management
- Variant Configuration
- Context-Specific BOM Views
- Document Repository
- Mobile Documentation
- Customer Needs Management Documentation
- Process Documentation
- Product Lifecycle Analysis Documentation
- Engineering Collaboration Documentation
- CAD File Management
- CAD Application Integration
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Product Data Management (PDM)
Storing, arranging and analyzing finished product data can be cumbersome without the right tools. Thanks to a product data management (PDM) module, you can chronicle product designs, necessities and procedures in one central area. Internal and external stakeholders, designers and other team members throughout your company can also upload and share product notes to encourage collaboration. BOM data, computer-aided design (CAD) documents, supplier information, material data and product lifecycles can also be reviewed with a PDM accessory. If, for example, you own a sneaker company, you want to keep data of previously sold sneakers to understand which types of sneakers sold well with customers and which didn’t, so you can better plan and execute your next line of sneakers.
- Data Sharing
- CAD files
- BOM Data
- Product Lifecycle Data
- Supplier Information
- Material Data
Product Regulation and Governance
Failing to follow regulation and compliance standards is one of the quickest ways to earn your business a bad reputation. But having the right tools built into your PLM system can make staying compliant much easier than it would be otherwise. Your solution should be able to centralize relevant information and documentation, making it easier for enterprise organizations to achieve and maintain compliance. You also may choose a system that can comply with medical, environmental, safety, FSA and ISO standards depending on your industry.
We’ve listed popular regulations PLM systems manage, but since compliance standards vary by industry, you should be extra diligent that your next system handles the regulations specific to your business.
- Regulatory Compliance
- Medical Device Standards
- Environmental Standards
- Product Safety Standards
- FDA Regulations
- ISO Standards
- China RoHS
- Japanese Green Initiative
- Conflict Mineral Tracking
- SEC Guidelines
- Vendor-Specific Objective Evidence (VSOE)
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act
Project and Component Maintenance
Project management tools are vital for providing users visibility into daily processes and progress. These features include tracking and scheduling capabilities, which enable you to manage product development along with resource allocation in real time. Users can also see upcoming milestones and constraints for further planning.
A preview of a project maintenance module
Additionally, you can opt for a system that manages your components. Many vendors make insights into component and production data readily available to users. Moreover, stakeholders can receive notifications anytime an edit has been made to CAD assembly regarding components. Users can also access information on manufacturer and supplier equivalent parts. This helps users source the most well-suited components according to compliance, availability, and risk.
- Project Management
- Component Management