Configurations are an often under-estimated factor in successful Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) launch and adoption. As companies evaluate how their processes will be conducted in new enterprise solutions, they must also examine the flip-side of the PLM coin—configuring your data model.
The data model is essentially the structural warehouse for every aspect of your New Product Development and Introduction (NPDI). Your processes fill the “buckets” of data, but each company must strategically plan out what the data structure is and how it can be optimized.
The end result will play a significant role in determining costs, acceptance, and overall productivity of your PLM launch.
1. Integrate Corporate Culture
Your enterprise solution should adapt to fit your users, culture, and processes. Your users should not be forced to adapt to rigid software that does not allow customization.
You can compare implementing an enterprise solution to buying a suit. A custom tailored suit will fit your needs better than an off-the-rack purchase.
Part of the requirements will be identifying Subject Business Matter Expert (SBE) who will define key requirements for users to fully accept and maximize the PLM implementation. (Ex: field descriptions, placement, etc.)
2. Implement Methodology/Best Processes
It is almost a chicken/egg cycle. Your processes populate your data, which is then used to fuel your processes.
As your SBE’s define the requirements, they must also evaluate the processes and its relationship to the data. This will be the ideal time to implement best practices and standardize the methodology and increase quality across your enterprise.
3. Integration with Legacy Systems
In addition to the specific needs of each department, the IT SBE’s must examine the overall architecture of your legacy systems. While many companies have an ERP system, they have multiple supporting software systems in place. These may be from the same overall provider, but Gartner recommends a best in breed selection, “A best-in-class deployment would include integration with ERP and manufacturing execution system (MES), supply chain management (SCM), service planning and design software.” 1
These can often function as islands of data, with no definitive synchronization. If your system allows configuration, you can create a more seamless integration and reduce costly mistakes (outdated information, duplications, errors, etc.).
Gartner emphasizes the need to fully understand every cost variable of a PLM implementation, ““Manufacturers interested in predicting parts and product manufacturing ‘should cost’ data — to improve design for manufacturability and better-negotiated contracts with suppliers —must monitor, document and continuously validate the cost of labor, procurement, materials handling, equipment maintenance, related services and so on.” 1
A flexible configuration will reduce the overall cost and improve ROI:
- Resource hours (for initial configuration and subsequent upgrades)
- Training requirements
- User Adoption
- Data Synchronization Maintenance
5. Easier Upgrades
Flexible configurations span more than one implementation. They set the foundation for future upgrades. In contrast, customized systems will require a lengthy process to upgrade and validate the changes made for your company.
The additional costs can be seen not only in resource hours, but a delay in delivery timelines and team productivity.
 Source: Gartner “Hype Cycle for Process Manufacturing and PLM, 2014” by Janet Suleski, Marc Halpern, and Simon F Jacobson, July 2014
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