We have PLM. Now what?

Many companies have implemented and are using PLM these days. Talking to and working with dozens of companies in various industries made me realize though that most of these companies are barely scratching the surface of the vendors’ vision of PLM and of what is available and possible today. 

Many companies have implemented PLM to manage their CAD data, EBOMs, documents, and engineering changes. And that’s where it ends. This is a far cry from what their tools would be capable of. It’s like having a Swiss Army knife and only using the tooth pick. Or having a Ferrari and driving it only in reverse. 

So what’s missing? Why are companies not doing more? In many instances it’s a lack of knowledge of how PLM could be used to enable and drive the business strategy, or maybe even transform and optimize the business strategy, and a too narrow focus only on engineering. 

Specifically in times of restricted mobility as it is currently imposed by the Corona virus, PLM can enable and improve a virtualization and digital transformation strategy. People work from home and still collaborate across all business functions, including suppliers, in developing and defining new products or delivering customer projects using company-wide and global digital processes as if they are sitting next to each other.

Or PLM can support a virtual product development strategy, where complete digital product assemblies and prototypes replace physical prototypes for testing, FE analyses, and manufacturing and assembly simulations. A few years ago I worked with a company that designed and manufactured hugely complex multi-axis machine tools. Traditionally they would build a physical prototype for a new product to test everything, which cost millions of dollars. After we implemented a comprehensive digital product development strategy the company no longer needed to build a first prototype. Everything was done digitally, the design, the assembly, the testing, and even the simulation of the machine operation with all controllers to make sure everything worked as intended. This allowed the company to skip the first prototype and go directly to manufacturing customer products, thereby saving the company about $20 million for each new product line. 

So if you have made an investment in PLM already, take a look at what else you can use this tool for other than to be a mere CAD data management, document management, BOM management and change management system. How can PLM support or even enhance your business strategy? There are a few examples out there of companies that have taken PLM to the next level and are driving a comprehensive digital business transformation strategy with it.