From inception to manufacturing to sale and beyond, there are a lot of steps in the product lifecycle.
Product lifecycle management (PLM) is the process of managing those steps.
American Motors Corporation introduced the concept in the 1980s as a way to make their business more productive and efficient and found that it helped them compete with larger companies, such as GMC and Ford.
Apparel businesses can benefit from product lifecycle management, too. In today’s business environment, PLM is useful for any operation that designs, manufactures, and distributes products, regardless of industry.
Phases of the Product Lifecycle
It’s important to understand what the product lifecycle entails before learning how to effectively manage it. There are four main phases that make up the lifecycle of a product: conception, designing, production, and distribution.
The cycle begins with the idea for a new product. This phase involves researching the market to make sure you’re building a product that consumers will actually want to buy. It also involves defining production requirements to determine whether or not the product is actually feasible. Many product ideas never advance beyond this phase.
After settling upon a product concept, it’s time to design the product. In this phase, businesses will create prototypes and look for ways to improve the product. Developing, testing, and evaluating are carried out before settling on a final design.
In the next phase, a business must figure out how the product will be manufactured. Businesses may also start to plan how to market to consumers. Sales goals and other metrics are set.
Finally, it’s time to go to market. This means distributing the product to the appropriate sales channels for sale to customers. There may be maintenance involved, depending on the product, once it is sold. Businesses must also plan for the product’s end-of-life in this phase.
What Is PLM Software?
In business, there’s a concept known as “single source of truth (SSOT).” Essentially, this is a concept used to ensure that teams base business decisions on the same data. To put an SSOT in place, an organization must provide relevant personnel with a single, centralized source that stores the data points needed to make these decisions.
Enter PLM software.
PLM software is a great example of how new business technologies can change entire industries. Modern PLM software acts as SSOT for all the teams involved in designing, manufacturing, selling, and servicing products. Integrations with related systems (like a CRM or ERP) help keep different teams on the same page.
There are industry-specific PLM software solutions available. In the garment/apparel industry, fashion PLM software has been a game-changer, as it comes packaged with functions related to inventory management and supply chain logistics to make the project management process easier than ever.
Benefits of PLM Software
Businesses use PLM software to streamline the product lifecycle and make the phases described above more efficient. Any decent PLM solution can help avoid issues with inventory management, such as overproduction, product bottlenecks and inaccurate forecasting.
Here are a few other benefits you should look for when choosing the tool that’s right for your business:
Imagine a world with fewer emails and fewer spreadsheets. PLM software boosts operational efficiency in a number of ways. Information doesn’t have to be recompiled at each stage because it can be reviewed concurrently via the platform. You don’t have to send updated product design files back and forth and wonder if everyone has the latest version. In a more collaborative environment, teams can discuss issues and brainstorm to find solutions. You will eliminate time-consuming activities such as replicating data across different systems, correcting processing errors and hunting for missing data.
PLM software gives you a clear view of the product lifecycle. Clear visibility into product costs during product development helps you model a forward-looking view of the associated product costs. Using data-driven analytics, various teams such as procurement and manufacturing can build a predictive or prescriptive forecast model. With real-time dashboards, under- or over-buying raw materials becomes a thing of the past.
Product lifecycle management is an ongoing process, and continually developing PLM platforms can provide even greater benefits to businesses. Like any good tool, PLM software should be responsive to your changing needs and scalable when you are ready to grow. One benefit of some PLM software solutions is their ability to integrate with other business software and applications to meet these needs.
On-premise PLM systems are still common. However, cloud PLM software lets teams collaborate in real-time. With the connectivity of cloud and mobile technology, production, operations, sales, and service teams can access their data from anywhere, on nearly any device. One feature that’s become more important in recent years is mobile functionality for PLM solutions. Why not access everything from your phone, wherever you are?
Modern PLM software solutions let you track customer responses, track quality issues and respond quickly. Direct feedback from customers can be relayed to the engineering team. Continuously improving products based on customer feedback drives customer satisfaction. Happy customers become repeat customers. PLM software gives design and production teams control over data, allowing them to close the gaps between teams, ultimately leading to faster order fulfillment.
Compliance is an important part of the product design and production phases. Companies need to adhere to regulatory standards; PLM software helps you keep detailed documentation of changes in product versions to ensure audit trails are intact. This reduces the risk of fines, delays, and lost sales due to regulatory issues.
Remember: Thousands of different PLM software solutions exist; choosing one that continually offers new features and functions can put you ahead of the game and make it even easier to manage your products efficiently.