Product Lifecycle Management Best Practices for Faster Time to Market

Chris Nahil
By Chris Nahil on October 21, 2023

In today’s fiercely competitive landscape, time to market is often the defining factor for success. Companies with complex product development and manufacturing operations continually seek ways to optimize. Enter Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) – a systematic approach that integrates people, processes, business systems, and data to manage a product’s entire lifecycle, from concept to retirement.

In this post, we will explore how PLM can lead to faster time to market. Discover how effective product lifecycle management best practices can streamline processes, enhance collaboration, reduce cycle times, and ultimately drive your product’s success.

Understanding the Role of Product Lifecycle Management

PLM is the central repository for all product-related information, ensuring everyone involved in the product development process can access the most up-to-date data and details. This facilitates informed decision-making, increases efficiencies, and enhances collaboration across different departments and teams.

But more importantly, PLM allows for quicker ideation and product development, meaning teams can bring new products to market faster. How? Through streamlined workflows, enhanced communication and collaboration, fewer errors, and document management.

Leveraging Product Lifecycle Management for Faster Time to Market

Now that you understand the role of PLM for complex organizations let’s dive into exactly how it enables product development teams to bring products to market quickly.

  • Streamlined workflows: PLM systems and software automate repetitive tasks, such as document management, change requests, and approvals, streamlining the entire process. This minimizes delays caused by manual processes.
  • Enhanced collaboration and communication: PLM centralizes information and breaks down silos, which fosters collaboration and alignment among cross-functional teams, including design, engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain management. This reduces miscommunication and leads to faster decision-making and problem-resolution.
  • Reduced errors and rework: Miscommunication, change in scope, and manual errors are time-consuming issues within the product management process. PLM systems keep all contributors up-to-date and reduce the potential for costly and time-consuming errors and the resulting rework. PLM systems also make it easy to manage product variants and complex manufacturing.
  • Effective data management: Managing large amounts of data is a common challenge, but PLM systems make it easier to locate, retrieve, and utilize critical details. Working with up-to-date and real-time information, including design files and feedback, reduces the risk of costly issues and allows for quicker feedback.
  • Version control and traceability: PLM systems maintain a comprehensive version history, which ensures teams can identify and fix issues and keep timelines on track.
  • Supplier collaboration: PLM not only facilitates in-house collaboration, but it also provides a platform for suppliers to share design specifications, requirements, updates, and potential issues. This allows for stronger collaboration with suppliers and engages them earlier in the product development process, which can reduce lead times, supply chain or quality issues, and costly rush jobs.
  • Automated compliance: For industries with strict regulations, including healthcare and aerospace, PLM systems can automate compliance checks and documentation, ensuring your team doesn’t miss a thing.

Ultimately, being more organized and aligned makes the complex process of product development easier. And in an era of materials shortages, rapid innovation, and supply chain complexities, being organized could be the major catalyst in your company’s success.

Best Practices for Implementing and Leveraging Product Lifecycle Management for Faster Time to Market

Integrating PLM systems into an established product development process will come with a few challenges but also opportunities. Here are a few product lifecycle management best practices to help harness the full potential.

Start with a Clear Objective and Strategy

As with any software implementation, start with the purpose and need. What is your objective? And what is your strategy for procuring, implementing, and rolling out this new process?

Define a single objective, such as reducing development time, improving collaboration, reducing errors, or improving product quality. Having one measurable objective will help you determine whether you’re successful and whether the software has a strong return on investment (ROI).

Choose the Right Product Lifecycle Management Software

A key component of successful software onboarding is choosing the right product for your needs. Before you purchase any software, conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to understand your specific requirements. Look for PLM systems that align with your objective, work in your industry, offer scalability, and provide the essential features you need to improve or streamline your product development process.

Integrate Product Lifecycle Management with Other Business Systems

Your PLM should integrate with your existing software systems, like your ERP, CRM, and EQMS, to ensure seamless data flow and information sharing across the entire organization. Your software tools shouldn’t live in a silo, or you risk creating the same problems you’re trying to avoid (like outdated data, manual tasks, and rework).

Ensure Data Consistency and Accuracy

Data is the lifeblood of PLM, but quality matters for your product development efforts. Establish clear data management practices, including standardized formats and conventions, regular data hygiene efforts, and processes for adding, updating, and deleting data. Being diligent about your data from the start can prevent costly errors and delays.

Train Team Members in PLM Usage

Effective PLM implementation relies on your team’s ability to navigate and leverage the system. It can be the best software solution on the market, but if it isn’t used — and used efficiently — it’s not a worthwhile investment. Be sure to take advantage of training offered by the software provider and invest in training tailored to your unique use case. To aid in user adoption, minimize resistance, and promote a culture of continuous improvement, you need to train your team and make it known that their participation is required.

Involve Cross-Functional Teams

Software implementations cannot happen without buy-in. Involve representatives from all applicable departments from the start, and allow these representatives to assist with vetting, reviewing, and choosing your PLM system. Then, empower them to be key team members during the implementation and improvement phases. This ensures that you choose the right tool for every team’s needs and leads to power users who can assist with adoption.

Improve Continuously

PLM implementation is not a one-time effort; it’s an ongoing process. Continuously assess and refine your strategy and process to adapt to changing marketing dynamics, technology advancements, and team structure. And measure your success through key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine the impact of PLM on time to market, quality, and cost efficiency. Regularly analyze the metrics to identify areas for improvement or ways to use the PLM software more effectively and efficiently.

Case Study: Successful PLM Implementation

Aristocrat needed to streamline their new product introduction process, speed up approvals, conduct advanced quality processes, operationalize supplier relationships, and identify issues early in the development lifecycle. Their goal was to accelerate time to market.

In 2016, it took 2-2.5 years to produce a new cabinet; they’re doing it now in a year.

“ETQ has played a pivotal role in expediting our new product introductions. Our hardware and software development undergo distinct phases. ETQ’s ability to pinpoint issues early has significantly boosted our time-to-market acceleration,” Dennis Schmidt, Chief Quality Officer, Aristocrat

Common Challenges in PLM Implementation and How to Overcome Them

Implementing PLM can be transformative, but it’s not without its challenges. Here are a few of the most common issues in PLM implementation, plus strategies to overcome them:

  • Resistance to change: Employees may resist adopting new PLM processes and tools, fearing disruptions to their daily routines. The solution is implementing a comprehensive change management plan that includes communication, training, and support. Highlight the benefits of PLM to employees, involve them in the selection process, and provide ongoing training and resources to facilitate smooth transitioning.
  • User adoption issues: Users may not fully embrace the new PLM system, leading to underutilization and inefficiencies. The solution is to prioritize user training and provide ongoing support. Engage end-users in the PLM selection process to choose a system that aligns with their needs and workflows. Address user feedback and continuously improve the system based on their input.
  • Software compatibility: Integrating PLM with existing systems (such as ERP, CRM, and CAD) can be complex and time-consuming. The solution is to prioritize integration from the outset. Choose PLM software with robust integration capabilities and work with experienced IT professionals to ensure seamless connectivity. Consider phased integration to minimize disruptions.
  • Managing data security, quality, and governance: Maintaining data consistency and accuracy can be challenging, as disparate data sources may lead to discrepancies and errors. The solution is to establish data governance policies and standardized data management practices. Implement data validation rules, version control, and quality checks within your PLM system. Regularly audit and clean your data to ensure accuracy.
  • Lack of executive support: Without buy-in from top-level executives, your PLM initiatives may struggle to gain traction. The solution is to engage executives early in the PLM planning process, emphasizing the strategic benefits of faster time to market, improved quality, and cost savings. Provide regular updates on progress and the impact of PLM on business outcomes.
  • Vendor selection: Choosing the right PLM vendor and solution can be daunting, especially since many options are available. The solution is to conduct a thorough evaluation process involving key stakeholders from different departments. Consider factors like scalability, integration capabilities, user-friendliness, and vendor reputation. Request demos and references to make an informed decision.

By recognizing and proactively addressing these common challenges, your organization can navigate the complexities of PLM implementation.

The key to overcoming PLM implementation challenges is using a solution that users and executives love, integrates with your existing software stack, and effectively manages your data and projects. ETQ Reliance is a best-in-class quality management system (QMS) with integrated PLM capabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of product lifecycle management (PLM)?

PLM is a strategic approach that helps manufacturing companies manage a product’s entire lifecycle, from the initial idea to the eventual phase-out. It streamlines processes, enhances collaboration, reduces costs, and accelerates time-to-market.

How does PLM contribute to faster time to market?

PLM accelerates time to market by streamlining product development processes, enhancing collaboration, reducing errors and rework, and accelerating decision-making through centralized data and workflows.

What are the best practices for implementing PLM?

Best practices for PLM implementation include setting clear objectives, involving cross-functional teams, choosing the right software, comprehensive training, data consistency, and continuous improvement.

What is the role of product managers in PLM?

Product managers play a crucial role in PLM, overseeing the product’s entire lifecycle, defining its roadmap, aligning it with business goals, and ensuring it meets customer needs and market demands.

How can PLM be leveraged for faster time to market?

PLM can be leveraged for faster time to market by streamlining processes, enhancing collaboration, reducing errors, using data analytics, integrating with other systems, and staying responsive to market feedback.

What are the common challenges in PLM implementation, and how can they be overcome?

Common challenges in PLM implementation include resistance to change, complex integration, data quality issues, scope creep, lack of executive support, user adoption challenges, vendor selection, cost management, lack of measurable metrics, and security concerns.

What are the future trends in PLM?

Future trends in PLM include increased use of AI and machine learning for optimization, greater emphasis on sustainability and environmental impact analysis, cloud-based PLM solutions, and enhanced integration with IoT and augmented reality technologies.

Implement Product Lifecycle Management Best Practices for a Faster Time to Market

Navigating the complex landscape of modern manufacturing demands more than just innovation — it requires a strategic approach to managing the entire product lifecycle.

While there are challenges with implementing PLM solutions, like integration or data concerns, user adoption, and the resources to vet and onboard, the outcomes are worth it. Well-run PLM solutions lead to fewer issues, better collaboration, and accelerated speed to market, which is vital for modern businesses.

ETQ Reliance is a QMS that addresses many of the challenges product managers face when it comes to lifecycle management, including:

  • Tracking changes with built-in version control
  • Creating custom workflows with automated approval routing and reminder notifications.
  • Maximizing security while maintaining accessibility with role-based access controls.

Leveraging a quality management solution like ETQ Reliance will improve PLM and time to market and enhance product quality.

Consult an expert to learn more about ETQ’s product lifecycle management solutions and how they can help your organization get products to market faster.