PLM Requirements Evaluation of Features and Functionality

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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). 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.

Fusion Lifecycle

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

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.

PTC Creo

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
  • 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.

SAP PLM

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

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 the cost of a 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 PLM 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 any 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)

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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 also extends to portfolio and resource management.

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.

Sopheon Accolade

An example of a collaboration/CRM tool

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

Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM)

Another feature that is also sold as a separate solution, is a CAM accessory. This component converts CAD models and designs into 3D prototypes by automating the manufacturing and machining operations through a computer. Once you design the best shoes or dolls, your CAM feature calibrates the machinery and manufacturing processes (milling, turning, drilling, etc.), automating the process.

Keep these additional PLM features in mind when browsing for the ideal CAM module:

  • CAD file support
  • Turning Management
  • Milling Management
  • Drilling Management
  • CAD Program Integration

Simulation

Lastly, a simulation accessory enables you to assess CAD files before manufacturing the model. This accessory usually comes with standalone CAD software. You can test designs with realistic situations such as thermal or chemical changes instead of making prototypes so you can save money on raw materials and get your product out to the market quicker.

Here are some additional extensions to consider as you find the ideal simulation accessory:

  • Thermal Simulations
  • Chemical Simulations
  • Numerical Control (NC) Management

Compare Top 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 during a PLM evaluation and as you shortlist 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 for features will you be gathering for your business during your PLM evaluation? Are there any important ones we missed? Let us know with a comment below!

Khaleel HayesPLM Requirements Evaluation of Features and Functionality

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