Although the implementation of a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system will be unique to each company, there are core PLM fundamentals that will always remain the same. Therefore, it is not unusual for companies to encounter some of the same obstacles or pitfalls when introducing PLM to the manufacturing environment.
These pitfalls are not about the details of the PLM process, but instead are the pitfalls encountered when planning for and initiating PLM. Avoiding these pitfalls can increase your chances of success with a PLM project. The following are the top 10 PLM pitfalls, according to SofTech Inc., a provider of PLM software.
Pitfall # 1 – Not including executive education as a top priority of your PLM program planning – Prepare for upfront presentation to top management to school them on PLM, what it is and what it isn’t, and what it can do for your company. In other words – educate, educate, educate!
In the presentation, make it crystal-clear that PLM has key strategic business benefits for your company. Yes, PLM is going to help your engineering department get their computer-aided design (CAD) files under control, process engineering change orders (ECOs) quicker, and improve component reuse, etc.– but what will the overall business impact be?
Here are the messages that executives must hear.
• How PLM can help your company achieve a higher success rate with development projects to more consistently meet or exceed stockholder and customer expectations for on-time product delivery.• How PLM can help you develop more new products faster, of higher quality enabling your products to survive in the market longer, with minimal support and cost, and consequently, increased revenue and profitability • How PLM can improve product quality, reducing the risk of product recalls and liability suits • How PLM can help your company to compete better in expanding world markets • How PLM can help your company to maintain regulatory compliance.
Pitfall # 2 – Not defining and communicating critical PLM success factors - As a PLM Initiative Manager, defining and communicating a set of critical success factors (CSFs) for your PLM project is imperative. There is often confusion between goals and objectives and critical success factors.
All too often, program plans include task-oriented goals and objectives and timetables but do not touch upon critical success factors, which are really at the heart of why you’re even thinking about implementing PLM. Here are some ideas for critical success factors that you might consider for your PLM project:
• Consistent engineering change processes globally and among suppliers• Smooth release to manufacturing through effective design and manufacturing collaboration • Well coordinated business and supply chain • Reduced product costs through increased component, part and assembly reuse in new designs.
Pitfall # 3 – Not measuring your PLM success – Defining your critical success factors is a must – but pointless if you don’t measure your progress or success against them. It is nearly impossible to manage what you don’t measure. It’s almost always true that organizations that focus on continuously measuring results to realign initiatives and priorities get a much higher success rate on programs than those that leave it to chance.
It’s the same for PLM. Don’t fall into the pitfall of thinking that you’re just too busy to measure your PLM program progress and results. Even bad news gives opportunity to make course adjustments, and hopefully sooner than later. These measurements are also fodder for promoting your PLM success.
Pitfall # 4 – Not promoting your PLM success – It is very important to promote your team’s PLM success and progress as you move forward – to your management staff, employees, and even customers or suppliers for that matter. Announce your PLM program early and often. Rally your PLM team. Get everyone excited about the changes coming, not only in Engineering but in other departments as well. Put up posters showing your progress. Create a Web site showing PLM program plans. Activities like these help build interest and momentum for your PLM project.Pitfall # 5 – Proceeding before everyone is educated and agrees – Waiting until you implement PLM to develop a user acceptance plan is very dangerous. It is impossible to make a widespread change, like PLM, without consensus resonating from the top down. That’s top down – but also think bottom up.
Once you have that CXO champion, the job starts in building an environment for acceptance of PLM and gaining agreement from lower levels of management and as important, from people who will be using PLM in the workplace. Plan for training and user acceptance as early as possible in your PLM initiative with a plan that touches upon:
• A single, unchanging theme for PLM• Widespread awareness of the reasons for PLM • A motivating vision of the future with PLM • Willingness to learn • Extensive training programs • Changes to the reward and recognition system
Pitfall # 6 – Thinking PLM is only an engineering enterprise – There is a misconception that PLM is only a next-generation solution for centralizing engineering CAD drawings, version/revision control, and automating ECO approvals. But that’s just one small aspect of PLM and a pitfall companies fall into by not understanding the difference and greater opportunity for PLM in their business.
PLM is far more holistic: PLM is about controlling and maximizing corporate assets – not just managing engineering data. These assets can be information and processes and products. Information can be engineering drawings but also documented quality procedures or end-of-life plans. Processes can be customer requirements management, engineering change management, or processes for managing product failures in the field. Products can be the physical product, but also packaging and training materials and even services.
PLM is about better management of all these corporate assets, throughout your products’ entire lifecycle (imagination, definition, realization, support/use, and retirement/disposal). PLM can positively impact revenue, organizational structure, people, methods, applications, and information from day one to a product’s end-of-life.
Because PLM touches on many areas of a company, it needs to be treated as an enterprise initiative, not just an engineering or IT effort. It is important to keep this factor in mind when preparing your PLM program plan, in educating management, and assembling your PLM teams; a cross-functional representation on your PLM team works best.
Pitfall # 7 – Not planning to overcome setbacks and rejection – Just as with any major program, setbacks are inevitable in a PLM initiative, as is rejection. Don’t be shocked when setbacks/rejection occurs, and plan for their inevitability with education and realistic program schedules and plans.
Recognize that there may be roadblocks along the way and all sorts of ‘personalities’ that you will have to deal with including leaders, sponsors, agents, champions, accepters, blockers, and sleepers. Success is achieved by overcoming obstacles and winning over these people, or figuring out how to make it in spite of them.
Pitfall # 8 – Proceeding without a sense of reality – Many PLM initiatives fail because companies have an u