We've been hearing about PLM for a long time now -- probably at least a decade. But I'm only recently really starting to hear about people really benefiting from PLM. Does it really take that long for something that sounds so good to work its way into real business value?
Yes. I figure it this way:
It takes at least a few years for management to recognize there is a problem with the way things are done and that maybe there's a better way. Management generally ignores anything that involves new technology for at least a few years because they can't count it and because they think engineering/design people always want the latest technology simply because it's cool.
Management needs to understand what process improvement and continuous improvement really means, while realizing that the process improvement implicit in PLM is something every company should master.
Actually, technology rarely comes into the discussion in the first few years. The next steps are about process.
Where do potential improvements fit best, first? What would come next? Where would we find the best returns to show other groups and projects to get them on board with the new vision? This is the second most important step in getting PLM to happen. Start small and show big, visible wins. You also gain some insight into the real implementation cost (not the numbers that vendors tell you). At this point, we're already about three to four years into the transformation.
During this phase, a lot of good thinking happens -- thinking that helps the business, regardless of a chosen direction. One of the big things the PLM "movement" has gotten people pondering this last decade is what it means to have an integrated product lifecycle process.
Relevant things to think about include: What is my product data asset?; What data do I need?; Where is the data? What control do I need/have over it?; What don't I have/need control over (e.g. outside owner)?; and How much are we, as an organization, willing to share and with what limitations?
A huge amount of good homework is accomplished through this effort, taking apart internal processes and looking at things from a continuous improvement perspective.