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Engineering Meets Management, Part 2: The Roots of PLM

Part 1 of this series focuses on combining engineering and management for project excellence.

It’s not hard to guess that PLM relies on some core processes to provide a unified picture of several products and its versions for decision makers and knowledge workers. Innovators, designers, manufacturers, marketers, service providers all are required to be on the same page.

IT is vital to address this challenge. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) helps product businesses to provide an integration platform for managing end-to-end product data.

Some of the important PLM processes include:

  1. Integrated management of ideas, products and portfolio,
  2. Dynamic requirements management,
  3. Integrated product design and specifications management,
  4. Product engineering and production quality management,
  5. End-to-end configuration control,
  6. Integrated lifecycle cost management,
  7. Lifecycle environmental impact analysis and management,
  8. Service and maintenance data management

While several great innovative ideas may be collected from various sources, it’s an arduous task to perform a 360-degree analysis and choose the most feasible ideas for implementation. Product businesses also work on fixing feature gaps as well as capacity planning to meet global demand.

The dynamic nature of requirements management leverages data collected over the past lifecycles and guides stakeholders for creating best-in-class products. The rigor established in the requirements filtering through collaboration from financial, manufacturing, testing, marketing and support perspectives is truly amazing. Engineering the product and packaging to create great consumer experiences is an area that looks at an integrated view of total cost of ownership, packaging for zero defect delivery, attractiveness for sales positioning and creating value for money for consumers.

It’s evident that PLM has many areas of process rigor supported by metrics collection, analysis and decision support.

PLM Benefits

Increasing competitive pressure, fast-changing markets, the high complexity of products/extended products/process portfolios, the need for short lifecycle innovations and legal compliance requirements in global markets are influencing product companies to consider PLM as a key element of business strategy.

Some of the benefits that product companies have derived by implementing PLM include:

  • Higher product success rate through integration of consumer insights
  • Increased product sales due to shorter time-to-market/time-to-scale
  • Reduced TCO and greener products
  • Ability to customize for global markets to achieve leadership position
  • Develop products with the paradigm of “designed for manufacturability”
  • Increased internal collaboration of stakeholders being on same page
  • Leveraging IP and globalization trends faster for competitive advantage
  • Leveraging non-product differentiation opportunities

PLM Process

Benefits

Idea management

  • Higher innovation productivity
  • Higher customer focus

Requirements

  • Enhance features/ NFR control
  • Lesser but faster releases with rigor of evaluation of requirements

Product structuring

  • Faster engineering by efficient reuse
  • Lower development efforts due to clarity

Product Program Planning

  • Enhanced customer focus & IT strategy alignment
  • Optimized release cycles & patches

Risk management

  • Early identification of project deviations
  • Reduced variance in effort/ budget inputs

Change management

  • Improved cycle time for critical defects
  • Faster reaction to customer requirements

“Product Lifecycle Management is integrated, information driven approach comprised of people, processes/practices, and technology to all aspects of a product’s life, from its design through manufacture, deployment and maintenance — culminating in the product’s removal from service and final disposal. By trading product information for wasted time, energy, and material across the entire organization and into the supply chain, PLM drives the next generation of lean thinking.”

— Michael Grieves, Product Lifecycle Management: Driving the Next Generation of Lean Thinking

Tools and Automation of IT Processes

PLM promises a unified picture of product lifecycle data from concept stage to retirement stage. No one IT application or platform can provide all the functionality in one monolithic solution. Even IT applications collaborate to provide unified picture to various stakeholders.

IT applications believed to produce an integrated view could be categorized into areas such as decision support systems, operational support systems and integration middleware. The suite will include program management, project management, workflow management, product data management, collaboration tools, product modeling systems, strategic resource management, value management, development and design tools, exit management, support management solutions and so on. Enterprise solutions like ERP, SCM, SFA, CRM and CPM systems do constitute large integration efforts. It’s needless to say that the requirements of customized bespoke IT applications specific to the product business will continue to exist.

Derivatives of PLM Solutions

It is interesting to note that several application domains have leveraged PLM framework for managing lifecycle processes effectively. Here are some examples:

  • IT Services Lifecycle Management (SLM)
  • Technology Lifecycle Management (TLM)
  • Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)
  • Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM)

In summary, lifecycle management processes are delivering rich dividends when applied to different business domains. By unifying the software engineering rigor and practical insights from PLM, organizations will be able to deliver software projects that are more aligned to business requirements.

Engineering Meets Management, Part 1: A Recipe for Excellence


R.N. Prasad is an associate vice president with the education and research unit at Infosys Technologies Limited. Seema Acharya is a principal with the education and research unit at Infosys.

1 Comment

  • Great Post. To deliver software projects that are more aligned to business requirements, I feel that Quality Audit/Check is very important at every stage, right from the initiation stage to closing stage. Every output of every process/stage should be compared with Scope, Time, Quality and Budget specifications, to record the deviations and then only we can reduce the variance. This data also helps in correcting the process (process Improvement), where the cause of the failure repeats frequently.

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