With the advent of new products every day, many commodities are replaced as the new products are more upgraded, easy to use, and more time-efficient. Every product has a life cycle called Product Lifecycle which are the phases through which the product goes through. The typical stages of a product’s life are development and introduction, growth, maturity, and stability and decline. At any given time, a product would be in any one of these mentioned stages. The development stage is usually an integral part of the product life cycle. In the development stage, the product features are planned and the basic idea of the product is envisioned by the team which lays the foundation of the product. Once it is built according to the needs of the customer, it is launched in the market, which is the phase of introduction. The company invests a large sum of capital in marketing and sales of the product in the introduction stage. As the popularity of the product increases, the demand for the product increases causing growth in product manufacturing. As the product demand increases, there would come a point where the product matures and becomes stable. At this time, the sales of the product make enough revenue for the company to sustain. When the product does not perform well, the production decreases and the company moves on with other products. In this article, we learn about effective ways to manage the product life cycle.
What is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)?
Product Lifecycle management refers to managing or handling the commodities or products as it moves through its phases of the product life cycle. The product life cycle stages are- Development and introduction, growth, maturity/ stability, and decline. The handling of the goods refers to manufacturing the goods, along with marketing them. When the business understands at which stage its product is currently present, it can make better decisions for its pricing and promotion, so that it can expand its business and increase its revenue. Hence, the term product lifecycle management is the firm’s approach to the different phases of the product’s manufacturing and development till its ultimate decline. PLM also includes managing all the stages of the product life cycle such as customer segmentation, marketing, and sales, etc. The major benefit of understanding PLM is to shorten the product development time, and knowing when to reduce or ramp up the efforts for manufacturing. Another advantage is that the business would also understand how and when to focus on its marketing efforts.
Understanding Product Lifecycle Management
Developing and introducing the product to the market involves many departments of the company working together and collaborating. PLM brings all the companies, departments, and employees who are involved in the product’s production to its sales. The ultimate goal of a company is to develop a product that can outperform its competitors, generates higher revenue for the company, and lasts longer in the market. PLM helps the company in tackling the engineering challenges of manufacturing new products and the increasing complexity of developing them. PLM also helps in the four corners of the manufacturing corporation. They are the information technology structure, customer relationship management, supply chain management, and enterprise resource planning. When the business identifies the stage of its product life cycle, it can easily market the product for increased sales. If the product is new in the market, it has to be explained, where if the product is matured and has been for a long time, it has to be differentiated.
How to Manage Product Lifecycle?
Now that we have understood that managing the product life cycle is an important part of the success of the product, here are a few tips for effective Product Lifecycle management.
1 .Your PLM strategy should have Objectives and Goals
The first step in any product development process is to have an objective and goal of why you are developing the product and what purpose it would serve to the customers. Similarly, when you are seeking a product lifecycle management solution, you have to define the reasons why you are taking such a step. You have to define your objectives and goals from the PLM. Some of the common objectives and operational goals include:
- Removing duplicate content and standardizing bills of materials
- Managing regulatory requirements
- Moving the data from a paper-based model to an electronic mode
- Connecting the product data to another system like ERP software
- Better accessibility is obtained by centralizing the product data
Your PLM needs gradual upgrades and improvements as all the plans cannot be implemented all at once. When you make proper objectives and goals for your PLM and complete them based on its priority, the product is more likely to be successful. When you list out the goals and objectives in this manner, a clear picture of which process should be used and which ones should be used later can be decided clearly. You can also measure the success of the PLM implementation process which includes the success of the new PLM systems and/or processes.
2 . Process Reviewing
You should always review your current process so that you can decide how they can be mapped to the PLM system. For instance, if your ECO (engineering change order) management process is through paperwork, then how will your PLM software system change this process such that approvers can review the ECOs? You should always think about the changes that have to be done once the new system comes in place after reviewing your current system. Take the effort and time to thoroughly understand your present system and then make the list of the changes. Also, consider the people who are inside and outside the organization who will be affected by the changes in your process. You should make a list of the impact that your changes will cause these people. It is crucial to know what gets done in each stage of the product life cycle and also who does it and who is impacted by it. When you review the processes in the initial stages, you will set up a smoother and faster implementation. Even if you do not want to implement a more formal system for your PLM, reviewing the process thoroughly would give you ideas for how to streamline your process effectively.
3. Always Review Your Data
When you move into a new house, you will spend more time going through the things which need to be packed and the things which are not required for the new house. Likewise, if you’re going to change the place where you store your product data, you have to do some house cleaning before you transfer the data. If the existing bills of materials are arranged in a google or excel spreadsheet, then you have to take some time and review these files. You will decide the important data and the data that is not required. Always make sure that the BOMs which are moved to your new excel are accurate and arranged properly. When you spend time reviewing the data of your product, and clean the ones which are not required, you can trust the data in your new PLM software system.
4 . Acquire executive and organizational Buy-in
When you introduce change in an organization, there would be resistance from the internal team as they do not know anything about the new processes. Changing the process can be hard but once the PLM system is successfully implemented, it could bring about many financial benefits and also enhance the day-to-day experiences of the team. If you want your product lifecycle management plan to work, you should first explain all the details to the executive team and the people whose work will be affected by the new process implementation. When these people clearly understand the objectives and goals of the PLM software and know what they have to do to make it a success, your plan with the PLM can align smoothly.
Explaining the executive team also helps in bringing the motivation and incentives such that the process is implemented successfully. The organization has to educate all the individuals who will be using the new PLM system such that their jobs are made easier and the productivity of the company also increases. When the people involved in the PLM project participate effectively in the implementation, they become emotionally attached to the system and would strive hard to see a positive outcome. Hence, always remember that an organization is not made merely from its technological advancements or strict work environments; it is made of the people working in the company and how they perform their roles in the company.
5 . Assign a Project lead by creating a project plan
Do not start the implementation all at once in all the departments without having a clear deadline or a measure of the outcome. When you are implementing PLM, it is best to make project plans and assign a project lead from your organization. You should create a list of milestones that your product will achieve in the future and set deadlines as to when the milestones should be completed. When there are delineated deadlines in the process, the workflow is smoother and the people in the team would procrastinate less and be more productive. This method also helps the Product Owners easily identify areas where more work is needed. When you implement a new PLM process, you should always have a designated person such that all the doubts of the team members can be cleared. A person from the organization and the PLM vendor both should understand and solve any queries related to the PLM implementation.
6 . Training people about the new process should begin early
Before you implement the new PLM system, you have to train your employees about how to use the process and what difference it would make from the current system. Most of the PLMs today have online help systems and have product documentation to answer immediate questions. Including web training and classes would also help the individuals to comprehend the software and achieve success from the PLM system. There would be initial resistance from the employees about the new software as they have been accustomed to old ways and traditions. When you force the people of the organization to use the new PLM implemented, they would switch the PLM with much reluctance. When you get to explain the PLM implementation process to the people working in the process beforehand, they would be thorough with the material and commit fewer errors. When you are trained before the work as a fresher, you learn things like maintaining momentum and contributing to the project such that it becomes a success. This method also helps you to become more efficient and make the process have better and controlled processes and data.
The main objective of having effective product lifecycle management is to prepare your organization for growth. It does not matter whether you need to bring new people or expand the product line, you will always have a foundation or an infrastructure to train the new team member rapidly. PLM ensures that the entire company follows similar established processes and makes the product successful in the market. When you take an approach to PLM which consists of detailed steps, the revenue generated from the product would be enhanced drastically. When you follow the steps prescribed, your product development processes will get streamlined and you will have confidence that you are working with validated and clean data.