PLM—product lifecycle management—has been called a critical tool for managing product development by some, and just another fancy acronym that means nothing by others. So, which is it? IBM's Christine Lemyze weighs in with her opinion on this vital subject that engineers just recently are beginning to take more seriously.
So, is PLM confusing, expensive, unnecessary, and intended to block adoption of "best-of-breed" products, as some software vendors and others say? Let's take those points one at a time. Confusing: true, but not for the reasons you might think. When we started a PLM division, we defined PLM as "integrated products and services to manage products from concept through in-service support and retirement." That's still true for us today. Others adopted the term, but only provide a fraction of the overall solution, so that causes confusion. Expensive and unnecessary? The research firm Gartner Group predicts that by 2007 manufacturers won't be competitive without it. Most companies understand that and are focused on improving their ability to produce the right products at the right cost and time. PLM is absolutely necessary to gain a competitive edge today and retain it. Blocking out "best-of-breed" products? IBM's approach leverages partnerships with dozens of software vendors, and our open standards allow us to implement solutions fully integrated with customers' legacy environments. So, we work with other products.
Haven't companies practiced the principles behind PLM for years without using the term? Perhaps, but until now the technology wasn't there to enable the vision. IBM was the first to recognize the power of the Internet to address customers' key issues around integration and collaboration.
How do you define PLM? I look at PLM broadly, as a solution based on a lot of components. It's a strategic approach to creating and managing a company's product-related intellectual capital, from conception to retirement. It improves the product-development process and the ability to use product-related information to make better business decisions. And, it enables collaboration across organizational and geographic boundaries to improve supply-chain communication, business-process efficiency, and the ability to innovate. To work, the software needs the help of other capabilities, like hardware, databases, and consulting. Ninety-percent of our customers use PLM to cut their costs. Eighty-percent use it to get products to market faster.
Is it only for large companies? No, that's a common misconception. It's for large, medium, and small companies in all industries. Many companies using it have fewer than 150 employees. PLM enables small companies to be on an even playing field with big companies.
What makes IBM's products and services in PLM different from anyone else's? We are a manufacturing company, unlike our competitors, so we can share our own experiences in manufacturing with others and minimize their risk.