PLM Requirements & Features Checklist

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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 systems give your company the increased visibility needed to adequately follow product development in what is now a complex and repetitive process.

But since PLM software is specialized for a variety of industries, buyers need to be extra specific when deciding what features they need from a new system. 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.

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Top PLM System 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 information of materials and documents.

autodesk BOM PLM

PLM software provides easy access to your BOM in an organized way.

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
 Drill-Down
 Function-Specific BOM
 Advanced Display Options
 Health Checking and Risk Assessment
 Alerts

Computer-Aided Design Management

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

Manufacturing Product Management

During a product’s lifecycle, you want to keep an eye on your portfolio. With portfolio management, users can determine the proper investment balance to maximize their research and development investment returns. Some systems provide strategy tools to spotlight priorities and support planning.

There are even systems that can determine the best possible investment scenario. Users can also track project progress to completion, which is automatically documented in the product record. This allows greater insight into your processes, facilitating better resource management and allocation.

 Portfolio Management

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.

Oracle Agile Compliance PLM

This PLM vendor allows users to check their conflict mineral compliance with easy-to-understand visuals like pie charts.

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
 REACH
 RoHS
 WEEE
 JEDEC
 China RoHS
 Japanese Green Initiative
 Conflict Mineral Tracking
 DoD
 SEC Guidelines
 SOP
 Vendor Specific Objective Evidence (VSOE)
 Sarbanes-Oxley Act
 AICPA
 FASB
 SEC

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.

Additionally, you can opt for a system that manages your components. Many systems offer insight 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
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Quote Process Management

Data from many different sources is often needed during the quote process. PLM’s inherent coordination capabilities gather and organize data pertaining to product design to support your engineering teams. This includes teams developing engineer-to-order and configure-to-order products. The system only shares the necessary data, meaning your team members can spend more time focusing on their work and less on hunting down information. This helps streamline your teams’ collaborative efforts.

Additionally, quote process management includes tools to help users determine cost of schedule. Users can employ the system to gather PLM requirements and seek out the most competitive quotes.

 Collaborative Tools
 Cost of Schedule
 Automatic Work Order Creation
 Requirements Gathering
 Configure-to-Order
 Engineer-to-Order

Risk Management

This feature brings risks to users’ attention, allowing them to manage, report and mitigate those instabilities. Reducing risks early on prevents issues from growing as they move through product development unseen, reducing the overall cost of development. Some systems do this by “detecting” or “highlighting” risks, whereas some systems simply offer full visibility through PM tools.

You can also adopt risk analysis for a deeper understanding of weak spots in your process. Lastly, many vendors ensure their PLM system is linked to important aspects such as requirements, logistics, costing, architecture and performance criteria to mitigate risks in these areas.

 Real-Time Project Visibility
 Risk Analysis
 Corrective and Preventive Action (CAPA)

User Access Levels

Your solution should be able to allow users to set access levels to sensitive library information items. Product development isn’t easy nor is it a cheap process. You don’t want another company benefiting from your team’s hard work, especially when it’s easily avoidable. Many systems control who has access to what by prompting users with security requirements in order to gain entry to the system. Additionally, once a user has gained access to the system, they can only see as much data as you let them. Provide access based on a specific role or a group hierarchy.

 Role and Group Hierarchy
 Role-Based Access
 Administrative Controls

Workflow and Change Management

Plainly said, this suite of tools gives users insight into product activities. Users can determine phases for a project, as well as assign milestones to keep projects on track. Some systems allow users to see all pending and implemented changes, as well as all items that endure the subsequent effects. This visibility extends to portfolio and resource management, also.

Your PLM system should be able to identify risks within your portfolio, enabling you to deal with them before they become bigger issues. Your system may also provide insight into your resource allocation and prioritize supply to demand to increase profit margins with relatively little additional work.

 Process Management
 Change Management
 Portfolio Management
 Resource Management

Collaboration and Reporting

Business intelligence is always a valuable feature to have on-hand. Systems with adequate tools typically offer some sort of reporting capability. However, the level of intuitiveness and usability varies, so make sure your vendor offers tools you can actually understand. Better systems include various methods of understanding your data, like Gantt charts to convey targets and whether you’ve hit them on time or not.

Excellent systems provide users with robust analytics tools that track the entire lifecycle of a product. You can choose a system that allows users to see patterns among successful products and also to see patterns among unsuccessful products. This enables you to make better business decisions, following only the processes that are proven to work.

 Reporting
 Gantt Charts
 Dashboards
 Daily Updates
 Analytics

Deployment

When shopping for software, all buyers have to decide whether an on-premise solution or a hosted solution is better for their business. Typically, cloud-based products are cheaper to install, easier to update and update often. However, this can cause instances of downtime as businesses navigate changes in their system. On-premise solutions afford more control, but this means when your business does finally decide to update, it can be a very intense process that requires a great deal of IT staff. Most find the flexibility of the cloud more suited to them, but every business is different and you may find on-premise a better option.

 Hosted
 On-Premise

Compare the PLM Software Leaders.

Next Steps

Product lifecycle management is all about maintaining visibility of your processes and coordinating data centralization to facilitate them. Keep this central function in mind when gathering your requirements and as you shortlist PLM system vendors. Once you think you’re ready to start comparing systems, check out our in-depth comparison report of the top PLM software leaders.

Our comparison report is built using our analyst team’s evaluation of each leading PLM vendor, including Oracle, Autodesk, Siemens and more. Their systems are scored and ranked based on how well they fulfill the requirements listed above. It allows software buyers to compare solutions side-by-side to see which system is better at project management or regulatory compliance, for instance.

Now we’d like to hear from you. Which PLM requirements will you be gathering for your business? Are there any important ones we missed? Let us know with a comment below!

Kim O'ShaughnessyPLM Requirements & Features Checklist

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