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Study Reveals Gap Between PLM Providers, Buyers

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2:42 pm
December 30, 2008


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Study Reveals Gap Between PLM Providers, Buyers

by Diane Himes, Managing Automation

Manufacturers’ lack of a standard view of product lifecycle management technology, coupled with widely varying levels of implementation, is standing in the way of widespread adoption of PLM as a strategy for improved business decision making. So said a recent study by research firm Manufacturing Insights, an IDC company. More important, the study uncovered a significant chasm between PLM providers and the buyer community when it comes to defining PLM’s role.


“There is a gap between what companies say are their top business goals and cost improvement initiatives and the role PLM tools serve in meeting those goals,” said study co-author Joe Barkai, practice director for Manufacturing Insights’ product lifecycle strategies research service. What makes this finding particularly interesting, Barkai said, is that these goals, including improving quality, time to market, and asset reuse, are often targeted by PLM vendors in their marketing efforts. But PLM tools, the research firm finds, remain underutilized in these areas. “Some of the tenets of PLM are being challenged by what the industry is telling us,” he said.


Part of the problem, Barkai said, is that many companies lack the requisite internal processes needed to reap the promised benefits of PLM.


“Obviously, it makes sense to reuse parts you already have in inventory or a design you already went through,” Barkai said. But Manufacturing Insights finds that many PLM tools lack the functionality that could help companies identify reuse opportunities and create faster time to market and a reduction in costs and inventories.


“Many companies maintain bloated inventories just because it’s easier for them to source a new part than to search internal databases to see what they already have,” Barkai said. “Most PLM tools currently do not support the type of granular search functionality needed to identify existing parts and designs.”


The research firm believes the importance of reuse — of both assets and knowledge — will continue to grow, especially in light of the current economic malaise, so vendors would do well to pay special attention to this area.


Another key takeaway of the study for manufacturers and technology vendors alike, Barkai said, is that understanding how product development processes fit into a company’s broader business goals cannot be accomplished through broad generalizations based on vertical industry or company size alone. For example, responses to Manufacturing Insights’ survey of more than 300 manufacturing companies, on which the PLM study was based, for the most part were not aggregated around number of employees. Rather, responses tended to be grouped according to company revenue, geography, and type of value chain. Barkai, therefore, advises technology vendors to develop a more sophisticated view of market “archetypes” based on a mix of attributes, while manufacturers should look beyond traditional competitors to companies with similar strategic goals, processes, and PLM maturity for best practice models.


“Companies believe only others in their immediate space can have relevant best practices,” Barkai said. “But often there are opportunities for lessons learned within other industries.”


Finally, Manufacturing Inisights predicts that PLM adoption will continue to be very inconsistent, characterized by great success in some areas and lackluster progress in others. “After so many years, PLM is still somewhat undefined,” Barkai said, “with the characteristics of a nascent market.”

See original article on Managing Automation



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