Do You Really Need

By eweek  |  Posted 2004-02-27 Print this article Print



Do you really need PLM?

Given the goals of PLM, and the complexity of the technology, how can you tell if you even need PLM? AMRs OMarah says PLM is best suited for companies selling physical products such as consumer packaged goods and electronics, particularly merchandise that requires complex manufacturing processes. So if youre primarily a service company, then you probably dont need PLM. "Its so much easier for nonphysical product companies to keep data organized because for them its all just text files," says OMarah. "For product companies, its a whole series of different kinds of information, from mechanical geometry to circuitry design to software code to branded artwork." Also, says OMarah, companies that are based in one location and dont rely on outside contractors probably dont need PLM. "If you are a single site, you can do a lot of this stuff with spreadsheets, Access databases and other kinds of simple-minded tools like a CAD vault, because a single-site location has its designers and engineers in the same place as its manufacturing people."

But companies that deal with contract manufacturers and third-party suppliers are another story. Steve Norton, head of hardware development at Acme Packet, a Woburn, Mass.-based manufacturer of hardware components for Voice over IP, says they moved from Microsoft Access to a PLM database from Omnify Software because they needed to keep track of more than 300 parts, and a simple spreadsheet wasnt doing the trick. "Access was extremely clumsy, and we ended up having to change our template on a daily basis as we learned more about what information we wanted to include," he says.

To view a graphic of a fully integrated product lifecycle management system, click here.

And the spreadsheet provided no way for his team to know if the companys contract manufacturers were working with the right specifications. "Even if the data is pristine when it leaves here, you are always going to run into this problem where spreadsheets are out of date, or the engineer isnt going to be real religious about forwarding schematic changes to the factory on a timely basis."

With the PLM system, however, Acme Packets manufacturers connect to a portal that lets them view the necessary design information, while e-mail updates let Acme designers know that its manufacturers have reviewed the changes. Norton says thats helped Acme to reduce manufacturing errors from about 10 percent to zero. And with each product containing thousands of dollars worth of equipment, says Norton, the savings are significant, especially for a small company like Acme.

Ask Your Production Team:

  • How could we improve communication with our outsourcers and contract manufacturers? Ask Your Line Managers:

  • What information could you use from other departments that would help you do your job better? Ask Your Legal Department:

  • Do we face regulatory issues that would make it necessary for us to track all our product information and procedures? Next Page: Getting buy-in from every line of business.


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