How to achieve true PLM?

What is a true PLM enterprise? When it comes to PLM – two things I hear often – it is very complex and difficult to deploy. The complexities and difficulties has more to do with understanding what PLM really is than how it is applied in our organization.

PLM is not just a software suite. It is a concept and one that is often misunderstood.

Jos Voskuil wrote in his recent blog  “the main concept behind PLM is that people share data”.

Cannot get much simpler than that. Sharing data is really what defines PLM and how it can help organizations get closer to achieving true PLM.

SAABBack in the early eighties, drafting boards were still fairly common in engineering offices. Not long before that, spaceships transported astronauts to the moon, massive jumbo jets connected every corner of the globe in a matter of hours and computers were soon to be almost as common as telephones in every home – all designed on drafting boards using pencil and paper. Any engineering data created was drawn, written or copied on paper and stashed away in a drawer or cabinet. Even if there was a computer, it was not networked; data was still printed on paper and ultimately filed away in a manila folder or loose-leaf binder.

At the time, it would have been be much easier and less challenging to find the proverbial needle in the haystack than it was to find any engineering data. Information was kept in massive “silos” often unknown and inaccessible to anyone outside of the organization. That may work well for some companies who are very protective about their information – but not always.

According to Voskuil, companies have rewarded their employees for the knowledge they have created but not shared. When implementing IT solutions for PLM – the question often asked is how much storage do we need or where should the data be kept? Even PLM vendors have tried to make the sales pitch that by storing all the company’s data in their system – they will have only “one version of the truth”. Voskuil makes a good point that everything he creates ends up in a single garbage bin, but garbage bins were not designed for sharing.

Even if you can share data across a single system deployed in your organization, the problem with sharing data resurfaces when that system is unable to share it with other systems outside your organization, like another division, customers or suppliers. As a result, you have achieved a partial PLM solution, not a true PLM solution.

Managers and business leaders don’t like to spend millions of dollars implementing partial solutions. It is difficult to make the case for spending a lot of capital when the concept of PLM is not understood or clearly communicated. The best way to build a strong case that will leave key decision makers feeling good about a making huge investments is laying out a clear roadmap to transform from a sequential business development organization with massive data silos to a concurrent one where information is easily accessible and searchable.

Rather than wait for information to be fully mature before sharing it with others, collaboration should be enabled in the early stages of product design with all key players including customers, suppliers, vendors, manufacturing, quality and sales working in real time. This of course, requires careful coordination and planning to overcome geographic constraints, security of IT infrastructure and data, legal issues, regulations and work culture.

The ability to overcome these obstacles and allow information to flow freely and legally in this complex and diverse global environment is what utlimately leads to a true PLM enterprise. We may never fully achieve true PLM in our businesses but we can make it a goal.

How can true PLM be achieved? There is one place to find it and it is as this year’s Siemens PLM Connection conference in Orlando. Users and business leaders from many companies around the world who use one or more of Siemens PLM tools will descend into Orlando during the week of June 15 – 19th to learn more about Siemens PLM software. The conference will provide many sessions and forums to enable networking between users, employees and executives of Siemens PLM and the partners who provide services and third-party solutions for vast array of Siemens PLM software.

If you are interested in finding out how to achieve a true PLM enterprise in your organization – come to Orlando in June and go here to register. There is still time left.

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