PLM Is Also for Custom and Contract Manufacturers
In a recent article at thefabricator.com, Jon Gable, Adaptive’s PLM Line of Business Leader, argues that PLM software isn’t only for organizations that design products, it can also be surprisingly valuable for custom and contract manufacturing shops.
Even though you may have already implemented an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which typically helps improve efficiency across the organization, and may even have a product data management (PDM) system, which handles all engineering data, PLM can still fill holes in your workflows and streamline your processes even more.
Gable outlined a few of the potential benefits of adding PLM to your processes:
- Lifecycle information, not just data. Like PDM, PLM offers centralized storage for manufacturing-related files, but PLM goes further, allowing manufacturers to also centralize all product content, such as linking sales and marketing information or quality metrics.
- Sales and quoting information, with context. A PLM system allows sales and estimators to search for previously processed parts with similar geometries and features to help the quoting process. What’s more, once similar parts are identified, their full history is available—including what worked and didn’t during the manufacturing process, what tooling was used and could potentially be modified, any quality issues that occurred and how they were resolved, and any best practices for production that were developed.
- Indexing, linking, and searching. One of the biggest issues for many manufacturers is siloed information: manufacturing documents often live apart, stored in separate files on a server, not linked to anything. But PLM can connect design files with work instructions, quality procedures, tooling list, setup sheets, and more. And once linked, everything can be searched—for example, by Purchasing, looking for commonalities in jobs to streamline the supply chain or monitoring the timing and content of engineering change orders. Similarly, designers and product managers could search across parts to analyze form, fit, and function characteristics of components to evaluate potential cost-reduction options. And programming, scheduling, and quality control teams can analyze parts to optimize processes or problems.
Making PLM Work for You
PLM can provide a wealth of benefits: mitigating data replication, making production costs more visible, reducing lead times and wasted effort of engineering teams, and making quality and corrective actions easier to manage. But it’s a big system to implement, and ROI can be more challenging to measure. As Gable points out, how do you measure efficiency of engineering staff, productivity losses due to missing or inaccurate data, or any of the other time-wasters that PLM eliminates? He advises approaching an implementation one module at a time: start small and build on your successes. For example, this could mean starting with part numbers and creating the integration between your ERP and PLM systems.
The article with Gable offers more details on how you might go about starting an implementation, how to manage products and capacity, and how to evaluate success of an ERP and PLM integration in your business. Jon Gable and Adaptive are also ready and eager to help you understand more. Contact us to talk about it.