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Critical Steps for a Successful PLM Implementation - a CIOs Cheat Sheet

By Kishore Garakipati, Director of PLM Services, Barry-Wehmiller International (B-WI)

Critical Steps for a Successful PLM Implementation - a CIOs Cheat Sheet

Kishore Garakipati, Director of PLM Services, Barry-Wehmiller International (B-WI)

There has been a lively and fierce debate in today’s manufacturing industry whether Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) deployments should be approached as an engineering-centric initiative or as an IT initiative. Which one leads to a more successful PLM implementation? The answer is neither, and both. While both are key critical participants, the COO or CTO, independently should own the PLM initiative to drive the real value and ROI from PLM across manufacturing, procurement, engineering, quality control, warranty management and IT. Engineering has a huge stake in the success of the project and implementation to fulfill new product design requirements. The CIO ultimately is also responsible for the successful implementation, maintenance, and support of the PLM application. Both need to agree upfront on their collaboration and responsibilities as a team with all the other business units.

“PLM has shifted from an engineering-centric initiative to the key enterprise-wide initiative connecting all business operations that touch the product lifecycle and the bottom line profit”

Many manufacturing companies face this dilemma every day when beginning their PLM journey. PLM first emerged in the market as a system for managing engineering processes and CAD data. It now has become the key central enterprise application that all systems are connected to. Today, it is the dominant enterprise system that captures the complex synergies and interactions of manufacturing, procurement, IT, engineering, quality control and warranty management. Manufacturing leaders that are reaping the maximum benefits of moving their products to market faster and engineering cost efficiencies are using a world-class PLM system. Their successful PLM implementations are combining leaders and teams from engineering, finance, sales, manufacturing, quality and IT executive decision makers.

In order to achieve the best results from PLM, CIO’s are addressing it as an enterprise level deployment and aligning their engineering, manufacturing, procurement, quality control, warranty management and IT strategies with four main building blocks for success:

• Start with One Goal, One Mission:

Before developing the strategy and roadmap for a PLM deployment, CIO’s should first focus on expediting the alignment process and appoint executive-level champions of this initiative. Lead the initiative with a common goal and mission that encompasses engineering, manufacturing, procurement, quality, warranty and IT processes and systems. Outline the objectives PLM will achieve for all environments from a people, process, and systems standpoint to set a ‘One Goal, One Mission’ framework.

• Form a Core Team for Program Management:

Many organizations sometimes think IT can do it alone, this is a cardinal mistake. Assign a core team inclusive of all these stakeholders with experienced expert external consultants to architect the vision and maintain a balance during program management of the initiative. This core team helps bridge the gap between all business units including the primary stakeholders such as engineering, manufacturing, procurement and IT functions and ensures greater results to achieving the common goal.

• Evaluate PLM Software Benefits for All Business Units:

Choose the right PLM software that yields the highest return for the overall business and product sales. This means not just IT and engineering, but manufacturing, procurement, warranty and quality control. Evaluating the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the entire business enterprise is critical for the highest return. Major criteria to include in the evaluation: the impact of engineering productivity and process improvements, manufacturing efficiencies, tracking reduction of warranty liability and quality control validation. The IT team resource skills and the software functionalities for the user community are equally important.

• Communicate IT Infrastructure Readiness across All Teams:

Proactive communications across all business units, especially between the Non-IT departments that are handling PLM initiatives and the IT team are imperative. Develop the PLM strategy around the overall IT infrastructure readiness outlining the As-Is environment and the Future State of all enterprise IT systems that will be impacted by the enterprise PLM system. Evaluating the full infrastructure requirements enables key stakeholders to not only communicate more effectively across teams but also plan a budget and make better decisions together throughout the PLM initiative.

• For example, stakeholders may need to evaluate managing manufacturing-BOM in a PLM technology layer versus in an ERP technology layer and the tradeoffs to take by implementing in either of the enterprise systems.

• Another example is when IT teams need to make a final decision on the underlying database software (Oracle vs. MS SQL) to host and standardize the ERP and PLM technologies in one single database platform.

These building blocks are essential for managing a successful PLM implementation in today’s manufacturing environment. PLM has shifted from an engineering-centric initiative to the key enterprise-wide initiative connecting all business operations that touch the product lifecycle and the bottom line profit. Building a common goal with a strong core team that represents all key stakeholders will ensure the PLM deployment produces efficiencies in manufacturing and success across the enterprise.

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