The enterprise product lifecycle management (PLM) software market is entering its third decade of life. The vision of the leading PLM solution providers has evolved dramatically since the early 90s, while the capabilities of the software platforms have continued to expand and improve. The early sales pitches and solutions were almost entirely centered on engineering workgroups and document management. Over the last ten years, the PLM software industry has gone through a consolidation phase and has seen significant R&D investment in PLM platforms. Today, companies have the opportunity to take advantage of mature, integrated enterprise solutions with modern user interfaces. The value proposition is now truly cross-functional and PLM has emerged as a respected enterprise software domain that is a source of competitive advantage for companies that harness its power.
These platforms support the end-to-end innovation cycle from the definition of requirements through after-sales service and support. The systems facilitate industry best practice process optimization and workflow configurations that can be implemented “out of the box.” Solutions have also improved bottom to top with more seamless integration to heterogeneous CAD environments up through innovation portfolio management and performance analytics that connect the engineer’s desktop to the executive suite. In essence, we have gone from a stripped-down utilitarian commuter vehicle to a high-powered Italian sports car.
In addition to the core functionality of managing bills of material and engineering change, today’s PLM solutions are easier to use and have developing capabilities that enable innovation by addressing:
- Requirements management and traceability across hardware and software development
- New product development stage-gate process, program, resource and portfolio management
- Product and component cost management, often with supplier management functionality
- Systems engineering and the integration of mechanical, electrical and software development
- Manufacturing process design including simulation and validation linked to product engineering
- Connection with internal and external supply chain and enterprise resource planning systems
- Social collaboration and community tools for global information sharing and problem solving
- Comprehensive product quality management including CAPA and statistical analysis tools
- Environmental and regulatory compliance based on product content and sources of supply
- Integration of product packaging, labeling and artwork with underlying product information
- Management of technical publications and information for after-market service functions
- Product and process performance dashboards and analysis tools for continuous improvement
In some cases, these new capabilities were built into the core Product Data Management (PDM) product and are available to existing customers with no additional licensing fees. However, all of this new functionality has made implementations more cross-functional, and therefore more complicated. This makes a comprehensive PLM strategy and plan for your enterprise more important than ever.
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