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SAP product lifecycle management provides flexibility with varied implementation

SAP's flexible PLM system gives discrete and process manufacturers a broad range of options for hosting, implementation, functions and features.

SAP PLM is a product management suite that helps companies achieve integrated and insight-driven innovation for bringing products to appropriate markets on time. SAP product lifecycle management software is designed for both discrete and process manufacturing and also gives sites a wide spectrum of choice when it comes to implementation. If a company desires to host the product in-house, the robust PLM system runs on SAP's NetWeaver platform, which is a solution stack of SAP's technology products. SAP additionally offers Enterprise Project Connection for Microsoft Project and Primavera, an add-on program that allows you to exchange and transfer data between the project system and Microsoft Project or Primavera.

SAP product lifecycle management is structured into three major functional areas:

  • Portfolio and project management -- includes idea management, project management, portfolio management, resource management, project connectivity;
  • Design Orchestration -- includes recipe development, bill of materials (BoM) management and engineering collaboration; and
  • Product Safety and Stewardship Network -- includes product compliance for discrete industries, product and chemical compliance for process industries, safety data sheet management, dangerous goods management, global label management.

SAP sells these three modules in a package or separately. A majority of companies -- whether they come from process or discrete manufacturing -- use project and portfolio management.

In its latest version of SAP PLM, SAP delivered enhancements to its authoring tool integration platform in an effort to help discrete manufacturers increase efficiency in engineering and manufacturing. The Engineering Control Center enables companies to obtain a more holistic, 360-degree view of product data by integrating, manufacturing and engineering computer-aided design data into the PLM system for better tracking of product revisions and innovations across manufacturing and engineering and across the mechanical, electronic and software aspects of products. This eliminates product data inconsistencies that are caused when different work groups within the company use their own data repositories.

SAP also added a new product lifecycle costing solution that enables companies to manage product costs and quotations for both new product innovations and customer-specific engineered products in line with strategic targets.

Finally, the latest version of the PLM system incorporates SAP's recently launched SAP Cloud for Product Stewardship, which is a cloud-based offering used to assess, manage and ensure manufacturing product compliance and marketability by linking together in-house, supply chain and regulatory information.

SAP and its business partners offer a broad range of add-on product support options from which companies can choose for implementation, consulting and ongoing technical support services. If a company is already savvy with PLM systems on both the product and the IT sides, it can opt to work with an SAP project manager for initial layout of the implementation project and then manage the implementation project on its own, with support services from SAP standing by as needed. In other cases, a company might opt to outsource its entire PLM system implementation project to either SAP or an SAP business partner or consultant. There are an abundance of scalable technical support choices. User and IT education options are likewise very broad, affording companies a great deal of choice. SAP itself offers a full complement of training with classroom training, virtual training and PLM certification courses that span the various functional areas of SAP PLM and from which companies can choose.

A majority of SAP PLM customers are in mid-sized companies and large enterprises, but there are also some small businesses that use the product.

Since most SAP PLM implementations are cloud-based, pricing is typically figured on a per user basis. The SAP PLM system is sold directly by SAP and also through a network of SAP business partners.

There are trial versions available for some of the SAP PLM systems.

Next Steps

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