Challenges in a PLM Implementation

May 21, 2015 1 By engineeringplm

PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is one area which is changing at a very fast rate. Companies are investing more to set their PLM process in place. Today we have a variety of sophisticated tools to choose from for our PLM support. All these tools have their own pros and cons. Which tools suits you – Depends on your own requirement. PLM Implementations can be very challenging. It has given nightmares to many organizations. It is not just complex to implement but sometimes it is tough because the implementation is very large scale in nature and it affects global manufacturing. While the challenges faced during a traditional PLM implementation can vary across industry sectors, we can still broadly group them into a three categories – Business, Technology and Data. Each of these areas remain a separate challenge for organizations. The real challenge is to lay out the process that will integrate the business and the technology and data that drive the business.

Business

Changing the way you do business can be a real challenge. Let’s analyze the key challenges that can be faced by the business.

Process – Ideal vs what’s suited

PLM process can be tricky. You can be easily tempted to reach a high level of sophistication. It is important to analyze what is really required. Make the changes step by step. The process should also be simple so that it can be implemented by IT and endorsed by your employees.

Cost

PLM implementations are usually very expensive. These expenses can be in form of new machinery, software, training etc. A proper vision is required. The vision should demonstrate the profitability and its timelines. It can be real challenge to control the cost of implementation.

People

People can be tough to change. Learning a new process or a new tool can be extra work for anyone. People accustomed to a particular tool would like to stick to that tool. Technicians that know in and out of a machine will like to stick to that machine. Most importantly managers who have worked for ages and have seen the organization grow with the old process can be tough to convince. Awareness should be brought step by step. People should not only be told but they should feel that the new process is healthy for them. Training should be simple and gradual and definitely not overwhelming.

Technology

IT is more than just an enabler in today’s world. With so many PLM tools to choose from, technology can be really confusing. This is one area where lot of consultant are available in the market. The right set of technology consultants should be able to help you overcome the below challenges.

Ideal IT Landscape

Defining the ideal IT landscape is very important as well as challenging. A proper mapping of As-Is and To-Be landscape needs to done. Choosing the right hardware keeping future progress in mind is the key. It is also important not to overload the landscape with too many machines. The larger the landscape the more the maintenance costs.

Tools

There are many sophisticated tools available in the market that can suit your PLM needs. While each of them market their tools as plug and play, the reality is very distant. Most of these tools have to be customized and configured to suit the organizational requirement. The Out-Of-the-Box (OOTB) features are too generic to be used in most cases. The PLM process is usually defined keeping IT in mind. A feasibility analysis of the process is performed to check if IT can implement it.

Interfaces

Integrations are important. Most of the PLM system are integrated with ERP systems to keep the data synchronized. Other integrations may be planned as necessary. One can use webservices for real time sync or a schedule batch job to do bulk synchronization. Integrations should be planned effectively. It should be remembered the each interface adds to the payload of the application.

Maintenance

This is one area where organizations spend millions of their precious money. Keeping the maintenance charges low can be a real pain. Maintenance can never be eliminated but it can be reduced by proper planning.

Data

Data is the most vital piece in any business. Data drives the business and business acquires data.

Data Freshness – Active vs Inactive Data

It can be tough to maintain years of accumulated data and classify it. Organizing data is a challenge in itself. What is the right data model? Which data is actively used or which data is no longer used? Answers to all these questions can be really tricky. These questions become more relevant when you want to migrate the data to a new system.

Security

Data security is another challenge in a PLM implementation. Who has access to which data and how to achieve the level of abstraction? How secure and is the data from external threats? These questions are very common in the PLM space. Most of the PLM tools have a security model of their own. It can be leveraged and structured to achieve the desired level of security.   These are common challenges faced by organizations who want to implement PLM. There can be many more challenges that you may face – meeting the compliance standards, reaching a proper validation standard, accuracy of data etc. The key is to plan effectively and then proceed step by step. It has to be a very patient march.   Did you like the article? Do you think something more should be added? Leave a comment to let us know. The author is a freelance PLM consultant and has several years of PLM implementation experience.