The other day someone asked me what I do for a living to which I replied, “I help my company support their PLM strategy”. My reply was soon followed with a look of puzzled skepticism and confusion.
“Huh?” was the usual response and no surprise – how does any one explain something like this?
The first time I become familiar with acronym PLM was back in the late 1990’s. A company I was working for at the time was looking for a better way to manage engineering changes using a large database system. Business was growing, customers were asking for many new changes and spreadsheets were no longer reliable for keeping track of numerous changes to product data. Changes can have drastic consequences if not managed properly and this was a risk that we could not afford.
The company learned that what it needed was not just a database, but a Product Data Management system or PDM. PDM systems are complex and powerful, runs on large databases and servers and requires specialized skills to support, configure and customize for the business. PDM systems provides businesses with tools to create and manage engineering data using workflows and BOM hierarchy to build relationships between parts and assemblies.
PDM is often confused or use interchangeably with PLM. I learned that PDM is actually a part of a larger process known as PLM. Jim McKinney from CMData describes PDM as one of many tools to “manage the virtual product”. McKinney states “PLM employs many software technologies to support the virtual product”.
What does that mean?
When someone comes up with an idea for a product or an improvement to an existing design, many steps must be taken to bring the idea to a physical state where it can be tested and demonstrated to see if there is a market, how many can be sold and if the volume will insure enough margin to offset the costs of bringing it to market and leaving a profit. It requires being able to capture all the information and retrieving it on demand for later use.
Retrieving all this data from different and disconnected silos of information systems has been a challenge for many businesses, large and small. That’s why companies like Siemens PLM have made it their business to help their customers find ways to create, store and retrieve critical data to meet their demanding customer and market requirements.
A PLM strategy is essential for understanding how all of the information can be mapped and organized to enable the business to grow and profit in a dynamic global market.
Developing a good PLM strategy requires a clear roadmap of managing the product lifecycle from conception to obsolescence and tying together the various information systems it has at is disposal to manage design and development, cost, human resources, materials management, manufacturing planning, quality, customer service and support.
So next time someone asks you what you do for a living, instead of throwing acronyms and buzzwords around, tell them simply that you help your business keep product data organized so it is easy to find and less costly to manage.