On the way to the train station the other day I noticed a couple of new billboards. They replaced a set of billboards held over from the Chicago marathon last spring touting the benefits of some brightly colored running shoes. The shoes have been replaced with brightly colored sports cars and the product they are selling is Product Lifecycle Management software.
I’m not entirely sure why they picked this particular stretch of road for these signs. The billboards are right above a White Castle burger and a building that housed 3 restaurants and a cell phone store before it went up in flames a couple months ago. It could be related to the convention center a mile away except the taxis would not generally drive past that block in either direction. Whatever the reason for these signs, it provides a good launching point to discuss product life cycle management (PLM).
PLM is basically a formalized process to manage the process a product takes from the initial spark of an idea, to design, testing and validation, manufacturing, all the way through customer use, support, and eventually retirement and disposal. PLM defines the various workflows, documentation, collaboration, and supply chains required to create complex and/or large scale products.
With automation basically ubiquitous at this point, more and more companies are looking at ways to optimize these processes. This is where things like <bManufacturing Execution</b> (MES) or Manufacturing Operations Management Systems (MOM) come into play. These systems find ways to increase production efficiency, reduce downtime, and reduce overall costs.
These systems can be extremely beneficial to the manufacturing portion of a product’s lifecycle, yet generally don’t carry over their benefits into the entirety of an organization. This is where PLM comes into its own, using the same goals of MES/MOM systems applied to the entire company.
Pieces of the Pie
If you were think about MES/MOM in terms of the automation pyramid concept in the framework of a PLM system, the pyramid would simply be one portion of the whole ecosystem, focused only on the manufacturing portion of the product’s lifecycle.
There are similar concepts at play in every component of the PLM system each requiring workflows, processes, and information to optimize their output. Each member of the development and production team generates data and information that can be useful for the rest of the team:
- Design can inform how something is manufactured
- End-users can inform manufacturing of defects which can trickle down to find root causes
- Scheduling can be informed by market demand
- ...and many more
We have developed systems to help our customers adopt product lifecycle management systems into their workflow and have seen how companies have used these systems at very large scale, keeping thousands of people automatically updated on every aspect of the products they are creating.
We’ll get into more detail on the different portions of PLM in more future posts including some real world examples. In the meantime, please let us know if you have any thoughts or questions on product lifecycle management.