Solving the PLM Impasse for Midsize Manufacturers

If you’re a midsized manufacturer, your products are probably getting more complex. You may be experimenting with new materials, making your products smarter, using new product techniques like 3D printing, or all of the above. Your product development environment probably isn’t getting any easier, either. If you’re like most, you’re working with global partners and your supply chain is pretty fragmented. How do you keep everything under control? Prevent mistakes? Maybe even create an advantage for your company? Or just get to work closer to a forty-hour workweek?

PLM Drives Even Greater Bottom Line Results Getting the Most from PLM – Tech-Clarity, Kalypso
PLM Drives Even Greater Bottom Line Results
Getting the Most from PLM – Tech-Clarity, Kalypso

PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is a great option with proven payback. At Tech-Clarity, we research what Top Performers – those that are better at hitting their product development and profitability targets – do differently. Our Reducing Non-Value Added Work in Engineering report shows that those top performing companies are 85% more likely to use PLM than other manufacturers. PLM offers significant benefits to the top and bottom lines by increased productivity, reducing mistakes, and even improving innovation and time to market. Perhaps most importantly for midsized manufacturers, it helps them stay agile and close to their customers so they can compete with “the big guys.”

But PLM may seem daunting to some companies. Many try to manage their designs using file naming conventions and folder structures and share them with Internet file-sharing tools. But they quickly find that those tools lack revision control, BOM (Bill of Materials) management, change processes, security, and other important features necessary to help manage design data. Informal, more ad-hoc approaches like these help in some ways but add a lot of risk. As our recent webinar on Finding PLM to Fit Midsized Manufacturers shares, “they aren’t intended to support industrial scale processes like product innovation, development, and engineering and don’t support the capabilities and relationships required to manage complex product data.”

PDM (Product Data Management) is another option. It offers a lot of value by helping manufacturers control, access, and share product data. That might be enough for small manufacturers. But midsized companies typically need more of what PLM provides: collaboration, compliance, project management, and support for more cross-departmental processes. Perhaps not surprisingly, our research shows that Top Performers use more of the capabilities PLM has to offer.

So midsize companies feel caught in the middle between more simple solutions and more capable PLM systems. But our research shows that PLM doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and take a lot of time to implement. Midsize manufacturers can start small and grow over time. But they need to look into the future to know what kinds of capabilities they can benefit from so they pick the right technology partner, and then step back to a find a logical first step that quickly provides value (and a win for the sponsors). Implementing PLM basics can go a long way to improving operations and profitability, but maybe more importantly creates a foundation for even larger benefits in the future.

Watch our Finding PLM to Fit Midsized Manufacturers webinar to find out more about how midsize companies can leverage PLM and get away from being stuck in the middle.

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Jim Brown is the founder of the research firm Tech-Clarity. He is a recognized expert with 25 years of experience in software solutions for manufacturers and the use of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).
  • recPLM

    Hi Jim,

    great article.

    The mid-size manufacturers are lucky, most of the time, to “start from scratch” so they don’t have to cope with heavy legacy and be constrained by that: e.g. existing IT systems, internal politics and territories protection.

    A mid-size manufacturer should not be afraid to address PLM from the right perspective: the requirements (i.e. customer’s, product’s, regulations, solutions) so they build their PLM solution on a solid ground using a sound roadmap for the PLM functionalities they want.

    That’s why they should avoid taking the “traditional” PLM road, not only to save a lot of money but most importantly to embrace from start modern NPD/NPI methodologies.

    Kamal Hammoutene
    recPLM methodology inventor