PLM benefits become more accessible

Control Engineering International: Product lifecycle management is becoming even more accessible for more companies in the Czech Republic, according to Control Engineering Czech Republic.

04/29/2014


Most survey respondents (75%) are not yet using PLM. Courtesy: Control Engineering Czech PLM researchMore manufacturers are using product lifecycle management (PLM) software, integrating PLM with other systems and seeing the benefits, such as clarifying processing, involving talent globally, improving quality, and lowering costs, among others, according to Control Engineering Czech Republic research.

The concept of PLM is sometimes incorrectly related to product data management (PDM) software, which is used in part of the PLM process, especially for engineering design data management and for communication among designers. Today's PLM systems extend beyond that and are intended for more than a selected few.

The definition of PLM, as a software solution, should include the smoothly co-operating infrastructure of computer applications used in working with data through the entire product lifecycle, starting with registering the first idea about the image or function of the product into the system. As is, the PLM system covers all data management regarding the product as well as electronic communications among all those interested, including supply chain customers and suppliers. Readers were surveyed and suppliers questioned about the current status and use of PLM systems within the Czech and Slovak markets. 

Not just the big sandbox

The history of PLM software could lead one to consider that it is only intended for a few giant companies. The reason is that as PLM began, large automobile manufacturers and the aviation industry were among its most visible users. Why? As the old saying goes, "Money makes the world go round."

"Until not long ago, PLM was truly a topic intended solely for large corporations," said David Palas, executive director of Autodesk for Central and Eastern Europe. "The problem of traditional PLM systems," Palas continued, "is mainly that they require an investment into robust and well-secured IT infrastructure and also require numerous services related to system configuration and adapting it to the specific needs of the client. Moreover, it is usually required for an IT environment, which is obviously different for every manufacturing company." Nevertheless, even smaller manufacturers with limited resources are interested in the advantages of interconnecting these systems. In today's world, the majority of suppliers offer solutions, which could also stand the test in the market conditions of smaller and mid-sized companies.

Mid-sized plants accounted for half of respondents. Courtesy: Control Engineering Czech PLM research"The accessibility of the PLM systems," explained Chuck Cimalore from Omnify Software, "especially those designed for smaller to mid-sized companies, helped to lessen the fears that PLM is related to unbearable initial and long-term costs and opened the door to small and mid-sized manufacturing companies to ease their use of PLM and take advantage of the same benefits as their larger partners in business."

From the reader survey data, it is also apparent that the PLM system has already been implemented in large companies, but in smaller companies as well.

A representative from another Czech supplier, Jindřich Vítů, PLM consultant at Technodat, CAE-Systémy, Ltd., validated survey results by saying, "PLM certainly penetrates into mid-sized as well as small companies, which is verified by the number of our customers from this field. On the one hand it creates an internal need to safely manage the ever-increasing amount of product data and a spiritual ownership of the organization, and on the other hand, it creates competitive pressure. These companies usually supply products to the final manufacturers. Upon selecting suppliers, they logically prefer those with whom they can communicate by means of the PLM platform."

Company representatives, who are certified partners of Technodat, confirmed Vítů's statement.

Ján Gajdoš, executive director of Dassault Systèmes, Czech Republic, said, "PLM certainly is not only intended for a selected few. Opting for PLM is an important strategic decision, which in the end supports competitiveness and innovation and will save the given company costs." 

Speed to market

Heavy industry and mechanical engineering are the two largest segments, accounting for more than 60% of respondents. Courtesy: Control Engineering Czech PLM researchLuxury car salespersons often hear the question: "How fast can it go from 0 to 100?" but the success of the sale of an industrial product also depends on how quickly and flexibly the manufacturer can react to market demand. Therefore, it is not surprising that in today's highly competitive world, everyone is trying to be the first in something. This is the basic idea behind implementing PLM systems.

Palas continued, saying, "An integrated design process is the concept for the development of products using a method, which we label as digital prototyping. This shortens the development time and makes product development cheaper. The digital prototype is the result of the cooperation of teams and specialists including engineers, designers, technologists, and a number of others." PLM systems shorten individual stages within the product lifecycle, as manufacturers expect.

Vladimír Michl from CAD Studio Corp., among solution suppliers of Autodesk, said the key benefits to PLM are: "Gaining control over the key business processes, streamlining them, simplifying them, and interconnecting a larger sphere of workers into the information flow of these processes."

Based on Control Engineering Czech research, the most important PLM advantages are:

  • Simplification of the system
  • Possibility of interconnecting a greater number of workers into the integrated development of the product
  • Obtaining control over the key processes. 

Additional advantages include:

  • Easier development of new products by using existing information and assets
  • Easier creative transfer of successful ideas into new applications
  • Better knowledge management throughout the company.

Even PLM users in mid-sized companies can use the software to better fulfill the demands of the ever-increasing pressure on innovation. Albert Handtmann Maschinenfabrik in Biberach, Germany, is one of the global manufacturers of vacuum filters and dosing systems for the food industry. "To obtain maximum advantages from our innovations, we have permanently decreased development time," said IT manager Erwin Mueller, who, while using the Siemens PLM Software products, also speaks highly of the possibility of interconnecting with other, already existing, IT systems, especially the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, a common point of integration for most. 

What is the next PLM lifecycle?

Individual approach, added services, greater awareness, availability, greater integration, and spread of mobile devices are most important when thinking about PLM. Courtesy: Control Engineering Czech PLM researchWhile a key factor for developing PLM systems is cost savings, the answer is not always as simple. Mobile technologies and cloud computing are big tools for successful PLM implementation.

Mobile devices and applications, including those for reading this article, are becoming more popular for trips, relaxation, and work. Thanks to these mobile technologies, managers are far more open to the ideas of remote data storage, part of the PLM philosophy.

"Within the next several years," Palas predicted, "a number of applications already installed in users' computers today will be transferred into the cloud," confirming that PLM applications will be more useful with mobile devices and cloud support. "Cloud-based applications have a mechanism for compatibility, data sharing, communication, and support of connected mobile users," Palas said, suggesting faster, easier, lower cost PLM implementations will result, allowing more companies to take advantage of PLM more quickly. 

Interconnections

Reasons to use PLM: clarifying processes and connecting workers ranked highest. Courtesy: Control Engineering Czech PLM researchDassault Systèmes knows the importance of cloud computing and mobile technologies in its software. "We see the future of PLM in interconnecting draftsmen with designers, engineers, marketing managers, and customers within the company, based on social networks, a social enterprise. 3D reality makes it possible for all participating parties to directly take part in the innovation processes and therefore increase the value of the product for the final customer," explained Gajdoš, discussing future paths for PLM.

Other suppliers agree that a higher level of worker mobility is a factor in expanded PLM use. Even so, PLM systems clearly are penetrating into a diverse range of operations.

Vítů said, "A clear future awaits PLM and a massive expansion will take place in all industrial and non-industrial branches. Basically, anywhere, where any type of innovative product is being created and where manufacturing organizations value their oftentimes difficult to obtain spiritual ownership." Vítů continued: "Making PLM systems more accessible to smaller and mid-sized companies will lead to democratizing these solutions and will open the doors to further development."

- Lukáš Smelík is content manager for Control Engineering Czech. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, mhoske(at)cfemedia.com.

Key concepts

  • Product lifecycle management (PLM) software is more widely used to augment innovation.
  • PLM software helps clarify and control processes, involves talent globally, improves quality, and lowers costs.
  • PLM is integrating cloud-based applications, mobility, enterprise resource planning, and other resources to add value. 

Consider this

Product lifecycle management (PLM) software is more easily used and integrated with other systems, the world over, accelerating innovation and increasing global competitiveness.

ONLINE extra

www.controleng.com/international has other Control Engineering global articles.

- See related articles below.



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