ERP product lifecycle management (PLM) software tracks the design and attributes of a product throughout its lifecycle, from concept to end-of-life.
The product development chain or product definition starts with product concept, followed by design, testing, validating and introduction into manufacturing and the supply chain.
"As a product gets older, the development cycle extends to decisions about product redesign, cost reduction, or taking it off the market," said Mike Burkett, vice president of AMR Research's Industry Value Chain Strategies team.
Core ERP product lifecycle management includes five key components:
- Product data management (PDM) is the foundation of PLM. It encompasses the system of records for all documents and information about the product. The main function of PDM is to maintain revision control and make sure that everyone involved -- from design to marketing -- has access to that data.
- Collaborative product design lets the team share PDM data in a design review meeting where individuals can review the design and discuss what's good or what needs to change. This includes visualization tools for looking at a 3D version of a product or part, and marking it up with comments. Collaborative design also entails working with manufacturing to develop the necessary tools and processes for production.
- Product portfolio management involves project management activities such as tracking for tracking what projects individuals are working on, how many projects are in the portfolio and the status of those projects. According to Burkett, this feature helps the team decide which projects in the pipeline are the most important.
- Direct materials sourcing helps users find and organize the materials that are used directly in both development and production processes. This includes approved vendor lists, vendor catalogs and workflow to support the request-for-quote process for approved vendors.
- Customer needs management displays what customers want and bring that into the development process. This avoids designers' tendencies "to innovate on things that the customers haven't asked for," said Burkett. Customer needs information also comes from feedback from the customer base about installed products.
One benefit of ERP PLM is faster time to market. "If you understand the process better, you can reduce the time it takes to bring a product to market because you can automate the process and offer (greater) access to the same," Burkett said.
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About the author: Catherine LaCroix is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore. She covers technology used in business, education and healthcare.