Stateside insight

Posted on 7 Jun 2010 by The Manufacturer

The PTC Media and Analyst Conference has not yet quite begun but already a number of themes and approaches are coming to the fore. TM's Jane Gray reports on ststeside opinions on PLM value propositions.

Maybe the sultry heat of an unusually humid Orlando is making cognitive clarity more difficult but it seems to me, after my first few conversations with delegates and software users at PTCs major annual showcase for its latest software iterations, that confusion is the watchword for the day.

Dazed and disoriented with jet lag I spent my journey to the Florida PTC conference venue conscientiously eavesdropping on a conversation between a US based manufacturer and PTC employee about the difference between those companies that are just functioning with the status quo and accepted wisdom of how CAD (computer aided design) and PDM (product data management software) can benefit their organisations and those that “are really pushing the envelope” with their use of the software. What this pushing of the envelope included in terms of definite characteristics or structured practice was however, infuriatingly intangible.

Undeniably though the centre of attention at the event is to be the potential of product lifecycle management (PLM) in boosting competitive capability. Whether it is realised or not in terms of software support every manufacturing company will have a PLM structure and process. It may be immensely disorganised, some readers will laugh out loud (lol if you are in sync with modern parlance) at the idea that their organisation has any systematised approach to the conversion of ideas into revenue, but undoubtedly there is one.

Within this existing process it is likely that consumers, customers, competitors and compliance are all monitored with increasing diligence. The aim of PLM is to enable this existing monitoring so that it minimises expense in the investment stage and maximises profit throughout the development, growth and maturation of the product. PLM is also now increasingly aware of the role to be played in end-of-life responsibility and opportunity.

Importantly it also is agreed by experts, both at the PTC World Event 2010, and in external white papers from consultants, technologists and other PLM vendors, such as those at Technology Evaluation Centres ( ) , that it is crucial to ROI that PLM is considered from the perspective of a strategic business proposition and not as a software centric proposition. For many this will mean setting aside entrenched ideas around what technologies and tools are meant to provide and taking a more ground up approach to investigating organisational needs and opportunities. Understanding and measuring the generic characteristics of the product lifecycle ‘s curve’ in your organisation will help in this.
The above theorising will however seem all too familiar to manufacturing readers who have recently been engaged in our ERP events or commentary and providers agree that defining PLM business value, above and beyond design capability, and in comparison to other technology imperatives can be very difficult.

In fact it seems that the justifications and incentives for investing in PLM as well as ERP is very similar (Indeed a November report from IDC stated that “The most important trend in…BI markets today is the rate of their convergence). While ERP aims for integrating information sharing from and operations, logistics and resource perspective PLM aims to promote collaboration and integration in the sharing of product focused data. Internally this means monitoring and updating the organisation’s bill of materials, providing revision control of engineering documents, approving requests for new parts, managing engineering change orders and controlling the organisation’s approved suppliers list. To support end-to-end value however, PLM should be able to augment its own value by integrating information from further down the supply chain and add value to customers by feeding directly into customer systems.

If the above is achieved PLM will minimise the time and cost of product development, minimise product reworks between supply chain players, accelerate product growth and maturation, exploit potential revenue and saving schemes in product retirement or withdrawal. This final element is likely to become increasingly tangible as a value proposition for PLM given the advance of product service systems and the increasing burden of legislation around the manufacturer’s responsibilities at their product’s end of life.

Over the next two days I look forward to talking more closely with PTC group members and users to discover how they are trying to extract this value from PLM technology. In particular I will be speaking with PTC customers Alfanar Electrical Systems about their best practice approach to PLM implementation, including the use of six sigma methodologies and with PTC trainers about the appreciation of the role of complexity in product data management.

Until next time…