Many R&D people I talk to have the notion that ”PLM systems” for companies are really difficult and only for the selected few to understand. This viewpoint is not hard to understand, as most PLM and ERP systems are sold and installed in a complicated way.
So what is PLM, the three letters stands for Product Lifecycle Management. It’s a tool to keep track of product data from idea to phase out. As both product data and lifecycle could mean a lot of things, the system can be both small and huge. Large companies like Ericsson has more than 1000 different systems to keep track of product data (not simple). Small ones usually don’t have any system. They stick to spreadsheets or the CAD files.
Why is PLM easy? Well, the computer system is really a database with a user interface. And if you analyze PLM from this perspective it’s not that hard. In this database you build your product record. It is like giving a tab in spreadsheet a product number and connecting everything that relates to this product to that tab. You add all kinds of documents; drawings, data sheets, specifications etc., but also information on how to easy find the data again. The product record is basically a list of the items and documents that builds up your product. You really add a link to items in the database. This means that you can reuse it as many times as you want, and search for all places it’s used. Try that in a spreadsheet:-)
As you need to change the product over the years, the product record is changed as well, to reflect all the changes you do as well as the reason for changing. In other words, PLM include version control and change management. Other stuff that is often added is compliance management. This is something closely related to the product record and you need to prove that your product record comply.
This is it. You really do not need to add anything more, even if you can. For most companies that are small to medium sized (up to 500 employees in R&D) does not need more. Most companies that are bigger do not have one system that holds all extra features they need. Instead they keep multiple systems, usually because there is no system that manages everything in a good way. Also because the company don’t emerge over night and have a history of being smaller…
My wife is an archivist and she manages millions of government papers, created from the 13 century until today. You might ask her how on earth they find anything that old. To be honest, how hard would it be for you to find a document one of your coworkers wrote a year ago? The answer is that archivists create search patterns for the documents. You may find the same document through many different ways, but there is also a common systematic scheme that all of the documents are sorted by.
In a PLM system we create a scheme as well; we tag each item number with a lot of standard search parameters. For a mechanical part we might add material, weight, if we designed it or bought it etc. For an electrical component we add things like resistance, capacitance, tolerance etc. This creates a way to find and reuse stuff in the database, we enter a search for a specific resistance and find items related to that resistance.
We also have a search pattern in the product structure. A product is build up from many parts and using this structure is an excellent way to find relevant documents and items.
So if you think PLM is hard and difficult, it does not have to be.
We set up PLM systems for our customers in a few days with all functions you need. It’s easy to transfer from a set of spreadsheets or from a different program.
Contact us and we will prove it.
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