– Why is Product Lifecycle Management business critical? And why should a PLM system support product configurators?
In the fast-paced digital era of the Internet of Things (IoT) where cost-effective mass production is no longer sufficient, mass-customization and production automation have become business critical. The ability to offer personalized services and solutions creates a competitive edge and helps companies retain customers.
Mass-customization and production automation can be achieved with product lifecycle management (PLM) system, which supports the product configuration process. This kind of PLM system empowers companies to gain competitive advantage and grow faster by enabling systematic design and production of tailored products. Product configurators and data management solutions eliminating manual order engineering facilitate personalization of mass-customized products and ensure a shorter time to market. Shorter time to market can in practice mean weeks or even several months depending on the industry.
The product lifecycle concept (PLM) includes all product features, from inception, development and manufacturing to service, relating data processes and business systems. The older term product data management (PDM) has essentially the same meaning but has today been mostly replaced by PLM.
When the growing number of potential product variations poses a major challenge for managing product information, a PLM partner should be carefully selected. It’s a critical decision for any organization and at minimum, scalability, modularity and connectivity with other business data systems should be considered. If an organization aims for higher-volume markets for customized products, it should choose a PLM system that can support product family design and product configurators. Most available PLM systems cannot do that.
Usually a PLM system contains information produced by product design, but does not include product order or delivery information. On the other hand, PLM allows companies to better integrate product data with different data systems or data resources, like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). ERP and PLM partially use the same information and that’s why it’s important to define their roles when planning these systems. PLM teams also need to define what new requirements complex configurable products create for data management systems. PLM systems do not normally support the configuration models of mass-customized products, which is a prerequisite for the use of a configurator, but it is included as a standard feature of VariPDM, Variantum’s product data management software. This ensures that the same system can be used to manage product data for both mass-customized (configurable) and fixed (non-configurable) products. This is an important capability, because all configurable products also contain fixed modules or parts.
Variantum technology provides a modular and flexible platform for easy and cost-effective management of the product lifecycle. Variantum’s clientele includes major corporations with nine-figure turnover, and the company’s software already has 20,000 registered users in over 80 countries.
The global product data management market is growing fast. It now has an estimated value of about EUR 40 billion and is expanding at the rate of 5–10 per cent annually.