Giving PLM Definition: Why You Need a PLM Bible

plm definition

Last week, we lost one client. The company’s management got tired of user complaints and slow progress and decided to halt their PLM Program. They had no PLM definition laid out in their plan.

The company had invested a lot of money in a customized PDM system and integrated all its CAD applications in an attempt to boost, reuse and accelerate their product deliveries.

However, users found themselves unable to work with the new system. They found the PDM system slow and very complex. They didn’t understand why they had to rebuild their CAD models to fit in a design library. They were annoyed that it now took 10 minutes longer to save a model in CAD than it used to. They didn’t understand the big picture.

Eventually, the PLM program was in dire straits, and management made the decision to “press pause.” The company lost tons of euros along the way, not to mention the goodwill of both employees and management.

Why do PLM implementations often fail?

PLM implementations often fail.

Where is the problem? Why do so many companies struggle to extract value from their PLM programs?

Is it because not all PDM systems are implemented flawlessly? Or is because PLM is too complex?

Last week, after digesting the bad news, I asked my customer: “If you were given another chance, what would you do differently?”

After a moment’s silence, he said: “I would start with a PLM Bible.”

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What’s a PLM Bible?

A PLM Bible—that made a lot of sense to me.

In my experience, savvy PLM implementations have one thing in common: they ALL have consistent ways of doing things. They have a blueprint that shows users how they work with their products and data.

It’s their PLM Bible.

Here’s an example of one of our client’s PLM Bibles: the company Outotec. In their PLM Bible, they define what PLM means to them and explain how to get support and who is involved in the PLM process. They publish release information in their bible, have a glossary of terms, and an information flow that represents how systems are connected to each other.

Then, diving deep into each of their product categories, they define a detailed process that ties together theory and practice and makes PLM a bit easier to navigate. Outotec’s PLM Learning cloud is flexible and immediately accessible, and it enables their employees to pick up skills in the context in which they must work. Plus they can learn at their own pace, and in ways that match the problems they face on the job.

This framework helps users achieve flow and make sense of the multiple clicks in different, apparently unconnected systems.

Once you have a PLM Bible, everything becomes clear.

Every support request becomes easier to handle. Every decision is easier to make. Every user has a clear overview of how to work with their product data. All training is easier to plan and execute.

I agree with the client we just lost. You can’t be successful at product lifecycle management without PLM definition, without a bible.

8 Key Benefits of Defining a PLM Bible

1. Understand what PLM means to you

A good PLM Bible starts with PLM definition and what it means for your organization. When you start talking about PLM in detail, you need to be specific in your terminology.

For example, several years ago I attended a management meeting where one executive announced that his company would be focusing on streamlining PLM in the coming year. During the meeting, everyone there nodded in agreement. Afterwards, though, my colleagues discussed what PLM actually meant. Some thought we should focus on streamlining the product process, some thought we should improve the PDM system, and some were convinced we should productize our products more.

PLM. Though we often use these three letters, its meaning is usually unclear.

Don’t let PLM become a placeholder word that people use to gloss over concepts your people don’t fully understand. PLM is too good to become a dummy buzzword.

2. Connect the “why,” “how” and “what”

Most people believe that PLM problems are all about technology.

But PLM systems are only the tip of the iceberg.

The truth is, most PLM implementations fail because employees don’t have a true understanding of the “why” and the “how” of the transformation.

PLM is NOT something you just buy and plug into your organization.

Most companies tweak their PDM systems to mirror their business processes, so they don’t simply resemble the application they purchased. The problem is, after many years of unchecked customization, PLM systems become too nebulous.

A PLM learning structure can help you explain how your company does PLM and can become your PLM Bible. With your bible, you can tie together theory and practice and make PLM a bit easier to navigate.

3. Know what you don’t know

When you work on your PLM definition for your bible, you’re likely to discover unexpected gaps in your PLM concept.

Maybe you still don’t have a good solution to keep Service Bills of Materials up to date, or perhaps your concept to keep track of different MBOMs for the same EBOM is not yet crystal clear.

Recognizing your PLM gaps is essential to coming up with a successful PLM environment.

Working towards a PLM Bible can help you discover the things that don’t work well today and craft a roadmap to make them work tomorrow.

4. Know what your users don’t know, and explain it!

Identifying your users’ knowledge gaps is key to winning at PLM. Ask them to explain difficult concepts, even if you think everyone understands them. This will not only help you build your PLM Bible from a real-life perspective—it will also reveal explanations of concepts that your colleagues don’t fully understand.

Your PLM Bible’s critical task is to create a clear path to value, no matter how complex your PLM environment is. Make sure your users receive clear, timely guidance every time they encounter a difficult concept or need to follow a complex process. Define a seamless system “flow” and explain the benefits of each part of the system’s integration in clear, concise terms.

5. Understand the big picture

It’s easy as a PLM user to get overwhelmed by complexity. One of the biggest hurdles to winning at PLM is that product data is spread across multiple systems (PDM, ERP, CRM, MRO…).

Documentation is spread across several teams and sources. Each guide focuses on one specific system or process, this makes it hard for users to understand the “big picture.” As a result, they can’t easily achieve flow, and they get side-tracked by multiple clicks in different, apparently unconnected systems.

Your users have better things to do than spend all day browsing through unconnected documents and manuals. That’s why a PLM Bible is one of the most important and useful resources in a successful PLM implementation.

6. Prepare your PLM team for outsourcing

Troubleshooting, system configuration, end-user support or training are tasks you might consider outsourcing as your PLM implementation becomes more mature. Maybe you’ll decide to externalize certain tasks and will need to make sure the methodology you’ve designed can scale. A PLM Bible helps ensure that everyone on your team follows the right processes, even when you’re not watching. It will make your process repeatable for new hires, trainers and consultants.

7. Build a scalable training framework

It’s time to stop viewing product lifecycle management training as nice to have, and start treating it as the foundation of a healthy, successful PLM environment.

Instead of cobbling together a rough-and-ready user manual, you need to fixate on creating standout digital training.

Instead of viewing training as a one-time problem, you need to provide a learning experience throughout the entire user lifecycle—one that helps new users and seasoned users alike get more out of PLM.

With a digital PLM Bible, you can present technical content in a practical and user-friendly way with the help of eLearning. eLearning can help you cut costs and scale: you can train employees efficiently and fast, all at a much lower cost than traditional classroom training.

And it’s not just about cost. It’s about quality, too. Content in eLearning is well organized and standardized, which increases training quality and democratizes knowledge.

8. Streamline the Product Lifecycle Management processes

When you work on a new implementation, you tend to see many broken processes and many workarounds. That’s because the old ways of working suddenly don’t make sense anymore. Re-evaluating your business processes and confirming that they’re still valid is part of the implementation.

You have to challenge yourself and ask: “Do we need to be taking this extra step? Do we need this in the PDM system?

As your PLM implementation becomes mature, a PLM Bible can help you continually collect feedback and create a systematic framework for improving PLM adoption.

Challenge the status quo and simplify complexity

Stop complaining about PLM technology. Stop finger-pointing and look in the mirror.

It’s the way your system’s been set up. It’s the way it’s been implemented. It’s the way it’s managed.

Wake up! If you want your PLM program to succeed, start with a PLM Bible!

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